Thursday, April 30, 2020

Iah: A Musical Feature

This evening saw the release of What If There Were 360 Days In A Year, the wondrous dedicated creativity of a year- culminating in a 14-track mixtape of Iah's music. I loved Môr and Monsoon Palace from the mixtape. But, who is Iah?

Pushing the boundaries of creativity, breaking the grounds on perspectives, Iah makes the music that attempts to communicate at a dimension that can be expressed and understood only through a boundless medium of art like music. 

Swapnil Shreshtha, as Iah, explores a side that is a figment of imagination in the real world, but a versatile reality in the dimension of the world of electronic music, as reversed from “hai” meaning “what is” in Hindi. 
What If There Were 360 Days In A Year
Coming from a small town in India, what started as an unconscious and reflexive attraction to rock and metal at the age of twelve, only led to a fifteen year old Swapnil ending up being a part of a three-member band, sparking the ignition to become the seamless artist that he is today. At sixteen years of age, with no formal training in music and with no actual instruments to experiment the self-taught interest, Swapnil was forced to a point where he might have had to wrap up the music in him. And, discovering electronic music at that point was the first major climacteric of his life. 

And, then on came an exponential curve in the exploration of electronic music which led to the birth of Iah. To Iah, music is not just an escape to the surreal, but a way to express what is impossible to be expressed through words. To Iah, music is the only dimension that supports the gravity of his perspective and thoughts. And to Iah, the music he makes is the creative bonanza that he cannot hold back. 

Iah makes electronic music that is atmospheric and glitchy, and is influenced by various genres like hip-hop, trap, drum and bass, and many others, in line with Iah’s belief, truly and wholly, that the genre cannot define a music where the music must define the genre. Therefore, traversing on a landscape of genre that works on his own style, Iah makes music on a mix of personal style and atmospheric electronic music. 

Iah previously made music and remixed songs under the project pen name of Indus, and has worked on several other music collaborations, and produced with upcoming artists, especially rappers. With a recent release of a well-received EP ‘Arcana’ in October 2019 consisting of three songs- Affection, Cocoon, and Found- the artist has pieced together an intimate and important journey of personal metamorphosis. Recently, two beautiful singles Bulletproof and Dusty Rose were released by Iah only to meet a vibrant, warm reception, and many features! 

 

Music to Iah is something divine and spiritual. Coming from a small town himself, the aim of this phenomenal, upcoming artist is one that is as expressive about himself as his music. The young artist hopes that one day he can build a strong community for artists like producers, singers, rappers, songwriters, filmmakers, designers, painters, illustrators and many others of all kinds, who can work with each other with collaboration and funding, so that the art can be created in an environment of support and strength. 

Iah’s music opens a wormhole to an alternate realm of perspective through detailed, expressive and intimate music baring every beat originating from his mind of music.

Swapnil is a dear friend from the University, and I am glad that his music meets the world. There is a definite joy when the artist connects to an audience, and that is the greatest achievement of today's world of technology!

You can access Swapnil as Iah here:

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Animal Farm

Title: Animal Farm
Author: George Orwell

The animals were in distress. The farm owner Mr. Jones was mistreating them more with every passing day as he dived deeper into alcoholism. Old Major, the wise, elderly boar, composed and sang the stirring revolutionary anthem for the animals, in a tune something between ‘Clementine’ and ‘La Curcuracha’. 
Beasts of England, beasts of Ireland, Beasts of every land and clime, Hearken well and spread my tidings Of the golden future time.
Two young pigs, Napoleon and Snowball continue the revolution, and are instrumental in ridding the farm of the lousy human owner. The animals draw up the Seven Commandments of Animalism, the fundamental of which is "all animals are equal". For some time, things continue pleasantly on the newly renamed and established 'Animal Farm'. But, with Snowball's growing good intentions, Napoleon finds the need to silence him in order to emerge as the supreme commander of the Animal Farm. Napoleon falsely frames Snowball, and banishes him. 

As Napoleon and his group of faithful pigs stoop down to breaking every law in the Seven Commandments, Napoleon amends the law to suit his unlawful needs. 

The piety of the Animal Farm falls with the final blow to the very meaning of the revolution against humans when the maxim "all animals are equal" is amended to "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others".
"Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."
Animal Farm  is an allegorical satire on the soviet totalitarianism. In this satire, the pigs were written in the role of the Bolshevik revolutionaries, and to overthrow and oust the human owners of the farm, setting it up as a commune in which, at first, and only at first, all animals were equal.

It is a short, engaging read that captures in the essence what the desire for position and power can do, and how it has the power to destroy the very thing that you stood for to get in power, if you are not grounded to your cause. I really liked the book!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Seabiscuit: An American Legend

Title: Seabiscuit: An American Legend
Author: Laura Hillenbrand

"It began with a young man on a train, pushing west."

Charles S. Howard was a man who set out to find where his restless heart would rest, leaving the comfort of the eastern cities of America to explore the western part. Reaching San Francisco, Howard found the opportunity in automobiles in a city where they swore to stand by horse rides. Taking up a franchise dealership of Buick, Howard went on determined to convince the people into a future with automated locomotion. And for that, Howard drove in car races with the exact models he was supposed to sell, and offered driving lessons as not a single person in the wide town of San Francisco knew how to drive even if they were rich enough to afford a car. 

An earthquake in 1906 worked in the favour of Howard, as he proved the value of automobiles to the city of magnificent distances(as a witness of the disaster put it) by converting all the cars in his showroom into an ambulance that helped so many firemen and so many victims to safety. Suddenly, in a one-day spin, Howard was a rich, daring, dashing, photogenic, articulate, young achiever who, according to the media, was always doing something stunning and always saying something quotable afterward.

