A Suitcase of Memories

‘You might want to reconsider your decision of going on the batch trip. It’s a five day trip with over a hundred people where you will be entirely responsible for yourself. Will you be able to manage?’

My mind was swarming with such thoughts of apprehension even until the day before the trip. But there was another rather dichotomous part of my mind that just knew – I had to go on this trip.

I just HAD to.

Not out of peer pressure, but I had to go for myself – in order to let go of my slowly mounting insecurities, to reaffirm my faith in my own capabilities of managing myself in a crowd, and to find that carefree version of myself that I had left behind somewhere in my childhood.

And this trip did not disappoint me. In these sleepless five days, I learnt more about myself than I did in the past year. I suppose you learn the most about yourself when you spend time with yourself, and for me, that intensive introspection happens only during exams and on trips. 😂

The twelve-hour bus journey that began at 7 PM to Dandeli was an experience in itself. We danced as party songs and Spotify ads blared at high volume from the crackling speakers on the bus. We kept the windows open for ventilation, and needless to say, the wind made my hairstyle resemble Einstein’s, but I couldn’t care less. The mood was just so jubilant and energetic. Everyone finally began settling in and we finally got some sleep around 2 AM. I woke up around 3:30 AM to my best friend reaching for my hand in her sleep. She later denied this, obviously, but I wish I had captured that adorable moment on camera.

We reached Dandeli early the next morning and stepped out of the bus for our first batch photoshoot on the road. Yes, on the road, surrounded by a forest. One of my batchmates nearly had her phone run over by a jeep as she set its timer.

The resort was 5 km into the forest away from the main road, which meant we had to walk 5 km to reach the resort. The early morning walk was beautiful with one of my friends explaining everything he knew about bird watching. Halfway along the journey, my friends and I hitched a ride on the roof of the van carrying our luggage. That was the first time in my life I got a Chaiyya Chaiyya moment. Undoubtedly though, that ride felt like it was straight out of a movie scene. With my friends next to me, the breeze in my hair, the morning glow of the forest – I felt alive.

The resort was cosily nestled in the forest, but much to our chagrin, we barely had any working mobile data or network. That was when we wished we had subscribed to Jio, the only working network. People were rampantly begging for hotspots and Jio users were the superstars.

Eventually, eight of us girls were allotted a tent accommodation. The tents were newly built, extremely clean, and had two attached washrooms. We later found out a snake had entered the boys’ room. We joked that if snakes were entering the rooms, tigers and cheetahs would be entering our tents.

After freshening up, the girls and I headed over to the trampoline and just bounced around, reliving our childhood and giggling as if we were five-year-olds in a sandpit.

Later in the afternoon, after coating ourselves with layers of sunscreen, we headed out for river-rafting. This was another first for me – I felt empowered sitting on the edge of that inflatable raft rowing back and forth and listening intently to the instructor as he told us to duck near the river rapids. Jumping into the river was nothing short of exhilarating. The water enveloped me and I relished every second of it. One of my friends nearly had a panic attack as she landed face down in the water. We held her in order to comfort her as the instructor pulled her back up onto the raft. Overcoming her fears and seeing us have fun, she joined us again. This was followed by zip-lining and photoshoots. Thirty of us girls were packed into an open truck for the 5 km ride back to the resort. As we were jostled around, we couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the forest was, with the stars shining down brightly on us.

A beautiful bonfire at night at the resort with soft music was the highlight of the night. We sat in our groups, gazing at the stars and talking softly. As I went to fill my water bottle in the dining area late past midnight, my friend noticed the ice cream vending machine unlocked. Within minutes, half of the batch came to know of this and the machine was emptied. The resort later charged us for all the ice cream in the final bill.

After a night of debating about mosquitoes and barely getting any sleep, we headed to Goa the next morning. We checked into the resort, and spent most of the evening and the night at Baga beach. Building sandcastles, gripping the sand with my feet, and the sand shifting underneath my feet as the waves washed it away – an ethereal experience that rendered me speechless. The sea looked beautiful in the moonlight – everything bothering me seemed insignificant at that moment, in front of the vast expanse of the sea, and I could only feel one emotion distinctly – relief.

Relief, peace, serenity.

This quiet, introspective moment transitioned quickly to reality when my friends splashed me with water and I playfully hit them back.

I truly felt liberated at that moment.

Soon, relief, peace, and serenity were completely replaced with fun, dance, and upbeat energy as my friends began dancing to the music at the boardwalk. We returned to the resort at 2 AM that night, with the light drizzle becoming a heavy downpour. I was completely drenched as I sat down to have dinner. One of my friends even took care of me then, staying back with me to ensure that I finished eating.

The following day, some of us rented an open jeep and toured Goa on our own. One of my friends drove, while the others helped him navigate. Hesitant at first, he eventually gained confidence and ensured we all had a safe ride. The drive along Parra Coconut Tree Road was one of the most scenic parts of the trip.

We visited Fort Aguada and were singed in the scorching heat, but even the scorching heat didn’t stop my friends from making reels. We had a cruise booked for the evening and in the late afternoon, we decided to go trekking at Devil’s Finger near Fort Aguada. I was all decked up in a dress and party shoes, dressed for sightseeing and the cruise, but in the spur of the moment, I agreed for the trek. Keenly aware of my horrible sense of balance, my friend held my hand at every stage of the rather difficult trek, guiding me through the moving rocks, tall grasses, and slippery flat rocks. In spite of her holding my hand, I fell multiple times. We got some beautiful shots of the sunset but left the trek midway in order to go for the cruise. The cruise was a beautiful experience, the salty air giving me my Einstein hairstyle again.

