Tuesday, 15 August 2017

When Pride Rhymes with Love: Report on Q.L.C. Meet August 2nd, 2017 by Juveria Tabassum



“Love is a marriage of true minds,” said William Shakespeare in one of his many sonnets dedicated to a young man he was in love with. Just like the timeless English playwright, the world of literature has seen many brilliant poets and writers who found love in partners of the same sex, and chose to write about the wondrous sensation of loving another person, with little regard for the gender  of their beloved. 


Sumitra Ma'am Starting the Discussion
The Quills Literary Club explored few such authors and poets with its meeting on the theme, "Homosexuality and Literature". Dr Sumitra Jaiswal  gave a brief history of same-sex love in literature. 
The members then watched an award-winning animated student film, In a Heartbeat, which captures the innocent love between two young boys in the most endearing fashion. The film by Beth David and Esteban Bravo of Ringling College of Art and Design has gone viral on the Internet and has teased widespread discussion on the importance of such depictions of the LGBTQ+ community in mainstream media.

Meghana Shares Her Views on Homosexuality
After the film, Meghana delivered a speech about how homosexuality has always been prevalent in literature even though these texts have not been given the attention they deserved. She touched upon the social taboos around homosexuality and how change needed to start with classroom education that attempted to overcome such regressive thinking.


Ruhina Talking About The Color Purple
Supriya With Some Stirring Spoken Word


The next presentation was by Supriya and Ruhina, who talked about writer Alice Walker’s epistolary novel, The Color Purple. Set in the early 1900s, the novel explores the female African American experience through the life and struggles of its narrator, Celie. This was followed by a moving spoken word poetry performance based on the story by Supriya. It conveyed not just Celie’s pain through her days of abuse and neglect, but also brought forward her euphoria over finding true love in another woman.



Rakshita on Frank O' Hara
We then moved on to a presentation by Viola, Chandana and Rakshita on Frank o’ Hara’s truly delightful poem, Having a Coke With You. The poem talks about how O’ Hara finds the man he loves, to be a far more enchanting muse than admiring great works of art or visiting exotic places, or indulging in philosophical thought and research. O’ Hara’s breathless verse conveys his deep affection for his beloved in lines like,
It is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
Viola's Take on Having a Coke With You
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles.’
The poem and the presentation left the club smiling in a weird sense of shared contentment. After all, what can be more captivating than an expression of true love?


Maliha and Avani on How We've Made a Great Mess of Love
D. H. Lawrence’s We’ve Made a Great Mess of Love, is a remark on how the society has contributed to the perversion of love by making “an ideal” out of it. The poem, presented by Maliha and Avani focused the conversation around how the excessive definitions and boundaries that we put around love have broken down its innate purity into something that’s insincere and artificial.




Conversations on Homosexuality- Indian Style
While we deliberated over these thoughts, Soujanya, Gunapriya and Neharika came up with a light-hearted skit that showed a young Indian Millenial attempting to explain the concept of homosexuality to his oblivious mom and his adamantly homophobic dad.
This was followed by a video by Shravya, Swati and Ashmita, 

which was a collection of views and opinions of the students of the college on homosexuality. It was an interesting way to bring the conversation to our own shores. We had Srinidhi set it up for us with her brief speech about homosexuality in ancient India, where we learned how the concepts of gender and sexuality remained fluid in mythologies that maintained every human form to be a natural manifestation of the divine.

Akshara and Group take us Through Love's Great Power
The last presentation was by Akshara, Akhila, Srilekha and Rakshita on Vikram Seth’s Through Love’s Great Power. The poem is a scathing protest against the Supreme Court’s ruling of December, 2013 that overturned a previous amendment to section 377 of the IPC, which criminalizes homosexual love as “sexual activities against the order of nature”. Seth’s powerful verse suggests that it is not love that is an unnatural crime, but the use of power in a way that victimizes an already marginalized group of people, and deprives them of basic human rights.
In the end, as we reflected over the poignant verses that we’d just read, we realized how a discussion on homosexuality somehow ended up being a celebration of love in all its exceptional forms.
Celebrating the Many Colours of Love 

We do not choose who we fall in love with. And love is, beyond everything, an intimate, inexplicable connection between two minds and souls. Criminalizing or fearing homosexuality or any other expression of a person’s love, is merely an expression of ignorance. Maybe it’s time we stop branding each other with labels that dehumanize our true, natural feelings and let love run its own course.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Blurred by the Silver Screen- A Story by Meghana





Ridima was a normal girl her life took a great turn when she was selected at the auditions for a popular T.V. show. She got the part of the main lead, and was much praised for her performances. She was a dedicated actor and did all she could to make her career as part of the industry. As the months passed, she was soon well-recognized among her peers, and also much loved by her fans. She soon reached the pinnacle of success, when she won a national award for her brilliance.