The fateful loss of his son, during a promotional event relating to automobiles, left Howard distancing himself into a recluse. When he got out, he got himself into performing and facilitating various philanthropic activities. Now successful, Howard slipped back into a restlessness, and pushed farther west only to discover his love for what he replaced. Horses. However, he was interested in racehorces
"In keeping with his love of lost causes, Howard bought only the worst-looking horses at the sale, animals who lingered in the ring, attracting few, if any, bids."
One of those worst-looking horses was the thoroughbred, light-bay beauty Seabiscuit, who would grow to dominate the columns of popular newspapers of the whole of America, and rise to be an icon of identity for the American nation.  A series of events lead Howard to stumble upon "The Loan Plainsman" Smith, the finest horse trainer America would ever see, and Pollard, the talented jockey of Seabiscuit. 

The book vividly describes the magnificent horse, and his lovable quirks. Hillenbrand captures them in such amazing details that reading about Seabiscuit and his life made me feel a part of it. The narrative is fast-paced and you gallop through the chapters racing along with the timeless experiences of Seabiscuit and the world of horse-racing. The book leaves you with an exhilarated feeling as you root for your Seabiscuit, whose defect and quirks and the soft, mischevious, sweet-treat-loving heart you would have grown so fond by that time.  
"In 1938, near the end of a decade of monumental turmoil, the year’s number-one newsmaker was not Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Hitler, or Mussolini. It wasn’t Pope Pius XI, nor was it Lou Gehrig, Howard Hughes, or Clark Gable. The subject of the most newspaper column inches in 1938 wasn’t even a person. It was an undersized, crooked-legged racehorse named Seabiscuit."
Laura Hillenbrand lavishly spends her chapters introducing us to Howard, Smith, Pollard and Seabiscuit, each with their own fitting grandeur. It is a pleasure to read the small, interesting bits of Seabiscuit's life with Smith, and Smith's life with his favourite champion racehorse. I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptive episodes where Smith is lovingly worried about the grooms feeding treats to Seabiscuit leading him to put on weight, and is torn between firing them for not following his instructions and letting them stay because the horse was so enamoured by them. Smith's merry in taking the media reporters on a ride is even more merry to read about! 
“Turf writers and clockers swear by Tom Smith,” moaned a reporter, “and very often they just swear.”
 “So long, Charley” cries Woolf, the jockey during Seabiscuit's ultimate win against War Admiral, what is still considered to the greatest race in the history of horse-racing. The victory cry came to stay for decades as the winning exclamation of jockeys. Seabiscuit and Howard grew old together, when Seabiscuit retired from racing, after breaking all the records possible. 
"Seabiscuit settled well into his retirement. Knowing he needed activity, Howard taught him how to herd cattle. The horse loved it, nipping at the animals’ rumps and torturing them as he had once tortured War Admiral and Kayak."
Finally, I would like to give you one fair warning that the book itself gives. I haven't watched the movie on Seabiscuit, but here's the excerpt from the book: 
"Hollywood took the tale of Seabiscuit’s life, deleted everything interesting, and made an inexcusably bad movie, The Story of Seabiscuit, starring Shirley Temple. They cast one of Seabiscuit’s sons in the title role. When they set up to film the War Admiral match race, they deliberately chose a woefully sluggish horse to play War Admiral. Unfortunately, the Seabiscuit son was even slower."
I absolutely loved the book, and I am so glad I read it. This book had a weird way of making me so happy with every win by Seabiscuit, and I have come to love the way the horses were described. I think it is one of the best narratives- descriptive, fast-paced, and doing full justice to its story! It's a must-read!

Monday, April 27, 2020

A Slice Of Poetry And Life

My second language in school was always Tamizh- from class one to ten. Ten years of exposure into the language, and we still used to make so many spelling errors, and read a little slowly, at least most of us. Though hours on end was spent memorizing for my Tamizh exams, the classes and the learning were always fun.

I really enjoyed many of the pieces of poetry that we read through our syllabus in school. Tamizh is a beautiful language, and there have been stalwarts who played with its beauty in the most mesmerizing, meaningful manner. One of my most favourite poems is a poem written by Andagakavi Veeraraghavar which is a standing example of the beauty and richness of the language.

When I was in class nine, we were given an assignment to portray a personality through a recital of something famous they did or any characteristic dialogues by them. I had chosen Bharatiyar, or fondly Bharati, who was also known as 'Mahakavi' for being the torch bearing pioneer of modern Tamil poetry. I recited the poem below for my project. This is one of his most classic, famous poems, and I have attempted to translate the broad meaning for those who do not know Tamizh- though my translation does no justice to the poem. 

தேடிச் சோறுநிதந் தின்று - பல
சின்னஞ் சிறுகதைகள் பேசி - மனம்
வாடித் துன்பமிக உழன்று - பிறர்
வாடப் பலசெயல்கள் செய்து - நரை
கூடிக் கிழப்பருவ மெய்தி - கொடுங்
கூற்றுக் கிரையெனப்பின் மாயும் - பல
வேடிக்கை மனிதரைப் போலே - நான்
வீழ்வே னென்று நினைத் தாயோ?

Scavenging for food and feeding yourself every day, chit-chatting around and gossiping through many stories, getting disappointed and tossing over a plethora of troubles that come on the way, also acting in ways that disappoint others, hairs graying slowly and growing old, dying after a spell of life with much slandering, like so many men who live their lives this way- did you think that I'd fall prey to their ways?

The word "kootru" on the third last line has two meanings- one, slanders or utterances, and two, the death God Yama in Hindu mythology. So, Bharati plays with the language and talks of a death after a life harsh utterances and the death after the arrival of the fearful death God Yama.

Back in 2004, my father and his friend, both ardent fans of Bharati, were discussing this very poem, and as my father fondly recalls, their friendship "blossomed over this conservation". My dad's friend, Rakesh Vaidyanathan uncle, went back after the conversation only to unleash his strand of creativity- with a simple and yet very beautiful translation of this poem by Bharati that you can read here.

Search in despair for their daily bread,
gossip trivials and rumors spread,
sad in mind and suffer much pain,
inflict suffering on others in vain,
grow old and feeble, wrinkled and grey,
die and dis-appear, as destiny's prey
funny men, so silly and ill,
fall like them, you fancied, I will?

