A Panorama of History- Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri is a town in the Agra District of Uttar Pradesh, India. The red sandstone city was founded in the year 1569 by perhaps the most famous Mughal Emperor of all time, Akbar the Great. It served as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1571 to 1585, when it was abandoned.

History: After his military victories over the Rajput areas of Chittor and Ranthambore, Akbar decided to shift his capital from the city of Agra to a new location 43 km southwest of Agra, to honour the Sufi saint, Salim Chishti. Here, in 1571, he commenced the construction of a planned walled city, which took the next fifteen years, with a series of royal palaces, harem, courts, a mosque, private quarters and other utility buildings. He named the city Fatehabad, with Fateh, a word of Arabic origin, meaning “victory.” It was later called Fatehpur Sikri. It is among the best preserved example of Mughal architecture in India.

The Buland Darwaza (Gate of Magnificence) is the looming entrance to the complex, towering at 54 m in height. It was constructed in 1601 to commemorate Akbar’s victories in Gujarat, a flourishing centre of trade and commerce. It is said to be the highest gateway in the world.

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This white marble structure, in the complex of Fatehpur, is the tomb of Salim Chishti, the Sufi saint who inspired Akbar. In the shrine, there is a latticed marble wall where ritualistic threads can be tied into three knots and a wish made for each knot.

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1/7 Wonders of the World

Recently, my parents and I visited Agra, the city home to perhaps the most famous building in the world, the Taj Mahal.. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan of the Mughal Dynasty, it was intended to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Arjumand Banu Begum or Mumtaz Mahal. Commissioned in 1632, it is an ivory white-marble structure.

History aside, the first view of the Taj Mahal is simply breathtaking. The beauty of the building is initially quite startling, momentarily rendering a person unable to think about anything else.

The structure actually grows on you. The design is such that the eyes are first drawn to the dome, then to the slender minarets and then to the octagonal symmetrical sides. Finally, you end up remembering that you were annoyed at the gate security for hassling you. 🙂

Speaking in terms of management, the situation is pathetic; foreign tourists are charged 1000 rupees per person and Indians are charged 40 rupees. No other country in the world (that I know of) scams people like ths. After this disparity in entrance fees, this infuriating scam is only escalated by the fact that foreign tourists are given preferential treatment.

Security checks are not hassle-free and women carrying crying children are only aggravated more; waiting in long lines and having to open their handbags at every turn. Line management is absent, which leads to visitors being utterly frustrated and exhausted. The entire culture of tour guides is misleading, to say the very least. Tour guides, extremely pushy and overbearing, feed half-baked information to people, often based on stories passed down to them. Additionally, tour guides, having their own connections with the local staff, are the reason people get preferential treatment. The guides often overcharge foreign tourists, putting across a terrible image of Indians in general. They take their own sweet time, explaining inconsequential details of the monument, simply in the hopes of being paid more, (some of the guides take hourly charges).

To me, personally, the government’s motive of commercialising this structure is frankly disgusting as it prevents people from appreciating its rich heritage. I really hope that, eventually, this money-making sham comes to an end and some firm management steps are taken, or else, the Taj Mahal will just be added to the long list of beautiful things Indians have ruined for themselves; our environment being one of them. (Agra, as a city, is filthy; smog and pollution hang in the air and roads are covered with garbage).

Without any more ranting, here are some pictures of the still-beautiful monument. This is the view from Mehtaab Baag, or Mehtaab Garden, a garden located at the backside of the Taj Mahal. The garden lies beyond the Yamuna River and offers a serene view of the monument, away from the noises of the howling crowd at the frontside. (Yes, I’m not kidding, people were seriously howling inside the Taj Mahal, just to see if their voices would echo. Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal must have been extremely perturbed in their eternal sleep).

Si j’étais riche…

This is my first attempt at writing anything in French (apart from school assignments); I have really grown to love the language and am fearful of the day when it will no longer be an element of study in school, (which is from eleventh grade onwards). I do not want to forget what I have learnt (I mean, I have to use it when I visit France one day) and hence, I am practicing this language as much as possible now…

Request to all native French readers- Please do not judge this too harshly and notify me of any errors.

