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MIMA

Issue 2 • July 2013


Global Hotspots 06 Intricacies of Italia. 08 Hong Kong: East meets West 12 Secrets of Singapore 14 Makkah: Revisiting the Five Pillars of Islam 16 Phnom Penh: City of Wonder 18 Snippets of Exchange 24 The Need for Cultural Convergence

MUISS Events 28 Cultural Fiesta 30 Beat Sessions 32 Monash Cultural Night 38 Cultural Adaptation Workshop

Lifestyle & Opinion 40 Fusion Food 44 Where Goddesses are Worshipped

and Women, Ill-treated

46 Stray Factory 48 My Exchange Experience 50 The Pinnacle 52 Confessions, from a Lone Wolf 53 A Letter to Homo Sapiens 55 Eco-friendly Fashion 57 Confessions, from a Comic Book Girl 60 A Birthday and an Orphanage 62 Break on Through to the Other Side 64 Horoscopes 66 May the Odds be Ever in Your Favour 68 The Gaga Controversy 70 Bugs of Steel

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FROM THE EDITORIAL TEAM

Monash International Magazine

Dear International Students,   It was a cheerful end to our term as guardians of Monash University International Student Services, when we embarked on painstakingly designing our final issue of the Monash International Magazine. We felt the dire need to impress upon you, certain issues, with a sprinkle of controversy...but...then we thought to ourselves: there are bound to be certain crucial issues faced by the international students, as well as the concerted effort on our part to serve the international student community of this esteemed Institution.   Essentially, we present to you, our labour of love.... The Convergence Issue.   So one may ponder for a second and ask; why convergence?   International students should not be represented as a uniform, faceless mass; we are as diverse and complex as the mix of cultures we have originated from and those we’ve experienced. Each one of us is a wonderful coalescence of behaviours, accents, terrain, the whole

Editors Alhamdu Yaro Hannah Sworn Jaina Chandwany Jasvir Dang Sean Mangar

nature and nurture that we experience through the privilege of our

Design & Layout

travels and adventures around the world. It takes great pride to be

Sean Mangar

comfortable with the identity of a global citizen. Our differences serve to unite, rather than to divide us. This is the beauty of the harmony of our diversity, converging to unify us.   This semester we are proud to present to you a magazine to match the uniqueness of the international students. It is a dynamic collection of pieces, which is bound to capture your senses and imagination. True to our belief of unity in diversity. We hope our little gift will present a little bit of something, for everyone....   Cheers,

Photography Alhamdu Yaro Brian Soong Jonathan Lim Keshav Ramrekha Mayurran Jeyalogaindran Munira Mutaher Sean Mangar Cover art; The Gaga Controversy design by Ellysha Nur Makkah: revisiting the five pillars of islam design by Lavina Chandwany

Jaina Chandwany, Sean Mangar, Hannah Sworn, Alhamdu Yaro & Jasvir Dang

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Global Hotspots

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5


Vernazza, Cinque Terre

This rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera is made up of carefully built terraces on the rugged steep landscape. The pastel-coloured buildings, paired with the blue and green hues of the surrounding hillsides and Ligurian sea, make for an vibrant sight.

Intricacies of ITalia V. Munusami

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L

ast year, I heard about a studying opportunity in Turin,

fanatic. Even if you do not intend to spend all of your dispos-

Italy - a society and culture that I imagined to be very

able income on a pair of branded jeans, the shop displays

different from mine. I stepped up to the challenge, like

are a treat for anyone’s eyes. The best time to shop for these

so many of you have done by coming to Monash in Malaysia,

brands is during the big clearance sales of January and

and had a culture shock before I was able to adapt to the for-

September.

eign environment. Except that to me, it was a rather pleasant ‘shock’. Apart from some basic vocabulary you can find in any

Did you know that the second biggest Egyptian museum in

tourist guidebook, I knew nothing of the language, and dur-

the world is in Turin? When I visited it last year, I spent nearly

ing the first few weeks of my stay in Italy, I spent most of my

two hours on the first floor alone! If you enjoy history and

time observing people’s behavior. Blending in was the name

culture, you will be thrilled by the array of museums in Turin. I

of the game, and I tried to avoid anything that could possibly

seriously recommend a visit to the National Cinema Museum.

be considered offensive. Simple tasks, such as taking the

After a highly interactive visit in an unusual exhibition setup,

metro or buying a snack from a vending machine proved to

you can choose to see the whole city of Turin from the top of

be very challenging especially when for twenty-two years you

the Mole Antonelliana. This year, I also managed to witness

have been doing things differently. Of course, I could have

the Carnival in Venice. It is, as the stories go, filled with end-

asked for help, most people are glad to help, but honestly,

less colours, coriandoli, and laughter with plenty of gorgeous

my ego was not really keen on doing so each time.

and bizarre costumes and even a few dance performances. If you go to Venice, remember to stop by Verona, whose

Today, after eight months, my Italian vocabulary has signifi-

architecture allowed it to gain a World Heritage Site status

cantly expanded, my university lessons are proceeding well,

from UNESCO.

and I have good friends who still enthusiastically answer my endless questions about Italian history or the origins of col-

The list of places to visit and activities you could take part in

loquialisms. Yet, I feel that the exciting part of this adventure

does not end here, obviously. However, I hope that the idea

has just begun. The most interesting and open-minded

of traveling this far on a student budget seems more fea-

people I have met so far also happen to be frequent travelers

sible now. Good luck and keep on discovering!

who have been exposed to different cultures and opinions. This aspect of the ‘studying abroad’ experience contributes greatly to our personal development. It is with the same spirit that I want to share some tips and advice about living in Italy, hoping to spike some interest from your side! Travelling will be the most costly facet of your trip, but remember that once you reach Italy, you can head to many other European destinations via the multitude of low-cost flights that are available. A two-way ticket to Spain for example, could cost you as little as 50 euros if you plan your dates early enough. And if you want to travel throughout Italy, you can save money by taking the regional trains instead of choosing the direct option - this allows the possibility of exploring a number of transit cities along your way. How do I write about Italy without mentioning the great food culture that exists here! There is a vast variety of fresh local produce that could cost you a fortune if you bought them anywhere else around the globe. When it comes to fast foods, do not expect to see many of the famous restaurant chains. But do not fret fast food lovers, you can instead choose from panini, focàccia, croissants, and gelato from any family restaurant or coffee shop around. When you reach the city area, the presence of the most famous brands in the fashion industry will delight any fashion

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Hong Kong

East meets west Catharine tanara

H

ong Kong is a complex yet unique city

spectacle where tourists can see Hong Kong’s mesmerizing

where dualities merge: east meets

night view shimmering with the city’s brightness.

west, tradition and modernity meet,

and blend into a kind of distinctive Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Heritage Museum is evidence of the Hong

culture. From fashion, arts,

Kong people’s dedication to preserve and cultivate the city’s

festivals,

cultural heritage. Opened on the 16th of December 2000, the

infrastructure, to its cui-

museum stores “collections of folk art, toys, comics, and other

entertainment,

sines; cultural dualism is strongly immersed in the ‘Hongkongers’ lifestyles. As one of the wealthiest cities in Asia, it is not surprising that many glorify Hong Kong and its metropolitan area as the ‘City of Dreams’. For young cosmopolitans who wish to experience the multicultural and glamorous hustle and bustle of this metropolis without worrying about their budget, Hong Kong is the perfect destination.

pop culture relics alongside ancient Chinese Artifacts.” Here, visitors are invited to engage with the diversity and duality of

A must see destination A wise man once said, “if there is only one thing you can do in Hong Kong, go to the Peak. If you are on a tight schedule, you should still go to The Peak.” Located 370 metres above sea

Hong Kong’s distinctive cultures through its six permanent comprehensive galleries, amongst others are Chao Shao-an Gallery and the Cantonese Opera Heritage Hall. Exploring the ins and outs of the museum, visitors will be amazed by the thriving culture which maintains its freshness and simplicity even in the modern age. The Avenue of Stars is Hong Kong’s equivalent of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is built to honor the celebrities of the Hong Kong film industry as thanks to their efforts, the city reaches its global fame. Here, visitors can trace the handprints of famous Hong Kong actors, like Jackie Chan and Andy Lau. In addition to handprints, there is a series of movie-related sculptures you should definitely take pictures

level, The Victoria Peak or simply, The Peak is the highest point in Hong Kong. It is the best place to enjoy the breathtaking view of Hong Kong’s cityscape that is dominated by sparkling skyscrapers and modernity. If you happen to visit The Peak at night, you will be dazzled as its beauty remains a

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The Peak

The view from the peak outlines the skyscrapers that dominate the Hong Kong skyline, and Victoria Harbour, a natural landform harbour situated between Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula. The harbour’s deep, sheltered waters and strategic location on the South China Sea were instrumental in Hong Kong’s establishment as a British colony and its subsequent development as a trading centre.

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of or try posing with. Not to mention, there is also a life-size statue of Bruce Lee, a legendary Hong Kong martial artist and actor. With its lively atmosphere, this place is also a perfect location to stroll at night and catch the Symphony of Lights multimedia show.

The authentic cuisine of Hong Kong With a wide range of cuisines, from Eastern to Western, international to regional, it is quite easy to find something to eat in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, a visit to Hong Kong is not complete without trying its local specialties. For brunch, dim sum or yum cha is highly recommended. A range of choices from steamed buns, delicious dumplings to tea eggs are perfect to start the day. During tea time, do not miss out the mouth-watering egg tart, a pastry crust filled with egg custard and baked. It is ideal to have it with a cup of Hong Kong style milk tea. After a long walk exploring the city, it would be great to have roast pork served on the table for the dinner. All these recommended dishes could be found in any local Chinese restaurant, just make sure to stick to the more health conscious eateries. As for the egg tart, you can find it at the roadside coffee shops at relatively cheap prices. Bon AppĂŠtit!

Partying all night long Being a metropolitan city, a visit to Hong Kong is never complete without its nightlife! Hong Kong offers an indefinite number of nightclubs, from the fashionable ones, like those in Soho, to the small local bars in Tsim Sha Tsui. In Soho, besides a handful of trendy bars and clubs that make the trip worth it, visitors can also view the famous world-longest mid-level escalator, which takes more than 20 minutes to reach. With its vibrant nightlife, feel free to discover the pulse of Hong Kong.

Accommodation and transport facilities Accommodation for every budget is plentiful in Hong Kong, including clean and comfortable youth hostels. For young travelers, the YMCA of Hong Kong provides budget hostel accommodations which are strategically located in the heart of Hong Kong. I would definitely recommend Salisbury, a YMCA-run hostel near the Star Ferry terminal. It has a youthful vibe and offers good value, from single to family suites that can accommodate 4-5 people. Mass Transit Railways (MTR) is the preferred mode of transportation to get around the city especially for those of you who plan on exploring the all of the city’s attractions. Besides being a relatively cheaper form of transportation, the MTR has a moderntouch to it whilst also being clean, safe and the quickest way to get to most of destinations in the urban areas. If the MTR is too rushed, travelers may also consider other transport facilities, such as taxis, buses or the trams. A tip for travelers when using public transports: buy the Octopus card. It is akin to the New York City’s Metro Card, which can be used for all forms of transportations, except for taxis. It would be more effective and efficient as travelers save more time and worry less about purchasing tickets every time. At last, whatever your choice is, Hong Kong will always provide the best entertainment for any trip.

