If you live in the city or any busy town, especially in a developing country, some homes and buildings are auspiciously located beside construction sites that cause an infernal headache. I know tonnes of people(including my neighbours) who’ve given up with the sound of boxing and drilling throughout the evening. They’ve been yelling at the workers and even complaining to the landlords with all the noise. Talking, discussing and arguing is something happening everyday among everyone, usually with the person winning the argument or conflict having greater influence over the other person. But where did people get the right to talk and argue? Since when have people believed that they can talk and argue at any time? When I looked through a kid’s comic, ‘Lawtoons’ that taught kids about the importance of law, I got the answer to my questions.
Do you ever just sit in front of a blank word or pages document, or just a blank sheet of paper, waiting to be filled? If you’re writing an essay, a short story or article, it takes immense patience and creativity to get it down. Tonnes of writers and graphic novelists take their own time thinking and writing, yet it isn’t always at easy as it sounds. It’s our ideas and our work. It’s our space to express what we want to say. Then how does it get so hard? And if you love writing and you’re facing a “creativity block” how do you get unstuck? I’ve looked at some of the world’s most famous writers, like J.K Rowling or William Shakespeare, and wondered, where did they get those ideas from?
The enthusiasm to write, draw or create comes from inspiration we see around-either from nature, commercials or quotes from famous people. Most of what we’re thinking or writing about is our own space, yet influence creeps in everywhere. Most fiction writers have their stories set in their own home countries, where most of their protagonists or characters, real or imaginary are based on people they already know. Likewise, the ideology or story behind most novels and short stories are based on their own experiences or wishes. Still, most writers believe writing about what they wish and what they are passionate about. But how do we make our ideas truly original, and make them stand out? One of the biggest problems writers have are of external pressure and expectations. If it’s a school or college assignment, a newsletter article, or even a college application essay, the writer thinks from the point of view of the reader. Is it motivating or deep? Is it humorous or engaging? Have the references been made appropriately? is it like the previous few articles, that addict the readers? Is it like anyone else’s work that could subject me to plagiarism? And most importantly, will it influence the reader into reading more of my work?
When I was younger, I used to love writing poems. When I look back at them, I laugh and think to myself, “This is such trash!” But my parents probably told me then, “It’s wonderful! You should write more!” And looking back at this, I finally realised the difference and diversity each writer carries, and the different eyes through which readers read it. Each person’s experiences changes a tiny part of them each time, and that’s why I’ve updated to blog writing from poems. At one level, I’m satisfied with my writing, but at another level, I know that I’ll look at this blog decades from now and scoff at my ideas. You can’t please the same readers again, but on the positive side, there are a whole bunch of new readers waiting to read your stories. There is no such thing as the “best” writer-each targets a different age group, genre and vocabulary level. I love reading, but I’ve barely made through the first two Harry Potter books. Besides, just a few months ago, Chetan Bhagat’s new novel-“Half Girlfriend” came out with terrible reviews by all top critics. After reading it despite the reviews, I’m now addicted to the novel and can read it any number of times. It isn’t that I have a bad taste, but I’m a person who looks more realistic, shallower novels with a set historical and social context rather than heaps of fantasy.
On a similar note, we were running short of articles for our school newspaper in one particular issue, such that the organiser himself had to write an article. Being the first batch, we had exactly and only 49 students in our whole school, so this guy wrote an article on “The mystery of the 50th student” and questioned, what would the student be doing now? And how different would it be to have a full fifty, instead of forty nine? It was merely out of imagination, not a story, but just a different option that the school’s admission team could have taken. It wasn’t a super serious report on any event, but he’d simply filled out pages with his imagination. This gave us another insight on something so simple.
I’d started out this article with a blank Word Press document, but now it’s now one of my longest articles. if you’re a writer, graphic novelist, artist, or any sort of creator, you’ll always start out with that blank page. When you start creating, pick out an idea you like and find interest in. Let it just grow from there, and before you know it, you’ll be satisfied with your creation. Don’t worry about the general public, readers, viewers or audience, just remember that the best stories are often untold.