My feet were swollen by the end of the evening, yet I went with my friends to Candolim beach the same night. The beach was deserted but all the more serene. The waves crashed against the shore and we all just sat there, talking and listening to music, till 4 AM, when we finally headed back to the resort.

The next day, being the last day of the trip, was fairly relaxed. We enjoyed a nice lunch at Anjuna Beach, bought souvenirs, cashews, and splashed around in the water. We headed back to the resort in the evening in order to begin our journey back home. We finally managed to leave the resort late at night and reached our college in the evening of the following day.

There was barely any dancing on the bus on the return journey. Everyone was tired and almost entirely consumed in the memories of the trip.

For me, it was the little moments that defined the whole trip. The moments where we cared for each other. Looked out for each other. The moments where my best friend walked on the side of the vehicles on the road just to make sure I’m safe. The moments our group would hold hands while crossing. The care each of my friends showed when I sprained my ankle on the trek. The bear hugs and the slow dances. The teasing. The random candid clicks wherein my friends were eating ice golas. The instances in which I could explain Hindi to my Kannada-speaking friends. The times when I was called Doraemon for optimally packing my bag to carry essentials. The soulful, relaxed conversations over dinner. The riots of laughter that erupted when we experienced water cuts and power cuts in our room. The hair straightener that got more priority access to the power sockets than our phone chargers. The moments my girls discussed the ultimate soul-cleansing bubble bath we all craved for when we returned home. The moments that I photographed my roommates’ hairstyling and make-up sessions. The endless, endless photo sessions. The new Tamil and Telugu songs I listened to. The crazy dancing. The open jeep ride. The stray dog that found comfort in resting where my friends and I were sitting at the beach. The breeze against my hair. The adrenaline rush following the zip-lining and river-rafting. Just all those moments when I felt so, so free.

As this was a tight-budget trip, we had to be resourceful and that honestly made the whole experience even more fun. I also witnessed the non-academic, absolutely carefree side of each of my friends’ personalities. Meeting them only in college never allowed me to explore that facet of their personalities. I also have this habit of missing people I care deeply about when I’m having fun, so undoubtedly, I did miss my family and my other friends who couldn’t make it to the trip. I made sure to keep them updated throughout – so yes, I spammed them with photos.

I wish I could write a book about everything I’ve experienced, but right now, all I can say is thank you – thank you to my batchmates for the suitcase of memories they’ve given me. And thank you to my roommates for putting up with my tortoise pace of operating in daily life. Honestly, there was no need for me to buy souvenirs – this trip is just so deeply engraved in my mind.

A Wave…of Introspection

In this pandemic-ridden era, the word ‘wave’ does not necessarily trigger the most pleasant emotions, but I promise, I’m taking you on a largely optimistic journey of the massive tsunami wave that first year has been, at least for me.

The chief complaint of every first year MBBS student is the pace at which the first year progresses. And being a naive entrant, I initially lacked any idea about what to expect from the offline personas of the batchmates I had interacted with only online. Our MBBS journey began in January of 2021, when we, the batch of 2020, finally commenced our MBBS journey with online foundation classes.

Entering the auditorium on a breezy February day for our first offline theory lecture was an experience that was nothing short of exhilarating. Fortunately, I happened to find a seat next to an extremely knowledgeable group – people whose passion for the course was simply awe-inspiring to me.

Finding two like-minded people in my practical classes batch really made life in the practical sessions easier. Our inside jokes, absolute inability to distinguish histology slides, continuous ridicule of each others’ histology diagrams, struggle with haemocytometry and pricking, and complete clumsiness with the balloon pipettes in the biochemistry lab all led to endless laughter.

The dissection hall was another experience altogether. The camaraderie among the batch was absolutely evident. Covering up for someone, answering questions on behalf of someone else, not knowing answers and feeling guilty, becoming confused with even the most basic things like arteries, veins and nerves, we’ve done it all. From being scared of touching the cadaver to sawing open the skull and chiseling away at it in order to help the table teacher pull out the brain, we made great progress indeed. Photo sessions holding the organs became a daily event. We, first year undergraduates, even bonded with the post-graduate PG students about the struggles in their life. We watched as they sometimes got scolded by the professors, and in spite of the scoldings, tried their best to cover up for us.

In the blink of an eye, I had an army of friends – different groups of people in different classes. The entire batch was extremely sweet, accommodating, kind, and ready to help. We all stood for each other – I couldn’t have wished for things to be any different.

Academics, especially theory classes, were fast-paced, rigorous, and just as we were settling into the groove, the deadly second Covid wave in April forced us back into a retreat – home quarantine.

