Saturday, February 29, 2020

Random Acts Of Kindness

I remember, we had a very ironic CBSE activity when I was in school: a compulsory 'random' act of kindness. And, we had to come to the class, and narrate what random act of kindness we performed. How did it turn out? A big, fat joke. While the idea of being kind is a noble and important one to teach to young boys and girls, the fact that they made us do a compulsory kind act for grades defeated the whole purpose. Honestly, none of us said the truth. We just invented something on the spot, and when one kid said something nice, ten kids after that repeated the same thing with mild twists in the story. Very effective lesson, isn't it?

In fact, it is not that none of us were kind. It is just that when your act of kindness is truly random and inherent in your behaviour, you will never realize or acknowledge it as doing something "kind". A true, natural act of kindness is appreciated, praised and cherished by the receiver or the onlooker, never by yourself. And, if you really are going to note down and boast about a random act of kindness, then there are more chances than not that you had a hidden personal agenda behind the act, and it wasn't really out of inherent "kindness". 

Kindness is all around us. We do, not one, but hundreds of random kind activities for the people around us. We pick up a dropped pen. We say thank you. We allow somebody to stand before us in a line. We share our food. We listen to their rants. We share their highs and lows. And, they do the same to us. That's where the important part comes. While it is absolutely not necessary to consciously keep track of doing kind things, we should always take a moment out and consciously appreciate the kind act others do. Well now, taking time out to give them a nice word of appreciation in itself is a kind act!

Kindness is like respect. You be kind, and you will see others being kind to you. Kindness is a wide umbrella that incorporates and overlaps with other key human traits such as forgiveness and helpfulness. So, even though the CBSE could not execute a noble lesson, we all got the message clear and right. 

So, as the image says, in a world where you can be anything: be kind!

Friday, February 28, 2020

If This Then That: Cool Way To Get Your Social Media Formulas



I put up a blog post everyday. And, then I sometimes get busy with other work, and forget to share it out there on social media. While I have a fair share of regular readers and subscribers to the blog, it is still unfair to expect people to know about a new post unless you put it out there for them to see. 

Promoting your content is as important as writing your content. It is true that when you maintain a regular blog, there is a lot of automatic traffic and audience, with a sharp increase in number of daily and weekly readers. But, it is still important to reach out, and (shamelessly) promote. Twitter, Instagram and the likes can reach a much wider audience than one can think of, and that is why it is important to put it out there for all of them to read and comment. 

IFTTT, short for "If This Then That", does just that for me! It is a free web-based service that creates chains of simple conditional statements, called applets. An applet is triggered by changes that occur within other web services such as Gmail, Facebook, Telegram, Instagram, Pinterest and numerous other social platforms. It is free, and also a premium version is available for businesses. 

My beautiful autopost formula on IFTTT reads this:
If any new post on your blog, then post a tweet with an image to @sandhya_varadh
Uh, excuse the subtle twitter promotions. But, the point is that the platform is brilliant. You can substitute the underlined part with any available service, and there are tons available! Not only is this useful for people like me in order to auto-post on a social media platform, it is also useful to set alarms, reminders, emails, and can work brilliantly for businesses.

The interface is also very user-friendly with a cool and simple design. IFTTT also has an app with a simple and elegant user-friendly design.

For all those who are looking for something similar, check this out! 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

What To Eat: Dealing With Midnight Hunger Pangs

If you're a student in a University, then staying up till 12 or 1 AM is normal. And, if you do stay up till that late at night, feeling that hunger pang tug at you before you go to bed is also normal. What we usually do is go out and eat a second dinner literally in the middle of the night (here, in my college we have a night mess that serves damn nice hot, buttery parathas), or you'd probably just order your food on Swiggy or the likes. 

Uh, but, University students stay up late every single day almost. Yeah, now, so the paratha slowly becomes a luxury because it'll start to make a dent in your pocketses(oh, yeah, preciousss!). But, let's assume you are rich and have no dearth of money. Then eating out every night when you are hungry is going to make you get a cute little tummy that will probably grow out to look not-so-cute-anymore. 

That calls for the need of healthy, filling, tasty snacks- tough combo, really, next to impossible! But, here are three items you can try. I have always found these fulfilling and tasty.

      1. Bananas! 
Tasty? Absolutely. Healthy? Without a doubt. Affordable? They're the best.

Here's some mildly-researched health facts:
Other than being rich in vitamin B6, bananas are a good source of vitamin C, dietary fibre and manganese. A medium-sized banana will provide around 320-400 mg of potassium, which meets about 10% of your daily potassium needs.
Needless to say anything more, right?


2. Peanut Chikkies 
If you aren't allergic to peanuts, then go for this! What can beat a bar of peanut chikkies held together by sweet jaggery that melts in your mouth! Not only does it satisfy your sweet tooth, it is also very healthy. 

Now to health facts:
Peanuts are an especially good source of healthful fats, protein, and fibre. They also contain plenty of potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, and vitamins. Despite being high in calories, peanuts are nutrient-rich and low in carbohydrates. Jaggery is no less: loaded with antioxidants and minerals, they are rich in iron and act as a detox, helping cleanse the liver by flushing out nasty toxins from the body. 

3. Dates 
Phoenix dactylifera, commonly known as date or date palm, is a flowering plant species in the palm family, Arecaceae, cultivated for its edible sweet fruit. 

Haha, just eat it. It's one of the tastiest dry druits, and are extremely nutritious. They are high in fibre content and antioxidants, and promote good health. And, they are easy to eat. Nowadays, they come in many varieties and are available seedless. 

My friends eat a lot of other midnight snacks: greek yoghurt, health/yoga chocolate bars, blah blah blah. No doubt they are tasty and relatively healthy, but they are also expensive. These three snacks to munch on at midnight are not only healthy, but extremely affordable to most of us. And, I can assure that you will not get bored of eating them (unlike how you will if you munch on yoga bars, bleh).

So, next time you want to snack on something, try one of these! Do you have a favourite, healthy snack? Add to the list in the comments!