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The Star Ferry The Hong Kong Star Ferry Night Star, sailing during the day.

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secrets of sin I f you only have 48 hours in Singapore and you are absolutely not interested in the

Lestari hairul

Our Singaporean contributor takes us on a colourful walk through Singapore

usual digs like shopping at Orchard Road or going on the adrenaline-raising rides at

the overpriced, though definitely interesting and fun, Universal Studios Singapore,

then let me be your guide to another, slightly less-touristy side of Singapore.  

First up, if you are coming from the architecturally beautiful Changi Airport, take the MRT, which is the public train system, and stop off at Bugis station. Here, drop off your backpacks or suitcases at Sleepy Sam’s, a nice little mom-and-pop backpacker’s hostel.

You will now be right in the middle of one of Singapore’s ethnic heritage sites, Kampong Glam. The Sultan Mosque, which is located within a picturesque promenade dotted with restaurants, cafés and bistros, is an almost two-century-old monument and makes for some gorgeous sunset pictures.   Skip all the Middle Eastern, French and Swedish fare in the area and go straight to Kampong Glam Café for some local food. Singaporean cuisine is rather similar to Malaysian cuisine in some regards but of course being Singaporean myself, I’d say we prepare the food way better. Some of the familiar foods from Malaysia are given a different twist and price-wise, it’s decent for students. You can also have sheesha in this area and if you’re there on a lucky night, you’ll get to listen to some good oldies blasted by a store beside the Sarbat stall, which of course you must visit! You haven’t tasted teh tarik till you’ve had the one at this no-name stall right across the Kampong Glam Café.   Once your tummies are all sated, how about a short round of shopping? Take the train again this time dropping off at Little India and here, as the name says, you’re at another ethnic heritage site, which is home to the best Indian (North, South, vegetarian, Nepali) restaurants around. But leave the eating aside for a bit and move to Mustafa Centre for all your shopping

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The Singapore Icon

The iconic Merlion in Merlion Park, withthe durian-inspired architecture of Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay in the backdrop.

This will kick-start your adrenaline rush throughout the night before you go over to the bars and drink yourself silly. Surrender a bunch of (tens of) dollars to the gatekeeper and let the machine toss you up into the sky. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to hear strains of ever so fabulous music as you contemplate your life, 60 metres in the air, at 5 g.   Now steady yourself for a bit and head off to the pubs galore at Clarke Quay. This is where most Singaporeans come to party but if you’re more into classy digs with jazz as your poison, head back to Bugis and hit up the Sultan Jazz Club. If you’re there on a Sunday, you might catch the jazz greats of Singapore or even visiting jazz stars jamming the night away as you nurse great drinks from the bar. If you’re financially blessed, the Jazz Club is housed under the beautiful Sultan boutique hotel.   If you’re feeling peckish now, you can head up to Chinatown for some delicious local delights in the coffee shops (what’s called mamaks in Malaysia) of the many shop-houses that line the streets. If you’re so inclined, you can also drop by the numerous pubs and nightclubs for some, shall we say, more ‘salt of the earth’ night-life.   Before you leave though, there’s one final food destination you have to go to. Forget Newton Circus and go straight

gapore needs. Paragon? Ion? Pfft, stand up against the grand old man and they won’t last. Mustafa Centre has virtually anything and everything you could possibly want for lower prices than you can ever get in other malls in Singapore. Of course, if you’re looking for designer digs then you won’t really find that here, but you’re not a poncey traveller are you?   And after small bits of shopping, let’s have a little bit of thrill seeking. Take the many buses, trains or cabs around to take you to Clarke Quay. But before that, a short word on the cab situation in Singapore. Here, you won’t have to haggle for the fare price and in fact this is actively discouraged. The meter states the price, so rest assured you won’t be yelled at for quoting a lower price than normal. But of course, if they sniff out that you’re a clueless foreigner and you’re unlucky enough to get an unscrupulous driver… you may be in for a short little detour with the driver as your unrequested tour guide. Back to Clarke Quay, set aside the awesome nightlife for a second and hop over to the G-Max reverse-bungy ride.

to Bedok, also near one of Singapore’s few beaches, East Coast Park. Here you’ll get to experience the best seafood delicacies in Singapore and don’t forget to order a big mug of lemon-sugarcane juice. Because that’s the only way you will be able to finish off a meal of sambal stingray, oyster omelettes, satay, stewed lala and also barbequed chicken.   But of course, if you’ve done all that and more, take a trip to Orchard Road for a more upscale shopping experience before taking an entire day to visit Sentosa Island where the achingly expensive though still entertaining Universal Studios Singapore resides. You’ll still be missing out on the high culture aspect of Singapore but let’s leave that for another article in another issue.

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Talal Tashfeen Qayyum

MAkkah

Revisiting the five pillars of islam 14


T

he city of Makkah! Also known as ‘Mecca’. Makkah is the holiest city of Islam. The place where the hearts of millions of muslim yearn for. See those tiny dots in the picture? That’s hundreds of thousands of people in a dazzling display of the submission of their will to worship Allah, in bowing down before the black cubeshaped (Holy) Ka’aba centered right in the middle.

The Ka’aba, believed by Muslims to have been first constructed by Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim), forms part of the Masjid al-Haram, which translates to the Sacred Mosque. The Ka’aba makes Makkah the holiest city of Islam. Muslims are expected to pray in the direction of the Ka’aba when they perform their contact prayers (Salah in Arabic, Solat in Malay and Namaz in Urdu/Farsi) five times a day, where ever they may be. One of the five pillars of Islam requires that every able-bodied Muslim perform the Hajj (Pilgrimage). It is a must to make the journey to Makkah at least once in their life, provided they can afford it. The Hajj pilgrimage is the largest annually occurring pilgrimage in

the world, intended to demonstrate the solidarity of Muslims and their submission to Allah. The Hajj pilgrimage comprises of certain rituals that ought to be performed for your Hajj to be considered complete, the detail of which will require a separate article. However, in summary, each person walks around the Ka’aba counter-clockwise seven times following the footsteps of the Prophet (S.A.W); run back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwah in a re-enactment of Hagar’s (Hajra) - the prophet’s wife - quest to find water for her infant son; travel the plains of Mount Arafat, where Muslims believe is located the site of Adam and Eve’s (Hawwa) first meeting on Earth. Mount Arafat is also believed to be the location, where Satan (Shaytan) will be stoned on judgement day, the stoning will focus on 3 particular spots where Abraham stopped when God commanded him to offer his son as a sacrifice. It ends with a ritual animal sacrifice, reenacting Abraham’s sacrifice, donating most of the meat to the needy.

Hajj and can be performed any time of the year. The Umrah requires only the circumambulation around the Ka’aba and the running between the hills of Safa and Marwa. Any person lucky enough to make this journey, comes out with a spiritually cleansed feeling like a new person. With scores of people, all praying in harmony, fostering a sense of unity and belonging regardless of race, ethnicity, or language. In the worship of Allah we shed all differences and submit ourselves to His magnificence, such an experience is such a rarity that can only be found in Makkah. The fact that you are standing in the same place as great prophets such as, Abraham and later Prophet Muhammad is overwhelming. Just the sight of the Ka’aba brought tears to my eyes. I hope my small attempt at introducing you to this place has been successful.

My first visit to this most holy of cities was in December 2012 for the Umrah and ever since then, the sight of the Ka’aba always leaves me astounded and humbled. Umrah pilgrimage is the lesser

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PHnom penh city of wonder

Hannah Sworn

D

espite being a small South-

Phnom Penh’s haunted historical re-

survive the blazing noon heat.

East asian country sandwiched

pute of war, violence, and poverty, is

 

between Vietnam, Thailand,

evident when one strolls down any

Shopping is an equal delight in the

and Laos, Cambodia is a rare place

street in the city only to discover that

city, affectionately known by the expats

where there is something for every-

in the reality of the present, it is one

as ‘the Penh’. If you’re up for braving

body. Once a French protectorate, the

of the most dazzling urban areas in

the heat, the Russian Market offers a

country still carries the elegance and

South-East Asia. Amidst the boom-

treasure trove of labeled attire to suit

café culture of the European colonists.

ing local businesses and its apparent

anyone’s tastes – expect to be bom-

And yet, it overflows with rich Asian cul-

development, Phnom Penh has still

barded with an almost extravagant

ture and heritage that gives it the kind

managed to maintain a relaxed and

choice of sunglasses, shirts, dresses,

of atmosphere and people that have

chilled out atmosphere that makes it

jeans and watches. My favourite finds

captured my heart. The capital, Phnom

so easy to stroll along the riverside.

include Tap Out sports-wear, OP bi-

Penh, is a metropolitan hub, attracting

For refreshments, stopping at the Blue

kinis and my trusty Levi’s. My number

attention from all over the world for its

Pumpkin pâtisserie for some delicious

one priority when emerging from my

incredibly varied cultural flavours and

ice cream, or slurping down the best

spree is to head to Café Yejj, located

vibrant ambience.

mojito at Metro’s bar shall help you

conveniently outside the market, for an

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ice-cold smoothie and an exquisite salad or panini. If the

for look no further than The Shop on street 240. If you’re

heat isn’t your jam, there are plenty of air-conditioned malls

yearning for a taste of some authentic Cambodian cuisine

where there is an array of electronics, handbags, shoes and

(such as prahok fish paste) then look for roadside  stalls serv-

eateries at your disposal. If you want a real insider’s secret,

ing up local dishes – you’ll be cheating yourself out of the

two places to score vintage buys are Bong Keng Kang mar-

experience if you don’t!

ket and the Japanese thrift stores which are scattered all over the city – although these  establishments  may  seem

For later adventures, I’m an avid fan of the drinks at Chow,

shady at first, if you put in the effort to look and rummage,

Doors, Metro (as mentioned before, don’t miss out on their

you may be lucky enough to come across vintage Ralph

mojito) and Mao’s. If you’re looking for good quality locally

Lauren, Uniqlo, or Tommy Hilfiger apparel.

brewed beer, Kingdom Breweries is a personal favourite of

 

mine, offering a variety of choices from pilsner to stout. For

Visitors and residents are spoilt with choice when it comes

a evening stroll, head back to the riverside where you’ll find

to nighttime excur-

an overwhelming choice of bars, or if you’re looking for the

sions. On an aver-

heart of the party, mosey down to the renowned ‘Street  51’. 

age night, I can start

The capital, Phnom Penh is a metropolitan hub; attracting attention from all over the world for its incredibly varied cultural flavours and vibrant ambience.”

off by dining on the

Here you will find some  of  the  city’s  best clubs, such as

city’s finest cuisine of

Pontoon, Nova and St Tropez, which feature quality bars to

vast origins – Van’s

match fantastic Disc Jockey’s who will have you partying till

or Open Wine of-

the sunrise. Partying isn’t for everyone, in which case be sure

fer exquisite French

to visit Bodia Spa, Bliss, or Champei for beauty and body

food, while Piccola

treatments that’ll leave you feeling like you’re floating out of

Italia Da Luigi Piz-

the door. For a healthy post-massage smoothie and meal,

zeria serves up bet-

ARTillery and ‘240’, offer organic and vegetarian cuisines

ter pizza than most

that’ll have you feeling cleansed and refreshed.

pizzerias

in

Italy!

