Forever, until the end of Time

Time has always been one of my dearest friends, callous and unforgiving.

She has been a constant in my life; although painfully obstinate, she has been by my side for as long as I can remember, firmly holding my hand as I waited expectantly for dinner to be served, for water to finish running, and for words to lose meaning.

Time, in her own warped way, has always shown me the right path, the right place, and the right people. From celebrating triumphs to mourning tragedies, she has been here all along. She has attended every single funeral of the people I used to be and has been present at every birth of every single person I have become.

Time is a sadist and a paradox. She has forced me to regain energy after convincing me that I was too exhausted to even try. She has persuaded me to beg for a spark after assuring me that it had burnt out. She has given me so much pain after coaxing me to think that I could not endure anymore.

Above all, she has given me strength, has carried me through the most violent storms, and has pushed me to reach the greatest heights. Time has molded me into the person I was destined to be.

She has spent years teaching me the deceitful language of the universe, warning me of all the dangers that I might encounter. She has spoken to me about the beauty and enigma of the stars, knowing very well that someday, I will flicker amongst them. Time has been devout to educating me about the wisdom of faith and the folly of ambition, causing me to question the true essence of life and the nanoscopic role that we all play in this world.

She is as nocturnal as she is present during the day, as lonesome as she is loved. Everything that she is, she is not. Time is omnipresent, yet not existent at all.

She will spend a lifetime mocking you with her insatiable demand to be felt, yet ignored.

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All Too Well, The Short Film (Taylor’s Version): A Heartbreaking albeit Exhilarating Homage to Young Love

Roman poet Virgil famously said, “Love conquers all; let us surrender to love.” 

Heartbreak anthem extraordinaire Taylor Swift’s All Too Well, track number 5 on her fourth studio album, Red, was momentarily a dark horse, obscured by the shadows of her chartbusters We are Never Getting Back Together, and I Knew You Were Trouble. 

Now, almost a decade after its initial release, the heartrending ballad (in Taylor’s version) has not only reached the top of all the charts, hastily upon its release but has also made an indelible mark on our tender, broken hearts. 

As Swift’s directorial debut, All Too Well: the short film, hits every single note gracefully, with remarkable ease. Based on what is speculated to be the singer’s own life, the song, and its lyrics, coupled with the impressively potent short film, are bound to conjure a bleak, yet comforting sense of truth upon the onlooker. 

Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien emulate young love authentically, in the most seamless manner. The excitement, fear, rage, pain, hatred and, – most importantly – grief, that is associated with the folly of young love earnestly come alive. We witness the unpredictable highs and lows, mercurial smiles, followed by erratic tears, as they amalgamate to craft the most central feeling of them all. 

This is not a fairytale romance, but a window to the truth of the melancholy, as well as the growth that accompanies the euphoria of falling in love. The limited dialogue, lengthy shots, tender close ups, and effortless transitions make the couple appear vulnerable and intimate, providing the audience with a role of its own: an invisible third party to the turbulent journey of two star-crossed lovers. 

The film brings out a universal message that we, as humans, are eager to neglect. The serene yet simple cinematography encapsulates the volatility of seasons, in addition to ever-changing relationships and people. The end of a pleasant and cheerful autumn invites the beginning of a bitter and miserable winter, much like the end of love elicits heartbreak. Leaves fall, as do tears, and everything is as desolate as it was before. 

All Too Well indeed captures love’s innate capability to conquer all, even if that means vanquishing our sense of time, self, and our understanding of this convoluted world. 

As it progresses, the film is no longer a reel on a screen, but a reflection, or flashback to a period of life that all of us have delightfully experienced and painfully endured. All Too Well teaches us a lesson about the most precious possessions to humankind: love and youth, both of which are fugitive, but their reminiscence is imperishable. 

Emily in Paris: A French Revolution Motivated by The Quintessential American Dream

Emily in Paris, famed producer Darren Star’s latest, and most polarising Netflix mini-series first aired in October 2020. Amidst the pandemic, titular character Emily Cooper became a fashion icon, one of our biggest guilty pleasures, and arguably the most hated person on social media. 

Last year, the show was mercilessly criticised for its nonchalance towards portraying diversity, brazen stereotyping, predictable cliches, and its unabashed Americanisation of French culture. Above all, Emily in Paris’ biggest flaw lies in its lack of realism. The show is unreservedly out of touch with reality, its characters are less real than those we come across in children’s books, and their experiences are as lavish as only affluent millionaires can afford. 

In a nutshell, the series is a symbol of fantasy, redemption, and escapism. Yet, the writers of the show have delicately crafted the series into a luxuriously delectable French feast; sincere, absentminded viewers are endeared by the protagonist’s chirpy and enthusiastic nature, whereas critical onlookers and hennious haters are served a predictable and pretentious scapegoat on a gleaming and pristine silver platter.