Online classes were a speed breaker to the newfound independence we all had suddenly acquired. Though our professors tried their best to help us maintain our focus, consistent studying became difficult, almost wishful thinking. Our first set of exams were also online. Over the course of the lockdown, my friend-circle became more intimate and I slowly managed to find the few people I could text and call every day and sometimes even multiple times a day, including late night hours. Introverted by nature, I had never in my wildest dreams imagined I’d have such close friends. One of my friends and I participated in many online quizzes as partners, including a physiology quiz, and even future-year subjects like pathology, paediatrics, and more. Out of sheer boredom and an inkling of motivation to be productive, we even attended several webinars of colleges across the country, including business schools and several other research institutes.

One of our seniors soon introduced us to at-home, tele-triaging, where after being assigned tickets by an app, we counselled Covid patients over the phone – advising them regarding home quarantine protocols, basic remedial measures, and wishing them a speedy recovery.

Our college’s Youth Red Cross Unit (YRCU), celebrated National Doctors’ Day on July 1st by organising a blood donation drive, where my friends and I volunteered. Having gotten my second dose of the Covid vaccine barely two weeks prior to the event, I wasn’t eligible to donate, but volunteering at the hospital was a fun and interactive experience nonetheless.

College reopening at the end of July brought back the thrill and excitement we were all craving. It quickly uprooted the innate inertia we all felt after spending months at home. We all soon wrote our first offline exams, an unforgettable experience in itself.

The time period post exams was refreshing. My friend’s father organised a trek for us to the Makalidurga hills, where my torn shoe sole and subsequent difficulty in climbing, (and constant falling), became the joke of the day and the highlight of the trip. One of my friends literally held my hands as she helped me during the descent. The month of September also presented an opportunity for a few of us juniors to be editors for our online college magazine, LIBER, as our seniors got busy with their exams.

Volunteering at the hepatitis B vaccination drive with the YRCU was again fruitful, as our seniors gave us the opportunity to handle the logistics and even taught us how to load syringes, all while they vaccinated the students of our batch.

October brought with it our intra-college fest, Chrysalis, which gave many of us the creative outlet we were looking for, after being cooped up at home for so long. Thanks to the insistence of my theatre group friends, our college fest was the first time I participated in a mime event, along with two stage plays. The mime was a clever take on pre-Covid and post-Covid norms. Our stage plays were equally exciting – one was a rendition of Romeo and Juliet, with an Inception-like theme, and the other play was an Agatha Christie novel-based murder mystery. Thanks to the generosity of our seniors who were trying to encourage us, our group even managed to bag medals at the events.

Band performances, group dances, endless photo sessions, a fashion show, and spending entire evenings with our close friends made the fest one of the most memorable elements of our first year.

This was followed by full-fledged preparation for our third internal exams in November and then subsequent preparatory holidays in December for our university professional exams.

January of 2022 brought with it a third Covid wave and the news of postponement of the university exams to the end of February. The shock of postponement has now gradually worn off as we all pick up the pieces of our December preparation and start the syllabus once again.

I’ve been blessed to be with such amazing peers in such a renowned institution. All the experiences I described above are incomplete without mentioning the numerous birthday parties celebrated in the basketball court, with just tiny cupcakes being enough to light up our faces as we geared up for our ubiquitous, everlasting photo sessions. Our mall outings, visits to obstacle courses and escape rooms, bowling events, multitude of lunches, absolutely pointless Maggi and pizza parties, ice cream parties, and so much more – are all nothing but small moments which add up to a year – a transformative year indeed.

None of this is complete without mentioning our seniors, who took care of us, mentored us, stayed on call with us for hours to explain about ICMR-STS research projects, even gave us their first year record books to use as reference for our work. In spite of their busy schedule, they checked up on us regularly, making sure their ‘baby juniors’ were okay. With seniors like them, I don’t know how we couldn’t be okay.

The year, for me, was replete with personal growth. I learnt a great deal about time management, prioritisation, managing inter-personal relationships – among friends, seniors, PGs, professors, and even family members. My parents were great supports throughout, especially on days when I felt like a lost child.

Here, in BMCRI, I’ve managed to meet ‘my people’, the ones I call the ‘keepers’ who are now stuck with me for a lifetime, (wish them luck). They’ve stood with me for entire days as I struggled to find my bearings and they’ve just made this year more beautiful than I could’ve imagined. I don’t need to name them because they know who they are.

Just writing this has felt so wholesome, and I hope you, too, get a warm and fuzzy feeling inside as you read this.

All I can say is, thank you, BMCRI, for this beautiful year and I can only hope for even better ones ahead.

And thank you, my dear batchmates, for not only filling up my photo gallery with hundreds of pictures, but also my heart with heartwarming memories of first year. 😊

Utopia or Dystopia?

Written in collaboration with a fellow batchmate, a good friend, and an amazing co-writer – Varun V, who devised not only the basic premise, but also wrote the first draft, and encouraged publication of the following article here. Hope you enjoy!

“If we don’t want to live on this trashy planet, we better send back a robot like Doraemon to correct our ancestors’ mistakes.”

“No, we better just leave this planet on a starship like Axiom from WALL-E. This planet is just hot, insufferable, and beyond repair.”

These are the thoughts that will course through the heads of our future generations if we don’t give them the greatest gift we can – the gift of life – a life free of garbage, smoke-ridden air, polluted water, and polluted soil.

We just celebrated World Environment Day on June 5th, and saw our social media inundated with posts and stories on the importance of recycling, reforestation, and going green. However, is this lip service and ‘generation of awareness’ enough? Ironically, these posts, including the article you are currently reading are made using smartphones, which themselves don’t have a life of more than two years, ending up as e-waste later in landfills – their chemicals leaching into the soil and nearby water bodies.