Topic- If I were rich… (Si j’étais riche…)

Si j’étais riche, je pense que je serais un humain bienveillant. Le premier instinct des gens serait de résoudre la faim dans le monde. Alors, ils dépenseraient leur argent pour leurs intérêts. Je crois que je dépenserais mon argent pour un projet ou une idée spécifique. Je sais qu’on ne peut pas résoudre tous les problèmes dans le monde avec l’argent. On a besoin de la compassion, de l’humanité et de l’intelligence pour gagner les cœurs des gens.

J’utiliserais mon argent dans le domaine de science. Je crois que la science est l’avenir. Je financerais des ingénieurs, des scientifiques, des médecins et des universités pour faire la recherche et pour développer la technologie de l’avenir. J’espère que tout le monde aurait d’accès aux soins qui n’est pas coûteux. La technologie développée pourrait aider les gens qui souffrent des maladies comme cancer, HIV, etc. J’espère de créer une humanité qui est contente et satisfaite.

À mon avis, donner mon argent au gouvernement ou aux organisations de bienfaisance ne semble pas une bonne idée parce que je ne pourrais pas voir l’effet direct de mon argent. Donc, je crois que la meilleure idée est le financement des scientifiques pour établir la technologie médicale et pour aider les gens pauvres. Après cette mission, j’aimerais financer l’éducation des enfants. Selon moi, les domaines de médecine et d’éducation sont d’une importance primordiale. J’espère de voir chaque enfant en bonne santé et bien éduqué.

A Parallel Reality

Let us sample a parallel reality with Donald Trump, the Supreme Leader of North Korea and Kim Jong-un, the President of the United States of America. (Thank you so much, daily late-night talk hosts, for providing me with tons of material).

Scene 1- Washington D.C, Oval Office: Kim Jong-un now occupies the body of President Trump, unbeknownst to anyone, even his closest aides.

Kim Jong-un (occupying the body of Trump) I’m frustrated with these leaks to the media! Why doesn’t this country have only three state-approved channels?! You know, when even one channel goes against you, you finish them off! (Evil grin)

Mike Pence (gasps) Sir, what is wrong with you today? Are you feeling alright?

Kim- What could be wrong with me? Am I not always like this?

Pence (assuming Kim to be normal Donald Trump)– Sir, you’re….unpredictable….but never like this.

Kim- We’ll see. Summon the Head of the Defense Department. I need to conduct four missile tests before dinner.

Pence- Sir! If the United States conducts unauthorised military tests, this could have severe implications on our position in the U.N. Security Council.

Kim- Ohhhhh. Ha ha ha. Who cares about the U.N.? They’re just another body of silly diplomats achieving nothing. I only agreed to be part of them to, you know, conduct insurance frauds with those European Union member nations and help our economy.

Pence- Sir! That’s not the reason why we joined the U.N.! Don’t go out in front of the media or tweet today, please!

Kim- What is this ‘tweet’? And I only go out in front of the media on Daddy and Grandpa’s birthday, no?

Pence- ‘Tweet’ is the dangerous method of communication that you use to reveal our most confidential information to the public.

Kim (glares at Pence)– How dare you talk back to me?! I ‘leak’ nothing, ever. Don’t let me hear this again, or you’re going to the gallows.

Pence- Sir, I don’t think you should refer to Fox News that way.

Kim- Sheesh….

Kim decides to take a walk outside in the front lawn of the White House while Pence recovers. He encounters several reporters.

Kim (addressing a group of reporters)We’re the happiest people on Earth. We have free health care, the best education system and everything is government-owned, so everyone gets an equal share!

Reporter- Sir, free health care?! Have you, Congress and Mr. Mitch McConnell developed a new plan? And best education?! Have you fired Ms. Betsy DeVos?

Kim- We had free health care since the days of my father, no? And stop talking back to me or this is the last day that your channel will see.

