There Is Always a First Time

I got up in the morning with an unexpected flutter in my tummy. The first day of AS Level, the new chapter in my life after the gargantuan ICSE board examinations. Oddly, my mind was a tabula rasa. I wondered who my classmates would be. I felt apprehensive; a little clueless. I changed my T-shirt at least four times, confused. My thoughts were all jumbled up and though I disliked admitting it, I felt nervous – a feeling that was completely new to me.

I walked into the school building. Familiar turf, comforting. It was now beginning to feel like just any other school day, till I dipped into the Spartan corridors of the 12th floor. Earlier, I simply traipsed here for VMUN, Greaders Club, EUMIND meetings and orientations and yes, for an occasional peep into my younger brother’s judo pummelling.

So anyway, I had a few minutes to myself before the others filtered in. Despite the presence of fifteen odd people in the space, the quiet, clean confines reminded me of a sanatorium. The strong whiff of a lemonish floor cleaner, the silently positioned ancillary staff added to the pallor. Where were the rush and the din and the chaos and the screaming that rather lustily laced the corridors of the 8th floor? This was a different world, serious, grim, business-like, bereft of warmth, seemingly a place where there would be no time for conversations, zero old familiarity, no backslapping… Instead there were new teachers, crisp books, ironed manes, and finely tuned timetables. I was already slipping into auto pilot mode.

The flutter in my tummy grew into a monster by the time lunch hour arrived. My mother had packed my favourite foods in boxes. Chicken sandwiches, peaches, and biscuits……..nothing worked. Suddenly, the food lost its lustre. There was more fun in snatching and bartering. Barter rights worked till the 10th grade: if you had a chocolate, it fetched a premium, you could trade it for anything ranging from half a chicken sandwich to schezwan rice with an extra dollop of sriracha sauce thrown in.

The classroom was full of mostly new faces, trying to drum up an acquaintance rather awkwardly, and I did not feel like responding to anyone. Something was not right, my heart was missing. I felt…lonely, amidst a class of twenty eight students. I was used to roaming in the hallways and gossiping with my friends during recess. Suddenly, it was too civilised, too formal, too starchy, and it annoyed me at some level.

The day was over, I had never been so glad to hear the bell ring. I wafted through a range of emotions that evening till my head hit the pillow. The next morning, I awoke fresh, my thoughts sorted. I strode confidently into my classroom, as if nothing had happened, slipped into a new daily routine, set up my locker, poured myself into work, articulated interesting conversations, made friends…..

Perhaps this is what they call growing up.

Anoushka Madan
AS Level, VIBGYOR High, Goregaon

Just Another Story

In the background, there was an awful commotion, men’s raised voices and women screaming. There was a deafening sound, a gunshot. I was used to all this from my days in the military. I turned in time to see a figure dart towards a balcony of a theatre. On the ground, there was blood but I paid no attention. I took off after the fleeing stranger.

I am Jacob Coulter, an army general and the first thought that crossed my mind was to give chase. I followed him up to the balcony. On reaching the balcony, I saw the killer vault over the balcony and onto the alley below. I jumped after him but unlike him, landed on my hands and feet. Without giving myself time to recover, I was up and on the murderer’s trail.

I saw his shadow turn a corner. As soon as I turned the corner, he was clear in my sight. I had come so far, I could not afford to lose him now. He turned two corners; I did the same, hot on his trail. Finally he reached an old and dilapidated house. He ran in and barred the door shut. I grew certain that this was his hideout.

Standing beside the house, I took a breather and called the police force for back up. They immediately sent two police cruisers to my location. After that I searched for a way to enter. I found a broken window on the second floor of the building and also a climbable ledge. I started my ascent. Soon I was at the window. I entered and got a small cut on my leg. I stealthily moved from room to room, always wary of possible ambush.

As I reached the downstairs room, I heard a battle cry and I spun around to see a man wielding a butcher’s knife running in my direction. My reflexes took hold and I dodged the immediate swipe. He was reeling back for another strike when I backed up against an old cupboard. He struck again and this time, he nicked my bicep. Searing pain shot through my body but I ignored it. I knew if I fell unconscious now, I was dead meat. I was at the cupboard when I saw a pole lying by a window, presumably used to hang curtains once but had since fallen due to disrepair. In the meantime, he was ready for another strike, but this time I was ready too. I dived for the pole. Giving an enraged roar, he followed tail and in a split second I got hold of the rod and thrust it in his direction. It hit him on the head and he fell.

