Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Cataclysm - A Short Story

He had decided to take Tomkins to the palace by the underground and now he regretted having ever made such a decision! The incessant rain had made the whole city of Longarno a swamp, a virtual sea of water and they were stuck inside the underground. There seemed to be no way out! 

He glanced at Tomkins apprehensively who shrugged and said, "I guess we are in for a long haul!" he said with finality.
"Yes, Tomkins, I guess we shouldn't have stepped out after all" he replied apologetically. 
"OK, no problem at all, Roy, we will wait for the rain to stop," he added.

Just then there was a loud crash that reverberated throughout the underground station and before the eyes of the horrified spectators, a whole train on the tracks below the platform was tossed a few inches above the track by a gush of water rushing behind it. Clearly, the salvage pumps in the underground Metro Station had failed.

Roy grabbed hold of Tomkin's arm and shouted, "Let's get out of here, the station will soon be flooded!'

They took the escalator towards the exit but were hampered and hemmed in by who were headed the same way. Just as they reached the exit, the reason for the huge crowd became clear. A surge of water was headed over the lip of the entrance straight into the underground station. The water was a couple of feet deep inside the exit and people were hesitant about stepping into the street where the water would have been deeper! Tomkins and Roy however, took the plunge and literally waded into the street where the water was now waist deep.

The sky was overcast and it was pouring, thick drops of rain that seemed more like lead bullets than drops of water.

"Let's head that way," Roy shouted, indicated towards a rise in the ground.

They waded towards the spot indicated by Roy. It was an artificially created mound of debris, probably leftover from recently completed renovation work on the metro station. Shivering in the cold rain, they looked with dismay at the rapidly changing landscape. The streams of water had turned into torrents of water which had picked up speed. They watched helplessly as a couple of men who had emerged from the entrance of the metro station were swept off their feet by the rapidly moving torrent of water.

Far away in the distance came the wailing sounds of fire engines rushing towards them. Soon, however, the fire engines were forced to stop because of the rising levels of water. The firemen climbed onto the top of the fire engines looking around rather helplessly, unable to do anything to help the stranded passengers of the metro.

Both Roy and Tomkins realised that there was no point in staying on the island as it was evident that the deluge would soon overwhelm their island. With one accord they both looked in the direction from where the fire engines had come. They needed to head towards higher ground and for that to happen they would have to wade against the stream.

"Let's do it!" Tomkins shouted above the noise of the rain even as he nodded towards East.
"Sure, let's move before the rising waters become too difficult to fight!' Roy added.

Both of the men took their second plunge that day into the swirling waters of madness, the rain would simply not let up! 'So much so for global warming!' Roy thought even as he led his friend towards the deluge.

Thus it was that two tired, bedraggled and miserable men ended up at the foot of the hills overlooking the sinking town of Torquay. They turned and looked towards the West, it looked like the sea had finally swallowed up the town, or at least most of it. They would have to crest the hills in order to reach the town of Komso which they hoped would have been spared the flooding.

The rains had continued for another five days and by then the whole landscape of Longarno and its surround district had been changed completely. Roy and Tomkins had managed to escape the deluge and made their way inland to Tigrey, the capital of  Marseles.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Aphids and Ants share a very strange Relationship!

Yes, I mean it, Aphids and Ants do share a very strange relationship. I had read about this mutually beneficial relationship between two different insect species but today was the first time I was really able to see it for myself!

You can literally see the ants stroking the backs of the Aphids while the Aphids become perfectly still, exuding a white kind of stuff on to the plant's stem which the ants gulp!

It is clear that Aphids and Ants have a symbiotic relationship. The Aphids feed the Ants with a milk like stuff, while the Ants provide the Aphids with military protection!

The Ant in the above photograph is stroking the Aphid, probably to encourage it to produce milk.

Sometimes a plant stem will be covered with a multitude of Aphids. On looking at the plant stems, one might wonder if the white stuff might not be some kind of a fungus, however, if you see ants moving around, pausing at the white spots, take a more careful look and you will notice something strange.

The world of Ants and Aphids is a remarkable world in which one can see a remarkable example of inter-species cooperation. Look carefully and you might see the Aphids moving along the stem. They will stop of course when they come across Ants. Welcome to the strange world of insects!

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Happy Teacher's Day!

It was all rather quiet when I reached my faculty on the fourth floor on Teacher's day on the fifth of September though there was indeed quite a good deal of student movement. I usually reach early so as to cover up on leftover work. However, the moment I stepped into my faculty, I realized that something was different. Lying on each teacher's work station was a folded A-3 sized folder. When you opened the folder, the inner pages were full of greeting from students. The front page of mine had a very nice picture of me! 