A Week Of Exams

Frantic search,
then I find my notes
- shall we begin?

Day and night,
in sun and moonlight,
but the mind is in doubt
as I turn through pages.

Up, down; north, south;
front, back- 
any other way I can bend my luck?

Picked up the pen,
the hand ran
across the page,
and so did the ink.

The bell blared, 
a smile blossomed
- wait, is it already over?

P.S: Exam week got me too experimental (for short of time). Hope you enjoyed it!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Burden Of Proof

'A hundred criminals may be let free to ensure that no innocent is captured.' Controversial, and you may have other opinions. But, that is what the law is for. As much as there is need to serve justice, there is also the impending need to ensure that only, and ONLY, the guilty is punished. Whether in reality the circumstances match such an ideal or not is doubtful, but the intention of the law itself is honourable, and needs to be looked up to.

The burden of proof is a concept of common knowledge, essential to litigation and dispensing justice. The concept of burden of proof is incorporated in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Under Indian law, until and unless an exception is created by law, the burden of proof lies on the person making any claim or asserting any fact. Reference should be made to the following provisions of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 with some illustrations to understand the proposition.

Section 101 of The Indian Evidence Act, 1872:
Whoever desires any Court to give judgment as to any legal right or liability dependent on the existence of facts which he asserts, must prove that those facts exist. When a person is bound to prove the existence of any fact, it is said that the burden of proof lies on that person. 
Illustration:(a) A desires a Court to give judgment that B shall be punished for a crime which A says B has committed. A must prove that B has committed the crime. (b) A desires a Court to give judgment that he is entitled to certain land in the possession of B, by reason of facts which he asserts, and which B denies, to be true. A must prove the existence of those facts.
Section 101 of the Act is also read with sections 102, 103 and 104 that talk about on whom a burden of proof lies, what is the burden of proof when it comes to a certain fact, etc. All interested can refer a bare act. The construction of the words are simple and clear in the provisions.  

Proof must exist "beyond reasonable doubt" to have a successful conviction and pronouncement of guilt of a person. A mere doubt, or a mere possibility of the innocence of the person, can ensure that there isn't a conviction. Why is there such a law? A single, highlighted, everlasting, equity-based principle in law is that a bona fide person must never be put through hardships. 

True that the loopholes of the "chance of innocence" will be manipulated by hundreds to escape their guilt. True that it is disheartening to see a criminal walk through open doors using such loopholes. True that justice is not being served to the victim. But, it is also true that this is the only saving chance of an innocent who has been framed by the opponents as guilty. 

Evidence Law is a beautiful subject. Not only is it designed to help catch a culprit, but it is also designed in a way to have a saving net to the innocents who fall in the pit of framed and fraudulent litigation. Before we blame the law for letting culprits escape "even when there is enough evidence", we need to understand that they were let go probably because our enough wasn't enough, and there was an inkling chance of possibility of innocence left. 

So, when the court is left with a looming question of 'what if the accused in innocent', we have a possibility of justice gone wrong, and that is exactly what the law tries to avoid in good faith. The execution of these laws may be faulty. What isn't, honestly! But, the intentions are all in good faith. 

Have you watched the absolutely brilliant crime-drama 12 Angry Men? If not, add it to your list! I haven't come across a better movie with a story line that is exactly the subject matter of this post!

Monday, February 24, 2020

"We, The People Of India"


The most significant and beautiful part of our extensive and elaborate Constitution of India is its Preamble. We, the people of India, gave to ourselves a wonderful, forward-thinking, and progressive nation when we imbibed the fundamental traits of being a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic nation that will forever strive to uphold justice, equality and fraternity in our Preamble to the Indian Constitution. And, "we, the people" gave all of this to ourselves, according to the preamble itself. And, are we sure we all know the preamble well?

We, the people, have committed to ideals that we will hold on to as citizens of India. We, the people, still can't be sure that all of us know what the preamble actually says. What a shame! My law school has a huge display of the preamble in our campus, and it is one of the most favourite spots of all in the University. On to one side, there is the library that holds the wisdom beyond, and under the preamble, is a humble space for all to think, act, and imagine freely true to the ideals of liberty and justice enshrined in the Preamble. 

The Preamble serves as a guiding light for the Constitution and judges interpret the Constitution in its light. It indicates the sources from where the constitution has come: the people of India. It declares the freedoms which the people of India intended to secure for all citizens, and the basic type of government and polity which is to be established. In another words, preamble as such is widely accepted as the quintessence and spirit of our Constitution, as it embodies the fundamentals as well as the vision and commitment of a newly liberated nation, after its passing through the inevitable birth pangs of national independence from an oppressive and colonial regime. 

Kesavananda Bharti v. State of Kerala is an important, landmark judgement in India. D.G. Palekar, J. held that that "the Fundamental Rights are an elaboration of the Preamble, as an overstatement and half- truth". Undoubtedly, the Constitution is intended to be a vehicle by which the goals set out are hoped to be reached. In the opinion of H.R. Khanna, J. "the preamble is a part of the Constitution and walks before the Constitution”. S.D. Dwivedi, J. expressing his concurrence with the conclusion arrived at by A.N. Ray, J., held that the "Preamble was a part of the Constitution because the heading “The Constitution of India” was placed above the Preamble". It is also helpful to note that Justice Dwivedi has held the Preamble to be a part of the Constitution and then also referred to it as a provision of it.

Such is the importance of our Preamble, and it places upon us a self-assigned duty to uphold India's constitutional values as its citizens. It is also sad truth that most barely know what the Preamble says, and what those words mean in their true spirit. The Preamble is not a legal document for just lawyers to quote, judges to refer, and law students to study. It is, in fact, everything that the Indian nation is, and should be. 

Feeling a little doubtful about the Preamble after reading this post? Let's go back, and read it once!

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Beat The Heat: Elaneer/Narial Pani/Coconut Water

Image from dreamstime.com
February is near its end, and so are the winters. In fact, I feel the winter has long gone. So, what does that signify? Lots, indeed! Why, summer is the ultimate season of mangoes, watermelons, ice creams, milkshakes, lemonades, sodas, juices, sarbaths, jigirthandas and all the other delicious, lip-smacking drinks and eateries that isn't allowed on a cold, wintry day. And along with so much freedom comes the terrible, unforgiving wrath of the sun down on the city! 