Our perennial rivers are drying up, acute water shortages are leading to inter-state disputes, monsoons have become erratic – catching farmers unprepared and causing the agriculture industry to suffer. Water bodies are polluted, with so much sewage dumped into them that even certain lakes in Bangalore are catching fire.

The lungs of the planet, the Amazon Rainforest, is losing nearly 5 million acres of coverage every year to augment Brazil’s economic condition through forest products. Despite the devastation of the 2019 fires in Brazil, ones in 2020 were worse. A new report warns that the Amazon rainforest may be nearing a dangerous tipping point. Bush fires and forest fires ravage large tracts of land in the USA and Australia every year. The global temperatures are rising and the greenhouse effect will soon turn the planet into a toxic, cloud-laden, uninhabitable wasteland like Venus. Sure, Earth and Venus are sister planets, but we don’t really want Earth to be resembling Venus any time soon. 😂

Well, we have painted a grim enough picture and before we get accused of being UN climate activists/ambassadors whose only agenda is to complain, let’s get more optimistic here.

Perhaps this pandemic is a break for Mother Nature – a break from us insensitive human children, an opportunity to rejuvenate herself. Let us also use this quarantine time to introspect and bring about changes in our daily routine which will help our future generations thrive in liveable conditions.

Of course, reuse, reduce, repair, and recycle top the list. Composting, being resourceful with our already limited resources, practising safe waste segregation, maintaining hygiene, planting trees, using chemical cleaning supplies judiciously, etc. are all ways we can make a difference.

With increasing fuel prices and the pandemic completely thwarting the business of carpooling and taxi services like Ola and Uber, we can try to switch over to electric vehicles. and hey, they’re even Wi-Fi enabled. 😉 There are tax rebates offered on them and there is also no registration fee. Many of the Indian state governments are also offering cash discounts to people who are buying electric cars and scooters. if enough people switch over, our petrol pumps would soon be equipped with charging stations. It is a win-win, though I do agree it’s a long haul.

it would be unfair for us to blame all environmental issues on the government as the economy is also an important aspect to consider and it is what drives the government’s vote bank. While preserving the environment is of utmost priority, the economic aspect cannot be overlooked, for the economy is what gives people their livelihoods. Changes have to happen, in each and every industry. There must be strict government-enforced regulations and caps on many of the traditional industries and factories. I believe that our governments are becoming more environmentally conscious, though they can definitely be doing more.

So let’s try to become forward-thinking and optimistic. Let’s stop playing blame games on the government and expecting everything to change to overnight. let’s stop being social justice warriors on social media and instead use that energy to learnabout technology, and embrace the technology which can not only add value to our life, but help us make a positive impact on the environment. This will broaden our mindset and will keep us aware. Such research will also prevent any large consumerist company from exploiting us, the general public, for their monopolistic purposes. Digital is the future, and rightfully so.

Let’s use this pandemic quarantine time to do what we could not do earlier with our hectic lifestyles – to introspect.

Do we want to hand our future generations a utopian paradise or a dystopian wasteland?

Image Source – Google Images – DreamsTime

A Transition and A Comeback

It’s been over a year and I’m truly ashamed.

For not having written a word here.

For breaking the heart of a ninth grade me who thought she’d write consistently. Who wanted to be a blogger in the true sense.

There is no way to justify a year-long hiatus from a blog where I have worked hard to build a sizeable readership, but please do hear me out.

A lot has happened this past year. Finishing high school, writing entrances, getting into a medical school like Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute, making some amazing friends, crying over subjects like anatomy, building my online footprint across different writing platforms, etc. So much has happened and I am excited to see what the future holds.

So, sincere apologies to everyone who has followed this blog. I promise to try to post here more often. 👍

Image Source – Google Images – DepositPhotos

COVID-19 – A Catalyst For Transformation

This century seems like a cold, dispassionate march of advancing silicon chips. The solution to every problem seems to lie in the realm of technology. With a pandemic currently ravaging the world, we are in the midst of a transformation, one so unpredictable that no one can fathom whether its long-term outcomes will be beneficial or detrimental.

Covid-19 has come as a catalyst to further digitisation in areas earlier unimaginable. India, with a population once dependent on neighbourhood ‘kirana’ stores, now orders groceries online. Students, used to submitting notebooks on the teachers’ desks, are submitting homework online. Office and administrative work has all shifted online and there is a sudden spike in demand of household cleaning bots. Companies like Ola and Uber, with enormous projected market potential, are now struggling as social distancing norms obliterate their cab-sharing services. The film industry, having to quickly shift content online, suffers losses in ticket sales, and may eventually even have to reduce film production budgets. Countries dependent on tourism have their economies upended. Travel and any sort of social congregation seems like a distant dream, destroying the airline and hospitality businesses.

Lifestyles are changing at a speed which was inconceivable even until late last year. But that’s what makes the post-Covid era exciting, albeit uncertain. However, Covid-19 is a catalyst, for all those entrepreneurs whose vision for digitisation had earlier been rejected. Today, an idea for a digital school will definitely receive funding as investors realise its profitability. Schools, as we know, may now be extinct, reduced to mere activity centres, where students gather only for specific occasions. Platforms such as Unacademy, with their entire course material being taught online, are now seeing a surge in the number of users.