For sushi and Japa-

Whatever your tastes may be, Phnom Penh really is a city of

nese cuisines, Yumi

wonder that’ll leave you breathless, inspired, and thinking

is your only option,

about your next trip back!

while if you’re looking for a deli to die

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Snippets of E xc h a n g e

Clockwise, from bottom left: lake near Halls of Residence at Monash University, Clayton campus, 18 Melbourne, Australia; fairy penguins at St. Kilda, Melbourne; asian-inspired street art in an alleyway, Chinatown, Sydney, Australia. Pictures by Sean Mangar, taken during his Intercampus Exchange.


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The sun was falling east, The clocks were turning back, Our wardrobes, were empty. Our shining trophies of mind, Silver satellites and sailing space stations, Coming back home, for the last time; Shooting starlit spirals aimed for the core Pulling air, in their spectacular, passionate propulsion Down to the deepest depths of the unknown ocean. Thoughts, were never the same; Timelessness was revealed, again. There was love, in pain And nothing was in vain. Differences dissolved, conflicts resolved, Every colour of the ainbow was vibrating on Low, Friend and foe were in the ebb and flow, Sinking and swimming, screaming and singing Now its time to know the silent symphony’s glow. Sunbeams are to dance, with the empty space That fills, eleven worlds - without and within; Refracting the melodies of light. Stitching singularity into sight. -Adam Radhi 20


St. Kilda Breakwater

Sunset at the St. Kilda breakwater in St. Kilda, Melbourne. Constructed in the mid-1950’s, primarily to host yachting events for the 1956 Olympic Games, its best kep secret is a colony of about 1,000 Fairy Penguins which has made its home there since 1974. 21


Plitvice National Park 22

This UNESCO World Heritage site spreads across an expanse of over 73,000 acres with waterfalls plunging into crystal clear lakes every few metres. Pictures by Munira Mutaher, taken during her Monash Abroad program.


Silent, she sleeps In oblivion, she dreams Of worlds, her own Their stories, unknown…  And while, she sleeps My heart, doth slip To wonder, my own Her dreams, all sweet, From yonder, a smile Sweet curve, swift Nile  My heart, so melts I smile, such innocence  A moment, she stirs Frozen, by fear Breathless, I wait Least, I awake such beautiful slumber -Alhamdu Yaro

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the need for cultural convergence JASvir DANG

W

e all come from different places, be it from other nations, cities, states or even towns where we each possess unique and at times, complex attributes that define us. We are mere human beings with intangible and distinctive qualities but holistically, we are meshed and intertwined to form the human race as one entity. Charles Darwin theorized the notion of how we, Homo Sapiens, evolved from apes and over time formed our own communities and individuality. Or could it be a far-fetched concept to implore the human race to act in unity and feel a sense of belonging to one common origin?

Opinion

As you step into our esteemed University, you will find a plethora of races, ethnicities, and cultures where learning about one another does not simply take place in the lecture theatres or tutorial rooms but in the cafeteria, shopping malls, and well, any nightlife spots!

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Sadly, as you have explored the University’s grounds and interacted with a myriad of persons from differing backgrounds and origins, you take a step back, you sit and ponder and realize that we are mere cliques…we are mere groups…segregated from each other…. We tend to form relationships around those with whom we are familiar with and we may seem unable to drift from our national groups into becoming truly cosmopolitan in our individual outlooks. But then again, let us not fall under the common stereotypes and let us embrace the various individuals and cultures. We spend an average of three years in Monash, well, depending on what degrees we take, how studious we are and whether or not we get enough hints! So, shouldn’t we grab the opportunities presented

to us and welcome our brothers and sisters from different lands with open hearts? Before I came to Monash, most of my friends were Singaporean, with the exception of an African friend I had in primary school, and an Indonesian and Japanese friend in my secondary school. Monash truly opened my eyes as I soon became friends with Mauritians, Bangladeshi’s, Maldivians, Sri Lankans, Malaysians and other nationalities which increased my knowledge of one’s traditions and heritage. Some students may even choose Monash University Sunway campus for its diverse student population where one is given the opportunity to educate themselves which would allow one to be more culturally aware and sensitive towards others instead of being cooped up in their place of birth. We live in a day and age where racial and cultural sensitivity has played a crucial “When I was convinced that role in shaping our Monash was multicultural, I was society and mainpretty excited. Only to find out taining racial harhow different nations group mony. Don’t get me together in obvious ways. But wrong here, we do don’t get me wrong, I still have not live in a perfect met many Malaysians who have world where all is helped me understand what it is jolly and good but to be Malaysian. Like being introwe have to mainduced to dim sum and seri muka!” tain some form of cultural awareness - Chaminda Dayasiri, SASS in the twenty-first century. Focusing on one’s studies is not the primary aim of coming to university where one should aim for a holistic experience. So shall we not diverge from our usual cliques and explore the other races and ethnicities present in our ever multicultural campus? Or shall we simply lie here in our deeply embedded, introverted sleep where we live in a non-existent, imagined, community?


M U I SS events

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Kuala Lumpur Tour

MUISS buddies and international students at the Istana Negara.

New international students at Petaling Street. 26


Istana Negara, Jalan Duta

A man stands guard at the national palace in northern Kuala Lumpur, the official residence of the Yangdi-Pertuan Agong, the head of state of Malaysia. Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy with an elected monarch as head of state.

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cultural Fiesta Alhamdu yaro

W

hat began as a sunny day, pregnant with weeks of planning and publicity, turned 180 degrees into an average monsoon day raining on MUISS’s parade, or so we thought. Historically, the Cultural Diversity Day (as it is fondly referred to) is an event that occurs once every year. At precisely the same semester, featuring the same theme. ‘Come one, come all… and enjoy our bazaar of mostly Asian cultures…’ the pathway cutting between the library and the foyer, while sitting under building 2, becomes lined as MUISS’s vision of a Marrakech.

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Students cum merchants bring the utilitarian pathway to life, with strange arrays of booths, proudly displaying their flags, colours, food, arts and crafts. Daring whoever to take a curious plunge and glimpse through the exhibitor’s booth, art pieces of what makes Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, Indonesian, Chinese, Batswana, Mauritian, Pakistani, or any of the diverse nationalities who were proud enough to showcase their cultures on that day. Historically, CDD often runs for at least two days and features the usual Monash crowd pleasers: a fashion show, several dance performances, and songs… all cul-

tural, some modern, some traditional, others a delighting fusion. Many were exciting, a few bland ones, a lot becoming often forgettable. But all those were predictable, not boring, just predictable. All those assumptions and predictability was about to be challenged. For starters, the event’s duration was reduced. This year, MUISS decided to complete the event in a day and you’ll either be there and love every moment of it or you’re going to forget and miss the one day event that promises all and more. They didn’t bank on the rain though… and it was almost a show stopper.


But the show was impossible to stop, the wheels were well oiled and in perfect motion, MUISS’s new baby was born to run. This would be the new committee’s testing ground, and they were bold enough to challenge everything that made the event a Cultural diversity Day of sorts. The first aspect of the old order to be changed was the name, no longer would it be called CDD, its new name; “Cultural Fiesta” captured the “circus-esque” nature of this year’s theme. Featured, were activities such as a mechanical bull, the gladiator joust, sumo wrestling, a tarot card reader… which transformed the often utilitarian Monash atmosphere into a carnival. After taking time to go through all the rides and planned activities, the favourite was the mechanical bull, while many people were too self conscious to try it, they enjoyed watching or cheering the bold ones riding the bull (or desperately holding on to dear life) while being thrown around like a leaves in the wind, while a timer recorded how long each person was able to hold on the ride. The gladiator joust and sumo wrestling also enjoyed a bit of popularity. Although, ‘Cultural Fiesta’ did break away from the traditional manner as the previous CDD’s were carried out, it did however take some of its most interesting elements… such as the fashion show featuring various nations, a DJ pumping out several wattage of club hits and Indian songs. But the best part if you ask me was under the huge tent set as a makeshift market in the tradition

of the wonderful pasar malam. Featuring several nationalities where some offered food, trinkets, clothes, hair colouring. Sadly, this was where the rain had the most effect on the event, enhancing the experience rather than dousing out everyone’s spirits. The muddy floor created a feel of going through an African market place. The atmosphere was pregnant with the promise of a unique experience if only you took the pain of discovering what this side of the fiesta was hiding. No cultural event would be complete without cultural performances, and boy did they bring down the house. The Dhol federation blazing through with the thumps and thuds of varying percussive instruments. Theirs was the engaging and infusing rhythm, which added the much needed vibrancy to the fashion show. The special guest performance featured, the beautiful Saman Dance by the Indonesian Youth Society. Their performance was a whisk of singing and a perfectly synchronized choreography dance. Other featured performances were by the Monash Dance Fusion Club (MDFC), which performed salsa, waltz and samba performances and last but not least, a band performance from Sharon James and Ayman Shams along with their awesome crew. All in all, the Fiesta was a resounding success; even the rain contributed in making the experience a memorable one; it was filled with life and fun. By breaking away from the norm, the organizers delivered all they promised and more. For that one night, we remembered what it was like have to fun on campus.

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Beat

Sessions Rocking and raving at beat sessions

M

usic is one of those universal codes like love, where

was slightly disjointed with the riffs not being heard clearly.

there are general rules to be followed in filling your life with it.

