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Photographed by Yip Song Qing

“But fallen petals are not heartless matter, transmuted into spring soil they will again nurture flowers.” —— Kung Tzu-chen
 
 
 

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Written by Anonymous

‘You’re over-reacting’..’No one is going to take you seriously anymore’..’Can you please just chill?’. I am sure many of us have heard these phrases being thrown at us under various circumstances. I have unfortunately experienced the two sides of this conversation. I had always been a light-hearted person. I would see my friends and family getting tensed about examinations, relationships etc and I would be that one person who always had a back-up if something goes wrong.

So, what does that mean? No stress! I am guilty of getting vexed with people who would always fluster for things that I deemed trivial and those who would constantly seek reassurance. Do not get me wrong, I have had my fair share of stress but I never thought that it would be big enough to actually get to me. All of this changed when I entered my third semester of Medicine. It was just a month away from my finals and I had started to study more about diseases in depth. That is when I started to notice things in my own body that could have potentially been one of the diseases I had been studying. It got me mortified. I had to immediately run to the clinic the next day to get myself checked. A reassurance from the doctor would have calmed me down but shockingly, to no avail. I started to find more and more things that were absurd about my body. Suddenly, every disease that I had studied about were related to my own body and I was convinced that I needed a full body check-up because a single examination of a certain part of my body was not enough. If something is okay today, can’t it go wrong tomorrow? This was what ran through my mind always.

I knew I needed help from someone who would listen to me and I talked to my mother and my best friend always. They were the only ones who gave me what I needed to hear during those difficult times. I would constantly call them up telling them that I can’t breathe or my heart is pounding and I think I am going to die. It was then after some googling, that I found out that I was experiencing panic attacks. I had never heard of that before in my entire life and I have never heard of anyone close to me complaining about panic attacks. Honestly, the only time where I had some peace from all these thoughts was when I was sleeping. No one could fathom why I was behaving this way and why me? People tried to help by telling me that it was perfectly fine but I did not believe them. I remember wishing then for a parent who was a doctor. He or She could have come up with a diagnosis and I would believe them without an iota of doubt but my parents are not doctors. In fact, they are even better. They knew exactly what I needed at that point in time and went all out of their way to help me.

My father brought me back home from Malaysia a month before my finals when they realised that I could not cope with my anxiety alone and made sure that afterwards, I was properly taken care of. He would advise meditation, jogging, healthy eating, hobbies and a balance of study time as well. See? Why would I need a doctor when my parents are the best counsellors though they do not have any background knowledge in the medical field. Hailing from an Indian community, feeling mentally ill is a myth for most people. Unless you look physically ill, you are not actually ill. This made it even more endearing for me to see that my parents wanted me to be mentally happy. They even suggested that I drop medicine if this is not what I wanted to do.

The turning point in my 1.5 months of anxiety came when I was prescribed with sleeping pills to control my anxiety. Also, when my mother told me that she had always thought I was capable of handling stress despite what others had told her. I felt utterly dismayed that I had disappointed my parents and I was shocked at how I was coming up with new self-diagnosed diseases and no credible medical documents supporting them. I decided that enough was enough and I need to start gaining control back in my life. I started to try out meditation with my family as part of our family yoga sessions, I mingled more with my family members, I started to fully believe that I was completely fine when I told myself that I had completely no reason to heavily take into account common symptoms which could be from a benign cause. I realised that my panic attacks lessened and my life went back to what it was before when I took my mind into my own hands.

From this experience, I learnt that no one is immune to harrowing stressful episodes and panic attacks. You are never alone. If you are experiencing any form of panic or stress, there are many others who have gone through those or are going through them right now. Just because your stress or experiences are not similar to mine, does not mean that they are worse or that you are the only person in this world experiencing the worst form of anxiety. Second thing is to NEVER GOOGLE your symptoms. Google is not a certified doctor.

 I have still no clue as to whether what I had experienced was a syndrome called ‘second year syndrome’, a syndrome that arises among medical students where they relate whatever they study to their own body or anxiety disorder.What I do know is that I am lucky that I have a strong support system around me but I urge for those who don’t, to take matters in your own hands and take that step towards finding mental peace. Be it meditation, yoga or talking to a counsellor. Once you have taken that step you are already on your journey towards becoming the master of your own mind.