Online courses are cheaper and students may even feel empowered to pursue subjects of their interest, decentralising education and reducing the need for traditional schools. With employers now focusing on skill sets instead of degrees for recruitment and selection purposes, traditional education may soon be entirely revamped. Although criticised for being undisciplined, online education enables students to learn only what they want to, in the style that suits them. The rigours of traditional examinations may be a thing of the past. Unsystematic, yet original. Learning, in its pristine and true sense. Good or bad; it is for the future to tell.

In a collapsing traditional economy, with unemployment rates projected to reach almost 33%, it is up to digital solutions and tech-savvy entrepreneurs to become key drivers of product development, weeding out al the inefficiencies of the current industry set-up. Entrepreneurs must now aim to provide products or services, that like a well-crafted story, elicit a visceral response in the target audience, permeating a human experience that is both unforgettable and addicting.

The sudden shift in lifestyles gives entrepreneurs the power to step back from being mesmerised with those gleaming computer screens and getting to the grassroots of a problem. The human aspect of the problem. Transforming lives involves the ability to visualise technology as a tool to bring forth the answer, and refraining from making technology THE answer.

It is of primordial importance that entrepreneurs of today and the future be ready for interdisciplinary work, especially when technology-based solutions are to be implemented in the fields of medicine and education.

The future is interdisciplinary.

The virus will pass, but so will an opportunity. The clocks are ticking, and entrepreneurs must start now.

Image Source – Google Images – Syspro

An Act of War

Terrorism. The word is enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine, provoking images of mass destruction, indiscriminate killing, torture and widespread fear among the masses, at the thought of the sheer number of lives lost due to this senseless menace. Just this past week, on February 14th, 2019, we, as a nation, witnessed the devastating Pulwama attack, in which an explosives-ridden vehicle bombed a bus, which was part of a larger convoy. It led to the loss of the lives of more than 40 jawans of the paramilitary forces, or the CRPF, the Central Reserve Police Force. However, can we consider what happened last week in Pulwama an act of terrorism when it was clearly a dastardly act of war?

This horrific episode bears a shuddering resemblance to the Uri attack back in 2016, when sleeping soldiers were attacked in their bunkers early in the morning. India responded with surgical strikes, and this time too, the Indian Army has been given full autonomy to respond to the senseless act of violence. The surgical strike in 2016 was our Prime Minister’s response to the Uri attack, but did that seem to have any effect on our state of undeclared war with our neighbouring nation? No. If it had, then this kind of attack would not have happened again. Surgical strikes do have their use, but we need advanced military tactics, strengthened homeland security and intelligence to counter these infiltrators; we need these far more than we need Rafale fighter jets.

With India on the brink of a general election, there is little time for our government to do anything except issue stern warnings and aim at diplomatic isolation of our neighbouring nation. However, what our current government and even the subsequent government must realise is that there is a need to ensure that our military is prepared to fight the war with more advanced tactics than what are being used to fight against us.

As a nation, our resolve for peace should not be mistaken for passivity and weakness and infiltrators must be punished. As a tribute to the martyrs of Pulwama, we, as the nation, must strongly condemn violence and let the families of the martyrs know we stand in solidarity with them. We must not give their widowed wives, grief-stricken parents and orphaned children assurances anymore; we must resolve to act.

Please use the link below to donate to the Bharat Ke Veer website, ensuring that at least the families of our martyred ones have the support they need. A loved one is irreplaceable, but the least we can do is make their lives a little easier financially.

Bharat Ke Veer

Image Source – Financial Express

A Closer Look at My Hometown

Travelling is a heavily romanticised experience in modern literature, often described as limitless in terms of the learning it offers – learning about culture, history, language, art and various ways of life, along with the development of the trait of empathy. Due to my parents’ unquenchable desire for travelling, I have visited quite a few countries abroad, seen quite a few airports while in transit, but have all the while ignored the ethereal beauty of my own hometown – Jodhpur, the second largest city in Rajasthan and a popular tourist destination. I have come to realise that this is a common phenomenon; people are so interested in visiting places far away that they underestimate the value of places close to them. So, on my latest trip to Jodhpur for Diwali, my uncle, my enthusiastic cousins and I managed to budget some time away from shuttling between the homes of distant relatives and visit the old quarters of Jodhpur, primarily the Mehrangarh Fort.

After traversing the long-winded road leading to the fort, at an elevation of 410 feet, we were greeted by a mesmerising view, a view encompassing the entirety of the city of Jodhpur, also addressed by its sobriquet, the ‘Blue City’, on account of all the blue-coloured houses visible from above. Legend has it that the houses were painted blue on the orders of the founder of the city, Rao Jodha.

Mehrangarh, its foundations laid in 1459 C.E. by Rao Jodha, is enclosed by impenetrable walls. Its boundaries enclose several palaces, known for their expansive courtyards and intricate carvings. The impact of cannonballs fired by the attacking armies of Jaipur can still be seen on the second gate. The fort is also home to a fully stocked museum, with items from the private collection of the current ruler, Raja Gaj Singh. The museum exhibits the heritage of the Rathore dynasty, in armour, costumes, paintings and royal palanquins.

