The Tale Behind Fairy Tales

-Pushpamithra, I Year B.A. English

Almost all of us have grown up reading/ listening to fairy tales or watching Disney movies, and some of us still do. Disney gives us the “happily ever after” versions of these stories, but how many of us know the actual story?

Here’s a look at the truth behind these famous, much-loved stories:

 

Let’s start off with the least gruesome one. The story is the same as shown in the movie but they’ve retold the story to make it a happy one. In the real version, after the prince returns to his kingdom with snow white, they hold a wedding ceremony and snow white’s stepmother is invited. The queen went to attend the wedding without knowing that the bride was actually her step-daughter. When she arrived, she was shocked and snow white and the prince present her with red, hot iron slippers which she was made to wear and dance with, until she died.

 

Cinderella is a story that has so many variations that it’s hard to know which one is the original. The earliest one known is the story of Rhodopis about a greek slave girl who married the king of Egypt. The most popular, however, is the ‘Histoires ou contes du Temps Passe’ by Charles Perrault which was adapted into a movie. Here too, the story starts the same way. The mother dies, and the father marries a wicked stepmother who has cruel daughters. The only difference is that it is not a fairy godmother who helps Cinderella, but a few doves and other animals in her house. The twist to the story comes at the very end. The stepmother, who is so obsessed with gaining the throne, forces her other daughters to cut off their toes and heels in order to fit their feet into the glass slipper. Finally, during Cinderella’s and the Prince’s wedding, the doves peck her stepsisters’ eyes and made them blind. Not the happiest of endings, is it?

 

The Little Mermaid, written by Danish author Hans Christian Anderson, is a story about a young mermaid who had two wishes: to have a human soul and go to heaven (as mermaids do not have souls, they can live for hundreds of years and turn to foam when they die), and of course, marry her prince. The story starts the same way with her saving the prince but when she goes to the witch, she not only sacrifices her voice but also her tongue for the price of human legs which would feel like walking on knives and cause her incredible pain all the time. She was also given a condition that if the prince falls in love with anyone but her, she will die the day after their marriage. When she washes up ashore, the prince finds her and starts falling in love with her but suddenly some other princess appears to ruin it. The prince, believing that the princess was the person who saved him, marries her. At this point, the little mermaid’s older sister gets worried about her and gives her an enchanted silver knife which they got in exchange for their long, beautiful hair and tells her that if she pierces the prince’s heart with it and if his blood touches her legs, she’d get her tail back and would be able to get back to the sea. The little mermaid, reluctant to kill the person she loved, turned into sea foam and died. The only good part: she became an ethereal earthbound spirit, a daughter of the air for her selflessness. She was given a chance to obtain a human soul by doing good deeds for mankind for 300 years. Well, at least her wish to get a soul came true. (or did it? Let’s be honest: serving mankind for 300 years is too much)

 

Lastly, Beauty and the Beast! It was written by the French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. In the original, the father has three sons and three daughters, and he loses all his wealth due to his ships sinking in the storm. He hears news that one of the ships survived so he goes to enquire after it. He asks his children what they want, when his youngest, Belle wishes for a rose. After this, the story is as we know it and ends the same way as Disney shows it. However, the original story doesn’t end there. Belle wanted her family to live in the castle and invited them. But her jealous sisters took this as an opportunity and killed her by drowning her. The witch who cursed the prince brought Belle back to life and cursed the sisters this time, turning them to stone and says that the only way to reverse it is when someone falls in love with their stone statues.

 

It’s quite evident why these fairytales were not told as bedtime stories to kids, after all. Maybe happy endings and love are all that’s needed for a ‘Happily Ever After’.

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Health Week Celebrations

-Mercy Johny, III Year B.A. English
Image Source: Students’ Union, Stella Maris College

Not a lot of us focus on our health when there are cheesy fries and ice creams to binge on, and especially when returning home is synonymous with watching TV show re-runs. Health, usually, becomes a second priority, and the Union, in an effort to promote the importance of overall health, in accordance with their LEAD logo, decided to hold several programs programs as break time events to shed light on the importance of maintaining good health – both mentally and physically. From 20th to 25th November, the Union celebrated Health Week, with fitness programs and competitions.

