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For the Love of Learning

Published March 4, 2015 by sidmary

Who among us has never seen or experienced the early morning frenzy that seizes the households where everyone has to leave for some place or the other and reach before a certain time? School students, college students, university students, office workers…it is a routine unmanned by occupation. However early you get up, and however fast you get ready, the clock in the morning ticks at an unparalleled speed trying to make you late.

What if in this situation, in the time it takes you to hear the horn, open the door and move out, your van leaves? What if, even as you stand at the gate, you see the receding behind of the indomitable vehicle mocking you in the face for the one second delay? At least once in a lifetime, this has happened with most of us.

But wait…! What if your wish or need to get to school, or college overpowers the misery and seething anger you are feeling at the situation? What if you get into your car and drive across half the city to reach the institution, only to realize that you are one minute late and cannot enter the premises? Blam! There goes the world crumbling around you; one more morning incident to fire your nerves and heat your blood. You go quickly over the schedule of the day in your mind weighing how important attending classes today was…and you comfort yourself with the conclusion that you will get notes from your friend and all will be fine. Then you go home and plop on the bed, making up for the sleep you lost last night making an assignment you had to submit today.

What a comedy of errors! Or maybe a tragedy? Who knows? However, there is one very important aspect to this not uncommon scenario that it would a tragedy to not explore: the policy of educational institutions to send students back home even if they are half a minute late. Yes, just thirty seconds worth of delay.

Let us look first at the reasons for this strict policy. It is majorly because institutions want to instill the value of punctuality in their students, and maintain some decorum in the school that such strict policies are made; and yet one is forced to question: is all fine with this?

The early schools which were the centers of learning and research were homely places where all were welcome. They were institutes from where learning developed and advanced, and the forbears of the educational institutions we have today. They developed the sciences which are taught in our schools today, but what were their salient features? These were schools which remained open at all times. It was sin to close the doors of learning on those who sought them. Knowledge was sacred, and withholding it from the seeker was blasphemy.

In the modern day, when education has been institutionalized, rules and policies are required to be stricter. Students are and should be expected to adhere to certain norms of behavior, but the strict policy and rule making should follow some rules too. Humans are not sheep- all to be herded indiscriminately by the same stick, and education and learning is not a child’s play to be taken lightly and undervalued by the centers of education themselves.

To instill punctuality in students and maintain the decorum of schools and colleges, penalties are and should be issued to those who undervalue the importance of learning and those who are religiously non-punctual, but to send students home who are late once in a blue moon and with genuine reason is blasphemy! What educational institutions encourage this way is students going home and sleeping the productive morning hours away. Along with the student, they are equally to blame for the loss of precious time and perhaps more for not understanding the value and importance of one whole day of learning.

It is about time that educational institutions make policies with practicality and the objective of learning in their minds. The effort of one who wakes up in the wee morning hours, gets ready and travels a good half hour or more to get to school or college should be appreciated and respected, and more than the clock’s face should be considered when sending one back down the same path they took to learning.

Open-Book

–Sidra Maryam

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Storm

Published February 12, 2015 by sidmary

THERE

On that hot summer’s day, the woman was was dragged out of her house. The area was deserted but for this group of people- and it was day. It was so hot, one could barely stand being out in the sun- and it was desolate.

The woman had a baby in her arms to whom she clung as if her life depended on it. A look of naked terror and horror adorned her face- and yet she was brave.

They led her to the center of the wide lane beyond the house where the ground was coarse and burning under her feet. Dust and sand settled on it for there was no wind.

They took the baby from her, and she tried to hold on, pleading and screaming. The baby was crying too now- writhing- extending his arms towards his mother, and bawling in the fierce grip of the men. His face was soaked, and her tears fell readily to the ground. One wondered why leaves did not sprout where they fell- but tears are salty…

They held her by the arms and pulled her away, and it took three men to do so. She looked at the angel’s face, then looked away. She looked up at the sun which glared down upon her without mercy, and she looked at the sky which was blazing white, and hurting her eyes. She then looked to the horizon, where far beyond the line of her vision, there were other people and other children.

She then looked at the ground and fell on her knees, covering her baby in his royal mantle from heaven by her body.

Somewhere afar, seas, and crimson blood, and rain and love and pain washed ashore in wild, furious and passionate waves that reached deep into the earth and high up to the heavens. The sun suddenly dimmed, as if a switch had been turned off, and the waves slowly receded, losing their tumult in their mournful sorrow.

