Rio Olympics 2016: A Quick Recap

Special Correspondent Anusha Sankaranarayanan , III Year B.A. English

There were two kinds of people who followed the Rio Olympics this year – the ones who woke up early in the mornings to catch the games of their favourite athletes and the ones who were content with simply looking at the news updates and score tally later on in the day. Regardless of the category one belongs to, what would have been impossible to ignore was the woeful fortunes of the largest-ever Indian contingent to the Olympics.

India’s 67th position on the medals table stands in stark contrast to countries like China and the United States, which topped the charts with medals across 25 disciplines. While most lamented this state of affairs, a closer look at the athletes’ individual performances reveals a latent sliver of hope for the future of sports in India.

P.V.Sindhu and Sakshi Malik proved to be India’s saving grace at the Rio Olympics when they scored silver and bronze medals respectively just a few days before the closing ceremony. Not only did Sindhu defeat at least three badminton players ranked higher than her to qualify for the finals, her competence at the sport also managed to rattle World No.1 Carolina Marin.

However, the star of the season was a woman from Tripura, who was hardly five feet tall and proved to the entire world that with dedication anything is possible, even performing the dangerous two-and-a-half somersault Produnova vault. When she missed the Bronze medal the entire nation wept with her, but it was not in vain since Dipa Karmakar embodied hope. Despite the lack of a medal, the very fact that she landed a spot in the finals spelt hope for a country which had not had an Olympian gymnast since 1964.

It was only fitting then that the three young female athletes, along with Jitu Rai, were awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award on 29th of August. While remembering the contributions of our medalists, however, it would be erroneous to forget those of the other athletes who spent four years of their lives channeling their energies into the Olympics.

Indeed, there were disappointments at Rio when the archers, boxers and wrestlers failed to bring in medals. While some missed it by a hair’s breadth, others exhibited disappointing performances in the heat of the moment. Among the former were Abhinav Bindra and the tennis duo Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna who lost the Bronze medal by mere inches.

Track athlete Lalita Babar was also the first Indian woman track athlete since 1984 and finished 10th in the 300m steeplechase finals. Others who showed great potential were badminton player Kidambi Srikanth, who lost to the Chinese legend Lin Dan in the quarter-finals, and rower Dattu Bhokanal, who clinched the first place in the Final C round in the men’s single sculls event.

What remains to be seen now is how India taps into the potential of these athletes to transform itself as a sporting nation. Previously, it was the lack of funding for sports which was considered to be the issue. However, despite the provision of resources for Rio, the potential failed to transform itself into results due to lack of planning. It is then perhaps for the better that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a task force to recommend an overall strategy for sports facilities, training, selection procedure and other related matters for the Olympics in 2020, 2024 and 2028.

Now is the time for our athletes not to be content with merely being Olympians, but to channel their willpower into becoming champions. And I hope that as I keep a lookout for them, they turn around and surprise me during the next Olympics!

[Photograph Source: Times of India]

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B Block: Then and Now

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Photo by: Pradeksha Sethupathi, II Year B.A. Economics.

Club of the Month: Western Music Club

All Set To Hit The High Notes

Gowri S, III Year B.A. English.

In conversation with the office bearers of WMC, Bianca Joseph and Sreenidhi Venkat.

One among the few a cappella groups in the city, the Western Music Club, popularly known as ‘Acastella’, has long been one of the most popular clubs in the college. Known for their incredible harmonising skills and precise renditions, WMC still continues to be one of the clubs which garner attention among the juniors very quickly. On casual enquiry about the reason for their popularity in the campus, students were not at the least doubtful in owing the credit to their performances in the past years, which spoke of perfection. The academic year 2014-2015 saw the prime of the club with Roshini Sharon and Subiksha Natarajan at the helm. The following year, due to unforeseen circumstances, many events were cancelled which led the club to be relatively inactive. However, this year, WMC is meticulous in their planning and hopes to implement them all.

The current President Bianca Joseph and Secretary Sreenidhi Venkat, in an informal conversation, mentioned that this year is likely to be an eventful year for the club. “It’s all about the balance in the number of people from each year. Last year, we had a difficulty when all the seniors passed out, leaving only a handful in the group. This year, we have made sure that we include maximum number of first year students,” said Bianca who is pursuing her third year B.V.A. program. The club has also started an acoustic group meant exclusively for the shift 2 students this year. Roseline Noble, a final year B.Comm student (Shift 2) said, “The WMC was pretty non-existent among the second shift students till now. With the introduction of the acoustic group, it should definitely change.”