It began with a Zumba program and a piloxing session organised by a trainer from Flabfit, Chennai, where the zumba trainer and the students moved along to popular hits, ensuring a good workout.
The following day, on 21st November, a street play was conducted by Nalam, an NGO, as songs were sung in support of the oppressed, disregarding the need for distinctions between castes and classes, after which a Mental Health Talk was held by a psychiatrist, Dr.Anbudurai, who highlighted the importance of maintaining one’s peace and belief, and the need to trust oneself.

On 22nd, a general dental health check-up by Rajan Dental Care was conducted throughout the day. The following day, the B.Voc students gathered together, dressed in colour coded clothes to represent the Food Pyramid, and spoke about benefits of ingredients that are commonly used such as salt, sugar, milk, etc., the goodness of vitamins and minerals, as well as how the body gains from the intake of each ingredient.

A self-assessment survey was also conducted on the same day, and the Healthy Cooking Competition scheduled for the day saw the students whipping up some healthy yet delicious food, made from corn, sprouts, sesame seeds and many more.

A video presentation on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOD) was showcased to the students on the fifth and final day, and the Union are expecting to hold another talk by a Gynaecologist soon. With a successful number of sessions and programs, the Health Week organised by the Union may have effectively impacted the students’ outlook on their overall health and well-being.

Unnatural Nostalgia?

-Zenia Zuraiq, I Year B.Sc Physics
Image Source: Google Images
(Back to the Future II sums this up pretty well when Marty McFly, our 80s protagonist is struck by their 2015’s version of looking back at his time, a rose-tinted view – much like the one we hold now.)

Stranger Things Season 2 is out and it isn’t very strange that it’s doing so well. It’s a show with an engaging plot, an incredibly talented cast and is just overall very well done. But I’m not just going to wax poetic about Stranger Things – that has been done already, to the fullest extent by better critics than me.

What I will do is explore the “strange” phenomenon surrounding the Netflix hit – the power of “nostalgia” in selling this show. For people unfamiliar with the aura of the show, it can be pretty accurately summed up as one great 80s movies nostalgia fest. It’s been compared to and draws heavily from various Hollywood 80s classics – Goonies, E.T., and various Stephen King works.

The movie adaptation of Stephen King’s It that came out earlier this year, was a big hit as well and it was a movie based entirely on a bunch of kids in, you guessed it, the 80s. 2015 opened with the almost blind optimism of getting the hoverboards and self-tying shoes that Back to the Future II had promised us. The Goldbergs is a perfectly average family-centric sitcom about an American family in the 80s, full of references and callbacks. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy franchise relies heavily on 80s pop, quite literally, with a soundtrack full of the decade’s tunes.

On the flip side, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the novel Ready Player One received a significant amount of backlash for this very reason. Its trailer, filled with 80s references seemed to be an attempt at forced nostalgia; at getting people to watch for references, not content, prompting a lot of hate.

And, thus, we’ve reached a point where we are able to categorize nostalgia as right or wrong, which begs the question – How did this happen? Were the 80s really that revolutionary with their content? What makes us go back to them so often?

Well, there is the most obvious answer that the people making the content mentioned are simply 80s kids themselves. They’re just playing off their own nostalgia, writing their own stories. And maybe, that’s all, that’s the simple explanation. The Duffer brothers, for example, the creative minds behind Stranger Things have mentioned how the references on the show have a lot to do with what they grew up with.

But this leads to a more interesting question – how do they make this nostalgia translate to the non 80s kids? Millennials everywhere, who were definitely not around for the 80s love these shows. But not just that, they love the dresses, the chokers, and the referenced materials themselves. They love the 80s.

I know because I am one of them – I love the 80s.

I love 80s movies. I’ve watched the Back to the Future trilogy too many times to count. The Breakfast Club (1985), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), The Princess Bride (1987), Dead Poets’ Society (1989) are all movies I adore a great deal, to mention a few.

