Tuesday, 3 May 2011

News Piece - Anna Hazare

     Anna Hazare, is the face of India’s fight against corruption. He has taken this fight from a mere local level and given it the importance that it demands. He has challenged the highest orders of power in his hope to form a country dominated by truth and compassion. Not only does he garner support from common folk but from intelligentsia as well. Among many of the previous battles he has fought, the Anti-Corruption Bill, or the Jan Lokpal Bill, is his latest.
   It is important to point out some of Hazare’s previous projects. He is the pioneer of the Watershed Development revolution that spread across India, as well as the Movement to pass the Right to Information Act. However, it is through the Model Village Project that Hazare feels that he has succeeded. His fight against Corruption was an inevitable one. Constantly in a situation where, he has had to face corrupt Government officials, he finally brought this to the notice of the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. He was forced to do this right after he began his, Model Village Project in Maharashtra because of the amount of corruption he had to bear during his struggle.
  He fought first against corruption that was blocking growth in rural India. His organization was the Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Andolan (People's movement against Corruption). His tool of protest -hunger strikes. And his prime target - politicians. When he asked for the setting up of an inquiry, due to the great public support, the Chief Minister conceded. When Anna Hazare was charged with ‘defamation’ he readily went to jail. This act reminded the people of India of Gandhi’s actions, only to strengthen their resolve. He was eventually released, because the government did not want to anger the public. Later, two other officials were found guilty of corruption, and were promptly removed. While others would consider this a victory and believe that the fight was over, Hazare thought differently. He believed that by attacking merely two officials, corruption could not be eradicated. Putting great pressure on the Government by fasting for four days- to pass the Jan Lokpal Bill which has failed to pass for 42 years- he finally emerged victorious when the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, stated that the Bill would be introduced once again in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament.
    Gandhi and Vivekananda as his influences, it is inevitable that Anna Hazare’s goal in life is to ‘serve fellow human being.’ Having served in the Indian Army for a while, his fight is undying, yet mostly harmless and nonviolent. Despite his methods being termed as ‘blackmail’ by politicians, Hazare, from Maharashtra, never hopes to give up fight against evils of modern human society.
-Subhalakshmi Gooptu





Monday, 2 May 2011

Book Review of The Borrowers


THE BORROWERS - Mary Norton

It’s an experience everyone has isn’t it? You drop something on the floor – an eraser, a pen cap, a scrap of paper- and decide to pick it up later. But when you look for it, it’s disappeared! I’ve always wondered what happens to those things. Where do they go? They practically vanish into thin air! Or do they…?
Mrs. May tells little Kate the story of how her little brother once met a borrower. Off on a holiday in his great aunt’s house in the country, Mrs. May’s brother chanced upon Arrietty Clock –the little girl who introduced him to The Borrowers who believed that human beings existed simply to help them sustain themselves.

The Borrowers are little people who lived in the cozy nooks and corners that large old houses developed with time -the hole behind the clock, the attic, the niche above the mantel piece. They survived by borrowing (not stealing mind you!) things from the “Human beans”. They had to be very careful to move about the house unseen and pick up things that wouldn’t be easily missed; like fish bones for needles, blotting paper for a carpet or even the odd pen cap!

Their greatest fear is that one day a ‘Human Bean’ will see them. But when the boy meets Arrietty Clock, things do not turn out quite as they were expected to.

The book tells of the life of Arrietty Clock and her family. It keeps its reader interested with little fascinating details that set your imagination wild. The flow is slow and easy, the vocabulary is simple, the plot uncomplicated and yet gripping.

People tend not to believe in such things…but I would. I think it’s the best explanation for what happened to that pencil I dropped five minutes ago!

-Kavita Joseph

Movie Review of The Borrowers

Movie Review- The Borrowers

I know a funny little man,
As quiet as a mouse,
Who does the mischief that is done
In everybody’s house.”
- Walter de la Mare

I remember reading a blog post about a sock-gobbling monster in the writer’s washing machine that left him with a dozen odd socks whose pairs were missing! We’ve all had that experience and we all make up a host of different house ghouls to account for the little things that go missing without any explanation.  

“We don’t steal, we borrow.”

