Trance-Like State Of Mind

Elizabeth P Varsha, III Year B.A. English

Nerves pumping with adrenaline.
Sultry skin, and sweat dripping down her body- the saltiness
only heightens the excitement

The air smells of sweat mixed
with fruity esters and alcohol.
Hair let loose over her shoulders,
occasionally moved by the wind
She closes her eyes, taken into this moment involuntarily

breathe in, breathe out

Returns back to reality in time
to raise her hands and lift her feet up

1,2,3,4

As the beat to her favorite song drops.

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Madras Week Celebrations

Krishna Unny, I Year B.A. History

They say Chennai is a city, Madras is an emotion.

 

This year’s theme for the Madras Week Celebrations, one of the best events organised by the History and Tourism department of Stella Maris College, was ‘Madras 378’ commemorating the age of Madras.

The celebrations commenced on the 28th of august with the inauguration ceremony and setting up of the exhibition and stalls, and continued till the beginning of September.
The stalls included the traditional food stall which sold kulli panniyaram, rava ladoo,  murukku, beetle rice, red rice, pineapples, aaval, buttermilk, rosemilk, sonpappadi, puttu and channa among several other delicacies.

There was a ‘petti kadai’ as well where items including butter biscuits, kammarkattu, elanthapalam jam, Sakkara mittai, kadala mitta and pulipu mittai were kept for sale.
The Philately stall showcased myraid  stamps from the British Crown to the stamps with pictures of the Great Mutiny, and even a personalised stamp booth just for the students.
The stamps were a great hit and drew several students, and it definitely helped bring out the dying art of Philately to the eyes of the youth.

 

The ‘Cinematic Madras’ stall was quite an interesting one where the students displayed charts with pictures and information about old cinema theatres and studios like AVM, Gemini, Sathya etc. and few theatres like Albert, Devi, Kabali, Pilot, Kamadenu, Elphinstone etc.
The traditional games stall was also put up, consisting of paramapadam, thayabas, ashtapada, palanguli, kalanga, nondi, bambaram, goli, adupuli: games that are nowadays alive only in the rural interiors of the state.

Another stall called ‘Knowing the Unknown’ had a model of the Marina Beach and the Promenade, and the ‘Madras Alphabetically’ stall had a list of all the prominent buildings in Chennai from A to Z (from Amir mahal to the Zeon church).  There was also a list of all the streets in madras like Sterling road, Pycrofts road and Red hills road with their history and the stories behind each of them.

 

There was also a military history stall which was based on important events in our military history that took place in Madras. The sepoy uniform, the growth of the regiment and the old weapons used in the wars, the air crafts, the ships, the differences between an English soldier and an Indian soldier’s uniform and many more were explained to the viewers.

A game on the pioneers in the cinema industry was also organised and the students managed to put up a bioscope showing videos focusing on old Madras.

A photo booth named padampidipu dabba was set up, where a few of the students themselves dressed up as Bharatiar and MGR and posed with the amused students. It also had cut outs of admirals, Brahmins, a catamaran and a backdrop.

The private collectables stall had old lamps, pens, bells, clocks, time watches etc. dating back to more than 200 years, and proved to be an eye opener for the students as it helped them learn a lot about the collection and preservation of antiquities.

On the 29th of August, colleges from all over Chennai were invited to participate in the Madras Quiz and a Doodle Designing competition. Several colleges including Ethiraj college, Loyola College and MOP Vaishnava College took part in the Quiz which was blessed with active participation, from both the quizzers and the audience.

A seminar on Water Management and ‘Conservation Of Rivers through Dancervation’ and several heritage walks were also organised on the following days where visitors were allowed to walk around the campus and breathe in the rich history of the college that is as old as independent India.

Not only was the entire event well organised and well executed, the feedback received from the guests, visitors, teachers and students were overwhelming. It was a huge success thanks to the effort put in by the students and volunteers from the department and the faculty.

The Celebrations are held annually by the department and the students are already eagerly looking forward to Chennai 379.

Poetry

Madhuri Lalwani, I Year B.A. English

I don’t bleed poetry.
It is more solemn than the act of bleeding
It lingers from the thoughts i can’t over hear,
To the feelings that trigger more than just tears,
It resides almost everywhere.

