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Inviting darkness

Things are becoming grim again. That warmth of sunlight that he felt slowly fades away leaving an icy chill behind. The bonds he used to cherish are breaking. The light slowly fades inviting darkness to take it’s place. A hole in his chest begins to open, threatening his existence. But he does nothing as it widens because he wishes not to exist. Every movement becoming difficult, now he just awaits the pain. He knows it will arrive as soon as he tries to question his fate. It will bring back memories, painful memories that will remind his that his life was always this pathetic, pointless and purposeless, it’s only now that he has realised the same.

He would like to believe that this darkness that surrounds him exists because of his bad habit of questioning. Coming to terms with how pointless life is and whether or not he belongs here. But he knows it’s not that simple

Life has become a pretense for him. It’s nothing but a lifetime of hiding. Hiding behind a mask that has a smile carved onto it. A mask strong enough to hide the magnitude of sadness that resides behind. No tears, no regrets, no questions, no answers, Just pain…

Where does this pain come from? Why is it there? And how long will it be until it takes over? He can already feel it leaking from the cracks in his mask. The impenetrable wall that he created is breaking and he dreads coming face to face with the breaker…

He’s just looking to escape, escape from this reality. But he is chained down by bonds like family and friends. Although they are merely illusions he lacks the strength and conviction required to realise the same and break them. So it’s as if he’s waiting for a train to come, lying on the tracks, chained down unable to move. All he can do is wait, wait for the train to come and run him over. Crushing every bone in his body, tearing flesh and splattering blood. Leaving behind a mangled, scarred and gravely wounded shell of a man who will perhaps never heal from this catastrophe. And his only reality would be to wait for the life to slowly drain out of him and for death to slowly wipe away the light, the pain and the noise will leave nothing but an unquestionable and eternal darkness behind.

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Sleep

A silence engulfs me
Sucking me into a void
A void where I’m forced to sleep
For the remainder of my life
As my eyes shut
I embrace my end
But as the sleep comes
I’m pushed into my life again
Surrounded by people
Who pushed me into darkness
Who made me embrace
The deafening silence
But what does this mean?
That i have another chance to escape?
To fight and evade that darkness?
Or is it that I’ve just learnt
That the misery of life
Cannot be evaded
No matter how great the pain
And how deep the sleep

Talking Rubbish: The Indian Scenario

This blogpost is originally posted here – http://www.nature.com/scitable/blog/student-voices/30daygreen_day_2

The Indian festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is coming up. The streets are deserted, silent and the local markets are calm. As I walk through these narrow lanes and look at the statues of Lord Ganesha which are already lining up for sale in the shops, I know that this is the calm before the storm. Soon these calm and silent lanes will be overflowing with people, pushing, pulling and gnawing at each other. Struggling to get the best deals that these local shops have to offer. The relatively empty shops will be filled with statues of all shapes and sizes and with all kinds of lights, flowers and other items of adornment. Almost every house in the neighbourhood will be seen shimmering with lights. The otherwise closed doors will be kept open throughout the day and no one will be a stranger any longer. It is truly a magical celebration that has been a part of our culture for decades.

But this celebration will end after a week or so and things will go back to the way they were. Or will they? When this storm finally settles, only destruction will lie in its wake. The statues which were revered, decorated and loved, that occupied almost every household, will be left in oceans and lakes to disintegrate. These statues, which were supposed to be vessels for gods, will land up clogging the water and sewage pipelines. The dangerous chemicals that they are made of will land up polluting the water bodies, destroying aquatic and plant life. The various decorative accessories which were used to make the homes feel more welcoming will land up in garbage dumps waiting to be burnt or turned into landfill. When I look at all this, I am shocked at the hypocrisy of the human race. And I wonder if things can be done differently.

India is a country of 1.2 billion people, which is roughly 18% of the world population. In other words, India’s population equals almost the combined population of USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Japan! That’s a lot of people! Out of the 1.2 billion people that live here, 377 million reside in the urban areas. So, the urban population of India is greater than the total population of the U.S.A. Naturally, with such a large number of people living in a small space, India’s problems are also large, with garbage disposal being one of the larger problems. The urban population of India, ie. the 377 million people, produce roughly 70 million tonnes of garbage every year. That’s almost 188,000 tonnes of garbage every day. This number increases by a factor 5% every year. During the time of festivals like Ganesh ChaturthiDiwaliEidNavratri etc. the garbage produced per day almost doubles. The Indian government spends roughly anywhere between $10 to $30 on every ton of garbage for collection, transportation, treatment and disposal. 60-70% of this amount is spent on collection, 30-20% is spent on transportation and sadly less than 5% is spent on the treatment and final disposal.

