Thursday, December 31, 2020

If you’re reading this…

 ….congratulations! You made it!

2020 has felt like a test of patience, and although the upcoming year doesn’t look like it’s going to be sunshine and daisies right away, at least we’re moving on from the one that started it all.

The coronavirus ended up being a dark horse of sorts, pushing past every other catastrophe to emerge as the victor. So many protests, marches and fires around the world and at home, but with the virus always looming in the background.

During January, I was back in Riyadh, mourning a vacation I had made the most out of. The weeks had flown by too far for my liking, but the fun had to end at some point. And as I waved my parents goodbye and rolled my suitcase away past the gates at the airport, I’d consoled myself with the thought that I’d be back when the semester ended.

A couple of months later, after we had our college fests and wrote a couple of exams, everything abruptly shut down. At the time, an unexpected break from college life was a small blessing, and we had gone home cheerily. 

Even as the month came to an end, rumors already swirled of there being an extension of the lockdown. We found ourselves still at home the next month as well, and that decision was also welcomed warmly like a lost family member. The number of cases worldwide remained below a million.

Yet, no crystal ball could have predicted that this would be a regular occurrence, that the hospitals would keep filling and filling till they overflowed. 

We’re missing out on our college experiences, but I’m glad my friends and I got at least an entire semester with each other. I feel bad for the freshmen this year, who’ve been thrown into a new era of their lives through Google Meet and Zoom meetings. 

I’ve also not travelled to Riyadh this whole year, which is a first. It’s incredibly disappointing to not be able to go back, but I’m hoping things will clear up again. My friends feel the same way, and we can’t wait to see each other again.

There also has been a baby boom, with a lot of celebrities giving birth. It’s weird. I couldn’t scroll past Instagram without somehow stumbling upon the news of yet another pregnancy.

As every country slowly slips into the beginning of the next 365 days, after losing close to two million people to the virus alone, a lot of families are missing members and grieving over their losses. Nearly eighty-three million remain afflicted with the disease. 

Here we are, on the last day of 2020. Let’s hope 2021 treats us better.

P.S- keep scrolling because the next post is veeeery interesting :)

To All The People Who Made 2020 Slightly Better

This is probably the first time that everyone (and I really do mean everyone) can unanimously agree on how bad the year’s been. Unwelcome surprises, roller coasters that have gone more down than up, classes on Teams everyday while trying not to fall asleep.

This New Year’s, instead of making a resolution I’ll never keep, I would like to give some shout-outs. For years, my blog has helped me record every detail I’ve wanted to be able to revisit, and this post will be dedicated for this very purpose.

First of all, I would like to Taylor Swift for the Miss Americana documentary, the City of Lover concert, the music video for The Man, two new surprise albums, the Long Pond sessions. My ears have remained blessed throughout the year. 

I would also like to thank my school friends for always being ready to trade gossip and nostalgia (also Sauda is an aunt now! Eeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!)

Now, moving on to college:

  • Sreya and Sesha taught me a lot about K-pop musicians. They also adopted a cat (and named it Danger)! It’s all very fun. I got to see their dog, Scotty, when I went over to their place for their birthday.

  • Sreelakshmi bought a ton of fish for her aquarium. Only two have made it so far, and I wish them the best of luck and hope they’ll live to see February. 

  • Emmanuel called me up when I had already tucked myself into bed and had fallen asleep like I was in a coma. I couldn’t understand a word of what he said. All I heard was words words words, and something that sounded like a question. He said some deadline was in fifteen minutes. I said I’d get back to him the next day. The next morning, I had no recollection of the conversation.

  • Ananthakrishnan fell off his bike a few times. Or maybe he fell off once. Either way, It feels like a million times. He also introduced me to Among Us. And gartic. He also said the only way I’d ever come back to college was if I had a hazmat suit on. Jokes on him, that’s actually a pretty useful tip.

  • Nidhin says he doesn’t know anything in any subject. I don’t believe him. He wants to know if they’ll cancel the third semester exams too. I said they won’t. He’s a quick learner but won’t admit it. We also discovered he has two doppelgangers. He hates both of them. Once, he tried to be really cool and text “only a few people have this ability”, but chose the wrong moment to replace this with dis.

  • Joel went offline for a whole day, which was something incredibly unusual. Nigin and I called him a bunch of times. He didn’t pick up. We proceeded to freak out, and I honestly thought he had been kidnapped or something. We later found out he had relatives over and was on babysitting duty, and had left his phone on silent. Joel has since then promised to not go underground again. Side note- Nigin probably has high blood pressure now. 

  • I have decided that Vargoose is more of a better name than Varghese. Goose disagrees. But he also disapproves of the notion that he is a nerd despite securing a high gpa so he’s not the best person to judge.