The glasses, the side-parting of the hair, the mustache, and the way the laces have been tied, someone had seriously studied how I looked and this was a testimony to the impact teachers leave on their students' minds!
The day went on we went into our classes the students were a little restless-they had bags which I assumed contained their spare clothes. I had an inkling that the grade twelve students had planned something for later on, but then I did not pay heed, I had to wind up with ASL marks, Report Bee entries, and all this while the grade eight students poured into the faculty with their appreciation cards that they had made, cut designed, and written with their honest and sincere feelings. We were all overwhelmed by their gratitude expressed not through expensive designer cards, or even fancy knick knacks, but with colorful bits of paper with a sincere message in the inner fold. 
After dispersal, we had to head to one of the auditoriums and as soon as each teacher reached the entrance there was a loud cheer to welcome the teacher. The cheering was so loud that I had to close my ears for some time, although it did nothing to dampen the spirit and the enthusiasm.
We took our seats waiting for the program to start, and lo and behold got to see my grade twelve students on the stage, handling the announcements and the commentaries all in very different avatars, it was like they had suddenly become grown ups with the ability to take responsibilities a confidence that I saw sometimes in the class.

But then, well it was a double whammy for us this year. While the students got to honor their teachers on the fifth of September, the core group with Manit Sir appreciated all the teachers on the eighth of September. Teachers and staff who had completed five years and more were given a special mention and tokens of thanks were given to them, I included! The appreciation and words of encouragement were so straight from Manit Sir's heart that most of us were spellbound and had no words to say! After muster in the main auditorium, we proceeded to The Kingdom of Dreams for the "Beyond Bollywood" show. It was indeed a wonderful moment for the teachers for once to relax, put their corrections away and soak in the music and performance of the exceptionally talented artists on stage.

Heartfelt thanks to all the students and the Core Group for making this a memorable and wonderful Teacher's Day!

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Taking too many Selfies? You might be suffering from Selfitis !

I have never got around to perfecting that quintessential selfie pout nor do I intend to twist my face into the most distorted and contorted proportions. I am camera shy and often beg not to be photographed, (if it can be helped), but then I do feel a little ashamed for not bowing down to the Selfitis phenomenon that is sweeping the town off its feet!
Just recently Nitin Gadkari the Union Minister for Transport appeared on television urging owners of smartphones to use them carefully and responsibly, that too after a short video clip showing a graphic scene of a man who was crushed to death as he was taking a selfie and did not see the vehicle that killed him, his children were weeping for him.
Ancient Philosophers and great thinkers would have termed this obsession with one’s appearance as Narcissism. Before the advent of the smart phone with its gift of a front phone and a rear phone, people were obsessed with how they looked and they used mirrors to ensure that not even one of the locks of their well-maintained hair was out f place. No wonder, I recall seeing bike mirrors angled favourably towards the rider’s face and not the road behinds. The mitigating factor in the good old days was that people could take a look at their faces in the safety of their houses using the bedroom mirror or the one in the bathroom.
Psychiatrists these days are viewing the obsession for taking selfies with concern and they have termed this behaviour as ‘Selfitis’. They are, however, not ready to call it a standalone disease because they believe that Selfitis is the symptom of a disease that is formed of numerous other factors.
A very large number of deaths have taken place in India itself especially on roads and railway lines. In most of the cases, it was because the victims were so engrossed while taking their selfies that they did not see the train coming from the other direction. What made things worse was that they were so involved with the selfie that they did not hear the loud horn of the train coming from the opposite direction!
The need to take selfies on a regular basis might attain the extreme proportions of an obsessive-compulsive disorder, also termed as the ‘Lady Macbeth effect’. Of course, Shakespeare was aware of OCD and thus he described how Lady Macbeth would constantly wash her hands. In many cases, OCD and thus Selfitis can be exacerbated by poor self-esteem. Self-esteem might, in turn, be the result of rejection in the family and the society, or perhaps even not being able to conform to popular demands. As a contrast, Selfitis might also be the result of conformism and the need to do as others do, it might also be the result of FOMO or fear of moving out (fear of being left out).
A  modified self-esteem scale, of the Rosenberg scale, will help the reader understand why people are prone to Selfitis. Ipostedpasted a few questions below. For those who score more than one for each question might be more prone to take selfies.

Self-Esteem Scale Questionnaire
Age: __________________________
Gender: _______________________
Mobile Number: ________________
E-mail Id.: ___________________

Self Esteem Scale                                                                                1      2     3      4
1. On the whole, I am satisfied with myself                                        SA    A   D   SD
2. At times, I think I am no good at all.  *                                           SA    A   D   SD
3. I feel that I have a number of good qualities.                                  SA    A   D   SD
4. I am able to do things as well as most other people.                       SA    A   D   SD
5. I feel I don’t have much to be proud of. *                                       SA    A   D   SD
6. I certainly feel useless at times.*                                                     SA    A   D   SD
7. I feel that I’m a person of some worth, at least on an equal plane
    with others.                                                                                       SA    A   D   SD
8. I wish I could have more respect for myself. *                                SA    A   D   SD
9. All in all, I am inclined to feel as if I am a failure.*                        SA    A   D   SD
10. I feel good about myself.                                                                SA    A   D   SD
11. I feel very happy to be in the company of friends.                         SA    A   D   SD
12. My friends look forward to meeting me.                                        SA    A   D   SD
13. Large social gatherings thrill me as I get to meet new people.       SA    A   D   SD
14. I don’t like being in the company of friends.*                                SA    A   D   SD