In India, the government itself has no system for separation and recycling of waste. Here, even if I maintain separate bins for non-recyclable, organic and recyclable garbage, they’ll all eventually land up in the same place. So if I decide to recycle waste in my home, I’ll have to maintain the separate bins, dispose of the organic waste myself by taking it to the nearest compost pit (a few hours away by car), give the non-recyclable waste to the local garbage collectors and recycle the recyclable waste on a domestic level which is frankly too much work. Here, all the waste management needs to be done at an individual/domestic level. This proves to be extremely inconvenient and time consuming which is why none of us do it.
But even with such obvious obstacles we try our best, like for the past decade or so, in my household, for the Ganesh Chaturthi, we have used clay statues instead of the ones made by Plaster of Paris or plastic. And instead of disposing of the statue after the festival(visarjan), we reuse the same statues every year. For decorations, instead of using plastic and thermocol, we use leaves, flowers and wood which are biodegradable, hence easy to dispose of. The government is also trying to reduce the amount of plastic in the garbage by charging money for using plastic bags so people tend to use them less. Plastic bags have been banned in government and administrative buildings. And there are NGOs like ‘Parisar Vikas‘ and ‘Swach‘ who are working with ragpickers to recycle the waste that has accumulated in the landfills and garbage dumps over the years. New technologies are being adopted to improve the waste management system too.

Frankly , being “green” here is easier said than done, but efforts are still being made by us and it sure is making a difference, even if it is one household at a time. We understand the importance of our planet and we are trying to clean up our act. So, for this 30 day green challenge, me and some of my friends are going to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi in an eco-friendly fashion by banning all plastic, thermocol and other non-biodegradable materials from being used in the celebration. Also, I’m going to try spreading awareness about climate change in my housing society so hopefully they’ll 
consider taking the help of NGOs to solve our waste management problems. I will also try shedding light on these problems by blogging about them so people will start taking waste management seriously. After all, it’s our planet, it’s our one and only home, if we don’t care for it, who will?

Blending in

Its an early morning. I had some proper sleep last night. The cold that I’m recovering from is still hanging on, in spite of me taking the antibiotics. I guess it’ll be a while before it lets go. But something’s different about this morning. I’m feeling nostalgic for some strange reason. Perhaps the feeling arose by watching my sister get ready for school. Watching her looking for her uniform and her books, locating her socks, polishing her shoes and convincing my mother to give her something a wee bit interesting in her lunch box reminded me of the countless times I’ve done the same. But all the memories that I have of school involve a certain amount of pain. Of course, the pain has eventually faded overtime, but I could never really recover from this dark and lonely phase of my life. Now when I look back, i can’t really understand why things were the way they were. Perhaps it was because I was different? Different in what way?

I clearly remember being called names and having few Friends. I was the type of kid who used to read books on the school picnic. Who lacked social abilities. And who never really cared about socializing anyway. Trying to find the purpose of his  existence while the other kids were still learning to spell ‘existence’.

But now, when I’ve become older, I’ve changed quite a bit. The reading has reduced, I’ve become adept to the skill of socializing. Now, I’ve got too many friends to keep count of, but I still feel the loneliness. I’m still trying to escape the darkness. In spite of all the problems I faced in school, I was a happy kid. But now when I seem to have resolved those problems, I’ve become increasingly unhappy. I guess I would need to go back to the way I was in school to become happy again. But I fear I won’t be able to, having gone too far the other way. But one thing is clear, when I see my sister eagerly getting ready for school, I know she won’t go through the same problems that I went through. Simply  because I’ll be there to coach her. To tell her, its perfectly OK to be abnormal and being different is her biggest asset yet.

My Darkness

I stand here,
surrounded by darkness,
My presence uncertain,
and my existence in question…

I feel the hollowness,
I feel the emptiness,
I’ve been here an eternity…

I wish to escape,
And leave it all behind,
But somehow I can’t,
no matter how hard I try…

Maybe I feel safer here,
In this void of unhappiness,
Where the guilt molds me,
The regrets shape me…

I am too weak right now,
Too weak to break through,
My only protection,
This cocoon…

But a day will come,
When I find strength,
To overcome my darkness,
And emerge unscathed…

That day I wait for…
Wait patiently.
Until it comes,
I let the darkness hold me…

A cocoon

It is a frosty morning, the cold bites his pale white skin. The sun is up and shining, yet the room stays dark and gloomy. The air is heavy and humid, which adds to the room’s murkiness. In the middle of this room lies a certain character. He can be seen sleeping on a large, messy bed. Curled up in a thick black blanket, the man sleeps with a questionable frown on his face. He is sweating, yet he holds the blanket tightly, unwilling to let go. He remains curled up in it as it were a cocoon, shielding him from this murky, dark and depressing morning. 

There is silence in this room for quite a while with scarcely any movement from our character. But this silence is broken by a thin ray of light which breaks into  the room through a slight opening between the two large curtains which were blocking the window. This ray of light, as little as it may be, frees the room from the clutches of this darkness. As a result, the frown on the man’s face tightens. He pulls the blanket tighter over his body. But this discomfort that he is beginning to feel just wont budge. He moves, he rolls, he buries his head in the blanket, but all in vain. He begins to feel his safety zone, the comfortable cocoon beginning to crack and now he feels increasingly vulnerable. He desperately tries to hold on to this little world of his, which is his blanket, but his efforts are in vain. And after a long struggle with discomfort, his eyes finally open. 
At first, he frowns at the light coming in through the window as he tries to focus his vision. Now, with his eyesight properly adjusted, he lies there motionless, staring into the distance. To him, this is by no means a pleasant morning. But by judging him by his state, one can wonder, how many pleasant mornings has this man had lately? There certainly can’t be to many. 

