FOR ALL MY LITTLE SISTERS OUT THERE, THIS IS FOR YOU

I guess you must have heard the song Fifteen by Taylor Swift.
If not, then let me write down the lyrics here for you.
15 is just an ordinary number, without any Vedic significance. If sixteen is sweet, is fifteen sour?
Let’s find out.
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You take a deep breath and you walk through the doors
It’s the morning of your very first day
You say hi to your friends you ain’t seen in a while
Try and stay out of everybody’s’ way
It’s your freshman year and you gonna be here
For the next 4 years in this town
Hoping one of those senior boys will wink at you and say,
” You know I haven’t seen you around before.”
This is the first step towards your future. High school! All grown up kids teenagers🙂
Teenage: the most rebellious phase of our lives. Back when I was 13, I used to throw tantrums like hell. There was no patient talking in the house. Every now and then, one could see me and mummy engaged in a typical family drama scene, fighting over silly stuff, arguing endlessly. We just do the opposite of whatever is expected of us (Like I still do) and often get into troubles. Now when I look back on the memories, I feel so guilty. Intense stupidity, and nothing else.
Moral of the story: Don’t fight with your parents, it is a battle with a predetermined winner.
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‘Cause when you’re Fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
You’re gonna believe them
And when you’re Fifteen
Feeling like this three’s noting to figure out
Well, count to ten, take it in
This is life before you know who you are gonna be
Fifteen
You are now neither a kid, nor an adult, which makes it more hard to cope up with the parental, peer and societal pressures. You are expected to behave like a responsible grown up, but at the same time required to behave like a child!
*Stop irritating me*Shut up*Give me my phone back*Mum, what’s wrong with you*I am studying with my headphones, it is called multitasking*I need a break I can’t study all the time*Engineering? I wanna do photography*Why can’t I go for that movie? All my friends are going for it*Need some hard cash, lunch time with gang*Where’s my mascara*Retail therapy makes me calm*I am busy, I can’t do it*So what if I talk to that guy late in the night, he’s just a friend, don’t over react*OMG ITS A PIMPLE*It hurts, this damned thing, every month, I’m sick of it*He’s so cute wink*Why do you need to be on guard all the time*Please leave me alone*slangs*slangs*some more slangs*
If you are familiar with these phrases, then trust me, you are a teenager.
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You sit in class next to a red head named Abigail
And soon enough you are best friends
Laughing at other girls you think you’re so cool
We’ll be out of here as soon as we can
And then you are on your very first date and he’s got a car
And you feel like flying
And your mamma is waiting up and you’re thinking that he is the one
And you are dancing around the room when the night ends
When the night ends
While you are busy understanding why your body has started showing bizarre changes and you’ve suddenly become hyper emotional and super sensitive (It is not your fault that hormones screwed you up), you realise that your schoolwork has grown up with you, too. Did your life have less troubles that you needed to complete and submit lab records of Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics every week? God, this is unfair! With your frequent mood swings, incessant tussles with your loved ones and tons of home assignments, competition also had to enter the scene. Now your existence is reduced to that of an amoeba, struggling for a personal air bubble in that dirty pond where no one likes to live but has to because that’s the right thing to do. Period. But you need to win, because survival of the fittest, right?
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‘Cause when you are Fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
You are gonna believe them
When you re Fifteen
And our first kiss makes your head spin round
But in your life you’ll do things greater than dating the boy on the football team
But I didn’t know it at Fifteen
Moving on towards the latest advancements: You are getting adrenaline pump when you see *him* And its natural. No need to freak out. No need to go crazy about it. Don’t be insane, just be normal. He’s just a normal person like you and you need to focus on your schoolwork and this transitory phase shall pass away. You are not supposed to have a boyfriend just because everyone has one or it is a cool thing to do. Don’t break anyone’s heart or get yours broken. Be a sensible person. I know that you are. You have powers beyond imagination, them for your benefit. I am sure that you’d be amazed.
It is hard to resist, this temptation. It is a painful struggle between your mind and your heart. Long hours of chatting and what not. The pleasure is unmatched with all the riches of the world combined.
You’ll find the perfect person one day, don’t worry, but maybe this is not the right time for it. Distractions abound your mind but you have got so much to do. Many a times, the things that look promising may never work out. So, beware of the sugar coated sweet poisons lurking around. A backstabbing friend is more dangerous than an enemy, my dear.
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When all you wanted was to be wanted
Wish you could go back and tell yourself what you know now
You do what your heart wants. Illogical reasoning becomes your speciality. Long hours of sleep and daydreaming disorient your thinking processes. When you grow up, you realise that you could have done so much to enhance yourself, but you badly fell into the pit your heart had set for you.
Wisdom comes late. You feel like a philosopher when you complete this perilous phase of your life but by the time it’s too late. Shit.
I just wish I could have studied harder, slept less and become more cheerful😦 So you better take my advice and start preparing for the entrance examinations from now on(Just kidding XD)
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Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday
But I realised some bigger dreams of mine
And Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind
And we both cried
Stop dreaming of a future that’ll literally never exist. You believe that you have a worth only if you have a lot of people who give you attention? Only if someone loves you? Wanna hog the limelight by becoming the next happening thing at school? It is an illusion, this glamour and vanity. Never fall prey to it. Happiness might not be everything that you try to pursue or perceive.

How can you expect someone to love you when you can’t love yourself? How can you expect someone to be serious about you when you aren’t serious about yourself, your studies and your career? You are vulnerable and lonely. People take advantage of the situation. They make you feel loved, they might be doing that genuinely as well, but then they lose interest and walk away with unfaithful reasons. So don’t think that love is the biggest thing in life. It is not. By God, you are blessed with such a loving and caring family, mad friends, a sound health and tons of goodness and riches. Utilize it and become a good human being and give back to the society. That’s what life is for. I have wasted my time, energy and peace of mind on wrong people and I hope that you won’t do the same.

