the aesthetics of emotions // sylvia plath

There is a thick vehemence creaming the reality that surrounds us and it is this vehemence that manifests itself in the form of art. For me, art is simultaneously a façade that shields you from reality and a platform that helps you embrace reality. It is a psychological stimulus that helps you feel what isn’t tangible.

Sylvia Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar, characterizes art literarily by attaching itself to metal illness. My creativity splurges at the times when I feel emotionally shaken. I have realized that creativity feeds off of emotional upheaval and just like a hurricane leaves the muddy ground aromatic with petrichor, we leave our trauma adorned with art.

Set in the early 1900’s, the book revolves around Esther Greenwood’s one year in the bell jar, slowly suffocating in her own thick air and unable to see any happiness in the world. It follows her through her year battling void depression, catapulting against a world were Catholicism and marriage is the norm and trying to find herself in an ever-growing labyrinth of sexism and “normality.”

Many artists have used their paint brushes, their pens, their flutes, and other accessories to propagate for social change. It is something that I do too; through poems and through writing fiction I strive to battle evils prevalent in my society and in this sense, art binds me closer to my community and to my world. This is something that is evidenced in how Sylvia Plath uses the context of her reality to build Esther Greenwood’s character in an attempt to call out against sexism, oppression, and stereotypes against mentally ill individuals. Esther is a woman defiant of the roles that society thrusts on her and constantly questioning the limited sexual freedom that she had compared to men. By simultaneously dealing with depression that makes Esther mentally ill and discrimination that makes the society culturally ill, Plath ventures into a conventionally untrodden landscape of manifesting art as a catalyst of social change.

What stands out to me in this book is the way that sentences like “I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air” and “I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself,” are juxtaposed with each other and with the context of the scenario so as to emphasize on the emotions that they convey, emotions which rot and dispel inside of Esther as she tries to keep them bottled in.

In the Bell Jar, Esther distracts herself from her reality by engaging in literary endeavors and producing art as a by product of her depression. This exemplifies how in actuality we use the sole way of making and appreciating art for absconding from our lives. In this sense, art diverts us from the lucidity of truth by giving us a platform to create an alternative truth that only temporarily satiates the thirst of what we want.

This semi-biographical novel culminates with Esther delivering her depression into her writing and after months of being a fugitive of her own reality, she comes to term with the world around her through her love for literature.  This is why I compare art to thick vehemence, it is an intangible fervor that separates and unites us with each other. It is a permanent portal for momentary relief, and a wound that reminds us that we are human.


A degenerate humanity

As I lay down on my bed, a few precarious thoughts scatter my brain: a conversation I had with a group of friends in between lectures, an apple core that I accidentally threw in the recycle bin, and a stranger cutting in my line as I waited to get some coffee. These are primitive thoughts really, some sort of background noise my brain makes before it washes away the dirt of the day as I drift off to sleep.

But these thoughts have a little more depth than the mere factual entity of them constituting my day. The conversations that I have with my friends are largely becoming empty, a self-constructed facade of insincerity blocks any real conversation that we could have had. I barely exist outside of the way stranger, friends, and family perceive me. We mechanically move our hands to conform to a socially necessitated school of thought.

We are moving towards a painful degeneracy – one that birthed out of modernity.

Internet has been a laudable innovation – I am able to write what you are reading because of it, we can now better guess the implications of Brexit on European economy because of it. Bottom line is: the internet was a good inception.

But just like most things that are characteristically vague, the internet is grossly susceptible to misuse. I am not going to talk about cyber safety, Clinton’s infamous email leaks, or the dark web here. We all have read enough about that.

The muddled thoughts in my head instead speak about how the internet is constantly pushing us to be unintelligibly self-aware about our own aftermaths. Why unintelligibly? The spitfire need to stray away from dark comedy, to be perpetually aligned with the changing political and social notions of free speech, and to assert ourselves through a combination of memes and emojis has all but lead to a general degeneracy around our body morphic.

We have resorted to an unrelenting form of insincerity where we breed our insecurity around the silent whispers raging, “who can care less more?” We don’t want to give anything more than we get and we are so utterly afraid of being emotionally available that we completely shut off our thudding humanity and turn to Instagram to watch others live their life through a lens.

I don’t want to be a hypocrite so I must admit that I am guilty of everything that I have mentioned above. A simmer of creativity does sometimes allow me look at the unhealthy state of my own mental being, but the drag of the tends to absorb my attention otherwise.