Before I left for Japan for the first time, I spent my four-month long holiday studying a load of indian history. Borrowing some ICSE textbooks from my seniors at school, I spent those afternoons flipping through pages and learning about the cruelty of the British Raj-they imposed heavy taxes, abolished cultural practices, reduced the income of indians and were downright racist. I felt a strong hatred for them especially when I read the chapter speaking about how indian soldiers were “stripped off their clothes in humiliation” when they disobeyed their rulers. i found myself completely empathising with my ancestors, leaving through that dreadful, restricted era. While I was in school, our history classes in school look a lot into international situations and disputes and opposing attitudes towards it, especially pertaining to Japan, such as the comfort women issue and the Senkaku islands dispute. I naturally felt myself siding with Japan, reading Japanese and international sources. It wasn’t that other countries, like China and Korea weren’t right, but the press and style of writing itself had altered my understanding and beliefs over the issue.
I remember sitting in that class, which could be maths, english or history, listening to the teacher drone on about quadrants or the Mughal empire, at about 11:45am. All students are attempting to listen but we’re tapping our feet impatiently, drumming our fingers on the desk, and glancing at our watches. Minutes pass by slower than ever, and all students are looking forward to the one bright spot of their day-the lunch break! In the heat of work and play, sleep and studies,those half and hour breaks we get to scoff our faces with food-pasta, salads, chicken, soups, bread and cereal, or if you’re in India, dosas, curries, paratha and halwas, are just pure heaven. Unsurprisingly, when I get back from Japan for my holidays, the first question most people ask me is about the food.
On a logical, survival-based level, food and drink is just nutrition-a component, along with clothing and shelter which helps human thrive. But man’s relationship with food in the 21st century is way deeper-with the implementation of biotechnology, and fusion of cultural, religious and ethnic cuisine, man has transformed food from being something necessary for survival to a luxury on a plate, with the correct presentation, quality and odour to instill a deep craving in the common man. On Wednesdays, the class I have just before lunch is maths-and since our class is just above the kitchen, the odour is simply enpowering-we simply can’t focus while doing our sums. Restaurants, cafes and buffets over the world offer food from world over-Pizzas, originating in Naples, in Italy can now be found in your nearby convenience store. Chefs, managers and restaurant inspectors have their entire job dedicated to creating such multi-national delicacies, while cookery shows like the Masterchef series illustrate the talents of those with exceptional culinary skills. Food today is such a prestigious topic, it has become an art. Cookery blogs, TV shows, Magazines and recipe books introduce a bunch of recipes and combinations, nearby eat-outs or food around the globe.
Food can also be associated with negativity, such as feelings or character traits like gluttony or greed, which causes depression or low self esteem common in schools for students who get bullied. Disorders like Bulimia, known to those watching their weight, cause people to forcibly throw up after they’ve eaten. Those with health issues, Athletes, models and film actors are compelled to watch their diet and can’t eat what they wish, for instance, my father has diabetes(don’t tell him I said this) and can’t eat all the sweets he wants. Around the world, people go on diets or can’t afford the most basic meals-causing world hunger, one of man’s biggest enemies. Those who do get sufficient access can be easily distracted, especially in the midst of work or when they’re bored.
For one of our music class assignments, we had to compose a song. The first step of the entire process was composition of lyrics, for which we’d gone outside in the open, thinking about “What was most important to us”. Since our school was far from the city, it was rather deserted-there was dead grass and leaves all around. It was a gorgeous spring day; birds circles trees, chirping noisily, the sun glistened on the leaves, and students sat under trees, each with a pen and journal in our hand. We sat in peace, looking around.
