Friday, April 27, 2012

Untitled Because I Can't Find the Right Words

I'd set the alarm for 8 in the morning, thinking that I'd at least be up early on Doomsday: 26th of April 2012.

Of course, I switched it off and snored away until ten. Though how I managed to sleep is something that still amazes me - after all, at precisely 11.30 am, my destiny would finally present itself. The SSLC results. The cause of sleepless nights, the subject of my nightmares. While all seniors and adults may mock or scorn my words ("You have much more to face, my dear"), let me remind them that this was my first experience with a major exam and I was perfectly entitled to freak out.

That day, the sky seemed to be sympathizing with my mood, perhaps the mood of every 10th standard student. It was overcast, a sombre grey, as if mourning the hopes that were to be shattered soon. The light drizzle further dampened my spirits. I quietly went through my morning routine and picked up the newspaper, staring vacantly at the article on the announcement of SSLC results. It sprouted all the usual rubbish: completion of the evaluation in record time, expected pass percentages...

My mom's order to sweep the house finally broke through my inertia. After a little bit of complaining, throwing dirty looks and futile mutinying, I set upon the tedious chore, dragging out a job of fifteen minutes into an hour. My eyes kept flitting nervously to the clock all the while. Eleven o'clock.

Propping open dad's laptop, I drummed my fingers nervously on its edge as the screen flickered to life, humming the signature tune of Windows. Even the normally quick-to-respond PC seemed a bit sluggish. I opened up four different sites; three of them were as blank as my face when asked a sports-related question. I turned to the fourth webpage, the one by the IT@School venture, which brought on a small grin on my face with its cheery colours of blue and green. The Submit button below the text box for entering the Register Number was disabled.

The next half-hour progressed slowly, painfully.

11.30 am. My heart seemed to be doing a marathon. Calm down, I told myself, trying not to think about the only A (for Maths, duh!) among the crowd of A-pluses. Nothing's going to happen if you lose an A+, I soothed my panicking mind, It's not the end of the world.

That dormant being in my brain suddenly woke up and snorted. Who are you trying to convince?

Before I could even shut that annoying voice out, the 'submit' button was enabled. I furiously punched in 193213, with my family peering anxiously over my shoulder. Anticlimactically, the screen showed the familiar Error 404 - File not found. Biting back a scream of frustration, I tried once more. Same result. On the fourth frantic attempt, however, there was no sign of the 404. The page was taking its time to load. This is it, I muttered, clenching my fists. The I-can't-breathe sensation in my chest intensified...

... And the results flickered onscreen. My eyes immediately sought the Mathematics column. A little, black A+ stood against the stark white background.

What came out of my mouth was a semi-hysterical squeal, loud and shrill enough to rival an ambulance siren.

The following hour was a blur of congratulatory phone calls, SMS-s and Facebook posts. My joy knew no bounds as I learned that my three best friends scored A-pluses in all subjects as well. I mentally yelled, "In your face, suckers!" to all the so-called 'cool' gangs in my school who looked down on us as a quartet of book-loving mutants.

A little while later, when the exhilaration began to subside like a receding tide, I withdrew into the little room upstairs. The feeling of isolation it exuded had made it my favourite spot to brood. Now I found myself looking back upon the past eight years - the time I spent at Presentation - marvelling how, in retrospect, eight years felt like eight minutes.

For a moment, I wished for my world to continue like this, a celebration, forever. For things to stay as they were, not blotted by regrets of the past or worries about the future.

But then, with a smile, I remembered Percy Jackson's words to Annabeth Chase in The Last Olympian, though they were spoken in quite different circumstances: I didn't want things to stay the same for eternity, because things could always get better. 

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P.S. In other unrelated news, the blog has crossed the 1,000 page-view milestone! A thousand thank-yous to every single reader who has contributed to the success. Keep reading and commenting!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Battle of the Books: Harry Potter vs. Twilight

This is an improved version of what I wrote for one of my friends. Many thanks to my junior at PHSS, Javed Hussain, and all those pages in Facebook for providing powerful ammunition against Twilight.

    

All rabid fangirls (and guys) of Twilight, please don't shriek or scream as you read this. We Potterheads believe that wit beyond measure is man's greatest treasure, not in voicing your (illogical) arguments vociferously.

Harry Potter is so infinitely better than Twilight that the two should not even be compared. But alas, I have to do this so I can at least claim to have tried to cure some people of their blind worship of Twilight. Come on people, J.K Rowling wrote a far better love story in one chapter - The Prince's Tale in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - than Stephenie Meyer managed to do in like, what, 4 books?

My love for the Twilight Saga extends only up to the name of the books and their cover arts. They are rather symbolic; for example, New Moon depicts the darkest time of Bella's life at Forks. The cover art of Twilight shows a fruit resembling an apple, standing for the forbidden fruit - an obvious allusion to Bella breaking all known norms of normalcy by dating a vampire.

With a few examples, let me prove why Twilight qualifies as the worst (best?) teenage trash ever written. First, the plot - the most basic thing a novel should possess. The books don't even have proper ones. I can sum up all four Twilight books in one sentence: A girl falls in love with a guy who turns out to be a vampire and they live happily ever after despite a few minor hurdles like evil vamps, an army of newborns etc.