However, it is important to note here that my adoration of the 80s does not stem from a pretentious and/or snobbish view of contemporary pop culture. I do not think the current pop culture scenario is bleak or uninspiring or even that we should go back to the era. Not at all. Current pop culture does excite me, with or without the 80s influence.

I just like looking back at the 80s. And this is what confuses me – how our society is filled with people like me, who feel swept up in nostalgia for a time they weren’t a part of. We’re looking back at a time that never was.

Another layer to the situation that you may have picked up on, is how all my arguments are extremely westernized. This just shows how far Western media’s fondness for looking back goes and how powerful its influence is. It’s kind of amazing how I am able to experience media beyond my culture and my time. And there is a case to be made here for technology and its helpful push in experiencing this strange nostalgia.

And I think there is a case to be made on how rosy our hindsight often proves to be, how tinted our vision is, looking back. The grass is always greener on the other side, especially if the other side is decades apart. We love romanticizing the past. We love looking back at how perfect things were.

For people like me, we love being a part of a culture that we normally couldn’t access. We love how we get to experience things before our time. The opposite of “FOMO”. The satisfaction of not missing out.

And it is spreading. As time marches on, nostalgia only gets stronger. 90s nostalgia is as powerful as 80s at this point and there is a little bit of nostalgia creeping in for the early 00’s as well.

All I can say is I can’t wait for the future romanticisation of current times. God knows we could all do with a little polish

Our Savior

-Liz Maria Joys, I Year M.A. English

Another peaceful dawn in the valley of Elah, without a hint of disturbance. But as dawn broke, I saw movement on the opposite side of our camp. Something told me they would rise up like never before.
Suddenly the trumpet blared like a roaring thunder and after forty whole days and nights, their flag was up! The war had taken an unexpected turn just when we thought victory was ours to claim. Who had taken up the challenge? I kept watching from my tent.
From afar, like a speck, I saw someone returning the armory that the king seemingly provided him with. And lo! There he was…standing to face our hero!

‘Finally some comic relief in the battlefield…’ I thought and proceeded towards the entrance of my tent to get a better view. And oh..It was a sight to behold! A boy was up against our giant, and was screaming something  I couldn’t decipher.

There was utter confusion in our camp, seeing the opponents rise one by one, with all the zest and zeal that once seemed to evade them.

Should we buckle up? Should we charge against them? Without a clue of what was transpiring, we waited expectantly for the action that was imminent. Soldiers positioned closer to the two opponents ran to the camp to inform us of the events. A shepherd boy, the speck was, and he was threatening the giant with an impending defeat. We sighed in relief and slid back to our former state of repose.

But something caught my attention that beckoned me to be wary of that little boy. As I watched, he seemed to ruffle through his pouch and without delay began to swirl his sling in rapid circles. Much faster than I ever thought he could!

All of a sudden, there was a pause. Time stood still and everyone seemed oblivious of what was transpiring in the battlefield. But suddenly to our utter horror, shattering all hopes of victory, there lay our pillar of strength flat on his face!

Utter confusion and turmoil spread over the camp. Totally dazed, the army began to scatter and flee in the hope of saving their lives. I was simply left watching the whole scene in terror and helplessly faltered back into my tent. Being the chief commander, I couldn’t surrender to the victors and so contemplated taking my own life as the only recourse from a death at the hands of the enemy.

But before my spirit leaves this mortal frame, here I proclaim…He is Jehovah! He is the Lord of Hosts! And it was Him who helped David the shepherd boy to defeat with valour the army that slandered his God. And it was Him that caused him to emerge a victor with the chopped head of Goliath.

A man is fast approaching with a spear in his hand! I stop here and give up my life…

What I Study

-Mary Monika, I Year M.A. English

Be warned.
What I study
Is not simple.
It is not easy,
And is most definitely not for the weak.

You go on and on.
About how it ain’t rocket science.
About how it ain’t that hard to read.
About how it ain’t even gonna get me a job.

Now, honestly though.
I don’t see you learning rocket science
To know so well levels of difficulty
I don’t see your shelves full of books
For so sure you seem to be about reading.
And I most definitely don’t see you getting a job in the future either.
What with all the people around.