The police had arrived in the meantime and had broken in. I spent the next few hours getting patched up in the hospital. The doctors told me that my arm would never heal completely and thus I would have a permanent scar as a memento of this dangerous self-proclaimed mission.

The next day I was awarded yet another medal for tirelessly working towards keeping my country safe. I was extremely happy and received the award with great pride.

Devdut Dutta
Student, VIBGYOR High, Horamavu

How Much a Dollar Cost

In Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 Grammy award winning album, ‘To Pimp a Butterfly,’ there is a track, ‘How Much a Dollar Cost’ which provides a commentary on our society and morality.

The track begins with Kendrick rapping about a beggar who approached him, while he was filling up the tank of his luxury car. The beggar asked Kendrick for a dollar, but Kendrick refused knowing that the man would use it to obtain illegal substances. The beggar says to him, “My son, temptation is one thing that I’ve defeated, listen to me, I want a single bill from you.” The beggar attempts to convince Kendrick that he only wants the money to appease his empty stomach, but again, Kendrick refuses. Kendrick himself having gone from rags to riches knows just how difficult it is to earn wealth. The beggar says to Kendrick, “Have you ever opened up Exodus 14? A humble man is all that we ever need.” Exodus 14 tells the story of Moses parting the Red Sea, guiding the scared Israelites to safety. This line is a metaphor, describing the power one man can have to lead his people. Kendrick is overcome with guilt. One part of him wants to give the dollar to the old man and emulate the God-like characteristics, but the other part feels that by giving the man a dollar, he is feeding the man’s temptations and is giving up his hard-earned money. He refuses to give the dollar to the man, and in response the man says, “Know the truth, it’ll set you free, you’re looking at the Messiah, the son of Jehovah, the higher power, and I’ll tell you just how much a dollar cost, the price of having a spot in Heaven, embrace your loss, I am God.” The man reveals himself to be God, and that Kendrick’s greed denied him heaven. That’s how much a dollar costs.

Think carefully the next time a child knocks on your car window, begging for ten rupees. Will you refuse to give the money or will you show compassion? Will you deny yourself a spot in heaven or will you feed the temptations of their parents? The Dilemma of the Privileged.


Akshita Mohite
VIBGYOR High, Balewadi, Pune

Economic Progress or Sustainable Prosperity?

Economic growth refers to a rise in the GDP of the country, such as due to a rise in production of goods and services in the economy or maybe due to an increase in employment in the country. Sustainable prosperity would mean operating in such a way that lives of future generations are not put on the line and that measures to conserve the environment are taken.

One of the fastest growing economies, a market for the future, and an example of economic progress are some of the phrases India is addressed by. However, what is not mentioned is that we are amongst the bottom 10 in the country sustainability rankings. The large scale industrialisation and the boost in tourism might, on one hand, take the GDP of charts but what already lingers there is the constantly devolving pollution level. Is this negative externality justified in the name of economic progress?

On one hand we must make the best use of resources that are available to us and in doing so the damage to the environment is not the primary concern. The primary concern is giving everybody everything they demand while making profit. Few have other corporate objectives other than this and most argue that why should they have the propensity to act sustainable as it reduces their profits. They raise a valid point when they say that the scarcity of resources and competitiveness of the market has forced them to use the cheapest ways of producing and this has in turn engendered the problem we face today.

Such attitude has fostered the Asian brown clouds forming over countries particularly India and Pakistan. This is due to high airborne pollutants created due to combustion and biomass burning. It has caused changes in the time of the monsoon rains and a great decline in the growth of harvest during the year.

Delhi being the most popular example, where pollution levels are around 10 times what they should be. So bad is the air that living in Delhi is said to be equal to smoking twenty plus cigarettes every single day.

This also extends to the global scale. The United States of America withdrew from the Paris agreement of 2016 which, when comes into action in 2020, limits greenhouse emissions of a country. It is a step the global community is taking towards a cleaner, greener, safer future but with the absence of one of the biggest culprits. Mr Trump stated that the change from the accords will be insignificant and that the United States has already spent billions of dollars and was already “way ahead” while other countries have not and would not spend a dime. However the president made a valid point saying that it will cause power shortages and blackouts in countries dependant on fossil fuels for power. Another powerful point put forth was that millions of industrial jobs will be lost as production will now be capped by emission.