Sorry for this long speech, I know you must have got irritated by now, but please just bear a few more moments with me.
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‘Cause when you are Fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
You are gonna believe them
And when you are Fifteen
Don’t forget to look before you fall
I have found time can heal most anything
And you just might find out who you’re supposed to be
I didn’t know it at Fifteen
If something or someone hurts you, just let them go. Throw them out of your life. Never become a second option for anyone. Always think that you are special. Never compete with others, just compete with yourself. So what if you scored 9.6 and she scored 9.8. So what if she got awarded and you didn’t. You are an individual and you have the potential to achieve everything you deserve and desire. Winning is not overcoming your competitors, it is overcoming your own faults and making great strides! Just go for it!
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Your very first day
Take a deep breath, girl
Take a deep breath as you walk through the doors.
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All the best, my dear young ladies! A perilous yet promising future awaits you out there!🙂
Love, The Funky Writer

TO CROCS, WITH LOVE FROM ODISHA

Happy new year, my dear followers and my fellow bloggers!
We writers are fierce, brave and bold. We believe that the pen is mightier than the sword. Nothing deters us from exercising our freedom of expression. With Bangladeshi bloggers being killed, the Charlie Hebdo incident and Indian writers returning their awards, 2015 has been a tough year for the writer community. Nevertheless, we shall continue doing what we do the best: Writing. Let us promise to inspire people through our painstakingly handwritten texts. Let us bring out the brighter side of humanity. Let us spread happiness and awareness.
I have been reading your blogs religiously and I must say that everyone of you had something good to offer to the big World Wide Web. Well, here’s my share: my second travel journal.

Animals have always been associated with religion. Nature has inspired different faiths. Hence, my parents believed that there couldn’t be a better time than Durga Puja to visit Odisha’s very own biodiversity hotspot: Bhitarkanika. (thanks to my class mass bunk actually :p)
Bhitarkanika is a national park located at Rajnagar in Kendrapada district. What makes it special from other parks are its mangrove forests, spread across the Brahmani-Baitarini estuarial region. It is the second largest mangrove forest of India, just after the Sundarbans. Housing the saltwater crocodile, water monitor lizard, deer, migratory birds, turtles, and dozens of aquatic species, amongst others, Bhitarkanika is a treat for all the wildlife lovers.

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We started our journey at about 11.30 a.m. by road and reached at about 5.30 p.m. The long journey had tired us out. Sitting in the car the whole day with my cousin on my lap was fun, but exhausting as well. The countryside scenery was excellent. We crossed small ponds, gardens, paddy fields, rivers and saw the lovely sunset. After entering Rajkanika, we noticed fisheries on either side of the road, along with small huts surrounded by vegetation: the homes and the businesses of the local fishermen. We saw aerators in the pond to supply oxygen to the prawns.

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Our resort had a striking resemblance to that of a village: each cottage had been made in such a way so as to blend with the forest. Our rooms had all the basic facilities, though. There was a small pond, paddy cultivation, a small orchard and a flower garden inside our resort. No T.V, no internet. Most of the networks wouldn’t receive any signal except BSNL, so be ready to spend a day without social networking sites.

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The food tasted great, with sea food being obtained fresh. Most of the other food stuff, including packaged drinking water, is procured from outside, from a nearby village which is accessible only through boat. Every day, the staff resort toil hard and take dangers to ensure the perfect vacation for you. You can dine on big fish, crabs and prawns. Other veg and non veg delicacies are also available at special request.
The next day, we were up by 6 a.m. After taking bath and breakfast, we were ready to plunge into the wilderness. Our fellow tourists were mostly Bengalis, a few Odia people and two ladies from the Netherlands!
We hired a motor boat from Khola. The one room office was just next to the entry gate of Bhitarkanika, hence was being guarded. We had to give all our personal details which was necessary for the officials to initiate a search if we don’t come back (well that sounds terrifying :p)

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We saw what we were craving for: the mangrove forests. During the morning time, the water from the Bay of Bengal had pushed itself into the rivers, hence resulting in a high tide. When we returned back, the excess of water had already resided back into the sea.

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Our journey to see the crocodiles began. We had been warned not to dip our hands into the waters, as a hungry croc might be waiting inside to gobble you up. If your boat suddenly capsizes (not to worry as this usually never happens until and unless done on purpose), then you can see the heaven within minutes of touching the water surface. We had stretched our necks out in anticipation, to spot the oldest living reptiles on earth. I spotted a plastic water bottle as well. Trust the humans to dump plastic inside a national park!
And then, our motor boat suddenly stopped. As I was looking around in confusion, there it was! A saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus parosus) basking out! There was no turning back after that. We passed through various creeks and saw a lot of crocs: some big, some small. The scenery was pretty new, not of a regular kind. The mangrove forests are stretched across miles, with nothing but mud colored brackish water in between. The eerie silence of the vicinity can give you freaks, with occasional sounds of a bird or a croc diving underwater.

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Our excitement reached at a whole new level when we spotted deer! There were lots of deer by the riverside. But they weren’t drinking water. Perhaps they knew about the presence and timing of the crocodiles hence were taking precaution and waiting for the right moment to quench their thirst. We also saw a water monitor lizard and a white crocodile.
The riverside was muddy. So we could see fresh foot and body prints of crocodiles and the monitors, sliding into the water, which indicated their recent presence.
We reached a stop called as the Heronry. Migratory birds from foreign countries come during winter to breed here. We took a short walk in the forest. We reached a high tower and climbed on it so see the unseen: thousands of herons perched atop the tree canopies. The canopies looked white, with the birds building their nests on them.
While getting down from our boat, we noticed some small strange looking fishes on land. They were feeding outside water! Later I came to know that they are called mudskippers a kind of amphibious fish which can live both on land as well as water. Some have been reported to climb onto the mangrove trees as well!

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There was a board warning us to walk on the concrete path only, and not on bare land, as crocs might have sneaked into the small clearings present throughout the forest. Our walk was exhilarating, mostly mine as I spotted pneumatophores in large numbers, about which I had studied in Biology. They are also called as breathing roots and go deep into the soil before coming out of them and standing erect. Mangrove forests are present in brackish areas, which always have a lack of oxygen. Hence, to fulfil this need, the plants have devised this method of respiration. We also spotted tiny red crabs and eccentric looking insects on the mud.

