The Presence Of Music

When I studied in ninth grade in India, school usually ended at around 2:30pm, but lots of us stayed back until around 3:30pm for after school activities, studying or taking extra help from teachers. I’d have such activities too, but on Wednesday afternoons, I’d stay back and practice drawing and sketching. I’d remember taking reference from those photographs, being the only one in that room except my art teacher and her assistant, and sketching away, with music playing. The best part was the music-it mobilised me, turning me on and it’s beat was so alive. My life had a theme to it, and just gave me that internal satisfaction I’d been looking for the entire day.

Music wasn’t invented or discovered-it was always there, just progressing through different levels. Since man began chugging pots and pans, discovered or created certain instruments, and found the right implications of his voice, he collaborated with other instruments, begin picking up notes and tunes, and with the formation of schools and education systems, music became just a regular subject like maths, science or geography. One thing that makes music different is the number of implications it has-a student could learn about cultural or historical understanding of music in their own country, or it could supplement their creativity skills with learning a new instrument or creating a song. Just listening a song could increase concentration by itself-when I study or do something manual, like cooking, drawing or writing, listening to music makes it faster and so much better. Irrespective of how terrible my day has been, I start loving my surrounding. On a larger scale, the lyrics, with the rhythm of the song, can just draw together a person’s feelings in a few minutes. This could also go the reverse way and have a negative affect-if someone listens to a dark or negative song, they tend to self-dwell and could be more inclined to depression.

The best part is the invention of enormous online databases like youtube through which anyone can create their lyrics and their songs, upload it and spread a feeling of “worldwide empathy” over an issue or feeling. Some videos or recordings have such strong impression in the story or very theme of the song, that they turn viral. Take the Harlem shake which everyone knows of, or PSY’s Gangam style which nearly everyone sings to although they don’t know the lyrics. The video and tune is so catchy that the song randomly hit a few million views. Vloggers, who reach out to the world through video television or youtube establish channels or pages which can be informative, entertaining or educational. Such free exchange and collaboration of ideas has helped, and entertained millions of us, on a larger scale, a channel or story we connect could establish our link to the world.

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Stressed Out?

The other day, I was looking through Quora and spotted this one this question, “I’ve been failing IIT for the past three years. Should I die?” The user had posted some background information on his wasted years-He’d been facing depression, anxiety and procrastinating, not submitting his assignments on time and as a result, performing poorly. He felt that he’d let his parents down and had failed his life entirely, with no purpose left. This kind of a situation wasn’t new to hear of-I’d read most of Chetan Bhagat’s books, where he spoke of the rigid structure of IITs and IIMs, and the issues their students faced. In fact, college life be itself was such a vital part of Indian writing, especially the vigour it demanded from students.
The papers frequently had news of ragging, exam stress and consequently, suicide. Factually, suicide rates in India and worldwide are highest in the 15-19 age group owing to Job anxiety, higher expectations and pressure to achieve more, with the global economic boom. I haven’t been facing the problem of stress or pressure in school, especially since I’m in an international environment leaning towards the UWC(United World colleges) circuit. I study and live in a pretty closed environment, with a calm and well-maintained residential life. We also have a rather strong support system and counselling to ensure that our life is the best it can be. However, tonnes of students my age don’t have this privilege. Once an student enters tenth grade, the exams, assignments and projects just weigh him or her down. Their work and student life is just rushed from there-after passing exams, work just comes pouring for each of them. How do students deal with all this work? How do they clear up all this stress?
The biggest cause for stress and suicidal thoughts with work is not doing what you want to do. Tonnes of students choose a course because it’ll get them a good job or their parents want them to, but if an internal drive or passion for something isn’t there, it’s really hard to excel in it. I once remember having a guest speaker at school, who was a Chennai student and had gotten into Harvard for his graduate course. He emphasised a lot on the fact of doing something in life which was truly something you enjoyed or were interested in. Another guest speaker had said that finding yourself a job is the combination of your what you liked, are good at and earns you money. Nowadays, even local universities counsel students and their parents to ensure that their selected course is something of interest to them. This isn’t just for students, as people world over take up jobs, responsibilities, subjects and courses because others want them to. When the world has possibly every single convenience for a regular human being, why would a person want to miss the opportunity to do what they wish? Of course, it’s important to listen to your parents, friends or relatives while deciding where or what to study or get a job, but remember that it’s your choice in the end which has an impact on the life you want to live. A positive recommendation is fine; but no website, parent, friend or blogger could make a life-decision for you.

It’s My Right.

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.