People never stop to consider
The emotional baggage a literature student carries.
I do not simply read. I live within that world.
I feel everything my protagonist feels.
Sad stories ruin me, the violence, the truth, the hurt is something that becomes etched in my soul.
It is not a walk in the park.
Or a damn piece of cake.

I dare you to try what I do.
Try reading a novel
Yes, that’s right. A whole damn novel.
Now, try understanding the characters.
Why they do what they do?
How do they do it?
When do they do it?
Analyse situations, context, content.
Reasons, thoughts, lives.
That is my job.

Do you know how sad it is,
To love a book from the bottom of your heart
But have to rip it apart
In the name of exams?

Literature is easy they said.
I’d like to see them apply theory
To mere words.
I’d like to see them understand the numerous essays I read.
I’d like to see them unravel the effects of characterization, plot analysis, narrative techniques.
I’d like to see them, find a topic on their own,fill a document with 2500 words all from their head.

I agree, none of what I study
Is an impossible task.
But how can you,
Oblivious, stubborn you,
Deem it unworthy when you cannot even stand to read this poem completely?

Imagination or Innovation?

-Pooja Krishna H A, III Year B.A. English
Image Source: The Caliverse (www.thecaliverse.com)

Childhood – the phase of life where your every whim is indulged; where 9.00 A.M. meant Tom and Jerry and not school or college; where unicorns were real and problems were not.

I’m sure you’ll agree that all of the above are true. It is sad, then, to realize that this wonderful part of a child’s life is being tainted by naysayers and pessimists. To realize that the most important rite of passage of childhood is being destroyed by adults. What am I talking about? Why, Invisible Friends, of course!

Termed ‘Imaginary friends’, these special friends of ours are considered a sign of weakness by many adults, and the child is prosecuted and thought to be not quite right in the mind. The truth is that having such a friend only proves the child’s innovation and creativity.

Creation of life is just about the only thing we meddlesome humans haven’t mastered yet, and to think that the ability to create a unique human being, out of just a few thoughts, lies with innocent kids is mind blowing. How brilliant could a child be in order to think up a new human being with a face, a name, characteristics, and so much more?

Besides, has anyone ever even wondered why a child creates an ‘imaginary friend’?

A child may create what you call an ‘imaginary friend’ because the child is lonely, and because he/she is so tired of having his/her dreams curbed. When everyone wears masks, the child desperately needs to cling on to someone who is original and true. After all, everyone needs a friend once in a while.

Believe me, I’m speaking from experience. I had an ‘imaginary friend’ too, and he was my lifeboat in the rapidly sinking ship called life. I used to talk to him, play with him and spent practically every second of years 6-13 with him. But ‘reality’ was a slap to the face. Society was the palm, and I was forced to lose him.

Childhood is the phase where a child begins to discover himself/herself. A child sees everything with awe-struck eyes, full of wonder and expectation. To contaminate that phase would be cruelty of the highest order.

Every child is unique. Every child is precious, and equally precious are the child’s abilities, dreams and ambitions. I ask you, who can determine what is ‘imaginary’ and what is ‘real’? Not being able to see someone doesn’t make them imaginary. You can’t see God, either, so does that mean that the whole concept of divine existence is a sham, and that all those who believe it are out of their minds?

Before I rest my case, I would like to quote somebody.

“It struck me. as I stared up at the ceiling,
This sudden and shocking feeling
And as all other thoughts from my head flew,
I realised that I didn’t know who I was, not even a clue!

That I could sit for hours, listing all my qualities, bad and good,
But I’ll always, no matter what, be a child misunderstood…”

More Than A Hashtag: #MeToo

-Arsha Mech Vikraman, I Year B.A. English

Unless you have been living under a rock for quite a while, you would most probably have seen the hashtag #MeToo everywhere on Facebook and other social media platforms. This viral trend has been spreading the word about men and women who, at some point in their lives, have been victims of any kind of sexual harassment/abuse.