  • Arathi’s cousin is getting married! Arathi draws like Picasso! Arathi says friends shouldn’t have to say ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’ to each other. Arathi then thanks me the next day.

  • Pavithra called a cat jobless. I asked her if she knew any employed felines.

  • Nafla is one of the reasons I attend classes on time. But sometimes she falls asleep or has a really weak internet connection so is late herself. I’ve never played a proper game of Among Us with her because she gets disconnected right in the middle.

  • Rachel got a gorgeous new haircut. She looks like a movie star. I have chosen (chosen!) to retain my original potato look.

  • Lakshmi is a huge fan of BTS. BTS scored a Grammy nomination this year! Lakshmi also said cats remind her of me.

  • Nayanthara and I send each other photos every time we paint our nails. She also has some lovely rings. And some bunnies. And a few puppies.

  • Amar’s Instagram account has over thirty thousand followers! You can find it as @amxr.mp4. It’s really cool. 

  • I made some stickers of Anjana. I have sworn to take them to the grave. 

  • When I can’t understand a concept, I lean on Akshara for support. Thanks, praanthi.

  • Nimiya told me my project was great, and I am very thankful for the moral support.

  • Kevin is excellent at video editing, so I went to him for good app recommendations. Then I passed on the knowledge to Kunjunni, who used this knowledge to make Kunji Chechi a video for her birthday.

  • Abhinav said I was an excellent class representative (even though the only thing I did was boss people around).

Monday, August 10, 2020

200,000 pageviews!

 We’ve finally hit 200,000 pageviews! This is so incredibly exciting. 

What’s really interesting is that it took seven years to reach 100,000, but only three to reach this new milestone. I don’t know how that happened, but I do know that I’m extremely grateful.

It’s been ten years since we embarked on this journey, and everyone still keeping up with the posts has seen my writing grow with me. When I was little, I hated the fact that my talent was penning things on paper while everyone else could sing and dance on stage. Or that they could run and cross a finish line. That insecurity stuck for a long time, and I could never be proud or confident of anything I wrote. But now I have it in me a little bit of confidence to try and see what my words are worth. Even if it means that not everyone is going to like or appreciate them.

Thank you once again.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Social media days

“I just got added to a WhatsApp group,” Dad said during our video chat, “that has all my classmates from tenth grade.”

Said group was blowing up with hundreds of messages and Dad spent hours on it, trying to identify the faces of the members. But attempting something like that thirty five years after he’d last seen them was challenging. Still, the fact that he’s not very great at identifying faces in general can’t be overlooked.

But his experience still highlighted a major difference between the generations we belonged in. I haven’t been in his shoes yet because of one major factor- social media.

When I joined Instagram in 2017, it was purely to reconnect with ex-classmates from school. My friends who were already on the app told me all about how easy it was to stay in touch and it piqued my interest. 

Instagram opened a whole world for me. I got to text people I hadn’t seen in ten years. It led to new experiences and reviving old connections. 

For Dad, the WhatsApp group he now had the opportunity to be a part of was the string that connected two different phases of his life together. Everyone shared photos of themselves and their families excitedly, and hearing the different paths their lives had taken was interesting. Lockdown had definitely brought everyone together.

But I’ve also inherited Dad’s terrible memory. My first few weeks of college were filled with obstacles I’d never really encountered before. Attending the same school for years meant not really meeting new people everyday. So suddenly being thrust into an environment where all my peers were uncertain and unsure of each other was a little scary, but thrilling. Within a few days, I realized that I wasn’t really that great at remembering new faces or names, and that knowledge made me terrified to talk to people who recalled their first meeting with me just fine. I felt bad knowing that they remembered me perfectly while I struggled with trying to place their face in the flurry of conversations I had. 

Sometimes I wonder about the next app that’ll make it as big as Instagram. People were all over Facebook when it first launched, but my generation sees it as a thing of the past. And one day another powerhouse will creep into our lives under our very noses- so subtle that we won’t detect it’s intrusion, but so life changing at the same time.

Friday, June 26, 2020

A decade of blogging

Today marks ten years of blog writing. It’s so crazy to think that this journey started when I was nine, but I can still remember penning my thoughts down into a little pink diary, and then reading it out for Dad as he typed into Microsoft Word. Eventually that diary got filled, and so did the next one. I still have both of them in my possession. We’ve moved houses several times, and a lot of belongings have gotten lost or misplaced, but these books are my own odd little pensieves that I can never let go of. 

