Issue 9

What’s in Your Pocket – Your Office or Your Sanitizer?

“Kaske joota, kaske belt … kandhon pe zimmedari, haath mein file, mann mein dum, meelon meel chalenge hum …” (Wearing shoes and a tight belt … with responsibility on shoulders, with a file in hand and a courageous heart, we will walk miles and miles … the song continues) – was how one’s work life looked like in the pre-COVID era. The imagery produced through these lyrics remain relevant in the post-COVID world, except the song now stops at these four lines because you have reached your workstation – the table beside your bed.

The world of work, with all its stresses and gossips, shifted to homes as lockdowns began to be imposed in several countries with the outbreak of COVID-19, in early 2020. A year which has often been declared “cancelled” in our daily conversations, 2020 has come to be defined as a form of “disruption,” “an imbalance,”  as well as a “pause.” It is you and your socio-economic standing  that decides your position on this ideological spectrum. However, one aspect of our lives that cannot be concretely placed within this spectrum, and moves across it based on its fluctuations, remains ‘the professional.’ One’s economic, political and social behaviours surrounding the professions they were involved in came to be impacted due to such a drastic shift. Restrictions on travel and social contact became sole reasons that hindered work from an office desk and forced professionals to stay indoors and work-from-home.

The purpose of office spaces in the corporate world is social. Remote work has had a significant impact on workplace culture, besides dealing with the spread of the virus. “People find meaning in their daily rituals of getting ready to leave home, commuting, grabbing their cup of coffee, and filling their water bottle before sitting at their desk,” claims Thomas, a partner with the Strategy& Middle East, part of the PwC network. This process of meaning-making has transformed while working from home in a way that people find it convenient to attend office from their beds, without deliberate focus on these necessary rituals. A separate corner for the employee to organize official meetings and conferences is reserved within the four walls of one’s  house, often attended to in half-worn attire and a too-close-to-be-combed hair. The collaborative nature of tech-tools promoting remote work-culture has replaced the in-office coffee-machine gossips and hiccups. With dogs or family members walking in the background, remote work-culture on one hand offers relaxed workplace standards and is being lauded to have added “humanity to us.” On the other hand, a series of boxes and closets earlier criticised by an eminent American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, for preventing democracy and freedom, seems to have returned, though in an avatar enclosed within the four sides of our laptop screens.

This dependency on online mode of work highlights the discrimination that has operated through socio-economic hierarchies, with factors such as class, caste, gender impacting one’s access to certain privileges – be it technological or social. Access to stable internet connection? – a plethora of opportunities waiting for you out there; while a family engaging in unhealthy arguments all the time? – a full stop to important participation on the workscreen. This scenario threatens workplace democracy and freedom by considering one’s ability either to sail or fail – advocating for means that only benefit a specific population of employees. 

Moreover, the boundaries between two spheres crucial to the life of an employee – work and home, got blurred with time. While multiple online sources guide one to a productive and healthy work-life balance during the lockdown, a year into it, conversations are shifting to that of an eager return to the workplace. Opinions on the way “this is the end of the office as we know it” along with changes that could be observed in a post-pandemic world of work have been put forward by many organizations. Emphasis on the need for technological tools such as access to video-conferencing softwares, skills to operate new-age computer programs, a stable internet connectivity etc. to facilitate online work, have increased with time. However seamless and productivity-efficient it may sound, it has pushed employees into the never-ending loop of being “online,” resulting in time confetti. Time confetti, a term coined by Brigid Schulte, “amounts to little bits of seconds and minutes lost to unproductive multitasking.” A constant influx of work-related notifications, messages, emails, etc. from a co-employee or your boss has the possibility of disrupting one’s leisure time and preventing the user from engaging in physical face-to-face interactions even while at home. 

Although online communication between the employee and the employer provides flexibility and a certain degree of control over those interactions, it is often known to result in an autonomy paradox. A work-efficient mobile device is essential for one to ‘connect’ to the office. The term ‘work-efficient’ here would mean being accessible anytime and anywhere, adding to one’s personal autonomy. However, professionals seem to have channelised its usage to working “everywhere/all the time, thus diminishing their autonomy in practice.” An example of this dilemma would be – “if we are trying to be a committed parent while our work email goes off, we can’t help thinking we should be working on our next deadline. This conflict makes us feel like a bad parent and a bad employee.” During the pandemic-enforced remote work-culture, one could find similar scenarios evident of the work-home imbalance, promoting toxic-tasking more than ever. The guilt associated with not working from home and ‘wasting’ time on other unproductive and non-economic ventures, even for a second, overpowers our ability to arise out of this imbalance. 