Amidst the prettiest of flowers
Poetry.
Down the aisle, you see people, and
Poetry.
In the translucent colourful skies,
Poetry.
In words, in disguise,
Poetry.
In actions, in love, in hate, in the absence,
Poetry.
In your eyes, in your voice,
Poetry.
Everywhere, everything,
Poetry.

I didn’t bleed poetry.
It was always more solemn than the act of bleeding.

Guidelines or Lifelines?

Divya Iyer, I Year B.S.W

Suicidal ideation and poor mental health have always been causes of concern. Unlike physical wounds, though, mental aches and pains are much harder to pinpoint and medicate, since the symptoms could vary from individual to individual. We are told that we can never truly know what difficulties someone faces just by observing them or interacting with them, because there will always be things about themselves that they keep hidden. We don’t always know what plagues people, what battles they fight, how they survive and have faith day after day. Anyone could be suicidal, and we could be entirely unaware of it. Given this scenario, what is the media’s role to responsible reporting and representation of suicide?

The “Suicide Prevention Guidelines,” as they are called, are a series of rules that ought to be followed when the media represents and portrays suicide. Of course, one could argue that “art is art” and should therefore be free of censorship, which I personally believe is also fine, except, in that case, the artists ought to supplement their work with appropriate trigger warnings. For instance, if I were to write a poem about how suicide is just like falling asleep, it would be good of me to mention that I do not condone or support suicide, and even provide suicide helplines and resources for people battling against such urges.

People are different, and everyone’s coping mechanisms vary. While some people derive comfort from knowing that other people go through the same mental battles as them, and may go as far as to actively find material and artwork depicting suicide in order to understand what they are going through, others will find such material and content disturbing, potentially triggering and harmful.

More than an issue of censorship, it’s an issue of clarity. Suicide should be represented by media, people should make art about it, people should talk about it and remove the stigma and shame associated with feeling that way. However, bringing these issues to light should be done with sensitivity and understanding.

According to WHO and IASP’s guidelines for media’s representation of suicide, one must

  • Take the opportunity to educate the public about suicide
  • Avoid language which sensationalizes or normalizes suicide, or presents it as a solution to problems
  • Avoid prominent placement and undue repetition of stories about suicide
  • Avoid explicit description of the method used in a completed or attempted suicide
  • Avoid providing detailed information about the site of a completed or attempted suicide
  • Word headlines carefully
  • Exercise caution in using photographs or video footage
  • Take particular care in reporting celebrity suicides
  • Show due consideration for people bereaved by suicide
  • Provide information about where to seek help
  • Recognize that media professionals themselves may be affected by stories about suicide

It’s important for us to note that suicide and such issues are deeply personal, and when we misrepresent them, lives are at stake, quite literally. The term “copycat suicide” has been coined in order to refer to those suicides which take place in response to other suicides, often employing the same method of self-destruction. The affected people are usually so mentally triggered by a suicide that they emulate it. A group of people all committing suicide in the same manner, possibly triggered by the same event, is called a “suicide cluster.”

The earliest recorded case of suicides caused by representation in the media is the response to Goethe’s novel Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (The Sorrows of Young Werther), as early as 1774. The protagonist of the book shoots himself after being rejected by the woman that he loves, and after this book’s publication, several young men killed themselves in the same manner. This resulted in the book being banned in several areas. This also resulted in the coining of a technical term, “Werther effect,” used to define copycat suicides, since “copycat suicide” is a less formal term and is not always appropriate in such serious contexts.

The answer to this is not to hush things up and pretend that suicides do not occur. We must speak about this issue, we must represent it, but we must do so with care and consideration. Hopefully, there will come a day when suicide isn’t followed by such stigma, and people suffering from suicidal tendencies can talk freely about their struggles, and are treated with respect and sensitivity for doing so. Until such an understanding takes place, all we can do is remember that we never know what is going on in someone else’s head, and to offer our respect to people unconditionally.

Sometimes a smile can save a life. It’s not rocket science.