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Our next stop was at Dangamal. Here too, we had to take a walk in the forest. We saw large tracts of ponds filled with algal bloom, with cacti along the concrete paths. We spotted two more towers, which were in use by the King of Kanika, during the Zamindari period, for hunting purposes. After independence, the Zamindari system was abolished and the responsibility of the sanctuary fell on the shoulders of the Odisha Govt. The towers have been repaired for the benefit of the tourists. There are two small temples, dating back to the time during the reign of kingdoms, where the deities are still being worshipped by the villagers. Walking on the plain grass spread out on the clearings, just below the blue sky made our trip all more enchanting.

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Our last stop was at the museum. Here, we saw fruit orchards and medicinal gardens being maintained by the forest officials. The collection of eggs, skin, embryos and skeletons of crocodiles, wild boar, deer, snake, turtles and other lizard species housed at the museum is fascinating. We saw the skeletons of 18-19 feet long crocodiles! Contrary to what I had seen in the zoo, I had thought that the length of the crocs must be about 10-12 feet at max, but this was shocking! Bhitarakanika has entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest crocodile spotted of length 23 feet! That’s scary. It gets more scary: according to the 2015 census, Bhitarkanika has 1665 crocodiles teeming underwater. Hence, it comes as no surprise that during rainy seasons these crocs often wander into paddy fields and drag unsuspecting farmers to death. Some temporarily reside in the village ponds, killing cattle and sometimes humans.

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The singular attraction of this stop was:

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Gori tere pyaar main :p

The mangrove forest cover has increased, so has the number of crocodiles due to adequate protection towards the species, thanks to the tireless efforts of the State govt. towards the conservation of wildlife. The population estimation of the crocs takes place every January. The work being done towards the preservation of the biodiversity is remarkable, but the plight of the nearby villagers during rainy season is depressing as well. We educated people always preach to save wildlife but end up in killing the most indirectly. But the villagers are the true heroes who share their lives with these frightening creatures, without complain. They are dependent on fishing, agriculture and tourism to eke out a living. For this reason, the govt. needs to enhance their security so that it is possible to live harmoniously with nature.
FAST FACTS:
Where: Rajnagar, Kendrapada, Odisha
How: By road: Route: Bhubaneswar-Cuttack-Nischintkoili-Kendrapada-Salepur-a lot of the countryside-Kendrapada town area-Rajnagar. Can travel by bus/take help of Odisha Tourism
When: Can go starting from the month of Oct, but preferably during Dec-Feb to see the highest number of crocodiles and birds
What not to pack: Any kind of plastic/polythene which needs to be disposed off. There is no proper waste disposal unit out there, and the rules are even stricter as it is a national park. Therefore the waste is either dumped into the ground/burnt. So try to avoid polythene.
Travelling time: About five and a half hours by road, have lots of petrol saved up
Road condition: Fairly stable, some countryside roads need urgent government attention
Food: Local dhabas spread erratically across the region during travelling and resort buffets during the stay.
P.S. Kendrapada is famous for its sweets and if you are visiting during DP, do make a point to enjoy the Gajalakshmi Puja🙂
People: Since you are a visitor and you are travelling by car(which is a luxury for most of the Indian people), some villagers might stop your vehicle from time to time, asking money on the occasion of the puja. Otherwise, the forest guards, the guides, the boat drivers and the staff at your resort are great folks, who shall make you feel at home with their warm hospitality.
Accommodation: Panthanivas, owned by the Odisha Govt. or private organizations offering cottages and food at expensive (read reasonable) prices, owing to the location of the park. Booking should be done in advance before 3-6 months, due to high demand of wildlife tourism.
Total cost of the trip (including stay, food, car travel and boat ride for 6 people for 24 hours): Nearly Rs 15000/-
During the trip: Do’s and don’ts
• Keep sufficient amount of drinking water
• The water might call you out to take a little feel of it, but you dare not to
• Stay close to people, specially your boatman and your guide
• Do not litter the forest
• Do not walk on bare mud
• Do not touch the trees as snakes and insects are abundant in that region

So this winter, come home to wilderness. Come home to nature!

P.S. For best results, do watch the Australian movie Black water :p

Debashrita🙂

 

CLIMATE CHANGE IN INDIA: CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS

Climate change is a transformation in the distribution of weather patterns over long periods of time that range from decades to millions of years. Since the formation of the earth 4.54 billion years ago, the earth has undergone 5 major extinctions, mostly due to these climatic changes i.e. a cyclic pattern between the ice ages and the warmer ones. And we are heading on towards the current Holocene extinction event very fast. Most of us shoo off this topic as merely an exaggeration about global warming, but it is actually happening, and if we visualize the situation in the terms of a country like India, the situation is worsening with each passing day. It is indeed a shame for us that Chennai has overtaken Delhi as the most polluted city of the world.

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India puts a great pressure on its existing natural resources, even more profoundly than its counterparts because it is a developing nation. The water table is depleting fast, the summers are getting longer and hotter, and the rain spells are getting erratic. The sea levels are rising due to the polar ice caps and glaciers melting at a pace like never before.

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The biggest crisis of India is that its population is dwelling in ignorance. Most of the people have no idea about global warming, and even if they have, they are not bothered about it. And our nation has a plethora of other problems, which need greater attention than the climate. Illiteracy and lack of basic education and health facilities in many parts of rural India top the chart.

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Most of the people in our country do not have the purchasing power for food and fuel. Immigration to the cities in the search for a better life adds to the pressure on the existing limited drinking water and electricity. However, the pollution contributed by the richer nations should not be compared with the pollution coming from the poorer ones; the former use it for the increasing lifestyle of luxury and comfort, while the latter utilize it for their survival. Today, necessity has become a luxury, due to the ever increasing greed of humans. And global warming is the perfect example of this phenomenon, disrupting  forests, lives and livelihoods.