Moreover, our means of leisure have shifted online – with free webinars, birthdays, weddings, get-togethers, graduations, funerals, all happening over our laptop screens. While some are looking for measures to avoid Zoom fatigue online, the talk about returning to the workplace is on the rise with recent unlocks being witnessed in different parts of the world. Several assumptions about how the workplace would look like in a post-pandemic world are being made – with ideas about AI-operated lifts and doors, segregated desks, increased use of dividers, floor signs, lesser number of employees working from office, assuring employees of their safety in the physical workplace. The world, now understanding the meaning of the phrase, “six-feet-away,” appears to be set to enter the physical workplace. Crucial safety measures being implemented in such spaces involve less coworking spaces, more private and personal spaces, regular sanitization of desks, chairs, common areas, and documentation to provide employees with the necessary information to protect themselves from associated risks. 

However, considering the merits associated with work-from-home narrative, there exists a decent push to create a balance that would allow willing employees to work from home and others from the office. As Rashmi Dhawani, Founder of the Art X Company puts it, these merits revolve around increase in trust and accountability between employees and the employers, fluid leadership possibilities due to new technologies being easily adapted by younger professionals as compared to experienced bosses, in addition to success in what companies were hesitant about earlier, that is, enhancing employee-productivity while at work from their homes. People have also cherished their ability to work in different environments and adapt new skills beneficial for their work. But, with employees connected through their mobile devices to the office while walking their dog in the park, the question, ‘what’s in your pocket – your office or your sanitizer?’ becomes necessary.

Ariba is a student of English and Media Studies at Ashoka University.

Picture Credits: BBC WORKLIFE

We publish all articles under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noderivatives license. This means any news organisation, blog, website, newspaper or newsletter can republish our pieces for free, provided they attribute the original source (OpenAxis).

Issue 9

Humouring an Ill-Humored Audience

Historically, regimes have had a relatively high tolerance for jokes made at their expense. Perhaps because comedy possesses a tendency to humanize great leaders, making them more likeable by the masses. Thus, in a way, a healthy amount of humour directed at regimes only served to strengthen their rule. For instance, political satire was widely celebrated in the newly-independent India. Politicians like Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru even went as far as asking Keshav Shankar Pillai, the legendary cartoonists and political satirist to ‘not spare him’, asserting that all political figures no matter how highly respected should always be up for criticism by the citizens. After all, this tolerance towards criticism made for a central aspect of operating in a democracy. But with the recent arrest of Munawar Faruqui, the court order against Kunal Kamra and Rachita Taneja (@sanitarypanels), it is evident that the general public perceives political comedy quite differently today and have developed a rather averse or bitter attitude towards it. And the politicians and authorities no longer feel flattered and find political comedy to be offensive or even threatening to their regimes. 

This difference in perceiving comedy is not simply a product of the evolution of comedy (which hasn’t evolved much and certainly hasn’t become darker or more offensive over the years). But what has changed drastically is our relationship with the government and the institutions that often find themselves being targeted by these jokes.

This new attitude stems from the rise of nationalist leaders and sentiments within the country. A common tactic employed by a nationalist leader is to create socially constructed threats and make their image synonymous with that of the whole country. By constantly drawing attention to internal (minority groups within the country) and external threats (threat of war or economic domination by neighbouring countries, etc.), nationalist leaders fuel the anxiety of the citizens, making them feel constantly threatened by these so-called ‘anti-national’ elements. Hence, the act of questioning or commenting on a leader, their movement or their policies is interpreted as an attack on the entire country and all valid criticisms can thus easily be dismissed as anti-national propaganda. 