I also managed to visit the famous clock-tower, ‘Ghantaghar’, which overlooks the bustling local Sardar Market. For me, in addition to its rich history, the vibrant colours, which provide a picturesque backdrop to everyday life, really make the city beautiful. I initially found it difficult to wrap my head around why this old, quaint town is so closely associated with only the colour blue, as many other stunning hues can also be seen on the busy streets and in the bazaars. One can see a plethora of long, colourful skirts worn by the women, with complementary headscarves, as well as coloured turbans worn by men. The captivating bright oranges and yellows commonly seen in shops selling fabrics on ‘Nai Sadak’ serve to add to the vivid impression of life here. However, as seen in the case of a name like ‘Blue City’, legends hold a very powerful place in people’s lives and tend to stick.

Prior to this experience, I was oblivious to what Jodhpur had to offer and now, I’m so glad to have had an opportunity to appreciate my hometown from the eyes of a tourist, which I encourage everyone to do – for the time being, leave your far-fetched desires of visiting exotic countries (and perhaps, planets), and visit your hometown, with the mindset of a tourist, and when you do so, do not forget to keep an iPhone camera handy…:) (Genuinely speaking, with just a little bit of correct framing and composition, look at the pictures it can give you.)

A Message to All My Readers: I want to thank all my readers for the motivational comments I receive on my blogposts, as these deep, insightful comments are what make me want to continue blogging. This has been perhaps my longest hiatus from WordPress, and I’m deeply apologetic for it. I promise, after finishing eleventh grade, twelfth grade and college, I’ll be more regular. 😉

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I have just entered eleventh grade, the land of the sleep-deprived, or my junior year of high school, and as was the case in tenth grade, I have two words for my academic life now, Information Overload. For once, I’m not talking about the academic pressure, (yes, of course, it’s presence is unfading, but it’s something that has almost become secondary when the rat race of securing admissions in good colleges is taken into consideration). Most students enter eleventh grade knowing that academic pressures will be high, but few know that their conversations will, over the course of the next two years, be solely dominated by comparisons of elite colleges and universities.

With an influx of advice from experts such as career counsellors and online portals engaging in career mapping, students like myself often end up becoming more confused, with various adults conducting psychometric tests on us poor lab mice to determine the ‘best fit’ career options for us. They also suggest other back-up careers which support our interests in case our first choice fails. No doubt, in India, this is a relatively new service, and in many underdeveloped areas, where children do not receive career guidance at home, these counsellors are providing some excellent help. In addition, let’s face the fact that it’s a fantastic business opportunity as well; the fees, per student, for a few sessions and some personalised help, ranges from Rs. 7000-10,000.

The fundamental problem with many of these psychometric tests, apart from the standardisation, is the fact that they suggest careers on objective parameters, on the basis of which they further outline career plans, including best fit colleges. However, perhaps a more functional solution, maybe not perfect, involves regular sessions of workshop vocational training, where students interact with experts from various fields including medicine, law, performing arts, pure sciences, engineering, business, etc. Teaching students the real-time requirements and aspects of a career, along with potential future advancements in the field, is the ultimate way to get them decided on what they like or dislike. Personally speaking, one of my extremely talented friends, unsure of her goals, has recently appeared for five consecutive psychometric tests, each with divergent results. Now, she has reached a point where she believes that she has no focus and can never get anywhere. If she had actually met some experts from the various fields she is interested in, she might have found her calling or her ‘dream’ career.

Another major problem I see with psychometric evaluation is the intense focus on the ‘dream’ college. The career coaches suggest ways to get into those colleges and get the brand name of those colleges on a student’s resume. In eleventh grade, no one talks of anything less than getting into MIT or UC Berkeley, without realising what they actually want to do there. The university or college becomes the students’ goal, not the pursuit of excellence in their chosen field, and that is precisely where I see a problem. The question, ‘what happens once I get into the university?’, is one few know the answer to. Few are aware of their big-picture plans.

For most students, regardless of the course they’re pursuing and its alignment with their goals, it’s just the brand name of the university that matters; the brand name providing the student a perceived sense of merit and also being their source for some good connections/networking opportunities in their field. Counsellors thrive on this branding and marketing; after all, ‘thirty of (insert counsellor’s name)’s fifty students are in Ivy League colleges’. As much as I’m programmed to want to get into one of these colleges myself, sometimes I feel that these colleges are only selling membership to an exclusive club. Indian entrance examinations are another ball-game altogether, where there’s no subjectivity whatsoever; scores, and only scores, matter for top-notch colleges here.

For all those students criticising their parents or teachers for pushing them in a certain direction, I just want to say one thing. They have observed you for the last fifteen to seventeen years of your life and will always be with you; they can give better advice than a counsellor who has known you for little more than two hours, and that too, via a psychometric test. I would like to add that I’m not demeaning the work of counsellors, this is just an opinion, but I’m tired of the ‘I’m going to a counsellor for career advice’ fashion statement that comes from students these days.

With that, I’m signing off, to probably go and write another mandated psychometric test. 😉

Just Another Fake News Channel- A Fresh Outlook

This is an excerpt from my recently updated post – Questions and Answers with President Trump.