Reporter- Sir, referring to us as ‘fake news’ was one thing, threatening to close us down is taking this to a whole new level! We are a democracy that thrives on the freedom of the press!

Kim (thinking) When did that happen?

Scene 2- Pyongyang, North Korea: Trump now occupies the body of Kim Jong-un, unbeknownst to anyone.

At the birthday parade of North Korea’s deceased leaders, Trump makes an appearance.

Trump- May their souls rest in peace.

Crowd- Hail our Supreme Leader!

Trump (addressing the crowd)– You know, I won the election last year. All the votes were in my favour and there was no electoral college to contradict anything. It was the ‘bigly’ victory that we all wanted. I broke all records. No single leader ever got everyone’s votes.

Associate/Seniormost Advisor/Kim’s sister(in whispers)This gathering is for the leaders. You have to tell the crowd legends about how they were godly men. Everyone knows you won the election. You were the only choice on the ballot!

Trump (ignores her)It actually gets quite cold up here, doesn’t it? We should build some nice winter golf courses where they serve delicious chocolate cake. Also, China is pretty close by, right? President Jinping can visit me and we can have more chocolate cake together. I think I’ll invite Putin too.

Crowd is confused at this point.

Kim’s sister- Here we play basketball and the accordion, not golf. And you cannot just invite world leaders to our headquarters. There is a special protocol. Are you feeling well today?

Trump- No golf?! That’s why everyone in the crowd looks so sad. And if you call me Supreme Leader, I have the authority to invite whoever I want!

At this point, Trump stomps away from the balcony. Later resettled at his residence, he decides to tweet.

Tweet- We threaten the United States with fire and fury like the world has never seen before!

Kim’s sister- What are you doing?! Do you want to die? The United States will finish us! We just have to keep them on the edge with our missile tests. Threatening them will only bring our end closer. We can’t even blame this tweet of yours on a hacker because all the IP addresses in the country are in your office! Oh, and even our state media, who follow everything you say blindly, were rattled at your rambling at the gathering today.

Trump- The media is ‘fake news’.

Kim’s sister (exasperated)You’re impossible! I knew Daddy made a mistake when he decided to hand our family regime to you!

So yes, this parallel reality is a complex (and humorous) concept, but to simplify it, I trust that Christopher Nolan will happen to come upon my blog, explore the concept and create another masterpiece like Inception on this topic. Sir, may I please, please, please play the part of Kim’s sister? 🙂

Questions and Answers With President Trump

Good evening and welcome to our imaginary global news channel, ‘A Fresh Outlook’! I am senior international news correspondent Maanini Singhvi and I have had the exclusive privilege of meeting the President of the United States for this one-on-one interview. Here is the full transcript of our conversation.

August 4th, 2017-

Me President Trump, are you aware of the gravity of your position as the head of the administration?

President Trump- Yes, I am the 45th and final President of the United States. I might even appoint myself as President-for-life.

Me (visibly perplexed)Umm, yeah, I guess… You must be knowing about the Grand Jury appointed by former FBI Director and Special Counsel Robert Mueller to further investigate your collusion with Russia. Any comments on that?

President Trump Unfair. It’s sad. They won’t let the guy with the highest ratings (me) do my work and they just keep involving me with some silly allegations. So what if I colluded with Russia? I didn’t, but so what? This is not a major scandal or anything! Everyone wants dirt on their opponents. It’s the political game of chess. And I won, both the popular vote and the electoral college by a big, big, big margin if you don’t count the millions of illegal votes. And also, a jury needs to be fair. Where are they going to get a jury full of people who colluded with Russia to aptly decide my case? My campaign team is not free as of now!

Me (sighing)- Sir, you will bring in only those immigrants who have proficiency in English as part of your new RAISE plan. What message are you trying to put forth to the world? Are you implying that only people who know English are skilled?