In addition to this, since religion plays such a huge role in Indian politics, politicians are more likely to cater to the wants of powerful religious groups. Thus, championing of religious causes by politicians instantly leads to their glorification and increased favourability within certain religious groups. So much so that certain political figures are often compared to or considered to be reincarnations of various Gods. With such associations established in the minds of the people, it becomes impossible to question the actions of these leaders without hurting the religious sentiments of the people. And any remark on them is taken to be a direct insult towards that particular religion. 

People also tend to view the government as a patriarchal figure, one which maintains order and is in charge of the affairs of the country. So, when someone questions the government (a phrase synonymous with ‘insults the government’), we take it very personally, as if to say, ‘Arey, Baap pe mat jaa’ (Translation: Hey, don’t talk about my father that way). 

So simply put, Indians haven’t forgotten how to laugh at themselves but they have developed a habit of closely identifying the ‘individual’ as the entire ‘collective’. Hence, the individual (or the political leader) is seen as the face of the collective (which could be a certain religious group, a political party or the country itself) and thus, all opposition no matter how logical or insightful feels triggering, offensive and disrespectful in nature. 

As we continue to silence political comedians, we are preventing comedy from humanizing our politicians and leading to their further glorification. This trend is being employed increasingly in many countries with authoritarian governments like Russia, Turkey, Egypt, etc. where political satirists are either forced to quit comedy or to live in exile. But cracking down on political satirists doesn’t always end in favour of the government. This is due to the rise of the Laughtivism movement, i.e. the practice of non-violent dissent which uses humour and satire to dismantle fear and critique institutions. Laughtivism tends to force the government into a lose-lose situation where they can either take action against the comedians (often exposing themselves to ridicule for feeling threatened by comedians) or allow them to continue and voice their dissent (at the risk of escalating opposition towards their regime). 

In India, for example, Munawar Faruqui’s new comedy special ‘Ghost Stories’ was trending at no. 7 (in India) after he was arrested for a religious joke that he did not make. And Kunal Kamra’s response to the Supreme Court went viral on various social media platforms and Rachita has continued to create political webcomics to voice dissent, even after they were both issued a court order for contempt of court. In short, the state failed to ensure corrective action on the part of the comedians. And also by taking action against them, the state ended up increasing the popularity of these comedians and broadening their reach. 

But by taking such extreme actions against political comedians, what the government has managed to do is create an atmosphere saturated with fear, wherein other artists and citizens would be reluctant to express their divergent political views in public. And while many comedians have been scared into submission, others have become more vocal and even blunter with their political material. Vir Das, for example, just released the third episode of his series ‘Ten on Ten’, where he talks about topics like freedom of speech and religion, issues that many other comedians are now too scared to touch. So although there may be fewer political satirists left in the country, those still standing are just gearing up to show their teeth. 

In one of his stand-up comedy routines from 2017, Kunal Kamra stated that ‘I love India, I have to say this because kaha milega inta content?’ (Translation: I love India, I have to say this because where else will you get this much content?). By repressing the freedom of expression of artists and citizens alike, the state has given political satirists something that they crave the most: content, and is fuelling the same fire that they are trying so hard to put out. 

Nonetheless, in an attempt to stifle any dissent, the government has tried to tactfully diminish the scope of political satire in India. On the other hand, an increase in demand for political content, infotainment, etc. has made the business of political comedy a risky yet lucrative option. Upon his release, Faruqui posted a video titled ‘Munawar Faruqui Leaving Comedy’ which ended with him saying the words, ‘there is only one reason I do comedy, and it’s this…’ and walking into a room full of a cheering audience and being met with thunderous applause. And that’s perhaps the best way to sum up the scope of political comedy in India – that no matter how hard the state tries to suppress it, for as long as the people continue to demand political content, the art of political satire will never die out.

Ashana Mathur is a student of Economics, International Relations and Media Studies at Ashoka University.

We publish all articles under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noderivatives license. This means any news organisation, blog, website, newspaper or newsletter can republish our pieces for free, provided they attribute the original source (OpenAxis).

Issue 9

Issue IX: Editors’ Note

As the world approaches the one-year anniversary marking the global shutdown due to COVID-19, it is important to reflect upon how life has been altered at its behest. The ninth issue of OpenAxis, hence, attempts to encapsulate the various spheres of human functioning that have been reimagined and transformed in the light of the pandemic.  