I dare all Twihards to summarize the Harry Potter series like this. You can't even sum up even one HP book, let alone the whole series. There you go. The Twilight books drag on an on as Bella Swan drones about her life. 99% of the paragraphs don't end without at least one reference to Edward's godly looks *pukes* The climax comes in the last two chapters or so, the preceding ones being just fillers. Plus, Stephenie Meyer seems incapable of using normal words like 'talkative', instead preferring to use substitutes like 'verbose'. Sorry to burst your bubble, Meyer, but using the thesaurus does not a good novel make. Especially when the words have been used in the wrong context. (This apart from the needless tense changes, abuse of punctuation marks, wordiness - oops, verbosity!)



On the other hand, J.K Rowling gets her message across strikingly in a few simple words. The best proof would be Fred Weasley's death in the Battle of Hogwarts, described as "the ghost of his last laugh still etched upon his face" - a fitting tribute for a prankster whose mission was to spread laughter. I shudder to think what Stephenie Meyer would have come up with in a similar situation. But then, there isn't even one casualty (in the so-called "good side") in her books. This makes the Twilight Saga completely unrealistic; after all, in wars, a lot of people die, be they good or bad. In Eclipse, the biggest loss during the Cullens/werewolves' fight with the newborn vampires were Jacob Black's bones. Which were later healed, of course.
 
Next: character development. This is one of the reasons why I love Harry Potter and loathe Twilight. The world is not black and white - there are many shades of gray. People just cannot be labelled and put into boxes. But that is what exactly Meyer does in her books. Edward's handsome. Bella is clumsy. Her dad is quiet, and she gets it from him. End of story.

Being a Potterhead, I have just two words in reply: Severus Snape.


In Harry Potter, the character range is so vast and vibrant that they leave a permanent mark on us. For me, the reason why the series became a phenomenon is that despite all the fantasy, all the magic, we can identify with the characters and the trials they undergo. Their lives mimic our own, replete with friendships, crushes, internal and external conflicts, coping with grief/loss. We see for ourselves the importance of courage, of standing up for what we believe is right, of cooperation, of trust. We can even draw parallels between our corrupt bureaucracy and the Ministry of Magic; between the racism that exists in our world today and the blood discrimination in the wizarding community. And as we witness the evolution of characters, we learn that magic cannot solve all problems.


Another aspect where Twilight is an epic fail is consistency. In HP, the characters and situations and backdrops are woven seamlessly into one magical plot line; mistakes can rarely be spotted. J.K Rowling (and her editors) make sure that a character doesn't state one thing in one line and end up contradicting the same in the very next. In Twilight, it is explicitly stated that Bella is not allowed to call her father by his name. However, she does... and what's more, Charlie doesn't seem to notice it at all!

But this takes the cake: Isle Esme, where Bella and her controlling boyfriend - now husband - go for their honeymoon, is apparently off the west coast of Brazil. Now take a look at the map:


Any kid with a basic understanding of geography and the sense to read a map knows that Brazil does not have a west coast. Conclusion: Stephenie Meyer would've been eliminated in the first round of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? Her editor wouldn't even have made it past the prelims.

On to the core of the matter - the female lead. Which self-respecting and sane teenager takes pleasure in knowing that a bloodsucking vampire kept watching her as she slept? Bella Swan is an insult to the concept of a strong female protagonist. She is shallow, hypocritical, manipulative - basically, just another damsel in distress, always dependent on her 'knight in shining armour' to solve her problems - completely sexist and not to mention, cliched. Her whole world is excessively Edward-centric and her incessant whining about how she doesn't deserve him is insufferable.

In Deathly Hallows, Hermione Granger stuck to her duties and helped destroy Voldemort even when Ron deserted her. And what did Bella do when Edward left? Moped about for months and finally jumped off a cliff! If that doesn't reek of male chauvinism, what does? And in no way can Bella be a role model for young girls - for Merlin's sake, she became pregnant at EIGHTEEN!

Harry Potter is about facing adversities, big or small, with courage. The seven books proclaim that love is the greatest magic of all, because many events in the books boiled down to Lily Potter's sacrifice for her son and how her love continued to shield him even after her death at the hands of Lord Voldemort. And let's face it, "Twilight is about how important it's to have a boyfriend", to borrow Stephen King's words.


And don't even get me started on the movies. The Twilight Saga may have raked in billions of dollars, with the help of franchises like MTV which inflate the Twi-hype. But that doesn't stop them from sucking (pun intended). How many of the Twihards watch the movies because you honestly like them, not to ogle at Robert Pattinson or Taylor Lautner? (May or may not depend on your allegiance to Team Edward or Team Jacob.) Do NOT bring up Kristen Stewart's acting - she shows as much emotion as a wall of bricks. Emma Watson trumps her any day.


The only aspect where the movies score is with the music, that is, if Twihards manage to look past the romance. Featuring a repertoire of artists like Paramore, Christina Perri, Bruno Mars and Muse, the soundtrack has almost always garnered favourable reviews. Though I think the background score for HP is even better, especially when Alexandre Desplat composes. Interestingly, he also composed the score for New Moon. 

There's a lot more. I could give a lecture on this topic, but I don't want to turn into Professor Binns. Anyway, even with the overwhelming evidence that the Harry Potter beats Twilight hands down, if you still don't accept it, then.... no, I won't suck your blood. You'd better consult me and I'll try to take off the Imperius Curse that Stephenie Meyer has put on you.