Creating Stories: Because Snapchat is Never Enough

The world had a lot of plans for 2017, but WhatsApp deciding that it needed its own version of Snapchat stories was not one of them.

The merits and demerits of this feature aside (I think we can all agree that while the update was made with good intentions, the removal of the original typed WhatsApp status was a poor decision, one that WhatsApp had to rectify due to the backlash.) – the temporary story making form is a growing trend. Instagram decided it needed it, WhatsApp brought it in, and even Facebook has its own version now.

Everyone is telling a story.

The era of peak TV has brought with it something else – the understanding that someone is always watching. We pose for the invisible camera that is our movie, and with the right filter it starts to look more and more like the epiphanic moment of romantic revelation coming closer. Of course, if one chooses to be part of another movie, the right filter can give you the tortured detective ideal that you need – with the fairy lights making your existence just a little bit more Peter Pan than whatever it had been before.

Democracy in literature has allowed us this right – we design ourselves, we make ourselves, we fashion who we are – and with the right filter, we can make our own movies. The constant storytelling is almost voyeuristic, since the designing of your self is in constant view. Everything, from the caption to the image, to the time limit and the words said – everything goes through a mental screening. And this process entails just one decision: who do you want to be today?

The tools which allow this constant self-fashioning can be examined further. What is the difference between the article you share on Facebook, the picture of your room on Instagram, or the written status you choose for WhatsApp? What does it say when you share a meme about what kind of humour you like, and on which platform it is allowed? How is it that on Snapchat – which is more exclusive, allowing you to decide who sees the story – captions can have swear words? Facebook, on the other hand, works as a more general platform where we avoid putting up anything our parents would disapprove of.

The differences between these platforms bring us to the issue of the performative part of our identity. We make ourselves for other people to see almost constantly, and the way we make ourselves changes with the group we interact with. There’s nothing inherently new about this. Every person changes depending on whom they speak to – but currently, this performance has become more defined, and caters to a larger audience. The way we fashion ourselves has increased with the sheer number of tools we have to do just this – because with every meme we post, we add to what people think of us.

The focus of literature and movies also shows the way this fashioning has changed. The democratisation of media has allowed almost anyone to imagine that they are part of this grand narrative – this movie, one with the right playlist, the right words, the right poetry, is theirs for the taking. We design our lives to look like these movies – the validity of unsaid experiences fades because, as in movies, the most hidden moments of a character’s progression are always part of the scene. Therefore, even moments of peaceful solitude are captured and shared, so that the experience becomes an interesting blend of your own performance and the constant feedback of your audience.

Everything becomes a story to be told. And in that we become stories – constantly read, and constantly needing an audience.

Cheers,

T in a Cup


tanviedit

A Cup of T
‘T’ as in me, ‘Cup’ as in tea, ‘Of’ as in preposition and ‘A’ as in article. Bringing you thoughtful rants on TV, books, society and various other things induced by too many cups of ice tea.

Written by Tanvi
Updates every fortnight


Column icon by Sanna Jain
Featured Image by Stuti Pachisia

Things I’ll Tell My Children about My Childhood Home

When the lights went out, we came to life.
We were always sitting at the edge of shadows,
Waiting for the light to break, ‘Load-shedding’ we called it.
We lit the darkness in little candle flames
And ate from a single plate by a single light.
Even at five, I knew where the candles were kept,
And that darkness meant candles which meant stories.
We laughed and talked without looking at each other
Like we had learnt the maps of each other’s faces by heart.
Even now, when I need a story, I need darkness
To have it come to light.
Load-shedding, we called it.

The houses were always in primary colours.
Every evening, for eleven minutes, the sky would be
Yellow in the middle, pink at the edges, and
We’d wait until the houses would start shining,
Yellow in the middle, pink at the edges.
Every time my mother found a colour pastel scrawl
On the pristine white walls,
I’d blame the sky for seducing children
Into acting the drama of eleven minutes
In eleven untidy seconds.

The pond was marmalade because what else could it be?
The sofa set was a castle because what else could it be?
My mother’s double bed was an archaeological digging site because what else could it be?
And I was the best girl ever,
Because what else could I be?

When it rained, each house turned into a island.
For seven days, we would look down from the verandah and hear
In the crashing of the rain:
Holiday, holiday, holiday.

And on the seventh continuous day,
there would be fishermen, ferrying
Us travellers, explorers, paired animals,
From shore to shore.
We never saw the fishermen except on that seventh day,
And one rainy evening, I read about fish that slept in the soil until rain,
And I wondered as I saw them, the next day, singing, shining in the rain,
If the authors forgot to add ‘-ermen’.

We’d wait until we heard the jingle of their nets;
Little, scurrying fish jumping into their little, scurrying vessels
And sail into the sunset, in this tide of this temporary ocean.
We’d return, world-weary and hagridden,
And state wisely to our parents:
‘He was right, Magellan.’