Something which made the biggest change on the life of every human being, revolutionised countries and member states, and altered our relationship with people and physical object is law-the words of the constitution give us our rights to live the life we want to lead. India’s constitutional preamble declares it a sovereign, socialist, democratic republic, given each indian citizen the right to follow their own beliefs or ideas, have their say in politics, express themselves and say what feels right to them. The simplest of the actions and choices we have are all governed by law-from taking a shower to meeting a friend. The blog I’ve started and the books I read is a freedom granted to me, and I can’t imagine life for myself and others without these choices. The very creation of a country where human beings have their freedom, to be answerable for their own thoughts and actions itself makes our life as heavenly as it can get. But with law being an enormous advantage to citizens, there are some who are left out and whom don’t get to enjoy these privileges, like the army, navy or air force, who can’t take holidays or binge on the diet they wish for.
Unfortunately, not many notice the enormous importance of law and order in the country. Besides being a chapter included in civics textbooks across India, students look at law academically or something that doesn’t directly involve them. On India’s independence and republic day, few truly celebrate the spirit of India’s freedom and the brave conservatives, radical and revolutionary leaders who fought for India’s freedom. Nevertheless, international agencies like the UN are ensuring that people across the world are granted human rights, irrespective of their nation’s government system. Whether I’m in India or Japan, I do have the right to say and do as I wish(with certain restrictions of course) which ensures that I’m living an all-round life. In both countries, rights have been granted which ensures us to share our opinions and expressions through creation of poems, dramas, movies, drawings or simply a conversation, all of which make one country like another. It’s the quality of these expressions and the people which determine differences. Moreover on the extreme end of the spectrum, there are folks who live in ignorance: they don’t know these rights are granted to them, such as oppressed or developing nations like Pakistan, Bangladesh or iran. Their community or surroundings may have beliefs or traditions which each person has to follow- because of which people living in tiny villages or sparcely populated borders are not allowed to live up to their potential. If given the chance, they could be the next Steve Jobs or Melinda Gates.
Law enables us to control our own lives, and our fundamental duties encourage us to take these decisions positively. Today, on the 25th on July, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, one of India’s most famous and loved presidents has passed away. He was a man with a vision for a better India, achievable by the year 2020. Not just india, but the entire world can rise if every human being is aware of their right and knows how to take individual, positive decisions. Know the law. Know your right.

What looks good, and what doesn’t?

The summer before I started the IB, I’d take advantage of indian television before I went back to Japan and regularly watched America’s Next Top Model, among the english channels. Hosted by Tyra Banks, the show features citizens of the USA around their twenties competing in a series of challenges, leaving the final winner, or the best model. i’d started off believing that the show was shallow and pathetic, but soon included it as a part of my routine. My sister and I would launch comments on everything, from the contestant’s hair to their body posture, with the final image in front of the judges. What made these shows so addictive? Why did so many people want to compete? Moreover, who decides on the standards of modelling?
I’ve grown up in an environment knowing that beauty is an abstract concept, which has no measurement or definition. Anything that’s visually or physically appealing to our eyes can be termed “beautiful” like a person, the rain or a piece of clothing. Although each person finds different things that are attractive to them, common creations can be called beautiful by a large majority of people. This is why organisations like Lonely Planet and National Geographic use the highest quality photographers and cameras for their magazine, which advertises tourist destinations worldwide. It is also why cameras and phones have filters to make pictures look prettier, or why gift packaging is done is bright or themed covers. The final result is to have that “wow” affect on whoever sees it-since it simply looks attractive to the human eye. Universities and Institutes include modelling and fashion as a course for one of the biggest reasons of entertainment in the form of plays and movies, or commercialisation in the form of advertisements. As long as it’s contributing to the economy and providing entertainment or relaxation, it’s a huge plus.
One of the downside is the beauty standards imposed by media which influences the passing trends of students. Stereotypes and racism originates from these kinds of beliefs, but as per a quote I’ve heard, “Each and every thing is beautiful. If you can’t find the beauty, you’re not looking properly.” Some folks try too hard to be well-attired for others, failing to realise that as each has their own taste in what looks good for them.
Modelling shows encourage healthy competition and may redefine, or set different meanings for a passing trend. It’s a strong mode of advertising clothes and accessories, and has also emerged as a strong career option. Modelling may influence us into changing, or redefining what looks good and what doesn’t, but nevertheless, like any other factor of influence, it has convinced us of the enormous standards we’ve set up for ourselves. Even bigger international competitions like Miss India or Miss Universe are cut-throat hard hitting battles; requiring as much effort as a spelling bee or car race. Like any other job or sport, has influenced those really passionate about it.

The Creative Inspiration

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.

The one-sided influence

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.

As i’m writing these words a year later, I realised that my personal views about international or historical affairs, pertaining to India like The Kashmir conflict, India’s freedom struggle and India-Pakistan relations have been taught to me from an Indian point of view. i’ve only been able to see why Indians are justified in their opinion, not the view of the other country involved. This is why the press and mass media plays such an important role in today’s society-people form their opinions, beliefs and ideologies based on what they read. On a positive note, it enhances patriotism and helps them empathise with people involved in the situation, but it doesn’t always give an overall view of the problem or situation. if today’s students and youngsters have limited understanding of an intercultural problem, their decisions will be biased as well. This isn’t always the fault of the education board or journalists-as each individual has different circumstances and situations that gives them news or information from varying sources. One thing readers must keep in mind is knowing the value and restriction of each source, especially if it pertains to an issue involving multiple sides or opinions.
Going back to my history textbook, i’m sure the british weren’t as mean as the writers made out, and neither can I say that I understand India’s freedom struggle completely as I only know the indian point of view. Nevertheless, India’s history textbooks, press and mass media plays an enormous role in bringing together tonnes of indians to know what is going on, or what was happening in their country.

The Foodie Effect

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.

In today’s world, food growth, in production, quality and variety has helped us balance life out for ourselves. It supports us in having choice and taste in what we eat, as well as balancing out our diet and activity with health based and quantitative food. Nevertheless, it also signifies the choices man has created for himself in the food-related sector.

Our Environmental guide

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.

Human interaction today

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.

The Commercial impact

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.