Ice creams and juices don’t help beyond a certain point. They give instant relief from the heat, but nothing more. For a long-lasting, healthy, natural, replenishing freshness, nothing beats tender coconuts! Yes, tender coconuts- the hard nut that comes in shades of yellow and green storing the soothingly cool, and sweet coconut water despite the ever-growing temperatures- are the panacea for the hot weather! Technically, for those who are interested, coconut water is the liquid endosperm, of the tender coconut. 

Take time out to go to the stocks of tender coconuts that would be available around every corner, and enjoy sipping the cool coconut water straight from inside the tough nut through a straw inserted in a single hole, deftly made by the sellers. For those who aren't satisfied with just "cool" coconut water, they can bring the whole tender coconut without making the hole, and store it in their refrigerator to have a cold drink. Even the laziest goose can have a sip at the doorstep, as some of the sellers bring the tender coconuts in pushcarts! A sip of the sweet water, and the weary faces turn cheerful again. Well! When you drink it you almost actually feel a cool breeze blowing, and slowly enveloping your body. 

Tender coconuts not only make you feel cool but are also very nutritious. In fact, they are the most nourishing beverage that nature has given to the people! They contain many essential proteins, minerals and vitamins that keep our body healthy, especially during summer. Tender coconuts help stop dehydration of the body. They clear the body of toxic wastes. They also bring down the rashes and heat boils that attack us so often during the summer months. So, naturally, tender coconuts are the best solution to beat the heat during the summer for young and old. 

One of the things that make me smoothly sail through the Gujarat heat and it's unforgiving Loo winds that blow through the day is the Narial Pani sold by the fruits bhaiyya who comes to our college through the week.

So, you want to stay cool this summer, with maximum benefits? Tender coconuts to the rescue!

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Wave Of Emotions

Image from pixels.com
She went away from home to a far land.
Didn’t realize the pain.
When people said they were ‘homesick’, she laughed, made fun and thought she would never feel that way.
Only not much later, she realized it was not so easy.
New place.
New language.
New culture.
She couldn’t even talk, and felt the void.
Felt the mind voice constantly nagging.
Tears sprang unwarranted.
A superficial smile was pinned to the face and an eternal frown in the heart.
Soon, she met nice people, made good friends.
A whole new life seemed to have begun.
Time ran.
The day became a hassle of classes and chit chats.
Learnt to stay awake late at night.
Learnt to still get up early and make it on time to the classes without having to skip breakfast.
Suddenly, one evening, life took a new dimension.
Met a falsely familiar face.
The next few days went on like a dream.
The tears had stopped.
The void filled.
The mind voice nagged on other things.
A genuinely happy smile replaced the frown.
Time flew.
The day became a constant connect to something relatable to home.
The mind took a devious path.
The mirage of heart fluttered towards the one who made her love home from far.
Then it changed.
The connect disconnected.
Afraid, she tried to mend it- in vain.
A sense of helplessness flooded.
She was disillusioned.
Ego would not let her talk.
As the week went by, helplessness turned to anger.
The heart raged.
The mind was in chaos.
Realization hit her hard.
Why try so hard to connect when there is none at all?
She went through it all only to realize that she was the one at fault.
The mirage disappeared.
The illusion vanished.
She was glad to get back her heart.
The disconnect had affected.
But not anymore.
Thinking back she realized what the problem was.
She was just too scared to be scarred.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Graying Line

The child hides behind the veil,
but as near to null is the attempt to hide light,
so is that dark hauntingly visible on the child.
A rotten history .
But as it hides behind
you have two choices-
Pray take pity on the young life?
Seek solace in hope 
that rotten as the history may be,
the future need not? 
A morally white intention.
Give out the hidden child?
Stay quiet as them seekers hunt the child that has
made blood shed and wrecked lives- 
as that is morally black?
The graying line straddles us, to
we find life through gut and conscience.

7 Statements That Seem Like Myths, Maybe Myths, But Work Out

1. Eating lady's finger makes you do math better. 
2. You become thin if you look at your shadow. 
3. Drink water in 7 sips to stop hiccups. 
4. You shouldn't ask a person where they're going before they leave. 
5. You shouldn't sleep with your head in the north. 
6. You shouldn't collect anything in your left hand. 
7. Your stomach would ache if you don't share your food with a hungry onlooker.

Do your parents say any of these? What so you think are the explanations behind them?

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Second Thoughts

Getting us scared, jittery.
Making us sweat.
Tossing our sanity left and right.
Blowing us hot and cold.
Thrusting us deep into the abyss.
Testing our strengths and limits.
Pushing us into irrationality.
Waiting for our mortal mind to break off its soundness.
Second thoughts.

Not letting the internal war between what is and what ought to be spoil my blissful present.
Not falling prey to looming paranoia.
Not letting regret sweep over me.
Not breaking like a twig though my thoughts exert pressure.
Not letting the moment of life be jailed by fear.
Not letting doubt change my wishes.
Second thoughts.
But I shall not bow.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Is Reading Fiction Mere Entertainment?

Books provide us with an escape from the hardships of our time. They take us to places that we may never go. They not only increase vocabulary, creative thinking and morals, but they also give us new ideas to use in our lives. Simon Lake who is the father of modern submarines actually got the idea from a work of fiction called Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Can you believe that? 

Without fiction books, where would we be? Quoting George Martin: 
"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads, lives only one."

Those who read fiction are capable of empathy, and develop the ability to frame opinions, beliefs and interests apart from their own. They have access to hundreds of souls, and the collected wisdom of all them. They have seen things others would never understand, and have experienced instances that others would never know. They will learn not just what it is to be like themselves, but also what it is to be like someone else. They are wise beyond their years. And, the light of experience shines from such little experience.