Bharati was a man way ahead of his time- someone bold enough to not change his ways for others, unabashed to talk truth, and a great visionary and reformer. The teacher liked my recital a lot, and I was one of the people who got shortlisted through the class activity to see a live Tamizh stage play. Later on, I went to write a review of it in Tamizh, and also was one of the five winners of the best reviews. 

It is a sweet memory. Tamizh teachers in school are some of my favourite! And I will forever remember our fun during Tamizh classes in school!

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Stories From My Life: In Black and White

Some time ago, I had participated in a one week black and white photography challenge, where I was trying to capture the important things that surround my life. The whole challenge was to convey a part about your life to people in black and white, but with two important rules: no people, no explanation.

I have a Canon EOS 450D, and all the images were shot on it. So, here I present to you all my seven photos: stories from my life- in black and white!

Day 1/7

Day 2/7

Day 3/7

Day 4/7

Day 5/7

Day 6/7
Day 7/7
Hope you liked them! Leave your comments below!

Saturday, April 25, 2020

5 Things That Make You More Efficient While Doing An Academic Project

Fresh out of an academic University submission for the subject of Public International Law today, I realized that there were a few things that actually make your life simpler while doing a project. There are many things that we juggle with when we set out to do a project- there are questions for which you have already done the research and you have enough data to answer, there are those questions that you have no idea about as yet, and there are those other questions which you are in the process of gathering information. 

When you have a research structure with more than 6-7 questions, each having their own set of sub-queries that prompt you research on that line, it can get overwhelming somewhere in the middle if you don't do it in an organized manner. It's not that you won't be able to finish it, but certain practices definitely help you put your project together much faster. 

1. Bookmarks

Simple. Yet it solves a ton of problems. Just bookmark all the sites you visit in one folder as you read it. This makes sure that it is always there, and you never face that situation where you came across brilliant data but now lost it among tons of other open tabs. Talking of tabs, that's what the next point is about. 

2. New Window

Please use the option of "open a tab in new window". I know this is more of a habit, and many people keep fifty open tabs in the same window. I, for one, can never, ever, do that. It just takes me for a spin. I like to have a pictorial location in my mind about where a content I'm reading is in the browser. Using more windows helps you sort out. Use one window for a research question, maybe. Or, use one window for ongoing research, and another window to have those research data that you have finalized on, maybe?

3. Rough-Paper Document

The best way to collate all that you have got on a subject is to open up a draft document for you project. When you find something that is useful, copy-paste with the link below. This way you have the relevant data, and also the sites you took them from. 

4. Rough Citations

As you are typing out your project- make draft or rough citations. Put the citation number then and there, and insert the link you need to cite from in the footnote. This makes your job a thousand times easier while citing. I feel figuring out where to cite and matching it with what to cite all at the same time in the end is such a big mess. 

5. Basic Formatting

Always, always write with basic formatting. Do not skip that apostrophe, comma, capitalization thinking you'll do it later. Check the requirements for the font style, size, line spacing, alignment, and start writing after setting them all right. Going around adding that apostrophe in don't in the end, or fixing that capital letter in names/beginning of sentences is very annoying to do. And, don't use short forms. Just write properly. By trying to save time, you'll end up wasting more in the end.

6. Citations

Citations really are the bane of academic writing. For all those of you who read it till the end: here's a bonus! If you already aren't aware: use Citethisforme that might just make doing citations a tad bit easier. 

All the very best, try to be more efficient next time. But don't be like me: just because I am efficient enough to do a project in an hour when it is supposed to take 3 hours, I use it like a short-cut to guilt-free postponing. Don't do that. Try these, they really help make your project-time that much lesser.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Saintly Patience

Image from: QuotesIdeas
Patience- a mesmerizing quality. My dad and I have often observed, discussed, and envied my grandma for her calm-yet-firm composure. It is a quality that I personally felt I always could work on.

In  The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote: 
“Well, I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.” 
I am more of how Lewis Caroll describes the old Crab's daughter in Through The Looking Glass
"enough to try the patience of an oyster!" 
All the beauty lies in being patient, and those who can master themselves and be so bear the fruits of happiness. Patience is second-nature to some, and thankfully, for others, it is a quality that can be honed by practice. Patience is also a quality that makes other people listen to you better, give you the power of command without you ever demanding it, and keep you on a high pedestal of respect by all around you. 

The thing about patience is that it is a quality that is not uniform even in the same person. I have a lot of patience in me when I am teaching someone about a concept, or when I am trying to learn something. But, I may have no patience when it comes to some other activities, for example, listening to others when they speak. 

A conscious decision to be patient is all that takes. I wish I could say that, but it's not as easy. To those of us who tend to get irritable easily- patience is a habit that you gain over time. And, till then, we could probably try some of these. 
1. We almost always know when an argument is approaching. Prepare yourself to be calm, come what may.
2. Drink enough water.
3. We need not answer to anybody, or point out anyone’s faulty argument at that moment itself. Take time, think about it, and get back to them.
4. If it is an email/text that tips you off, then don’t reply immediately after the first read. Give it some time, read it again before you pen your thoughts.
5. If you do lose your patience, apologize. 
My grandma is way up the scale, but I hope I get somewhere close to that some day!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

A Quick Reminder: When Did You Last Review Your Privacy Settings?

Safety is important, and safety in the virtual world is even more important. Most of us are trained to be guarded when it comes to a physical space, but we may tend to forget to keep up the guard when it comes to social media.

If we are walking on the road, and a stranger says 'hi, can I be your friend?', we'd call them a creep and walk away faster if possible. Would you say 'yeah sure, we're friends from now'? Would you open your phone and show them your pictures? Would you chat with them for hours on end without getting to know exactly who they are? If they followed your activities, would you be comfortable? Which of these factors, and how, do they change when it comes to being online?

It is absolutely true that the above cannot be exactly translated to internet activity. Yes, social media can be used to get a reach to strangers we absolutely won't be able to reach out to otherwise. But, I think it is highly important to do it consciously. A random friend request from a stranger, and people accept. Their feeds are filled with personal pictures, experiences and comments. Where you are putting up personal updates on your location, your images, your life- make sure you do it being fully aware of whom you share it with. Nobody has the right to tell you to share it privately if you want to go public, but it is your basic duty to do it consciously because with the freedom comes the responsibility we owe to ourselves.