Despite the enormous backlash received by the show, the countless views that it has garnered in the last two years have allowed viewers to interpret the series in a multitude of ways: a satire on what it means to be feminine, a caricature of the typical American tourist, or an emblem of vindication. 

There is not so much wrong with Emily as most viewers would like to admit: she is an educated, good-natured, chic, and hard-working marketing professional who has been forced to migrate halfway across the world to a foreign country, replete with language blockades and disparaging locals, in order to continue earning an income. 

Nevertheless, the narrative in itself is thwarted by its nebulous foundation: a commonplace American reverie set against a commodified version of Paris. 

At some point in the second season, Emily is trying to convince Alfie, an attractive British banker who also happens to be her French immersion classmate and her newest love interest, of the beauty, awe, and excitement of living in Paris. He responds, “I don’t hate it, I just don’t buy into the hype. Paris is built on a fantasy and I happen to see right through it.” Ironically, Alfie’s words perfectly encapsulate the ethos of the series; Emily in Paris is an homage to the picturesque landscapes that meet the eye in some parts of Paris, feeding its onlookers with an insatiable sense of wanderlust. The show is a tolerable viewing experience if you acknowledge it as what it is – sheer escapism. 

The American dream and American drive, in this case, surpass their expectations. If there’s one thing we can learn from Emily Cooper, it’s how to market ourselves and what we can offer, a lesson which has indeed passed on to the makers of the show as they feed us with a beautiful, yet borderline shallow French rendezvous. 

Inventing Anna: A Review

Anna Sorokin, who arrived in New York City under the alias Anna Delvey – an alleged German heiress –  is an utterly fascinating individual. As the daughter of a Russian truck driver, who swindled banks and individuals under the facade of an indistinguishable European accent, an expensive wardrobe and her sparkling wit, Anna Delvey continues to be a global conundrum. 

Shondaland’s Inventing Anna, the Netflix mini-series that recounts the scamster’s intriguing story, is said to be ‘completely true, except for the parts that are entirely made up,’ according to its very emphatic, pronounced slogan. The series highlights the events that led up to the famous grifter’s inevitable downfall. By drawing a parallel between her time spent in custody and the instances that led her to fool the elite into generously lending her millions of dollars, Shonda Rhimes tells Anna’s story in a mesmerising yet awfully slow nine-part sequence. 

The con artist was convicted with three counts of grand larceny and four counts of theft services, and Netflix’s documentation of her indictment allows the audience to gloat in every moment of it. Rhimes’ dramatisation of Inventing Anna is brilliant, layered, and more substantial than it appears. Although it has seemingly been crafted for an audience that wants to be dumbfounded, the series is successful in its attempt to include Anna’s several accomplices, their perspectives, and the drastic losses that are associated with Sorokin’s feeble scheme. In keeping with this, the makers dedicate each part of the series to different individuals, all of whom were instrumental to Anna’s house of cards. 

Despite its undeniable grandeur, style, and conviction, Inventing Anna lacks an analytical lens that focuses more closely on the Charlatan heiress’ motivations and her psyche. Julia Garner nevertheless portrays the titular antiheroine with a rigid and brutal yet captivating magnificence that seems like it’s second-skin. The confusing accent aside, Garner strikes every chord right in her portrayal of the enigmatic conwoman by creating a polychromatic aura that is human enough to maintain the audience’s investment in her character, yet deadpan enough to leave the audience bewildered. 

The icing on the cake is Anna Chumsky’s Vivian Kent, based on New York Magazine’s Jessica Pressler, whose article after her arrest brought Anna worldwide scrutiny and conjecture. Chumksy’s Kent, despite being unrealistic – since she is working on a huge story during her third trimester – is loveable, and admirable for her undying commitment on a quest to achieve the journalistic truth. Kent’s interviews with Anna in prison are surely a highlight of the show as they add substance to the several instances that we witness in Anna’s grand scheme. 

One can’t help but wonder whether or not ‘Inventing Anna’ itself cons its viewers. The show undoubtedly has an impactful and interesting narrative, which is enhanced by gripping performances, but its ethos is misplaced with a central focus on gossip and the media, as opposed to the gravity of Anna’s actions. 

The Delicacy of Broken Glass

When you meet someone new,

You laugh at how sure you were,

The last one was the one,

And here you are, perhaps, for some reverent reason,

Or not,

Redefining the one again.

Maybe.

But there are problems, questions, and words that remain unspoken.

There always are.

You start to question what loving someone really feels like.

A fresh wound, a dying fire,

Water running, seamlessly,

Until this love, expires.