President TrumpNothing; no message at all. We just want highly skilled individuals. Bigly, goodly skilled. I just want more people like my beautiful daughter, Ivanka, who can architect a great future for this country. That’s a great word I learned to use. In fact, I wanted to become an architect when I was growing up. That was until my Math and Drawing teachers told me I had no aptitude for either of the two subjects. So, I decided to prove them wrong. I got into real estate. But I guess I haven’t improved much in Math. I still can’t count how much money I have.

Me Sir, my question was about racial stereotyping and English ability…

President TrumpI know, but I chose not to answer that because…well… you know….. (Mumbles-‘Putin didn’t teach me that one’). I’m just trying to save jobs and keep my campaign promises to the people who voted for me. It’s a tremendous, tremendous, tremendous responsibility. Why are you and the other failing media outlets making things so complex?

MeSir, the world is not black or white. Things are going to be complex. And you are now the President of the entire country, not only your voters. And don’t you feel that by cutting legal immigration, you will be delivering a solid blow to the economy? For example, South Carolina has said that Americans are just not willing to work at restaurants and tourist shops. Those jobs are then taken by legal immigrants who work for half the wages. Isn’t this a symbiotic, win-win situation for the immigrants and the economy?

President TrumpListen, stop lecturing. No one knows how to run the economy better than me. The failing economy got a boost when I began my term. There has been a 2.6% rise in GDP just this quarter. What do you know?

MeSir, this kind of rise was present in Obama’s term at least fourteen times, that means in fourteen quarters, he saw a raise of 2.6% or more. And he wasn’t implementing such controversial policies. I am sorry, sir, but doesn’t this serve as an indication to you?

President TrumpWhat? Stop comparing my term to President Obama’s. I’m new into politics and look, I’m President. I must be doing something right that you and Obama are not.

MeSir, please….Obama couldn’t have lawfully run for re-election. Otherwise, I doubt that the American people would have even batted an eyelid when it came to making a choice in the 2016 elections.

President Trump (utterly ignoring me) And those numbers from Obama’s times are fake news. Mine are real, because, hey, even Fox reported it. The only numbers that aren’t real in my time are the fake poll numbers. Everything else is real. And I don’t have time to answer your questions anymore. I need to sign an executive order to allow for more golf-ball manufacturing factories. I need to lower their taxes, because hey, in this stressful world, golf is the only thing we poor Americans have left….(leaves)..

Me (screaming)- SIR….POOR AMERICANS DON’T PLAY GOLF…. THE TIME’S NOT UP YET….I STILL HAVE TO ASK YOU ABOUT YOUR TAX RETURNS!!!!

President Trump proceeds to run even faster now.
————————————————————————————————

Welcome once again to our imaginary global news channel, ‘A Fresh Outlook’! I am senior international news correspondent Maanini Singhvi and 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.

I Just Don’t Know Anymore

Sounds like a song title, right? Well, it isn’t.

Tenth grade, or as my neurons affectionately call it, their catastrophic demise, requires more brainpower than the power carried by a 132 kV transmission wire. These days, I turn more to my parents than to my own brain for support (nothing wrong with that, they’re much smarter than me). Plus, they give excellent morale-boosting pep talks that I desperately need, as the various textbooks that form the bulk of tenth grade are making my brain go haywire as I’m trying to connect the dots.

These days, at school, I feel like a car that’s running more on fumes than on oil. I am still running on the positive impression that I made on my teachers back in the days when things were easier, in seventh, eighth and ninth grades, but there’s no new innovation happening anymore. The problem lies in the fact that I, as a person, haven’t changed, but my grade has (ninth to tenth). My brain is still trying to comprehend why my ninth grade strategies aren’t working as effectively as they used to.

All I can say is, these days, my parents are trying hard to give my utterly passive personality an active plan of action to work upon. They are wholeheartedly immersing themselves into my books to see where they can make things easier for me. I never even tried doing this for myself. I have no clue about the toll that college is going to take on me. Every other day, my dad schedules tests and my mom encourages me to read over the syllabus for the upcoming exam. Yet, with so much support, I’m getting nowhere. And I’m not new. There are thousands of kids who have gone through an even more rigorous curriculum, worked harder than I have and have struck it big. Then why am I wallowing so much in self-pity? (Sighhhh…. Fine, I admit that I am a drama queen. But, I was always told that I lacked the emotion-controlling centres of the brain, the amygdala and the hippocampus.)