The final band of the night was Bazingaa. A large fan base followed them as they were one of the favourites in the

The night of Thursday April 25th heard some worthy per-

competition. They also opted to start out with the Coldplay

formances at Beat Sessions. Subway sandwiches and pizza

hit, “Yellow” though the likewise coloured lighting was an

slices were handed out at the entrance, along with the now

ineffective cover for the band being nervous and off-pitch.

customary Red Bull cans, which set the mood for a music

Stage-savvy Ayman Shams sung with confidence and the

-filled night.

crowd was cheering behind him. Next was a Bangladeshi song, high on energy and intended

The show started off with Pakistan-

to rock out the audience, setting the

based band, “Green Chanel”, com-

tone for their final performance, a

prised of Hassam Waheed on electric

cover of “Open Your Eyes” by Alter

guitar, Omair Soomro on drums and

Bridge. Covering such a popular

Ali Hyder on percussions. They gave

song is in itself a tough task, but

a powerful instrumental performance,

when attempting to display the vocal

with mean guitar licks and heavy dou-

range of Myles Kennedy, you either

ble-pedal bass complimenting crash-

succeed or you don’t. Alas, the band

ing cymbals. Unfortunately, the group

delivered a reasonable performance

lacked a bass guitarist, who could have

with Junaid Ashraf playing the main

really cemented the band’s place, and

solo brilliantly.

the audience was rather overwhelmed by a 12-minute long song.

With all the bands having performed, it was now time for the Disc Jockeys to

The next band up proved interest-

spin their music. Up first was Lickuid

ing, with a name even the Master of

who started off his set with some

Ceremony had trouble saying: “None

great tech-house music. The songs

Of Us Have Any Major Problems.”

were very energetic, and showed his

Comprised of Sri Lankans, a Thai and

versatility by including tracks such as

a Malaysian, they chose songs that

“Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon,

played on their vocal strengths.

Swedish House Mafia’s “Antidote”,

A

challenging band to cover, they performed Coldplay’s “Fix

“Scream” by Usher and even some Sean Paul.

You” and “The Scientist” mashed-up, with the vocals almost

through however, there was a break in the music. Whether

spot-on. This song was by far their best, and the band lost

it was his fault or the sound crew’s is unknown, but he did

their way during the next two, but they had already won over

manage to recover, although it may have cost him points.

Halfway

the judges. Next they performed a mash up of Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” with Oasis’ “Wonderwall”, fol-

Next was another Sri Lankan, Sajeewa. His style was more

lowed by a rock version of “Titanium” by David Guetta. The

deep-house than tech-house, starting off with a version

band had the place packed with their fans and the final song

of Oasis’ “Wonderwall” which really attracted the crowd’s

really got the crowd going, even though the performance

attention. From then on however, there was an anti-climax

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as most of the crowd was left waiting for an exciting song but

awards ceremony, but in the end it was “None Of Us Have

none came. Sadly, his choice of music genre did not suit the

Any Major Problems” that took the title of Best Band.

audience but nevertheless, he managed to arouse the crowd

To end the night, DJ Reeve, winner of the RedBull Thr3estyle

with his unique mixes.

competition in Malaysia, took the stage and turned the

Finally, came Slaxdan and boy, did he put on a show. Having

slowly easing away, the music and great deejaying kept

previous experience playing at Monash, he started off his set

50-odd Monashians partying hard until the very end.

Monash foyer into a party. Even though the crowds were

with the Twentieth Century-Fox Fanfare followed by Deniz Koyu’s “Tung!”, which immediately got the crowd buzzing. Versatility was definitely one of the key aspects to his tight set, featuring the likes of “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore, “California” by Tupac, a mash up of Linkin Park’s “Numb” with “Maximal Crazy” by Tiesto and he even played a version of Bob Marley’s “Jammin’”. He kept the crowd on their feet the entire night and it was no surprise when he bagged the title of Winner – DJ Category. The winner of the band category however was not quite as obvious. The bands were waiting nervously during the

Pictures by Mayurran Jeyalogaindran.

31


Monash Cultural Night 32

Jasvir Dang & AlhamdU Yaro


Belly Dance Performance

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Crowds were enthralled by the grace and finesse of Middle East Dance Academy performer Mandy Bakshy.


We are all mythical creatures, from strange lands, with unique customs and traditions. Just as we were during orientation... wide-eyed with wonder, meeting people of different colors, ethnicities, strange lands with strange accents and weird habits. 

I

t would prove a rather difficult task to define the 2013 Monash Cultural Night in just one word but if I had to, I’d definitely say it was spectacular! Who would imagine that we would ever see a tent in Monash? A tent, which looked as if someone from MUISS was getting married! Were you not captivated by the dazzling setup? The LED screens and strips, the stage, lights, sounds, the beautiful chandeliers. If you were sitting at the back and you did not bring a jacket, boy, you would have possibly frozen to death. Monash Cultural Night is the biggest event organized by the MUISS committee and it is often seen as a test of their leadership and ability to showcase the myriad of cultures present within our university. On the 4th of May 2013, it was judgement day for the organizing committee as all eyes were on them. Some excited, some hopeful, some anxious, and of course, others critical.

The night kicked off with the band performance by Serendib, which definitely rocked the tent. With mesmerising vocals and a truly cultural display featuring violins and flutes that supported a generic band set-up. Next came the Pakistani band by the name of Green Chanel, who set the stage on fire with their rock theme performance and an aggressively beautiful guitar solo. And who can forget the adorable yet surprise performance by Chris and Sarah? I think I even heard people from the audience screaming, “marry me!” as their performance was simply breathtaking. Last but not least was Shada Kalo, a Bangladeshi band that managed to get the crowd pumping through the vocals of the charismatic Ayman Shams and musical talents of their crew. No cultural event is ever complete without the wide array of nationalities, ethnicities, and races. The internal dance performances by the Sri Lankan group – Lion Nation, the Indian group – Jai Hind and the Indonesian/Malaysian group – Unity in Diversity surely did not disappoint the crowd as the beautifully costumed troupes raised the bar with their competitive acts. The creativity of the performers and the countless hours of practice spent to perfect their dance steps ensured a professional and outstanding performance on their part. At the end of their exhilarating performances, the judges had awarded the Lion Nation with the first prize for another consecutive year whilst Jai Hind clinched the second prize once again. And what is any Monash Cultural Night without the Fashion Show segment? The show consisted of two segments; the Airport, featuring the unique cultural diversity found in airport terminals around the world and the woodlands, featuring the elusive mythical aspect of popular culture. The models glided effortlessly, clad as either cultural ambassadors or mythical beings and were a beauty to behold. With beautiful and handsome models, I assure you there was sufficient eye-candy to

34


go around. Supporting the show was a special guest performance by Mark O’Dea from the London Boys, who managed to dazzle the ladies with his appealing vocals and charming personality. It came as no surprise when the flamboyant and fabulous Edwin Porusingazi won best male model; he did own that stage like a feline on a hill. While Ma Shue’s graceful yet provocatively enchanting runway walk won her the best female model award. The event did not end there of course, as the organizers had invited external performers. The most exotic performers were the belly dancers from the Middle East Dance Academy. Their performance was magical, swaying and twisting like flames in the wind. They stole the audience’s heart as they demanded an encore from them. A few lucky gentlemen even got the opportunity to learn the sacred art of belly dancing. Next came the Saman Dance performed by the Indonesian Youth Society. Their dance was a dazzling display of fast paced rhythm and harmony with perfect choreography, lively costumes, and songs rendered in Bahasa Indonesia. All coming together so well, they were simply a joy to behold. Concluding their cultural showcase with a rather pleasant twist, Psy’s Gentleman. How can we ever leave out the dynamic and energetic performance by the Botswana groovy dancers, igniting the stage with their excellent mash-up of various African performances, from Kukere to Makossa and their own ethnic Batswana cultural dance. The final performance of the night was by the Dhol

Highlanders, surprising the audience with the cultural mix in their performance. Entailing such variety as, dhol percussion players, the Scottish bagpipe, a violinist and a Jamaican percussionist. DJ Wan capped off the splendid night with his command of pop tunes and Bhangra music to the audience’s delight. But let us not forget the wide array of food, glorious food on display with the buffet style setting and food catered from Little Caterers who are well known for their traditional Indian food, despite the long queues for the food and the rather long waiting time for the audience to receive the food. What can I say? Good things take time so it was well worth the wait. To cap it off, we leave you just as we began with the opening words of our hosts for the night, which adequately captured the promise of Avalon.. AVALON was about re-creating that feeling ... and making it even more mythical and magical. It was about capturing the alluring strangeness that makes our cultures so different; it was about celebrating the uniqueness of our homelands and our people... It was about creating our own myth. An experience in all its vibrancy of our lights, colors, songs and dance... A night to pour in your hearts and passions which would allow us to indulge in our nostalgia, for everything we miss about our homes, our countries and our people. For one night, you had come alive because AVALON is where our Culture became Myth.

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Lion Nation Intense concentration, meticulousness, and colour charac36 terised the Sri Lankan performance. The dancing troupe went on to win this year’s MCN. Pictures by Brian Soong.


Shada Kalo The Bangladeshi rock band’s eclectic performance intrigued the audience. In this picture, guitarist Junaid Ashraf strums with a Bangladesh flag affixed to his instrument.

37


cultural Adaptation workshop Jaina Chandwany

38


39


W

hen I reflect upon my first day in Monash, I realize that the friendships that I made at the Cultural Adaptation Workshop have not only built me as an individual but are sure to last a lifetime‌. Over the years at Monash, it has become increasingly hard to pinpoint the number of ethnicities represented at the Cultural Adaptation Workshop. Whilst each student seems to represent a background of diverse and celebrated cultures, the dominant cultures represented were Indonesian, Mauritian, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan. The semester one, 2013 Workshop saw hoards of apprehensive and shy first years swarming at the registration booth with their rather anxious and seemingly clueless minds. Little did they know that in a few hours, they would be integrated into the ethics of a large Monashian family. The friendly and warm welcome speech given by the President, Nesar Hossain, was followed by an introduction to the Monash University International Student Services (MUISS), which sparked the beginning of an exciting Workshop. MUISS members introduced themselves to break the ice. Intially, the idea of inter-cultural interactions can seem challenging. However, once Ms. Yeap started off with the immigration and insurance talks, the first years appeared to be wide-eyed with curiosity. More so, the Masters of Ceremony, Jonathan Ding and Alhamdu Yaro filled the atmosphere with a vibrant energy and their occasional quips kept the workshop alive. Their presentation was designed to give the new students an orienta-

40

tion, regarding what surviving as a foreign student in malaysia requires. The icebreaking games was the main highlight of the workshop where supportive buddies were assigned to a group of eager and youthful international students. This sped up the interactive process. Within a span of ten minutes, the room was bubbling with excitement and laughter as each individual got engaged in sharing their culture and country. Moreover, the buddies helped address any of the queries put forth to them by new students whilst sharing their experiences of Malaysia. At last! Lasting relationships were being formed‌ Lastly, all the freshers crowded around Ayman Shams, who performed with his guitar whilst singing soulful cultural songs. I saw many students cohesively engage in singing together with him whilst the others clapped in unison. While the food and refreshments were being served, the international students were given the opportunity to mingle with one other before leaving the workshop, with contented smiles and prepared to face the challenges of a new life abroad.