Rithika Abraham discusses the stakes for the State in supporting heteronormativity in society in the aftermath of the Indian government’s argument in the Delhi High Court, which deemed same-sex marriages to be against Indian ethos. Mali Annika Skotheim draws parallels between Thucydides’ account of the Athenian plague and the happenings surrounding the unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic in present time. In the background of the Unnao poisoning incident, Shreyashi Sharma evaluates how law enforcement responds to the intersectionality of gender and caste-based animosities on-ground – in ways that may contradict the spirit of the law itself. The misinformation campaigns targeted towards poor and minority communities due to the pandemic are discussed by Maya Mirchandani. Saaransh Mishra dissects the inappropriate mechanisms underlying the selection of Nobel Laureates, many of whom tend to behave in ways that directly oppose the significance of the award.  

The role of the pandemic in democratizing art galleries and museums, and debates about whether these effects will persist in a post-COVID world are discussed by Muskaan Kanodia. Gauri Bhawkar assesses how the health of economies is maintained by antitrust laws – legal provisions that aim to protect consumers and small businesses from the dominating activities of large-scale firms – as well as documents the chaos that can unfold in the absence of the same. Akhil Gogoi’s significance in Assamese politics, as well as the future of the Assamese political landscape is analyzed by Jyotirmoy Talukdar, as India approaches the state’s assembly election. Avantika Bhatia examines the advent of online therapy in the context of the pandemic, including its implications for a post-pandemic world. Questions pertaining to the significance of campus food outlets are raised by Devika Goswami, who also explores how the pandemic has altered the campus dining experience for students, as well as those operating these food joints.

Rujuta Singh examines how fashion trends come into being, and discusses how fashion collections adapted to peoples’ moods and opinions during the lockdown. The pandemic brought about significant changes in the ways people interact with each other, in light of which Harshita Bedi reflects on love and relationships during the pandemic.  Kartikay Dutta critically examines the legacy of Novak Djokovic, the esteemed tennis player, and asks the age-old question: “Can art ever be separated from the artist?”. The significance of gossip – and the lack thereof in the course of the pandemic – for human interactions is discussed by  Akanksha Mishra. Tanisha A captures the experience of filmmaking during the pandemic, by documenting her journey of working on her short film, Under the Precipice Rolls the Sea. 

Triggered by the pandemic, the process of re-imagining responsible and sustainable travel in India is examined by Tisha Srivastava. Deeksha Puri explores mental health and emotional concerns, and how they have been affected by the pandemic. The privatization of vaccine distribution in India is analyzed by Anjana Ramesh, who evaluates its consequences and implications for the country’s COVID-19 inoculation drive and its public healthcare system. Finally, Ridhima Manocha explores human relations further by analyzing how wedding commemorations and other celebrations shifted to video calling services like Zoom.

The past year was marked by chaos, confusion and a complete unraveling of current understandings about human life. As we ease into 2021, it is our hope that Issue 9 helps unpack, explore and analyze select features of the past year that make it unforgettable in contemporary history.

– Aarohi Sharma, Madhulika Agarwal, Rohan Pai and Saman Fatima

2020: Year in Review

Issue 9

Where Fashion Trends Come From and Why You Should Care

My father, a physicist, once proudly told me that he doesn’t care about fashion. “I don’t think about these unimportant things,” he said. “My focus is on my work.” On most days he wears t-shirts or button downs with neutral tone pants, and he might add a jacket for special occasions. While not the most unusual, he still has a distinct sense of style and it has evolved over the years. I asked him why he didn’t wear the same thing all the time, or just throw on a potato sack and call it a day. He said, “Oh, because I like my clothes. I think they look nice.” Several others like him see fashion as a waste of time, but are involved in the fashion process nonetheless. No matter how far we may try to stay from fashion, due to the nature of the world we live in most of us are forced to make choices regarding clothing everyday. It is simply these choices that make us active participants in the fashion process, knowingly or not. 

Many choose to follow trends in order to fit in and feel a sense of belonging. While some may go out of their way to dress in un-trendy ways, and distance themselves from those they see as ‘imitators’, philosopher Georg Simmel saw these people as engaging in an inverse form of imitation, ultimately becoming part of a group of others like them. Then there are people like my dad, who don’t see themselves as part of the fashion world at all. Unfortunately for him, as a modern consumer he is just as affected by fashion trends as anyone else. Since all clothes retailers are influenced by the fashion world, when he buys their clothes he is adopting their interpretation of any given trend. 

