My Life As A Social Work Student

-Divya Iyer, I Year B.S.W

We find ourselves at the very end of December, a month that signifies different things to different people. There’s Christmas and Hanukkah and probably other festivals that I don’t know much about. Regardless of one’s faith and way of celebrating, however, December marks the end of a year and hints at the beginning of a new one. It’s definitely a relevant month for everyone, regardless of personal priorities.
This article has many intentions, but my core reason for writing it is to give people a glimpse into what it really means to be a social work student, what we study, what we learn, what we experience, and why I find all this so satisfying. Another reason for my writing this article is purely self-indulgent and reflective. I want to examine how deeply these experiences and the exposure I have gotten have helped me develop as a person, and maybe to a large extent, even shaped my whole perception of 2017.
Social work, as a field, is very dynamic. What it requires from us, in the real world, is subject to change based on the circumstances. Given this, our course aims to give us adequate exposure to handle things. Our theoretical classes either have to do with social work as a profession and what we can do within it, or heavily borrows off key points from other disciplines which we can use on the field. Our field work sessions, which take place once a week, focus more on the practical aspect of social work and help us develop skills that we can use on the field.
This semester, we were fortunate enough to be able to attend various programmes such as a seminar for World Aids Day (December 1st ), UNICEF’s release of their official report in Chennai and a speech by Australian Paralympics gold medallist Curtis McGrath, amongst other events, for World Disability Day (30th November). As a social work student, I’ve gotten to see the success of these events as an outsider would, while at the same time recognizing and understanding the effort from our department that goes into co-ordination and making such events possible.
The event that took place on World Aids Day was intended for the NSS and YRC volunteers, but as it was relevant to what we were doing at college, our class was fortunate enough to be a part of it. We had speakers who spoke about HIV/AIDS without any shame or embarrassment, and the whole atmosphere was a positive one; free of stigma. They were able to spread awareness to us in a way that made us empathize, and made us understand more about the issue, and about what it would be like to live with HIV.
UNICEF’s official release of their annual report for Chennai happened in our college, and we were privileged enough to be there for it. The topic of this year was “Children in a Digital World,” and it concerned itself with how the internet was something that had immense potential to either harm or help children, and looked at how children can be protected from predators online, or what steps should be taken to ensure their safety.
Our department club, Unnathi, conducted various interyear intradepartmental activities to do with social issues. Some events that took place were a newspaper collage competition, face painting competition, photography competition, recycling competition and a creative writing competition. These events mostly had themes pertaining to gender, and they gave us opportunities to participate in enjoyable and interesting small-scale activities that are relevant to the world today, as it is.
Besides all of these co-ordinated and scheduled events, there are multiple things that happen as a part of the course, as naturally as breathing. I remember I was walking through the OAT during break once when I saw a group of second year social work students hanging posters on human rights, to celebrate and draw attention to how 10th December is Human Rights Day.
“Why right now, though?” I’d asked, feeling somewhat out of the loop.
They’d seemed perplexed by the redundancy of my question. “Why not?”
Being a part of this department is a very enlightening experience. Seeing people come together and discuss social change with every intent of actually making these changes happen is very inspiring. It reminds me that no matter how many things go wrong, there are also good initiatives and good people who are making things right. It gives me hope for the future, and faith in myself and all of us. There is so much more I would like to say, but I have no words. It’s such a good feeling, to belong here.

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December 2017

Cover Art by Riya Nagendra, I Year B.A. English
Quote by Madhuri Lalwani, I Year B.A. English

Editorial 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Trivial Travails And Travels

-Krishna P Unny, I Year B.A. History and Tourism
Image Source: Kalakshetra Archives

It all started the year I set foot in Chennai. Coincidence or not, in my first two years, 2015 and 2016, Chennai has seen more crises than it has ever seen in its past three hundred and odd years. If I were living in my home when these happened, things would have been irreparably depressing and scary. The credit for making even the gravest of situations enjoyable goes to the hostel and the institution that made it all possible.

Two years ago, when a nervous Krishna stepped into an institution called Kalakshetra; The Temple of Arts, with butterflies in her stomach, and messy hair (thanks to the effective blow drier that the Chennai Mail is), never had she imagined how much the future held for her. Nothing can beat the excited pace in which she roamed about the campus like a nomad.
As cliched as ‘love at first sight’ can be, nothing else can explain what I felt in those moments. The Banyan Tree there bears testimony to the fact that art is immortal; these same old trees have witnessed the making of great artists, the birth of several timeless classics, enchanting choreographies and productions.