 

It all started with the great tycoon of the Hollywood film industry, Harvey Weinstein. Thanks to articles in the New York Times and the New Yorker, the world came to know about what seemed to be decades worth of abuse swept under the rug, thanks to his power and influence in the industry. Several actresses such as Lena Headey, Angelina Jolie, Asia Argento, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan have come out with their stories of how Weinstein had sexually harassed them multiple times. Weinstein’s team is still on the lookout for those speaking out against him and are reaching financial settlements. In fact, some women, by merely speaking out, have violated the terms of many Non-Disclosure Agreements signed between them. Ever since Weinstein, however, there has been a domino effect created in the Hollywood film industry as several high profile actors, moguls, etc. are being called out.

 

Kevin Spacey is one of the more recent high profile personalities who has been accused of sexual abuse by Anthony Rapp, who was abused when he was just 14. Now, even crew members of the Netflix series ‘House of Cards’ have come out with their accusations, including employees of the Old Vic Theatre in England where Spacey was the Artistic Director for a long time.

 

Since then, there have been several findings in these cases in the media. Not just in the film industry, but in almost every entertainment industry. The fashion industry just faced one recently. Terry Richardson (for those who don’t who he is, he’s the director of the Miley Cyrus ‘Wrecking Ball’ video), a very famous fashion photographer, was recently plagued with several accusations claiming that he had been sexually assaulting the models who worked for him. Vogue Magazine has banned him from working with them. Supermodels like Cameron Russell and Edie Campbell took to Instagram where they posted numerous anonymous confessions from models about what happens in the industry. The music industry has also been plagued with such scandals for several years.

 

The emergence of this trend does make you question something. What is the criteria taken into consideration when someone crosses a line? Can we just classify a mistaken touch as a basis for sexual assault? No, but all over the world we see cases where, despite the men or women having crossed a line, the victim is unable to stop them. Asia Argento confessed that initially Weinstein did force himself on her, but later, she did have a consensual relationship with him only because she was afraid he would ruin her career. All these accusations may have cost Weinstein, Spacey and the others many important positions. Weinstein has been fired from his own company and Spacey who was due to receive an honorary Emmy award, will not receive it now and has been fired from a Ridley Scott movie that is due for release next month. These consequences may seem dire in their cases but does it really make a difference?

 

Roman Polanski, a convicted child molester, who has been accused several times of raping underage girls has never denied it and openly says that they wanted to sleep with him and that everything that occurred was consensual. The same Roman Polanski is still regarded worldwide for his work (Rosemary’s Baby), and was recently honoured in France for one of his recent films. Woody Allen, who was accused by his own adopted daughter of sexual assault (and in a bizarre turn of events, married his other step-daughter), still continues to put out movies and is admired in the industry. A more recent example would be Casey Affleck – a man who was accused of sexual assault by a woman who was working on the same set as him, but went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. I must admit, his performance was great, but it brought forth this question – did the Oscars overlook a person’s wrongdoings against others just because he was doing a great job in his/her respective field?

 

Whether you have joined the cause simply to support the thousands of women and men who finally have the courage to come forward, or because you wanted in on the hype, we must accept that the old order is crumbling. Many people have also come forward and said that they knew about these people, but why didn’t they say anything then and help prevent what has happened to many women and men across the world? Why do we dismiss our own experiences as a figment of our imagination? You do have the power, all you have to do is use it. Don’t hide it, don’t keep it bottled up only for it to affect many who come after you. Speak up.

Humans Of Stella

-Samyuktha Shiva, I Year B.A. English
Image credits: Krishna J Nair, I Year B.A. English

Sera Grace John

Being brought up abroad, life was a mere bed of roses! At least that was the case with me. The city lights that the balcony of my apartment showed me, the camels and sandunes, the well-constructed infrastructure, plazas and avenues that kissed the skies was what shaped my view of the world when I was small. I somehow believed that the world was as peaceful as my Oman, and the people in the ‘global village’ were all smiles and giggles like the Arabs in burkas and abayas.

But my parents told me that that was not the way the world was. Just like every child, I was adamant to give up my childish conviction. Everything turned topsy-turvy on my first trip to India when I was eight years old. That short annual vacation was what changed me to who I am presently.