It isn’t just a myth that people happen to be in “awe” or calmness when they’re in nature. The grass, trees, bugs and natural surroundings have the ability to turn someone on when they’re outside; for instance, as people can self-reflect, find solutions to problems and get most creative when they’re out in the open. This especially applies to students from my school, as we’re constantly given assignments or tests requiring essays, videos or documentaries, for which we don’t only have to know the context well, but also make sure that the outcome of our project interesting enough for the viewer or reader. Besides service, activities, assignments, General events and visitors, most students and teachers are rather calm. There’s never a hurry or emergency to go anywhere or do anything, events just flow as they’re meant too. We think differently, without boundaries, finding opportunity for a better day or place. Of course, we face stress, anger, jealousy, homesickness and anxiety like everyone else, but at at one level, being in a small town 150kms north of Tokyo isolates us from the busy world with it’s problems. It’s also the reason why tonnes on people, after retirement aim towards living in a cottage or house in a little town or village, away from civilisation, or watch discovery channel or animal planet on TV; because wildlife over the world, the animals and plants are just so amazing.
On the other hand, those who live in developing countries or crowded cities are constantly rushed. When I lived in Chennai in India, my life had a fixed schedule which I followed. I didn’t imagine doing something different to what I’d always be doing, and woke up every morning knowing what to expect. My parents and elder relatives where under constant stress, having to manage household and work responsibilities simultaneously-if someone fell ill, had to go somewhere, if there’s a power cut or the grocery store is closed; or did something that went against this schedule, all hell broke loose at home. We lived a symbiotic relationship-a disruption in one person’s schedule would change everyone’s day, or week.
Either ways, whether you’re down to nature’s roots in a village or the countryside, or living among a human-based world in the city, you’re gaining one thing and missing out on the other. In terms of their style of living, how they view the lives and tastes of others, which at one level makes us judgemental. The vast differences in location and style of living-a mansion, cottage, building or dormitory, this symbolises the enormous leap that human life has taken.
One of the first things I noticed about Japan right since I landed at the airport was how wonderful the people were. Every time I visit the convenience store, see a visitor at school, or need to get some paperwork done, each person smiles and greets you. When i go for a walk or jogging in the mornings, I spotted an old woman on the road who smiled and wished me good morning at 5:30am. Whether they know a person or not, they’re really polite and pleasant in the way they talk and interact with whoever they meet, foreigner or local, especially in Karuizawa where I stay. That’s probably what makes most of my Japanese friends who they are-really exciting and interactive, with lots of energy and positivity. It’s also one of the reasons I look forward to going back after my vacations, as everyone is so hospitable.
i didn’t know of such hospitality in India, however. Besides hotels and restaurants where workers are paid to be nice to you, most indians have a single goal they wish to achieve without thinking much of their surrounding people. In general, we also lack curiosity to get to know and interact with each other. With most of the auto or rickshaw rides, bargaining at stores or in buses and shared autos, people just take their places and do what they must, noticing people around them but not greeting him or her. This was so common at even my school in Chennai, when so many of us, including our friends wished each other, but ignored others who went by if we didn’t know them well. At the end of my six years in Harishree, where I’d studied, I recognised the faces I’d seen everyday but hadn’t said hi or introduced myself even once. These also applied for those classmates I’d studied with and spoken to, but hadn’t greeted.
On a deeper sense, Individual countries around the world can’t be blamed for this folly. The country’s environment, facilities and service ultimately impact the lives of each individual person, which tends to blend into the general behaviour of the country’s citizens, which becomes it’s recognisable feature to the rest of the world. Each country’s influence generates a citizen of their country, as the government, people, and country as a whole have facts that make them unique or unusual. India’s a country with so many people in such a rush that no one has the thought or time to greet or interact with someone else. Most people have an ultimate goal to either make more money, get a good rank, grade or job to satisfy themselves. The high incidence of crimes like thefts and violation of women’s rights also make create tension, or suspicion among us. And if by chance, if a stranger or an acquintence does say hi, most of us either don’t take it in the right sense, or impulsively greet them back, without meaning it.
No indian, Japanese, American, or a citizen of any country at all, can be blamed for the way they react and behave around their surrounding people, as this is simply based on what they’ve learnt, experienced and made to believe. There are pros and Cons to every form and way of greeting, adding up to make the world the diverse place it is-influencing the way we behave and act around each other.