The Semiotics Of Theatre

Mathangi Mahesh Kumar, III year B.A. English

Image credits Anushree Chacko, III Year B. A. English

The Department of English, Stella Maris College, in collaboration with the Department of English, Madras Christian College (MCC), conducted a lecture on the 13th of July titled ‘The Semiotics of Theatre’ by Professor K. Ganesh, Head of the Department of English, Madras Christian College.

The welcome address was delivered by Dr. Miruna George, Head of the Department of English, Stella Maris College who stated that the lecture was also conducted to honor and acknowledge Professor Mangai’s contribution to her work.
The students of MCC, along with a couple of students from Madras University, performed a modern reinterpretation of the Greek classic ‘Antigone’, directed by Professor David Wesley of Madras Christian College. The students assumed different roles and, without the use of props or bold costumes, there was a stark portrayal of defiance and defeat in this play. With the melodious notes, sung by a student from Madras University, a melancholic mood set in as the play drew to a tragic yet magnificent end.

As the rest of the students watched in awe at the performance, it could be easily determined that the emotions, the gestures and the voice modulations truly captured the audience.
Professor Ganesh, then, began his interesting presentation centered on the concept of Theatre as a sign system’, ‘spectator dialects’ and ‘stage-centered reading. With these key elements highlighted in the seminar, the program concluded with the vote of thanks.

Book Recommendations

-Lourdes Trini Sneha. L, II Year B. Com

If there is one thing bibliophiles love, it’s book recommendations. I feel infinitely grateful when someone suggests a book or relays information about the book. So I thought, ‘Why not recommend some books to our Stella Maris bibliophiles’ community and share the joy of reading and penmanship?’
The order of these books is neither ranked nor grouped under genres. They are just random books that I consider mind-blowing. Here are 3 books that I would like to talk about:

1. FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell:book recommendation 1

This was absolutely a delight to read. This story revolves around Cath who is a huge fan of the Simon Snow series along with her twin sister Wren. However, when they go into university, things change for them and it seems to Cath that Wren is slowly falling out of their fandom life. All Cath wants is to bundle up in her dorm room and write fanfiction, but so many changes get hurled at her, especially the ever-handsome Levi. The book deals with the question of how Cath is going to adapt to her new life. This book made me squeal a lot to be very honest.

2. AND THEN THERE WERE NONE by Agatha Christie

book recommendation 2

If Fangirl was about family, romance and fandom life, this book is about everything else but those. Clearly, Christie is the queen of mystery (even the book cover says so) and is one of my favourite authors of all time. Though all her books are really neat and clever, And Then There None really takes the spotlight. I would actually blabber on all day about this book, play and the movie that came out in 1945, but for the sake of making it short, I shall condense everything. I don’t want to give away anything about this book. Just trust me and read this book, and you will know why I adore this particular work of Christie.

3.  ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes:

book recommendation 3

Me Before You is definitely one of those books which touches you emotionally and leaves you questioning your decision of picking it up. All the characters in this book will make you fall for them (maybe except Patrick). It neither romanticises illness like many other books normally lean towards nor does it give you the ending you actually want. But reading this book made me feel a lot of things all at one time and I hope you’ll feel the same.

The Final Formality

– V. Madhuri Lalwani, I Year B.A. English

 

I didn’t ask for it,
surely not a monotonic funeral
we’re all destined to,
I don’t deserve it.

They visited with sad faces,
were they truly sad,
or were they conscious of my corpse too?
I was unsure.

Dropped the same flowers,
the cheapest the florist sold,
did the price matter?
I was unsure.

Flooded my betrayal
with frowns.
Did my ruins call for it?
They were unsure.

It’s all about the norms.
All the damn time.

They spoke the last words,
no, I don’t expect them to visit again.
Well, you know, I’ve crossed
the stage of expectations.

I could have appreciated
an honest gathering-
with little or nothing,
even silence could
have done.
But not the formality.

And to them,
so swift and meaningless,
vanishing into dust.
My words,
didn’t matter now.

Did they ever?

School vs. College: A Comparison of the Two Phases Of Life

Pushpamithra, I Year B.A.English

 

For students from state board, college studies may seem like alien territory. Analysis is a word that has to be added to our vocabulary/dictionary. All we had to do until now was to know every single word in our some-hundred pages textbooks and we’re all set to go. Exams would be a walk in the park. But in college, we need to understand everything and read extensively from other books by ourselves. There is also something known as a ‘seminar’ to look out for. Talking in front of a class is a hard task for some, but doing something similar to taking a class? It is a Himalayan task.

