The Lock, The Key, and 2017

As all narcissistic posts go this one is about me, and my key reflections on the year that has come to pass. So unlock your curiosity if you’d like to know more.

________ x ________

The Key. The key…the keythekeythekeythekeeeeeey. I’ve got the Key!
I’m 21! I now have all sorts of rights and I’m going to paint this world red! And, obviously, I’m going to do responsibly!

[Gotcha!]

Looking back to last year, there have been some fantastic moments of fatigued failure and drama while I still managed a few lasting memories.

For example, I watched my University fall to its knees but I also started watching Rick & Morty – which, now that I think about it, ended just as traumatically. Thankfully the exams proceeded physically undisturbed, but left most of us mentally wrecked. 
The key for them both was to wait and see how things would turn out in 2017.
The exams unlocked my inner Hermione, and my results brought out the same.
The holidays held me in a constant paradox: I functioned on high alert as an Akka*, while I managed some quieter moments with my nose stuck in my holiday reading. I didn’t know just how much of the stories were censored during my childhood until I read the Siva Purana – I think I wouldn’t be too far off the mark if I said the Gods were just metaphors to justifysome serious errors in human judgement. I cannot unread it, and I definitely unlocked a brand new genre, but I think I’ll take a break from Hindu mythology for now.

I didn’t know turning 21 would be such a big deal, but apparently it is. Presents aside,my favourite memory will be of spending my birthday at uShaka Marine World where my little ninja (that’s what my brother wants to be now) made friends with a Ragged-tooth shark – we don’t talk about the other fish because none were as interesting as our new friend. The key to enjoying the sweltering humidity, the throbbing headaches, manoeuvring through the crowds, and trying to keep my voice intact and head firmly fixed, was to let go. There was very little I could control on that busy day, so I chose the one thing I had complete authority over: my approach to everything which makes hot days worse. A good lesson for the future I think.
I’ve come to realise, in my burst of finite wisdom, that I am in charge of everything happening around me simply because I choose how to react to it. I give it agency to affect me, so it would be practical to assume that I can take it away just as easily…well, somewhat easily because I’m only 21 and I should take emotional liberties for future reference. I believe advice is taken more seriously when the adviser has actually done what they say someone else should reconsider. Emotional stability: unlocked! 

I expect this year to bring challenges, many of them in fact, and I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. They say “The pen is mightier than the sword”, and I am well armed. I’ve been stationary shopping!
I’ve even received one with my name on it, and I think that’s all the reminding I’ll need that I am not alone.
This is going to be a year full of Opportune Moments, and I’ve got everything and everyone I need to make it work: my words, my pens, my people,the Wi-Fi, and my dressing gown (since when did third years wear anything but pyjamas?).

It was an exciting and a bit of an exhausting start to the year, and I think it set the precedent for the rest of it.
Adventure is out there, and I’m going out to meet it!

________________________________

*Big sister

Photo source: Shraddha Patnala, at the library, planning Life.

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Culture in fashion: the ideologies we wear

Think about a crowd in a market place, or a town square. Now imagine the same crowd in an African marketplace, or waiting on an Indian railway platform, or by Beijing’s National centre for Performing Arts. If we think back, we might have imagined each place and each crowd differently. From race, height, physical features, and more importantly clothing.  Of the many trends in the world, fashion has been one of the most consistently related to culture and ideology.

Now fashion isn’t simply related to the brand of clothes one wears. It runs deeper. Skin deep. Culture deep. Its rooted in our minds. The use of clothing and style has changed over centuries and as civilizations developed and cultures were formed, clothing became a code to identify gender, age, marital status, and social or military status among many other minute forms of stratification. Fashion transformed into more than just woven material, accessories, or hair designed to cover (or reveal) one’s body.

When codes are incorporated into fashion, not only do we notice how those within our cultures are dressed, we also notice representatives of other cultures. As human nature and socialization goes, we tend to notice the non-conformists first.

But what is a non-conformist in the broader sense?