HERE

“How very tragic,” said Saima, scanning the newspaper at the breakfast table and simultaneously dipping a piece of toast in her tea.

“What darling?” her husband looked up distractedly, sounding vaguely concerned.

NOW

Saima went to the office after sending her children to school. She had a long wearisome day, and came home late in the afternoon when her children were quietly playing in the playroom, attended by their nurse.

She washed up and fell into bed, thoroughly exhausted, for a long nap.

As she slept, dark clouds gathered on the horizon far far away.

Occasionally, a passerby would stop and look up towards it, a frown creasing his brow, before he would busy himself again. A few television channels and even news-reporters did a short report on the weather condition, assuring the people that there was nothing to worry about. Some of the newspapers too published a short column on the conditions the next day. When Saima saw them at the breakfast table, she said again: “How very tragic!” and her looked up, a frown creasing his brow, vaguely concerned.

LATER

The storm brewed and brewed, and the clouds darkened, and no one knew how, but suddenly they were upon the city, darkening everything.

It was not a storm- it was apocalypse.

The sky tore apart in flashes of bright, white light, and the sky fell onto the earth- but it was crying from more than anger- it was crying from hurt too…and it was as if it was not the sky pouring down, but the sea- and yet, leaves did not sprout, because it was the city, and all the paths were graveled.

The wind howled in every ear, and they all heard- probably for the first time ever. People came out of their homes, and for the first time, they saw too.

Saima gathered her children in her arms, and ran towards the closest, widest expanse of plain land: the mosque. There were already so many people there, one could almost be sure it was apocalypse.

She looked about her, the terror in her heart peeping at the world from behind her eyes. These ran now over many words plastered on the walls. Disjointed words leapt into her visions- words that said “faith” and “brothers” and “body” and “pain”1. Words that said “haraj’ and “bloodshed” and “bloodshed”2.

She closed her eyes, but the mist gathered and her face was wet. The ground shook beneath her feet and she held her children to herself in a vice-like grip. Her eyes were still closed and her children held onto her in terror.

The sky still raged, the wind still howled, and the ground still shook. They reminded one of the seas, and crimson blood, and rain and love and pain, all washed ashore in angry tumult…

–Sidra Maryam

Busy Much…

Published October 23, 2012 by sidmary

Life’s this big dynamic roller-coaster at times. It takes you, and it sways you, then it takes your breathe away; and in the end, it hails you.

So there is a lot going on. Life’s my roller-coaster ride, because maybe it thinks i do not entertain myself enough the ‘normal’ way, so it makes its own ultra-big effort to keep me occupied. I am laden with school-work, deadlines of projects, preparations for up-coming competitions besides this list of extra-curricular that i managed to get my head into. At times i asked myself, ‘Is this too much,’ ‘Am i taking more than i can chew,’ ‘Should i back out?’…but no. I kept through it. And i am glad.

Yes at times it does freak me out: this having such a lot to do. And yes i get stressed out; and the ends of my fingertips tingle; and my brain snoozes and i wonder how i will ever get through…but in the end, ‘it is’ as i told my friend at the end of the scool day ‘good to be busy.’

There’s this sense of purpose that you get, and the feeling that every day is actually a development. I try to maintain a journal (which i don’t update so regularly), and seeing it all there, the memories recorded in words, phrases, notes; the tries, the failures, the insecurities and the accomplishments; i sometimes just sit back and wonder at how long ago it seems. What is trapped there so that i remember it, is a record of all the ‘busy-ness’ of my life, aswell as the mild observations of one who sits back to relax, and the intense observations of one too depressed or too sick of it.

Yet at the end of the day my journal teaches me that life’s only worth it when i have new experiences and adventures to record on its pages every day. It teaches me to take chances and take risks, because tomorrow when i will see how silly i had been, that will tell me how wise i have become. So for now at least, i put my leg in everything that is good enough. I occupy myself at all times because it keeps so much at bay; and it keeps me busy. And being busy, in so many dimensions, is so truly good…

Themes of Rebellion in Modern Literature -3

Published May 26, 2012 by sidmary
English: Mainstream march, part of the October...