In my slow consciousness I can feel myself relapsing back into a robotic humanity we have all accepted.

“I am. am I?”

Only an alien earnestness can save us now.

Why Am I An Activist?

Why am I an activist? I ask this question to myself sometimes, when the steadfast stress of being politically and socially aware at all times takes a toll on my mental health. I feel like I am angry all the time.

Being a social activist is not easy. It is definitely rewarding, but not easy. I am not aggressively active in politics and I haven’t cut ties from the luxuries of my privileges like some activists have. But even then, the constant spiral of knowing that antiquated stereotypes are continuously keeping certain groups of people from accessing opportunities has the tendency of leaving you feeling a little emotionally exhausted.

I am a woman of color, and that in itself are two categories of people who are subjected to constant discrimination. As a woman and a person of color who is conscious of being negatively stereotyped by society, I don’t have much of a choice other than to advocate against sexism and racism.

But men, white men, white women, these people all have certain privileges over me that allow them to not have to face the same challenges that I do. So when I see a man speaking out against sexist discrimination in the work place like the gender pay gal, even though he was never personally affected by it, it makes me realize how important it is for everyone to be an activist. Everyone needs to feel this same anger. It is only when we are angry that we can rage a change in the society.

I have come to realize that being an activist should never be about what affects you and only you – although that can be an acute motivation – it should be about what affects the society and all the other marginalized sections negatively incorporated in it. Just like I want someone who doesn’t have to deal with sexism or racism to use their privilege to allow me to have a louder voice, I will use my privilege to allow those who do not have a platform as large as mine.

I am an activist because I care, not only about the problems that I have to face, but about the problems that are keeping those around me from reaching their fullest potential.

I am an activist because I believe in equality so notoriously that I am willing to give up the tactile peace of not caring, as should you.

India’s Energy Crisis

The Indian economy has been running on fuel since the very beginning of energy consumption. This fuel has been largely generated by the burning of fossil fuels.

The spike in the use of fossil fuel occurred during India’s industrial revolution, under the probing of the British Crown. Of course during the period when this was taking place (early to mid nineties), the consumption of fossil fuel had never been linked to environmental degradation. In fact, the impact of rapid industrialization had never been seen as a negative prelude to the environment. During this period of expanding economies and growing hostilities in the political sphere (which lead to an increase in the burning of fossil fuel for military purposes) the environment was hidden under the backdrop of economic growth.

But lately, since global warming has been consuming environmentalists and the dire lack of fossil fuels has become a striking truth, it is becoming increasing important for India (as well as other developing countries) to become more conscious about their fuel consumption.

India’s energy consumption presently consists of more than 80% fossil fuels, this essentially means that India primarily relies on the most polluting form of energy for economic and industrial survival.

While India has taken comprehensive steps towards promoting the use of more eco-friendly measures like Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), it’s use nationwide has still been formidably limited.

Developing countries are obliged to look at the needs of their citizens first. With limited resources and a large population at hand, it is virtually impossible for India to make any substantial changes in its energy consumption any time soon.

It is in this period of globalization and increasing international collaborations on environmental protection that I think it is becoming very important for leading countries to look at developing countries as potential investments. It is time to invest in true human security, the security of human sustenance (which is everything that we find in nature) won’t be taken away from us.

If developing countries realize that their duty to their citizens is economic development, then they should also realize that their prime duty is to protect the basic human right: right to life and liberty. We cannot live in a concrete jungle polluted by a consumerist agenda, we need the reassurances than the environment will be protected for our generation as well as generations to come. And for this we need the developed countries, those which have already prospered economically in a period where environmental impact was blindsided, to use their privilege to provide for the developing countries.

Countries like India need substantial aid in setting up hydroelectricity as well as solar power. Sharing resources that can help in leaving a cleaner footprint should be vital to the global goals as well as the international forum. It is through collaboration that earth can prosper safely.

The Child Separation Policy: An Aftermath of Trauma

I recently read an article about the effects of The Child Separation Policy (initiated by POTUS Donald Trump and Kirstjen Nielsen) and it was quite horrifying, to the say least. Being a liberal, I had never supported the Immigration Policies that Trump had put forward, but I had failed to imagine how traumatic it would be for immigrant families to be torn apart within a matter of days.

