You’re sitting in your room on your bed with clean, white linen sheets that should feel comfortable and homey. But they feel cold and deserted. There’s a pile of paperwork on the bed; your computer is open in front of you, an unfinished Excel sheet blaring at you just like the eyes of your boss. Your heart starts to race. Your brain starts to cloud. Suddenly everything seems impossible to do and you think – no, you know – you’re not going to make it out alive.

Your breath is catching and your mind is fuzzing. You’re not yourself anymore.

That’s when you know you’re having a well-endowed panic attack that’s going to leave you like a barren earth after a hurricane.

Panic attacks are no jokes. The only people who can make jokes about them are the ones who have gone through it, the ones who have stood on that shaky, unpredictable ground where everything is a bundle of doubts and uncertainty.

Panic attacks aren’t something that you can control while you are having them. They come in like a hailstorm and leave whenever they feel fit, not giving a second thought about what you want. But you can certainly control how frequently you get one (or if you get one at all!) by several small changes that you can make in your lifestyle and your thought process.

Women are more prone to panic attacks than men, because let’s face it, we bear more responsibilities than men in most scenarios. Some of these responsibilities are hidden burdens that most outsiders probably don’t even notice. And not to mention, our premenstrual hormones are pretty infamous for making every situation worse still.

Dealing with panic attacks is a feat that you should pat your back for. It’s no easy hurdle to cross, no matter how inconsequential some media outlets may make it out to be. Moreover, everyone’s experience with panic attacks is very different and very hard to compare.

Above all, I think that it’s especially important that people realize that mental health is just as important as physical health and that mental disorders aren’t something that anyone should be ashamed about.

What Rape Culture Stands For

Remember all those Law and Order SVU episodes that you watched? Feeling gripping anger and fear after the end of every show and then realizing that it’s fictional so you didn’t need to worry about those horrible things happening to you.

Well, it’s not.

One in five women have been a victim of sexual assault on college campus in 2015 in the United States. That is a terrifyingly large number.

It’s overwhelming and shocking to know that so many women do not feel safe inside the place where they go to receive education, where they go to build a future for themselves.

It makes you wonder about the safety of women in one of the most progressive countries of the world. The United States of America proudly leads the world’s economy and dominates international organizations, but yet it fails to provide safety to more than half of its population.

The issue regarding sexual violence against women is, by all means, not directed to USA only. In fact UK and a majority of the Asian countries are also experiencing rape as a growing epidemic.

We have to create an environment where women (and men) feel safe so that they can be more productive, healthy and happy. Safety is one of the most important aspects of life. You cannot expect a person to work to their full potential in a place where they do not feel safe.

We must all stand together to bring an end to rape culture. But for that, we should know what rape culture is.

Rape culture sprouts mainly from victim blaming. A lot of the sexual assault survivors face a few people who ardently believe that the victim herself is responsible for what happened to her. Question like, “Did you invite him into your house?” “What dress were you wearing?” “Were you drunk?” are thrown at the survivor. And there are many people out there who think that these questions are actually relevant and legitimate.

Well guess what, it doesn’t matter what she was wearing, where she was going, who she was going with or whether she had been drinking or not (incapacitated rape does exist!), rape is rape and is always equally punishable under any circumstances.

Nearly 19% of freshmen women said that they had been a victim of attempted or completed rape, either by force or while they were incapacitated due to alcohol or drugs, according to the Journal of Adolescent Health. (src: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/20/living/feat-rape-freshmen-women-new-study/)

Sustenance of Socially Sensitive Vocabulary

The year 2017 is recovering from the political trauma of Trump’s election, the economic trauma of Brexit, and the social trauma of the Syrian Crises. But what most fail to acknowledge is that 2017 is also recovering from the inadequate and inappropriate usage of the English vocabulary.

As far as we have come in terms of technological and educational progress, this has still not reflected in the way that we communicate with each other. Political correctness is yet but a distant dream of free and unrestricted speech.