Judging by the number of men and women who wear western clothing for casual and formal wear, we associate the norm to be Eurocentric; where men and women wear similar types of clothing despite being from different parts of the world. However, the idea that this is acceptable across cultures is misplaced. The norms of clothing between the Muslim and Indian cultures differ significantly for example.  As expected from a patriarchal society, both cultures place restrictions on what and how women wear clothing: skin is not something to display, and certainly not so for an older woman especially when she is married. So the clothing designed in these cultures ensures that women still look and feel beautiful while conforming to cultural norms.

Non-conformists exist in all cultures, and they also come in all forms of political and social ideologies. Clothing, style, and accessories have become serious forms of expression and they enjoy a space in society that is far superior to that of mere words. Clothing is a statement of the strongest kind. Something everyone can see. Nothing has to be said to be understood, it only has to be worn in public, and based on the stereotypes we encounter and are channelled into by mainstream media we grow accustomed to noticing which ideology is being represented.

One of the most popular dystopian films, V for Vendetta poignantly depicts just how politically and socially rooted one mask can be. Closer to home, the increase in the number of women in South Africa opting to wear a traditional headscarf or “doek” has been phenomenal. The headscarf had also become the symbol for the “inferiror” African woman during Apartheid in South Africa. It was seen as a form of oppression, where social standing between races and class was starkly marked and detested by those who grew up during these times of constant political and cultural struggle for independence and identity. Although many African women seemed to be in two minds about the presence of the doek in modern South Africa, young black women professionals have now redefined the ancient meaning of the headscarf. What was originally meant to be worn by married women as a mark of respect for their in-laws has now transformed into something more personal. It has become their way of expressing their African heritage, the love for their culture, and their pride at being in full ownership of their identity.

Fashion is more than just clothes. More than ordinary expression of social standing. It is an expression of identity, and the stronger the expression is the more people will begin to notice the tremendous range of ideologies that we are surrounded by. So the next time someone looks different, think about what they are trying to get others to understand.

Even Death has stylish surprises. Image source:
http://funnyjunk.com/funny_pictures/4353787/Under+the+reaper+s+cloak#e15b9c_4353343

The power of the pen. And pencil. And typewriter. And the keyboard. Ink in general.

The final segment of my three-part series is this letter of motivation for the School’s Writing and Editing programme. Although this was my third choice – my first being Design in Media Communication into which I have been accepted – I believe that writing is what made the very first journalist. You’ll understand why as you read this.

__________x___________

Building thoughts word-by-word:

As aggressive as that sounds, they did say that the pen is mightier than the sword.
Words have the power to change us, our mind-sets, our actions, our decisions – even the trivial ones like which brand of marmalade to buy – and they certainly affect our views of the world we live in. As Ayn Ran rightly says “Words are a lens to focus one’s mind.”

I have been a student at Rhodes University since 2015, and have been an active participant in both academic and cultural facets of student life. I am currently in my second year of Journalism and Media Studies, aiming to be a part of the third year Writing and Editing course. Being a part of Rhodes University has afforded me the opportunity to collaborate and learn from staff and students in projects with a real impact on my understanding of the local and global communities.

As stated in my curriculum vitae, my interest is rooted within global public health awareness – both professionally and personally. In this regard I have been proactively engaged in my capacity as a journalism student with the Rhodes University Pharmacy Students Association (RUPSA) in documenting their projects and weekly seminars, where Rhodes University is changing the face of community engagement through health activism (see pages 10-12 of CV). As a part of my voluntary year-long participation, I have been their unofficial photographer, writer, and editor for their first annual newsletter. I am also Activate Online’s new Lifestyle Editor, a position which allows me to present and represent student initiatives and opinions about health, well-being, travel, and light social commentary while providing a platform to learn from for the student community.

Prior to this application, I have collaborated with professionals and academics across Faculties on their publications. For the ones in which I have been acknowledged as an author, please refer to ‘Publications’ (page 11 of CV) to read my proactive contribution to raising health awareness.

Since JMS 1 I observed that writing allows for a space in which the thoughts fueling an ideology can be appreciated, criticised, engaged with, and influence the future generations; instead of having someone being judged based on the colour of their skin, their nationality, or by their proficiency in English. As Evey says V for Vendetta when asked about V’s true identity: “He was all of us.” That’s what writers are: we are a representation of our society as much as are presenters of a specific representation – and this duality is what makes writing so versatile.