The movie, “The Borrowers”, runs along the same lines, it revolves around the lives of a family of “Borrowers” which are little people who live beneath the floorboards of a family of humans, or “beings” as the Borrowers call them. They borrow the essentials for their survival from their human family. The family, the Lenders, have a ten year old boy who is convinced of the existence of something in the house that steals their things. He sets traps for these creatures, which the Borrowers have to constantly circumvent. The Clocks have two children, Arrietty and Peagreen. The Lenders’ beautiful old house and the existence of the Borrowers is threatened by the villainous Mr. Ocious P. Potter, who tricked the Lenders out of their house and plans to demolish it and build luxury apartment blocks in its place. Arrietty finds out about his devious ploy and attempts to save the house, befriending Pete, the owners’ son along the way. She also meets a fellow borrower, borrower, Spud, an “outie”, who has lived on the streets instead of in a human house and who helps the children to survive in the outside world when they are separated accidentally from their parents.

The movie is a charming explanation for the mysterious disappearances of everyday things. Though the humor is mostly physical and is rather slapstick at places, it is made up for by the endearing characters! It is a sweet, enjoyable family film and a definite must-watch. 
-Sanjana Thomas








Three Poems

Sway

There’s someone’s old attic
Stashed away
At the top of the house,
A little crooked memory
Precariously perched
On somebody else’s daily swept
Freshly aired life
Of unpacking boxes,
Arranging shelves,
Playing records
That they’ve missed
By a decade or few.
But when the windows are opened in the evening,
The ghosts seem to be humming,
Swaying and twisting
In somebody’s arms from long ago.

-Urvashi Bahuguna

Room

she painted herself a room
and walked into it
just like that
and lay down on the rich blue bedspread
and watched the world pass her by.
she
saw as they
lifted her world
into
another.
a room
a room full of rooms
other people’s rooms
with other lonely hearts
dozing on leather couches
staring at bowls of sunflowers
looking out of rainy windows
and watching the watchers go by
she watched
as the dissected rooms
parts of them hidden
to all but those who painted them
were looked at
talked about
pondered upon
she waited
as someone walked up to her room
and stared at her across a red velvet cordon.
and she stared back
until he gave up
and wandered away.

-Radhika Chakraborty

Attic

A shaft of afternoon sun,
A slice of moonlight,
And a lot of dust confetti:
That’s where your childhood is
packed away. In trunks. In boxes
full of tiny dresses. In dolls
with cobwebs in their eyes.

It was a perfect spot, a fairy place
on rainy days:
                “And after I rescued their prince,
                The Queen granted me my wish!”
That’s why you were a fairy for a day,
when you flew to school in purple wings
And a name that rolls like marbles on a wooden floor
Like Lylornia, or Seraphynia.

And on bitter-tasting salty days,
when you didn’t understand why
the whole world had stopped loving you,
no one would find you there, hidden
 behind that musty forlorn smell,
behind grandma’s old parrot cage.

So you never found out what
That trunk contained, the one that sat
in the corner dreaming of old days, the one
that used to be at the bottom of a dark-green sea,
until your brother slew the sea-dragon that hoarded it
and brought it to you. But he never told you.

It contained letters that your dad wrote
To mum when they were young. Pshaw!
                “It contains treasure! Pearls and diamonds
                And scepters with crystal orbs! But there is
 no way of finding out.”
Because a ghoul sits on top of it, rattling its lock,
And he sings of longing on stormy days.
I think you can still hear him,
If you listen.

And if you once again climb the stairs that lead
To that old place, I’m sure he’ll tell that it was you
That he was waiting for, and lead you to the fairies.
                                                                                                                                                                               
-Sohini Basak


A Sloping Roof (Prose piece)


 Wooden eaves and wooden floors. A space under the roof to fill with things; a room for living or a room for remembering?

Sloping roofs change things. They change dimensions and proportions; they change the understanding you have of a space. A flat ceiling is very different from a sloping one.
And she wished her flat roof and high flat ceiling away. She wished away the continuous badly painted whiteness and the white walls that filled the house, dividing it into geometric linear rooms and passages. She wished away the starkness of perpendicular lines, and closed her eyes, and pictured the changes that snow could bring.

Snow will settle in my hair. Weigh down the ends of it, little flakes and then bigger ones, and trickle little drops of wetness into my ears and scalp. Snow will leak into the cracks in the white and fill them with wetness. Snow will weigh down the two ends of the roof, and bend them into a curve, a curve to shelter me.

Looking up, and two lines, receding and converging. A slope, nestling you under it, planting itself firmly above you and littler horizontal planks meeting the vertical ones. Space narrowing off into a point.

here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors…

The sticky warmth of a child’s two hands clasped over the little finger people. Houses that children draw always have sloping roofs. Sloping roofs, with a little circular window, to look into the attic. Or out from it. Houses are meant to have roofs like that. There are meant to be secret corridors, wallpapered baby rooms, and gleaming kitchens. All I want, is what I was meant to.