Fusion

Food A taste of the world, at home

R a i da A.K. Rez a

W

hen we look back at our hometown, there is always one common factor that makes us yearn for home. Going beyond cultures and ethnici-

ties, we always crave that one thing that elicits in us a kaleidoscope of emotions. That comfort can only be fulfilled by one thing – food. Over time, and the increased melding of cultures globally, different cuisines have merged together to form into a beautiful culinary tradition known as fusion food – there’s no better way to celebrate cultural fusion other than fusion food. Malaysia is the perfect example of a country that, with so many cuisines amalgamated together, proposes some amazing fusion food. While eating out is not always feasible (especially for us students on a tight budget), you can try to make these delectable fusion dishes at home! Here are some recipes have been made simpler for students with a stove and/or oven - all of the ingredients can be retrieved with a quick visit to Cold Storage or Aeon in Sunway Pyramid.

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Korean talbi taco: Mexico meets korea

3.

Ingredients •

3 pounds beef (preferably sliced)

1/2 lettuce, thinly shredded

1/2 red onion, diced

1 tomato, seeded and diced

1 cup chopped cilantro

18 small tortillas

1-2 lemons, thinly sliced for garnishing

4.

Grill the marinated beef in skewers. You could also fry them in some olive oil as a different method of cooking. When all the ribs are done, cut the meat into 1/2 inch cubes. Place the beef cubes on the tortilla. Add some seasoned lettuce and top it with the diced red onion, tomato and cilantro. Drizzle some sauce on top, garnish with a sliced lemon and serve.

Shrimp tandoori pizza: Italy meets south east asia

Marinade for Kalbi •

1 Asian pear

1/2 white or yellow onion

1 1/4 cups soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup citrus juice (orange, lemon, lime, any will do)

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

Toppings

1/4 cup sesame oil

Spicy tomato sauce (recipe below)

3 cloves garlic, minced

200g tandoori prawns (recipe below)

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Large handful feta cheese (I used a 200g tub of Apetina

Before you start: pizza dough can be bought at cold storage.

Feta Cubes) Sauce

1 red pepper, seeded and diced

3 tablespoons sesame oil

1 yellow pepper, seeded and diced

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 orange pepper, seeded and diced

4 tablespoons soy sauce

Large handful fresh baby arugula (rocket) leaves

1 1/2 tablespoons Gochugaru (Korean chili powder)

Small handful fresh cilantro (optional)

3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

1 teaspoon sugar

Spicy Tomato Sauce

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups crushed tomatoes

1 medium onion, diced fine

Immerse the beef in the marinade for

2 cloves garlic, crushed

at least 30 minutes, or overnight for

1 teaspoon dried oregano

best results. Prepare the ingredients

1 teaspoon (or to taste) hot chili flakes

for the sauce and mix well. If you prefer

¼ teaspoon hot cayenne pepper (optional)

a spicier taste, you can add an extra 1

Salt to taste

1.

tablespoon of Gochugaru to the sauce to give it that extra zing. Refrigerate until use. Prepare the romaine lettuce, red onion, tomato and cilantro in separate bowls.

2.

Wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil and

1.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy based pan, and add the onion. Sweat the onion for about 5 - 7 minutes, and then add the garlic, oregano, chilli flakes and cayenne pepper (if using).

warm them in the oven at the lowest setting for a few minutes. As an alternative you can try heating them over a frying pan with the lid on. Toss the shredded Romaine lettuce with 1/2 of

the sauce. Save the remaining sauce for the tacos.

2.

Sauté for a minute, until the garlic is fragrant and then add the crushed tomatoes. Stir well and season with a little salt. Cover the pot and simmer for about 15 minutes. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Let cool before spreading

on the pizza base.

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Tandoori Prawns

1 teaspoon baking soda

400g large prawns, fresh or frozen, peeled

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons tandoori masala (can be found in Cold

2/3 cup fine brown sugar (or 1 cup of regular sugar)

Storage or Jusco)

1 tablespoon plain yogurt

2 teaspoons unscented oil (vegetable oil, palm oil, etc)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

1.

Whisk together the tandoori masala, plain yogurt and 2 teaspoons of oil. Stir in the lemon juice. Season to taste with

4 tablespoon unsalted butter 1/2 cup honey oat clusters (or plain roasted oats), crushed or some almonds (optional)

1.

Heat water along with the spices and tea leaves. Once it begins to boil, add the milk, lower heat and let it simmer till the mixture reduces to half its volume. Strain and keep aside.

salt and pepper. Marinate the prawns in this mixture for about an hour, or

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together. Melt the butter

longer.

and mix it with the cooled tea.Combine the sugar and eggs and beat well.

2.

Heat a cast iron pan, and add the 2 teaspoons of oil. On a fairly high heat, sear the prawns quickly, for about 2 3 minutes, until they are just cooked through and lightly charred on the outside (remember that they will cook fur-

2.

ther on the pizza too).

3.

After the prawns are done, place the pizza bases on a pizza peel or a pizza pan. Lightly spread some spicy tomato sauce on them, and then scatter on diced peppers, tandoori prawns and

Melt the butter and mix it with the cooled tea. Combine the sugar and eggs and beat well. Fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the tea mixture slowly - finally add the oats (if using) and mix well.

3.

cubes of feta cheese.

The mixture will resemble sticky dough. Scoop 1 tablespoon of the mixture at a time, and place it 2 inches apart on a greased baking or cookie tray. Remember, the cookies will expand a little so you do need some space in

between otherwise they’ll all stick together.

4.

Bake at 230°C in the oven for about 10 - 12 minutes, until the crust is crisp (a little longer if you have a deep pizza crust). Scatter on the baby arugula leaves and cilantro (if using) and serve.

CHAI tea cookies: Cookies with an indian twist

4.

Bake at 160°C for 20-22 minutes - the bottom will turn brown and become crisp, but the top will be slightly risen and soft. Cool completely and serve. Can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Chai Tea Makes a strong ¾ cup of Indian masala tea •

1 cup water

½ cup whole milk

½ teaspoon cardamom powder

¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder

2 cloves, crushed

2 teaspoon black tea leaves

Cookie dough •

2 eggs

1 cup all purpose flour

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Classical Indian Dance The use of multiple arms represents a Hindu deity, likely a female one.

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WHERE GODDESSES ARE WORSHIPPED AND WOMEN, ILL-TREATED Lynn Verghese

The Delhi gang rape highlights the chronic issue of women’s safety in India, which has been repeatedly brought to light several times before this incident, but sadly fell upon deaf ears. While the entire nation spoke up in unison and urged the government to take strict action against the accused, millions of Indians, including the leaders of ruling political parties still live on with a backward and conservative ideology, pointing the finger at the victim for her own rape. Statements made by educated and eminent politicians, including women, indicate the patriarchal views against women that the “modern” Indian society still possesses. In cities like New Delhi, women feel unsafe about travelling alone after dusk. Very few women use public transport or go out unescorted. Mothers instruct their daughters to not wear “revealing” clothes in order to avoid eye-teasing, a common euphemism in India for public sexual harassment or molestation. Women who go clubbing at night with their friends are termed “characterless”. What makes things worse is that since the outbreak of the Delhi rape incident in December, numerous other sexual harassment cases have been reported in the country’s capital and its surrounding regions - some, even in a manner similar to this one. Such is the condition of a nation that claims to treat men and women equally – the same nation where goddesses are worshipped and women, ill-treated. It is a clear case of hypocrisy and double standards, isn’t it? The Government holds records of thousands of cases of eyeteasing, domestic violence, sexual harassment, female infanticide, dowry disputes, and so forth. But this seems to be only a fraction of the quantum of similar cases that actually takes place. Numerous cases of violence against women go unreported either

because they are not taken seriously or because in several cases the protectors have turned perpetrators. On the report of any incident that involves a woman’s safety, questions are first asked about the kind of clothing she was wearing, who was accompanying her or why did she venture out at night. The society brings the victim to shame, demands justification from her, worsens her wounds, and then decides to do something for her justice. Many sexual harassment or dowry victims - even their parents - choose to commit suicide due to the pressure from the society to maintain a “respectable” standing. Thus, most victims don’t speak up about what happened to them, lest their families be shunned, lest they never find a respectable groom, or are simply ostracized. In the aftermath of the gang rape incident, the Indian Government has been urged by the public to make Delhi and other cities safer for women. Agreeably, the nation needs a stronger and larger police force, with better policing standards. But proper governance is not the only need of the hour. India is in desperate need of a reformed society. It needs a society where men and women are not just equal under the law, but also in social standing. Indians need a nation where men are taught not to rape, not where women are taught not to get raped. Most importantly, a change in national consciousness is what the “new India” needs – a society where the attitude towards women and their issues are handled with delicacy, instead of simply blaming the victim. India’s ignorance and nonchalance towards sexual harassment and violence against women has escalated into a major crisis. India’s low tolerance towards these issues has cost thousands of girls their lives and respect in the past. Women need not hide under traditions and values, but raise their voices for a safer country for themselves and those around them. The ideals of old India have to give way to the ideal outlook of a modern 21st century India.

Opinion

O

n the 16th of December, when the entire Indian nation was gearing up to welcome the 2013 New Year, one grueling incident in its capital Delhi, brought it all to a standstill. A 23-year old female physiotherapy intern was brutally gang-raped and her male friend, beaten and thrown out of a moving bus. As the details of this horrific incident kept unfolding, the citizens of the country began fighting for the innocent girl who later succumbed while battling serious injuries.

45


Jaina Chandwany

What if one of your stray ideas became an international awardwinning story? This is Stray Factory, sharing the success behind their theatrical performances.

I

t all began with a passion for theatre. In October 2011 a group of ‘monkeys’, as they brand themselves, quit their highly paid jobs to start a non-profit, collaborative effort consisting of picking out stray, but creative and original ideas that could be adapted into theatrical performances. Today, there is no looking back for them. Rooted in Chennai, they have participated and won several awards in the Short and Sweet 10-minute festivals held across the globe in Mumbai, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, and Sydney. Stray Factory returned to Kuala Lumpur in April on a fully sponsored tour to exclusively represent India in the Kakiseni International Arts festival 2013. Their theatrical act, My Name is Cine-ma revolves around a fanatical girl who recalls her life lessons learnt from South Indian movies, instead of attending school. “What you saw today is a re-version of our most successful award-winning piece originally written and directed by ‘monkey’ member, Mathivanan Rajendran.” A large international crowd was drawn towards the colourful costumes, animated expressions, and emotional dialogues that certainly bought South India to the cosmopolitan streets of Bukit Bintang. Sandeep John, a proud and passionate performer claims that “since we come from the South, we promote a lot of South Indian culture in our plays.” To which his colleague Rajiv Rajaram quickly adds, “but we are definitely interested in adapting western or foreign plays, as long as it is original.”