Photographed and Written by Anonymous

 

Clouds. No one, probably, has ever doubted the beauty of clouds.

It’s as if it’s a primal instinct, an inbuilt character trait for us to find clouds beautiful. They represent nature in its most tranquil guise. But most of the time we take them for granted – They’re often cast the backdrop to our daily mundanities, something we curse at when it’s about to rain and we have to cancel our brunch plans, something we curse at when it’s too hot outside, something we look at until the Netflix movie we are about to watch on the plane finishes loading. However, if only we took the time to deliberately stare at the clouds and nothing else, we see the seemingly tranquil, mellow clouds represent the turbulent mayhem life can be. One second you see a large, inseparable mass spanning across the entire sky, 10 minutes later you see a portion of it detaching from its vast fabric, drifting slowly, losing definition. An hour later, there is no recognisable remnant of it. No trace of it ever being there.

You realise, just like life, there’s an erratic, dramatic, inexplicable mess happening above us, at all times, and just for a second you feel connected to the earth. We weren’t made to live, planned out, supremely perfect lives. just like the clouds above, we are all just fragments of entropy, beautiful, tranquil, yet chaotic, fragments of entropy.

Written by Sarah Virani, ME118

I come from a country

Where the wind will gently whistle across your face.

A yellow sun

That warms your skin to a bronze tan

As it give its hills and lakes their beautiful glow.

Where the rain pours gently

Like a mother bathing her child.

With clouds that sweep past each other

Without anger or a storm.

I come from a country

That is still a child in the big world.

She is still growing…

She doesn’t have as many buildings as yours

She doesn’t have as many shiny roads.

I suppose like all children she’ll grow

But for now

Her air is clean, unpolluted.

And when dusk sets in and the night darkens

You can walk with the moon

And count the stars as they peep out.

You can tell stories and sing by the fire.

There’s no blaring horn of vehicles

Or wheels skidding down a tarmac.

And as the insects buzz their lullaby

You are lulled to sleep In the heartbeat of Africa.

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Written by Felicity Mishan Ng Yiwey

It is day 16 since the start of the Movement Control Order (MCO). We are in a very unprecedented time and if you are anything like me, things might have been looking a little hazy lately. What was brewing late of last December in a place far away from here has crossed the shores and taken the world by storm. Although we have been challenged by many disease outbreaks in the past, the world wasn’t quite ready for a pandemic like this one. 

As a response to the inevitable, many countries have been racing towards finding the best strategies to contain the virus. In times like this, we cannot help but take a look back at history. What has been known since the 14th century to be the best and most effective way in disease containment is now being used as a weapon in a war against the COVID-19. Many nations at this point have implemented some form of policy restricting movement of individuals. Words like ‘Lockdown’, ‘Quarantine’, ‘Social Distancing’ or the more locally known, ‘Movement Control’, although each having very individual unique definitions, all have one common goal,  to reduce disease transmission.

When our country first announced its restrictions, it got the libertarian in me thinking. Movement restrictions, or quarantine-like measures while designed for the greater good of public health, also significantly interfere with basic civil liberties. This includes the rights to freedom of movement, freedom from arbitrary detention, the right to privacy and non-discrimination. If the above libertarian rights have been protected by universal human rights declarations, wouldn’t quarantine measures already be obsolete?

No, fortunately, it does not work that way. When movement restrictions are executed with the sole intention to eradicate a global pandemic, when done in a fair and non-discriminatory way, this coercive public measure can be legitimately used to justify public health interests over libertarian rights. This seems like a pretty good answer already, but I really wanted to understand the ethics behind what it took to ensure movement restrictions were done properly and orderly. Before I could do that, I had to go back to the basics, and that was to understand the fundamentals, i.e. the ethical problems with quarantine.

To keep things simple, there are 2 main ethical dilemmas with movement restrictions – the principle of non-maleficence and distributive justice.

Non- maleficence describes the principle of doing no harm. While widespread quarantine-like measures are hardly ever associated with any immediate bodily harm to a population, the burden of mental health problems and the potential effects of a dwindling global economy have been well recognized.  The economy lost a whopping 40 billion dollars in markets during the SARS pandemic and countries most affected like China, Hong Kong and Canada saw many of their civilians succumb to psychological issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Depression. With widespread movement restrictions having long term side effects, formulating an ethical justification in its favor is certainly challenging. Adding to this dilemma is a looming fear of restrictions which unnecessarily causes more harm than good to any community. In such circumstances, questions on authority for restriction implementation may arise.

