Saturday, 26 August 2017

Epidemic

It was like an epidemic. It swept over the entire class in the blink of an eye. Its progress was slow at first; only a handful of students were affected. But when it came into its own, its malignancy couldn't be overstated. Students who, only a month ago, were talking about having fun, cherishing college life and "These 4 years won't ever come back" stuff were now as busy as MDs, going through break-ups and talked as if they had had an epiphany in their sleep and had now awakened to their responsibilities. The reason? These were aspirants for CAT, GATE, SSC, GRE, TOEFL, IELTS, SAT; basically any exam that gets you somewhere better than where an undergraduate degree of B.Tech or B.E. would get you. Perhaps they had awakened to their responsibilities, and that's what scared those who weren't affected by this epidemic.

I am one of those scared. It's a strange reason to be scared. I see no road ahead. When I was still in school and was doubtful about taking up engineering, the only advice people could give me was "It'll secure your future." So I thought, "Okay. They're more experienced, surely they must be knowing better." When I started college, I was very happy. "My future will be secured. I will finally have a job after 4 years. I will earn my own money!" But turns out my future isn't any more secure than it was when I was in school. The advice people give me now is "You should get a post graduate degree. There's no value of a B.Tech these days." Great! From "a secure future" to "a degree that holds no value" in just 2 years. This is how it seems to me: you have to waste 4 years of your life to get something of no value in order to spend the next 2 years which has value today but might not be valuable when you get it. Well, if a B.Tech. degree can lose its value in 2 years, why can't M. Tech.?

But that is not the reason why I'm not an aspirant of the aforementioned exams. I'm simply not interested in them. Maybe this is why only a selected few get to the top. Either you lose interest along the way because the prospect does not look as appealing as it did when you started preparing for it, or your zeal just dies when you realise how tough the competition is. This is actually what happened to me when I was a JEE aspirant and I'm afraid it'll happen again if I reluctantly join the epidemic group.

So here I am. I while my time away while my mates think about their future. I still watch TV shows, play games, sleep whenever I feel like it, don't pay attention in class, doodle when I'm blue and I still tug myself away from any thoughts about the future. I still try to get away from conversations about career and I still reply "I'm not sure" whenever I do get into one. And I don't even feel guilty about it! Because it's the truth. Truthful people are not supposed to feel guilty, are they?

The truth scares me.

Why does everyone have to do something just because everyone else is doing it? I wouldn't have felt as scared if no one was doing this, carving out their own path. But they are, and I'm not. That is the gist of it.

I've even tried exploring the realm of excuses to justify my situation to myself, but to no avail. Every excuse seems implausible and is rejected by my conscience. The inferiority that is going to haunt me when my mates sprint ahead of me has already begun forming roots inside of me. I don't think it's going to be very long before I become a moving tree of misery, although I try very hard everyday to stay as far away from that feeling as possible. This attempt of mine at eluding misery is, I hate to say this, dependent on others. Others being my friends. Maybe even too dependent. It's almost as if our existence has coalesced and formed this one big mass only to be broken in due time.

When such negative thoughts attack me, I force myself to think, "Maybe not everything is as bad as it seems. There are still plenty of good stuff going on with me. I've learned new things, had some memorable experiences and the most important improvement of all, I am less of an introvert now than I was two years ago!" I think along these lines and things start looking upbeat again. But then, as a fly in an aesthetically impeccable tomato soup, another thought strikes me:

"How long do you think you're gonna be able to rely on those puny achievements to stay afloat?"

Thursday, 16 February 2017

So this is what being down feels like.

So this is what being down feels like.

Writing something and just to save yourself from having to think much about the title, putting the first line up as the title to the whole piece.

Sitting on your bed with lots of things to do but no desire to do them. What once seemed pretty interesting and a productive way of spending time has lost its spark now. Things that could keep you going for hours on end now ignite a flicker of interest inside you that dies within a moment and you go back to sitting in bed and wondering if you should do anything or just lie down.

Deciding every day to write something and even getting ideas, but failing to put them into words just because you lose interest by the time you switch your computer on. Even if you do switch it on and open Microsoft word and write a line that occurred to you while you were riding down the road, you cannot carry on further because the part of your mind that supplies ideas has run out of stock. Apparently, it works only when it wants to, not when you want it to.

Going through the whole damn day doing the same things over and over again; falling into a pattern. You want to break it but again, you decide against it at the last moment, giving in to your reluctance and finally you think, “Oh, what the hell…just leave things as they are. It’s too much to change everything.”