46

Stray Factory

Stray Factory is a growing heartthrob amongst audiences of all ages, young and old alike. They went viral on YouTube with over 62,888 likes on the Step Step Mani character expressions played


by Venkatesh Harinathan, and currently have 2,500 likes on Facebook. But, what makes their theatrical performances unique? “The beauty about this form of theatre is that we love collaborating,” gushes Pooja Balu, a Madras University graduate and a full-time actress. “We encourage people who have very different creative forms and styles to come work with us.” Their public caption “Yes you. You are included” spells an intriguing invitation for anything vibrant that anyone might have to offer. For Rajiv Rajaram, originality and innovation are the keys to success. “Stray factory doesn’t limit itself to the field of theatre only, our continuous engagement with the common people and their fresh artistic abilities is the brainchild behind our theatre plays.” Stray Factory conducts auditions regularly and is inclusive to creative writers, logo designers, graphic artists, musicians, sound and lighting specialists and aspiring actors from different performing arts such as Bharatnatyam. For them, geographic boundaries are of least importance. “We get writers to email us their stories and ideas, whilst we even get people across in London to do our stage backdrops.” Mathivanan enthusiastically adds “We not only hope to work with Malaysian artists but also, we send a lot of international talent back to Chennai.” In 2012, Stray Factory experimented with The Great Indian Blogologues, which democratized theatre to a virtual level by adapting blogs on stage for the first time in the world. Sandeep eagerly illustrates, “We got into a partnership with Indiblogger; India’s largest blogging community. Around 1,300 bloggers wrote to us about their thoughts, daily experiences, events, and ideas, from which thirteen were selected to inspire our plays’ content and production. Being Sarthak Majumdar is one of them.” “We even adapt Twitter ideas last minute before going on stage,” he laughs. When asked about catering to the demands of an international audience, not a necessarily Indian one, the Stray Factory crew has a ready answer. “What we realize is that we need to bring a lot of localized content into the work we do. Only by being local can you be global in a real sense.”

“We create pieces that might just interest people. There are always new techniques of narration, theatre, and aesthetics to be experimented with, but it never takes away from what the play is about and what we are trying to show here; that is South Indian culture and cinema,” quips Mathivanan. They shot to fame with their first theatre production in July 2011, Hitchcock, which was an adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock into three short plays; Black, Red, and White. Yet again, Sandeep clarifies, “although it was a western adaptation the concept was positively authentic and local.” “In our third production Ganga at Rishikesh, we amazed the audience when Pooja flew on stage whilst a swami (saint) was floating mid-air for literally 45 minutes! Can you imagine?” When it comes to stardom, Stray Factory blatantly professes “What Stardom? We love to entertain audiences, which is our full-time job. We quit our high salaried jobs to remain true to our cause.” “We know that everything can be watched and downloaded in a fraction of a second,” however, reviving live theatre as a rewarding industry is the prime challenge for them. “We hope that one day people will look at it as a proper profession to be taken seriously, and we invite all the fresh young talent to come join our workshops.” Stray Factory excitedly awaits their six-city tour in India and is scheduled to perform next in Singapore. While ideas and a persistent dedication have driven Stray Factory to an inconceivable level, where have your ideas strayed?

“The beauty about this form of theatre is that we love collaborating,” gushes Pooja Balu, a Madras University graduate and a full time actress. “We encourage people who have very different creative forms and styles to come work with us.” 47


MY EXCHANGE EXPERIENCE Talal Tashfeen Qayyum

T

he United Kingdom, a country bestowed with riches and the soothing ambience of the Emirates Stadium where I was overwhelmed with intangible emotions and memories. My exchange to Warwick University lasted six months and it would have been perfect, except for the exams which seem to ruin any student’s life. One of the many reasons why I chose Monash was the exchange opportunities it provides to its students. One can study at the Sunway campus and yet be given the same exchange options as those studying in Australia. Having said that, going on exchange is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. At noon on the 1st of January, I arrived at Birmingham airport. I could lie and say that I was feeling confident and looking forward to the new world that awaited me. However, the truth was far from this deluded imagery that I had created in my mind. The experience of going to Malaysia for the first time in my life, without any friends or family there, did not deter me from feeling any less afraid of what awaited me in England. This is especially true when I felt butterflies in my stomach as I waited in line for the routine Immigration checks. Being a Pakistani who grew up in Saudi Arabia, you cannot help but feel some form of anxiety at that point when you enter a Western country. Anyway, as usual, the immigration checks went smoothly and the officer was surprisingly friendly. In a few minutes, I was out in the cold winter air of the United Kingdom. Oh! And I almost forgot to mention that I have been living in countries with temperatures ranging from 35 to 50 degrees centigrade on average and I was extremely anxious of facing the harsh weathers of the United Kingdom which would be around five degrees during the day and below zero at night during the winter season. On I went to Coventry and then to the University of Warwick. I spent a couple of days exploring the university campus. Unlike Monash Sunway, Warwick has a huge campus and it takes around 30-40 minutes to go from one end of the university to the other end. Throughout my exchange, there were always activities on campus and I would often find myself sitting by

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the lake and enjoying the fresh air and the natural environment. University of Warwick was like a small town on its own with everything you would need from groceries, sports, clubs, and not to forget, the beautiful people on campus. The orientation for exchange students lasted a few hours, where all my dreaded expectations had come to an end once I had informed my fellow peers of my origins and heritage as most of them had not ventured out of Europe or had met very few Asians in their life. I quickly made friends from a myriad of nationalities which included the Dutch, Germans, French and my favourite, the Italians. I learnt a lot about their diverse cultures, differing views and lifestyles. I now have friends in most of the major countries of the world and that is something I could not have imagined a year ago. I must also share that most Europeans are very understanding and helpful about personal religious beliefs and values. I was lucky that I managed to make friends who would specially get Halal chicken for me when they would invite to their dorms for dinner. A major advantage of choosing the United Kingdom as my preferred destination for exchange was the fact that I got to travel around so much. That is another aspect I have truly grown in, as I did not have much experience of travelling on a tight budget before. My most favourite part of travelling is when you are lost and discover places you would not have found otherwise. The United Kingdom itself has four countries, namely England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Besides that, I managed to go on a two week trip around Western Europe and covered Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France. All in all, I strongly recommend that you clinch the opportunity and take a semester off in a foreign land. Our University provides us with up to RM 10, 000 as a grant for students who decide to exchange to places other than Australia. I personally feel that it is better to explore other countries besides Australia as you are a Monash student and the workload will be the same. More so, you would only receive four months there and you would not get a travel grant and you can at most travel to New Zealand. With exchange to other countries, you just need to pass in your semester abroad and do not affect your GPA!


Big Ben This close-up of the Big Ben reveals the finer details of this British icon, such as the gilding, a row of Saint George shields, stained glass around the dial, and an inscription at the base of each clockface. It reads “DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM.” This means “O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First.”

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SEAN Mangar

The pinnaclE I could feel the wintry Australian air creeping in through the windows. The heater was on. I could hear its muffled hum. Swaddled in blankets, I did not want to get up. Nonetheless, there was no going back to bed; the craving was too strong. I got up, grabbed my smokes, fumbled around for my jacket, and headed outside. It was shortly past dawn, and our campsite was beset by an eerie, early morning mist. The kangaroos we had seen yesterday were nowhere to be seen – I wondered for a brief moment whether the night-time chill had killed them off. Brushing aside this absurdly macabre thought, I looked up to the majestic crags looming above me, and irreverently lit up my cigarette.

I was in rural Victoria, over three hundred kilometres away from the comfort of my bedroom in Clayton South. A long drive perhaps, but an enjoyably peaceful one; throughout the three hours driving to this place, we were flanked on both sides by green pastures, grazing animals, and quaint little towns; a far cry from suburban and metropolitan Melbourne. When we reached Halls Gap, it soon became apparent that this was no ordinary

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place. The custom rules that separate human accommodation and animal habitat seemed to be non-existent. In fact, our campsite was home to a rather large population of Kangaroos. I was still wary of Kangaroos. I had seen them before at the Healesville Sanctuary. At every encounter, they seemed unnaturally calm and composed. There is something about the way Kangaroos behave around humans – it’s almost as though they can, look right through you. Maybe they aren’t, and instead they are secretly planning the downfall of humankind. Maybe that’s why Kangaroos get organised into mobs. These pedestrian thoughts soon gave way to more serious ones, as the mist began to clear up, slowly lifting the white veil, exposing the mountain ranges in front of me. My cigarette break was over. Yet I stayed, savouring each breath of this pristine air. Fifteen hours earlier, along with my brother and housemates, I had trekked almost 4.2km to the Pinnacle, through aweinspiring natural formations with enigmatic names redolent of a J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy – stony creek, silent street, the devil’s gap.


I had never been on a trek before, not even in my home country, Mauritius. Somehow, I did not feel apprehensive - just curious. What challenges and sights lay ahead? I was excited at the prospect of capturing new sights, with my eyes, and through the barrel of my camera. So I slung my camera around my chest, and we then set out from a creek chiselled out of the sandstone ridges on the lower slopes. On through a long, meandering dirt track we ploughed. When we thought we could use some respite, an intriguingly named waterfall presented itself. A small sign hammered into the dirt informed us that this was called the Bridal Veil Falls. It was unusually small for a waterfall, and it wasn’t the roaring sort. Not wider than three metres, with water pouring down in little streams, creating a white, veil-like scene. This waterfall went against the ingrained idea I had of waterfalls. They had to be violent, a show of power by the natural forces of gravity and flowing water. A half hour later, we approached a narrow pass. Large gray rocks seemed to have been stacked on both sides. In reality, however, this pass had been entirely cut out by flowing water - the rocks were stacked up too neatly. Unbeknownst to us, the silent street narrowed down at the end. Before we knew it, we were advancing gingerly, making sure our footing was solid before making any steps, squeezing in through the narrow rocks. I could hear the muted sound of flowing water, yet as hard as I looked I could not pinpoint the source of the sound. I could feel we were nearing the top. Even though the stones underfoot were now uneven, sometimes loose and precarious,

I picked up the pace, leaving my friends behind. I was dying to know if these hours of hard work would finally pay off. The Pinnacle lookout was finally in view. The lookout was built around upwardly inclined rock, jutting out of the mountain face. In front of me, a wide expanse of lush Victorian countryside. At this height, with such an unobstructed view, I could perceive the slight curvature of the Earth, with the landscape slowly fading into a blue horizon. To my left, a rock formation that resembled the pride rock from Lion King. On my right, a beautiful, wide valley. I stood in solemn contemplation of what was presented to me, created by nothing more than natural processes over millennia. It took me a while, before I asked my brother to take a picture. Here I was, at the top, armed with a thousand dollar SLR, and yet too enthralled with my surroundings to use it. I felt like nothing man-made could ever do it justice. Up until that point during my exchange semester, I had not realised that the one and a half years I had spent in Malaysia, surrounded by overzealous urban development, had completely eroded any notion I had of nature’s majesty. In fact, any reverence I had for nature had been replaced with superficial precepts of modernity. Not voluntarily, but suggestively, and insiduously. I believe that we perpetually remind ourselves that there is something bigger than us out there. For some, it is the warm embrace of religion. For me, it is not some abstract conception of a higher power. After all, I am not a religious man; I am an egocentric atheist. My pinnacle, you ask? It is nature itself.