Somehow words like “depression,” “OCD,” “anxiety,” and “insomnia,” and phrases like “don’t run or cry like a girl,” have seeped into our vocabulary and have become normalized with daily usage.

But what majority of the public fails to realize is that depression and anxiety, etc. are real mental illnesses and more than a billion people have to deal with them. These words should be eliminated in 2017 because their usage trivializes what patients with actual mental disorders go through.

The phrase “don’t run like a girl” or “you throw a ball like a girl” are extremely derogative to women. These imply that female is a weaker gender and that being a girl means that you are automatically weaker than a boy. By using these phrases, we are instilling in the malleable minds of young children that sexism is okay and that women are less equipped to become leaders than men.

The 21st century prides itself in being a major turning point for the way that women are treated in the society; but the usage of these phrases simply perpetuates sexism.

Let 2017 be the time that we change our vocabulary for the better.

1984 pt 2

The abundant use of contrasting imagery in 1984 also profoundly helps in developing the meaning of the story and the bases of the plot. The conditions in society are described as desolate, empty, barren, and colorless. The infrastructure is made of steel and grey cement. There is an omnipresent odor of sweat and frustration in the air. The food is dry and bland and nothing – not even the “Victory gin” that they drink to make themselves feel temporarily good – tastes even remotely edible. All of this paints a painstakingly terrible picture of a society that has lost any and all form of happiness. The only thing that emanates beauty in this dead society are the few remnants of the past like the coral glass paperweight. The dire depiction of the world in which Winston lives serves to highlight the sorrowful condition of the society and also further accentuates the warning in the tone of Orwell’s writing against an authoritative regime.

The nuances in Winston’s character also reveal the restless nature of the society. With every form of happiness suppressed by the party, the people are forced to exert their unkempt energy in the devotion to their country. Winston is depicted as an intelligent man who constantly questions the motives of the party and yearns for a time past when things were possibly better. But he too, like the rest of the people, is frustrated with the gory and unsatisfactory nature of the society. Mere service to the Party does not fulfill his wants and he directs this frustration in thoughts of violence. This is particularly evident when he conjures up a picture of himself bashing Julia on the head with a brick, not only because he is scared that she is an agent of the Thought Police, but also because she represents something that he can never have: fulfillment of his physical desires. Winston’s character, as a whole, represents the dilapidated nature of the society that he lives in.

Through 1984, George Orwell is able to scrutinize the effects of a non-democratic, totalitarian political system on the functioning of a society and on the minds of the public. No one who dissents the political system is allowed to survive. Orwell captures this extremist nature of the system through his veritable use of literary devices.

A Matter of Opinions

I am unconditionally pro-choice and I am proud to hold this liberal belief. Even though this more often than not means that I have to encounter some nasty situations from people who might think differently than me.

I can remember clearly this one time when I was with a group of my friends. We were laughing over inconsequential things like the latest episode of The Bachelor and eating pizza. And then one of my friend brought that one topic that no one should mention at a casual hangout because it is bound to create a threatening drift amongst the people involved: abortion.

Of course, the group almost immediately split up into those who were pro-choice and those who were pro-life. Unfortunately for me, there was only one person who was pro-choice, and that was me. In the heated and unnerving discussion that followed, I was heavily inclined to compromise what I believed in just so I could avoid the hyperbolic charges from the group of people who were only minutes ago laughing with me.

But thank God, I didn’t. There is only one thing worse than being the only one in a room with a distinctive, controversial opinion, and that is comprising your opinion just to satiate others. (Unless, of course you feel unsafe in voicing your opinion or detect hostility in the environment. Then by all means, pack up your bag and just leave, because nothing is worth putting yourself in a situation you can’t get out of).

We live in a democracy, in a country bound by diversity. And I’m not just talking about the diversity of race, religion, and sexuality; but also about the beautiful foliage of the diversity of opinions. It’s really hard to walk more than a mile and not come across someone who has a different opinion than you on some particular topic. But that shouldn’t stand out as an issue, because after all, a homogenous society is a boring and mundane society.

The heart of every humane value contains that everyone has the right to hold their own opinion. But I guess some of us just have a much harder time grasping that concept.

