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.

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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: Sachi Jhingran (ME119)

To take the term, “International Friendship Day” literally as an international student at IMU, it means that my friends are indeed overseas.

It was only after moving abroad to Malaysia to study that I realise the value of friendship as a manifestation of your personal values, morals and ethics. The metaphysical bond between you and your friend isn’t tangible, yet it remains an embodiment of your similarities and mutual care.

When you’re physically separated from your true friends whom you trust, whom you confide in and who mean something to you, you learn the gravity of those 6 letters. It is easy to belligerently throw the term “friend” around in regards to people we may not have any emotional bond with. This is a result of Zuckerberg’s idea of Facebook friends – revolutionising the implication of the term “friend” in itself. It’s mistaken for knowing someone, rather than caring for someone.

After frequenting visits to Australia, I essentially prioritised which friends I would have the time to see and which friends didn’t make the cut. Some might consider this approach emotionless or primitive, others pragmatic, but it filtered through what I call the “Zuckerberg zone” and distilled my social circles to those people who enhanced the experience of life. They were constant but never in the forefront and it wasn’t obvious who those people were until now.

It was through this I learned that the mutual trust and solidarity that exist between real friends are unbreakable nexuses of connections beyond our conscious reasoning, and often we must allow time or physical barriers to reveal what connections withstand compromise. After all, one can only test the strength of something by making it susceptible to breakage.

Ultimately, friendship is manifested through intrinsic bonds of camaraderie; they’re not apparent but they are powerful. Without bonds, salt wouldn’t be able to form a crystal lattice and season your spaghetti. Imagine a world without seasoned spaghetti. Horrific. Coming from a girl who’s physically separated from her lifelong friends, let’s remind ourselves that we have the privilege of making friends that add flavour to the dish of our lives, enhancing the experience.

That’s the food of friendship.

P.S. I apologise for reducing my friends to salt in an analogy, love y’all! 

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Written by: Jaithra R. (BM117)

Bloodied rings entangled through,

Promises meant to be kept between me and you,

As far as you and I can see,

A tougher future awaits for we.

.

Bloodied fingers working hard,

Our efforts meant to keep us taut,

A family as we envision to,

Not so easy, but we’ll come through.

.

Bloodied years have gone by,

Love has found us a dream to live by,

Efforts to no waste, we watch in ease,

Our family blooming beyond our dreams.

.

Bloodied soil as we rest,

A happy ending for both our beds,

Hand in hand we’ll stay just inches,

‘Til we meet in heaven’s blissfulness.

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: 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. 

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Written by: Ajitha Kulasekaran (ME218)

Growing up, my friends and I used to play this game where we asked each other what we would do with a million dollars. The person to give the wildest, silliest answer won the game. I had different answers to this at different stages in my life. When I was 5, I wanted a million water guns; at 6, I wished for a huge Forever 21 outlet all to myself; when I turned 7, I hoped for a mansion with slides everywhere. The point is, my answer was always something silly I dreamed of, or could dream of. This, sadly, was not – and still is not – the case for many young girls my age in certain parts of the world. While I had the liberty to dream, many young girls are robbed of this and instead, lectured by elders from a young age and forced to accept the fate that they are just going to get married off to some man that they didn’t choose, paying a hefty sum of their family’s inheritance for it too.

A dowry is an ancient custom which continues to be expected and demanded as a condition to accept a marriage proposal in some parts of the world, namely in parts of Asia, Northern Africa and the Balkans, with perhaps India being the most notorious for it. It involves the transfer of parental property, gifts or money from the bride’s family to the groom’s family in which the bride is said to move into, ostensibly for the bride and her financial security. While this might sound harmless and even beneficial to brides, its intricacies are much more sinister.

A dowry is not just the transaction of money or material riches between families. It goes way beyond that. It can be said that dowries are one of the key reasons why there is still an imbalance of power between men and women in many of the societies where this practice is still observed. It also remains as one of the key causes of domestic abuse and violence against women, including ruthless killings in these societies as well.

 

The economics of dowry

A dowry was originally meant to give women financial security as it was seen as the family inheritance being passed down to the bride. However, the reality is that in most cases, the bride has no access to the money or material riches. It mostly ends up going to the groom’s family or is used by the groom in his business ventures. While this is said to benefit both the bride and groom, the bride is still left penniless and financially dependent on her husband in the end, especially in communities which still restrict women from entering the workforce and earning their own money. This leads to the power imbalance between men and women in these communities and women are often forced to stay in abusive marriages as they cannot fend for themselves.

It is also argued by some that dowries are economically sound as families usually have daughters and sons. In other words, a family can expect to receive back the dowry that was paid for their daughter when their son gets married. You can probably see the problem with this. What if the family has no sons? What if they have 3 daughters and a son?

This is precisely why males are seen as assets and there is a very evident preference for male children, which is still one of the reasons why female feticide still exists in some of these communities. Prenatal sex determination was banned in India in 1994 under the Pre-conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (prohibition of sex selection) Act, but female to male ratios are still far from normal in these communities. From this, it is apparent how dowries – which was meant to benefit women – due to its lopsided flawed economics, has led to institutionalised and generational inequality of the sexes, down to the numbers.

 

Shouldn’t education fix this?

It is often said that education is the cement that will seal the cracks in society. Where there is inequality or injustice, education is meant to fix that. However, when it comes to ancient practices like dowries, which have been in practice for multiple generations, there is little education can do. Research reveals that the families of educated grooms expect higher dowries and while this is beneficial to men, women, on the other hand, pay a price for their education. In a conventional arranged marriage in India, for example, the wife is not supposed to earn more than her husband. Therefore, a high-earning woman is only arranged to marry an even higher earning man, who, then again, expects a higher dowry based on his earning potential. In this regard, education gets reduced to just another aspect that determines one’s market rate, just like how caste, skin tone and religion are all factors in this “calculation”.