How many of us do regular privacy checks? When was the last time you bothered to go through you privacy settings, review them, and update them? The clauses keep changing, and we often give permissions for things we don't even realize. As new features are added, some apps have a misleading trend similar to that of permission-granted- until-denied, where those small tick boxes are by default ticked on unless you voluntarily check off. 

My dad recently showed me a tweet where there images of two people, and none of them were real people. It was generated by an AI. I couldn't believe it, and as much as our technology has developed, there is no point crying about a flip side- we just have to buck up. 

You have two options: One, let it go, don't use. Two, use it responsibly and keep in mind your own safety. Cyber safety is an indispensable concept once you decide to be out there on the web. What you do, is yours and yours alone. When we think about it, it may be scary. But, all that we need to do is be conscious. That's all. I believe that a person who is not conscious about what they are doing is the most vulnerable, because when you know what you do there is always a sense of surety and preparedness, and things seldom go wrong. 

There is always help when we need. But, awareness about it all is critical. In law, there is a popular maxim: ignorance of the law is no excuse. I think this is a maxim that can be extended to this concept. Ignorance of your privacy settings is no excuse. 

All said, the internet is a wonderful place for those who are aware of things. It helps you connect and stay in touch with the near and dear ones who are in fact far, far away. It is a beautiful place to showcase and promote yourself. It is one of the best places to meet your match and caliber, and find people interested in the same things as you, transcending physical and cultural borders. It makes the world a smaller, well-knit global community. And, the virtual world is here to stay. Those who are up to date- great job! For those of us who are getting those slight doubts, shall we just go and review them again?

Stay aware, stay safe!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

From Doon With Death

Title: From Doon With Death
Author: Ruth Rendell

Margaret Parsons leads the life of a timid housewife with her daily monotonoty of gardening and taking care of her husband in the small, quiet town of Kingsmarkham. Her life, described by all, is that which is nothing close to interesting. A formidable Inspector Wexford is introduced to us when Margaret Parsons is reported missing, and is soon found dead out in a nearby curb. 

In hot pursuit to uncover the mystery, Inspector Wexford leaves no stone unturned, and circles in carefully on Margaret Parsons' little community that hold her memories together. The lack of any sort of palpable clue, pushes a vexed and baffled Wexford to rummage through the late lady's belongings. This desperate pursuit lands a trove of Maragaret's treasured book collections- all of them that have one passionately and intricately breathtaking inscription- Doon. A gut feeling that this must be the missing piece of the puzzle leads Wexford to re-summon all of Margaret's circle of community for a redefined line of questioning. 

Who is Doon? What does Margaret have to do with the person? And, who murderd Margaret Parsons?

A shrouded web of lies entwine this fast-paced, unputdownable mystery as the mind reels with the gaining momentum of umpteen possibilities. Yet, Ruth Rendell leaves you reeling to her story until the very end- when she delivers an unforgettable, unexpected, classic twist! From Doon With Death has a solid plot through the novel, and a blissful twist in the end, which I haven't even gone near to make sure I don't give any spoilers. 

Written in 1964, this was Ruth Rendell's debut novel of Inspector Westford, and he appears in her books she she wrote later in the same series. Highly conversational in tone, the book makes you hear the characters out in your brain as you read it. I have heard that her first book is a classic, and it absolutely was. I have also heard that her best novels came later in her career, and I can't wait to get to them. Inspector Wexford, in this book, has the awe-inspiring character development that will stand the test of times!

The best part of a crime mystery is when you try to solve it too, and that is what exactly happened with me while reading From Doon With Death. With Rendell's classic English setting, and an irresistible crime plot, this is an absolute page-turner! I loved it!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Fangirling Forever Over The Queen Of Crime

Murder On The Orient Express. Agatha Christie. This first ever crime fiction that I stumbled upon also paved the way to what would soon become a lovable addiction, thanks to Christie who turned my world of books around with this genre! 

My life, for all through my late middle-school and high-school, revolved around the charming, strong gossip-detective Jane Marple, and the Belgian genius with his egg-shaped head and brilliant grey cells, not to forget the accented mon ami. The curious Harley Quinn, and the coolest espionage and detective sleuths Tommy and Tuppence were enough to send me spinning into a world of genteel detectives uncovering the poisonings, stabbings, and the other ravenously executed murders- all without the unnecessary jumps, kicks, punches of your standard, average thriller hero. What a beauty! I was instantly sold on this genre. 

The exact same thing happened with my brother too. I cannot describe to you what an absolute pleasure it is to have an ally for an author in the house. When my brother came on board, I realized for the first time that we had enjoyable, slightly bifurcated niche fandom inside the vast spectrum of Christie's crimes. We loved all her books, but to some- we were partial and lent absolute loyalty. While my brother is an all-time Poirot guy, I lean impishly towards my Jane Marple crimes. While my brother loved the elite, eerie ones with the silent killings of a poison, I loved the ones where there is brutal murder with contradicting possibilities. A suicide like murder, or a murder like suicide? One wound suggests a man, and the other suggests a woman- who did it?

For the longest time, my dad was genuinely concerned on my replies that I want to become like Tuppence when asked about what I was interested to pursue. Hahaha, can't blame him. And, for the longest time, I was so into Christie's world of crime and these mind-boggling detectives, that I forgot there was Christie who actually wrote them. The realization kind of hit me that all the brilliance of Poirot, Marple, Quinn, Tommy, Tuppence- put together was the brilliance of one. And, since that day I am an ardent fangirl of her, and shall be forever. 

Recently, I saw CrimeRead's article "The Binge-Read: 10 Iconic Crime Fiction Series of The 1960s" that obviously caught my attention, and also demanded an almost click-bait presence with immediate reading. It dawned upon me, that I had rarely read much crime outside Christie, except a few stray ones like The Mystery Of The Yellow Room. I was triggered when I saw the first book of the article: From Doon With Death by Ruth Rendell! I had heard so much about this book, and still never got to read it. 