As a multibillion dollar industry, fashion phenomena have attracted attention from sociologists, philosophers and market scientists. However, there is still no formalized theory of fashion, both due to a lack of research as well as the sheer volume of data and variables. After all, everyone wears clothes. Runway shows put on by designers provide an excellent jumping off point for learning about fashion, as the themes espoused by top brands both reflect and inform the choices of the larger fashion industry. 

September and February are usually the months where brands and fashion houses host fashion shows portraying their spring/summer and autumn/winter collections respectively, for the upcoming seasons. These shows take place in various “fashion weeks” around the world (one week per city), with London, Milan, Paris, and New York attracting the most attention. However, like everything else since last March, the Autumn/Winter 2021 shows were different this time. Most designers showcased their collections virtually, while some chose not to show at all. 

While discussing their Menswear Autumn/Winter 21 collection, Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons of Prada insisted that they wanted the collection to feel like an emotional response to everything the world has been through in the past year. Each look was built off the foundation of a bodysuit, to represent the body and symbolize vulnerability and a need for intimacy. Fashion has often been seen as a response to the events shaping society and the world outside. This ‘response’ attitude was evident in many of the fall/winter collections shown in February as well as the spring/summer shows from last September, when the mood was perhaps even more subdued. On the other hand the Prada womenswear collection that came out a month after the menswear show struck a more optimistic note, perhaps reflecting a turning point in the pandemic with the launch of vaccines and the tangible hope in the air. 

Prada and Simons’ descriptions of their collections would fit into the external or exogenous model of the fashion process presented by sociologists, which says that changes in clothing simply reflect changes in the cultural values of society at large. While designers might well be inspired by the world around them as well as their lived experience, this model falls short when discussing the adoption of certain trends by different social groups. Cultural changes might affect the popularity of certain trends, but they cannot explain the different times at which trends are adopted by different groups, thus failing to predict future trends. Internal models can address these questions while looking at the fashion process as a self-contained phenomenon, influenced more by internal changes than external, cultural events. Simmel suggests that changes in clothing styles are the result of a ‘trickle down effect’, with trends being steadily adopted by successive social classes, starting with the upper class. 

According to William Reynolds, a marketing professor from Chicago, trends may be either horizontal or vertical. A horizontal trend is one which spreads far, but does not change much during this time, while vertical trends remain restricted to a small group but change rapidly. Most fashion trends embody both these attributes to some degree. For example, low rise jeans in the 2000s became more popular as the waists got lower. When fashion trends die out or reach a turning point, it could be due to functional or cultural barriers to further movement in the same direction. In the late nineteenth century, hoop-skirts or crinolines were extremely popular and were made wider and wider until movement became virtually impossible. They then gave way to the smaller crinolette or bustle. 

Within a small time period trends also often show a strong resurgence, exemplified by the wild popularity of nineties trends in the past few years. Rachel Green from the nineties show Friends was a cultural icon then and still is to this day, with her style recently becoming the focus of dozens of fashion articles and blogs. Trends may exhibit this cyclical nature due to the same technological and cultural barriers, becoming more and more extreme in one direction, ultimately reaching a peak and moving to the other extreme. For example, the long ‘tunic’ tops that were popular in the late 2000s and the short crop tops that they were replaced by soon after.

Rachel Green from the nineties show, Friends.

In an eighteenth century essay on fashion, philosopher Christian Garve cited the innate human desire for change as one of the reasons for changing fashion trends. In all aspects of life, humans seek novelty and variation, sometimes even if it worsens their position. Whether fashion trends come from influential designers or cultural revolutions, or trickle down from the rich, they feed our desire for change and our craving for aesthetic beauty. Fashion remains an important way for human beings to define and express their identity, and to relate to those around them. 

Rujuta Singh is a student of political science, international relations and media studies at Ashoka University. Some of her other interests are fashion, music and writing. 

We publish all articles under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noderivatives license. This means any news organisation, blog, website, newspaper or newsletter can republish our pieces for free, provided they attribute the original source (OpenAxis).

