CS Bhagya

Writing Portfolio. Mostly.

Tag: Bangalore

So you’re graduating, huh?

If you’ve entered your final year in college and that deliciously overpowering sense existential gloom hasn’t settled in yet, well, I don’t like you very much. It did on me, resulting in some fabulous “Look, the world is ending!” sort of conversations with friends. I discovered most of the city’s “shady” cafes and side alleys in my final year exchanging shamelessly emo old-Bollywood-movie type of dialogues with friends equally distraught at the impending “parting of ways”, equally lazy to bravely confront the towering pile of assignments. If you somehow manage to survive this onslaught of paperwork, the emotional turmoil of being thrown together with people you thought you would never have to bother to bestow even a fake smile on to work on projects which could decide if you get that old degree or not – what one has to endure for that piece of paper, seriously – you can breathe in peace. Not.

Once you leave college, there will be times when you will think the world outside your room a giant piece of clockwork: you will sense the slowness of time, watch the leaves fall, smell the roses, and, um, so on in that vein. But mostly, you’ll feel things along the lines of: Uh, SHE got a job? SHE got THAT job? What, SHE made it into that university? God, what am I doing with my life? When you’re not dying in the throes of crippling jealousy, the chill of being shut off by those who appeared to be close friends in college, trying to get over feeling like a huge waste of space, getting on your parents’ nerves, you’ll probably read worthless books, turn into an internet (and god knows what other) addict, have migraine-inducing movie marathons, listen to Justin Bieber, basically, practice endless hours of vice and get on your parents’ nerves more.

That’s all very well and, to be honest, having so much time on your hands is not all bad. Very occasionally, you’ll end up doing or discovering something useful. (For me it was the life-altering realization – after thinking covertly for months that Justin Bieber wasn’t that bad – that the girl I thought was Bieber’s singing partner was actually Justin Bieber.)

But, you know, try and do something, okay? (I am not talking to those smug, “I’ve got my life all figured out” types.) After all, it is your life, and you aren’t Moses that the seas will part for you willingly: sometimes you have to hack at the sides of clouds with a sledgehammer to find the silver lining. Do that little bit of work for yourself, then take off on your crazy adventures, and one day when you’re wandering around the city wallowing beatifically in a quagmire of self-pity, inside that great big piece of clockwork that keeps thudding behind your back all day all night, something will click into place.

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This smug little piece purporting to dispense graduation wisdom was written for the Journalism newsletter For Now (Mount Carmel College, Bangalore) in August, 2011, after one of my juniors requested me to write something for them . Obviously, I’m not an expert. Read with caution. 

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To read or not to read: Science fiction

Say “Sci-Fi” and the first things that pop into your head are huge spacecrafts, weirdly shaped aliens, intergalactic wars, or an apocalyptic vision of a dying earth – mainly because science fiction has established a position for itself in popular imagination via movie franchises like Star Wars, Star Trek and Back to the Future. But as a literary genre which explores – sometimes in a curiously prophetic manner – the consequences of future (even if imaginary) innovations, it is yet to acquire a large reader-base. Not easy when most readers do not consider sci-fi “proper” literature and are known to advice fans of the genre to start reading “real” books.

While science fiction has always had a dedicated community abroad, inIndiait seems to be witnessing a gradual growth only recently.

Keshav Krishnamurty, a student of St Joseph College of Arts and Science, whose reading includes a generous proportion of science fiction, likes the genre because it is somewhat more ‘believable’ than most magic or fantasy. “There’s something called the Scale of Sci-Fi Hardness. Some SF is so soft that it becomes fantasy, while hard SF is a lot like the world we live in,” he says. “My favourites are Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel, and the Stanley Kubrick version of Arthur Clarke’s 2001 – the book wasn’t nearly as good as the movie. And some of Asimov’s old robot stories, collected in I, Robot.”