The Child Separation Policy, inherently strives to separate US-born children from immigrant parents. Consequently, the parents are deported and the children are kept in set-aside “camps” which lack any real educational or health facilities, and are expected to grow up there, without the presence of any family member or anyone whom they can trust.  It really does sound barbaric and makes me wonder how such a policy could have ever come into effect in such a socially active country.

The story I read highlighted how an immigrant woman (mother of two children) had been deported from The United States and forced to move back to Mexico. When her husband and her children came to visit her, her eldest son (around five years old) believed that his mother had left him on purpose and refused to be around her; and her youngest daughter (perhaps a year old) couldn’t even recognize her.

This woman’s children were traumatized by having their mother ripped apart from their family when they were at such a tender age. I can’t even begin to imagine how the mother would have felt once she was finally reunited with her family but greeted like a stranger by her own children. People need to realize the negative and long-lasting effect such a policy can have on those affected by it.

There are, of course, people who do support the extreme rightist Immigration Policies implemented by the Trump Administration; but even if you do believe that illegal immigrants should be deported from the country, you must realize that there has got to be a better way to do that. How can someone think that tearing up families, traumatizing young children, making children stay in small camps and grow up thousands of miles away from their families is a good idea, or even a humane one?

My heart goes out to all the families and individuals who were effected by this blatantly racist and conservative policy. The time has come for America to act out against this brutality. We, as human beings, should realize that we are citizens of the world before we are citizens of any particular country.

Indian Politics and the Middle Class

Indian politics is vastly different from western politics, and these differences emerge not only from its geographical position, but also from the ideals and opinions inbred in the Indian Parties since Independence.

Since independence in 1945 from The British Crown, India has experienced a diverse leadership in parties like the Congress and BJP, as well as many dominant alliances between several parties.

But while this agglomeration of parties may provide a facade of idealistic diversity, it can be noted from the political history of India that Indian politics has widely been directed in the same, agrarian issues.

Due to the vast composition of farmers and rural peasant in the Indian population, the leadership has always stressed on rural development and development of the agricultural sector.

While this is a good step forward to bridging income inequalities, it does little to satisfy the growing needs of the urban middle class. And in practice, these policies that allegedly benefit the rural section, have only caused a slight increase in their standards of living. A large section of the Indian population continues to slug in poverty. All the while the middle class continue to slug in the lack of liberal political development.

Issues like rape culture, reproductive rights, abortion, gay marriage, trans rights, etc. – issues that have been emerging and developing in western countries, have failed to grip the Indian political scenario.

Indian politics continues to walk the meek path of pushing rural development, solidifying religious identities, and pushing for the Indian cultural values to be dominant.

While I agree that rural development is an important and substantial issues, focusing on only these antiquated policies has resulted the interest in Indian politics by the middle class to die down.

The younger generation, the generation of students and youths that is soon coming forward, need a government that focuses on liberalization in its society and social rights. The Indian political scenario needs to accept the changing social situation and encompass ideals like feminism, abortion rights, lgbt+ rights, etc. into its constitutional development.

Opinions vs Oppression

I’ve heard from people, usually those trying to justify their stereotyping, that it is hard to differentiate between opinion and oppression. That since we live in a free country, we have the right to voice what we think, the right to perhaps bring an action to our opinion.

While the latter sentence is true, I don’t, however, think that it is really all that hard to find a difference between an opinion and an act of oppression.

An opinion can be anything, it doesn’t always have to be political. Someone might not particularly like the color purple, it is their opinion. What is not an opinion, however, is if someone doesn’t “like” a group of people solely based on their race, sexuality, sexual orientation, etc. Because not liking a person or group of people due to inherent stereotypes is not simply having an unfavorable opinion – it is oppression.

Recently, there have been many anti-Semitic attacks surfacing in the United States and there is one very blatant thing they have in common with anti-black KKK attack, besides fascism, is that everyone associated with them somehow justify their hatred by saying that they have a right to free speech and the right to have an opinion.

But the fact is, while everyone may have the right to free speech, it does not mean that we also have the right to be protected against its social repercussions. So when a Nazi receives backlash for their fascist beliefs, it is not an attack on their freedom to articulate an opinion, but it is an attack on their oppression of a certain section of society.

As we grow into an interconnected world where there are vast differences in opinion, it is becoming increasingly important to understand and identify the clear line between expressing your opinion or exercising oppression.