Never let anyone tell you that what you believe in is not valid. In this time when we have conservative ideas being pushed down our throat, it is so important for liberal women to stand up and agitate against oppression. And how are you going to do that if you let someone tell you to lower your voice?

Rosa Parks didn’t stop her activism against racial discrimination even when she was thrown in jail. Susan B. Anthony didn’t agitate amongst traditionalist men to win women the right to vote. All women throughout history didn’t raise their voice together for you to turn down your right to raise yours.

But I know, from experience, that it can be hard to keep holding onto your belief, especially when you are surrounded by people who think so different from you. So here are some ways that you can always keep your head high and your voice bold.

Never, ever let anything said by someone make you irrationally upset. Whenever you come across someone who is being obnoxiously rude, just imagine all the things Cecile Richards probably has to put up with. And she’s still so strong, and she’s still advocating for women’s (and trans men’s) reproductive rights. Don’t let one or two possibly uneducated opinions stray you away from what you think – no, what you know – is right.

I have had my fair share of encounters with people who feed on trotting over other’s opinions or stuffing their unrequited belief down others’ throat. Remember, that you have just as much right to speak your mind than they do. If we can have a strong political figure say that sexual assault is, “locker room banter,” then we can most definitely make room for your agitation against rape.

It can also be very hard to sustain your beliefs when your own family seems to disagree with you. If your sister or you brother is being sexist or homophobic, you should most definitely call them out on that; and if the relationship gets healthy then you are in your right mind to walk away from it. Living amongst the people you love dearly and knowing that their views contradict yours can be a struggle and can even push you to change your opinion. In this case it’s so important that you realize that just because someone thinks differently than you, it doesn’t mean you have to stop loving them, or that you have to love them any less.

And above all, don’t forget to respect others. Just like you want your voice to be taken seriously, others do to. Listen and try to understand your “opposition’s” perspective and then bring out your own. Mature discussions are the only way that you can build a society anywhere near as close to the utopia that you want.

So here’s to staying strong in the face of negative criticism. Here’s to holding on to what you believe in.

1984 pt 1

George Orwell’s thought-provoking novel, 1984, deals with a political dystopia that results from the establishment of a ruthless and authoritarian regime. 1984 deals with the robot-like nature of a society where human rights have given way to a totalitarian society. It is though this novel that Orwell shines light on the negative aspects of communism and also warns the readers against the stifling effect of an authoritative and non-democratic government.

The story of the dystopia is told through the vigilant eyes of a thirty-nine-year-old Outer Party member, Winston Smith. Being the member of the Outer Party, he is educated, unlike the proles, and possesses certain intellectual capabilities that help him vaguely discern right from wrong amidst the lies enforced by the Party on the society. And unlike the Inner Party members, he is not completely immune to the brutalities of the Party. This makes him the most adequate narrator of the story. As Winston slowly realizes his subdued nature in the society, the readers are also able to see the society for what it truly is: mechanical and impassive. Winston, being an average member of the society, helps in not only imparting more connectivity to the reader with the text, but also helps the reader understand the political system on which the story is based – Ingsoc.

Ingsoc (or English Socialism) is the most aggressive form of socialism that any government can adopt. It is through the depiction of the terrible social conditions under Ingsoc that Orwell warns the readers about the horrible effects of establishing an authoritarian regime.

Furthermore, the connotative meanings of the words that Orwell uses helps him to develop and build the warning in the tone of writing. The motif of evil and death is omnipresent in the story and is complemented by the use of connotative words like “grave” and “ghastly rubbish.” Orwell depicts the people of the society as brain-dead and emotionally empty – they are unable to invoke any feelings in themselves except that of blind patriotism that has been forcefully instilled into them by the Party. During one instance, Winston compares the rebels of the society – those who dare to think astray from the systematic beliefs of the Party and Big Brother – as “corpses waiting to be sent back to the grave.” This dark analogy implies that no one can escape from the clutches of the Party after committing a “thoughtcrime.” This motif of impending death that lurks throughout the story underscores the fatality of human nature under an oppressive government.