I’d just arrived at Narita Airport, about an hour away from Tokyo. As I moved in the line to get my passport checked, I’d noticed one of those enormous TV-like screens they’s had on the walls and pillars, displaying the same Japanese advertisement on replay-opening a noodle packet, popping it’s contents into a boiler, stirring it up and taking it out to get hot, fresh noodles. The girl slurping it up it had a mixed expression of fake surprise and delight. These ads weren’t just at the airport, but all over Tokyo-in all the malls , billboards on the streets. At Shinjuku, a sub-part of Tokyo, there were flashy neon lights at each outlet, flat screen TVs and magazines.
The marketing industry worldwide has had an outright impact on human society-alluring, colourful and seductive advertisements have intrigued rampant consumerism levels from the smallest of the towns to mega cities like London, Paris, new York, Hong Kong and Tokyo. At one level, well-industrialised countries that encourage people to buy more attract more tourists, contributing more to economic build-up of that particular country. Higher development rates of such countries also means that the common man can afford such items at various intervals, with a higher standard of living in general. However, branding and endorsement of such goods is a common phenomena even in developing countries like India, Bangladesh and Vietnam. I’ve seen the regular commercials on TV and in magazines, of Hush puppies shoes, Louis Vuitton Handbags and Lindt chocolates, all with the same glossy appeal. Advertisements are ad-ons to overly priced goods, painting the image of how content the consumer could be if they buy more.
At another level, large-scale commercialisation has left man to shop without thinking twice. If he or she happens to be an extravagant billionaire or the son or daughter of someone wealthy, chances are that the shopping mall is their second home. For instance, take Veronica Lodge, the spoilt rich daughter of Hiram Lodge in Barbara Slate’s Archies comics. materialism is one of man’s biggest enemies-it makes him lose all control of choice and selection, as if he has the money, he’ll buy it. The victims of shallow shopping commercials are usually the ones with compulsive decision making and lack of self control. But on the other hand, take positive adverts like those of the UN, for a positive cause like preventing human trafficking or afforestation. Such Ads, like those of NPOs and NGOs with positive messages reach aim to include the viewer in being a part of the solution by donating or joining their agency. These work to raise awareness levels over an issue, and use persuasive language to draw in genuinely donated money. The thought behind the two types of adverts are different, although the money accumulated may be the same.
Advertisements and the continual consumption the lead to may determine human beings as shallower creatures, yet they signify the industrial leap the human race has taken over centuries. The noodle commercial I’d seen at Narita Airport may have contributed to a shallower, more general public, but included them in the race of development and build up of economy for a higher standard of life.
After a whole day of travel from Karuizawa in Japan to Chennai in India, I was exhausted. Without asking me as usual, my mother booked film tickets for the movie PK for a couple of us, running a nearby cinema. Starring Amir Khan and Anushka Sharma, it was undoubtedly pretty famous around town. To summarise the plot, it was about an alien who was lost on earth and had his “remote” stolen, his only tool of survival. People he meets from around town tell him of “God”, the one and only greatest being who could grant anything by his wishes. He attempts following all religions, practicing all without fail, but doesn’t find his remote. Stumped by the unfairness of it all, he spreads his made up theory of the “wrong number”, stating that man’s wishes aren’t reaching god, and hence the entire system is messed up with priests and holy men the cause of it all. What follows after is the whole debate-and-controversy, once finally proving his point, this alien called “PK” is able to travel back home. In my opinion, this film boldly confirmed the absurdity of blind beliefs and the numerous values and practices associated with it, which got me thinking.
Masses of the world’s population, especially indian, have faith in god, the all-knowing intellectual being. How did religion become such an important part of our lives? Obviously, once the story of a great soul like Allah or Jesus is spread and is widely accepted, followers begin to pray and land their faith in these idols. They create prayers, superstitions, and beliefs, forming this religion spread worldwide. Besides this age-old craze, today’s youth aren’t extremely into such age-old beliefs. They have their family’s tradition passed on and unquestioningly follow it, or perhaps they have a pretty limited option as to what they can choose. Although human rights are granted to every being on the planet, oppressed nations and borders have citizens with no idea of the world outside theirs. Although the religious identity of an individual is no big deal, once a person begins to question, insult or mock at a religious idol, he or she is doomed. The 2015 shootings of France and nearly all terrorist attacks are a result of religious intolerance, which also make contribute to the enormous gross budget of films like PK and OMG. Undoubtedly, religion has had one of the deepest influences on mankind. Once a person puts in faith into an idol, and worships it for better days, praising it’s greatness, it ensures this devotee that his or her wishes will be answered. Millions of devotees can’t bear to see their idol mocked at, as their beliefs in this supernatural force is much more deeply ingrained than shallower objects they are attached to, like their new car or favourite ice-cream flavour.