Having performed in almost all the events that happened from the beginning of the academic year till date, the club hopes to continue with the same vigour. Harmonising on stage calls for perfection in each member of the group and this, undoubtedly, is the unique selling point of the club. In order to keep the synchronisation intact, each person in the group should be equally talented, a quality which differentiates an a capella group from instrumental bands. WMC makes sure that each member of the club gets to perform a solo bit in a set which is yet another quality.

Sreenidhi, the Secretary of the club who is a 3rd year UG student from the Department of English, said that the club ensures the right kind of exposure for the juniors which could enable them to take the club forward in the coming years. She also said, “Currently our aim is to participate in all the intercollegiate events which will most probably be held in the second semester of this academic year.” When asked about the how they select songs for the set, she said, “In cultural events, the popularity of the songs and the way you connect to the crowd are the factors that are often looked upon.” According to the office bearers, the club is currently trying to contact professionals to help with the arrangements of the sets.

On recalling the time when they had auditioned for the club, most of the senior members admit that the process was indeed scary. This in itself establishes the fact that the club has always been one among the most sought-after clubs in the college. The fact that WMC has always been a frontrunner among the clubs automatically sets high expectations among the students. This year, with many events fast approaching, some mind-blowing performances are well in line.

United in our Difference

Hafsa Fathima, II Year M.A. English

This is my family for you, painted clumsily in a few sentences. Picture us returning from the mosque; my brothers and father are dressed in long white robes with white skullcaps on their heads, my mother and I veiled in the traditional black abaya, our hair covered by our hijabs. To the outsider, our family unit looks typically Muslim, and nothing more. Step into our living room, on Eid and you’ll witness the stunning diversity that differentiates us and unites us. My Telugu grandmother sits dressed in her best Kancheepuram, red vermillion marking her forehead, a sign of the Hindu faith she still practises after more than 50 years of being married to my Muslim grandfather. Consequently, the elders in my family are a mix of both faiths, and my brothers and I greet them with both folded palms accompanied by Namastes and Assalamulaikums. My father, switching smoothly between Urdu, Telugu and English, asks to get our cousins to come for lunch. The younger generation of my family is as much a kaleidoscope of different beliefs as the elder; I have one cousin preaching the benefits of atheism at one side, another cousin’s shorts are a sharp contrast to the abaya I wear, and another two are engaged in the usual debate about evolution vs. creationism. The menu today is fried beef, sambarsadam, biryani and vegetables. We sit down to this meal, all of us, Muslims, Hindus, Occasional Sufis, still-trying-to-figure-out-if-they’re-atheists or agnostics- as one.

In my family, we exist with an utopian bubble where all beliefs have made their peace with each other. The outside world is a different story, and I learnt this the hard way. I remember how, in grade 11, when minding the 3rd grade class, I had to break up a minor scuffle between two girls. When I asked what the problem was, one of them pointed at the other accusingly and yelled, “She doesn’t watch Chota Bheem!” Though the other girl’s taste in TV shows was perfectly understandable to me, further investigation revealed that this dislike stemmed from a much darker place. “I don’t watch Chota Bheem because it’s a Hindu show,” the other declared, “My mother told me not to watch Hindu shows.” I was jarred; these girls were eight years old and already had hate taught to them. Over the years, these incidents got worse; classmates who would openly make terrorist jokes when I was in their midst, members of my community telling me not to stay in my Hindu friends homes because “they’re not like us,” laws that were passed with an obvious religious bias, a never ending list of prejudice and judgments.

It’s been 70 years since we gained our Independence, and after more than half a decade of freedom, we should’ve tried to build a better world. Secularism and religious tolerance was what the Father of this nation believed in more than anything, and what he fought for relentlessly. As he said, “I believe in the Fundamental truth of all great religions of the world. I believed they are all God-given…I believe that only we could all of us read the scriptures of the different faiths from the standpoint of the followers of these faiths, we should find that they were at the bottom all one and were helpful to each other.”

Gandhi’s words were what inspired me to understand that our unity, our celebration of difference is what makes us stronger, not weaker. The world we live in and its situation may look bleak, but I believe that change has to begin from a ground level, even in the smallest ways, and can be effectively implemented in our society if we try hard enough.