Issue 9

Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge On Zoom?

What was described as a recession-proof industry by Forbes, hasn’t proved to be a pandemic proof industry. The Wedding industry, which was estimated to be worth 50 billion dollars in India, was badly hit by COVID-19 in the past year. According to an estimate by hospitality firm OYO weddingz, the volume of wedding events in 2020 was at 40-50 per cent compared to  the number in the previous year and  guest lists shrunk by 60 per cent due to COVID-19 restrictions. Several brides and grooms who dreamt of a “big fat wedding” had to make peace with the imposed restrictions, while others cancelled their weddings in the hope of things becoming better. India in particular saw the highest cancellation of wedding globally with 23% couples cancelling or postponing the celebration. However, some couples found innovative ways to cope up with the pandemic —Zoom weddings!

“When I decided to tie the knot with my partner, I imagined that at the very least, my family and friends would be able to attend.” Spardha, 29, who got married in the month of October 2020 said as she added “deciding to get married on a Zoom Call wasn’t an easy decision, however, if anything, COVID taught us to expect the unexpected and take charge.” Several couples like them made the decision to broadcast their wedding for the friends and families who couldn’t join. They also participated in several firsts — a wedding without event planners and baraat, no large gatherings or a fancy venue or what Dilli waale would call ‘show-shaa.’ As we mark a year since the lockdown was announced, it becomes pertinent to ask then, will COVID-19 leave a lasting impression on how we plan, attend and celebrate weddings in India? What stands to be the future of the wedding industry?

There is no way to predict the future and whether weddings as we know them will permanently change. However, consumer and behavioural research can offer some insight in this matter. Consumer behaviour is contingent upon several factors such as time, place, location and culture with exposure of a consumer playing a major role. With the onset of pandemic, it is disrupting patterns of how the consumers would traditionally buy or engage in experiences by offering new exposure to those migrating to virtual environments. Behaviour and habit changes have a direct correlation to the extent of exposure to new environments. Research proves that it takes anywhere between 18 to 254 days to form a new habit, while on average it takes about 66 days. As the study by Swiss Re Institute shows consumers are settling into new patterns of behaviour for considerable lengths of time as a response to multiple waves of pandemic. Therefore, it’s quite likely that people will continue relying on technology to facilitate their wedding as the momentum to shift to technology for organising weddings was building up even prior to the pandemic.

The wedding industry also rapidly adapted and transformed to meet the needs of the consumers who were and continue organising online weddings in the light of pandemic. For instance, matrimonial sites have been introducing new features to account for the lack of a physical meet-and-greet. now has a video profile feature while launched a special app for video calling purposes called, ShaadiMeet. The company is also organising virtual social get-togethers for its users for the first time. Both and Bharat Matrimony have also launched their initiatives, ‘Weddings from Home’ and ‘Home Weddings’ respectively to offer end-to-end services to customers to facilitate marriages over videos. What seemed far from truth has become possible as the wedding industry scrambles to adapt to the challenging circumstances. 

Of course, one can’t help but lament what will be lost if  weddings start happening online with an intimate gathering. The sound of loud dhol blasting in your ear, the tangy taste of gol gappas, awkward smiling as the photographer clicks your pictures while eating the messiest foods; the hugging, talking,  and  gossiping, gets missed by the guests attending online. Without these experiences, attending weddings online seems more of an obligation than an experience that one looks forward to. However, considering the social relevance that weddings hold in Indian society, it is unlikely that people will change their consumption pattern as quickly as their other items in the consumption basket. In fact, an ongoing consumer sentiment analysis study by McKinsey and Co. reveals that in China and India, spending is bouncing back beyond grocery and household supplies, and consumers in India might be more willing to spend on certain categories such as festivals and weddings. If it so happens, then once again, it will be reiterated that the big-fat Indian weddings aren’t so easy to do away with, and while pandemic might be a hiccup, it cannot efface the socio-cultural significance of weddings in India. 

Ridhima Manocha is a final year English and Media Studies student at Ashoka University and has authored the book, The Sun and Shadow.

We publish all articles under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noderivatives license. This means any news organisation, blog, website, newspaper or newsletter can republish our pieces for free, provided they attribute the original source (OpenAxis).