Unlike the dreadful 8 or 9 hours in school (not including the special classes which we love), college has only 5 hours! Who wouldn’t like that? One of the things we’d probably miss is the lunch break fun with friends. Even that can be solved by bringing food or going to the canteen (where finding places to sit is tougher than finding your missing socks sometimes). During those times you can say, “The outdoor breeze is nice” and have an outdoor picnic with your friends.

The activities are completely different. When I first heard of Value Education, all I could think was, “What is that?”. Maybe others had it but we sure didn’t. The most we got was 20 minutes of bhajans every Thursday through a speaker that never worked. Remedial hour is bliss. We can do what we want (within the rules) and be free unlike the free periods we had in school where we’d have an eagle watching over us.

The library is one of the most awesome things in college. Of course, our school had a library which had a lot of books but here, we can actually read the books and borrow them if we want!

College is often said to be a continuation of school and I realised that it is! It is very different compared to school but some of the major aspects like studies have not changed. Some of the differences when comparing them are the classes, learning method, timings and activities.

The downside? It could get a bit monotonous sometimes. But the downsides are fewer when compared to the upsides.

Movie Review: To The Bone

What bones are made of
– Mathangi Mahesh Kumar, III year B.A. English

When was the last time you laughed out loud and still bawled your eyes out through a movie about Anorexia and felt liberated at the end of it?

Probably never, right?

‘To The Bone’ is a movie about twenty year old Ellen who can tell you the exact number of calories in her food, who smokes like a chimney and chews her food only to spit it back out into a napkin. She has an absent father, an over indulgent step mother, a lesbian mother and a step sister for a best friend.

This isn’t your intense clichéd drama movie about a woman who starves herself and eventually gets over it during the course of a peppy song. No. The main plot is about Ellen and her struggle to find stability – something she has never found in her dysfunctional family or through her art. Ellen’s depression is not the curl-up-into-a-ball-and-wallow-in-sadness type; It is raw, real and comes out through her cynical humor, pessimistic view of life and is also physically reflected in her body.

While Anorexia is commonly treated as a physical disability, the movie chooses to be different and perceives it as a mental illness with a physical manifestation. The movie retains the echoes of the psychological trauma that Anorexic individuals undergo: What does one do when starving yourself is an addiction that you cannot break free of?

“Coward” is what Luke, a fellow in patient, calls Ellen when she refuses to eat even a tiny piece of chocolate. In a manner, the movie also reflects Ellen’s pursuit of courage to break free of her addiction. The idea of possessing an Identity and more importantly, the yearning to possess one are also two overlapping themes that provide a loose backdrop to Ellen’s fight against Anorexia. Ellen harbors the illusion that there is light at the end of the tunnel: a focal point that would provide purpose to her existence. She tries to find this purpose through her art but gives it up when it leads to the suicide of a young woman. She constantly finds herself at a cross roads where walking down ‘Giving Up’ street, towards the end, feels easier.

As an individual without eating disorders, it is impossible to imagine that chewing, the most natural and mundane of human activities, could ever be a difficult task that takes tremendous effort. But when one sees Lilly Collins refusing to even nibble on chocolate, it is as real and heartbreaking as it gets.

While on the subject of Collins, who struggled with eating disorders herself, one has to marvel at the manner in which she brings Ellen to life. Ellen’s cyclical humor and spontaneous anger aren’t the only aspects she captures with ease; she also embraces the reality of this character: pale skin, skinny bones, baggy clothes and baggier eyes. Collins’ physical transformation to fit the role of an undernourished girl fighting against an eating disorder and her identity crisis does not go unnoticed. While on screen, Collins makes you forget that the person is a celebrity, but just a woman, with just as much flesh and bone as the next person, with a dark cloud hanging over her head.

Real, with a sprinkle of laughter and a dash of sniffly tears to the side, is what I have to say about this movie.

So the next time you are in the mood for something emotionally taxing yet absolutely lovely, grab your tissues and get straight to the bone of things.

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