Another literary tool employed by Orwell to accentuate his warning against an authoritative political system is connotative diction. Words like “rebellion” and “liberty” that arise in Winston’s mind are a clear contrast to Newspeak, which is the language of Ingsoc. Newspeak was developed through English in such a way that it eliminated any possibility of thoughts about liberty and democracy and thus ensured that no citizen could ever possibly commit a thoughtcrime. The party used Newspeak as a tool to control the minds of the masses and hence, control reality. The brevity of Newspeak contrasts with the conscious and elaborate thinking of Winston, especially after he meets Julia, his lover, and becomes conspicuously rebellious. He constantly dreams of the past and even buys antiquated trivialities like an empty book and a beautiful coral paperweight from Mr. Charrington’s antique shop. Winston’s thoughts are intricate and abundant whereas Newspeak is concise and limited. This contrast illuminates the iridescent human nature in comparison to the rigidity of a totalitarian society. Just like Newspeak can only encompass Winston’s thoughts after he is ruthlessly tortured in the Ministry of Love; an authoritarian regime can only encompass its public though means of violence and inhumane control.

The Invisible Man

“The Invisible Man,” by HG Wells is a story about the internal and external conflict of Griffin, as he tries to deal with the distressfully powerful reality of being invisible. Wells employs supernatural elements in the story to reveal Griffin’s true character and to throw light on the negative effects of overreaching ambitions. Griffin’s internal conflict makes him both the protagonist and the antagonist of the story. “The Invisible Man,” is not just the story of the inevitable demise of a mad scientist, but it is also a story about the confrontation of an uncivil character with the society and with himself.

In the beginning of the story, Griffin is painted as a composed, but distressed, character. He is still trying to face the fact that his science experiment has rendered him invisible and in a state where it is almost impossible to lead a normal life. He cannot go out in public without covering himself from head to toe with burdensome bandages, he is unable to earn a living and has to thus resort to robbery, and he is unable to eat. Homeless and hungry, Griffin comes in a conflict with the society.

Perhaps it was this dawning of the realization of his helpless reality that forced him to act out against other people. He is not particularly friendly with Mrs. Hall, the amiable but nosy owner of Coaches and Horses Inn. On the day of his arrival, he talks briskly and shows no desire to have a conversation with Mrs. Hall. He avoids her questioning by tossing sovereigns over the counter and paying his way out of talking to anyone. He continues to live in his small room in the inn, aloof and detestably alone because of his physical condition.

When Griffin runs out of money, he decides to rob Mr. Bunting’s – a local vicar’s – house, and when accused of robbery, he unveils himself as the invisible man in front of the whole town. The series of his confrontation with the society that follow depict his restless and frustrated personality. He is on the brink of a spectacular scientific discovery of creating an invisibility formula, but obstacles (most of which he unintentionally creates himself) always keep coming in his way, preventing him from acquiring the success which he believes he rightfully deserves.

The continues external conflicts that Griffin faces with the society sprout from the unresolved conflict that he has accumulated within himself. Griffin is no doubt a scientific genius, but he is also socially awkward and unjustifiably authoritative. His attitude toward other people is patronizing for he believes himself to be above everyone else. He tries to hide his inner repulsion of his terrible fate by trying to establish a “reign of terror.”

In his “reign of terror” he wants to make himself the superior leader and the rest of the humanity his mere subjects. He believes that because he is invisible, no rules should apply to him. It is because of this false belief that he nurtures in his mind that his aggression toward the society intensifies. He tries to keep a lonesome and innocent homeless man, Mr. Marvel, as his unwilling partner and forces him to collaborate and help him (Griffin) complete his study on the invisibilty formula. Griffin even goes as far as to threated to kill Mr. Marvel if he doesn’t do as he says.