We are all lacking that space in our minds. Our gleaming, flat white-page-ready-to-be-written-on minds. That work overtime; reflect and bounce off anything the world throws our direction. Flat expanses with ideas stacked into rows one on top of the other, filed into transparent plastic filing cabinets with labels on white paper and black marker. White, sterile white, staining and cleaning itself, never letting anything seep in too deep; marked by infinite pens writing over each other.

A naked bulb hanging from the rafters. Rafters. I am not convinced about what exactly they are. Rafters. Wooden beams. Eaves. Round window. Deep breath. Look around. Wooden smell. Piles of memories. Isn’t that the setting that memories belong in?

Where do we store our memories? I wonder. We do not have rooms in our houses for these things. We shift things around, shove them into cupboards, and wait for moths and rats to consume them. We put expensive things in bank lockers and inexpensive ones under the mattress and in the loft cupboard in the ironing room for lizards to lay eggs on.

Breaking down; reconstruct. Rebuild my house into what I want it to be. Draw it out. From a child’s sketch to a building plan. From a crayoned generic sofa and plant to the bedcover and colourful wall I always dreamed of.
But the ladder, will stay the same.

It has to be a ladder. Leading into a square of space. A broad wooden ladder; with ten rungs. A trapdoor, left slightly open, mustiness seeping down. It is just as you want to picture it. 
With dimness lifting slowly, dust resettling, memories and old things crowded around.


But what things? What will I put there? I am scrabbling around. Vague shapes. A rocking horse turns into a plastic baby potty. A wooden chest is just an old stool, that is maybe not a stool but a sawed up table. What do these things mean? Who put them here?

Sit by the round window and watch it rain. Look out and forget shapes and spaces. Space was never yours to construct. You just try to shrink yourself into whatever you get. 

-Radhika Chakraborty 

Up in the Attic





                                                                         Cartoon by :

Friday, 1 April 2011

News Piece - Wikileaks

Since the launch of Wikileaks, there has been an explosion of classified information being opened up to the public for scrutiny and critique. Much to the dismay of governments of various countries, Wikileaks was launched on 4th October, 2006 claiming that its database had a collection of top secret articles which were not accessible for the general public. With Julian Assange as the director, Wikileaks based in Sweden, claimed to have been founded by ‘founded by Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and start-up company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa.’

Calling it ‘Scientific Journalism,’ Assange points out that the Wikileaks initiates an era when journalism will not necessarily need a to depend on journalists’ interpretation of news by publishing documents directly on the internet allowing them to come to their own conclusions. In April 2010, Wikileaks published footage from the 2007 Baghdad airstrike and then releasing in the same year Afghan War Diary, consisting of thousands of documents about the war. With the release of U.S. diplomacy cables in November, Wikileaks fell into great criticism and legal battle.

Wikileaks received a number of awards applauding its regeneration of the ‘freedom of speech’ of the individual as opposed to the power of a government. However, it also faced a large amount of flak, initially from the U.S. government and now from others such as India, for exposing documents which may apparently lead to a misbalance of ‘international diplomacy.’ Closer to home, the exposure of documents and videos concerning the Indian government and the prevalent corruption and ineffectiveness, has also led to the censure of the website by the Government, especially from the Congress.

Despite the presence of laws with press protections clauses, Julian Assange has been accused by the U.S. under the Espionage Act of stealing documents from the government and is also facing a criminal probe. Assange continues to fight the legal battle and at the same time, managed to raise funds for the website, with great support from the general public.

-Subhalakshmi Gooptu

Review of Susanna's Seven Husbands

(first published in Helter Skelter)