Just wanting to lie down and keep lying down. You know that it’s wrong but you don’t know why. It just seems wrong, somehow. Maybe the fact that we should be constantly doing something has been hammered into you so much that now, even lying down peacefully makes you feel guilty about yourself and you get up, thinking that you should do something. But what? And then you lose the desire again. And then you lie down again.

Going through everything you have been taught in your growing years and questioning them, testing their logic against your own, now that you’you've grown old enough to create your own logic.

Doing completely pointless things, like scratching the stubble on your chin just for the hell of it; to the point that it begins stinging your chin, but you still won’t stop.

Realizing that meeting friends that you haven’t seen in months, friends to meet whom you once rode your scooter at an uncontrollable speed and hit a bicycle rider in the middle of the street, friends for 10 minutes of whose time you would give up anything; the prospect of meeting those friends doesn't excite you as much as it used to.

Going on doing nothing, while all others around you are indulging themselves in all kinds of creative work that guarantees them a bright future. You see those people and you feel a bit guilty, but you still carry on in the same way trying to convince yourself that you are not doing anything wrong and it’s not the end of the world.

Getting second thoughts about everything all the time.

Having a mental fight with yourself all the time.

Trying to be justifiable in your own eyes all the time.

Explaining your own actions to yourself all the time.



Yes, this is what being down really feels like. And it feels like this all the time.

-Avnish Bansal

Sunday, 2 October 2016

A Pathetic Being

After writing several poems for others or inspired by others, I often dwelt on the idea of writing one about myself. Why that poem couldn't take a definite form for a long time perhaps owed to the fact that I had not thought about myself or, more appropriately, I didn't know myself sufficiently enough to write a decent poem about myself. I still doubt that I have complete knowledge of myself as a person, but I am well aware of how I behave in college. Having said that, the following poem can be perceived as an honest description of how I see myself getting by in college. This little piece of information becomes even more significant when you come to know that it was in college that I wrote this poem. So I can say that these are natural thoughts because my surroundings, at the time of writing the poem, weren't made up. They were real and I was writing down whatever I felt being in those surroundings. This, I think, played a vital part in devouring the poem of any artificial element.

A Pathetic Being


I seem a human

to unheeding eyes,

who laughs in joy;

in sorrow, cries.



But to a sharp gaze

that penetrates through skin;

through the face, the eyes

into the heart within;



I am revealed to be

a pathetic being,

masquerading among humans

unheard, unseen.



Forever envious

of unachieved desires.

A liar myself

still, hateful of liars.



Forever furious

at trivial aberrations;

always in a state

of personal altercation.



Forever delirious

at things as they are,

for things as desired

seem quite a bit far.



I'm stuck Inside me;

trapped, incarcerated.

Forever in bewilderment;

derelict, dilapidated.



Like so, I will remain

for I'm too tired to fight.

I have lost my wits to tell

the wrong from the right.



Like so, I will remain,

unheard and unseen;

for a sharp gaze will penetrate me

to reveal the pathetic being.

-Avnish Bansal

Monday, 5 September 2016

Harry Potter Crafts #1: Advanced Potion Making by Libatius Borage (Hogwarts Potionbook)

While my mates and colleagues are all doing something or the other to help them get a job three years later (or even before that, depending on the person concerned), I have been whiling my time away doing unproductive work (which effectively means that I'm doing nothing). They are building their skill sets so their resume gets laden with attractive features while I am still figuring out how to make a resume.
So, these holidays, the least I could do was to complete my unfinished works if I was not going to start anything new. One of these works was a handwritten manuscript of Hogwarts potion-book "Advanced Potion Making" which Harry and friends use in their sixth year of schooling.

I was always fascinated with the potions depicted in the books and movies and as a child, I used to pray for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to be real. Of course, I realised that it couldn't happen, and though I could not build an entire Hogwarts for myself, I could fabricate some of those magical items that I was so fascinated with. Thus began a magical journey in the life of a muggle which has lasted for 6 years and will hopefully continue if responsibility doesn't demolish creativity. 

The first item that I made was a spontaneously drawn map of Hogwarts. Many other items followed, but this post is dedicated to the latest and, in my opinion, the best that I have ever made. I was not alone in this endeavour; the best product was made possible with help from the internet and from tutorials posted by helpful individuals. Due credit is given to them at the end of this post. 