Issue 9

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is a 20,000 square foot, light and sound show. It is a two-story projection of the artist’s most compelling and famous artworks. With a 360° view of the paintings in high-dimension, the Immersive Experience is one of the most captivating experiences in the 21st century. It is an art exhibition that not only introduces you to the life of Van Gogh but also immerses you in his world. The multi-sensory experience gives you an escape into the world of Gogh’s beautiful paintings, allowing you to be a part of them, even if it is for a few moments. 

A one of a kind Virtual Reality Interactive, the Immersive Experience gives you a taste of the brilliance of the artist by taking you on a ten-minute journey through a section called, “A day in the life of the Artist”. Walking alongside Gogh, you experience a rich and peaceful journey and inspiration behind eight of his iconic works including, Vincent’s Bedroom at Arles and The Starry Night

The Immersive Experience is open to guests of all ages. This rare experience, however, is held in multiple cities globally for a small amount of time. Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is something one should at least experience once in their lifetime.

To catch a glimpse of what is Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, visit: 

Picture Credits: Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, Museum of Modern Art

Issue 9

BTS Does It Once Again! : A Review of ‘BE’ – the Album

There is a reason Bangtan Sonyeontan, better known as BTS is the biggest pop group, dominating the world with every song they release. With songwriting so heartfelt that it resonates with millions of listeners worldwide, BTS proves time and time again, that the power of music transcends language and time. 

Much to everyone’s delight, last year after the release of their smash hit ‘Dynamite’ — the song that took over the music world and the multiple charts with its vibrant music video and retro funky music, the South Korean pop group surprised their fans by announcing the making of their new album ‘BE’. 

The name “BE” as suggested by RM, the group leader is a translinguistic word play between the Korean word bi meaning rain and the english word be, suggesting the album is like a downpour that lets some steam off the pressure that the pandemic has built up in everyone’s lives and acts as a solace that helps the listeners just “be” and exist as how they are, even if it is just for a couple of hours. 

Released on 18th November 2020, to no one’s surprise, BTS’ album shines through and sets itself apart from the other albums released in 2020 by not falling into a similar cycle of producing tunes of broodiness and melancholy. 

The album consists of 8 tracks, all of which are vastly different from each other. The title track, ‘Life Goes On’ filled with sentiments of hope. It is a vocally rich alternative hip hop track, with light and playful instruments backing up the poignant lyrics that sing of the time we are approaching. The bilingual chorus suggests “Time goes by, without any apology, and so should life”. The sombreirty of the song also comes through its music video that is directed by one of the vocalists Jeon Jungkook, himself. 

While the A side sets the mood for the album, the rest of the B sides’ aura can be split in half, with ‘Blue and Gray’ an R&B inspired soulful song talking about the depressive episodes during isolation, ‘Fly to my Room’ talking about the artists’ resignation from touring the world to being confined within the four walls of their rooms being the mellow and wistful. 

The second half of the B-side includes tracks like ‘Dis-ease’, a power packed 90’s inspired hip hop track that starts with J-Hope’s iconic trap style rapping and about the increase of burnout syndrome, ‘Telepathy’ a funky retro disco hit, is like a love song to their fans whom they are so excited to reunite with soon, as suggested by Suga, another rapper of the group, who is also the lead producer of the song. The next song on the album is ‘Stay’, a party style glitter pop, an EDM track produced by Jungkook, an energizer for the next song in line, the iconic ‘Dynamite’ — the song of the summer, that has been topping music charts worldwide, including Billboards, ever since it came out. There is an additional track on the album, ‘Skit’, which is just a simple voice recording of the members celebrating Dynamite’s first of many wins on Billboard Hot 100. 

The album, like almost the entire of BTS’ discography, is versatile in each of its tracks that somehow come together, just like the members come together and fit each other so perfectly, despite having music styles that are so different from each other. It is BTS’ most collaborative and personal project yet, where the members were directly involved in processes beyond music making. 

Check it out here :

Issue 9

Apartment Upstairs

If you are looking to break the monotony of your everyday pandemic routine with some feet tapping, rhythm-driven beats and rock, tune into hearing Apartment Upstair’s new single, ‘Mahua’ available on Spotify and YouTube Music. 