 

I fell in love with the sounds that emanated from the thattukazhis held by experienced gurus which like witches’ wands lured several young souls into a hypnotic trance, as their hands and feet moved in perfect synchronization, performing an art form as old as Jesus himself! I fell in love with the breeze that carried with it not just the sound of the sea but another divine sound, that of the tanpura which was in timed intervals accompanied by young lips singing krithis written by saint composers sitting in their riverside mandapas centuries ago. Time travel is possible, I thought. And how can anyone who has been to the place not write about the Padma Pushkarani– the lotus tank. The place where lotuses and lillies bloom with the imagination of the young dreamers and with its waters as placid as a determined dancer’s mind.

 

I didn’t have a hard time at all, adapting to this completely unfamiliar environment more than 500 miles away from home and blending in with my fellow hostel mates and classmates wasn’t a problem at all as we were all bound by our love for dance and music.

We never realised the gravity of the floods until we started running out of food and water and murky water filled our paths, with dead scorpions or worms occasionally crossing the way. Some of us found it quite adventurous, at least until we heard the sounds of falling roofs and rescue copters and thunder. Travelling home to escape this disaster was the most adventurous trip we’ve ever taken. We had to wade through flooded roads, travel to Bangalore as it was the only Highway that was in working condition, and then go to Kerala. Travel had also become my favourite pastime by then. From home to Chennai and back: preparation for exams, competitions, everything happened during these train journeys.

 

Late 2016 was more eventful year than the previous year. We got to visit a number of places including Hampi, Bangalore and Mysore among many others thanks to dance and music. As for hostellers, everything from the release of Rajini Murugan to the economic impact of Brexit and the Greek crisis to Arnab Goswami’s resignation were topics of intense debate for us.

Coincidence or not, it was when we were in Tanjore that the cyclone Nada struck the place. Layers of costume and makeup didn’t do much to protect us from the icy cold winds brought in by Nada. We reached Chennai and there you go, Nada subsided in Tanjore while Chennai got its very own visitor, Cyclone Vardah. This time, we watched the whirling winds knock down the trees precariously, one by one while we stood gaping out of the windows as if it were a show on India’s Biggest Disasters airing on the Discovery channel.

Trump’s unexpected win, Jayalalitha’s failing health and the innumerable times she was declared dead, until the official declaration was made all turned out to be more fodder for news in the hostel. This resulted in 3 days of holidays. After this, the Jallikattu issue grew from a spark to a wildfire. Be it the protests or the cyclone or the floods, our close proximity to the beach, where it all began, made it all the more thrilling. It all came to an end with a crescendo. The 12th boards. Pre exam blues, parting words, farewells, slam books being exchanged.

Sigh.

One conclusion that I’ve derived from all this (apart from the fact that I am a harbinger of disasters) is that life here is always in a flux. It is engaging, exciting and confusing. But amidst all this stands the haven for young Martha Grahams and Mozarts. Under its Banyan tree, life seems to be at peace with itself. As if it is made of nothing else but musical notes and rhythmic beats.

Abe Kalia’s Revenge

-Tanya Mary, I Year B.A. English

One fine day, Nora was sitting in a corner and crying. Her wise grandma Bhishmi asked her, “Why are you crying, my sweet little skylark?” ‘
“A rude Stella kaaka snatched my donut with chocolate topping and flew away,” she bawled.

“Oh that… there’s a great legend behind that…,” Bhishmi said.

“Really? Tell me, paati, please?” Nora pleaded.

“Long long ago, before Bharatamuni was born, there was a tree which bore delicious donuts with chocolate topping, in the middle of Garden Jayden. The mighty Orlando was entrusted with guarding it. One day, a cute little flying dinosaur, Dinoboy passed that way and was entranced by the nascent loveliness of these donuts. He requested Orlando to give him a donut. Orlando refused. Dinoboy pleaded, rolled on the floor, cried and begged him to give a donut. At last, Orlando relented when Dinoboy agreed to write poems in praise of Rosalind, Orlando’s girlfriend and stick it to trees. Orlando gave him a half-roasted donut. As Dinoboy was about to bite into it, a ferocious crow snatched it away from him and sat majestically on a tree and delivered a short speech of 272 words which is popularly known as the Donysburg address. It is known as one of the most influential speeches in the Kingdom of Kaaliapur. “This is my revenge for my ancestors being denied the right to eat donuts ages ago,” Abe Kaalia said to Dinoboy. Dinoboy was guilt ridden and he and his entire clan committed suicide. That is how Dinosaurs became extinct. Orlando shot at Abe Kaalia with his arrow. Abe Kaalia cursed the tree as well as Orlando saying that Karma will ensure that no other homosapien can have their food in peace as long as Abe Kaalia’s descendants were alive. The descendants of this legendary crow can be found in and around Stella Canteen till this day. That is why there is no such tree nowadays and the reason behind them holding grudges against all homosapiens…”

Nora listened with wonder in her eyes. The great mystery was solved at last. She resolved to respect Stella crows the next time she met them and spread the legend herself.