Griffin’s conflict with himself and the society heightens with the arrival of Dr. Kemp, his fellow colleague. The nuances in Griffin’s character are revealed through the small amount of time he spends with Dr. Kemp. While Griffin is still reticent during their encounter, he does show some vulnerability which underscores the conflicting nature of his character. Despite some initial reluctance, Griffin decides to confide with Dr. Kemp his troubles, pursuits, and his dream of establishing the “reign of terror” and creating a new world with him in charge. He even ventures to request Dr. Kemp to be his partner and to help him with his research.

The story culminates with Griffin’s final destructive rampage in an attempt to take revenge on Dr. Kemp, who despite promising confidentiality, betrays him and turns him out to the police. This betrayal acts as the final straw for Griffin and the weak threads that pulled him to humanity snap. He rampages across the whole town in anger and tries to kill Dr. Kemp, injuring innocent townspeople on his way. He becomes densely cold-blooded and reckless. In the end, he gets killed in a mob that he has started. It is his selfish and repugnant disposition that leads him to his own demise.

Life of Pi: Theme and Character

“Life of Pi,” by Yann Martel is a story about the journey of a young boy called Pi, across unfathomable seas in a desperate attempt to find land. It is during the surprising detour that Pi is forced to take when the ship carrying him and his family unexpectedly sinks, that he develops an independent perspective and a strong character. Martel uses surrealism to express how Pi overcomes the terrible circumstances that he is thrown into with premature valor, which eventually refine his character and turn him into a strong individual.

At its base, “Life of Pi,” is about the literal journey of Pi who becomes stranded in the middle of an ocean while migrating from India to Canada. Being alone in a mere wooden boat with little food and water and in the company of one of the most dangerous animals on earth: a tiger (Richard Parker), it would not have been surprising if Pi had succumbed to grief and become mad because of prolonged isolation. But his continuous faith in God and resolve in religion helped him to grapple onto the last thread of humanity for the entirety of his ordeal. In fact, it is because of the problems that he had to endure that his faith in religion and connection to God grew stronger. After losing his parents and his elder brother, God became his only form of salvation from his miserable reality.

Moreover, the essence of spirituality has many thematic implications in “Life of Pi.” Pi had always been a disciple and believer of all religions; rendering his faith equally to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. But after his journey across the Pacific, his faith grew stronger. Pi goes on to preach that all religions are equal. He explains that atheism is also a form of belief and he considers atheists as his brothers; but he discards agnosticism, saying that it is a phase of doubt and only a vehicle to get to a point where one can acquire actual faith. Through Pi’s strengthening of religious beliefs, Martel expresses that while bravery is an important aspect in overcoming a difficult situation, faith and religion are equally important facets in a character.

An important element that Martel uses to develop both theme and character is surrealism. This is evident in Pi’s encounter with the mystical algae island. At first, the island appears to be a haven to Pi, a safe place from the endless atrocities of the sea. The island provides him with abundant algae that he can eat and water that he can drink. But this island soon turns out to be more ominous than the sea during the worst of storms. The algae island was carnivorous and devoured life. Pi only came to realize this when found human teeth bundled up in what he thought was a fruit that was growing from the tree. It was at this point that he questioned his faith in the materialistic world but strengthened his faith in the spiritual world.

During one incident, when Pi becomes temporarily blind because of an unknown disease, he comes across another young boy who too, like him, is blind and stranded on the sea. What follows is also expressed through surrealism by Martel. The blind stranger, after having a rather odd conversation with Pi, leaps out from his own boat and onto Pi’s and attempts to take Pi’s life and eat him. Pi is surprisingly saved by Richard Parker who kills the stranger; but even the subtlest joy that he would have felt after being able to survive a gruesome attack is destroyed by Pi’s innocent misery which he feels after witnessing the murder. He says about this incident, “Something in me died then that has never come back to life.” This underscores Pi’s sensitive character. This incident also serves to depicts Pi’s internal conflict between retaining his humanity or submitting to the animalistic instincts that begin to push inside of him due to his desperate circumstances.