Susanna’s Seven Husbands
‘I watched in fascination as a gigantic Black Widow spider, her body streaked with green and yellow, crept down the veranda wall in the direction of her sleeping husband.’
Susanna’s beauty and wealth mean that she has no problems finding a husband, but somehow they don’t last very long. A motherless child, brought up by her reclusive father (and the Freudian warning bells immediately go off) she becomes the sole heir to his estate and rumored ‘treasure.’ She is of Dutch and East Indian descent; everything about her exudes mystery and she holds a destructive fascination for the locals and the men who fall for her.
A select few are let into her estate, and no one besides her staff and her (current) husband is allowed entry into the house itself.   Even within the house, there are sections that are barred for her trusted staff and her beloved husbands, a fact the latter don’t appreciate. Her staff consists of an eccentric bunch, a jockey referred to as just ‘Goonga’ because he is deaf and mute, her personal help Maggi who was middle aged, grumpy but ‘very efficient’ and Shah Rukh the gardener who will show the narrator, Arun, around the estate.
Arun is ten years younger than Susanna, and her neighbor throughout the story. He admits to himself that the difference in age is a pivotal reason he wasn’t one of the seven, however their relationship will continue to be fraught by jealousy, from both sides.
The novella fails to create the atmosphere that the genre (mystery/murder/horror) demands. The mystery is dispelled early on in each section of the story; there in no big reveal, just details remain to be unveiled. However, the end is unexpected. Characteristic of Bond’s work, the language is simple, the plot understandable and the psychological narration sparse. Susanna is intriguing in her complex generosity and cruelty, in the beguiling nature of her intelligence, her reverence of her father and her search for a man who will replace him.
Penguin has brought out an edition that included the original short story, the novella that it was expanded into and the screenplay of Saat Khoon Maaf that was based on the novella. Out of the three, the screenplay is undoubtedly the worst. The characters speak in hyperbole, the objectiveness of the narrator Arun is reduced to heroine worship, stories unseen in the novella emerge and overwhelm the plot in places and it’s hard to understand how the same Vishal Bharadwaj of the Kaminey vision could have compiled this script.
The short story is perhaps the most charming of the three, and is closer to Ruskin Bond’s customary style than the novella. It has the lingering flavor of a traditional ghost story to it, the mystery remains intact and the suspense is held captive under a gravestone. Or seven. The novella, short story and screenplay all have different endings and I thought the end to the short story was the least dramatic. I would recommend reading the short story to Ruskin Bond fans.

[Penguin; ISBN 978 0 143 41611 1]
-Urvashi Bahuguna

Chand Nagar

Cartoon by Pant.

Because by 2050, we'll need the extra space.

Selene

Photo courtesy : Sohini Basak
He couldn’t sleep again that night. He’d taken his last sleeping pill yesterday and made a mental note to remember to stop by at the chemist’s the next day. “Insomnia’s the pits”, he thought to himself. He was dead tired and had a killer headache but couldn’t sleep. He put on the TV and flicked through channels but it only made his head hurt even more. He sighed, then picked up the guitar next to his bed and strummed a few chords before laying it aside. He stepped out into his balcony and stood there for some time, drinking in the cold night air. He looked up at the constellations, spotting them easily. They were old friends; astronomy was a wonderful hobby for someone who had trouble sleeping. It was pitch black outside, a new moon night.

He made a quick mental decision and turned back into the room. He switched off the light and picking up his shoes, walked out of the room. He slipped out of the back door and closed it behind him softly so his parents wouldn’t hear it and come to investigate. He was going for a walk.

He walked down the empty road of his colony, thankful that he’d had the sense to pull on a sweatshirt before leaving; Delhi winter nights were chilly. He turned into the park at the corner and walked around it on the joggers’ path a couple of times. He left the path and walked through to grass lawns to the monument. He couldn’t remember whose tomb it was, little monuments like these were scattered throughout Delhi but no one seemed to make a big deal out of them. He felt vaguely ashamed about that for a minute, and then his thoughts came to an abrupt halt at seeing someone in the doorway of the building. And it wasn’t just some homeless or drunk guy, it was a girl. A young girl, at that. A young, well-dressed girl, wearing a white dress and looking very much in command of herself. He gaped at her, until she asked in a faintly amused voice, “Something wrong?”
“Uh, no. No, of course not. I just didn’t expect to see anyone else here at this time of night.”
“I don’t get much sleep at night”, she said, still sounding amused.
“Oh, are you an insomniac too?” he asked.
“Something like that.”
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Selene” she said.
“Oh. That’s an um...nice name” he said, striving to sound normal but feeling all the ridiculousness of making small talk in the middle of the night, in a park, to a strange girl. “My name’s Aadit. Are you sure you’re okay? Do you need me to walk you home or something? Won’t your parents worry?”
“No, my parents won’t worry” she said. He still got the feeling she was laughing at him, so slightly nettled, he said, “I won’t bother you anymore then. I was just leaving anyway.”
She said, “I’ll come with you. It’s time I was going too.”
They walked together though the park. He looked sideways at Selene. She seemed to almost glow as she walked with a faint, shimmering kind of glow.
He shook his said bemusedly and said, “This is surreal.”
She smiled and said, “New moon nights are my favourite nights. Everything’s so peaceful, quiet and undemanding.”
“And dark!” he said, laughing. Then curiously, “Do you come here a lot?”
“Every new moon.”
“Why?”
She shook her head and said nothing.
They had reached the exit of the park. He walked through it, then looked back at her. “Aren’t you coming?”
“I changed my mind. I’ll stay here for a little longer.” There was a sort of sad longing in her voice that he found hard to understand.
“Okay. I’ll see you sometime then. Bye.” he said, feeling rather awkward.
“Bye.” she said then turned and walked away, still casting that strange glow on the grass.
He watched her walk away, his brow furrowed in confusion, then shrugged and walked back to his house. “Surreal was the right word” he thought.
Once he was back up in his room, he switched on his laptop and entered ‘Selene’ into his search engine.
He opened up the first link and read, ‘In ancient Greek mythology, Selene was an archaic lunar deity.’
“The Goddess of the Moon”, he said to himself. It was stupid, but when you thought about it, she had had that strange glow around her. And she only visited the park on new moon nights, when the moon couldn’t be seen.
He laughed out loud suddenly, at the absurdity of it all. A goddess, eho had come down to earth, visiting a park. A park! And in Delhi, of all places!
He really needed sleep.
Well, he clearly wasn’t getting any of that tonight, at any rate. He turned off his laptop and sank down on his bed.
He picked up the guitar again.         
-Sanjana Thomas