Nearly 60% of the population is agrarian in nature, and our country has more than a billion mouths to feed. Agriculture takes up nearly 90% of the fresh water resources of our country, and with depletion of the water table and with the increase in the production of water demanding crops like rice and wheat, the situation is getting grim. We are facing the aftermath of the Green Revolution. Frequent drought spells are getting common mainly in the central and the eastern parts of the nation. Denganmal, a village in Maharashtra, where people keep more than one wives just to fetch water from long distances should be an eye opener for all of us. Latest statistics report that India will run out of drinking water by the year 2040.  Farmer suicides are a reminder for us that the provider of food has himself no food security.

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The change in the sea levels is leading to powerful cyclones, hurricanes and tsunamis every year.  Salt water intrusion in low lying agricultural plains could lead to food insecurity , spread of water related diseases and lack of fresh water.

India houses 3 biodiversity hotspots from 32 present: the Indo-Burma region, the Western Ghats and the Himalayas. The endemic amphibian species of the Western Ghats are fast dying out. The rare and exotic plants of the Himalayas are fast disappearing even before we get to know about their astounding medicinal properties. India has now only 23.07% of its forests left. Illegal logging for agriculture, grazing lands, urbanization and commercial plantation are the major causes of deforestation.

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Destruction of the wild habitats is leading to a more exposed interaction of humans and animals, and hence, strange and often incurable diseases are cropping up from the warmer parts of the planet. The maladies are spreading on to the colder regions too, due to the gradual increase in the average temperature of the earth, which has increased by 0.6 degrees in the last century.

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Greater political and bureaucratic attention is needed to diversify the livelihoods of the poor people to reduce their vulnerability. We need to have a significant increase of targeted investments in crop production and management e.g. crop rotation, mixed crop production and organic farming and advanced irrigation systems like drip irrigation and water sprinkler approaches, which should be given to smaller farmers at a subsidised rate. We need to utilise the maximum amount of our existing agricultural lands by using genetically hybrid crops which are more tolerant to the environmental stresses like droughts and floods. There is an immediate need for placing water meters in every Indian home for checking the water usage.

Afforestation will not only help in conserving forests and decreasing desertification, it will also help restoring the water table, in tackling natural disasters and in regaining the livelihoods of the people who are dependent on forestry. Crop pollination needs mutual coordination between the plants and the pollinators like honey bees. Hence, this would ensure maximum food production naturally.

It takes about 10 kgs of grain to produce 1 kg of meat. This contributes to the global warming and our failing health. Hence, people need to shift from a non vegetarian to a vegetarian diet. Buying fresh produce would lead to the practice of rooftop hydroponics, which is cheap and easy to produce, and would definitely act as a combat towards excess plastic packaging layers. Use of plastic bags need to be banned immediately. People need to use cloth/jute bags for getting their groceries.

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The good old 3Rs : Reduce, Reuse and Recycle still hold true. We need to reduce our usage of packaged materials. We need to buy less. We need to reuse old clothes, books, toys and stuff. And finally, newspapers, bottles and scrap should be recycled. Scrap materials from used automobiles and e wastes should be treated properly and can be re used. Instead of recycling, we can burn the waste materials in waste incinerators and can generate electricity.

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The development of a country largely depends upon the growth of the small scale industries. Amount of carbon produced is the benchmark of development. The small scale industries cannot cope up with the Clean Development Mechanisms initiated by the international communities. Hence, the laws enforced for the national and the international giants in the markets should not be imposed on these units. Rather, the government should bring on some innovative solutions in collaboration with the national leading institutions at a subsidised rate so that they can both thrive and prosper under the new laws, without compromising their income.

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More number of nuclear power plants need to be setup in our country. And most importantly, the myths associated with the nuclear effects need to be sorted out first. Solar based water pumps in certain areas of Sambalpur district in Odisha has led to the efficient utilisation of water with the demonstration of an excellent use of solar energy. The Canal Solar Power Project launched in Gujarat, uses 19,000 Kilometers long network of Narmada canals across the state for setting up solar panels to generate electricity. Energy efficient systems are the need of the hour. Our country is a fast growing economy, with a lot of business opportunities. Hence, alliances with powerhouses can serve as a blessing for those 400 million people who do not have a proper access to electricity. Biogas is being implemented by village people since long, and is a perfect example of utilisation of organic farming. Using natural products is only possible if sustainable development is undertaken hands on with technologically feasible solutions for the environment.

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India, being an affordable holiday destination for many, can serve as a heaven for ecotourism.  It leads to the preservation of the nature as well as works towards the protection and enhancement of job opportunities for the forest loving communities.

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When we consume less energy, we spend less on energy. Hence, it is cost effective. Thus, we need to create laws for automobile and aviation industries, furnaces and miscellaneous factories to keep a check on their emissions, as per the standard norms decided by the governing bodies. By purchasing energy efficient gadgets, we can reduce our carbon footprint.

Awareness is need to be created amongst people for safer practices for nutrition, hygiene and sanitation, so that people are alert towards their changing environmental conditions and get more health conscious. More number of nutrition programs and clinics need to be functional in the rural areas for the proper diagnosis and the treatment of the people in a short period of time. Telemedicine and Any Time Medicine technologies can bring radical changes in the history of treatment.

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There is a need for more number of people who can enhance sustainability development like agricultural scientists, ecologists and biotechnologists. People need to be more aware of their opportunities as scientists and the role they have to play in the society. Extra amount of the country’s budget needs to be spent on the research and development sectors to bring on more innovative and challenging solutions for tackling the environmental issues.

Keeping the frequent natural disasters in view, there is an urgent need for advanced weather forecasting systems and their timely broadcasting in our country to ensure minimum damage to lives and property.

We need to promote cities with excellent public transport facilities and need to encourage them to use ethanol and CNG. We need to convince our farmers to grow bio fuel crops like jatropha, camelina, switch grass and willows; along with normal food crops. These grow well in poor soil and use up less fertilizers. These are high in cellulose, and produce low carbonic fuels.

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The solutions to these challenges are definitely not simple, and are not at all possible if they are only implemented by the government. Participation of the common mass is equally important to make these projects a success. More awareness is needed to be created amongst the public about their role towards the environment and their future. There is so much of positivity around us. We just need to make them happen.