[…]

Welcome to my imaginary global news channel, ‘A Fresh Outlook’. I am senior international news correspondent Maanini Singhvi and once again, I have had the privilege to welcome the President of the United States to a one-on-one interview, concerning his latest political moves, his impending meeting with the leader of North Korea and the even more petrifying possibility of a meeting with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Here is the full transcript of our conversation.

24th May, 2018-

Me- Welcome, sir. I trust that you have been informed of the subje-

President Trump- Yes, yes. I know why we are here. Hang on a second, will ya? Put on this mask that I made. Well, Ivanka helped me tape the rubber band on.

Me- Sir, that’s a mask with the face of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

President Trump- I know, I know. My lawyers, mainly Rudy Giuliani, ’cause everyone else left, wanted you to wear it so that we can practice for my ‘inevitable’ meeting with that Mueller guy. ‘Inevitable’, isn’t that a good word? I overheard it, when Mike Pence was talking to his staffers about his chance at the presidency. He later told me that it means ‘never’. He’s a really good guy.

Me (rubbing my temples)– Ohhhhh…Very well, sir. Do you have anything in mind regarding your interview with Mr. Mueller? For example, have you rehearsed any answers?

President Trump- Oh, I have a lot in mind. Just don’t publish this, okay? (Whispering) I’m going to go against my lawyers’ advice and go totally unscripted for the interview. I’ll tell Mueller all about Vlad.

Me (visibly flabbergasted)– Sir, forget I asked that. Would you like to elaborate on why you chose to back out from the Iran nuclear deal, which was one of the signature achievements of your predecessor?

President Trump- Well, the Iran Nuclear Deal was badly negotiated and never benefitted the United States. It made Iran rich and could only have led to a ‘cat-as-trophe’. And (inaudible), the United Shursh (inaudible) would only be benefitted if I undo Obama’s policies, ‘cause those policies never got us anywhere. You look at North Korea, people say I deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for that thing. But, we’ll see about that, we’ll see.

Me- Sir, my question was about Iran, not North Korea, but since you did bring up North Korea, I would like to ask you about the constant efforts of President Moon Jae-in of South Korea in bringing the North to the negotiation table.

President Trump- President Moon and I are best friends. Literally, best friends. Sorry, Macron, I won’t brush off your dandruff anymore, (inaudible). President Moon has certainly been instrumental in talks with Little Rocket Man ‘cause they both speak Korean. Also, I personally hold the belief that my unpredictability has scared Little Rocket Man. I’m so unpredictable with my foreign policy that people, including my own staffers, say they never know what’s coming next.

Me- But, that is precisely what ‘unpredictable’ means-

President Trump (continues)– I’m such an unpredictable person that Little Rocket Man destroyed his own nuclear testing site so that I would agree to talk to him. But alas, the June 12th summit may not work out. It’s very unpredictable right now.

Me- Sir, the testing site is unstable, on the verge of collapsing, after he conducted his sixth test there, according to studies conducted by China. Further, your national security adviser, John Bolton, made explicit references to the 2003 Libya model when speaking about North Korea. What are your views on that?

President Trump (grunting)– Well, if I lose support for my Nobel Peace Prize campaign because of him, John Bolton is going to go down either like the Spicer or the Scaramucci model. Also, I like Little Rocket Man. I promise him; if this upcoming summit, whenever it happens, goes according to plan and he agrees to denuclearise, he’ll be good, rich and happy.

Me- Sir, there’s no campaigning for the Nobel Peace Prize. There is a committee that decides the winners. And are you threatening to fire Mr. Bolton?

President Trump (shrugging)– Yeah, I might fire Mustachio, ‘cause I had to do a total 180 on Twitter because of him. You know how hard it is to do a 180? Plus, I have never, ever, ever flipped on my promises. Oh, and are you serious? No campaigning involved for the Nobel Peace Prize?! That’s great! I’m anyway very good at winning things when committees are involved; I won the 2016 presidential election because of the Electoral College. Did you see that beautiful map?

Me (exasperated)– Yes sir, I am a journalist; I covered it on election night. Anyhow, you have been very vocal about your distaste for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. What did you think of the comedienne, Michelle Wolf, who performed this time?

President Trump- She was actually pretty funny, but I can’t admit that, can I? Just don’t publish that statement. I’ll say this, though, she totally bombed. You can publish this statement. The reason those dinners aren’t successful anymore is because I never attend them. They’re just a bunch of fake news journalists, gathered in a hall, deciding on their next fake news story. Did you see their TV ratings this time? They probably broke the record for worst ratings. CNN probably gets better TV ratings than those dinners ever do. Ughhhh…  (Inaudible). And I want to take this opportunity to thank Seth Meyers and President Obama. Their 2011 roast was the reason I ran for President. And I also ran to ‘Make America Great Again’, of course.

Me- Sir, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview. Before, we leave however, I would like to ask you…Yanny or Laurel?

President Trump (gasps)– I’ll call Michael Cohen to get him to pay both.

Me (shocked)Sir, no! I meant the recent auditory illusion that has become an Internet phenomenon.

President Trump- Oh, that thing, it could be Laurel, but to be honest, I heard ‘covfefe’. Don’t give me mini-panic attacks like that. And plus, I think you’re fake news, too.