The Moon Across Cultures

Photo Courtesy : Sohini Basak
The moon – a hole in the sky, made of cheese, a marble palace. Stories of the moon have been circulating for a long time and every culture has one.

Indian mythology states that Chandra, the moon God married the 27 daughters of Daksha. He neglected all his wives except for the beautiful Rohini. Daksha, in his anger, cursed Chandra with a degenerative disease that caused him to wane. Later, the curse was made temporary so that Chandra wanes when he approaches Rohini and waxes as he moves away from her.
 The aborigines in Australia believe that the moon is the reflection of the campfire of the hunter Japara who is on an eternal hunt for souls of his wife and child.
China believes in the woman on the moon. Chang’e and her husband were immortal beings who were sent to earth as a punishment for their misdeeds. Chang’e tired of earth quickly and her husband decided to find a way to make them immortal again. He received a pill and was instructed not to eat more than half. Chang’e in her greed ate the entire pill and floated up to the moon where she resides even now.
Africans have linked up death to the moon. The story goes that the moon sent an insect to the earth with the message of eternal life. The insect was waylaid by a hare who offered to take the message to earth because he was faster than the insect.  The insect agreed and the hare ran off. In his hurry he confused the message and gave the earth news of death instead of eternal life. A follow up to this story is that the moon was so angry with the hare that she hit him on his nose. From that day on, hares have had split noses.
Greek mythology speaks of twin gods- the sun and the moon, Apollo and Artemis/Diana. Apollo drives his flaming chariot in the day and in the night, his sister Artemis rides her flaming chariot and shoots moonbeams at the earth.
In America, the belief is that chickens hatch more eggs when there is a full moon. If a woman bakes a cake on a full moon night, she should be careful of who she invites to eat it. The first unmarried man to eat the cake will become her husband.
There are certain mythological creatures associated with the moon- the werewolf for example, the half man half wolf is said to come out on full moon nights and witches are also supposed to find the time of a full moon best for brewing potions.
My personal favorite is the idea of the moon being made of cheese!
-Kavita Joseph



Two poems.

Moon Between

Photo Courtesy : Sohini Basak
Far away from you
it feels good
to know
that tonight
we face
the same side of the moon.

Far from me
you say that
you
cannot see
this moon
I see
you lie.

Too many cities divide us.
Too many missed calls,
red skies, traffic signals
and solitary windows
lie in between.
That’s why you cannot see
the moon.

You say you cannot
see it because its
too close.
Like words on
a page held
too close
to your face.

-Sohini Basak

She with the Jalebi lights

Photo Courtesy : Sohini Basak
And the evening sky,
It's indigo blue,
With a fading pearl white
And its gentle girdle of light
Reminds me of you
And I think of calling
To tell you to take a picture...

A night so simple...
...it knows
We will come to ache for it
In the years to come.

-Urvashi Bahuguna

About Us

The idea behind this magazine was to have a periodical for readers between the ages of 15 and 18. We plan on publishing once a month. We’re a mainly literary magazine but we also hope to be able to add to every month’s publication, an easily understandable explanation of some important item of news. Each edition of the magazine is themed and this month’s theme is “The Moon”. We hope you enjoy it and follow us!