Presenting, the handwritten manuscript of Libatius Borage's Advanced Potion Making:























The book contains all the material that a Hogwarts textbook for the Potions subject should contain: description of ingredients, recipes of potions and antidotes and some appendices at the end. I was also inclined towards the idea of using alchemist symbols in the book since everything in the magical world exudes an aura of archaicness. This prompted me to minimise anything artificial, or at least make it look like it's handmade. Except the cover, nothing else looks artificial, which is why I call it a "handwritten manuscript". It might even give an impression that Libatius Borage himself wrote it :P.  

Here are the links that helped greatly in giving this book a tangible form:

Cover printable:
http://rag-rose.blogspot.in/2014/09/advanced-potion-making.html

Bookbinding tutorials: 
http://jamesdarrow.deviantart.com/art/Bookbinding-Tutorial-292237490
Sea Lemon on YouTube
Specifically, I used the kettle stitch binding technique.

Recipes and other potion-related information:
Harry Potter Wikia
https://www.hp-lexicon.org/
http://hol.org.uk/library_writing.php?view=write&readbook=59
http://www.snitchseeker.com/term-25-may-july-2010/potions-recipe-book-74836/
I couldn't find suitable recipes for the Wolfsbane Potion and Veritaserum on the web, so I made my own. You can use them as you desire. Mail me or let me know in the comments section if you want the recipes. I will be glad to help out!

That was it! Feedback is forever welcome, do let me know what you think about my effort. I will keep on posting more "Harry Potter Crafts" in the future so if you're interested, follow me on Google+ to receive updates about the same.
Cheers!




Thursday, 25 August 2016

A Serendipity for Godric



I was rummaging around some of my old stuff just now, looking to clear up some space and discard useless junk, when I found a certain something that, I embarrassingly admit, I had forgotten about. This certain something was a eulogy written for me by my friend who goes by the pseudonym Godric Gandalf Dumbledore. He wrote this back when I was in XII standard which means, roughly a year and a half ago. I won't divulge his real name here. I apologize to him for forgetting about this eulogy.
When he gave it to me on our farewell, and I read it when I got home, I thought of writing something similar and giving it to him but due to some or the other reason, I couldn't. When I read it today, I was overwhelmed by a similar desire. I am giving this desire a form for everyone to see and for my friend to discover. I will still send him a copy of what you are about to read but I'll be omitting the lines which you already have, so he wouldn't know that this entry is on my blog. This little fact I'll leave for him to discover. Right then, moving on.

He dedicates this eulogy to me in the following manner: "To my friend, who doesn't talk much often with me." Apart from some specks of truth in the contents, this is the only thing which is completely true in the whole piece. Even though he is my friend, I didn't talk to him, or anyone else, for that matter, very much. My friend then goes on to elucidate how much influence I had on him, how I was near-perfect in my demeanor etc. These are all false. I was nothing like that then and I am even farther from that now. In fact when I read it just now, I felt that it was written with an exaggerated point of view, like my friend was standing on his toes with his arms spread wide and head held high, eyes closed; only that his head was floating in the skies of exaggeration while his toes worked hard to bring him down to reality. Nonetheless, it was a beautifully written piece as far as literature is concerned. I could write the same things abut him that he has written about me, while still lying flat on my stomach on the modest mud of reality. But I would rather present my views about him in my simple and modest manner.

He was awfully quiet and engrossed in his own work. When I saw him first in VI standard and observed him for a while, I didn't think he was capable of making any friends. He was always having arguments with fellow students and would often break down in the middle of these arguments. Frankly, he was the last person I wanted to be friends with. Five years later, we were nothing if not friends. By this time, he had conquered most of his subconscious actions that made him an object of ridicule in the younger stages of his life. How he did it, I have never known but it is something I have always been inspired from.
When I began writing, I shared my works with him. Likewise, he shared his writings with me. His pieces were so complex that their true meaning would often escape me and I would have to ask him about it. Those meanings were intricately and beautifully woven with the words he used to choose, much like those threads woven to make a fabric so resplendent that one does not want to unlock their careful links but only to wear it. I, being a fellow writer, had to take the step to unlock those links to learn a little something from him, to pluck a fruit from his tree of genius.
He had knowledge about many things, so, undoubtedly, his was the mouth to utter the correct answer to a question about practical life posed by our physics teacher. This happened so often that the teacher felt only natural to expect an answer from my friend whenever similar questions were posed.
He had some characteristics which annoyed me and still do. I guess they are there just to balance out the unusually pleasant elements and the giant storehouse of knowledge inside him so that he doesn't stray from the path of modesty and remains humble.