 

THE LAST LETTER

As we stand today, miles apart

I am beginning to miss your presence

Now, I realise, an important fragment of my life has been lost

Lost to the universe

I never had thought of you in such a manner, Aiee

It had never occurred to me that people depart

Such intensity of sadness, a void, has been created back here

I wish you could come back

Everything I do,  reminds me of you

The way you walked. The way you talked. The way you ate. The way you behaved funny.

The way you loved us more than we did.

My eyes, fighting back the tears,

While I see our selfies.

Were we destined to stay for such a short period together?

This cruel decision of fate has left me shattered

I have lost my faith

There are things which only grand moms can teach their grand kids

I could hardly learn any.

I wish I could see you laugh again

I wish to have spent more time with you

I wish to have been cuddled by you harder

Because the world would have been a better place for everyone;

Its true if everyone, everywhere had an aiee as nice as you.

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I still can’t believe that you have departed from the earth.

I couldn’t believe my ears the moment mummy broke out the news to us. I had my design paper the next day and was tensed about it as such. But when I saw her crying uncontrollably, bursting out speeches in between of her tearful episode, I felt terrible. I can never see my mum cry. Nor she could see her mum lying still.

I had never witnessed any deaths in the family before. You passed away first. I wish you hadn’t done this to me. I am a person who always took pride in saying that “Thank God I have my both sets of grandparents for me!” Not anymore.

You left me, just like everyone else does, but this time, you have moved on forever😥

But you do remember the moments we have shared, don’t you?

You must have felt amazing when you’d have got the news about the arrival of your daughter’s daughter to this world; and would have held me in your arms for the first time. I hope that I would not have done anything stupid on you at that moment and if I had done, then I am sorry. Too late to beg apology but yes, I am sorry.

I take pride in saying that my aiee makes the best tomato chutney and fish curry. I would insist to eat the freshly caught fish from your backyard pond, and would set off with Aja to catch some small ones. When you fed me with your soft hands, the food became ambrosia. Summers were always fun with you. Our afternoon sessions of watching Odia movies were the best. When you used to come home, we used to savour on dried mango pieces with sugar. Our favourite meal was a yummy snack of chicken roll.  And you got all excited when you were left alone in the house. You got the freedom to eat anything sweet available in the kitchen; despite a hundred warnings from every one of us; despite of the knowledge that you had diabetes.

Ludo, ludo and ludo. More ludo, but not less. You must have been the undisputed champion of the indoor game of this century. You had a way of pulling the game in your favour every time. You always got the number you wanted on your die and if not, then you still would manage to put your token in the block you wanted. Awesome playing strategies. Our much-loved past time.

It seems that everyone except me has borrowed your genes for obsession with style. Nail and feet paint, powders, bangles, gorgeous saris…… all used to be your prized possessions. It is no wonder that you were so beautiful. A clear hearted soul, that’s what you were, Aiee.

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Paan used to be your greatest companion. When the shopkeepers used to ask me about the brands of various ingredients used in your paan while you sent me to buy some, confusion clearly showed up on my face. You always kept it within you, literally. Even though chewing paan was just a daily routine, It won’t be an exaggeration to say that it was your soul mate.

We used to sit on your tummy and play. Had there been a tummy contest, yours surely would have won a position for its absolute roundness, fairness, smoothness and size. The coinage of the term moti bou for you still holds relevant.

Nobody could match the humorous way in which you spewed angry words on us. It was a delight to trouble you and listen to all those Odia slangs. It never hurt. While I am writing this, your dialogue “tu kebe ama gharu jibu, tu kaha ghara bhangibu lo” is echoing in my mind.

Aiee, I loved to talk to you. During these informal talks I discovered a different person inside you, completely different from the funny and casual lady altogether: a small girl, who had lost both her parents when she was only four, and had since been raised by her step mother. You never showed pain in your eyes, nor grief in your words, Aiee, you were so strong. My mummy has derived all her strengths from you. You have never complained against your step mom. You had merely said “How harshly she might have treated us, she still loved us and gave us food. I am today alive only because of her.” No person can ever say this kind of statement. It takes huge courage and even a bigger heart to say so. You were hardworking and have raised five children who have grown up to be counted in the percentage of that few good people the world currently holds now. Thank you for taking care of all of us. We hope to inherit your potentials and make you proud.

One day we shall meet at the other side of the horizon. May your soul always be our guide and support us through the tough times.

Love,

Nickie and Nishi

 

THE WHITE MUGHALS

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The whole kingdom was waiting for the golden moment.
The queen was expecting a child.
The Emperor sat anxious, praying for his heir………………
On that bright morning, she was born
Much to the disgust of the Emperor. He sat forlorn,
With his head downcast,
Was there no one to rule his kingdom by caste?

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He barely looked at his daughter’s face
And not even at the mother. The queen was unconscious
In her pain, but not in her fate
Tears rolled down from her eyes
When her glances met that of her child.
The baby was cute, her face was radiant
She had features that would make any parent feel triumphant;
But not her father
Who was rather disgusted with the queen and left her side
Whilst all this, the queen did dutifully abide
Her Royal Husband, His Highness
Even though she had fallen from his grace
Still she adorned herself daily, with the choicest of garments,
Ornaments, lauded with precious stones and jewels,
His favorite scent, his favorite flower on her wetted hair;
To seek his attention, she did what
She did what not……….
But alas! The King, he forgot
That once upon a time he had a charisma towards his first consort……………..

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He was free to marry as many times as he chose
He loved many, he loved none
He wedded princesses one after the other
It was definitely not a happy family, together, forever!
The new queens and their sons, plotted continuously
To get the throne
The princess, however always remained behind her veil.

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She had no say in the stately matters
And was always compelled to remain in the women quarters.
Slowly and steadily, she grew up to become a breathtaking beauty
At the same time, lovely and pretty…….
The queen took great pride in the princess
Who was cheerful even at the time of distress
Her dainty feet never announced her presence at the fort
But her voice did.
Her songs, happy or tragic
Captured a great set of audience.
One day as she was sitting alone by the pond
Someone stopped by to hear her singing.