English: Mainstream march, part of the October Rebellion demonstrations against the World Bank and IMF in Washington DC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Conclusion:

Having determined this much, let’s come to a conclusion. Firstly, that most of the acclaimed contemporary fiction has an element of fantasy in. Take Harry Potter with all the magic and the world of Hogwarts; or the vampire fiction raging the bookshelves; or the all time popular series of the Hunger Games, not to forget Artemis Fowl and the Eragon Series… Why is fantasy becoming so popular these days? Here’s a suggested answer:

Fantasy is a way of creating a new separate reality from the world we live in. It is a way to escape the really pressing real life problems, which cannot be run from living in the same world (thus a separate world.) With the world fast reducing to a global village, and problems being intensified and projected more than ever, the instinct to escape is becoming stronger day by day. However, literature does not work like that. All that is written, is in some form or the other, inspired, combined and exaggerated till it gives a sense of originality. The human mind is quite incapable of creating something out of nothing; thus even the most out-of-the-world fantasy has its roots, somewhere deep down, in the world we live in. A review claims “The Hunger Games” to have “unsettling parallels to the reality,” and no surprise, as it can easily be related to the manipulations of reality TV shows, the barbarous wars in Palestine and Afghanistan, the human survival instinct, and the successions of power in the world. So however much one tries to escape, one is always led back into this same confined space. Fantasy just catches a larger audience to make aware in the subconscious, and provides an illusion that is clearer than reality.

Thus, when we see such a constant trend of themes of rebellion in contemporary literature, and more so in fantasy, we are forced to think where in the society is its origin. There is no trouble answering this. Rebellion is everywhere in the society. It is in the “new wave” and the turn towards liberalism. It is in experimenting new things, seeking adventure, venturing into untrod parts of this earth, divulging into the deep seas and exploring the extra-terrestrial world. We live in an age where people want to see logic in age old traditions and practices. There have been times when people have been dominated for centuries by oppressive monarchs; now, they don’t bear it more than 20, 30 or 40 years. A tide of rebellion began in Tunisia and has spread to Syria in less than two years. There is an identification of “self” that is gaining ground now. With the increasing of human knowledge, is coming the increasing of human wants; wants of freedom, liberty, expression, an own personal space etc. etc. When the world seemed big, people were content with it; but now that it seems shrunk, people crave for a greater space…All this, and perhaps more factors contribute to the rebellion in the society.

However, now that it has seeped into literature too, it has become a formidable trend. Literature, besides reflecting the society, has its way of affecting it. I personally can hardly name a book that has not affected me in one way or the other.  A writer, when he holds a pen, writes the future of the world. He is said to be one step ahead of time. Why? He does not (usually) have a crystal ball to help him in that? What he does is that he brings out, emphasizes and exaggerates something already present in the society; something that affects him, clicks to him, or maybe just registers in his subconscious. In print, that written theme or idea is caught up by others. The circle of effect of the “idea” increases, and it becomes more prominent in the lives of each of the individuals reading it. What is in the mind, finds a way out into the action of a person. When (as usually is), there is a writer among the readers too, the idea spreads further. From a single person to many, and from many to many more: a single “idea” becomes a dominant one. Gradually but eventually, the whole world takes its effect. That is why what a writer writes is so important. That is the reason that holding a pen is a sacred job; and that is the reason that trends in writing cannot be ignored!

When we find a trend of rebellion in the themes in literature, we have cause to be cautious, for this is the same very thing that our future holds for us. We don’t have crystal balls, but we have our pens and we have our minds. After we put them to use, there is only waiting and hoping that whatever sorts and causes of rebellions there be ahead of us, they be good…

Themes of Rebellion in Modern Literature -2

Published May 26, 2012 by sidmary
English: A picture of a mockingjay from the no...

English: A picture of a mockingjay from the novel “The Hunger Games”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Hunger Games:

Next you may come to the Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins. Here no doubt, the main and the dominant themes is rebellion and Katniss Everdeen is its symbol. Here, its about breaking laws for what you believe to be your right, as in entering the jungle for hunting. Katniss stepping up to save her sister is another act of defiance of fear. Love defies fright, and so the whole story builds on this. Its love for her sister that propels Katniss to keep moving, keep defying, keep challenging. Thus its no wonder that when Prim dies, all Katniss’s energies seem to be drained away. After that, its Peeta’s loves that helps her keep afloat, but her defiant, rebellious, challenging personality is lost forever as she fears for her children and their safety. Perhaps this helps determine that often its love that calls for rebellion, and often its love again, that withholds one from it?