The odds are stacked against women, once again, in a deep generational way.

 

The state of it today

Although all of this can seem pretty alarming or disheartening, society has come a long way. Arranged marriages are not as common as “love marriages” – where the bride and groom find each other as compared to their parents being involved and finding partners for their children – these days.

Moreover, with the youth being much more aware nowadays and engaging in advocacy more than ever, dowries are not expected in nearly as many marriages as in the past. Men are refusing to allow their families to ask the bride’s family for dowries, and women are refusing to get married to men whose families ask for dowries. The youth of today no longer want marriages which are business deals or company mergers between families. The ideation behind marriage has vastly changed and become more westernized.

Additionally, on government policy levels, many countries now have laws that ban this practice. In india, the payment of dowries has long been prohibited under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. Although there have been laws against dowries for decades, these laws have been criticised to be ineffective due to most dowries not being reported. Deaths, murders and domestic abuse cases related to dowries are still prevalent.

In rural areas of many countries, changes that have happened in more westernised societies have yet to happen in those parts and consequently, it is the women in these communities that have to suffer.

 

What can we do to move forward?

Like the gender wage gap seen even in countries like the United States, some things are so entrenched in the culture and gender politics that they defy all logic. It is not easy to get rid of them.

Government-wise, stricter policies have to be put in place. It is also the responsibility of countries to take a stand with regard to this issue and act upon it.

As a global community, we can all be aware and educated on this issue. Although this might not concern most of us in the modern world, we have to acknowledge that this is still the plight of many fellow humans and think about what we can do to play a part in this narrative. Like with anything, awareness and education is the first, boldest step. We need awareness on this, on how this is one of the many instances where there is still inequality of the sexes, and on how it can stem from institutionalised practices.

That being said, it boils down to women.

Although it was previously mentioned that education cannot fix this, it is undeniably still the best tool. As girls in rural parts of the world get educated, not just in terms of schooling, but also regarding the social structures they live in and how they have been taken advantage of, they will have the insight and courage to make changes for themselves and break away from practices that do not serve in their best interest.

Women are powerful and, with the right tools, they have the power to free themselves as well as redefine destiny for themselves and the generations to come.

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Written by Shiroshini Periasamy (BM117)

 
These days, influencers are a major part of our lives in some way or another. Trust me, I tried to avoid them. I did not love the idea of a potential mass-brainwashing movement, or at least that was how I used to see it. Yet, they sneaked up on me, whether it was through my budding curiosity or social media algorithms, causing me to see these influencers in posts of all sorts. They became a part of my life, and I did not or would not recognise that fact. I started having opinions on things I had never thought of before and changed my mind on things I knew. When I did realise it, I hated it; I thought I was becoming basic. However, as with everything, the bad and the good came hand in hand. There were some people who opened my eyes and allowed me to see this ever-changing world in a new light.  
 
Yes, this is an essay on how we view our surroundings. You may have seen the first word and thought that this essay was about something else altogether, but since you are already reading this article, perhaps this may serve as food for thought.
 
Have you ever done something completely new that does not seem that big of a deal, and yet when you stop doing that, you cannot seem to get back to your former self? That is exactly how I feel in this situation. Some of these influencers I mentioned led me to see how much of a negative life we lead. Now, I am not stating that the world is negative. Rather, the way we see it, is.  
 
The worst part is that most of us get through life without ever realising how. It is in the subtlest of our actions, the thoughts behind our words, and the reason behind our thoughts. Just think about it. We are more likely to think about everything wrong, or that could potentially go wrong, in a situation rather than think about the exact opposite. We think that it is completely normal, or we convince ourselves that we are just being cautious, but is that not only because we have all been trained from birth to view things that way?
 
This excuse called caution is, at most times, just that: an excuse. Perhaps a scenario would enlighten you as to what I mean. Coming from an Asian background, most of us would have at one point or another heard our elders tell us to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or some other job stereotypically associated with security. There are tonnes of reasons for that: prestige, financial security, etc. By going by the default trend, our elders are taking a precaution of sorts so that the opposites of their reasons never become a reality. However, you may notice that most of these reasons give some sort of happiness. Then you may wonder: if the goal is happiness, is this the right way to go about it? Are we in fact not approaching the same thing, but with a negative stance?
 
The examples can go on and on, but by then, this essay would be too long for you to maintain any sliver of interest, especially since you will start recognising that almost everything in our everyday lives makes the cut.  
 
The irony is that negativity itself is not all that negative. We do need a balance, as with other things. It is the sheer amount that we dare to include in our lives, that suck out all things good. Numerous studies have shown that a small amount of negativity is perceived in the same way as a contrastingly large amount of positivity, so when the balance is tipped, chaos is crowned king. Simply said, it drains us.
 
We need to balance out that shocking imbalance or we will become robotic workers of a negative world. That does not mean you need to turn your whole life around and put on a pair of spectacles tinted with positivity suddenly. Perhaps, we need to just be open to alternative perspectives in everything around us. It is like in a multiverse, where every small decision and perspective brings about the difference in entire lives. Our default settings may be negative, but it just takes a few proactive actions to change that. Just one small step every day, and if you are anything like me, everything changes for the better. Give it a try, and hopefully this food for thought turns out to be dessert.