Now, having purchased a copy immediately, this classic piece awaits me, and I am already caught on an irresistible start of 30 pages into it. If you have never tried one, I bet you start with the same thing I did- Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie. 

Also, don't you think women crime authors give an extra wow-factor?

Monday, April 20, 2020

Revamped: A Fresh Look For Fresher Perspective!

It was a routine day for Sandhya's Blog until mid-day. Sitting there in her figmental location, with a warm smile, displaying an array of posts across books, movies, stories, art, life, law, and more, she welcomed one and all, and kept a regular tally of those stats and comments. She was blissfully unaware that a makeover was awaiting, come evening.

Changing the theme of your beloved blog is like getting a haircut. You want that new style, but you are also scared if it would look good. And, even after you get your haircut you always have that little, little, tinge of doubt left about whether the one you had before was just better. 

Every time I think of changing the theme of the blog, there is similar feeling. And so, I never did for a long time now. I always liked how my blog looked earlier- bold, bright, orange, slightly kiddish.

Today, my dad sent me a tweet that someone called Vishak Hariharan was doing a 'name art'. I checked out the tweet and his handle (@vishak4u), and found the initiate very interesting! I sent out a mail, asking him if he could do one for this blog. After a quick two hours that flew before I even expected the artist to get back to me, I receive this smart, witty, pun-ny, and creative name art! 

The long due revamp that the blog needed resumed today, and ta-da: I think the blog just got  a minimal and classy makeover (kind of on the opposite spectrum of what it was) that I absolutely love. However, the original theme of orange and maroon has been retained even in the new name art- with the comma and the words "blog" maintained on the same hue. 

I believe it is best to shake things up once in a while, and it was time Sandhya's Blog had one. It gives the blog a fresh vibe, and a sophisticated look- and, hopefully the content will live up to all the sophistication!

Now that I have introduced you to the new look, let me also introduce you to the artist: Vishak Hariharan's name art is a really cool, interesting and creative initiative. You can get in touch with Vishak on twitter, and check out the tweet below to know the details! 

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind

Title: Sapiens: A Brief History Of Humankind
Author: Yuval Noah Harari

Where are we from and what are we from? Is man a social animal, the way Aristotle meant, or quite literally? Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens that spans around 600 pages attempts to walk you through a time lapse of human evolution. According to Harari, the evolution of the humans as we stand today can be broadly significant over three milestone revolutions of the ancient homo sapiens
“The Cognitive Revolution kick-started history about 70,000 years ago. The Agricultural Revolution sped it up about 12,000 years ago. The Scientific Revolution, which got under way only 500 years ago, may well end history and start something completely different.” 
Numerous forces, as described by Harari in the book, changed us to how we are today. Chapter by chapter, revolution to revolution, we watch the unpolished homo sapiens climb up the rung of the ladder, from being hunters and gatherers, to agriculturalists, thinkers, innovaters, discoverers, explorers, and grow into the homo sapiens who have carved a path out of the wild jungle with predators to a settlement, establishing themselves on the top of the food chain. A built up narrative, however, is quickly ended with what almost feels like a cliffhanger, with nothing but a cue opinion that the homo sapiens may just be on the verge of a dramatic, transformative and radical change.

Harari writes interesting ideas, presented in a way that is entertaining to read. He talks what distinguished homo sapiens from any other living species, and when such change was actually noticeable. It is fascinating to read as he talks about the brains of the earliest form of us, the homo sapiens, and about how the capability to commuicate descriptively is what gave the earliest men an edge over their predators. Imagination and the sense of language that can express imagination was a rare gift that the early humans got over all other animals. 
“It’s relatively easy to agree that only Homo sapiens can speak about things that don’t really exist, and believe six impossible things before breakfast. You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven.”
As enjoyable as Sapiens was, towards the second half of the book (middle-end) it gets a little stretched out as the author stagnates the time lapse narrative over his strong opinions on the early men who were agriculturalists. Although, Harari's take and critique on the social ills of homo sapiens is quite refreshing. As the title suggests, the author attempts to make it a brief history of humankind but it falls short of it, and for obvious reasons. I felt that every important aspect in aeons of evolution of humans, after all, could not be covered by a mere 600 pages. It was interesting, but ambitious task!

I remember hearing about this book from everyone, at a point. When I finally picked up the Sapiens now, I felt that is a fascinating read, at least most parts of it. And for someone who knows nothing about evolutionary history- this book is is written in an easy format that cuts out unnecessary jargon, and gives you a fair idea as to the broad sequence of events that transpired in the history of how we came to be. A nice, explorative read!

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Whisper Of The Heart

Movie: Whisper Of The Heart (Mimi o Sumaseba)
Directed by:  Yoshifumi Kondō
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
Music by: Yuji Nomi
Running time: 111 minutes

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong

Fourteen year old Shizuku Tsukishima lives a blissful life, nestling comfortably in the vast public library where her father works, and burying herself over a pile of books taller than herself all through the day. A curiosity is triggered in young Shizuku when she comes to notice a common name in the due slip in every book she takes- Seiji Amasawa had read every book she picked before she had read! The excitement to meet a match as well read as herself, pushes Shizuku to ask around about Amasawa while day dreaming about how soft and knowledgeable the boy must be. A curious, vagabond cat, called by different pet names in different households, brings these two together. Shizuku meets Baron, a mysterious cat doll, when she visits Seiji's grandfather's antique store. As she gets closer to Seiji, she discovers his dream of becoming a proficient violin-maker, and he confides his plan of pursuing it in Italy. 

Shizuku is bothered by one question she asks herself: when she is just as well read, knowledgeable and ambitious as Seiji, why does she not know what to do? Shizuku had often been praised for her budding writing skills, and her charming 'gift' for poetry. She realizes that she has no forethought about her future, and is just dazzled by the everyday life as she flits around one day after another. The transformation of Shizuku, determined to make her life more purposeful, and 'test' herself, is what makes the enchanting tale.