Fiction also allows you the ability to "think outside the box" and teaches readers to have an open mind and gives us the ability to imagine things we never thought possible. Imagining something that doesn't exist allows you to imagine how things would be if it was possible, think of ways to make it possible, and  inspire you to create and find solutions.

Fiction is a very large genre of books, and not all qualify as fantasy or science fiction.

A fictional book can have a large amount of facts interspersed with fictional characters, or thoughts or ideals, allowing us to fill in the gaps of historical reference with possibilities that could have actually occurred. Fiction gives an important link of connection to our everyday life in trying to understand and see from the perspective of others. 

The ability to "put yourself in someone else's shoes" is an ability so many are severely lacking in. Fiction allows us to hear a person's unsaid secrets and, while being immersed in their world, become a part of their progression in life. Fiction gives readers the ability to escape, and set the reset button in how the world is viewed. Every new book is from a different perspective of a different character, and the substance viewed changes with changing perspectives. There is a balance. 

Whatever the rival claims on our leisure, we still find time for a good novel. Fiction may undergo some changes with the years, but in some form or the other it is likely to remain one of our chief sources of pleasure and learning.

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Idea Of Cleanliness

The train chugged on full pace, the wind rattling the loosely fitted window panes, and I sat quietly with a Wodehouse in my hand. The loud, brash noise of the rail and its travellers faded away into a subtle, muffled background while I was preoccupied with Jeeves. Suddenly, I was jolted back to reality when someone placed a hand on my shoulder. I looked up to see a mother, and a kid, a girl about six years old, standing close to me and saying something.

"Excuse me, I was asking you if you would mind shifting seats with me? My daughter, here, wants to have a window seat. I sit right here on the aisle, diagonal to you. If you don't mind, could you let her sit for a while?" the mother asked, smiling pleadingly. The girl smiled sweetly as I shifted my gaze from the mother to her. I smiled back and got up to shift.

In my new seat, I could see much more of the train. So I closed the book, and sat looking around, the noise of the passengers and the rail becoming more obvious to me. I turned my eyes back to the mother and the girl. The girl clutched a packet of biscuits, and threw down the plastic wrapper on the floor of the train after her last bite.

"How many times have I told you that you cannot litter! Pick it up, now!" came the stern voice of her mother immediately. I allowed myself a smile, after all humans have improved, I thought.

The girl picked up the wrapper. Her mother took it and, without two thoughts, disposed it off the train window, as the wind carried it miles away.

The smile of hope on my face morphed into a smirk of disbelief.

Writing adapted from the observant tweet:

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Testament

Title: The Testament
Author: John Grisham

Troy Phelan, a dying, eccentric, self-made billionaire re-writes his will sitting in his plush Virginia office,  determined to not include his six children in his will. His six children, despite being given a gift of five million dollars each on their 21st birthday, turn out to be broke or in debt. So, Troy decides to will off all of his eleven billion dollars to his illegitimate daughter, Rachael Lane, who is a missionary drawn away from money and other material pleasures, and doesn't want old Troy's money. No one knows of Rachael Lane's exact location except that she is somewhere off in the Brazilian forests.

The story is the game played by the greedy Phelan children, their greedier lawyers, the street-smart lawyer of Troy, and Nate O' Riley, a recovering alcoholic, who is sent in search of Rachael. The Testament is a novel that plays on the lines of both an adventure and a legal thriller. Nate O' Riley jumps right into a death-ride, plunging deep into the jungles of the vast Brazilian terrain in search of the missionary daughter, who at all costs must be brought back to keep off the Phelan heirs circling in on the eleven-billion fortune. 

I have to say, the best part of this novel is the ending. No spoilers here, so read ahead peacefully! The ending holds a special surprise, turning around the whole novel. The book has a lot of biblical references, and there are too many characters. The novel explored a lot of angles with respect to a testament and its execution.  It is definitely a page-turner. 

The Testament can be summed up as an engaging read with the usual money battles that Grisham's stories have, but with a surprise ending. 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Lost In The Shuffle

A boy stood gazing at the road near the gate of his school. Between the boy and the gate, stood a small, scared puppy. Cautiously, the puppy approached the boy, timid in its steps, while the boy continued to gaze at the traffic on the road. Despite the puppy being near to him, the boy did not notice the puppy. Even when the puppy placed a soft paw on the hands of the little boy, there was no sign of reaction or reflex in the boy. Frantically, the puppy gave him a few more taps on his hand with its paw. Grumbling at the lack of response, the puppy retired back to the gate, and lay down, still with its eye on the boy. Hours later, the boy was still standing in the same position, still gazing at the traffic. In the meantime, the puppy had gone to a slumber. Jambu, who was the watchman to the school and had looked upon these events musingly as he sat in his usual chair, finally decided to go up to the boy to find out what he wanted. Kneeling down to the little boy’s height, Jambu began a conversation with the boy.

‘Looking at those cars, are you? Haven’t you watched them for too long now?’ asked Jambu, smilingly. 

‘Mother has not come back yet,’ replied the little boy.

‘Not to worry, boy! She’ll be here soon…’

‘On the way, she told me 2 hours ago on call. It takes only 40 minutes to get to school from the zoo. I’m waiting for her, she promised to take me to the park.’

‘Probably she is stuck in traffic, she’ll be here soon, and I’ll call you the moment her car comes.’

Quietly, the boy brought a chair and settled near the gate. Realizing that the boy was not going to go back, Jambu took his chair near the boy’s and settled next to him. 

Something felt wrong to Jambu, though he couldn’t place what it was. Time ticked away, and after several more hours, the traffic thinned. Unsure of what to do with the boy, Jambu asked the boy for his mother’s number, but the boy did not know. Voluntarily, Jambu offered to drop the boy home, but the boy didn’t reply. When Jambu was struggling with the case of the boy, an elderly woman rushed up to the gate of the school, and called out the little boy’s name. 

‘Xavier!’ she called, and hugged and cried when she saw the little boy sitting, and the puppy ran to the boy and the elderly lady. 

‘Your boy, mam, has been sitting here all day saying that his mother told him she was on the way on call, but nobody came and I was starting to get worried!’ exclaimed Jambu, feeling thankful that somebody came to pick up the little boy. 