Dialogue is the starting point we need to initiate. Most of our misconceptions about religions and their practises come from the fact that we misunderstand their teachings. The ways we can engage with each other are numerous. Panel discussions and conferences in colleges and schools that discuss the basics of every religion to an audience can make a large impact by educating people and clearing doubts. The “Ask A…” campaign is a powerful movement that exists abroad; a group of people of different faiths occupy public spaces like malls and parks and answer questions from anyone who approaches them. This kind of open, civil dialogue where there isn’t any fear to discuss ideas is something we need to see implemented in India. The most important form of dialogue, however, exists in our classrooms, especially ones with younger children. The teaching of basic respect for other beliefs and practises can revolutionise peace building initiatives in this country.

As Gandhi said, it is only through educating ourselves of what is different that we can see the similarities. Institutions like colleges, camps and even workplaces could implement voluntary trips to different places of worship on a monthly basis. Mosques, churches and temples may practise unique methods of worship, but they share the ability to both stun and humble you with their presence. These places of worship could also make material explaining their religions accessible to public; free brochures, pamphlets explaining the tenets of the faith that those interested could pick up, and even free copies of their religious texts.

The success of secularism depends on a nation’s ability to separate church from state. While we respect the different religions of our nation as important part of our heritage and culture, we must also realise the dangers of passing laws that favour one religion over another. We need to be aware of the importance of building and promoting a judiciary system that takes the needs of all religions into mind, and that includes the welfare of all minorities.

In order for any of this to work, we need to move beyond the word tolerance as the ultimate goal, and come into mutual understand and acceptance of each other. Gandhi saw a world where harmony reigned, and where we understood each other inspite of our differences. I hope that we move past our barriers, and that we see the world I see in my family every day.

Patriotism In The Modern World

Farasha Pharis, III Year B.A. Economics

You often hear people saying that our generation is not patriotic. Is it true? Well, patriotism in its definition as changed over the years and means different things to different people. Hitler considered himself to be the epitome of patriotism, does that mean subjecting a sect of citizens to inhumane conditions is acceptable? Many say that soldiers are the most patriotic citizens, they put their lives on the line for strangers just because they share the same passport. Does that mean war crimes are acceptable provided they don’t happen to our citizens?

What is patriotism in the era of global citizens? Where do the scales of patriotism and global thinking find their balance? This isn’t a cynical view of patriotism, rather a realistic one.

We know that democracy was born in Greece, but where was patriotism born? Let’s start at the very beginning, with the early men (and women). A time when there were no countries or territories to be patriotic towards. The population began to grow and along with it we became divisive; tribes were born. As the world progressed, we invented the wheel and created fear within the people that no one was ever safe; tribes united and the territories that were once divided now merged their lands and weaponry. The tribes grew and so civilisation as we know was born.

You must be wondering what any of this has to do with patriotism. These merged tribes and new civilisations began to form kingdoms or countries as we call them. The king was supreme and patriotism was showing your devotion to the king. Militaries grew stronger and overthrew some of these kings. If you spoke against the military’s action you were a traitor or unpatriotic. People decided they had enough, colonial rulers were revolted against. Independent nations were born and their leaders were chosen by the people. They sang their national anthems and hoisted their flags, rejoiced at the thought of their nations. This didn’t stay too long, countries wanted to expand, and the colonies that still existed were used as army reserves. Some countries became larger, some lost even the little they had. Patriotism was now the new name of militant nationalism; we talk about that era even today, marked them an important part of world history. You may have heard of it, the First World War? Somehow peace was unsettling and the economic conditions worsened. It was time to reignite patriotism so that the citizens wouldn’t hate the ruling party and hated other countries instead. They needed a new cause for this though, they couldn’t feed people the same story again, they weren’t stupid. They demanded uniformity and fear arose amongst the uniform and non-uniform alike.

Of late, patriotism is reverting to its old form. Creating war, in the name of politics, religion and economic conflict. We have had many a war in our country. War itself became more civilised with chosen battlegrounds and the patriotism became easier. Fighting the war was optional; you were not drafted, you enlisted. Somewhere along the line we understood patriotism better, we separated it from politics.

So then what is this ‘modern-day’ patriotism? It is love for your nation; not your nations trade policy, war crimes or international relationships. It is realizing that we can be proud of who we are without hating those around us.