Starting out as two college students at Ashoka University, who shared the love for making music and ‘How I Met Your Mother’, Rohan Pai (singer-guitarist) and Shourjo Chatterjee (drummer) came together in their first year of college only to deliver constant bangers, one after the other. While it is no doubt college demands quite a bit of effort, the duo has been able to produce their first EP titled ‘Two on the Line’, mainly indie-rock music and is currently working towards exploring further genres of R&B, jazz and hip-hop.

To create their music, the pair first comes up with a vocal melody and beat which is then supplemented with relatable lyrics that take the listener to a different world altogether. Mahua released in February 2021, captures the essence of escapism that various individuals might be feeling with this prolonged pandemic of wanting to “pack up my bags and go living my dreams”. 

Their music tends to speak to the audience, because of how they share their experiences, making it personal yet relatable. They aim at actively taking part and achieving recognition in the independent music genre in India. 

While there is some hope for the pandemic to come to an end, the duo provides us something more to look forward to with their upcoming single ‘Star tonight’ going live at some time end of March 2021.

Issue 9

The Shining – The Book, the Movie and Everything in Between

Published in 1977, The Shining is still considered an iconic novel in the Psychological Horror genre. It’s a story about a couple, Jack and Wendy, their 5-year-old son, Danny, (who possess ‘the shining’ – a unique psychic ability which allows him to experience clairvoyance) and their time at the Overlook Hotel, a prominent, isolated hotel with a dark and ominous past. King skillfully creates a compelling plot by divulging into the psychology of each character. The hotel itself is another character in the story. With multiple entities, ghosts and cursed objects acting as a hive mind, the Hotel tries to possess Jack and drive him to harm his family. 

Upon its release, the book immediately attracted a large following of people who contemplated its details and various interpretations. These discussions and fan theories increased exponentially after Stanley Kubrick released his film adaptation in 1980. 

Drawing on the smallest interactions that the characters have with each other and building on their dialogues, Kubrick managed to envision and portray a whole new side of the story. However, a lot of fans noted that there were numerous inconsistencies in the film. For example, the furniture would mysteriously disappear and appear, or the direction of objects would change in the same scene. But given that Kubrick himself was so involved in the cinematography and the editing of the film; it was hard to believe that these mistakes were overlooked. By nitpicking on these little inconsistencies, people came up with multiple fan theories. The countless theories on YouTube go on to illustrate how complex human psychology can be if you start tearing it apart. 

Upon revisiting the novel after watching the film and listening to fan theories, one can identify all the elements and dialogues in the book which give way to these different interpretations. These elements act like a gateway into the world of The Shining, allowing the readers to conjure their own theories.

Thus, The Shining, not only offers its readers a tantalizing horror story but after watching the film, the audience is further introduced to a unique way of engaging with its narrative. It’s the kind of story that will make you regret drinking that last glass of water before going to bed. And the kind of story that will make you ponder over its multiple interpretations as you lie awake in bed, too scared to enter your washroom. But at the end of the day, Stephen King’s brilliant story coupled with Stanley Kubrick’s genius imagination makes it all worth it. 

Issue 9

Papers, Please

A critically acclaimed indie game by Lucas Pope, Papers, Please offers a unique insight into the conflicts that arise between national allegiance and morality. 

Players are assigned the role of a border inspector in the fictional nation of Arstotzka – and are tasked with approving the entry of legal citizens of the country, as well as visitors from neighbouring nations with valid visas. 

With each passing day, increasingly stringent rules and regulations are placed upon the player, as the state of affairs between Arstotzka and its neighbours rapidly deteriorates. They encounter a variety of moral quandaries – such as having to decide whether to allow illegal migrants fleeing their home country in fear for their lives, or in search of their long-lost families. To add to the weight of the players’ dilemmas – each time they allow someone into the country incorrectly, their income and their family’s food rations are slashed. Thus, players must make important decisions each day – with their family’s life and their nation’s fate hanging in the balance. 

Papers, Please offers a uniquely accurate insight into modern insider-outsider narratives, the use of calls to ‘nationalism’ for masking State supported oppression, as well as the moral  dilemmas that emerge as a result of the same.

Picture Credits: Steam