‘Zoo accident… his mother passed away a year ago, and the last thing she told him on call was that she is on the way,’ explained the little boy’s grandma before she thanked the watchman for taking care of the boy.

Jambu stood there, the realization of the gravity of loss and attention on the little boy numbing him to a dark silence. 

Friday, February 14, 2020

Gods, Demons, And Others

Title: Gods, Demons, and Others
Author: R. K. Narayan

India is home to some of the greatest legends and epics. With an abundance of philosophical significance, these myths, legends, and epics are an important part of the identity of India. They are of common knowledge to the people in our country, as we have heard them get passed on through the ages. So, when a contemporary author gives a retelling, it really needs to stand out to appeal to the readers. 

Usually, poets retell epics reveling in the brilliance of their language, and the tones of rhythms. But, Gods, Demons, and Others by R. K. Narayan is one of the most delightful prose retelling of some great Indian mythological stories. The stories capture some of the significant characters and personalities in the epics and myths. The stories cover fifteen main characters across different mythic stories, and are grouped into five parts in the book according a common theme of relevance their stories share. They include stories of Yayati, Vishwamitra, Ravana, strong female characters such as Savitri, Draupadi, Shakuntala, and others.

It is a brilliant, and delightful book that can serve as a great introduction to all about the Indian mythological stories. Though, the stories are in line with the original narratives, but they are not a translation. Simple and beautiful, R. K. Narayan's lucid writing captures the passion of various incidents and emotions such as war, marriage, celebrations, virtues, births and deaths through the various stories. 

It is a pleasure to read if you are familiar with the stories. And, if you're not, then it may be a wonderful start!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Author's Chair

We had a beautiful intra-class contest in school every year during our primary schooldays: Author's Chair. We all had to write one story and one poem, and our English teacher used to read all of them over a few days, and declare a winner, a runner, and a commendable piece under each of those two categories. And, the ones selected got to wear a crown, sit on the "Author's Chair" and read out their poem or story to the whole class. 

I wrote my first story in Class IV for Author's Chair. I still remember us waiting expectantly, with bated breaths, to see if our story or poem would make the cut. My class IV English teacher was one of the most favourite teachers in school, and I remember how much I wanted a word of praise from her. I had worked so hard on my piece. While my poem didn't make it, my story won. I still so fondly remember walking up proudly, wearing a crown, and reading out my first written story on the famed Author's Chair. It is such a beautiful, cherished moment, and I could have never thought of a better way I could have shared my first story. 

We used to have DEAR sessions- Drop Everything and Read! During these sessions, every single person in the school had to drop all their work, pick up a book, and just read for an hour. We used to love it. We made sure that we already had a book planned for the session, so that we could start reading without any delays.

I had a great friends circle with a lot of readers during my high school. We used to rush to the library, and make sure we got all the books we wanted before others could. We used to then rotate the books amongst ourselves, until all of us had read all of them. We used to pre-book the novels we wanted to read the next week. The librarian teachers were one of my closest and best teachers, I could even take the liberty to say they were one of my best friends, in school. They beamed every time I entered, and kept books stacked away for me, which they felt I'd enjoy. They used to discuss the books and authors with me, and get my review and opinion on the novels. They were one of my most favourite memories in school. 

I remember, once I complained to my high school librarian that the books were stocked in a haphazard way in the library, and how it was difficult to locate the ones I wanted. She asked me smilingly: 'Is it not your library? Why don't you do something about it?' I was mildly taken aback, but she was right. I got the sense of feeling that the library is mine, and it is my school. So, I went back home that same day, made a list of the authors in the library, and made small name cards for them. I went back to her the next day to proudly tell her my idea on how to organise the library, and from that day till today the library follows the system of name cards that I made and began.

School is one of the places that can do magic, and a world of wonder, to students.  I felt happy every single day I went to school. And now, my school is one of the things I'm proudest about in my life. And, mine undeniably did a world of wonder to me.

The school did us proud. Now it's high time we return the favor, isn't it?

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

"Television" by Roald Dahl


"Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink --
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?

IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK -- HE ONLY SEES!"

This is an excerpt out of a beautiful poem by Roald Dahl. I read it after a long time today, and it made me smile so fondly. The "Television" is Dahl's famous poem that encourages and inspires people to read books, rather than watching TV. It's one of the most meaningful poems of our time. The poem is taking a comedic look at a serious issue today with young children. This alerts us of the risks of watching TV too much. TV robs our minds of the power of creativity and imagination. Kids, even though might throw tantrums, would later love you more and thank you more for introducing them to the lovely world of books. As Roald Dahl puts it:

"Fear not, because we promise you 
That, in about a week or two 
Of having nothing else to do, 
They'll now begin to feel the need 
Of having something to read. 
And once they start -- oh boy, oh boy!"

Oh boy, indeed! Roald Dahl is the children's author that any adult can also read and love. I have always been a fan of Dahl. My brother and I, throughout our childhood, kept picking up books of Dahl to read, even if we had graduated to other books and genres. 

Check out the full poem here! If you haven't read a Roald Dahl yet, I suggest you pick up a copy of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory to get lost in the wondrous world of Willy Wonka and his oompa-loompas! Happy reading!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Jogging Everyday: How Does It Feel?

My Ticwatch E is pretty cool!
I wake up in the morning, feeling fresh. And as I get ready, I put on those running shoes enthusiastically, and go for jog breathing in the clean, morning air, my brisk jog countering the general cold. After a good thirty minute jog, I hit the shower, and have a healthy breakfast- fruits, oatmeal cereals, milk. The day ahead is happy and energetic.

Okay, now, that's a great shot, hopefully in the future life of Sandhya, but let's cut the daydream, haha.