Theatricals 2017

-Riya Nagendra, I Year B.A. English

Evam Theatricals 2017 was a huge success, with colleges in and around Chennai coming to showcase their skills in theatre. Ten scripts were shortlisted for the semi-finals performance that was held on the 26th of November. Of these, seven were selected for the finals of the event, held on the 2nd of November, at Alliance Française.

The plays performed included a fun mystery adventure, a dystopian drama and a lot of social commentary – the students of Srimad Andavan Arts and Science College (Trichy) captured the audience with their energetic performance on the plight of sanitation workers; SRM Easwari Engineering College portrayed the harsh lives of the Sri Lankan Tamils with a monodrama; R.K.M Vivekananda College put up a satirical piece on the IPL match-fixing scandal.

The host performance by the Stella Players was a light performance, about a Tamil-Brahmin family looking to get their daughter married, and was a favourite of the audience. It was directed by Ashley Shillong.

The judges for the day were Maya S. Krishnan, Abhishek Joseph George, T.M. Karthik and Vijay Saravanan. The winners of the event were decided based on an audience poll and the judges’ decision. The award for Best Play went to Srimad Andavan College, and the runners-up were R.K.M Vivekananda. The award for Best Actor went to the mono-dramatist from S.R.M. Easwari, and the Best Actress was Ayushi, from S.R.M Kattankulathur.

The event was a tremendous learning experience for the participants and volunteers.

Home

-Akchayaa R., II Year B.A. English

Waiting at the railway station,
I crane my neck
To catch a glimpse of the East India Company’s greatest gift to India
That is supposed to take me home.
The mysterious voice announcing this magnificent creature’s arrival
In tongues I could not fathom
Reminded me of a footman
Crying praises before the arrival of a king.

I hop onto the train fighting the crowd,
Hoping that it would take me to places
That I have heard of only in books;
To mountains and valleys and rivers
Where I can get lost to find myself.
I beg this giant machine
To take me to strange cities with palaces and forts
Fit for queens,
Queens who held their heads high
Even when the world around them was slowly crumbling down.

The train comes to a sudden halt
And I realise it is time to get down.
But I do not reach mountains or palaces of silver and gold.
Oh! I seemed to have reached home.
I look around the station like a lost child,
Lost in the familiarity.
It was only then I realised
That sometimes home can be the long metal box with friendly strangers for company
That leaves you with the desire of dancing to the tunes of nature
And fuelling the wanderlust in you.

A Year With Uber

-Kavyashree P., I Year B.A. English
Image Source: http://www.uber.com/en-IN/

Uber is not just a taxi service for me. It’s a part of my daily life, quite literally. I use Uber almost every single day – to college, extra classes, wherever I’m going with my friends, and back home.

I’ve been using Uber since 2015, which is 7 years after Uber was started by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp. I was very apprehensive about it because I had rarely travelled alone before, and my mother reading out articles about rape cases involving taxi drivers wasn’t helpful. Nevertheless, I took that first ride and now I have completed around 400 rides. I still do have fears about my safety, but I’m definitely not as nervous as I used to be. I always call and tell my mother, who is on standby, once I’ve boarded my taxi and tell her the vehicle details. Though I have my earphones plugged in, I always keep an eye on the route we’re taking.

Over these 2 years, I have obviously ridden with many different drivers, a majority of whom were amazing, but to keep the balance, there were also a few annoying ones. To me, the best thing an Uber driver can do is understand that if I have my headphones on, it means that I don’t want to chat. It may come across as rude, but I don’t really want to be making small talk all the way to where I’m headed. Most drivers understand this and drive away with 5 stars.

This year I had 2 pleasant surprises from Uber. The first one came in October. I had booked my cab and called my driver, and was a little surprised to hear a lady’s voice. I asked if this was the Uber driver and she replied saying yes. I decided not to question her further and asked her to come to the pick-up location. After ending the call, I looked at the driver’s details and saw a lady’s name. The feminist in me was delighted.

There were 4 red lights on the route we took that day. And at every single one of them, the same thing happened. First, the commuters in the nearby vehicles would look inside the car and look a little shocked at seeing a woman behind the wheel. Then, they would look at the backseat of the car and be more shocked to see a passenger. They would, then, look at the number plate on the vehicle, more shocked at seeing a yellow-board car. All through this, our heroine would unflinchingly just stare at the road or back at our co-commuters with an exasperated look.