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Confessions, From a lone wolf

A

s I walked, I could feel the grass, dampened by the morning dew, give way ever so slightly under my every step. Darkness shrouded the wilderness I was stepping out unto. I could see the silhouettes of trees, swaying in tune with the nighttime land breezes. I knew they were coconut trees; the distinctive, mellifluous rustle of their leaves, and the occasional scraping sound coconuts would make against the tree stems gave them away. Ahead of me, a wide expanse of glistening, black sea. The sea had a whole other side to it at night. Not far from me, in the bushes, the sound of crickets. Yes, even though all seemed so quiet, the night teemed with life. It was probably why I felt fully awake, all of my senses at their sharpest. I paused, closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I let the slightly salty, pure air into my lungs and though my body. Eyes still closed, I made my way towards the beach. I could sense I was getting closer; the grass underfoot was now peppered by salt blown inland. Louder and louder, the sound of the waves began to grow. Every ebb and flow an ode to the soul.... This was not some random, melodramatic walk on the beach. It was here, in this secluded bay, that I experienced what the French call un déclic. A sudden realization, an epiphany. It was here that I remember realizing the true importance of what I have, not what I could have had. It was here that I vowed to become a stronger, better person. The boundless natural wonder of the island was catalytic to that. As I sat on the sand, I contemplated what had happened to me less than a month ago. It was my mother who first found out. She found me at my desk, sobbing in the cold glare of my computer screen. I couldn’t take anymore. The bullying had now reached a social networking site. Pictures of me, being bullied had been posted, along with lewd, demeaning descriptions and comments. A confession and a day later I would find myself, for the first time in my life, speaking

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to a police investigator. “Are you sure you want to go through with this? If you do, there is no going back”, said the man. I listened intently to every word - he was speaking slowly and seriously, stressing on every word. “You need to understand that the young man who did this to you is looking at some very serious charges. So are his accomplices. They will likely go to jail. I am not discouraging you from going ahead. But if you do, and because you are young, you need to be able to live the rest of your life with the ramifications.” Those consequences were clear. I would obtain justice, but I would in the process destroy the lives of these young individuals. As he left the room, I was left to ponder my next step. The following five minutes felt like the longest of my life. The pain of it all was quite fresh in my mind. How I had been humiliated on a social networking site, bullied, even extorted. My grades were seeing the effects of the terror tactics too. I was still seething; I had never felt so angry in my life and I wanted retribution. I wanted my old life back. Strangely, in the maelstrom of my anger floated up a virtue that I had grown up revering. That virtue is forgiveness. Even though I am nonreligious now, I was brought up as a Catholic. My early childhood revolved around catechism classes and catholic school. I still remembered the Passion of the Christ in vivid detail, who forgave his eventual death and the excruciating torture he had gone through. I understood how important forgiveness was to solving the world’s troubles. It is the only way to break the cycle of pain. To forgive would be hard. I was aware that I might regret the decision to obtain justice for the rest of my life. Yet I just knew, deep down, that it was the right thing to do. I took a deep breath and cast aside all my feelings. I walked out of there and never looked back. As I looked out to the sea, I could hear its taciturn call. It was beckoning me, holding out its arms, comforting my soul. I was at peace. No regrets, no anger.


A letter

to homo sapiens an epistle to the human race

Nabila Tahsin

H

us every now and then like a whisper of a promise settling at the back of our minds, forgotten but not lost. It reminds us that our lives are not just our own but rather intertwined with so many others, like finely woven thread.

There will always be a point in our lives when we come to grasp the sheer enormity of our existence. It’s one of those notions that slip us by during our busy lives, but comes back to

Perhaps that is why we are shaken to our core by the atrocities some of us can commit; horrified at the evil that nestles in the darkest corners of the human soul. But at the same time, we desperately wish for hope - hope that after we go to bed tonight, the morning that follows will be better, brighter. That

ave you ever awoken from a peaceful slumber and simply looked at the tiny particles of dust dancing in a stray beam of sunlight, and felt that you are more than just you? That you are not just a single being but rather a piece of an even bigger puzzle; that you belong not only to yourself but to the universe; the cosmos and beyond?

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hope of a better tomorrow transcends the numerous labels we stick on ourselves. That hope is beyond the color of our passports, the gender on our ID cards, the bank balance on an ATM screen, the Gods and Goddesses (or none at all) that we pray to, the people we choose to love, or the families we belong to and make for ourselves.

give us our humanity are what makes us a part of this wonderful, promising world. That this world doesn’t rest on the shoulders of Atlas, but rather on the small hands of each and every one of us.

That hope is one of the many things that stays the same all across the world, be it in the East or West, the North or the South. The little girl in Bangladesh smiles with her pearly white teeth peeking through pink lips the same way a young man from Cairo clutching a steaming cup of tea smiles. The tears of a mother clutching her little girl’s hand as her heart stops too soon are the same as the tears of the fathers and mothers yelling to the heavens above as their children pay the price for the greed and the politics of others. We have come a long way, technologically, for a species that has only just learned how to take to the skies in the last two hundred years. We are exploring Mars, deconstructing the very code of life, and living in a time when we are redefining and discovering our world, but at the same time finding even crueler and horrifying ways to inflict pain on each other. We are at a point in our existence where we are vilifying our differences and stripping ourselves of our humanity. But there’s good in this world, hope in our hearts that maybe a world free of conflict and war, a greener world, a world standing on the pillars of equality still possible. Maybe, just maybe it will be better and brighter for the generation that comes after us, and the generations after that. So I end this letter with the wish that you and I remember something important. That our differences are to be celebrated and cherished because our similarities and sorrows, our joys and heartaches, and all the other things that

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“...you are not just a single being but rather a piece of an even bigger puzzle; that you belong not only to yourself but to the universe; the cosmos and beyond? ”


Eco Friendly fashion C athar i n e Ta n ara

55


G

lobal warming, deforestation, and water pollution are major environmental problems that have threatened the perpetuity of the planet Earth. Increasingly, many envi-

ronmental organizations have been established nationally and internationally. Some are under the government while others are independent non-government organizations (NGOs). The fashion industry has also come to take part in preserving the environment. Within the fashion industry itself, there are concerns that some fabric materials may harm the environment. Not to mention, the nylon and polyester used in clothing are deemed to contribute to terrible pollution due to their nature; these materials are non-biodegradable and made from petrochemicals (via crude oil refining). Hence, designers adopt what they call sustainable fashion, a part of a growing design philosophy and trend of sustainability, aiming to create a system that can be supported indefinitely in terms of environmentalism and social responsibility. Through this project, fashion designers are leaning towards ‘green-lifestyle’ by re-introducing ecologically conscious methods through the use of eco-friendly materials, such as organic fabrics. There are three top eco-friendly fabrics one should look out for:

 Organic cotton This material is not cultivated with the use of harmful pesticides, unlike the non-organic one that can contain up to a third of pesticides and fertilizers.

 Hemp This is the ultimate eco-friendly fabric because it does not require any toxic chemicals to grow. Apparel made from hemp would bear superior durability seldom found in other materials.

 Bamboo As a fabric, bamboo grass is highly renewable as it is quick to regenerate itself. Compared to cotton, it has a softer texture and is similar to silk or cashmere. Since its first trial, eco-friendly fashion has become trendy, especially among fashion lovers. With the impressive growth of enthusiasts each year, designers are motivated to push forward with eco-friendly fashion projects in their efforts to heal the planet.

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confessions, from a comic book Girl Lestari hairul

57


F

or as long as I have been able to read, comic books

bubbles, to fully delve in it, you need to look carefully at the

have captured my heart. It started out with the daily

art as well. So I find it so puzzling that there are still purists

strips in newspapers and then mum started buying me

who find graphic novels and comic books to be symptomatic

Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, and the usual Archies. What really

artefacts of low culture.

opened up my world though, was the graphic novel section of the library at my Junior College in Bishan. It was the first

In case you didn’t know, there actually is a burgeoning aca-

week of school and being the nerd that I am, the library was

demic field of comic studies where scholars study these texts

the first place I had to go to. Rather cold and sterile com-

further to elucidate meanings through disciplines like semiot-

pared to the warmth and coziness of my secondary school

ics. Comic books aren’t merely drawn stories of men in capes

library, and full of students quietly mugging away (yes, the

rescuing the world, although in that there’s too much to mine

first week of school! But it’s Singapore). But tucked away in

particularly about society’s fascination with superheroes and

the one sole spot of comfort in the entire library, a veritable

rescuing, they are true art forms in their own right.

paradise where beanbags and plush sofas reside was the Holy Grail of literature in art.

There’s much skill and delicacy involved in crafting a work of art that combines both excellently drawn, inked and

The section had everything you could hope for to guide you

coloured images and stories. When an artist achieves both,

into the wonderful world of graphic novels. There was Art

see Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise for example, the

Spiegelman’s Maus, a memoir about the Holocaust beauti-

result is something of a treasure. An area where you can see

fully crafted and exquisitely recount-

this happening, albeit in a more famil-

ed; Persepolis, a memoir of Marjane

iar syndicated and strip format is the

Satrapi’s childhood during the Iranian

webcomic. I visit a few webcomic sites

Revolution; Alan Moore’s League of

regularly: Sinfest, Hark! A Vagrant, and

Extraordinary Gentlemen - the origi-

Dr. McNinja and without this almost

nal, a fiercer version of the fun but

daily ritual on the Internet, my day

tame Hollywood movie that tanked;

feels almost incomplete. The web-

and of course Neil Gaiman’s Sandman

comic is another interesting medium

collection which shouldn’t require any

to explore because the artists are

introduction, I hope. You won’t find

unencumbered by the publishing

the usual superhero periodicals here

industry and are technically free to do

and more importantly, you cannot find

all they wish to, except possibly being

any Manga anywhere.

subject to their fans’ judgments. The daily or weekly strips are also remi-

I tend to maintain a healthy distaste

niscent of the comic strips found in

for manga and anime, with the excep-

newspapers; perhaps the reminder of

tion of the works of Studio Ghiblie,

my younger habit has endeared web-

– perhaps the big eyed, strangely

comics to me so much. Webcomics

drawn faces and figures never quite

are also precisely fascinating for their

draw me in when unaccompanied by interesting storylines.

ability to both convey humour that is timely and deliver enter-

Western comic books have their flaws of course; notably the

tainment in a visually pleasing but addictive form.

ridiculous proportions drawn by artists like Rob Liefeld and skin-crawling grossness of artists who massacre the female

I can’t quite fully explain my fascination and love for appre-

body in art, I still rue the day when I stumbled upon smutty

ciating and collecting comic book art and graphic novels in

Italian horror Fumetti.

so short an article so let me leave you with an offer: try out those I have mentioned in this article and judge for yourself.