Whisper Of The Wind is a romantic tale of self-realization of the protagonist's abilities, purpose, and dreams. It rides high on the small but vividly mesmarising world of Shizuku as she travels through her adolescene in style- with love, confidence and a vision of spectacular dreams. Whisper Of The Heart is born out of Shizuku, and she portrays herself to be a sweet yet strong person, with an understanding of the world that is beyond those of her age, and with a spirit akin to a warrior. 

On Shizuku's accomplishment, we find ours in the movie. As her father proudly and lovingly whispers to his sleeping daughter: "ah, a soldier at ease!" The emotions of the movie are something dear to all of us, having gone through a similar phase sometime in our life and it triggers fond thoughts as we take a trip into our memory lane. Our heart melts as we see the support and warmth that Shizuku's family extends to her. In a time that set rigid rules, we see an accepting, loving, and understanding family who choose to trust Shizuku rather than discern her views. 

Whisper Of The Heart is absolutely heartwarming. The musicality of this anime film is captivating, and ensues a sense of calm and peace. From the creators of Spirited Away, this is another classic, and a must-watch for all age groups! I absolutely loved it!

I saw myself in this scene, and couldn't help but break into a wide smile that was quite difficult to wipe off!

Friday, April 17, 2020

Great Modern Lives: Charles Dickens

On any day, for any given reader, one of the most commonly familiar names that pop up at the mention of the word 'classics' is Charles Dickens. Dickens splurged the world with wonderfully touching classic tales that are to last for generations together and stay truly time immemorial. 

Born in Portsmouth in 1812, he went to a school in Chatham till when he was twelve. And, on the fateful day of his twelfth birthday, the force of inevitable circumstances pushed this young and brilliant twelve year old to quit school and work in the blacking factories of Warren. Turmoil surrounding him, with an overworked aching childhood, a father who was arrested and sent to the debtor's prisons in Marshalsea for a debt of £40, and a prolonging and never-ending struggle against abject poverty, greatly influenced Dickens' early writing as a child. 

After a brief stint with the job of a reporter, Dickens made the decision to turn full-time on what he knew and loved the most- writing. On his 24th birthday, he published Sketches by Boz, through which he threw a great deal of light illustrating the everyday life of the common man, his magnificent and captivating writing reaching to a wide audience who saw themselves in his words. It struck a chord in all those who read it, and it gained popularity with common sentiment.

Dickens completed writing The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop, and Barnaby Rudge before going on his first ever trip to America. After his return, there came another spell of marvellous novels that were a pleasure to read, which include Martin Chuzzlewit, Dombey Son, David Copperfield, Christmas stories, Bleak House, Hard Times, and Little Dorrit. The gems of his career, the ones that he is undoubtedly popular for, came at a later stage when he gave to the world A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend, and the incomplete sotry of Edwin Drood.

In 1870, after two years of ill health, Dickens, who by that time had established himself as one of most proficient, classic authors, died at his home in Kent. Earlier the day of his passing, he had worked on his mystery story Edwin Drood

Dickens was a strong voice against the social evils of his time. His books recorded for eternity on the sufferings of the common people, and raised the hope for a better future. His pragmatic thoughts in helping the poor and educating children came much from his own experience. Written from a personal understanding of the societal issues, not just for the art of story telling but with a passion to turn the attention on to the looming loopholes that can be fixed, Dickens served as an emboldened voice to those who did not have their own. There were many political and social reforms after his death. Schools became better than those he depicted in Nicholas Nickleby, and hospital nurses improved than what the world saw through Mrs. Gamp from Martin Chuzzlewit

My first introduction to Dickens was Oliver Twist, and that may just be the day I developed a permanent soft-spot, and eventually a hopeless drool, for classics! Dickens really deserves to be put in the category of one of the greatest modern lives, with his endearing and invaluable contribution to both literature and society!

If you have never read Dickens, maybe you could start with A Tale Of Two Cities!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Gripped In Doubt

As I switched on the television, the announcer said, “This dangerous man escaped from the jail and is believed to have-”

I couldn’t hear anymore. My ears seemed to have turned deaf. I blankly stared at the photograph of the man who had escaped from jail. He was a man around forty, with an almost bald head, and slightly overweight build. He wore perfectly round glasses, projecting his perfectly round eyes, on his perfectly round face. And, who was this? None but I. It seemed impossible.

I pinched to check if it was a nightmare. No such luck. I was fully awake. I was already feeling a tinge of an inexplicable mix of fear and guilt, for reasons I couldn’t understand why. I partially froze in panic, but my mind was racing. Thoughts of approaching the police were instantly countered by a steady, growing fear that they would turn a deaf ear to me, and simply throw me behind bars. That was not how things happen, I knew, but seeing my photo on a wanted list was also something I could have sworn wouldn’t happen, a couple of minutes ago.

Or, is that how things happen? Warrants are needed for an arrest, but are those rules followed? I would have the right to call a lawyer, but I don't even know one. What about bail? I knew nothing of those laws, and nor did I have the money. Could they beat me up? Could I seek justice in our courts of law if they did? And, what if the courts take several years to deal with my case? Would I be in jail if I couldn't pay up for the bail?

What did I do? I am innocent, but will they believe me? What if someone has framed me? Can I talk to the news channel? Should I tell my wife? Should I close my windows? What if someone from this flat has already called the cops by now? I hear a siren wailing, my heart pounds faster, but the noise fades away into the distance as the vehicle passes. I squint through the window- it was an ambulance.

What will the society think? What will I tell my wife, children? Will they believe that I did something wrong, too? Will it come in the papers? Would my son be ridiculed in school? Will my wife be taunted by family? What if they take me away and not release me? Who will earn for the family? How can I prove I am innocent?

Looming paranoia cut my voice to a dead silence. Sweat rolled down my forehead. Wiping it off, I went and switched on the fan, and took a look at the news again. 