His face tells lot about him, this is a man who has experienced the struggles of life. The scars on his cheek and forehead are quite noticeable. He has a dark complexion. But by looking at his forearms, one can tell that this man wasn’t always so dark. He hasn’t shaved for a while, as the tiny hair on his chin grow unscathed. But the most striking feature of his face, are his eyes. They have a dark brown colour, not a unique colour, but there is something about them that is unique, that makes them stand out. Perhaps it is their depth. Just one glare at them and you could keep staring for an eternity and yet find not, a limit to their depth. Or it may be the sparkle that they have, something that instantly makes you smile.Yet, this man is by no means a handsome man. He is the invisible one, easily overlooked and almost constantly ignored. If he were to walk on the street, his existence wouldn’t even be acknowledged by those passing by. But one can wonder if this bothers him.

As he lies there motionless, he thinks about what place he holds in this world. A man who’s very existence is questionable couldn’t possibly hold a place far to important, now could he? He thinks about the labels he’s be given in the past. Prodigy and genius they once called him. But for him, these were nothing but expectations that he had to live up to. To prove his mettle, he was given a test too many. But in the end, he had failed them all. And become nothing but a worn out shell of his former self. His ego, crushed and his dreams unfulfilled. He is the true vagabond who just wanders through life with no place to call his own. His only prevailing goal, ‘acceptance’ which seems to be a million miles away. What is the purpose behind this man’s existence? Why should he carry on living? With nothing to live for and with nothing to look forward to?

Solar max

After a long time, I looked up at the night sky today. The stars glimmering in the pitch dark sky. The brightly lit moon, effortlessly floating in the sky. I see the craters on it, and I remember the times I’ve tried looking for rabbit in those patterns and no matter how hard I looked, I never could find that dreaded mammal! But the moon was quiet majestic, even without the giant rabbit.

Oh, I wish I could go up there, look at those craters up close, but I think I’m gonna have to postpone that trip, it’s solar maximum after all! The entire solar system must be flooded with radiation. And i guess, the moon’s surface must be scorched by now too. It’s a good thing earth has its own magnetic field, the ‘magnetosphere’. If it didn’t, Im sure I would be getting barbecued right now, getting cooked in the sun’s radiation! But even with that in mind, this is an exciting time! There are sun spots popping and solar flares blowing out of the sun’s surface everywhere. It’s quiet a chaotic! But the chaos has a tinge of excitement to it.

But what exactly is the solar maximum?? They way we experience seasons on our planet, the sun undergoes seasonal changes too. This cycle of seasons are periodic changes in the energy output given by the sun, known as the solar cycle. We are currently four years into the solar maximum period. The period in which the sun is most active. It began in 2007 when, the scientists picked up a sun spot on the surface of the sun with reversed polarity. Such strange sunspots mark the beginning of the next solar cycle. The scientists immediately started working on the data to try and predict what will be the intensity of this particular solar maximum. To everyone’s surprise, the scientists at National Center for Atmospheric research (NCAR) announced: “the ‘storm’ is coming, and this time’s solar maximum will be 30-50% stronger than the previous one”. Everyone was quite shocked as the solar minimum we had before was quite dull and prolonged. Everyone expected this time’s solar maximum to be similar. But of course, the sun surprised us with the data that indicated that this year’s solar maximum may be as intense at the historic solar max of 1958.

But what exactly happens in a solar maximum? Well in short, everything goes berserk! The number of sunspots increase and they harbour more energy than usual. Solar flares are shot out quite often. And occasionally, the sun releases a massive amount of energy in a wave called a Coronal Mass Ejection or CME in short. This wave has a large portion of the sun’s own plasma in it! Super-heated electrons and protons and gigantic amounts of radiation accompanied by a magnetic field. These are potentially lethal!(even sound lethal!) Normally, We are protected by earth’s own magnetic field, ‘the magnetosphere’. But when the massive jolt of charged particles in the CME hit the magnetosphere, it’s punched hard enough to pull it away from the earth, exposing the surface facing the sun to large amounts of radiation. The charged particles are pushed toward the poles, and on the way there, they collide with the particles in the atmosphere creating magnificent auroras which can be seen as far south as mexico!

This massive burst of energy can irrevocably damage many our communication sattelites and the power grid. In extreme case scenarios, even people who are flying in planes at high altitudes and astronauts in space can receive high doses of radiation which can lead to chromosomal damage and cancer.

Well, in the next few months, I think we might get to experience a full blown CME. And the data is clearly asking us to brace ourselves, but in the meantime, I’m just going to sit back, and enjoy the show!

Links

Footage of solar flares –
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/News030512-2M-X1.html

Information about geomagnetic storms –
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geomagnetic_storm

More information about current solar max –
http://www.solarham.com/