I bet all of us have those fancy pair of running shoes that we got with the optimism of living a lifestyle far removed from what we do live in. I will conveniently avoid the next statement about how often most of us use (or, don't use?) those pair of shoes though. I have a habit of waking up at around seven in the morning, so it's a great time to actually exercise. And, I do- yoga, floor exercises, indoor cardio. But, I still cannot make myself wear those shoes and get out of my room into that cold, windy, dreary morning. The days I successfully make myself walk out of the door into the open, and do go for a jog, you'd probably see me the next day, impishly limping down the hostel staircase with a slightly embarrassed grin. Yeah, that's the stamina.

A wise friend, clearly wiser than me because she executes what I am just writing as a post, told us during a general chit-chat yesterday, on how to make yourself get out there in the morning. 

1. Don't think about waking up. Just get up when the alarm blares. DON'T THINK. The moment you start thinking, you're never going to go out there regularly.

2. You can't get up, and then try to decide what you're going to do. That's not going to work either. Before you would have made up your mind, you'd find yourself crawling back into bed between the warmth of the sheets.

3. Whether you do go out for that jog comes down to if you really want to do it.

Ouch. The third one hurt, but when does truth not hurt! I feel at the end, that's the takeaway. If you really wanted it that much- all that brisk jog, great stamina, great fitness, energetic day- you'd do it. So, the key is to probably decide that you want it.

To increase stamina, and promote good fat burn, it's important to exercise sensibly. A random burst of cardio or high-intensity workout now and then is not actually going to help. Let's say out of 100, you start with an energy level of 90/100 in the first 10 minutes, and then it drops to 50/100 in the next 15 minutes, and then it's a sad 15-20/100 throughout the rest of the workout. You'll just be tired, and exhausted, and wouldn't have really done much to fat-burning. Instead, even if you are bubbling with energy, start out at a level that you can try and maintain through till the end, with little portions of cardio spaced in between. This is the kind of workout that promotes the right aspects for which you are working on.

Honestly, I am not that bad. I do have a general sense of activity that I do through the day. I seem to have a clear aversion to hitting the gym, unless I see no other way. But, I am starting to get a feeling that I can live my daydream with a little more effort. So, why not!

Are you living your daydream? If not, now may be a right time to start.

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Son

Title: The Son
Author: Jo Nesbo

A determined Sonny Lofthus, "the Son", is all set to get out and avenge the death of his father who was a policeman. Sounds a typical action-thriller? Really, but not really. The Son is gripping, and an unputdownable read, that takes you through an unnerving, action-packed ride, and keeps you on the edge. With a villain named "The Twin", and an unidentifiable police mole, the Son is rooted to the cause of ridding the world of characters detrimental to society. 

Nesbo's pace of the story is brilliant, and so is the suspense of the sequences in the novel. Half-way you think you know who the unidentified police mole is, and then you change, and then you change again, and then again, till  it catches you by surprise at the end of the novel!

I loved it. It was a proper thriller read. Nesbo's character development of Sonny is absolutely brilliant. It is almost like an antithesis developing between the characteristics of an empathetic Sonny and the Son. The story keeps you hooked, and feeds information about the characters drip by drip, making you stay and not wander off from the story. 

The narrative in the books shifts between the two main leads, Sonny about his mission, and Simon Kefas, the policeman attempting to track Sonny. The characters are real, with abundance of flaws and strengths. The shifting perspectives between the two main leads builds up a tension and thrill that lasts till the very end of the book. There are also a host of twists, turns and jumbles, taking the story into a complicated knot, but also neatly sorting them all out and leaving no knot undone at the end.

The book is an absorbing read, that will definitely make you indecisive on who to root for: the police, or the Son? 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

What To Read This Week

What fiction I'd suggest for different age groups to read if someone asked me right now? Well, someone did. So, I thought I'd put it up for all to check it out! Here's a list of five books in each category, true to the spirit of the tagline in my blog: what to read! Have fun, read and enjoy! Also, let me know if you liked it and want more suggestions!

Ages 8-11:
1. The Little Prince
2. Five Children and It
3. The Secret Garden
4. Swami and Friends
5. Wind In The Willows

Ages 12- 15:
1. A Wrinkle In Time
2. The Indian In The Cupboard
3. Treasure Island
4. Sophie's World
5. Hatchet

Ages 16-20:
1. The Pickwick Papers
2. The 39 Steps
3. To Kill A Mockingbird
4. Stupid Guy Goes To India
5. Don Quixote

Others: 
1. Daisy Miller
2. Bleak House 
3. The Trial
4. Parthiban Kanavu

These are my picks of the fiction that you can read through this week. Warm, exciting, and brilliant - they set the right mood for the week to come! 

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Mooting In Law School - A Weirdly Satisfying Experience

Mooting

Oxford University Press defines it as thus:
"Mooting is the oral presentation of a legal issue or problem against an opposing counsel and before a judge. It is perhaps the closest experience that a student can have whilst at university to appearing in court."

There's always a cycle of emotions that I go through in law school every semester with respect to mooting. It comes in specific stages.

Stage 1: I am sure I don't want to moot. Nope, not mooting this semester.

Stage 2: I read the problem, it's really interesting, but I think I shouldn't moot. Let me concentrate on other things this semester, haha!

Stage 3: Or, should I? Too tempting, but nope, let me just get other things done.

Stage 4: Okay, I think I'll go just as a Researcher. 

Stage 5: Did you ask me if I wanted to do it with you? Cool, let's do it!

And, there we are with a moot problem and two weeks to get our arguments in place. Even if it is an intra-college round, moots have the ability to exert a lot of pressure. It is probably that same pressure that lets us perform with abilities that we didn't really know we had. Nobody I know ever, ever used the two weeks they get for research. Honestly, all my research and drafting of my memorial happens the last 2 days. Even if I start research one week before, I feel that all the effective research cleverly evades me until it's the D-day. 

Then, why moot? The day you pick your arguments that you have drafted, and stand before the judge in your moot courtroom, as they target every small thing you say and try to bring your case down to ashes, and the way you try to defend it- it's just a great feeling. It's a pleasure to defend what you have argued, and there is a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction that sweeps over you after you are done pleading your arguments in the oral round. 

Whether you've been hammered with questions that you weren't able to answer, or whether you defended all your arguments successfully, it leaves you owning what you did and feeling nice about it. 