There’s very little that goes perfectly
Against the backdrop of a purple evening.
I got a boyfriend here once, and he seemed wrong.
I got an almost boyfriend once, and he seemed wrong.
Once I got two kittens home, who played in front
Of a television on static,
And they seemed wrong.
So I cushioned myself into the purple sky and thought to myself,
‘Thank God I cannot be seen.’

There was always a new summer, and always the pond,
Always a litter of puppies, always a lost frog,
Always tadpoles in the stream nearby and
Always dead earthworms in the muggy field,
Always the crow hatchlings on the same telephone pole,
Always a new summer, and brief reminders that the day was circular
And the year was always whole.

This time was the last time I returned.

I found a lane I never visited in my nineteen years.

Because there were other boundaries I was breaking,
I broke into a run
And I found an unexpected wall,
And in its middle,
I found an unexpected sun.

Written by Stuti Pachisia

Image by Sanna Jain

Dear Mornings

Mornings see the crackle of the Bluetooth speaker

It whispers
Because everytime you open another program on the computer
The laptop listens to your commands
And the problem is tackled
The fans overwork
And can’t breathe
So the music crackles

And every morning the curtains have to be drawn
For spring sunlight to filter in
And super moons and skies don’t make a difference
To all the syllabus you have to complete.

And every morning, I walk my dog
In a sleeping world
Of terrified dreamers
Watching as the weather warms
And hearts become colder.

There are so many things I have to say to you, mornings,
About the pink that you gift to me
Everyday
About the birds that you supply
When music starts to crackle on Bluetooth speakers
Everyday
About the way Simon and Garfunkle twinkles
While I open essays
Hoping to find Narnia
Or Hogwarts,
Or magic
Somewhere in the middle of the PDF,
Everyday.

The funny thing is, mornings,
For every spring ode I want to write to the world
About the golden leaves
I can feel you giving me snippets of conversations
Between birds and the sunlight
Conversations that settle on gravel roads
Or on natural tracks
Because every morning I can feel you whispering
In crackles
Always softly writing back.

 

Written by Tanvi Chowdhary

Image by Sanna Jain

Spring, For those Things that Don’t Grow

I’m plenty familiar with spring.
I spring to reach my bookshelf’s topmost row,
Stretch to grasp the overhead metro ring,
Vault sans faith o’er road construction furrows,
And when he dares snigger – the terrible pest,
Leap to smack the back of Little Brother’s head,
He might have sprouted a teensy bit taller than me
But he ain’t getting away with anything else.

Oh, I know you meant the other kind of spring,

But let’s never talk about growing things,
I was tragically spared the gift of growing pains,
The season’s of waxing, and I am perpetually waned.
Now, as I was saying –

I stand, tiptoe, for a glimpse of the concert stage,
Then, tiring, tell myself the music’s so very great,
That it would be a crime to be distracted by Image.

We moved houses.
Mom set me to sorting the garbage pile,
Hung, solo, the pictures, curtains and lights.
(The latter would have, admittedly, taken me a while.)

Spring to get myself spotted in a crowd,
Spring to make it to a group selfie.
Spring to keep up breathing when,
Pool depth climbs a half-hair over five-three.

However.
Here we short ones are, preparing to dance.

When we depict the many-handed Goddess on stage,
Our tall friends behind us consigned to playing Her hands,
We are She – we have dibs on the front of the line,
We are those who slay the demon and we wield the lance.

When we take partners for a ballroom dance,
We swish and swoosh in floating, jazzy gowns,
Our towering mates stuck with dull fancy pants,
And we are the dancers they twirl prettily around.

And then there is contemporary and ballet and jive,
And here when we spring, we needn’t come right down,
You lofty giants have to perform the lifts,
We’ll strike a merry pose up there above you, our mounts.

So, next time don’t ask us how the weather’s down there,
And refrain from your tall-person victory prance,
We know we don’t have much else going for us,
So let us at least have ourselves a ball at the dance.

 

Written by Swathi Gangadharan

Image by Hitashi

Star-crossed Lovers

Romeo was beginning to feel underappreciated. His special talent, of brawling on the streets, was not being particularly well-received in Verona. Having decided to find a place where people would get him, he shifted base with Juliet to Uttar Pradesh in search of #innerpeace, #yoganotyogi, #eatpraylove, and #spirituality. His feelings about UP, for the sake of hastening the narrative, can be summed up through the caption of his Instagram post of a bike with ‘dekho magar pyaar se’ written on the license plate: ‘Indian spring, love and laughter’.

Nevertheless, it was a happy time for the couple, as it was spring, and they sat around basking in the sunshine, singing:

“It was a lover and his lass,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
That o’er the green corn-field did pass,
In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.”