________x________

If there is anyone who would like to read those publications mentioned above – these are both Public Health related – follow these links:

Patnala, S & Srinivas, S et al. (2016). ‘World Health Day and SDG 3: Merging Global Opportunities for Health Care Professionals in India’. Alameen College of Pharmacy webpage, April, [Online], Available at: http://www.alameenpharmacy.edu/WHD_Design_Revised.pdf

Rath, S; Patnala, S; Bosman, SJ; Srinivas, S. (2016). ‘Sustainable Development Goals and Addressing Non-communicable Diseases’, Indian Journal of Pharmacy Practice, vol. 9, no. 2, June, pp. 66-72, [Online], Available at: http://ijopp.org/article/448

________x_________

I aspire to have the same confidence in my work as Peanuts does in his. Until then, I’ll stick to following the comic strips: http://fictionfactor.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/snoopy-writing1.jpg

What is Journalism to me?

Post number 2.
This one is about what Journalism means to me. This is also the letter which got me into Journalism 3, so I’d like to think its pretty convincing.

___________x_____________

What does Journalism mean to me?

I have become a firm believer in the Chaos Theory. Although the selection committee maybe familiar with the concept, I would like to highlight Journalism’s role in the way it affects the world.

Society is a complex system, where even the slightest of changes – read “the flap of a butterfly’s wings” – can have unprecedented but calculated consequences. The media can either be in the center of the web-like system, feeling the vibration of every minor change, or be a distant but vocal observer of the activities within. Our profession is flexible like that.  Journalism stands as the voice of society – the voice maybe good or bad, but it is always heard – a refuge for stories to carve out their place in history.

Journalism is that which captures the first flap of the butterfly’s wings. It recounts that which stands at the root of every historic change, social ill, national victory, and political downfall. Journalism follows the progress of every known chain of action, every minute decision which imposes epic consequences, and prompts readers to think. It maybe trivial, it may be uncomfortable, or it may just be status-quo-challenging and rise as a new philosophy of life. Whatever it brings, Journalism is the presence of independent thought in a collective, and often this independent thought is the primary source of change in society. As Sir Tom Stoppard, a British playwright and screenwriter says “I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.”

Journalism, as much as it aims to remain objective, is still a human(e) profession: we also aim to uphold basic freedoms of expression and information which contribute to the common good of society. We have the power to capture history, a daily occurrence, with our words, lens, film, and voice; and with this power come two things. First, a legacy which future journalists can build on, and second we carry the mandatory responsibility of ethical reporting. Among the many inspiring examples of journalism which changed the world, my favorite is the reporting of the US presidential campaign in 2008. As a primary school student I had little interest in news, and the least interest in global politics, but it was the journalism (and Barack Obama’s uncharted levels of charisma) during that time which had me follow every article and YouTube link I could find the time to click. The words had me hooked onto the points by which he was winning, the public reactions of the caucuses, the contents of every speech and answer the man delivered, and conviction with which journalists were taking sides. I never knew of journalistic objectivism at age 12, but I could see that every writer, photographer, cameraman, and presenter wanted this one man to lead what is still arguably the most powerful country. It was then, on 20 January 2009 as Senator Barack Obama was sworn in, that I realised that I wanted to be more than just a witness to historic moments. It was on that day that I chose to be more informed about the world around me, the harsh truths about realities of first world and developing countries which surrounded me, and the inspiration my work can provide for readers to think about the world we share in an objective, morally well-positioned point of view.

Christopher Morley, a renowned contributor to American journalism and literature, rightly says “One of the most valuable philosophical features of journalism is that it realizes that truth is not a solid but a fluid.” As journalists, as objective as we may want to remain, we tend to provide only one side of the multiple truths and justifications which exist. Society and its actions are a complex web of interactions, and following just one string of it doesn’t mean the entire web has been presented; whether it’s about science and technology or about the current Government, truth is relative so the angle we present as journalists may not be the same lens with which the entire public sees it with.