Next, the principle of justice in the public health context demands the practice of a fair distribution of benefits.  In these trying times, upholding such principles  can be difficult, especially concerning people with very little resources to begin with.  An example of this is the limited access to public places such as markets, grocery stores and pharmacies. Additionally, with closure of mass transit systems and other forms of transportation, obtaining necessities from places that do remain accessible becomes a challenge. This will even prevent certain populations from obtaining medical care.

So, how do we achieve ethically acceptable movement restriction measures? Practical solutions involve the ability to alleviate the above ethical problems.

An ideal solution to maintaining the practice of non-maleficence would be to have transparency in the implementation of restriction policies. These policies should be receptive to inputs on criteria for decision making from all different groups of society. It is important that any restriction policies are done fairly with adequate planning in place. With those measures in place, not only will the standards for ethical principles be met but the likelihood of public acceptance for an already very controversial measure can be assured.

To ensure the practice of justice is in place, solutions would include having the government to structure a carefully studied network for the distribution of basic necessities to people who are most disadvantaged. They should also cater transport services to those who require medical care and other essential needs. The system needs to be robust, consistent and reliable while ensuring proper infection control precautions are not compromised by equipping volunteers with the proper protective equipment. However, I must admit that this is only ideal in a resource rich setting. In most cases, where there are resource and logistical constraints, the very least is for government bodies to have proper planning in terms of allocation. This strategy involves having to inform the public of the essential requirements and in what quantity needed during such implementation.  This will allow people to be prepared for the inevitable.

So yes, with more than 800,000 infected COVID-19 cases thus far, movement restriction measures are essential in combating the virus. While they expose the tensions between public health interests and libertarian rights, I believe that even the most unwavering libertarian must understand and accept the restrictions that are being employed for the benefit of all. Having said that, authorities must also play their role in ensuring that such policies are implemented fairly, with civilians as partners in this war against COVID-19.

Art work done by: Lim Kah Yen, DN118

 

Description: The word for ‘hope’ in Japanese, kibō represents the ability to still be able to see and appreciate the beauty of life, even in trying times.

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Written by The Pink Swan aka Jasmeen Kaur

“China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will move the world.”, a quote that was very prominently expressed by Napoleon Bonaparte, many centuries ago. What made the Frenchman be very certain about the future of China and could we consider this as a prognostication of China emerging as one of the fastest growing economy and posing as a threat to the US? Whilst the ongoing trade war between the US and China has been posing as a concern to the international community, we can all agree that the novel coronavirus being declared as a pandemic outbreak has more repercussions to the global market, than the trade war itself. 
 
It was rumoured that the coronavirus is the result of biological warfare, ignited by the Chinese government. True or not, it is up to them to accept: as the saying goes, innocent until proven guilty. The thing is that there were lethal viruses that came into picture before Covid-19: such as Ebola, rabies, HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), MERS-CoV. These viruses had originated from different regions of the world and have caused equal destruction to humanity.  
 
Why is it that Covid-19 had received such notoriety? It is because we are made aware by the Chinese government itself about the virus. China is well known for its censorship measurements. However, placing aside the biological warfare claim, we should applaud a government of such communistic workings to create awareness about the outbreak itself? The news, as mandated by them, could have been suppressed by the authorities. Yet, what came next was an expected series of occurrences: 11 million people locked down whilst transportation services being suspended, building a quarantine hospital in 10 days, to sending their health experts to Italy to curb the spreading there and to sending aid to affected nations. What the world should be in awe is the fact that a nation took responsibility for what had occurred and worked tirelessly to prevent things from getting out of hand, and to minimize casualties.  
 
Furthermore, we all should be indebted to China for teaching us a valuable lesson: to carry out our responsibilities and reminding each and every one of us the sense of purpose- a sense of purpose towards humanity. We are all bounded to it, although it is not regulated. A government can impose restrictions but it is up to us to follow it. Here is the take: a police force consisting of 1.5 million people versus citizens of 1.4 billion. That is a ratio of 1:933. It is very easy for us to claim the restriction as a breach of human rights but as civilized people, we trusted our country heads and breezed it all. So, thank you all for making this possible. And to China, thank you for waking up and doing the right thing, whilst “moving the world” to do the same. Right now, it is not the trade war we should all be focused on: it is all for all of us to unify ourselves for this war of humanity – we are at war, war with gender inequality, poverty, unemployment, inaccessibility to food supply. To the frontliners: thank you for paving the way for us to follow with, acting as the first line of defence, and redefining warriors as peacekeepers. 