SA- Strongly Agree
A   - Agree
D  - Disagree
SD – Strongly Disagree
To measure the self-esteem, score as follows:
1. A total score of 14 is an indication of strong self-esteem. Note: for questions ending in a ‘*’ mark, the SA option will be counted as a four, while and SD will become one.
2. A total score of 15-28 could be an indication of a fair amount of self-esteem. Note for questions ending in a ‘*’, SA will be counted as four, A will be counted as three, D will be counted as two and SD will be counted as one.
3. A total score of 29-42 could be an indication of poor self-esteem. Note for questions with a ‘*’ mark,
SA will be counted as four, A will be counted as three, D will be counted as two and SD will be counted as one.
4. A total score of 43-56 could be an indication of very poor self-esteem
It is not claimed that the scores indicated through the questionnaire are conclusive and final since it is not possible for self-esteem to be accurately analysed through a single questionnaire. For better accuracy in measurement, the subject will have to go through a battery of questionnaires. This article, however, is an attempt to suggest how people with poor self-esteem might be prone to be compulsive selfie takers, as they might be able to gain some kind of self-reassurance by taking as many selfies as possible.
To gain credibility, the modified Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale scores should be followed by a questionnaire that will attempt to record the frequency of selfie’s taken over a given period of time. A correlation between the Self Esteem Scale scores and selfie frequency score might be indicative of the assumption that poor self-esteem is indicated in a high frequency of selfies taken by the subject.
A typical Selfitis Questionnaire is given below:

Selfitis Questionnaire
Age: __________________________
Gender: _______________________
Mobile Number: ________________
E-mail Id.: ___________________

1. Are you on any Social Networking site?    (yes/no)
2. Do you engage in clicking selfies?       (yes/no)
3. Do you edit your selfies before posting them on Social Networking sites?   (yes/no)
4. Do you invest a great deal of time in attaining the right/perfect selfie and then post it on a Social Networking site?  (yes/no)
5. Do you post more selfies than groupies?  (yes/no)
6. Do you think you have been taking an excessive number of selfies (ten or more in a day) but feel helpless about it?    (yes/no)
7. Does your selfie habit impede on other important activities like studies, relationships, personal interactions, and sleep?  (yes/no)
8. Do you click a minimum of three selfies in a day and not post them on Social Networking sites? (Yes/no)
9. Do you click a minimum of three selfies in a day and post them on Social Networking Sites? (yes/no)
10. So you have an unstoppable urge to click selfies most of the times in a day to post them on Social Networking sites? (yes/no)
11.Does this feedback form on your selfie behaviour make you feel uncomfortable? (yes/no)
12. Does the positive feedback you receive about the selfies posted on Social Media make you feel happy? (yes/no)
13. Is your selfie habit driven by a feeling of self-accomplishment or is it driven by the fact that it is a socially accepted behaviour? (yes/no)
14. Do you think that your selfie habit is driven by your need to be accepted by your friends? (yes/no)
15. Do you think positive feedback on your selfies gives you a strong self-esteem? (yes/no)
16. Have you at any time in life faced a threat or danger to your personal well-being because of your selfie habit? (yes/no)
17. Have you ever felt empowered while taking a selfie in a dangerous situation (at the metro station, close to a railway line, or while crossing a busy road)? (yes/no)
Note: Having zero to five affirmatives in the questionnaire indicates negligible interest in taking selfies.Having five to nine affirmative answers might indicate an obsessive need to take selfies. Similarly having between ten to seventeen affirmative answers could mean that the subject has a serious problem with the selfie habit. Respondents who are more interested in posting groupies will be less affected by the selfie syndrome.
Special thanks to Aastha Rebecca Lal for sharing data and concerns regarding the phenomena called 'Selfitis' an obsession for taking selfies.

To conclude, posted below are a few quotes titles or headlines on Selfitis:

Selfie and narcissism
Instagram users admit they’ve created the most narcissistic social network on the planet

Published: Aug 11, 2017 11:18 a.m. ET
Selfie and narcissism
Hey, Guys: Posting a Lot of Selfies Doesn’t Send a Good Message
Posting more online photos of yourself may suggest anti-social traits
Published on January 06, 2015

Selfies and narcissism
Carolyn Gregoire The Huffington
Love 'em or hate 'em, selfies are harmless fun -- right? Maybe not. Per new research, selfies can say a lot about your personality, and not in a good way. 

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