Journalism provides the opportunity to be a chronicler of history. And through this profession I will be able to provide voices for the people from all walks of life. It is vital that people are encouraged to think about facing social challenges and solving problems because they wanted to do so, because no one can achieve collective good when there are impositions on how to think and act towards a pressing social challenge. Through this profession I will be able to shape the next generation’s interests and priorities using journalism as a fuel for independent thought* focused towards a collective good.  

This is what journalism is to me. A chance to contribute to the tireless recording of human history, chronicle the minor causes and the major consequences of these events, a chance to engage critically and creatively with current social challenges facing the youth, a chance to inform others as much as I am informed through the profession that captures and presents the essence of freedom.

___________________________

*A passion for independent thought is usually considered a tad dangerous, partly because it cannot be controlled by others but I like to think its mostly because those who have it tend to see the world for what it truly is. Every profession prioritizes the world in their own mildly annoying, unique way and Journalism is no different – just that we have the opportunity to look at more than only our perspective on things.

We’re cool that way.

 

 

 

________x________

Image source: http://gijn.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/files/2015/05/Donnelly_small.jpg

Also read about Azerbaijan’s famous investigative journalist,  Khadija Ismayilova, whose story was told in PEN Centre’s Cartoon Tribute:  http://gijn.org/2015/05/12/ismayilovas-plight-told-in-pen-american-centers-cartoon-tribute/

Gladwell: My inspiration for independent thought

I received my provisional acceptance into Journalism 3 on Friday and I’m still excited about my future even though my University is currently in shambles…sigh.

Anyways, I decided to publish a three part series of my motivation letters and essays detailing my thoughts on what Journalism means to me.

Here’s the first one:

___________________x___________________

My Favorite Writer

“Good writing does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else’s head.” ― Malcolm GladwellWhat the Dog Saw and Other Adventures

At first I thought it impossible to peg one author above others. I was not wrong.

Over the years, I have discovered people who capture various things: from living-in-a-cupboard-under-the-stairs and going-on-an-adventure, to living in boarding school as a teenage boy and engaging with allegories Vedic mythology, I have experienced the full range of human emotions, history, the eternal fight of good-versus-evil, and discovered my strengths and solutions through words in 15 years of unrestricted library access.

University changed that for me. Although I engaged with academic texts, I still found myself visiting the shelves holding Baldacci, Brown, Rowling, Prattchet, and Dhal to break the monotony of abstracts and chapter exercises. On one of these visits I found my way to a section on the lowest tear with books written by a social journalist, a highlighter of strange data and discoverer of overlooked facts which influenced and shaped society today. Malcolm Timothy Gladwell’s words awoke something new, a unique brand of magic that springs from reading about the physical world and people who contributed their time and ideas to society. I realized that I was reading The Tipping Point, my introduction to his books, blog, and columns for the New Yorker, in between each lecture. His words: measured and eloquent. His presentation: flawless. His views: influential. His vocabulary: unashamedly unacademic. His writing was a rare collection of people’s ideas, culture, and even their upbringing, all of which nudged modern society to greater heights.

Gladwell chronicled the ideology and impact of John Rock’s contribution to female contraception, correlated commercial plane crashes to the way power relations work in different countries and cultures, and even explored what makes an underdog’s success seem improbable until they actually just…achieve it. He drew my attention to how simple it was to tell someone a story without “dumbing it down”. He made history, social challenges, politics, success, and even the science behind ketchup’s popularity accessible. He wrote like he was telling someone who could comprehend the complex social theories underpinning modern trends, allowing even a freshman like me appreciate the advances of the human race without the restraints of academic jargon. He converses with the reader about the world’s most pointedly ignored aspects. He inspires a sense of curiosity about what is overlooked, and why. As a reader and student, I am inspired to write in pursuit of accessibility of information to understand our world through what has been overlooked. From science and technology, to fashion and architecture, journalists are armed with words to describe and dissect everything to a level that everyone can understand. So they, like me, can be inspired to think independently and appreciate the world we thrive in.

Lesson Number 1

As someone who prefers avoiding mentors, and their advice over coffee, I realise its influenced me into thinking that problems don’t need to be talked about. So the only things which need to be spoken about are professional successes, projects in the pipeline, fresh perspectives, and just how dandy everything is.