I’m not depressed at all, as a matter of fact, this is funny. I’m laughing that I-am-on-the-verge-of-insanity-laugh right now. I still love tuning into physics conversations with my dad at ten-thirty p.m. (even though I don’t know anything), but I just can’t bring myself to open that textbook and read! Why?!

The Merchant of Venice/The Jew of Venice

William Shakespeare’s vastly discussed comedy, ‘The Merchant of Venice’, alternatively called “The Jew of Venice’, highlights several themes, love, loyalty, friendship, appearance and reality and also the Christian-Jew rivalry prevalent in Elizabethan society. The “Merchant” is a reference to Antonio, a passive character suffering from nameless melancholy. Although Shylock, a usurious Jewish moneylender, is a more dominating character, I believe that “The Merchant of Venice” is a more appropriate title than “The Jew of Venice”.

Antonio is a reputed, wealthy, Venetian merchant with ships all over the world. As a moral Christian, he considers it his duty to lend money without interest. To help his dear friend Bassanio amass money to woo a rich heiress, Portia, Antonio puts his own life at stake by signing Shylock’s fatal bond of three thousand ducats, without interest, for three months and if unpaid, entitling Shylock to a pound of flesh from any part of Antonio’s body. Antonio is mostly melancholic, acquiescent and submissive. Salarino says that “a kinder gentleman treads not the earth” in context of Antonio’s love and generosity. Bassanio describes him as his “dearest friend” and “the best condition’d and unwearied spirit in doing courtesies”.

Shylock despises Antonio for lending money gratis and reducing the rate of profit in Venice. Though a compassionate and generous friend, Antonio is a religious fanatic, berating Shylock at the Rialto, the Venetian Stock Exchange, spitting on his Jewish gaberdine and beard, hurling insults and humiliating him; calling him a cut-throat dog and a misbeliever.

Antonio, however, is an honourable gentleman; standing by the terms of the bond, accepting that the Duke cannot deny the course of the law. He does not blame Bassanio for his predicament, but displays courage and strength of character, resigning himself to his fate, thus becoming a victim of Shylock’s hatred and revenge.

Shylock, a cruel, Jewish moneylender of Venice, exploits the financial needs of others by charging exorbitant interest. When his daughter, Jessica, elopes with his jewels and ducats, he is more concerned for the loss of his wealth than his daughter, wishing for her to be dead at his feet and his ducats in her coffin. A multi-layered character, on one hand, he is depicted as bloodthirsty and cunning and on the other hand, he is shown as an oppressed and despised alien.

Shylock displays his most prominent personality trait, vengefulness, when avenging the ill-treatment meted out to him by Antonio. Deceitfully luring Antonio into accepting the bond, he says that the clause of a “pound of flesh” is meant in jest. Jessica’s elopement with a Christian, Lorenzo, heightens his fury towards Antonio. In the Trial Scene, the Duke and Portia (disguised as a lawyer) appeal to him for mercy, however, he feels that he has been wronged and wants the verdict in his favour.

Shylock evokes sympathy from the audience due to his daughter’s betrayal and his daily suffering. Devout, eloquent and the champion of his race, he is outwitted in the Trial Scene only by a legal quibble. In a powerful speech highlighting racial antagonism, Shylock portrays Jews as humans with rhetorics like, “Hath not a Jew eyes?” and “If you poison us, do we not die?” Thus, Shylock emerges not only as a malicious villain, but also as a voice for the oppression faced by Jews.