I did not talk to her at all throughout the ride, because I’m not very good at starting conversations, but I wish I had. However, I did leave her a note through the Uber app saying how happy I was to see women in the service.

The second surprise was the personalised ‘Year with Uber’ video. You can “view your own 2017 year-in-review music video directed by your trip history.” It’s a really cool video with details like how many trips you’ve taken this year, how many kilometres you’ve covered, etc.

Now, I can’t really compare Uber with any other similar service because I don’t use another one. I seem to have some bad luck with Ola because, for some reason, 99% of my rides get cancelled. Since most of my family members use Uber, I don’t have any other option. But hey, I’m not complaining!

Around The World In 80 Plates

-Mercy Teres Johny, III Year B.A. English
Image Source: http://www.feastmagazine.com

They say that the way to a person’s heart is through the stomach and, to make the way easier, Chennai is no longer a city that restricts itself to its local cuisine, as it offers the citizens a world on a plate. It’s interesting to notice how there are more Jains in Murugan Idly Shop, and more South Indians ordering Paneer butter masala in Adyar Ananda Bhavan. After all, whoever said that one should only love some hot crispy dosas without falling for some buttery paneer? It’s almost like the entire idea of exoticism cannot escape from the hungriest of people. Anything that is not inherently theirs, or anything that is not a usual, home-made dish always lures the explorative, hungry diner in everyone, making them want to try something different or new.

Chennai has been brimming with places that satisfy everyone’s cravings, bringing in a melange of cultures, along with the exotic, flavourful food that the restaurants offer, and Asian cuisine is one among them.

The lady sitting by the desk at the entrance of Va Pho, one of the recent restaurants offering a whole world of Asian flavours, flashes me a bright smile and is happy to talk about how she misses home – Manipur. “Chennai’s heat gets too much at times,” she laughs. Yet, interestingly, what’s stuck with her from her childhood in Manipur to her present stage in Chennai is her fascination with Korea, and its pop culture. She feels a strong connection whenever she sees Korean dramas and music, and equates it to home, as that was how she spent most of her days back in Manipur. It’s quite evident that there will always be a desire to belong to another culture, or at the very least, to experience it.

Asian cuisine is definitely one of the most popular choices among everyone here, although most have made it suit the Indian palate. Va Pho, as well, boasts of having a vast range of cuisines – Korean, Vietnamese, Malaysian and many more. With its brightly painted walls, the restaurant even has a small auto in the restaurant. Known for their Baos that almost melt in the mouth, and their spicy Mee Goreng and soya-sauce based Char Kway Teow noodles, there’s plenty on the menu.

Chennai is making sure that there is much more than kozhukottais to feast on, and for those who wants to take a break from these sweet delicacies, with a range of Asian dumplings that extend to much more than just momos – dimsums, siumai, wontons and many more of these soft, juicy dumplings. Although ‘Chinese’ food was once associated with a sweeter, spicier and coloured version of Indian food that could be found in nearly every restaurant, or roadside stall, there’s so much more than Schezwan fried rice. A steep rise in the attempts at maintaining the authentic flavours of food from different cultures. And even if the food doesn’t seem as authentic, the ambience definitely will.

Sushi in a Box, for instance, is a Japanese restaurant that offers the diner the entire experience, giving them chopsticks and the option to sit on the floor and feast on some soupy ramen, crispy calamari, Katsu Don (an egg, meat and rice based dish), sushi, sashimi and many more. And while the first attempt at eating with a chopstick might end up with the food on the floor and the chopsticks slipping from your hands, there’s plenty to distract oneself with, simply by taking a look at their manga-covered walls.

India’s first Ethiopian restaurant in Chennai, Abyssinian, complete with low tables and walls with shields, with their Ethiopian soups, curries and Kitfo (tenderloin) among a whole list of exotic dishes, has garnered a loyal following. Batlivala and Khanaboy offers authentic Parsi cuisine, with yam cutlets and Mutton dhansak, while Winter Palace is known for its Russian cuisine. It sure is a visual, culinary and cultural treat with these restaurants around. The steady rise in European cafes, as well, simply cannot go unnoticed. With bistros, tearooms and French bakeries popping up, there’s no dearth to a heavenly taste of French cuisine, and some lovely English breakfasts.

For those who wish to feast on some Tibetan cuisine without burning a hole in their wallet, Kailash Kitchen has some delectable noodles and momos that have a long line of students queuing up outside. Mezze, a Mediterranean restaurant, dishes out food from the Middle East, and its not just the infamous Shawarma that is available here. Their Baba ganoush, hummus, pita bread, and Tzaziki are just a few of the many dishes they offer.