People say that it’s the little decisions we make that can alter our lives forever, and maybe that’s what happened when I stumbled across that book. Ten years of my life have been documented on this little corner of the internet, and there is a feeling of comfort knowing that these memories will stay safe and treasured for me to look back on. Whenever I go through the posts, I’m hit by nostalgia in the most magical, emotional way possible. The best part is when I reconnect with old friends and the first thing they ask me is about this blog and tell me that they’ve been keeping up for years. It’s the most euphoric thing in the world. That’s the sort of mark I want to leave.

First page of my first diary
I couldn't sketch to save my life
We all got into trouble with our class teacher,Shiny ma'am, and ended up in the headmistress's office

Monday, May 11, 2020

A new normal

So now online classes have been eating up a lot of my time, but I am well aware of the fact that the number of posts I upload every year has dwindled. This blog was one of my biggest priorities when I first started it. But life and its exams took over and now the green display behind my posts looks like it has more weeds than grass.

Yet, I find myself reaching back and digging deep, sifting through older memories and finding bits of myself abandoned and forgotten. Every time I read back, and land in Christmas of 2010, or the Bahrain trip of 2013, I’m reminded of the tiny details I had otherwise forgotten. 

So it’s important to me that I document this period of my life, just like I’ve done for every other important event.

Lockdown is currently ending on May 17th, and the future remains uncertain. We don’t know when we’ll return to college or write our exams. The number of cases in India are on the rise, but Kerala has managed to demolish the curve skillfully. 

Catching up with the news, it is now obvious that it will take time for things to go back the way they were. In fact, a lot of articles say that we must adjust to a new normal, where taking precautions against the virus becomes a way of life. 

Second semester of college continues with the power of the internet, and assignments/ tests are

regular. Ludo King has seen a popularity boost since everyone’s stuck at home, and although I’m not good at the game, I love playing with my friends. 

The past couple of days have been rainy, which is fine because I love it when it rains. The skies are pretty, winds are chilly, and the trees look like they’re having an absolute blast.

Most of the concerts that were supposed to be held this year by stars like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Halsey have been cancelled, and it honestly doesn’t bother me since I wouldn’t have been able to go to any of them. But I have been a Taylor Swift fan for close to a decade, and going to one of her shows is basically at the top of my bucket list. 

It’s not just a Taylor Swift concert, it’s shows in general. I haven’t gotten an opportunity to see an artist perform live yet, but I hope that someday I will. Ayesha got to go to a BTS concert, and she said it was amazing. We were both so excited when she got her ticket because she has been a BTS fan for a while now, and it was a last minute ray of luck that got her a seat to the sold out show.

It’s so strange to not be able to make plans, or not know what to expect, but like everything else, hopefully this will pass too.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Turbulent times

When news of a disease rapidly making its way through China first spread, we tapped the headlines on our phones, made a clicking noise with our tongues to express our dissatisfaction and forgot all about it. As usual, our thoughts said it’s a problem they’ll find a solution to. It doesn’t concern us.

The virus, however, was determined to prove us wrong.

Soon enough, there was a case reported in Saudi Arabia. And other countries I can’t recall right now because I hadn’t lived in them, and what transpired there was none of my concern. But things in India were quiet. And later, the patient in KSA tested negative for corona. We went on with our lives.

Then we blinked and it was everywhere.

 Whole sections of China were going into lockdown mode. People living there couldn’t leave, citizens abroad couldn’t go back home, and some were stuck in limbo, having to fly to countries they had never stepped foot in their entire lives because they weren’t allowed back in China.
More and more countries said they had identified their first cases of corona.

Still, life was the same. College continued like nothing was out of the ordinary. I did my homework, and studied for upcoming tests.

Then, Kerala found herself a victim. But our state government flung into action immediately, testing carriers of the virus and taking all precautions to ensure nobody else caught it.

For a minute, everyone held their breath. And then the government said we were finally in the clear, and people cheered.

Meanwhile, Italy found herself thrown into a state of panic. The virus was there, and it was brutal. Her death toll kept rising, and rising, and it didn’t stop.

We were working like a well oiled machine when suddenly, things went out of control. A family of three had just returned from corona-stricken Italy, and hadn’t told anyone. Instead they’d attended several large gatherings, including a wedding, after they had arrived back home in Kerala, thereby possibly infecting a large number of other people.

Until then, my family and friends had been watchful, but not very cautious. Just wash your hands, they said. You’ll be safe, they said.

But now, suddenly trapped in a situation where everyone was a suspect, we were starting to become more vigilant. Classes carried on, but there were warnings given to students who intended to travel to the region where the family who caught the virus lived.

My family started to talk about it more and more, as with every passing day, the virus dominated the news. Everyday, a new government would pop up in the headlines, with a new patient, and more and more schools and offices would be shut down. 

My parents said, they should close college for a week to be safe. Dad, living alone in Saudi Arabia and worried about the situation in Kerala, strictly told me to cancel the plans I had with my friends to watch A Quiet Place. It was the first time he had ever stopped me from going out and having fun in my whole life.