Minutes later, I mustered enough courage to contact the news channel office, and tell them that I was no dangerous man. When I did so, there was nothing but a surprise and what felt like a voice I would associate with wide eyes. It turned out that their enlarged pupils were not due to the fear of a call from the ‘dangerous man’, but because they had no clue what I was saying. Each time I tried to explain and they didn’t understand, I grew tenser. My racing grey cells even started suspecting them of killing time until the cops, whom they must have tipped, arrived. Finally, one of the persons from the channel understood what I was speaking about, and then the next moment there was hue and cry on the other side of the telephone. And, now, it was my time to feel astonished.

They simply stated that my image was wrongly embedded into a wrong news piece. The accused was not me. I had won the 8 PM quiz of the channel, the previous night, and the winner with his/her image was to be displayed. She apologized, and asked me to check the news channel again. I turned to the TV, and there it was- the image of another man under the head-bar 'dangerous', and mine at the bottom right corner under the head 'Quiz Winner: 03 March'. She apologized again, a little more profusely, informed me that the clarification shall be put up by the news channel immediately, and hung the call. 

I sat down in front of the TV staring at their 'clarification'. My eyes unfocused, my heart pounding, and my mind still. I felt like I had lost my life and then had it returned to me.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Little Grains Of Sand

Here's a nursery rhyme- some food for thought:

'Little drops of water,
little grains of sand-
Make a mighty ocean
and the pleasant land'

Sounds familiar? Rings a true bell?

'Wow, that's such a cool book he has written.'
'Dude, that guy has an awesome blog.'
'He has released his album, and he is just twenty.'

Before you say that next time, look out for the base that they worked on all these years. Their work is as glorious as it stands on date because it has been honed to perfection by practice, and their number of years of hard and smart work. 

When I was around class three, I had swimming in school, and I was dead scared of the water. My dad decided to push me to learn swimming. I did, eventually. After four years of a lot of patience, pep talks, and cheese-cake baits, I finally overcame my fear of the water. Today, I can't do competitive swimming, but I can swim for my own exercise/relaxation any day. It came with practice- to trust the coach who is teaching me, to trust my strokes on water, to trust that I can swim too- over four years! 

Some of us can pick up things quickly, and some of us can take a longer time to learn. I can learn the concepts in an academic lecture much easier and quicker than I can learn to play the Frisbee. And, for some others, it may be the other way around. And both can be learnt, with just a little practice and patience. 

Consider this blog: it started way back in 2010 when I was just 10 years old, with the only readership audience being my proud parents. If I just want to skip to the part where my blog has a hundred thousand followers and daily readers, it's not going to happen unless I work towards it through the years leading up to it. It may or may not happen in the future, but it definitely won't without consistency and practice. Same thing applies when it comes to weight loss or a toned body. You cannot demand an awesome, fit self if you don't really exercise everyday. 

The concept that was taught to us as kindergarten kids is a big life lesson that we often tend to forget as we grow up. Looking for shortcuts to success is nothing but a real waste of precious time, as there are none. In fact, shortcuts are just going to delay every little moment when you could have actually worked on it. It is not for nothing that we have been taught young that practice makes perfect.

My dad keeps repeating over and again to me, to do my little bit today and not to think too much about whether it would fructify. Your only job is to match your reality every day to your dreams. It will come true automatically, if you work everyday on it. No success story was made on a single day, single hit. 

So let's all tame down on our daydreams, and work towards our dreams, enjoying the process every bit. And, if you don't teach yourself to enjoy the process, it is highly unlikely that you would enjoy the result as much! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Title: Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
Author: Lynne Truss

I have long had this book with me, reading parts of it, enjoying it, and going back to read parts of it again. Eats, Shoots & Leaves is one of the most hilarious, educating, and readable book on one of the most important part of writing: punctuation. The first time that I picked up to read a chapter on commas, a couple of years ago, I went back to re-evaluate my writing to find that I throw commas randomly in a sentence rather than actually use it! What really is the purpose of a comma? Or, may be there are many?

This book has a chapter each on apostrophes, commas, semicolons and colons, exclamation marks, question marks and quotation marks, italic type, dashes, brackets, ellipses and emoticons, and hyphens. We rarely use a lot of punctuation that we must, and most of the times substitute a comma in its place. We really do lack the comma sense, don't we?

Lynne Truss, in his chapter on commas, dedicates a good portion to discussing the "Oxford" comma, and why it would just be better for all to have it in your sentences! I, for one, absolutely believe that the Oxford Comma is necessary. Like a smart tweet that I saw long, long back said: 
"There are two types of people: those who use the Oxford comma, those who don't and those who should."
Eats, Shoots & Leaves makes you realize your mistakes in a way that ensures in the best way that you remember how to use it the correct way. Filled with an engaging trace of history of punctuation, a relatable discussion on the current levels of knowledge about it (most parts in which you'd identify yourself in the past to have slaughtered the meaningful usage of punctuation marks in sentences), and hilarious anecdotes, the book is filled with activities that help us understand these devices of writing. 

In short, Truss gives you an entertaining workbook that should improve our sense of punctuation. It really does employ a zero tolerance approach! In my opinion, Eats, Shoots & Leaves is a book that everyone would enjoy reading!

Monday, April 13, 2020

A List Of Necessary Reminders

Everyday now, I just wait for that usual time I have started exercising, because that seems to be the only time I ever get up from that same chair, same position for way too many days now. Being home because of the lock-down can feel normal for some, and overwhelming for some others. But, we can all agree that our step count is just downright abysmal if not for some voluntary workout. 

This lock-down has made me realize what an active life I had back in college, even without portioning time out for exercise. Ten thousand steps a day used to be something that's a consequence of just living on campus, running thrice a day from hostel to classes to mess and back to hostel, and those post-dinner walks where you just keep walking losing track of time was a blessing! Now, with the lack of all that movement, we end up looking forward to that exercise that we would have rather chosen to skip back in college. Note of disclaimer: I am not talking about those self-motivated humans who don't skip their run-days.