“The Merchant of Venice” is apt as Antonio is the central character of the whole plot. The major conflict arises from the Antonio’s ill-conceived bond story. He signs the bond, openly risking his life. The bond theme leads to the caskets episode, the elopement of Jessica and Lorenzo and the climax, the Trial Scene. Thus, Antonio’s fortunes and misfortunes become the source of joy and sorrow to his friends. None of the plays’ events would have occurred had he been more active and worldly. Further, the title “The Jew of Venice” would clearly be referring to Shylock, whereas the title “The Merchant of Venice” is slightly more ambiguous and allows the audience to interpret whom they believe the “Merchant” is.

Sick of Studying, Ready to Learn

I’m sick of studying. No, not sick of learning, sick of studying. I’m still somewhat fascinated with the way nature functions and the various elements that have brought us together and the fundamental questions of existence. I have not completely lost my childly inquisitiveness and readiness to embark on a journey of acquiring knowledge. However, I am sick of poring over the same concepts and topics and testing and evaluating myself constantly. So, in short, I have a fear of tests. I feel like they’ll expose my weaknesses in a way I am not ready to handle. Maybe I have ego issues, maybe I am under-confident. I don’t know. There are so many students like me, it’s scary. We all feel like we’re bursting with knowledge, we want to share our ideas with the world, we want to be judged by the choices we make, but instead, we’re judged by exams. No, I don’t want to turn this post into a rant about exams. So, let me talk about an incident that happened recently.

It was a family dinner night. My parents and I were enjoying dessert when the conversation switched from the latest cricket match to health issues, obesity, diabetes, food choices, etc. I elaborated on some interesting facts about diabetes and food choices that I had read online. My parents listened, but the conversation ended with them saying “We’ll trust you after you obtain an MBBS or a medical degree.”

I was dumbfounded. This was coming from the most open-minded people I know! Why does everything boil down to degrees and qualifications?! It’s not their fault, the entire education and grading system is like that. But as I enter senior high school, degrees and entrance exams have this creepy habit of stealthily sneaking into every conversation, whether it is with my parents, with relatives or even with friends.

This is something every student (I hope it’s not just me) encounters at the cusp of entering senior high school. We are constantly, almost ruthlessly, questioned by family members, relatives and friends, of our life goals and aspirations. Some students have so many expectations, it ties them down. Others just don’t know. Further, due to a plethora of choices and opportunities that our hardworking parents have been able to provide, everyone expects us to succeed; succeed in the sense that we go five steps beyond what our parents have achieved, preferably in the same field.

I recently visited two coaching centres; they conduct classes from seventh grade onwards to prepare students for high-level competitive exams such as NTSE (National Talent Search Examination), Olympiads and entrance exams. These coaching centres effectively and completely kill the process of learning, self-discovery of the subject and appreciating the beauty of such knowledge. They are successful in providing guidelines, tips and practice materials to succeed with top ranks in exams.

I don’t intend to deviate, but there was a very interesting story I read. A young kindergartener’s course book said “Father takes his bag to the office.” However, this little boy had seen his father put his laptop in his bag and take it to the office. In the class test, there was a fill-in-the-blank that said “Father takes his __________to the office.” The little boy wrote “laptop.” The teacher awarded marks for the question but gently reprimanded the boy for using a term totally out of context. Similar events occurred several times in the course of the boy’s elementary education. By the time the boy reached seventh grade, his creativity had been effectively murdered in the process of standardisation and the “need” for marks. Now, when the boy entered an engineering college, he was asked to develop skills of innovation and present an original idea for a project. After effectively having his childly creativity and innovation skills murdered, the higher education system demanded him to demonstrate those skills. See the disparity?

It’s sad to see how exploratory skills and creativity get murdered. Even I feel like I have somewhat lost those traits, being so engrossed in the textbooks and materials I already have. Maybe you are feeling like you’ve read too many rants like these before, but I felt the urgency to articulate this issue in my own words and put it out there. Sorry if it was boring, but it’s true.

I still like to learn, but not with the same enthusiasm as before.

The Solitary Reaper

The Solitary Reaper-

Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

Will no one tell me what she sings?—
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?

Whate’er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o’er the sickle bending;—
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

William Wordsworth (My favourite poet)