Geetanjali Chitnis, a Media Studies student, MCC, who dislikes SF, thinks it’s a very subjective genre that you either really hate or really love. “My dad loves science fiction, so there’s a lot of Asimov lying about the house. I think I tried reading one of his books. But I’m not big on other people’s vision of the future, you know? I believe we have to talk about now, the present,” she says.

Parinitha Shinde, a Mass Communications student ofSt. Joseph’sPost-GraduateCollege, seconds this opinion. “Sci-fi doesn’t interest me a lot. I see it as escapist and improbable. Most fiction has those two attributes, but I would prefer reading about things closer to mundane reality – human complexities and the intricacies of relationships rather than biological warfare or far off galaxies,” she emphasizes.

On the other hand, people who love reading Sci-Fi feel the genre is as good as any other, especially relevant in the modern context due to scientific progress and the ingress of technology into every arena of life. It might be considered the literature that defines what it is to be human, and the various possibilities for the future for an individual, in the 21st century.

Where genre wars and Lit-fic snobbery is concerned, Chandrika Siddhanta Chakaravarty, an avid Sci-Fi reader, feels there should not be any hard and fast rule about what constitutes “proper” literature. “Of course “literature” doesn’t – or shouldn’t – consist mainly of canonical texts. That view is changing now,” she says. But that’s not the reason why people don’t seem to be reading Sci-Fi, according to her. “I think lots of people simply don’t read books any more. And when they do, many seem to prefer something they can go through quickly and don’t need to think about much. Sci-fi takes a little more getting used to. I think most people would rather rack their brains over a film like Inception rather than over a book which takes much more time to finish.”

Despite these factors, Sci-Fi still seems to be thriving, albeit in small, but expanding, communities. Fans staunchly believe that Sci-Fi has a certain something which other genres don’t offer.

“There’s an appeal to technology being used in place of magic,” says Keshav Krishnamurty. “A whole lot of SF stories are set in the future, that means there’s space to think of what could be. Most of it may be wrong, but things like Star Trek’s “tricorders” have turned up in the form of the I-Phone.”

Asawari Ghatage, a final year Journalism student, MCC, agrees. Mixing up impossible technologies and conceptualized artificial intelligence has creates an entire genre of novels that have for long excited readers into wondering about the future of technology, she feels. “Science fiction novels open the readers up to a world of possibilities. They thrust you into futuristic and sometimes untapped aspects of science. They tend to couple the eccentric imagination with the hope for a better future,” she says, adding, “The thrill of reading about a distant future, or an improbable reality is incentive enough for anyone to pick up an Asimov or a Wells and plunge themselves into an entire world they didn’t know existed.”

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This piece was written for the Mount Carmel College Journalism Department newsletter For Now. February 2011. 

YOU can change your city

We drink tea from saucers, cutlery with fingers and bargain exhaustively with shopkeepers. We are like that only. But we also throw garbage on the road, spit on the sidewalk and leave paan stains on public walls. We are like that only?

With a name aimed at making people aware of these unsavoury habits, The Ugly Indian — a community project to clean up the streets of the city — began as an attempt to understand why we have such low civic standards and tolerate incredible amounts of filth on the streets.

Comprising of a group of Bangaloreans deeply concerned about the city’s environmental health and its public hygiene (they did not want to be named in this article as they feel this was a community effort), the project took off a year ago. Initially, the group spenttime observing and understanding the systems and building trust with the various stakeholders.

The project gained momentum only in the past four-five months once several small experiments had been conducted to figure outwhat worked and what didn’t.

The project kick-started its drive for a cleaner city on Church Street. Probably the city’s most visited “fun-street”, Church Street houses the offices of India Tourism, three media companies, Wipro, several leading restaurant brands and the Pollution Control Board.

The poor management of a street so vital to upholding the image of Brand Bangalore perplexed the organisers of the project.

But if you walk down Church Street today, you will notice how the garbage dumps that occupied a large space of the pavements in several prominent locations have disappeared, the paan-stained walls repainted, potholes closed and even cigarette butts lining cracks in the pavements have been cleared.