Please, get up and do something, if you aren't already. Two days into it, you'd probably look forward to it because it really does help taking away the feeling of "just sitting" through the whole day. On that note, here are some important reminders:

1. Drink enough water. Less movement may make us less thirsty. But, your body still needs to stay hydrated, especially with the oncoming summer. 

2. Wear proper outfits for your workouts. If your workout needs a shoe, then wear it. If your workout needs a mat, then use it. Do not do any make-shift jugaad when it comes to workouts. Getting injured is not worth it. And also, this might just be one of the worst times to get injured.

3. Eat well. Don't skip meals. Again, staying put, without any workout can make you feel that you aren't really hungry, at least for some of you. Eat healthy, eat smart, but eat. 

4. Get all the beauty sleep that you need. This is the time where you can't blame work instead of the lousy sleep habits. Yes, once it is a habit, it is difficult to change. But, you have the time to try and fall into a better habit!

5. Do things you always wanted to. It may not be productive, but this is probably a guilt-free time to try it out. So don't hold back!

6. Finally, go stand outside on your terrace for a while maybe. Your body needs the sun!

Let us all act sensibly and responsibly. Let us try to be empathetic. Nobody can force us to do something that the world feels is good, but we definitely owe it to the world not to do what we know is wrong. 

Wash your hands, stay in, stay safe and, most importantly, take care of yourself!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

So Many Books, So Little Time

Title: So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year Of Passionate Reading
Author: Sara Nelson

Sara Nelson got hooked to books after finding it to be a cheaper alternative to movies, at a time when she'd have already seen the Movie Of The Week before it came out in the papers, and found it better than having to forcefully talk to a 'narrow circle of not-so-friendly friends' as she adapted to her life of living alone in New York. And, from then on, there was no turning back. As Sara pledges herself to a self-assigned project of reading at least two books a week throughout the year, which falls apart after the first week, she records the ups and downs of her reading that year in this brilliant book that is a treasure trove for bibliophiles. 

When I picked up this book to read today, it felt like a book that I wouldn't read in a single sitting, but would probably stretch to a couple of chapters at a time. How wrong I was! So Many Books, So Little Time is a highly engaging, brilliantly written, honest and passionate account of Nelson's reading journey that somehow manages to rekindle the same passion in the readers, too!

Any reader is always tempted to hoard books, some of which they may read the very day they buy, and others just decorating the shelf for years together before they lay their hand on it again. Every time you look at the book that you bought but managed not even to open, there is a slight guilt that would probably make you to put the book at a slightly higher shelf so it can conveniently miss your eyes as they scan the shelf for the next book. The author beautifully captures the feeling, and brings out anecdotes of the books she bought, when and why she bought them, and how she hasn't even opened them though she definitely means to on the 'right day'. Hoarding her favourite collections in the wooden shelves designed by her husband Leo, she talks about those books that she expended hundreds of late-night hours on. 

By Sara's highly relatable theory, there are two rules to successfully reading and enjoying a book: right time, and right place. I couldn't agree more with her. There are some books that you would never enjoy unless you read it at the right time and place. I know for a fact that my brother never got around to reading Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe beyond the first few chapters, though I always believed he would enjoy it and kept pushing him to try it again. Thinking back, it may be because it wasn't the right time and he probably started the book a tad bit earlier than he should have, but later the aversion and the mindset about it made sure he never picked it up again.

The book is unimaginably familiar in some parts where you get an unexplained, silly dislike towards those books that are over-hyped, and where the general talk of the book has been on the tone that places an obligation on you to state you loved it. Like Nelson puts it: 
"We're a funny, cliquish group, we book people, and sometimes we resist liking—or even resist opening—the very thing everybody tells us we're supposed to like."
The book stole my heart with the author's genuineness as she writes about how we always tend to judge people by the books they read, whether knowingly or unknowingly, and how if she ever wanted to read Daniel Steele she would do it in her home and not take it outside. This is something that is so relatable. Whatever kind of reader you are, there are some books that you devour in your home for guilty pleasure without having to damage your well-known reputation for reading Dickens or, even better, flaunting the Nietzsche you probably never read. When I shared this part of the book with my dad, we had a good laugh as he jogged back the memory to his schooldays when he went around carrying Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare not having ever read a word of it! Though I  never carried around a book to that would help some show-off, there have been several instances when I have made sure I don't carry a lot of them, after severely judging myself for reading them! Nope, still not going to let you know what they were! 

On that note, about sharing, most bibliophiles have a compulsive and irresistible urge to share all that they read about, and all the opinions that they framed on it. I have, through my entire school life, bombarded my parents with an excited, dramatic re-narration of almost every novel I read. Sara Nelson, very lovably and in a way that we all relate to, says how her husband and her son have always listened to her excited narration: "only occasionally telling her to knock it off when she nattered on about stuff they knew nothing about and about which they cared less." 

My life at school was mostly just reading. I hadn't watched a lot of movies, and TV shows were particularly alien to me. I had often told my college friends exactly the same thing as this paragraph that I found in the book, an icing on the cake for me when it came to how relatable the book was:
"But there's a lot I haven't done, a lot of places I haven't gone. To tell the truth, I've been lost in more than a couple of Conversations with people who tend to make references to new restaurants, important magazine articles, and popular TV shows; can you believe I've never seen Friends? Not that I'm complaining. I've lived the past year exactly how I've wanted to—between the covers of books and in the places in my head that those books have taken me. I've been agitated, ex-cited, enthralled, annoyed, frustrated, and sometimes a little bored." 
I am absolutely thankful for reading all the books that I have read, and also for reading So Many Books, So Little Time. Into the first ten pages, I scrambled back to get my diary and a pen. It was such a pleasurable, joyous read, that took me by surprise as I went chirpily from one chapter to another, duly jotting down the interesting titles in a legible scribble, and made a mental note of the ones I wanted to get on reading immediately!

I cannot cover all the things that this book made me happy about in this post. All I can say is, this is a book that you would love.

The frankness of Sara Nelson, as the self-described "readaholic", is  absolutely refreshing.

'When things go right, I read. When things go wrong, I read more!' Pick up this book to get a dose of that passion, and a satisfying list of suggestions!