It was the second day of exam week, and we were sitting in class during lunch. It had been a half hour since Sreya and Sesha had gone to the canteen; they hadn’t brought food from home that day. Sreelakshmi was showing me David Dobrik videos on my phone when there was an incoming call from Sreya. 

“Check the news,” she said.

I was suspicious. Sreya and Sesha were twins, and they equally enjoyed the occasional prank call. I asked them twice if they were trying to pull our legs, and they insisted they weren’t.

“Just do it,” Sreya said. And then she hung up.

I pulled up Manorama news on my phone, and the latest headline said that another case of corona had been discovered in our state. It was a three year old, who had just returned from Italy.

And then Sreelakshmi and I heard the murmurs in class. People were bristling, huddled around benches and looking at their phones intently. This wouldn’t be out of the ordinary most of the time, but not now. There was an energy in class, something strange.

“They’re shutting down college for three weeks,” someone said. 

And then we scoured the news again, but there was nothing. It was the same.

Ten minutes later, the twins were back. They had heard the rumors on their way back, and called us then.

I checked the news again for an update and there it was: two minutes ago, a new article had been posted stating that the government had ordered educational institutes (except for students of medicine) to be shut down for three weeks.

“Does it include professional colleges?” Sreelakshmi inquired. 

I checked again. It did. So we officially had a three week leave, too.

Twelve minutes before, the chief minister of Kerala had announced the decision. But the news, once it was out, spread like wildfire in second. Hostelers started dialing numbers straight away, making transport arrangements so that they could go home immediately. Information circulated Whatsapp, my inbox getting flooded.

And that was it. That was how the corona virus had impacted our lives. No one, not even my grandparents could recall a lockdown like this on a large scale, just because of a virus. Previous cases like the nipah virus had been dealt with immediately, and life continued.

Nipah didn’t go out of control. There was never a pandemic. But there is now with corona.

And as I sit here writing this, I can tell you that the number of cases have grown. Theatres have been shut down, and A Quiet PLace won’t be coming any time soon. Word is that restaurants will be closed down too, soon. The situation is predicted to get worse, and rumors now say that college leave will be extended by two more weeks. Kerala was the first state to be hit with the virus, mainly because international travel among Keralites is so incredibly common. But other states have now joined the list, and Maharashtra has the most number of cases. China has managed to wield control again, and the number of domestic cases has reduced exponentially. In fact, Italy’s death toll has surpassed China. 

And we watch the news and Italy’s streets are empty and cold, like a ghost town. The squares are eerily quiet. Residents stay home, but keep their spirits up by singing in solidarity from their windows with their neighbours. Europe has found itself battling the disease. Saudi Arabia closed its airport and cancelled all travel to the holy cities. 

Even instagram has changed, in a way. Most celebrities and influencers now post photos of them staying indoors, advising everyone else to do the same. And the memes. They remain, with corona as the subject. Even with the early unification of people online, talking about art and love and politics, this is the first time I’ve seen something impact so greatly with everyone that it’s a part of their captions, or their photos, or their jokes. Google has a link now that says “Do the five: Help stop coronavirus” underneath Search. Youtube displays a notification from WHO when you open it. And simply searching covid-19 online shows an SOS alert in red, with helplines underneath and an overview of necessary information.

And everytime someone astronomically successful and famous contracts the virus, like Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, and Idris Elba, the conversation amplifies. 

Like a Twitter user elegantly put it, we’re living through a future history book chapter.

So, maybe after a while, if things get better, people who didn’t lose their loved ones or their livelihoods to the virus will carry on again. And we’ll talk about how the world panicked and slowed for the first time in ages. How world leaders didn’t implement and carry out safety measures, and how many of them ended up contracting the virus themselves. How America ran out of toilet paper. How masks and sanitizers became trendy. How Netflix was urged to reduce streaming to stop the internet from breaking.

This blog has been recording important events of my life for nearly ten years. But this post has been the most somber one so far. And, I’d like to think that years later, I can come back and read this again to remember the impact the virus had on everyone, just in case we start forgetting and diluting the impact it had. 

Perhaps, the most iconic thing to come out of this was the message one got when trying to call someone on the phone. You’d dial the number, put it to your ear, and a heartbeat later, there would be the sound of a man coughing loudly, and then a robotic voice speaking about the important measures to be taken to fight the disease. This was a part of a government initiative to spread awareness, and the call wouldn’t be placed to the receiver until the voice was done talking. If the coughing noise of a strange man hadn’t scared the life out of us trying to call our friends and family and caused us to hang up immediately, maybe we’d have listened to the rest of the message.