This accomplishment made Ridima feel really proud of herself. The success got to her head and soon she started believing herself to be better than the rest of the artists she was working with.
At the shoot one day, she overheard some of her crew talking about her rudeness. This made her really angry and started yelling at them. The director was so upset at her behavior that he told her he won’t be working with her anymore, and would sign a better actress. 
Ridima was dumbstruck by his words. She went home sobbing and her mind went blank. As soon as she reached home she removed all the false lashes, the wig and makeup and stared at the mirror. All she could see was a pale girl who had lost herself to the world. She didn't know what she was doing as she stood there staring at herself the whole night. She felt broken and insecure.
The image that she had built of herself crashed around her ears. She realized that her success was attributed not just to her talent and good looks, but also to the efforts of everyone around her. She felt crestfallen and ashamed of her behavior, and vowed to treat people who work with and for her with the respect they deserved.
She also realized that she couldn’t run away from herself for the fear of others. She could comprehend the importance of a self-love that could honestly let her evaluate and improve her not just as an actor, but also as a human being. She decided to appreciate constructive criticism from her co-workers instead of discarding their words simply because she thought them to be jealous of her ability.
She went back and apologized to her director and all the other members of the cast and crew. Once they understood and forgave her, she once again gave her acting her full attention and this time, she was appreciated not only for being a talented artist, but also for being a wonderful person.
Together We Stay Afloat


Saturday, 5 August 2017

The Importance of Smiling by Faiza Afreen, BBA

DID ANYONE SMILE AT YOU TODAY ?


The Unlost Woman (JC)


Why did the "Mona Lisa" become one of the most famous paintings of all time ? Most of you might be knowing this; That's right! It is because of her unique smile .


Each one of us have experienced it. You come into the class or go to a function or when you enter your home with a real big smile on your face and suddenly people respond to you with a smile and seem to treat you better. Those who do not respond you back with a smile; Huh ! lets not talk about them !


Each time we smile, we throw a little feel good party in our brains. The act of smiling activates neural messaging which is good for our health and happiness. A smile is  more communicative than words. A child’s innocent smile, a mother’s loving smile, a patient’s smile of gratitude, your bestie’s wicked smile;The list is endless.

Lets consider this case. You had a very bad day . Everything was messed up the whole day. While walking back to home, you notice a lady carrying an infant and she smiles at you and you smile back. That’s the power of  a smile; it can light you up :)
On another such occasion when I was in my 4th class, the science teacher asked me,  “why don’t you smile more often "? That evening I went home and actually started practicing different smiles and took up the challenge that no matter how bad the day was or how worse the situations were, I would fill myself with positive energy. The change I noticed was beyond words could explain. Smile is the only refreshment in a day which I don’t have to pay for .
So just ask yourself everyday before you sleep:
Did you smile today?
Did you make anyone happy today?
Were you the reason for someone’s smile ?
Trust me, life will become easier.  You will find the world to be a more beautiful place .
Me : Pouts while taking a selfie.
The inner me: Nah! A smile would be more prettier JJJ


Saturday, 29 July 2017

Fire on the Mountain:A Book Review by Juveria Tabassum

Anita Desai’s stories move along to a rhythm of their own. It has a pace so unique that it seems to stem from the characters themselves. Her characters seem to have a world within them, instead of merely existing in a world without.
Fire on the Mountain introduces us to three such unique and intriguing worlds.
First, there is Nanda Kaul a once dutiful wife of a university Vice-Chancellor’s wife, she has sought to leave behind the excessive socialization and hustle of her active life and has retired alone in the hills of Kasauli. She detests company and conversation and seeks silence and tranquility in the natural resplendence around her retirement home, Carignano. However, her memories have never been put to rest, and they keep buzzing in her head as constant reminders of the life and the person she has tried to leave behind. Nanda Kaul tries hard to obliterate the residues of her loathsome past from her memory, and yet, in her isolation, all she has left to her are memories from which she cannot distance herself.
‘She was grey, tall and thin and her silk sari made a sweeping, shivering sound and she fancied she could merge with the pine trees and be mistaken for one. To be a tree, no more and no less, was all she was prepared to undertake’