Most of us go through a point in the last week where we regret picking up the moot (let's be honest). But, coming out of it successfully gives a satisfaction for me that nothing else really manages to. Mooting, that way, is a weirdly satisfying experience for me. That's why perhaps I manage to perform when under pressure. That's why perhaps that pressure itself is pleasurable as it pushes me to do much, much better.

And, after all that mooting in first rounds, we go back to stage 1: we are sure we don't want to do the second round, haha, who wants to take so much pressure! 

But, when the interesting problem comes out again, we are left thinking: Or, should I?

Friday, February 7, 2020

Focus Points For Growth As A Society


Any government has multiple roles and responsibilities. Topping them is the duty to provide healthcare facilities to all, and also empowering the nation through measures taken towards education for all. 

Good health and basic education are the fundamental keys to development. While good health is indispensable for life itself, a good education is the one that can take the society forward. A healthy body and healthy mind, makes people more cultured and mature. It promotes healthy thoughts, and makes people broad-minded. Education is the key to tackling various social issues that we face in the world today. In a world where advancement and newer technologies spell the future, it is important that a nation promotes active learning and empowers the youth. It is important that the government prioritizes and utilizes its resources in providing these two basic necessities to the nation. 

Art and culture is something that makes the society. Culture is what the society is, and art is what such a society expresses in its own ethnic forms. Since they are inherent traits of any society, they are capable of surviving even if the government doesn’t spend too much resources on them. Art and culture are passed on from generation to generation. They are important too, but do not take a place above crucial factors such as health and education in the priority table. 

Finally, what is the use of a culturally rich nation which is way backward when it comes to parameters such as health and education. What we should understand is that education promotes art and culture. Not the vice-versa. So, by spending more resources on health and education, we not only enhance the literacy level but also the cultural aspect of the society. Thus, the government should definitely spend more resources on health and education than on art and culture.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Vicar Of Wakefield

Title: The Vicar Of Wakefield
Author: Oliver Goldsmith

The Vicar Of Wakefield tells the story of a tempestuous period in the life of the Primrose family. Dr. Charles Primrose, the Vicar of Wakefield, lives a simple, happy life with his wife Debora, and children Gegore, Olivia and Sophia. He is well-off as he invests wisely on a fortune inherited from a distant relative. On the day of George's wedding to Arabella Wilmot, Charles Primrose receives the news of losing all his money and becoming bankrupt due to the absconding of his investing agent with all the money. The wedding is cancelled by Arabella's father who believed that the Primrose family would not be able to provide care for his daughter. George, who had studied college in Oxford, moves to the city to look for a job. And, the rest of the Primrose family shifts to the countryside into a modest living. The book details and describes the troubles, and the happiness that the Primrose family encounter as they try to live a full life. 

The characters are a perfect sample of the era that the book is set in. Set in a Victorian timeline with vicars and their estates, it reflects the cultural mindsets of that era. Those who read a lot of old classics of a similar time period, will feel a familiarity with the ideals of these characters and their storyline. 

It is a novel that stresses on the strength of family and relations, and reinforces the belief in love, faith and determination that holds the bonds between the family unbreakable. It is a novel on the lines of sentimental family drama. It is an old classic, and the novel has been referred many times in many other classics like David Copperfield by Dickens, and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. For those of us who love classics, it's a gem in the shelf!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Education: In Consonance With Holistic Personality Development

We all go to school to get ‘educated’. We all ‘learn’ something in school. Before we try to analyse whether today’s educational system is inclined towards ‘skill development’ or ‘holistic personality development’, we must ask ourselves- what is education? 

Education is the process of learning that facilitates acquirement of knowledge and enables development. Skill development is the process of developing those skills that help us perform those various complex jobs that we have to, in life. And holistic personality development is the process of developing those qualities and perspectives that make sure our ‘skills’ are humane and useful to others. 

The need for a holistic education system is definitely gaining a lot of supporters in the current world. Parents want their children to not just acquire a set of skills, but learn to use them in a way productive to the various causes of humanity. The definitions of terms such as ‘success’ and ‘ambition’ are sincerely being re-evaluated. No more is success just pure profit for the self. If personal gain comes at the cost of another, or cost of a greater good, it is not considered to be success. In simpler terms, it is now seen as how much you give to the society, instead of how much you take from it. 

‘Learning’ has also taken a new dimension. Einstein in one of his speeches, on the role of school in development, says that it is more important to teach how to ‘acquire a skill’ than to teach the skill itself. 

What is the point of learning in rote the mere contents of a textbook? Thirty years back, knowing facts and historical points, and being on the know-how of something may have been a cool skill. Today, all it takes is a single google search! The world is changing at a pace so fast that the skill set required to adapt to the contemporary necessities is almost never constant. Therefore, more than putting pressure on children to excel in one particular skill, it is better to teach children how to learn a skill, because the skills that you teach them today may not really be needed tomorrow. 

To conclude, today’s education is shifting towards a more holistic system than a mere skill development process, due to the increasing relevance of exponential technological advancements, and also seeing the world from a humanitarian perspective that can help in tackling many of the current global problems that we face today.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Screenplay Writing

Image from Powtoon
Stories have always captured my attention. Fiction has been the sweetest, most precious gift in my childhood. So naturally, I went around making up stories in my head all the time- some of them heavily influenced by what I read, and some of them just plain original born from the grey cells of my brain. But, it has mostly been novels. When I tried writing my own stories, they were also in a novel-type format, with conversations and long drawn detailed descriptions, and I loved it.

Several years back, my dad sent a link to an article on No Film School which talks about (Big Spaceship) Victor Pineiro’s crash course on how to write a screenplay. And, since that day, that one article has constantly been on my bookmarks bar. And, I’ve looked at it every time only to want to try it out.

So, during the December holidays in 2019, I started trying it out, and it’s pretty cool. Here is why the crash course is brilliant.

1. Gives insights. It beautifully gives you a way to structure the idea that wafts around in your head. It gives you a way to tame your wild imagination in order to actually write it out, especially if you are writing a screenplay. 