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Written by: Ajitha Kulasekaran (ME218)

You’re ruffling through an old album, dusty and disintegrating at the slightest touch. Something in you tells you to flip through and you chance upon some pictures of your dad, laughing with his friends, people you don’t even have the slightest clue of. You try to figure out the year in which the photo could have been taken and who might have taken it. You should ask him sometime, though conversations with him aren’t exactly your favourite thing right now. Things might have changed between both of you over the years. It must have been years before he met your mother. In the photo, he seemed incredibly happy, as if he cracked a joke and thought it was the best thing his brain had ever come up with. He always laughed at his own jokes way too hard, you know that.

In some ways, our parents are indeed the people we know best in the world. We’ve been in their presence literally since the moment we entered the world. We’ve probably had way more meal times and haircuts with them than their best friends have had. We know them in a way we don’t know most people. We’ve seen them try to brush their hair 20 times for it to look the same. We’ve seen them when they have just woken up. We’ve been held in their arms, we’ve slept on their laps. They have changed our diapers, picked our outfits. We’ve tasted their recipes, which can be terrible, we know what they are good at and what they aren’t. We’ve seen them happy, terrified, anxious and so much more.

But looking at old photos of them, we come to see that in many ways, we don’t know them as well as we might have thought we did. What were they like before us? What was their favourite game to play growing up? What were they like? Which type of friend were they in their friend groups? The quiet but strangely wise one or the one that laughs at everything and was a clumsy mess? If we were to meet them at the same age as we are now, would we get along? Would we be friends? Which of these quirks and antics haven’t we seen in them yet?

It is undeniable that our relationship with our parents change dramatically as we grow older. It is impossible to grow up liking everything about our parents. There must be certain elements about them that bother us. In some way, we all can feel let down by our parents, and this is not necessarily their fault, especially if they have tried their very best to be the best parents to us and gave us everything they could. Rather, it’s that our parents are humans too, and nobody is perfect. Growing up, we might have idolised them, seen them as supremely perfect superhumans. We might have thought they could do no wrong. However, as we grow older, they can’t live up to this idolised version of them we made up when we were children. The person who – when we were 5, always seemed energetic and hilarious – will start to appear irrational and overbearing as we grow older. They will embarrass us, try to micromanage our lives or impose their values on us without meaning to. See, no one was taught to be a parent growing up. It just happens, and you get thrown into it.

Looking at an old photograph of our parent highlights something we normally don’t think about: the fact that our parents lives didn’t always revolve around us. They didn’t spend their entire lifetime preparing or studying to be a parent. In these old photographs, we see young people who had no clue as to what the future held in store for them, let alone the fact that they were going to be our parents. We were, after all, raised by the widely grinning young man and unsuspecting sweet young woman in these photographs, not by perfect superhuman androids that would get everything right. It is only when we realise this that we become more forgiving and understanding towards these strangers who grew up and came together to give us life in the best way they know how to. It is in realising this that we get rid of the idolised versions of them we had made up in our minds when we were children, and love our parents for who they were and are.

Perhaps, one day, someone else will look at a photograph of you – a photo you probably don’t even remember taking – and experience this same weird feeling. Perhaps, they will wonder what their mother or father was like when they were 20 and who they really are at their core.

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Poem and header picture by: Mariam Aly I. Aly Hassan (ME218)

It’s, again, another sunrise and another day.

It’s, again, another repeated thought that is hauntingly and repeatedly wasting my day.

It’s, again, another question mark to who is really around and who is really there.

It’s another doubt of who will continue walking by my side till the end of the day, the following day, the next following day and the zillion coming days.

It’s, again, a quarrel between who the heart wants even if doesn’t actually care and who the mind knows is actually and genuinely there.

It’s, again, another win for the heart and loss for the mind that a one can’t bear.

It’s, again, another disappointment in who the heart chose for their acknowledged absence carrying so much despair.

It’s, again, another solitude, another pain, another why and another lost day.

It’s, again, another sunrise and another following day.