As opposed to the original character, may your pen be forever mightier than your sword, Godric.


-Avnish Bansal

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Portugal’s Journey in UEFA Euro Cup 2016



Portugal’s Journey in UEFA Euro Cup 2016

The Portugal national football team in UEFA Euro Cup 2016


When Portugal was sitting in the bottom half of the group standings after playing two consecutive draws with Iceland and Austria, things weren’t looking exactly hopeful for them. Getting into the round of 16 wasn’t an easy task as their next encounter was with Hungary who was the group topper. Their hopes of reaching the round of 16 depended on the parallel match between Iceland and Austria. Portugal had to win to strengthen their chances of progressing further in the tournament but all they could manage was a grueling 3-3 draw. Iceland defeated Austria 2-1 in the parallel match which left Portugal at the third place in its group with a 64%chance of entering the round of 16.

Portugal barely managed to go ahead but given how it had performed in the group stages, with more number of goal attempts than any other team and yet managing a draw every time, not to mention a missed penalty by their captain Cristiano Ronaldo against Austria; few believed that it would make it any further in the tournament.

They were up against Croatia, who was fresh from upsetting Spain 2-1 in their previous game. One didn’t have to be a genius to predict who would win this game but as it turned out, Portugal handed a defeat to Croatia by beating them 1-0. The Portuguese were now in the quarter finals where they were to face Poland. Poland had scraped through to the quarter finals, beating the Swiss by 5-4 in penalty shootouts. The situation was somewhat similar here; this game also went as far as the penalty shootouts. The only difference was Poland was on the receiving end here as they lost to Portugal 3-5 in the penalties.

Quite amazingly, Portugal had converted its rugged start to a smooth sailing and was now in the semis. Amazingly still, it was Wales who were to give them competition. This was Wales’s first major tournament semi final and the match was widely termed as the “Ronaldo-Bale showdown”.  Pepe, the Portuguese defender was sitting this one out. Wales’s determination was evident as soon as the game began while Ronaldo’s Real Madrid teammate Gareth Bale’s accurate shot attempts and fierce free-kicks mesmerized the onlookers. Disappointingly for Wales, Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Patricio didn’t let any of them get past him. The first goal of the game came off Ronaldo’s head around the 52nd minute and a second one followed soon after as Nani deflected one into the goal and booked Portugal a berth in their second Euro Cup final.

The loss of the 2004 Euro Cup final threatened to repeat itself as the formidable hosts France made their way to the finals after beating Germany. It was an eventful match, as befits a final. Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese captain pursuing his first Euro Cup in his second final with Portugal, had to go off the field in the 25th minute, very much against his wishes after being struck in the knee by France no. 8 Dimitri Payet. The tackle looked clean, but soon after that Ronaldo was on the ground, clutching his knee tightly and apparently in a lot of agony. He went off the field twice temporarily to get treatment before reluctantly embracing the fact that he wouldn’t be able to play the rest of the match. He strapped the captain’s armband to Nani and was carried off on a stretcher as Portugal’s hopes dimmed even further at the departure of their captain. Ronaldo was substituted by Ricardo Quaresma.

Even though no goals had been scored yet, the French were looking stronger with 60% possession and more than twice the no. of passes of Portugal. They were continuously attacking but it was Rui Patricio who fended off every one of those attacks and managed to keep his team afloat. Portugal tried to gain the upper hand as they brought the possession ratio to 45-55. The match was in the extra time of the second half and France almost won the tournament in the 90+2nd minute when substitute Gignac hit the goalpost. Millions had their hearts in their mouths as the ball was cleared off the Portuguese half. Turned out that was the closest they could get to the Portuguese net. Soon, the 90 minutes were over with a goal yet to be scored.

The first half of the extra time showed the same picture as the rest of the match but it was in the second half that the real action, the climax, took place. In the 108th minute, French player Koscielny was erroneously booked for a handball even though he profusely denied touching the ball. The replays corroborated his pleas as the ball had clearly been deflected off Eder’s hand. Who knew that touch to the ball could prove so lucky. 