You’re waiting, patiently, for dinner to be served, for your questions to be answered,

But truthfully, why have so many questions when you can’t even answer them for yourself?

Ask yourself what it’s worth.

Is it worth for time to hold still, and words to lose meaning?

You can never really decipher the feeling.

Fugitively, it comes, and it goes,

Somebody you loved so deeply suddenly becomes a foe.

Love is fragile, as delicate as broken glass.

It’s shockingly vile, and wicked,

When we expect it to last.

A Letter to the Girl I Used to Be

Dear young me,

It’s been a while.

I know you feel misplaced, lost, and as confused as can be.

You’ve taken bits and pieces from the girls you envy,

And aspire to be, only to feign a whole new personality.

That personality is me.

Am I really the person you wanted me to be?

Still, I would like to believe that

You and I are the same.

We always will be.

In retrospect,

I wish I was more like you, and less like me.

When my mom told me her little girl had disappeared,

Into a distant, delusive, and distorted memory,

That she occupied an empty shell and her eyes no longer shone,

I lied, and told her she was mistaken,

But I had never felt more alone.

Maybe it’s life, maybe I’ve just grown.

But I wanted to apologize to you,

For all the pain and melancholy I made you feel,

I hate the fact that I didn’t let you heal.

I would spend a lifetime trying to make up for all my mistakes.

You’re beautiful, brilliant, and brave.

I’m so sorry your joy was the one thing I couldn’t save.

I can’t stand the fact that I only have meagre remnants of you existing inside of me,

I would do anything to go back to being the girl I used to be.

For All the Girls who Look into the Mirror and Hate What they See

Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders, Anxiety. 

You used to smile all the time, 

You used to be so happy. 

The girl you used to be, 

Used to be so carefree. 

Now you spend nights crying,

Crying about the inadequacy, 

Howling profusely about how much you hate your body. 

You let yourself believe that bottles and pills will change the way you feel, 

You let yourself believe that skipping meals will let you heal. 

In a world full of problems, you see your weight as the biggest crime, 

If you dropped half of it, you think you’d be just fine.

So you stopped eating, and fed yourself with lies, 

Lies that limited your worth to your size. 

Then one day, you had a flat belly, 

Provoking not only shock but so much envy. 

You were no longer that ‘fat girl’ who was always looked over, 

After having put yourself through an exhausting rollercoaster. 

Now, you are constantly complimented about your beauty, 

A newfound admiration has substituted cruelty.

You continue to shrink,

And you still don’t eat. 

Your appearance has undergone a drastic change, 

But from within, you feel just the same. 

I’m so sorry you had to believe that losing weight would end your pain, 

That altering your size would keep you sane. 

I’m so sorry you were told that your worth was determined by your weight, 

I’m so sorry for all the days you spent with empty plates. 

I’m so sorry that you were told so many lies, 

I’m so sorry you were made to feel that beauty is only visible on the outside. 

Boys Will Be Boys – Toxic Masculinity in India

The phrase ‘toxic masculinity’ has had a soaring presence in mainstream media for quite some time now. Although the concept is age-old and has been an integral factor in sharpening the bigoted and ubiquitous mindset in our incredibly patriarchal and dogmatic society, there is a striking and widespread lack of understanding on what the phrase truly means.

Toxic masculinity essentially demonstrates extreme maleness to an exceedingly harmful degree, replete with the principles of homophobia, racism and misogyny.

Boys are traditionally expected to strive towards achieving a lumbering sense of masculinity, at least on a surface level. This is qualified through the highly sought-after macho, red blooded and robust image that most men seem to desire, whether they truly want it or not. The same image, which screams machismo and virility manifests itself in heinous acts of bullying and catcalling, instead of enabling men to hold themselves and other chauvinistic men accountable for their misogynistic sentiments and actions.

Toxic masculinity, in no way, propagates that all men are inherently toxic but sheds light on society’s expectations and beliefs towards how men should really be. Researchers find that toxic masculinity consists of suppressing emotions, maintaining a stern and unsympathetic exterior as well as upholding aggression as a symbol of power.  What many fail to see is that toxic masculinity is a repressive rendition of manhood, which harms men and people of all genders as it cultivates brutality and aggression as barometers to measure a man. 

India has faced a toxic masculinity crisis for centuries. Much like most commercial jargon, the phrase is now so remissive, it’s exacerbating the crisis instead of alleviating it. To elaborate, the male-dominated Indian film industry, which arguably plays the most critical role in shaping the judgements, opinions and beliefs of our society, is known for its patronizing and slanderous portrayal of women, and its lack of representation of the queer community.