Nanda Kaul’s efforts at maintaining isolation completely fails when her great-granddaughter, Raka comes to live with her. Contrary to her fears, Raka is not a typical, spoilt, attention seeking girl. She is, instead an exceptionally quiet and observant child who spends most of her time in Kasauli wandering deep into the hills and the neighbouring villages, exploring the entire area all by herself. She has a taste for adventure, and prefers to have conversations with Carignano’s caretaker, Ram Laal, than spend time with her great-grandmother. Having suffered from multiple illnesses at a very young age, and having seen the dysfunctional marriage between her parents fall apart, Raka finds peace and comfort in her solitude.
Nanda Kaul is bothered by the distance Raka maintains from her, and tries to reach out to the child. She makes up fantastical stories about her own childhood in order to engage Raka into conversation, and attempts to accompany her on her trips around the hills. Raka appears heavily perturbed by these interactions, and seeks to escape her Nani’s presence at every available opportunity.  ‘She had not a dog’s slavishness for companionship…’

That summer in the hills of Kasauli finds another unwelcome visitor to Carignano in the form of Nanda Kaul’s childhood friend, Ila Das. Ila Das’ circumstances are indeed pitiful. Life seems to have offered her an unfortunate deal at every step. A former teacher at Nanda Kaul’s husband’s university, and now a government welfare officer in one of the nearby villages, barely keeping herself alive, Ila Das’ physical appearance itself is a subject of mockery and ridicule by almost anyone who comes across her. Her attitude towards life, however, couldn’t be more different from Nanda Kaul’s. Even though she has barely anything left with her, she is always cheerful and almost painfully lively. She gives her all in her job, although the people she works for often do not take her seriously. She is courageous and despite her old age, she stands up to the village priest to fight against social ills like child marriage.
And yet, Ila Das is utterly lonely. She seeks out her childhood friend Nanda Kaul out of pure desperation for company. She tries to reach out to Nanda Kaul just like Nanda Kaul had tried to reach out to Raka. Her exuberance unsettles both Raka and Nanda Kaul just as much as their dourness leaves Ila Das wondering.
‘It seemed to her (Raka) that Ila Das was another such puppet, making her own mad music to jerk and prance to.’
 And although Nanda Kaul sympathizes with her friend’s condition, she simply cannot bring herself to ask her to stay over at Carignano.
In the end, Ila Das leaves Carignano and her reluctant hosts as the story reaches a shockingly tragic climax. Given the mood and pace of the up until then, I had not expected it to end on such a dramatic note. And yet, it seemed like a perfect conclusion for the three characters- Nanda Kaul bound by her isolation, Ila Das hunted down by her loneliness, and Raka blissfully oblivious in her solitude. And in the midst of all this, Carignano, the house itself, stands a symbol of all that ails and enthralls these women.
The detailed descriptive paragraphs about the hills of Kasauli leave the reader in no doubt about the aesthetic brilliance of the scenery. Anita Desai’s writing style shifts frequently between lucidly rich text, to phases as dry and rough as the forests of Kasauli in the summer. She is a master at her art, and Fire on the Mountain is definitely worth a read for people who seek to read not just about the nature around us, but also of that within.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

The Everyday Omelas: A Report on Q.L.C. Meet-Up on June 30, 2017

Anshika Yadav


Q.L.C.’s first meeting of this academic year attempted to break down and discuss Ursula le Guin’s enigmatic masterpiece The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas. The club had recommended this story as part of its summer reading activity, and since it received a good response from the members, it was selected as the topic of the first meeting of the year.
Full-house for the First Meeting!

The short story revolves around the Utopian city of Omelas whose citizens enjoy eternal well-being and happiness which, in a cruel twist provided by the writer, depends on the perpetual misery of a single child. 
The story itself teases many emotions and themes and is complex to understand. Q.L.C. attempted to bring the themes of the story into our daily lives and answer some of the questions that le Guin poses.


Discussing Happiness!
We started by reflecting on the idea of true happiness. Le Guin devotes two pages of the story to just describing the state of, and the reason for the happiness of the people of Omelas. The members were asked to talk about what made them truly happy. The responses, as ever, were varied, reflective, and at times, amusing- ranging from having ice-cream at midnight to stealing moments of solitude from the bustle of daily life.