It was Guerreiro who took the free kick in place of the unavailable Ronaldo. It was a real good chance of scoring and the trajectory seemed to be perfect until the ball hit the bar and bounced away from the net. Many fans might have thought this as an indication that the game would go into the penalties if Portugal could hold its nerves. However, it did something more than that as Eder shot the ball straight into the corner of the net, inches away from the fingertips of the French goalie Lloris.
Screams of euphoria erupted in the stadium as the Portuguese began celebrating. Even Ronaldo with his bandaged knee didn’t show any signs of being injured as he jumped with joy. Every second after the 109th minute was like an eternity to a supporter of Portugal as the French, Les Bleus became more desperate in their attacks. They even managed to give Portugal quite a scare in the last moments of the game but the newly found energy of the Portuguese didn’t let them score.

It’s not over until it’s over. Fans and players, substitutes and coaches alike sat with bated breath, waiting for the final whistle from the ref and there it was. Portugal had emerged as the winner of this edition of the UEFA Euro Cup and how so! They defied every expectation and played spiritedly, without any sign of dejection even after losing their captain in the early stages of the game. It was a very emotional evening for Cristiano Ronaldo as he experienced the journey between two extremes - from complete despair after leaving the field on a stretcher to an overwhelming sense of joy and satisfaction as he lifted the trophy on the evening of 11th July 2016.

The star of the match was undoubtedly Eder who sealed the win for Portugal with a stunning goal but it was as a unit that Portugal gave a head-on competition to the favorites, France. Unfortunately, France could not break the 32-year old curse of a host nation never winning the title. The last time it happened was in 1984 when it was none other than Les Bleus themselves who had won the title and they had a chance to repeat the feat, but a highly inspired Portugal side didn’t let them do it and so, the curse would carry on for four more years.

One couldn’t help but feel sorry for the French team and especially for Antoine Griezmann, who was awarded the golden boot, having scored 6 goals, which is the second most of all time in a single edition; the record held by his compatriot Michael Platini with 9 goals in the 1984 edition.

It was a match worthy of being called a final; exciting, eventful with fierce competition from either side leading to a nail-biting finish. For Portugal, this was surely a journey of finding its spark which it seemed to have lost in the initial stages of the tournament, but it showed everyone what can be achieved when you do find it. Many congratulations to the Portugal team and sympathy to the French team. We hope you continue to play well and entertain us and we look forward to seeing the both of you battling it out on the pitch soon!

The Portugal team celebrates its win over France



Monday, 11 July 2016

The Standard Arrangement



The Standard Arrangement


 It was his first project of school. He was in fifth standard and they were given the task of collecting pictures of things having national importance and paste in their scrap books. It was also the first time he was working in a scrap book. So he was very excited and wanted his work to turn out as good as possible.

He managed to find four pictures. When he was sticking them, he placed each picture on one corner of the page so that all four corners were occupied, and looked at the arrangement for some time. It looked too…ordinary. Everyone did it that way, as if it was the socially accepted, standard arrangement of four pictures on a page. No, let’s make some changes, he thought.

He moved the picture that was on the lower right corner to the center of the page. There, this is not ordinary anymore. From a distance, the pictures appeared to make a ‘7’. He quickly glued them, wrote their descriptions on the adjacent page and stuffed it in his schoolbag. The next day at school, he was the first one to submit it for correction.

When he got it back, though, the first thing he saw was a big, red question mark on the lower right corner of the page where he had stuck the pictures. Why? He thought. Is something missing? He couldn’t think of anything, so he borrowed his friend’s scrap book and tried to take a hint from that. His friend had stuck five pictures, one on each corner of the page and the fifth one in the center. He looked at his own scrap book. There was that big, red question mark, lying comfortably where a fifth picture should have been.

So that’s what it is for, a fifth picture. He got it now. But there was no fifth picture! He had only had four pictures from the start, and four pictures were what he intended to stick there! Unaware of that, the teacher had been expecting a fifth picture because that was what the standard arrangement for five pictures on a page was – four on each corner and one in the center. He had filled all the positions except the lower right corner, hence the question mark.

He was saddened; disappointed that his first effort for the project hadn’t paid off as he had expected. That question marked looked bad, ominous. It had ruined his work and tarnished its appearance. Fine. With a sigh, he returned his friend’s scrapbook and tried to steer his thoughts away from the project and the question mark.

If one was to observe his scrapbook at the end of the session, they would find that all the pictures after the first project were stuck properly and neatly, in the standard arrangements of four, five or six pictures on one page, depending on the number of pictures he had stuck for each project; and there were no question marks on them either. 

He had paid his excitement and the tendency to wander away from ‘standard’ in return for a clean, highly graded scrapbook.  
 -Avnish Bansal