The depiction of women in India cinema has left an indelible mark on the beliefs and traditions that we continue to uphold in modern Indian society. According to research conducted by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, backed by UN women and the Rockerfeller Foundation, Indian cinema tops the list of objectifying women on celluloid. As a country which is rife with crimes against women, popular Indian films, obscured by the euphemism of romance have been accomplices in promoting sexual harassment, molestation, sl*t-shaming and objectification. The narratives of these highly successful films, and the deep-rooted misogynistic perspective with which most Indians view women are to blame for the refusal to acknowledge that a woman’s consent is as indispensable as a man’s desire.

Toxic masculinity in commercially successful Hindi cinema, namely Kabir Singh (2019) which romanticizes violence against women and Kapoor and Sons (2016) which shows a gay man withholding his sexuality out of shame, have incited the narrow and rigid box in which straight men – portrayed as bravado, heartless and bursting with rage – are superior to everybody else, abiding by a set of unjust and blinkered beliefs.

Gina Rippon, a British neuroscientist has shattered the myth that our brains are gendered; she says that it is our world – where gender binaries reign supreme, shaping every aspect of our lives from educational policies to social hierarchies and relationships – that has bred the problem. The roots of toxic masculinity lie in the bigger picture: she says, “the human brain is more affected by external demands, including social attitudes and expectations,” which makes me ponder about the bigger reality of the Indian society, where all of us play a role in perpetrating the same toxic masculinity. We choose to ignore the dehumanization, objectification and subtle ‘jokes’ that are intricately woven together to create this ugly reality. We believe that turning a blind eye to what we hear and see excludes us from the problem, but we fail to recognize that by staying silent, we are only worsening it.

To prevent the normalization of toxic masculinity, we, as human beings, must work in cohesion to fight against the notion that violence is instinctive for men, reconsider how masculinity is taught and enforced, and how gender inequalities substantiate themselves into the lives of male, female and non-binary people. To put an end to toxic masculinity we must encourage men to stop defending their maleness and start examining it.

All that Jazz

Glorious, timeless, eternal, sophisticated, imperishable – words can never suffice to describe not only the genre, but the feeling that is jazz.

Jazz, in its musical form, was initially developed by African Americans and was later influenced by both the European Harmonic structure as well as authentic African rhythm. Jazz, from its very beginning, circa 1900s, has been paradoxical, constantly evolving yet completely ceaseless. To me, it is not only a form of music but an emotion, and its ongoing development is testimony to the previous notion.

However, as a young adult and a lover of Jazz, one would tend to feel alienated, living in a world dominated by pop and hip hop. I have always felt that teenagers in today’s day and age refrain from listening to jazz because they have a misconstrued perception of what the art from truly is. This, seemingly, is born out of the lack of exposure one would have to the art from in the twenty first century.

Jazz, to me, has never been about receiving a work of art provided by musicians, but has been about witnessing and even being part of the production process. In an ensemble, players communicate with one another, they don’t just create the song to perform it. They pass it among themselves with complete concentration, like a team, as though they were playing a football match on an enormous field. They converse, elaborate, develop and customize. I love jazz for what it truly is, acceptance – the ability to surrender what is beyond one’s control. It distinguishes itself from other genres with its democracy: Rock is an image, an ideology, Classical is architecture, Blues is pain, Folk is private, Disco is an escape, Hip Hop is relentless and Pop is wild. But jazz is democratic, it is neither an onlooker to the player nor to the listener, it’s a world where the listener is transformed into a player in a way that is not so for other forms of music. I love jazz for its democracy, the opinions it has and the opinions, like mine, that it allows. If you want to hear and to be heard, you’re guaranteed to fall in love with the world’s greatest gift that is Jazz.

Some of my favourite jazz pieces include:

  1. ‘Blue in Green’ – Miles Davis (Kind of Blue)
  2. ‘In a Sentimental Mood’ – Duke Ellington and John Coltrane
  3. ‘If I should lose you’ – Hank Mobley (Soul Station)
  4. ‘But Not for Me’ – Chet Baker Sings
  5. ‘There is no Greater Love’ – Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons (Boss Tenors)

Happy Things

Days spent sipping lattes in the presence of ambrosial lavender,

Enigmatically charming streets to endlessly wander, 

When the crimson sun teases the purple sky, 

When a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. 

Daisy gardens and brightly coloured doors,

Disheveled sandcastles embellishing spotless shores. 

An uphill climb to the unknown, 

Unfamiliar cities far from home. 

Pizza for breakfast and waking up at noon, 

Glancing at the stars and the gorgeous moon. 

Tourist maps and rented cars, 

Smiling strangers from afar.

Tiny bookstores and oceanside shacks, 

Forgotten hills plagued with cracks. 

The joy of discovering new places,

And the excitement of seeing new faces.