Loud vehicles and honking drivers who followed no traffic rules and littered streets were what greeted me on my way from the airport. I remembered my parents, like the air hostess equipping passengers with life hacks, telling me and my sister not to make a fuss when we see things in India, and not to show any indifference but ‘accept’ instead.

This was quite difficult for me initially. The traditional homes of my parents, with attics and antiques seemed very odd to me as I simply compared it to our carpeted flat. I wasn’t ready to play soccer in the field with my cousins whose playing in the mud and dancing in the rain made me perceive them to be unclean urchins. I never joined them in any fun then, which I regret sometimes, because later I realised that their colourful memories were far lovelier than my air conditioned ones.
Begging on streets and public places appalled me. The worst sight of all was that of a girl, just as small as I was, pulled callously by her ear and dragged away by a lean lady. I don’t exactly remember what she wore or how she looked, but her tear-filled eyes and malnourished body kept haunting my mind. I impulsively hugged my dad’s legs and cried, because I was horrified by all these brutalities.

After a month of experiencing ‘reality’, as I was going back to what I considered my haven, I asked mama why the numerous people I saw on the streets didn’t live the way we did. She summoned everything succinctly by saying, “they would, if they could.” That’s when I realised why they asked us to ‘accept’, that’s when I realised what mama meant when she often said, “all five fingers are not the same.”

Since then, I learnt to accept people the way they are and the value of empathy. I learnt to be grateful for what I was entitled to by birth. I learnt that the world was not just a bed of roses, and that it was as vicious as it was virtuous.

Looking back, I find it strange how a trivial childhood experience could mould my life and my thoughts in such a tremendous way, but I’m thankful it did.

Nostalgia – The Colour Of Our Souls

-Divya Iyer, I Year B.S.W
Image Source: http://www.tes.com

The concept of nostalgia isn’t something new to you, is it? It’s all about faint remembrances; of reliving memories. When I think of childhood, I think of the places I’ve been, the things I’ve done, the people I’ve met and these memories define the person I was then.

Nostalgia means two things – development and fond memories. It means that there is something good that has ended, and that one has undergone an era of change, and is now in a different phase of life. What is that, if not development?

Nostalgia can be bittersweet, but it lets us know that we aren’t stagnating. It lets us linger in the memories of all the people we used to be – all those friends you thought you couldn’t live without, who you gradually grew distant from. The television show that you were addicted to, and now you’ve forgotten the lyrics of the theme song. That comic book collection that meant the world to you once, but now you’ve lost a few copies because you lent them to people who never returned them.

In an issue about childhood, it makes sense to discuss nostalgia. After all, we all have to grow up someday. What happens to those years of being a child, of being young and innocent and not needing to live up to the expectations that the world has of an adult? They don’t disappear after they’re over, nor do they linger like ghosts in the family photo albums. They echo in our heads, hardly noticeably, but always there. Our childhood moulds us, often defines the adults we will grow up to become.

Ever remembered something you thought you’d forgotten? Watched a friend’s younger sister being fed cerelac and thought, “Hey, that’s the stuff my parents used to give me?” Heard a song on the radio and remembered your dad playing it for you when you were seven? Visited a place of worship by yourself and remembered that time your grandparents accompanied you? These are things that we grew up alongside, that linger in our minds somewhere, waiting to be remembered. These are the things that we remember fondly, and laugh about. “Oh, yeah, I was a small child then; I didn’t know any better,” I say, while recalling with vivid clarity how I’d run barefoot through the muddy ground just to see how my feet would feel covered in rainwater. It shouldn’t be a happy memory, but it isn’t the memory itself that makes me smile. It’s the context. It’s the fact that even though I am no longer a child, I was a child once, and no-one can take that away from me.

Nostalgia is a part of who I am, as someone who values who I used to be. I know I grew up. But I am more than the person I am now, I am an aggregate of everyone I was, everyone I am and everyone I will ever be. Nostalgia helps me keep all these infinities safe in my head. It helps me redefine myself without ever losing the original definition. What would I do if I didn’t feel this way? It’s only human, after all – and that’s all I am.

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