However, the atmosphere turned somber when we reflected on the possible sacrifices that other people often have to make even for the simplest of our pleasures. Viewed in this context, it was easier to comprehend the point of the misery of the child.
Is Evil Necessary?
The second question that we attempted to answer was that of the conflict between the individual and the society and deciding if it is okay to sacrifice the happiness of one individual for the well-being of the society. There was no definitive conclusion reached on this ambiguous issue, but the club was introspective as we all recognized instances where we often end up sacrificing the happiness of an individual for the greater good of the society.

Sharing a Thought
The members were then encouraged to talk about one nefarious quality in them. This was in response to the last question- Is evil necessary? As Vice Principal of the college, and Chairperson of the club, Ms. Grace Sudhir pointed out, it was indeed fascinating to listen to members as they boldly opened up about their darker sides, and attempted to come to terms with how this side too, was an undeniable part of them. 
The lecturers who joined us for the meeting, Pushpa Ma’am, Sumitra Ma’am and Jhilam Ma’am were also great sports as they too opened about their darker sides to the members.

'...they seemed to know where they were going,
the ones who walked away from Omelas.'
The discussion ended with Grace Ma'am thanking and acknowledging the contributions and efforts of the lecturers, and the active participation of the members. Like with previous Q.L.C. meet-ups, this one too ended with the members learning something new and necessary, not just from a brilliant piece of literature, but also through sharing ideas and thoughts with the rest of the club.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Spills to Remember You By: A Poem on Domestic Violence

Juveria Tabassum



Meena Kandaswamy’s When I Hit You, talks about domestic violence for what it actually is- an almost accepted fact of life for most women in our country. It opens up a conversation about an issue so rampant and yet shrouded in secrecy. I think reading such a book will enable us to have a much-needed dialogue about the inherent patriarchal mindset of our society that allows domestic abuse to continue in abject silence, and often without any consequences for the perpetrators.
Most importantly, it talks about a woman who was able to leave behind an abusive marriage and take steps towards healing and moving on. That, I feel, is the inspirational catharsis required by most women, and that is what makes When I Hit You a must-have on my reading list.
This poem is about a woman who tries to look past the bandaged times and bruised memories of abuse, and resurrect herself.

Spills to Remember You By


She lifts her eyes
Meets those of the stranger in the mirror
Watches

As a shaking hand lifts itself
Probes-
A fresh gash under her lip
Coagulation-
Of fresh blood and old questions
She searches the stranger’s face for answers-
Silence.

A whole year of bewildering silence.

The class jester had fallen in love-
And love, it turned out, was no joke.
She tried, for a while,
To drown out the tears of the present
With symphonies of past laughter-
But when flesh and bones are stained every night,
How can memory stay untouched?

“The jester is dead,” says the stranger in the mirror.
“Not quite,” she smirks,
Wide, hard, until the laughter refuses to stop
Her wound splits open
Now she raises her own hand,
Dips a finger in the red,
Smears across the mirror-

“The joke’s on you, dear lover,
“Jesters never die.”

She recalls walking out,
As she walks onto the stage-
“Some stand-up comedians,” she says,
“Have to sometimes stand up for their lives.”


Fallen not Broken

Friday, 23 June 2017

Summer Wisdom- Lessons from Robin Sharma's Who Will Cry When You Die

S. Sreelekha

Of Warmth and Wisdom

It was mid-May and as usual I was enveloped with lot of free time. I tried to fight boredom by watching some fun videos on YouTube, and yet, the summer hours simply refused to melt away. 
The next day, I got up early with a prudent idea of reading a book that day.
I selected Robin Sharma's Who Will Cry When You Die
The cover promised a book full of life-changing lessons. 
I started reading the book and by the time I completed first five pages, I was amazed and hooked. 
The facts that I realise, the lessons that I learnt took me to a world of tranquility where we hear only the sound of a cascade and feel the essence of nature.
I'd like to list out the lessons that I encountered in the book.

>Robin Sharma wants teenagers to know the value of education. He says, "...the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do."
>He states that the way you begin your day determines the way you will live your day. So friends start your day well, you will never be the same.
>He recommends that we talk to ourselves. That, he says, will reduce the tension in our mind.
>He says that there is something very special about the first few hours of the morning. Time seems to slow down and a deep sense of peace fills the air. We need to experience these moments and take inspiration from it.
>See your troubles as blessings. Always remember failure is the highway to success. We need to resolve to transform our stumbling blocks into stepping stones and vow to turn our wounds into wisdom.

Through these and many such lessons, the book changed my perspective on life. I intend on using such life lessons to fuel my future growth.  The line that had me pondering the most, encompassed the message of the book for me,


'Wisdom is knowing what to do next, skill is knowing how to do it and virtue is doing it.'