Pi’s relationship with his only companion – the tiger, Richard Parker – deepens as the journey continues, and this relationship also serves to develop Pi’s character. It is provided as a backdrop in the story that Pi had always been particularly afraid of Tigers. His father, who was a passionate zookeeper in Pondicherry, India, had made him witness a tiger devouring a young, defenseless fowl. Pi’s father had done this so that Pi and his elder brother wouldn’t foolishly attempt to enter a tiger’s cage. But this had created a fear of tigers in Pi’s mind. But during the ordeal that Pi endures, he is forced to overcome his fear of tigers and establish dominance over Richard Parker in order to ensure his own survival. He does this by regularly feeding Richard Parker fish and perpetuating in the tiger’s mind that he (Pi) was the tiger’s only source of survival.

This compelling journey that Pi takes across the Pacific transforms his character. He graduates from a sensitive vegetarian to a skilled survivalist. In the starting Pi deals with his devastation of having to kill a dorado to feed himself, but by the end of his journey he becomes strong enough to establish control over his surroundings.  The journey has a profound effect on him, as he culminates the values of religion and friendship and also develops an interest in botany and theology, which are the two subjects that he later takes up in his university. The experiences that he encounters during his journey leave him scarred but emotionally stronger than ever.

An Open Letter to Pro-Lifers

I can easily point out the day, date and time when I started calling myself a feminist. It was two years ago when I had read a newspaper article about how a fourteen year old girl had been raped and then denied an abortion. This story mortified me, it gave me shivers to know that I live in a world where people so casually deny women the right to their own bodies.

I decided then itself that I was a feminist and that I hated people who wanted to take away my rights and give it to a fetus who was using my body to survive without my consent.

It is so easy to fold your arms across your chest and assign people sides in your mind. The people who do not agree with something you passionately believe in go on the side of people you detest and the ones who do agree with you become your new best friends.

I lived under this canopy of my blindsided belief that people who are anti—choice do not deserve my respect until very recently when I found out that my best friend was against abortions. She was against women (and transgender men and anyone who can get pregnant) having bodily autonomy and having a right to decide what they wish to do with their own bodies. Ironically, this news made me more mortified than the one that made me a feminist.

The person who always stood by me even when I made terrible mistakes and the person who was my very first friend on my first day of elementary school, now stood on the opposite side of one my biggest battlegrounds.

How could I simply drop this person to one of the well divided sides in my mind? I couldn’t.

She called herself ‘pro-life’ for a reason. She was against abortion for a reason. And I hadn’t realized that everyone had a reason, beyond what I could superficially see, for believing what they believed in and the essence of an equal society was to respect each other’s belief. 

I am feverishly against people dictating what I should do with my life. The how can I expect someone else to do what I want them to and to believe in what I think is right?

You learn something priceless from everyone and I learnt from my best friend the power of acceptance and respect. I learnt to respect the people who held beliefs that did a poor job of aligning with mine. It is because of the existence of contrasting people that the world can paint beautiful, abstract images of life. I do not want a world where symmetry in the only way around a good life, I do not want a world like Paris under Napoleon III.

I want a world where we all can have our opinions heard and where we all can paint the pictures of our choice.

So here are a few words to my best friend and all those who call themselves pro-life: I respect your belief and I hope you respect mine too.

Veganism: A Link to Sustainable Development

There has been a lot of talk lately about becoming vegan, or becoming a vegetarian. We have animal rights organizations like PETA that are notable proponents of what some like to call the, “vegan propaganda.” But there is one undeniable benefit to becoming vegan that doesn’t necessarily associate with the humane treatment of animals.  And that is the humane treatment of our earth.

You might be shocked to find out that almost half of the world’s deforestation occurs because large scale food industries clear out dense ecosystems to create grasslands to feed livestock that are used to make your delicious cheeseburgers.

Almost ten times more water is required for the production of one unit of meat than is required for the production of one unit of nutritious vegetables. Not to mention that a lot more energy is required for the processing of meat, than what is required for the harvesting of vegetables.

With all these facts in mind, going vegan definitely stands out as a sustainable life choice; at least until alternative, organic animal husbandry can be developed which can produce meat with minimal damage to the environment.