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He looked on, amazed
While she sat gazing him behind her shroud
Tall and handsome that he was
She had seen many like him before
But none of them had ever stolen her heart………….
She tried, with all her might
But could not stop thinking about him, day or night
Same was the case in the opposite side
Even though both of them knew the end of their story would be tragic
They secretly hoped for a magic
A magic, which would change their lives forever
Then they could stay forever, happily and ever after………….

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But alas, some dreams do never come true……
In the quest for supremacy
Her love was seized by her own brother
Who ruthlessly killed her lover
Her heart was ripped apart
“How could he do this to me?
My brother, my own brother?”
She realized her destiny
Was not all glittery as it looked to be
The thirst for power had surpassed all blood relations
Human beings killing God’s own creations!!!!
Her kohl rimmed eyes
No longer held the same gaze,
Her soul had been wrenched
Drenched, in blood
Her identity was lost amidst the crowd
She was now just a face of the Harem, as she used to be
She was a Mughal. A White Mughal.

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I was inspired to write this poem after reading about the Women of the Mughal Empire. The term ” White Mughals” symbolizes two things. First, white color is usually associated with beauty and purity. White is also the color of the dresses the widows wear. Sadly, the Mughal princesses were living in the biggest of the ironies of the world. Most of the Mughal princesses were unwed, and were living their lives in the darkness of the voids their destiny had created for them. To eliminate more people who were eligible to get the throne, the princesses were banned from entering into matrimonial alliances. Usually in the Mughal family, there used to be marriages inside the same family i.e. cousins marrying one another. But after Shah Jahan came to power, he had already killed his brothers and cousins so there was no one who could marry his sisters. And the trend continued down for Aurangzeb as well.

Read this beautiful blog piece about the Mughal princesses.

DELHI DELIGHTS

Sorry, folks! I kept you waiting for so many days…….actually I was really busy with my studies……..but now I won’t allow it to overcome my passion to write!
As usual, you need a lot of patience and time to go through this. [I write less, but still I write more. I have the biggest mouth in the whole world.]
Let me tell you about my recent trip to New Delhi. It’s not recent, really, as I had been to the place in the month of June, but the artistic impressions of the city still remain vivid in my mind.
The historic city of Delhi or New Delhi has seen many a great rise and fall of kings and queens, emperors and empires. Well now we stay in a democratic country, so we don’t have kings or kingdoms anymore; but they have left their monuments for us perhaps as their legacy. They may be dead, but their memories live on.
Some months back I used to watch a TV program on DD National titled as the Forts of India. I’d really like to thank to Indian Government for producing such an educational show. It used to show about all the Mughal as well as the Rajput forts. Some of the Rajput forts even have their descendants residing there. I had been really fired up by this show as I had been after seeing Maharana Pratap, so when Daddy announced that we were going to visit the glorious Indian capital, my excitement knew no bounds.
The day we reached the place, we were too tired to make any trips. So, as expected, we went to KFC for dinner :p [Quite thrilled about KFC as KFC Bhubaneswar hadn’t opened then] [Born to eat] ;] :p
The next day, we started at 7.30 a.m. The traffic laws had been made stricter because just a day back then Rural Minister Gopinath Munde had expired due to a car accident and doctors had written in his biopsy report that he could have been alive if he had his seat belt on. So we back seated passengers were obliged to put on the seat belts. We had completely left on our driver to guide us around the place. So he was doing all the directing part. I quite do not remember the dates and order of our visits, so I’m presenting here a random account.
We first halted near the famous Birla Temple. I wish we had clean temples back in Orissa here! It is a  beautiful temple and has a very peaceful atmosphere. It is large and has white marble flooring and has been maintained nicely even though it is so old. The sound of the temple bells would fill your hearts with a sense of tranquility.

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Our next stop was at the National History Museum. They provide you a free guide. My God, the museum is huge! But we were rushing like a Superfast express. We missed out everything. The history museum showcases Indian history from the beginning of the Harrapan and Mohenjo Daro Civilisation. I do not know where it ends. For a history fanatic like me, it would require a week’s time to see all the items on display and take notes. We went through the civilizations, then the Mauryan, Gupta dynasties, birth and growth of Buddhism and Jainism………and then daddy was such in a hurry that we had to miss out the other things. I still managed to take a quick peek on the Mughal miniature paintings. If you are a CBSE student, then you must have studied history in 6th and 7th standard. All the pictures in the books have been taken from the Museum’s display only.

 

We need more Indian historians in our country. It is really a shame that Indian World Heritage sites have been mostly studied and deciphered by foreign historians. Well, what can I do. There isn’t any other job here except Engineering. All hail Science!
There was a female skeleton on display. Even turtle shell bangles were intact on her hands. Pottery, coins, paintings, idols, relics……..if any day the museum’s security is breached, then the thieves will be billionaires :p

Our guide, Mrs Neena Jain, was a sweet old lady and was explaining us like a professor. She had the light and the feelings in her eyes while speaking about our history. Since we were visiting from Odisha, she showed us the Sun God idol preserved carefully. The Konark Sun Temple does not house it. It was really a proud moment! She reminded me of my dearest Bio teacher Reena Madam.
Bidding a sad adieu to the place, we moved on our journey further and spent a short time at Jantar Mantar.

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Then we stumbled across one of the oldest monument of Delhi, the Qutub Minar. It had been built in the year 1193 by Qutubuddin Aibak. He had built it for his daughter. Standing at a height of 72.5 meters, it is the second highest minar in the world. The minar has suffered a lot of damages due to natural calamities like earthquakes. An archway has already broken from the top. was repaired by Iltutmish and many other emperors who ruled next. The famous Iron pillar- the metallurgical marvel of India stands in front of the Qutub Minar. It belongs to the Gupta dynasty and it is always wrongly referred to as the Ashokan pillar due to architectural similarities between its style and that from the Ashokan era. When you enter the place, you can see the tombs of Qutubuddin Aibak and his successor Iltutmish on the right side. There is a marked difference between the tombs of Mughal Emperors and the Delhi Sultans. The tombs of the Delhi Sultans are not covered by arched forts like that of the Mughals. They are lying in a dilapidated state.