Well, its not. Dandy just twisted into the harbinger of doom – a calm of sorts before the storm. Its not just any old storm this time. This time it has hit home. It hit me as a smart enemy hits you where you think you’re the safest.
That omnipresent enemy, and sometimes guardian angel, is called Karma. Or the Universe. Or God, if you really must.
She doesn’t care if you’re a good person everyday of your tax-paying life, because if there’s a lesson you have to learn, she’ll be the one teaching you how to fly whilst you’ve only just begun to walk. She’s scary like that, manifesting as both the crisis and the opportunity, and suddenly you don’t know where to look, what to listen for, or which way to go.

This is my progress so far in Lesson #1.

That’s been me as of Wednesday, 28 September 2016. The day Rhodes University turned on the Government, the management, other students, and itself. The day the #FeesMustFall movement re-surged was also the day my foundation began to crumble. Again.

Everything I love – no, this is not an exaggeration – is hanging in the balance of whether this institution can survive this sociopolitical turmoil. As easy as the option to leave seems to most of us, and as tough as the conditions the financially struggling students face annually, I’m allowing myself to be selfish for just a moment. A moment where no one else’s pleas for what passes as common sense, cries for financial assistance, or even the family’s divided opinion on this matter count. A moment of silence. A moment of peace. A moment when I can afford to think about how I am dealing with this epic mess.

If I think about it, and I mean really think about it, I’m not dealing with it at all. Neither have I come to face it, nor have I accepted its role in my life. I’m only focusing on the good things while the crisis clamours for attention. What I chose to treat as a minor inconvenience in 2015 has now herded me into this deafeningly loud corner of silent introspection. It sounds fancy, but it isn’t. Its lonely, dingy at times when the could of doubt rolls in over my horizon, and its certainly as damp as the pillows which often comfort me in the place of strong, capable arms. I’ve spent a while in this corner now, thinking which life lesson I missed out on to go through this frigid hell of self-doubt and emotional fatigue. I still don’t know.
While I have frantically completed assignments, read through articles, and applied for positions and exchanges, at least I have lived some semblance of a life untainted by the unrest at Rhodes.

Here’s what makes the dark bits better:

I’m blessed to have a mother who, with all her mom-jokes and solid professional advice, gives the best self-help authors a run for their money. Yeah, she’s cool like that, leading by example and all; whether the sun comes up or not, she’ll be up bringing out the best in every situation. Plus she knows just how I like my dosa – no one can compete with that. She’s my standard for most things.

There exists my best friend, who enrages me with his indefatigable sense of optimism, but also holds my hand through the worst days. He hasn’t missed out on making my best days either. From Tuesday Regulars to reading me stories, from being my legs during late nights on campus to handling the many, many teary afternoons. He’s pretty cool.
Blue hearts to you, Lu.
Ach crivins! Take all of them.

And then there’s the Little Man. I’ve never met another 4-year-old as thoughtful as he. Whether its sharing his Nutella sandwich or bringing me the toilet roll I forgot to replace in the bathroom – he’s finally of some use now. My brother is as much a pain in my life as he is a master instructor of unwavering patience and unconditional love. He makes me question myself more than the adults in my life could have me doubt myself. Yes, there is a difference, and Samai knows that forcing me to think differently (even with incentives) is not going to work. As seriously as I take his wild stories of finding alligators in our garden, he takes my need for hugs, kisses, and following rules in the house just as seriously. The kid gets me.

Obviously they aren’t the only ones. There’s uncles and aunts, friends, authors, and my trusty dressing gown, cloaking me against the world for those few domestic hours I spend at home. There are good things and the best people in my world, and I don’t think I would be half as alright without their presence – however scarce.

I’m working on learning what the Universe has to teach, but I’m afraid if it’s about letting go before I’m ready to its a lesson which might take a little longer than the others. Either way, I am free to choose but never from the (sometimes amazing) consequences of my choices.
I may not be world-ready according to most, naive to the intentions out there (gasp!), but how am I to know the difference if I don’t go out there and see for myself, right?