Church-street dwellers, many of whom were part of the endeavour, are grateful.

“There were a few pressing issues of cleanliness and public hygiene around Church Street. In many spots, garbage had accumulated in huge quantities, and these people took the initiative to clean it up,” says Anil Chodha, owner of Queen’s Restaurant on Church Street. He finds this a great gesture.

“If citizens at various locations around the city make a similar effort, something good is bound to come out of it.” He also feels that when such an attempt is being made, it is essential to bring it to people’s notice, for they will obviously come forward to help.

Creating awareness for the need of community involvement fueled by individual effort in such issues has been the main focus of the project. They believe that people are extremely keen about improving the condition of their surroundings and just need a spark or catalyst to get them going. The Ugly Indian is about giving people this spark.

Through the project they want to convey that it is possible for any individual, with no authority, money, volunteers or influence, to create a sustainable change in his or her surroundings.

Neelam Teibam, a make-up artist and stylist who frequents Church Street, remarks that the changes are quite evident. “I normally walk up and down Church Street, especially on weekends, and I’ve noticed that the pavements and the road look a lot cleaner. The walls have been whitewashed. Potted plants have been placed beside them, and it certainly makes the street a brighter, greener place,” she says.

Teibam is glad to learn that The Ugly Indian returns regularly to keep in check fresh waste accumulation. “Simply starting such an effort is not sufficient, maintaining cleanliness is equally important. I think they are handling the issue in the right way.”

Making people alert to the results of the project will generate a lot of positive interest, she feels. “Given a chance, I would love to join in with what they’re doing, too.”

So next time you complain about how terrible the state of the city roads are, don’t just brush the matter aside with a “somebody else will take care of it.” Why not play the role of this elusive “somebody else” for a change?

To know more about the project and leave feedback, visit their website http://www.theuglyindian.com. You can also find them on Facebook (search for The Ugly Indian).

Published in DNA, November 18th 2010

Obstetric success comes to the four in Bangalore

For four years after marriage, Pavanitha was without a child. On May 31, she became the mother of quadruplets, the first such successful case in the city.

When Pavanitha, 25, married to Subramani, 28, failed to conceive for four years, the couple sought help of fertility experts. She underwent treatment for infertility, and three months later she became pregnant. Initially, the doctors told Pavanitha that she was carrying twins. But, later, tests confirmed that she will be delivering quadruplets.

Pavanitha’s joy was, however, tempered when doctors told her that the risk of quadruplets being born prematurely was very high and that their survival rates were also low. She was then referred to Dr Prakash Mehta of Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain Hospital, who is an expert in high-risk pregnancies.

In the 33rd week of her pregnancy, she developed signs of HELLP syndrome, a life-threatening obstetric complication that results in liver problems and increased blood pressure. Dr Mehta decided to have the babies delivered immediately instead of waiting for the normal 40 weeks. A girl and three boys, weighing 950 gm, 1.01 kg, 1.27 kg, and 1.28 kg, respectively, were delivered safely through the Caesarean section.

“This is the first time in the city that four normal babies have been born in one go,” Dr Mehta said. “There may have been earlier incidents of quadruplets in the city, but one or more babies were born with either defects or did not survive after delivery,” he said.

The doctor said that twins were common — about 1 in 90 or 100 births. One in about 5,000 pregnancies resulted in triplets. But quadruplets were rare, with the incidence of normal births just one in five lakh pregnancies.

Bhagwan Mahaveer Jain Hospital is footing a large part of Pavanitha’s medical bill, since she and her husband are from a low socio-economic background. “We also work as a charitable trust. The parents have only been charged whatever they can pay. The rest will be taken care of by the trustees or will be waived off completely,” Dr Mehta said.

The parents had said that they would take care of all the four children, Dr Mehta said. “But, considering their circumstances, they may find it difficult to look after four children. They have a joint family, and they’re counting on support from relatives,” he said.

Published in DNA, June 4th 2010