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Now let us get a little bit of patriotic as well as historic. We had paid a visit to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Amar Jawan Jyoti and the India Gate. Rashtrapati Bhavan is the home of the President of India. Amar Jyoti Jawan is a flame which is kept burning continuously in the memory of the soldiers who have died fighting for our motherland.   I salute to all those brave hearts who have died fighting for our country, and are still fighting for our betterment and want to give us justice.

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I could not quite understand the importance of visiting Lotus temple. We went and sat inside. That’s it. It is a peaceful place where seats have been made up of marble. The room is so cool and it almost lulls you to sleep :p But I must admit that the place has been very well constructed. An architectural marvel indeed. Doesn’t it remind you of the famous Opera House at Sydney?

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Our final destination at Delhi was the place from where the Prime Minister hoists our National Flag every Republic Day. You guessed it right…its Red Fort! Built by Shah Jahan, it is a real beauty. The fort has got a Meena Bazaar which is functional till today. We purchases some key rings and purses as materialistic memories, but they were too expensive :[ The fort even houses a small museum in it which we had to see in just two minutes, as it was already curfew time. The museum has a dress preserved carefully of that of a princess. Really, the craft work of that era remains unmatched with that of today’s time. Other stuff included swords, utensils and other things we couldn’t go through. A light and sound show is also being organized in front of the Diwan-e-aam[ironically!]
Here I would like to distinguish between Rajput forts and Mughal forts. During the Mughal reign, there were a lot of invaders who were thirsty for the royal blood, hence for extra protection, the forts have thick and large walls, which go missing in the forts at Madhya Pradesh. Take, for example, the Gwalior fort. The ruling Sindhiyas had made Gwalior a princely state during the British rule. Hence they had no requirement of such huge walls for security. The windows of both types of forts also show marked differences. But there are some similarities too. The minars are a mixture of both Islamic and Rajput architectures. I need to see some Rajput forts to give an extensive report on this.

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Pooh! Enough of this Delhi talk…….now let’s move our eyes on to Agra!
Our first stoppage while visiting Agra was at a Gurudwara. I had never been to a Gurudwara before. It had been made up of white marble. [ Marble, marble everywhere, no another stone in the brink😄 ] The persons there were preaching us not to eat meat and love all animals. How could I have ever explained to them that I love everyone but Chicken is my favorite? ;] I wished they had a langar :[

Then I met Sahenshah-e-Hind, Jalaluddin Mohammed Akbar…….not in person actually, but at his tomb. After seeing the movie and the ongoing show Jodhaa Akbar, I was delighted to meet the greatest emperor of the Mighal Empire, even though it was at his gravesite :p

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The tomb is a real huge one. It had been built by Emperor Jahangir in the memory of his father. The tomb has no lighting system like that of the Taj Mahal hence it is very dark. But it is really cool inside. Just to think, we are alive and we are being troubled by the scorching heat, on the contrary Jalal is dead and he is sleeping in a permanent A/C room like condition. Now I’m real jealous of him.
The fort has a ground where some deer are residing. It is indeed a great way to utilize a place and save two diminishing things together: flora, fauna and history.

Agra Fort, here I am!

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Agra Fort had been built by Emperor Akbar when he shifted his base from Delhi to Agra for security concerns. It is smaller than The Red Fort. You can see the Taj Mahal from here. Shah Jahan had been under home arrest at Agra Fort and he died seeing his creation from a distance. It has a small room where it is said that Shan Jahan offered his daily prayers. Most of the rooms were locked but I chanced to see one open. The rooms are small and the walls of the room have carvings where decorative items would have been put once, but now they are absolutely empty. The Britishers have taken away most of them, mostly from the Red Fort, where the British soldiers resided. They had remodeled the place, destroying the original designs.
Finally the time has come for me to introduce you to the Taj Mahal…even though the 7th wonder of the world needs no formal introduction. It was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his youngest wife Arjumand Banu Begum or Mumtaz Mahal. Mumtaz Mahal had bore 14 children of Shah Jahan and had died during childbirth just at the age of 38. She had made him promise not to marry any other begum after her demise. People say the Empress Consort was prettier than the moon, and the Emperor could never resist her temptation.

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The Taj has been completely been built out of pure white marble. It took 16 years to build it. I got goose bumps when I reached the scene. History can get on to your nerves at that place. You can almost feel the romance……..but not in the scorching heat.
We had been to Agra on the day it was 47 degree Celsius. Poor we :[
Wikipedia even tells you that Shah Jahan had cut the hands of his 22000 workers, who had come all the way from Persia to build this magnificent beauty; but it is not true. We had a guide with us from the Govt. Tourism Dept., who said that this is completely a hoax and no one knows why this has become widespread and strong. According to him, the workers were allowed to build rooms for them to stay. During the construction of the Taj, the workers felt that it was necessary to build a mosque nearby so that they could offer their daily prayers. Hence, a mosque was built. To maintain equilibrium for the structure, a guest house was made on the opposite side. It is difficult to distinguish between them, as both have been made as Xerox copies to each other. Shah Jahan gave the workers huge amount of money and gifts. Some of the descendants of the workers still stay in the neighboring areas and do the same work their forefathers did: crafting of stones.
We needed to wear a special kind of covering on our shoes so that the tomb would not get dirty. The central part of the tomb has got a mausoleum where both the bodies of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan have been placed in separate coffins. Actually the one that we see is fake. The real bodies are below the fake ones, where once people were allowed to go, but now it has been closed.
Shah Jahan wanted to make his own tomb too. So he had started making the Black Taj, which overlooked the White Taj over the river Yamuna. But then Aurangazeb had already come into power, and he had ordered to put his father at house arrest. Hence, Shah Jahan’s dream could never be fulfilled. On the top of that, Aurangazeb had brutally killed Dara Shikoh, Shah Jahan’s eldest son who was worthy of the throne, and his family. Dara Shukoh was the emperor’s most beloved son. In this grief, Shah Jahan’s health had started to fail, and even under the intense care of his favorite daughter Princess Jahanara, he could not be saved. His last wish was to be buried near his beloved Mumtaz, who had died years ago, but their love has not died. It will exist as long as the Taj will, and I believe it is for ever. On full moon nights, when the moonlight falls on the Taj, you can see inside it from outside at a distance. In other words, the monument is translucent. Fees: Rs 500-/- to see this mystery being unrevealed.
When the construction of the Taj Mahal ended, Shah Jahan had distributed a kind of sweet called Panchi Petha, which is native to Agra to the whole public, to express his happiness. We were so much impressed by the musings of the guide that we purchased a packet from Bikanerwalas. I would like to give you a free piece of advice: Never ever eat a Panchi Petha. They are even made up of pumpkin. Gross!