Lesson number 1.

_______________ x_________________

Image Source: http://pdlcomics.tumblr.com/post/135337069480/a-dream
(Accessed 07.10.2016)

 

 

 

 

An Organized Chaos

Current mood: What the actual fuck. No really, why is this happening?

The past two years have been bumpy to say the least. An emotional roller coaster, which thankfully left me physically unscathed, but nevertheless has affected the way I think about the world around me. Irrevocably.

Let’s put my thoughts this way:

Imagine finding out that your favorite superhero is nothing more than just a concerned person with a sense of duty towards society’s wellbeing. Wait, Deadpool doesn’t fall under that category. Imagine discovering that the place and people you learned to love and respect have suddenly crumbled under the weight of their own faults – and there is very little you can do to help fix that. Or even worse: imagine that the place and people you have come to love and respect have shriveled into oblivion, and the values they painted you with are peeling away because it’s outdated, and your newly formed mindset repels these extra coats of Traditionalism and Rigid Worldviews? The pieces don’t fit anymore, because you aren’t the same puzzle anymore.

Exactly. Now you have an idea.

It hurts to lose parts of yourself that you thought were never going to go. Never going to fall apart. Never going to let go of your hand.
I grew up. I’m still growing, but I feel that I am growing apart from what I knew – you know, leaving the shores I knew and all. It’s a contrast, every time I encounter something new. The thrill of working as an editor is coupled with the apprehension that I don’t have enough knowledge about the world around me. The guarded happiness of a new love is shackled to the traditional ideas of what it is supposed to be and when it ought to happen. The excitement of returning to sports after the hiatus that was high school is restrained by time allocations drilled in by authority about how long I can stay and when I should be home. The desperate need to give up on toxic relationships? But why would you do that – stop this unnecessary drama, you need to be nice!

It suffices to say that these are all unspoken rules. Breaking them would be blasphemous, and certainly subject to every social sanction the authorities can think up.
The introspection over the past two years has ended in silent tears and chaotic thoughts. However, it also yielded the determination to stand by what I believe in. I’ve had to find out what I believe in the hard way: experience. Seeing as I’ve always prided myself on learning from others’ experiences, and not having made any mistakes and memories myself, I can now proudly say that I have my own set of firsthand stuff. Shiny, new, and all mine. Experiential learning is key to moving forward based on the theory one gets saddled with by the grown ups, right?

Being honest with others is uncomfortable at best, but it’s terrifying to be honest with ourselves. We’ve been taught to consider what others think about our appearance, our subject choices, friends, ideals, and even our hair colour before whatever we think about it.

This is the time when an experienced elder, hellbent on serving your best interests, comes in and says “Beta, you must be logical in your thinking. What is this choice going to serve? You cannot afford to make mistakes like this. Think about your image in society, think about what people will say about your upbringing?”

I used to think about what I would respond with. Would I succumb and say that I hold the family honor in my hands alone? Would I respond with my outwardly destructive rebellion, or stretch the boundaries set for me? It took me the longest time to decide that fear of social sanctions can no longer dictate my decisions. I live in a world where concepts of culture and ideology is constantly morphing into something only those with an open mind can recognize, entertain, appreciate, and even accept. My decision was clear. I came to the conclusion that transforming what has been set as the boundary so as to widen everyone’s horizons achieves more than opting to be a rebel.

Does anyone have control on who and what I choose? No.
Does anyone have the opportunity to support the grown up Me? Yeah, I’m sure the few people rooting for me would like some company.
—————— x ——————-

Introspection is strange as an adult. Especially so as a woman from a traditional upbringing. My two years of new, unsupervised experiences have lead to the conclusion that there is no time to care about what others may think. It doesn’t mean I ought to be reckless in my intent to prove how different I am, but rather a display of courage to understand myself as a person. After all, no one else can do it for me and I don’t want to miss out on myself: an organised chaos.  I’m worth the time and the emotional and physical investment. As much as others may do it for me, there is nothing quite like the thrill of learning to love and nurture my mind despite its unruly thoughts.

Image source: Pintrest (follow my Photography and Art Ideas board for more)