2. Insights are actionable. I hate people who advice in an abstract manner when something needs a concrete solution. So, when giving insights on how to write a screenplay, Pineiro sticks to insights that are actionable, and step-wise follow worthy advice. I loved them. 

3. Page-line(like timeline). One of the most important things is to introduce characters at the right time, and bring right events at the right time. You own your story and how you want to say it, but the rough page-line, as I'd like to call it, just gives you an absolutely sensible perspective. 

4. Words with meanings. Plot, theme, logline, story, scene, sequence, acts: there are so, so many words that we use when we think of the components of a story. But, do we clearly and exactly know what they are? The crash course gives you that, and personally I really liked that. 

5. Examples. It doesn't just explain things, and give you an insight. The slides give examples that we know, and can easily relate to and understand. 

Nothing is set in stone. You can bend rules, you can make rules, and you can own your style. I myself experiment a lot with story writing in different styles and perspectives. All said, I still loved the universality of this crash course that fits almost every story. 

Do check it out! Also, I hope soon you'll get to read a completed screenplay from me!

Monday, February 3, 2020

How Do We Write In The Present World Of TL;DR

The world today is driven by audio-visuals. Paintings, photographs, films, music- they rule the game. When people claim to have read an article or a book, I can bet they have not most of the times. It is a world where very few love descriptive, lengthy texts. Its is a world fast-paced, and one that required the impact of words to match their pace. 

So then, are words powerless? Of course, they are not! But, words now need to fit within a square box. 100 words; 200 maximum. I don't believe anybody who is not specifically there for it would read it otherwise. I see comments saying TL; DR to blog posts. They aren't even ready to write the long of it: too long, didn't read. So, that's how the world runs today, nobody wants to read a long post. What started as a brilliant  concept of Twitter is now the norm of the brain in today's world. Is it sad? Not really. Writing evolves, and styles do too. It is a happy challenge for those who court words and want to create an impact. Random thoughts, but valid ones. What do you think?

Sunday, February 2, 2020

The Trial

Title: The Trial
Author: Franz Kafka

Josef K., a senior bank clerk, on his 30th birthday morning is arrested by two unknown men for an unspecified crime. The arresting agents, however, do not take K. away. Instead, K. is told to await instructions from the Committee of Affairs. Josef K. on his 31st birthday is executed informally by two men in the name of "law" in a place in the outskirts of the city. And, the story follows the life of Josef in the period of a year in between his arrest and death, where K. undergoes a trial so hard on him that is summed up in the final lines of the book. 

"‘Like a dog!’ he said. It was as if the shame would outlive him."

In an incomplete novel of The Trial, Kafka spins a brilliant satire on the law, and its legal process. Throughout the book, K. maintains his innocence, but is clueless on how to prove it. The whole story exudes a helplessness that the readers are bound to feel along with K. K devotes hours of his time and energy to show his innocence, or to at least find someone to take his case as seriously as he does. At every turn, he is told presenting his case is a formality that will ultimately have no effect on the predetermined outcome, guilt. The helplessness that the book exudes due to K's frantic efforts, is supplemented with a horrifying doubt as to the unspecified crime brought on K's conscience, and the assumption of all that K has no hope. The book is one that will raise unanswered questions.

The parable 'Before the Law' is one of the most famous parts of the book, and as a law student and reader, I had heard of its fame before. But, only when I read it did I truly understand why it is so highly praised. The story leads us to the case of K. whose judgement is determined through accusation rather than the trial. 

A dark satire: the story is dreary and sad, but it hits you where it aims to. It isn't an enjoyable read. In fact, it makes you uncomfortable, and leaves you out of focus with so many themes incorporated in the story. It is difficult, oddly horrifying and satirical, but it is brilliant. 

I've heard Kafka isn't easy. And, it is true. Neither can you keep off the story, nor can you take it easy. And, through compelling and brilliant writing, Kafka lets you see the aftermath of a disaster born out of unfairness. The book took me through an overwhelming ride, and at the end of it I just sat there for a while, trying to process the ride in silence. 

It is a title that is definitely a must-read. 

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Parasite (Gisaengchung)

Movie: Parasite (Gisaengchung)
Language: Korean
Directed by: Bong Joon Ho
Written by: Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin-won
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Chang Hyae-jin
Music by: Jung Jae-il
Running time: 132 minutes

Father Ki-taek, mother Chung-sook, son Ki-woo, and daughter Ki-jeong of the Kim family struggle to make ends meet for a regular living, with no jobs for any of them. What seems a boon when an offer comes their way to Ki-woo, to tutor the daughter of the rich Park family on the recommendation of a friend, soon turns into a string of lies. The well-rehearsed lies, and some well staged plans, lead to the whole Kim family being employed with the Park family, without the Parks knowing the connections between them. There develops a symbiotic relationship between the Parks and the Kim family, and the lives of these two families placed in disconnected worlds cross over. But, the parasites discarded by the Kims, as a part of their hatched plans to get employed, return to threaten their newfound lives, making the heart of the story. 

The movie captures the differences in privilege with a honesty that is haunting. The dependence, and the troubles born out of truth and lie is almost parasitic. Privilege till the end remains a dream for the Kims. Their attempts to be employed without lying fail. But when they lie to live, the lies bury them deeper. The details in the film are intricate and well-knit, pushing you to a space of familiarity, and slight discomfort on seeing blank truth, at the same time. 

Parasite is a brilliant film. The Korean drama feels extremely true to its title, and it is so real that it keeps you at the edge till the very end. The story is simple, but the sequences are beautifully placed that it leaves you guessing all the time. You know some things would happen as you watch the movie, and they do- but never at the moment that you think they would happen. The film is bounty with twists and turns, and leaves you high on expectations at some points only to hit you with that unexpected tangent of events.  

Parasite refuses to fit into a pre-decided confinement of a single genre. It is thrilling to the point that your brain spins with the score of possibilities, and it is also with consistent comedy, leaving you at the end with a feeling of a roller-coaster ride I could bet you haven't been on before.