It’s safe to say that with the vast range of cuisines that this city offers, one truly can taste the world in a city – one only needs to explore. As a friend very wisely said, “Even the greatest of wars could have been settled, if someone had just offered peace with a plate of delicious food.”

Movie For The Perfect Holiday Season

-Maanasi Lakshman, I Year B.A. History and Tourism
Image Source: http://www.collider.com

‘Tis the season to be jolly, eat a lot of carbs, sleep in, go vacationing and of course, watch the holiday classics. No matter what genre you like to watch through the year, there are just a few movies that make your holidays complete!

Here are some classic picks from the 80’s to 2004 to make you merry and feel all the spirits of joy!

 

  1. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Cast:  James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan

Alfred Karlik (James Stewart) and Klara Novak’s (Margaret Sullavan) story is set in the World War II scenario and they constantly butt heads and have arguments. They relieve themselves through their pen-pals and fall in love with each other. Little do they know what future had planned for them. It is the quintessential romantic movie, perfect for this time of the year!

Where you can watch it: www.dailymotion.com

 

  1. You’ve Got Mail (1998)

Cast: Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan prove to be a perfect on-screen couple. Ryan portrays a struggling book shop owner and Tom Hanks is the owner of a corporate book store chain, putting little stores out of business. They are business rivals, yet writing brings them together, in an anonymous way. It is the perfect rom-com for the season.

Where you can watch it: www.netflix.com

 

  1. Meet Me in St Louis (1944)

Cast: Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brie

Not exactly a Christmas movie, but it is the classic MGM Christmas themed musical. It brings us great tunes that we have cherished over the years. It is centered on a group of four sisters, all learning life in different ways. The movie renders the perfect boy-next door feels when John Trudette comes in. Set in the Christmas spirit, this is the perfect chick-flick to watch with your girlfriends and sisters!

Where you can watch it: www.cmovie.hd

 

  1. A Christmas Story (1983)

Cast: Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Marjorie Reynolds.

Based on the jocular and light-hearted writings of Jean Shepherd, this movie revolves around a youngster Ralphie Parker, who daydreams about his ideal Christmas present, an air rifle. Ralphie gives us time to rewind with his childish tactics and makes us laugh. He is mostly at a tiff with his irritable father and seeks comfort from his loving mother. Ralphie constantly struggles to celebrate Christmas peacefully. The movie hits a sweet spot between making us feel grateful and chuckle at the same time. It is funny and filled with innocence, one to watch with your family!

Where you can watch it: www.netflix.com

 

  1. White Christmas (1954)

Cast: Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye

Undoubtedly a sentimental holiday favorite. A few sisters and brothers join together for an extravaganza of a musical, in the rural areas of snow covered, beautifully sparkling Vermont where they learn that Dean Jagger is having a financial crisis. They plan out a huge musical in order to put his troubles away, having some fun in the process. It shows us the real meaning of Christmas; the spirit and joy of giving. Definitely a feel-good movie

Where you can watch it: www.netflix.com

 

  1. A Christmas Carol (2009)

Cast: Jim Carrey and Gary Oldman.

Written originally by Charles Dickens, it is a story about an old man, (Ebenezer Scrooge) who is a mean-spirited miser. Even as the entire world awaits Christmas, he is cynical about it. Later that night, he is visited by three ghosts who take him through his yester-years and his past. Filled with special effects, Jim Carrey does an amazing job, making us all laugh at his little antics. It is a perfect pick, leaves you feeling grateful with some good Christmas vibes.

Where you can watch it: www.hotstar.com

 

  1. Christmas in Conneticut (1945)

Cast: Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan.

Elizabeth, potrayed by Barbara Stanwyck, plays a popular magazine column writer, Diary of A Housewife. She pretends to be a married woman, living on a farm in Conneticut. Little did she know that her writing could actually move and inspire people, she later finds out that a particular war-hero (a fan) had fallen in love with her and wanted to find out more about her. Trouble unwinds when he later finds out that she isn’t who she claims to be. It is filled with the old-world charm, one that makes you feel warm and happy.

Where you can watch it: www.Amazonprimevideo.com

 

  1. The Polar Express (2004)

Cast: Tom Hanks and Nona Gaye.

A classic Christmas movie, based on a novel written by Chris Van  Allsburg. The story revolves around children going on an adventurous trip to the North Pole, to meet Santa and see what Christmas really is about. The movie is animated, and is sure to touch your hearts and make you believe that no matter what age you are, Santa is real!

Where you can watch it: www.putlocker.com

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