However, considering that the impact of the rise in pollution is not individual and affects the world as a whole which must be fathomed by some countries. Collative measure must be taken such as the Paris agreement and constant checks need to be made to ensure everybody is on target. Individually, countries could invest in the generation of renewable energy. Solar energy is becoming readily available and cheaper and also other methods of obtaining clean energy such as but not limited to geothermal, tidal and wind could be used after considering the geographical and financial ability of each individual nation. We cannot elude the problem, only reduce its impacts and we must, because otherwise, in the long run… we are all dead.

Aryan D Mehta
Student of A Level
VIBGYOR Goregaon, Mumbai

Is banning plastic the best solution?

Over the years, we have been so selfish – destroying the planet and not thinking about the future generation. From wasting water to using harmful fuels, we have done it all, but the use of plastic might be the most heinous crime yet. Fortunately, the Government has contrived a movement for the betterment of the planet. The “Ban the Bag” movement has compelled all Mumbaikars to discard all plastics and refrain from using them. However, not everybody can see the good in this movement, can you?

It is scientifically proven that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than there will be fish. This will not only cause food shortages, whilst the population is ever rising, but it will also increase the strain on our farmers. Carelessly discarded plastic bags not only strangle and suffocate aquatic plants and animals, but they also cause visual pollution which reduces tourism that affects the country’s economy.

On the other hand, the alternative to plastic bags – paper bags and reusable bags are much more expensive; thus, businesses and consumers (especially those who are on a tight budget) are suffering. Moreover, an industry official predicts that nearly 3,00,000 people are set to become unemployed due to this movement .

Many question, “How is the government going to dispose off these non degradable plastics?” The answer is that the government plans on converting plastic into fuels. Nevertheless this may only cause further damage. The fuel produced by plastics is sure to produce more carbon emissions than normal fossil fuels, contributing further to global warming and climate change.

We all agree that plastic bags fill up landfills because they take 1000 or more years to decompose completely. Unfortunately, few of us know that paper bags take up 9 times more space than plastic bags and decompose at about the same rate.

Moreover, plastic bags release chemicals into the ground and water ways that indirectly enter the food chain. When we ingest the fish, these harmful chemicals enter our bodies and have adverse effects like disrupting our hormonal functions. Believe it or not, reusable bags have the same effects on us. Scientists believe that reusing cloth bag, especially during warmer months, increase bacteria that would spread to your groceries and cause food poisoning.

I personally believe that banning plastics is not the best solution because it is causing more problems than solving them. We should use more sustainable and effective methods such as educating the future generations about small actions like – reusing plastics, saving water which can go a long way and save the planet. So let us take the initiative of making the world a better place.

Alethea Alphanso
Student of AS Level,
VIBGYOR Goregaon, Mumbai

Let Us Build Bridges

As an educationist any aspect of change in the teacher student relationship impacts me deeply and leads me to introspect and reflect on my role in modern day India. We have long been proud of our traditional methods of education and such hallowed relationships like the one between the teacher and the learner (the guru and the shishya) have been seen as sacrosanct.

Recently there have been many instances which portray this beautiful relationship in a new light – not always positive. Are these rare incidences or do they symbolise the deep chasm that seems to have developed between the tutor and the taught and are they a sign of the times? This has struck at the very basic root of the educational system in India and has created unease and led to soul searching. Indeed it is a wakeup call. If only we could open our eyes, look with compassion and listen with our hearts.

More than that, we have to lend our ears to the pleas of the teaching fraternity toiling under great duress and struggling to enlighten the minds of the future citizens of our nation. Education should be the one area of constant revision, change and improvement for any country which seeks to establish itself as a world power. Revolutionary progress is much needed at all levels of our education system. A complete overhauling of the system and a more open minded approach to teaching and learning should be our clarion call.

Much needs to be done. A constructive and effective dialogue has to be set up between the teachers, the parents and the students. The channels of communication and facilitation should be opened and widened so as to allow for more awareness and understanding. Parents and teachers both have a great impact on the psyche of a young child. If the home environment is conducive and children are encouraged to respect their teachers, then the school too will become a place of illumination and learning. Creating an optimistic feeling towards school and teachers will only help parents to enable their children to establish strong bonds with their alma mater and their teachers. Similarly, school staff too needs to be sensitised to the pressures faced by parents and children today and be facilitated to handle them with sensitivity and sensibility. This will lead to mutual respect and acceptance and further strengthening of the teacher student symbiotic relationship.

Let us begin this noble task. Let us build bridges. Let us make platforms that will enable our future citizens to fly high.