Romeo had gone to get some poison juice, and Juliet found herself all alone. The police personnel in the area, seeing an unattended young woman, were hovering around in the interests of the ‘Anti-Romeo squad’, the interests of which they were enforcing with dedicated zeal, despite there being a slight problem: they were unsure about what exactly a Romeo was. And what did one do with a Romeo once they caught one? Most confusing, especially as it was entirely up to them to decide upon the properties of a Romeo, and what they should do when they found one. A logical argument was made and agreed upon; that this species could be identified by “the look in their eyes, their face and the way they stand”. Soon, Juliet called out, “Oh Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?” and Romeo hastened to her side. The police personnel’s ears pricked up. ‘It is a Romeo! We have found it!’ they cried, ran towards the couple, and surrounded them.

Romeo found himself picked up bodily by a police officer and was delighted, for here seemed to be an opportunity for a brawl. “Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?” he asked heatedly.

‘Don’t talk,’ replied the officer. ‘Go sit on the road, and do push-ups while holding your ears. This is how we punish young loiterers like you.’

‘Punish? But why? What has he done?’ questioned Juliet, who was a bit slow on the uptake.

‘He is harassing you, and we have to protect young women from their hormones and their boyfriends,’ said the officer.

‘But I’m clearly into him!’ cried Juliet. ‘That is to say, “My bounty is as boundless as the sea/ My love as deep; the more I give to thee/ The more I have, for both are infinite.”’

‘It is not up to you to decide that,’ snapped the police officer. ‘It is written in the manifesto that there will be anti-Romeo squads. This is a Romeo, now here is a squad. You are spreading immorality. And besides, “These violent delights have violent ends/And in their triumph die, like fire and powder/ Which, as they kiss, consume”’

“For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo,” lamented Romeo, in handcuffs, as he was frogmarched to the police station.

‘No, stop! I trust Romeo! We have a deep level of trust and affection, because we’ve only looked at each other once before falling in love. We share a genuine friendship!’ pleaded Juliet.

All the police personnel exchanged knowing glances, and smiled, used to hearing this. ‘Madam,’ stated one of them, with the air of one who puts down a fundamental truth. ‘A boy and a girl can never be friends.’

Written by Anushmita Mohanty

Image by Stuti Pachisia

ACROSS THE FENCE

A whirlwind of emotions ventilated her striped outfit, as her weak eyesight drank in the picture of daisies smiling in the countryside. She hung from the doorless opening of the carriage chugging off at a snail’s pace. She didn’t want to obscure the few beams of joy lighting up her miserable world by gazing at the sickly faces wearing morose expressions in the train compartment. So she allowed the gloomy wind to caress her matted hair and strained her ears to hear birdsong. Only jarring sounds of machines and unceasing wailing welcomed her into Hamburg.

Hurtful wires and snide comments formed her first unflattering impression of the camp. Stony visages forced her into a large hall where shaved heads and hopeless eyes drowned the canvas in black nothingness. The guards cringed at the sight of her long hair- a source of perpetual lice and disease. As the razor touched her curls, she remembered how her mother expertly braided her chestnut locks, interspersing them with roses, violets and her favourite- daisies. The image of her mamma’s bloodied body being hacked to pieces by the Gestapo as her shrieks resonated in the street, fluidly entered her consciousness. This made her freeze in the queue, with another girl behind her nudging her forward.

Her Papa had been exempted from this tormenting scene as he had been picked up a day before. Her optimism compelled her to believe that he was alive and well. She soon realized that she would prefer to not see her gentlemanly father as an invalid living in nauseating conditions.

A new number was then branded onto her arm. The pain it caused was a minor prick in comparison to the emotional longing she felt for Papa. A laxity in discipline allowed the women to cling to the thorny fence. In the pandemonium that ensued, someone whacked into her. She banged her head against something, and the world went blurry. She imagined that her hoarse cries were met by a weak shout,”Liesel, my baby!” She imagined that she reached out to hold his hands. “Everything is alright, darling. Don’t panic. Papa’s here,” she imagined him saying. She told this to the violets hidden under the wires, their petals torn by metal thorns. At least someone would know her story now.

Was she dreaming up the violets? Huh. Why not daisies, then? She had always found the violets insipid before.

Soon, gunshots echoed in the bloody atmosphere as the inmates refused to be calmed down.

“These bloody rats!” an official shouted, aiming his rifle everywhere and nowhere.

A stray bullet hit her.

“I guess you’ll do then. Is it alright if I call you Vi?” she whispered. Her soul bled out into the earth, watering the plant’s roots.

The wind took a baby breath to convince the violets. They reluctantly shook their heads in acquiescence.

Someone stepped on them before they could tell her their story. Tell her how they refused to die because Lebensraum was too silly. Tell her how they hid in the dirt behind trembling feet that fed them a diet of bright liquid every time a gun coughed a bullet. How their insipidity had let them meet her.

“Hmmph. Bloody daises”, was all they could say.

Liesel and Vi died on the spot, hand in hand, across the fence.

 

Written by Tript Kaur

Image by Kanishka