The Taj mahal has been beautifully maintained, but the pollution from the refineries at Mathura has not spared it. This splendor has started turning yellow in color due to the reaction of Calcium Carbonate [white marble] with the oxides of nitrogen and sulphur. Acid rain also adds fire to it. We need to save our heritage. After all, its our legacy.

My visit to Delhi and Agra was not a piece of cake. In the middle of the summer season, the temperature varied from 45 to 47 degree Celsius. I had nearly fainted while walking back from the Taj Mahal. The climate of Delhi is quite dry. We were continuously making up for our lost body fluids by drinking water, lemon juice, cola, cucumber and ice creams. Life in Delhi is harsh. The traffic is so intense and the place is so heavily populated, that you feel like a lost grain of salt in a heap of sand. The expense on top of that is heart rendering. We could only manage to eat Thalis. Food consisted of only paneer, rice, dal, dahi and a salad. Back at home, we have so many veggies. I have always created a fuss when mummy cooks them. There I realized I have been so lucky to get proper food to eat. The result of AIPMT was declared the day before our return and my mood had become completely off.

I would like to extend my heartfelt greetings towards the Indian Government and UNESCO for the excellent work they have undertaken towards the protection of our glorious cultural heritage. Also, tourism is a booming industry and it provides employment for thousands of people. Foreign tourists love coming to India because for them it is a cheaper destination than other countries. I hope that this good work will always continue and will extend towards my state as well. Odisha has a plethora of temples, mostly belonging to the time of 9th-12th century. But they fail to get recognition due to the lack of government funds and they always remain unclean. I hope that my article sends a message to all the people of Odisha so that we all can work together to protect our Odia culture.
Good or bad memories…..memories are memories; and they lie in your brain but never clog it, when you think about the past time, they are magically revived instantly, placing a smile on your lips and tears in your eyes. I wish I could go back to Delhi again. I have missed out so many places of visit.
My dream list has expanded: now I want to go on a historical tour of India. I know that will cost me a lot, but I will. This dream has to be fulfilled.  And I hope that someday it will.

CONFESSION: All the theories which I have written are purely based upon my knowledge with due reference to my history textbooks, Wikipedia and Agra Tourism Department. No fact should be challenged publicly as it is just a travel memoir. However, I’ve tried to put my sincere efforts in collecting real details as far as possible. I have provided numerous links for further studies.

Regards

Debashrita ;]

MANIPULATING PRACTICALS: THE PRACTICAL EXAM NARRATION

Reviewing events of 2 years back……………………….
12th boards. Fearful and nasty. Just before D-Day, came the Happy Practicals’ Week in the month of Fantastic February. Exam bells are heard around the corners. Questions are anticipated and answers are discussed. Revisions are in a full swing. How awesome.
Most of the students love practicals, but not me. I am very afraid of them. One single mistake and you have to start it all over again. And repeating that stuff back home in the Lab manual is another headache. We do not have time as such, and then when we pupils see those dusty old manuals on our desks, we find it even nauseating.
During lab classes every Thursday and Friday, our teachers divided us into groups for the lack of time and instruments. But during exam, no such luck. We have to be on our own. When with my friends, I try to do everything correctly but when I perform them alone all the experiments go horribly wrong. And I think you should not know about my handwriting. With each page and diagram, it turns worse. So in short practicals suck for me and I hate it.
But Man proposes and God disposes. Soon came my Physics Exam. I was a bundle of nerves. When my turn came, I bent to pick up a paper from the lottery system and I had been assigned Meter Bridge experiment. I thanked God and started writing.
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Everything was okay, until I started the practical. My observations looked alien to me. Most of my friends had learnt the observations from the earlier version of the experiment, but not me. You can say that I’m somewhat honest, but I’m pretty lazy too😄
I must have looked confused. My teacher came to me.
“What happened? Aren’t you able to do this easy practical?”
“Ma’am, I’m so sorry, it’s just that I’m unable to correct some of my observations……………..”
“You are performing the experiment? Now? At this hour? Oh my God, manipulate them, fast!”
Surprise was building on surprise. I was thinking that I was a good kid. I do not know the art of manipulation. But I had to do it. All the waters of sincerity and honesty finally went down the drain.
Don’t ask about the viva. I got 4/5 questions right, and the teacher on inspection must have thought what a silly kid I am.
Fast forward 3 days. Chemistry practical exam. Smarting with excitement, I was handed my own set of organic compound for detection. I did it without any help. But still, I had my Salt chart with me. At the last moment ever Sir allowed us to have a little peek into the book……………
Biology exam was the best. I was able to answer all the questions and did my experiments with perfection. I mean, you can call me as a perfectionist because the rest of the class copied down my work when Ma’am was not in the room. Well, what do they say? The mice play while the cat’s away.
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I’m definitely not against manipulation. It is actually required sometimes, because theory can never carter fully to the needs of the Lab conditions and vice versa. Manipulation saves time and marks [And of course, a good spank from the teacher :p ] It’s just that I can never forget the lines from a Lab manual that I had:
“As a science student, you should treat your subject as your religion and your Lab as your place of devotion and worship. Manipulation by any means is wrong and disrespectful towards your subject.”
Try explaining it to a modern Indian teenager who watches IPL like crazy and has made Cricket his faith.
@Debashrita