So the next time some sexist or racist or just an overall prejudiced dude tries to tell you that you don’t deserve something that you’re entitled to and then proceeds to hide behind the facade of freedom of expression, make sure that they hear loud and clear that their “expression”  isn’t an opinion if it undermines the existence of someone else.

Attacking Feminism Through Homophobia

Feminism has always been an unnecessarily controversial topic, one that has been attacked through many stances and perspectives. Through my reading of Cynthia Enloe’s book “Bananas, Beaches, and Bases” I have learned that whenever the well-established notions of masculinity and patriarchy are challenged, the people who have thought to benefit from them have always opposed these changes.

I will, perhaps, talk about toxic masculinity and how it has overshadowed the plight of patriarchy in another blog. But right now, I want to talk about a particular lens through which feminism has been attacked since the day it emerged as a movement and even till today.

Homophobia and sexism are an omnipresent aspect of any society, and even though we are moving in a more progressively liberal direction, these issues still continue to plague our political, as well as social, spheres.

Many opponents of the feminist movement called women who identified as feminists as “lesbians” or “dykes.” Whether they were, in fact, homosexuals, is irrelevant. They were called “lesbians” in order to disparage them, it was used as a derogatory term. In the United States, even till the late twentieth century (and even now amongst many homophobic people), there was an unspoken custom to derogate a particular cause by labeling it as “gay.”

This isn’t something that has worn down through the legalization of gay marriage and the gradual acceptance of the LGBT+ community. In fact, today, people have started calling men who reject the notions of toxic masculinity and accept and support feminism as “gay.” Just because they do not portray inherent ideals of “manliness” they are called gay. This is not only a homophobic trend but also one that makes it socially harder for men (and women) to call themselves feminists.

By supporting a movement that advocates for equal rights for all of the sexes and challenges the dangerous notions of patriarchy, one doesn’t lose his “manliness” or her appeal to other men.

It is these very inbred notions that we need to challenge; and that is why feminism remains and will always remain, a very important issue in the political, social, and economic space.

Adoptions vs Abortions

Recently I was asked a question by an acquaintance while we were moldy discussing healthcare reforms: What are other options for women looking for an abortion.

He wanted to know that if a woman who was seeking an abortion could be provided with an alternative choice. He was looking to facilitate the “adoption vs abortion argument.”

But really, I don’t even think of that as an argument. Mainly because there isn’t a choice between abortion and adoption. The two are different decisions to be made by the pregnant person at different times during their pregnancy/post pregnancy.

Other than abortion, the only choice is to carry the pregnancy to full term.

Let me just clear a misconception: adoption is not an alternative to abortion.

The only alternative to abortion is carrying the pregnancy to full term. The alternative to adoption is to keep the child with yourself or with a family memeber.

So, if the pregnant person does not wish to seek an abortion, then the pregnancy is carried to full term. Once the baby is born, it is either given up for adoption or raised by the parent/s.

And there really is nothing that one can “do” about a person’s decision to not have an abortion. That is why pro choice is called what it is called. It is all about respecting the choice and the rights of the individual.

We will respect your decision even if that isn’t something we (or I) would have done personally in that same situation.

Is the Pro Life Label Apt for the Movement

To me, the pro life label seems a little hypocritical. If you care so much about life, then you would recognize the need to make abortion legal, safe, and accessible to everyone.

Hundreds of women die because they cannot access abortion facilities and are this forced to use back alley abortions or self induced abortions which can be very detrimental to the health, if not lethal.

Even women who don’t want an abortion but need it due to medical reasons, like the pregnancy being harmful to their health or that they might be giving birth to a still born child or a child with a terminal disease, are sometimes denied abortions because of the doctors being “pro life.” This happens in many countries and even in the United States. How can you call yourself pro “life” when you can’t even attend to someone who is already sentient?

Also, many pro life proponents are also against comprehensive sex education and birth control, mostly because of their religious or ethical beliefs. Contraception and compressive sexual education plays a heavy role in decreasing unwanted pregananies and abortion rates. So if you really wanted to lower the rate of this medical procedure, you should be supporting the aforementioned causes.

I have increasingly come to realize the pro life is just a propaganda to uphold the beliefs of a particular section of the society and integrate it into politics.

I think the most apt choice to decribe pro life proponents is anti choice, because that is what they are. They are against giving people a right to choose what they want to do with their bodies.