In this series again, the “good rebellion” and the “bad rebellion” are emphasized again with reference to objectives. Katniss’s objectives are pure and inbred, while those of Coin are well thought of, and cultivated over a length of time. Katniss, a symbol of the “New Blood” cares for a revolution that benefits all; while Coin only thirsts for power. Her personality can easily be related to: Its about the succession of power in the world. When people get fed up of one tyrant rule, they bring another to lead them, who promises them a better rule but who, when his turn comes up,  turns out to be as much of a tyrant. The oppressed, having gained power, becomes the oppressor. This is how for ages the world has been ruled, and all the while, some Katniss Everdeen is used, and some Katniss Everdeen is waited for…

The Twilight Saga:

If we move further to “The Twilight Saga” perhaps, rebellion is hard to pinpoint here, but present nevertheless. It manifests itself in Bella’s unexplained attraction towards the vampires, and Edward specifically. She finds love where all others find repulsion. She doesn’t fear what she is  supposed to fear. Its defiance of the normal course of things, but then, the presence of vampires and werewolves themselves is a defiance of the normal course of things! Reciprocating this, is Edward’s liking for her. There is an incessant breaking of rules of the Volturi and the rules laying down the level of intimacy between vampires and humans. There is breaking of the truce between the vampires and the werewolves, which is made to appear justified, and acceptable this once. Over here, its rebelling the rules; traditions; natural, instinctive feelings and emotions- all in a very natural, in-artificial way. The defiance in Bella is an innate part of her-something that is totally natural. This hints perhaps, at the new generation, defying the principles of the older one.

So what can we conclude from this?

(Part 3 coming up 😛 )

–Sidra Maryam

Have you Felt it?

Published May 18, 2012 by sidmary
307.365 || Upside Down World.

307.365 || Upside Down World. (Photo credit: Aman Deshmukh)

Have you ever felt it:

That when you wake up

One fine morning,

A  person you have known all your life

Takes on an entirely new meaning

to it?

.

The world turns upside down,

And seems charming that way.

Themes of Rebellion in Modern Literature -1

Published May 9, 2012 by sidmary

I have been thinking on the lines of these topics for quite some time now. I have the feeling that in almost every modern piece of literature that i read, there is a theme of rebellion; if not a major theme, then an underlying theme. This trend takes me aback. It makes me apprehensive and cautious and exhilarated. There is an itching, everywhere i go in that dream-land of books, to break the rules; change the pattern; rise up against tyrants, customs, routines; Rebel.

What is more interesting i feel, is that the books with such themes are more welcomed by the mass majorities. I will give the examples of just three books/ series, that you are sure to have read; and if not, then definitely heard of.

First you go to “Harry Potter.” Did you start? Is it just pure, simple magic; adventure; good against evil? No. There is Rebellion too. See Fred and George, the two most loved characters of the book: they are practically the symbols of rebellion! They break rules, and rules after rules. They don’t submit to what others decide for them, unless they themselves agree to it. Then the antagonist Voldemort: he too shuns good. Breaks away from its ties and creates his own freedom. However constricting evil is, freedom is freedom for one who considers it freedom!

Then you look at the protagonist Harry himself. In the very first induction to the wizarding world, he finds no reason to NOT call Voldemort by his  name! This continues through the books. Where others succumb to his power and evil, and accept and submit to it, he outright disregards it! Does not even acknowledge it! He too breaks rules. He takes his first flight against the instructions of Madame Hooch in Book 1 on being incited by Malfoy. And he actually gets rewarded for it! Look again: what exactly is encouraged here?

In Book 2, he breaks another 100 or so rules to concoct the potion and then enter the Chamber. Rebellion, Rebellion, Rebellion. Same in Book 3 where he does not only undo what has already been done, but also in that act, defies time. Isn’t that rebellion again? Fast forward to Book 7 where he actually goes on a quest to destroy Voldemort’s horcruxes. Had anyone ever, in all the years before him, acted in such defiance of his power? No. And thus the main theme of the book after good versus evil surfaces of rebellion. There is good rebellion and bad rebellion. The bad by Voldemort, the good by Harry. It shows how rebellion can cause pandemonium, calm it down and make life it bearable. (Regards to Fred and George). And what else is the lure of the novel than defiance, and encouragement of it?

(More is coming, stay tuned 🙂 )

-Sidra Maryam

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