Triple Celebration At Stella Maris College

Nikita Pinto, III Year B.A. English.

August 15th was a three-fold celebration for Stella Marians as the college commemorated the country’s 70th Independence Day, the founding day of the college and the holy feast of the Assumption of Mother Mary. The celebrations began with the flag-hoisting ceremony and the NCC Cadet Drill, which were overseen by the chief guest for the occasion, Thiruchi Siva, Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha.

Dr. Sr. Principal Jasinta Quadras welcomed the gathering. In keeping with the theme of independence, she said that the students must “acknowledge the many sacrifices made for our freedom.” She also emphasised on India’s “plurastic fabric”, saying that students must ensure that one group or culture must not dictate the other groups present. She stressed on equality of all cultures, religions and languages, saying that there must be “unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation.”

The annual College Magazine 2015-16, edited by the English Department was then presented to the audience. This was followed by the cultural programme ‘Kalasangamam’. The Folk Dance Club, Light Music Club and Classical Dance Club put on a show for the audience highlighting the culture, folk and heritage of Tamil Nadu.

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The college honoured two of its students, Princy S from Physics and Nivedita from Sociology with the SMC Samaritarian Award for their charitable contributions to society. The winners of the pre-Independence week competitions such as Nanotales and Poster Making, were also announced. The Students’ Union then launched their recycling initiative, encouraging students to collect cans for recycling and conversion into environment-friendly flowerpots and dustbins.

The Principal was then joined on stage by the retiring faculty for the cake-cutting ceremony in lieu of the college’s 70th anniversary. Heritage stalls were put up on campus for students to actively engage with their culture. A Human Flag formation competition was organized for all the departments of the college, which was won by the Maths department (Shift I).

[Photograph Source: SMC Photography Club]

Mind Matters

Stella adds a brand new department to its roster

Vedika Shewakramani, I Year B.Sc. Psychology

This year, added to the many courses offered by our college, is yet another brilliant department – Psychology – which, contrary to popular belief, is not about reading minds, but is tremendously interesting all the same. We took this opportunity to interview the Head of the Psychology Department, Mrs. Mary Shanta Joseph, and Professor Divya Dovina, to find out more about how this came to be, and a little more on the department and the subject.

Stellaeidoscope: Besides the fact that the subject has been gaining popularity in the last few decades, what made the college decide to introduce the Psychology department this year?            

 Psychology Department: Like you said, Psychology is becoming increasing popular, and there is a demand to study it. It is included in every facet of life, and people are realizing the importance of understanding this. Stella, as a community, wants to empower its young women with this discipline. The papers set for the students in the department are oriented to instill a particular set of skills in the students. We also look to take the holistic growth of our students a notch higher by teaching them this subject, because of the avenues it covers.

How would you say the Psychology department is distinctive from the others in the college?                                                      

 The subject itself sets the department apart from others. The fact that we deal with people, their behaviours, and their thought processes, is something Psychology is known for. Also, it is taught from different points of views, and has a humanistic approach to it.

What do you hope for the students to be able to take with them at the end of this course?

We want the students to be able to leave with a sound knowledge of the workings of the mind. They’re expected to be equipped enough to be able to apply everything they’ve learned here in whatever they choose to do in the future, in terms of work and everyday life.

What, according to you, makes Psychology appealing to a student?

 There is an element of fascination in understanding the human mind and behaviour. Through Psychology, one hopes to make sense of trivial things that happen to us in our day to day lives, and everything that otherwise would seem random, is now explained with cause and effect.

What would be your favourite part about teaching Psychology?

 It would probably be teaching about everyday behaviours and conceptualizing all of it in a manner that it is systematically taught, right from how it all begins to where it ends, and giving every thought process and behaviour a scientific perspective. Also, the mind is considered very complicated, and dissecting that complexity while explaining it all to students is satisfactory. And Psychology is considered extremely complicated by some and plain common knowledge by others. It’s nice to be able to bridge the gap between these two by teaching the subject.

Do you have any concerns about the department, considering this is its first year?

 Well, no, there isn’t anything we’re worried about in particular. It’s not like we’re confident that it’s all going to go down smoothly, but we’re choosing to look at it from a positive angle, and we are quite optimistic. You could say that we’re up for a challenge.

The professors and students of the Psychology department are all geared up to explore a whole new dimension this year, and are ready to make a spot for themselves among us. We sure are glad to make way for them in the Stella family!

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