Although science by all means is more rational than religious superstitions, this doesn’t stop the most educated men and women with diplomas and degrees from following a religion they believe in. Although in some ways, religion has taken a turn into business and commercialisation with construction of idols, maintenance of temples and churches and selling of books, movies and CDs with prayers and choir songs, it contributes enormously to human culture and development. Places of worship like temples and mosques have artwork with skill rewarded by international agencies like the UNESCO, contributing to the tourism industry. All religions emphasise upon peace and goodwill towards other men, respecting nature and other creatures, working hard and general moralistic values taught in the yearly years of school. The enormous gurdwaras and mosques feed free lunches for all devotees, from far and near.
Although PK brings out the stark reality about illogical and slightly overrated religious beliefs, it brings fourth a really important source influences who the modern man is today-his religion, which brings about an identity, knowledge of the all-knowing god and the and an “internal home” to mankind, still promising a better life.
While taking a shower at home one Sunday morning, I heard the general sounds and noises of street sellers and vendors, horns of the traffic and people outside. Among which, there was a blaring loudspeaker, promising a cleaner environment, more job availabilities and in general, a better life for each person. I noticed crowds of men and women outside the window, surrounding the politician or political party.The upcoming elections in May didn’t really effect or concern me, but these citizens surrounding them did want a change. The were hopeful, if not desperate, for the changes in facilities, rules and systems for every indian citizen. On the other hand, each politician or party had this underlying pressure on them, having to convince people of their policies, ideas and implementations they planned, being promising, but idealistic and exciting, to get into power rather than being an opposing party.
An underlying fact is that these parties or politicians had to have words and ideals strong enough to convince and integrate hope among their listeners, while at the same time, the voters had to be vulnerable enough to accept, believe and be swayed by what they heard, and use their own judgement to make the right decision, electing the most promising candidate when the time comes. But this isn’t always so easy. In tonnes of countries, citizens may be uneducated or backward and can be influenced by false promises and bribes. Some voters may be so wealthy that the elected candidate, good or bad , doesn’t concern them, so they don’t bother reading up manifestoes or going to vote. Of course, every person’s vote does count. Enormous planning and efforts go into a large scale process like voting for a president, minister or village head, starting from the registration, to counting votes and compilation to make the process as just. An ultimate goal is to elect a leader who represents and fulfils the wants of each community, cast or creed, being the least biased. Whether a vote is cast in admiration, bother, desperation or boredom, they all accumulate to grant a party’s right to control an area’s taxes and expenses for the next five years. That one vote could change the ultimate result, changing the elected party. Besides a country/state’s attitude towards tourists, cleanliness, technological developments and availability of facilities, the ruling party of a democracy could have a massive impact on the country’s GDP and development rankings among the rest of the world, giving the country an international identity.
Of course, not just the number of votes can be blamed for nominating a leader, or a political party be accused of the state of a country. Errors in calculation of votes, citizens who fail to cast a vote and corruption can hinder as successful democratic system, yet on a deeper level, it’s the influence-or how convincing a candidate or party can be, that influences the quality of votes, rather than quantity. The thought, or reason behind casting the vote, or not casting it is the most powerful factor influencing who actually gets selected. Each individual reason ultimately affects the quantity of votes too. With as mislead or politically inactive youth, the initial thought behind each vote itself becomes weak, degrading the country’s political state, in the present and near future.
Going back to that hot Sunday morning, neither did those potential voters, trying to make that political decision nor did the politicians, persuading and begging those citizens wish to stand in the heat and humidity of Chennai, yet while the country’s in the midst of growth, development and urbanisation, this influence is just the beginning.