Disclaimer: This is an attempt at political satire. No offence intended to anyone; this is simple, light-hearted comedy. I sincerely hope that everyone, regardless of political affiliation, is able to enjoy this post. Thank you, Mr. John Oliver, for that amazing ‘Scaramucci model’ joke.

Why So Mysterious?

Thank you to Sophia Ismaa Writes for nominating me for my first Mystery Blogger Award; I don’t know why I seem mysterious, but I gratefully accept the honour. She is a genuinely brilliant writer, fiercely passionate about bringing positive changes in society and is unpretentious; her writing showcases her true beliefs, whether it is about politics, justice or feminism. Please do visit her blog.

Here are the answers to the questions asked. (Honestly, I found them really interesting to answer and hope that everyone finds the answers just as interesting to read.)

1. What is one book you read that made an impact on you?

-For all practical purposes, all I can hope is that my textbooks have left an impact on me. A lot of my dream career hinges on that.

Although I’m committing an act of injustice to the multitude of classics that I have read, I think the most impactful book would be ‘The Story of My Life’ by Helen Keller. Through her book, she allows the reader to experience everything she felt in her early years, the frustration, the moments of pride, her equation with her teacher, her graduation, etc. Her sheer determination really speaks volumes to the reader.

2. What is the strangest, weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

-Where do I start? Peas, broccoli, cabbage….Those aren’t bad enough? Okay, let me try better than that.

Just this past year, my school had planned a trip to Coorg, a hill station close to Bangalore for all us tenth graders. (I still feel bad for the teachers accompanying us. Ma’am, if you are reading this, the-loitering-around-the-resort-like-ghosts-at-11-PM was not my idea, I promise.)

The hotel room I was sharing with three of my friends did not have a functional microwave, so we only had a tea kettle to boil water. We had a packet of noodles with us that we decided to cook, or in more teenage terms, have a ‘Maggi party’. You are probably wondering what could go wrong with that. When teenagers are involved, practically everything can.

One of my friends decided to demonstrate the superiority of her cooking skills and boiled an excess amount of water in the kettle. Then, she forgot the pouch of tastemaker (masala) inside the wrapper and proceeded to throw it out. (To this day, I don’t know whether it was a prank or not.)

The rest of us, who were totally unaware of what she had done, spent the next half-an-hour trying to eat/drink flavourless noodles submerged in hot water. I advise you, never try that. Aware of our own cooking abilities though, we did not criticise her at all, we just made fun of her for the next three months. Excusable, right?

3. Name a few things about blogging you love and certain things that irritate you.

Things I Love About Blogging-

-1. I love the fact that most bloggers, at least on WordPress, welcome new ideas and are ready to have discussions without ridiculing one another. This is really heartwarming, considering that in an era of social media, it is extremely easy to troll and bully people under the garb of anonymity.

-2. Blogging is a great creative outlet which allows readers to share their views with the blogger. The interactive environment and immediate feedback are conducive to high levels of discourse. Personally, I also feel that blogging enhances the quality of my writing. When I used to write essays just for myself, I had no incentive to improve upon them. Now, I am increasingly trying to get better in hopes of satisfying and widening my existing readership. Yes, I am praise-oriented.

Things I Dislike About Blogging-

-1. It takes a long time to acquire a readership. I am certain that every blogger reading this can relate to that. Becoming an overnight sensation is next to impossible and although we all dream of that when we start blogging, it just doesn’t happen to most of us. No matter how good you think your content is, readers come gradually. The most important thing is to continue posting your best work while waiting for readers to notice you.

-2. Lecturing bloggers like ‘A Fresh Outlook- Maanini Singhvi’ are quite agonising to be around. However, she asked me to endorse her in this post, so I will. Please visit her site. She desperately needs readers.

-3. Sophia Ismaa asking me complicated questions like this one is something that absolutely terrifies me. 😉 (Please do excuse my humour, Sophia. We’re friends, right?)

4. Take BuzzFeed’s: ‘Everyone Has a British Food That Matches Their Personality Quiz’ and post your results; food and description included!image1And I thought I was going to get Welsh cakes, because I’m so sweet. But no….

Well, as they say, BuzzFeed knows best.

5. Recommend a book in one paragraph (3 sentences max)!

-Khaled Hosseini’s ‘And the Mountains Echoed’ is truly a masterpiece, beautifully written, yet painfully sad. It is an interconnection of stories that span nearly 60 years of Afghan history, delving deep into the consequences of an act of separation that scars the life of two young siblings, who reunite much later, but under completely different circumstances. The reunion is not one which the reader wants; it is not hugs and tears; rather, it is heartbreaking and riddled with the bitter truth of reality.

-(I can’t believe that was three sentences.)

My Questions:

1. Describe your personality in five words (a single sentence). List any five novels you would recommend to readers of all ages.
2. What is your take on the proliferation of xenophobia and other fears regarding immigrants worldwide?
3. Do you believe in aliens or non-carbon-based life? (Humour intended).
4. Do you think that Artificial Intelligence can take over the world?
5. If you had to visit the beach or an amusement park, what would be your choice and why?

My Nominees:

1. superheroes009
2. Rida Yumn Ahmed
3. poeticallyyours360
4. KraftingThoughts

All readers are also nominated.

This award was created by Okoto Enigma to celebrate blogs which captivate, inspire and motivate bloggers. It is a fun way for bloggers to get to know each other’s interests and preferences better.