With that said, I find sometimes that art is secondary to the

There’s always the route of exploring the winners of the

story when it comes to comic books or graphic novels that I

Eisner Awards (the comic book industry’s Academy Awards)

love and treasure. The physical beauty of Craig Thompson’s

over the years and if you know who I am, just tap me on the

Habibi is undeniable and yet I would still rank his Blankets

shoulder and ask because I almost always carry with me

higher because of the beauty of the story. Perhaps this is why

some scans of my favourites in digital form. Move beyond the

I find comic books and graphic novels so compelling, there’s

Naruto and Bleach Manga comics and into the realm of the

two aspects of the text to appreciate and pour over. One

graphic novel and you’ll find something that’s possibly mind-

does not simply zip through the book by reading the speech

blowing and the start of a love affair that will definitely not

58


disappoint you. You might also start haunting some particular aisles in Kinokuniya but who said anything was easy anyway?

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A birthday and an orphanage A

four hour car drive north up the country to Sri Lanka’s Childhood reminiscence Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage was not how and natural beauty in my older brother, Sam, this distinctly Ceylonese envisioned celebrating experience his twenty-third birthday. “Elephants? Really mum? But we’ve got one in the house right here,” as he zeroes in on me consuming my weight in gotu kola. He’s partly kidding of course, only in the way an older brother can tease his little sister - that is, with impunity. I retorted that the irony of me eating leafy green vegetables was much appreciated.

shoulder soon had a glisten to it, courtesy of my drool.

The journey from Colombo to Kegalle is one of the most serene drives through Sri Lanka. The first two hours, or roughly the first 170 kilometers, out of Colombo is mostly panned out with paddy fields. Driving on the neatly paved roads, your eyes pick up on flashes of deep reds and bright oranges, from the makeshift stalls selling rambutan and king coconuts (that’s right, king). The light from the first rays of sunshine greet the morning dew atop verdant paddy leaves. The farmers are laboriously tending to their livelihoods, and their skin, always a dark mahogany. I would be lying if I told you my eyes were not glued to the rental car window throughout the first leg of the journey, but long car drives are inevitably soporific, and my mum’s left

The entrance to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is marked by the unmistakable smell of elephant dung, hordes of Caucasian tourists with their honey baked skin, under a merciless equatorial sun. My mum, hell-bent on rightfully paying the local entry fees to the Orphanage, curtly warns me to keep my mouth shut and barks at Sam to keep his face to the ground. Easier said than done – the guy’s six-foot one-inch frame is hard to cripple. My mum is not a miserly woman, but her South Asian-ness consumes her when she is steadfast on avoiding overpriced tourist tickets. After all, we’ve been unjustly denied local discounts before on the basis that Sam looks Arab and my poor Sinhalese accent. My speaking in Sinhala (the native tongue) is akin to

Vinanie wijesoma

60

After a short pit stop at the Ambepussa Rest House, we got back into the car to complete the last leg of the journey. The roads on the last 160 kilometres to Kegalle are winding and uphill. These convoluted roads can get so narrow at the bends that you start to calculate in panic as to how two cars could possibly drive in the opposite direction. Every winded turn is followed by a loud honk to signal your presence to oncoming cars, or worse, lorries. And the higher you get up the mountains, the greater your anxiety builds. However, the high Ceylonese altitude at Kegalle has this assuaging sensation that cleanly wipes away all of your tension. The air is pristine at this altitude and the weather is even a tiny bit chilly.


Tina Fey’s impersonation of Sarah Palin - it’s that hilarious. So Sam keeps his head down, I purse my lips, and both of us saunter into the Orphanage, with our local tickets in tow, one looking like something that crept out of The Walking Dead and the other looking in desperate need of bowel relief. The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is home to the world’s largest herd of captive elephants. It is primarily home to orphaned baby elephants, but it is also a sanctuary for older elephants. Some of these baby elephants had been found at the bottom of pits, thus separated from their mothers and herd. Others had been orphaned and found wandering the surrounding forests alone. Despite the welfare Pinnawala provided for these abandoned Asian elephants, it has nonetheless garnered criticism from the public for being too commercial, and in particular for their practice of sellling healthy adult elephants to individuals with contentious backgrounds in animal welfare.

nothing they could do to save it. To get to the Maha Oya river, the Pinnawala elephants have to leave the Orphanage, cross a busy road, and walk through a narrow street. Lined on both sides of this street are shops selling pricey Buddhist and elephant paraphernalia, deftly crafted wooden miniature elephants and cotton shirts cross-stitched with a majestic Asian elephant or emblazoned with ‘Sri Lanka’. There’s even a small pseudo-factory that produces elephant dung paper! As we made our way through the narrow street, we finally heard the sounds of the Maha Oya river. A scenic restaurant overlooks the river, where locals and tourists alike can watch the mahouts bathe the elephants. The restaurant is perched on the brink of a steep formation of rocks on the bank of the river. Most of the elephants collapse in euphoria once their bodies hit the water and let their trunks lazily flap about. Some elephants are more defiant, and the mahouts have to put up a good fight to scrub their backs and legs; the elephants’ sounds of protest eerily resemble those of a whining child. Meanwhile, the tuskers are chained and bathed separately from the herd.

“As we made our way through the narrow street, we finally heard the sounds of the Maha Oya river.”

At the Orphanage, there are two things any visitor should absolutely do: one is feeding the elephants and the other is watching the elephants bathe in the Maha Oya river. The first pair of elephants we saw at the Orphanage were babies, each the size of a washing machine. They were being bottle-fed milk by two tourists, while simultaneously pooping white semi-solids. It was adorable. The two orphans hadn’t fully mastered the use of their trunks, so it sort of just flailed about, only occasionally obeying their will. We learned from the two Pinnawala volunteers that the pair’s mother had fallen and died in a pit.

This is by far the most exciting and beautiful part of the whole Orphanage experience. My family and I were completely enthralled by these graceful beasts, and I had a wide, beaming smile on my face while watching the baby elephants splash about in the river. Whilst watching these elephants, you become blissfully unaware of the time and the merciless sun beating down on you. I admit it does sound strange, but there really is nothing quite like Pinnawala.

An elephant feeding square was situated to the left of the baby elephants. Each of the eight elephants in the feeding square had a foot chained to a wooden post, with a walking space diameter of roughly 4 metres. The locals kept themselves a comfortable distance away from the elephants, whereas the foreigners had no qualms about getting up close and personal with the adult elephants. A statuesque man, precariously hoisting his three-year old toddler on his waist, extended his arm, and incidentally his kid, towards the trunk of a mammoth-sized elephant. Sam and I looked on in horror; all we could picture was the poor helpless kid get ravaged by the wild animal. In a corner of the feeding square there lay an elderly elephant with a severely disjointed leg. We heard one of the mahouts say that it was going to be put down; there was

61


Break on through To the other side This is a fictional story. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. By publishing this article, MUISS or MIMA do not condone or endorse drug abuse.

he worst thing he had ever tried was heroin. It was a

T

“Once a flying red hippopotamus told me I needed to cut my

sad high; a high nonetheless. “Just one more,” he said,

hair, and I did. I will never forget that acid trip. The beach and

smoking a blunt. Jung Khee looked worn and old but

everything around us looked beautiful.” He cracked a smile

he was only 25. He walked like a piece of cooked spaghetti,

revealing his yellowing teeth and continued, “The first time I

tall and rather scrawny with a little hunch. I suppose that’s

tried a pill, my hands quivered uncontrollably as I held the pill

what happens after over eight hours of non stop dancing

in my hand partially because I was giddy with excitement and

when you’re running on smack. He was so far gone at the

partially because I was scared of what would happen if I took

party that he confused a friend for a cigarette and asked for

it. The pills were called smarties, and they were the strongest

a chair. I can’t remember the specifics even though it hap-

in the country. I popped the whole thing with a friend. After

pened an hour or two ago; the details just wafted away like

an hour I felt nauseous and threw up a lot of water and then

a puff of smoke, into nothingness. Maybe it’s all that hash

danced in one spot unable to get up for a long time. I willed

I smoked, chipping at my mind from the inside. “I’m not as

myself to get up and enjoy the party. Minutes later I bounced

bad as him,” I thought to myself. “But you still don’t need to

up and down near the speakers and had the best time of my

rush the annihilation of your mind,” a little voice in my head

life. That night, my friend hit his head and blacked out. At one

told me. They kept contradicting each other the whole night.

point we thought the only thing ticking on him was his watch,

I wished it would stop, but oddly enough it was entertaining.

but he woke up the next day in a hospital with a concussion

62

t h r o u g h to t h e ot h e r s i d e . B r e a k o n t h r o u g h , o w w !   O h , y e a h !   M a d e t h e s c e n e .  W e e k to w e e k .  Day to day.  H o u r to h o u r .  T h e g at e i s s t r a i g h t.  D e e p

and wide. Break on through to the other side. Break on through to the other side. Break on through. Break on through. Break on through. Break on through. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

. Yo u k n o w t h e day d e s t r oy s t h e n i g h t. N i g h t d i v i d e s t h e day. T r i e d to r u n . T r i e d to h i d e . B r e a k o n t h r o u g h to t h e ot h e r s i d e . B r e a k o n t h r o u g h to


and soaked in his own p***. The needles in his veins were

to convince me that shooting up coke makes you superman.

sustaining him, magically keeping him alive.

“My cheeks are red and sore inside. I have this compulsive urge to grind my teeth, while I unintentionally keep biting

Under the epileptic rays of the strobe light, the multicolored

myself. And no matter what I do, the feeling never goes away.

pills strewn across the table resembled a glowing rainbow,

I trip so much, it’s just amazing. The lights, sounds, the visions

except this rainbow didn’t lead to a pot of gold, but a land of

come together so well.”

unicorns, rhinos - they fly - and maybe the grinning Cheshire Cat. These thoughts, they meld into each other like a liquid

They were crushing up the last of the pills and mixing them

dream. As I fell further down into some rabbit hole, the sound

into the few remaining water bottles, passing them around

of his voice pulled me back to existence, while he continued

the room like the joint they lit up some minutes ago. He got

his story, “I took speed to study once too. All I knew was that it

up, shook himself, then snorted one more line. I watched

would keep me awake and it did for 15 hours straight. I didn’t

his rocket take off like a cork off a champagne bottle. The

move from that spot, I didn’t take my eyes off that book”. He

light came back into his eyes as he descended his dark hole

snorted a line and continued “my dealer at home cuts hair for

of glitters and flowers. I’m not sure if he knew the monkey

a living. He’s the nicest guy I know; he’s genuinely concerned

on his back had sunk its claws deep inside him, but he was

about me and my wellbeing.”

truly happy. The voices in my head finally reached the calm consensus to be happy. He looked me in the eyes, flashed his

I looked around myself and realized the cushion I was sit-

yellow smile and never stopped dancing till sunrise.

ting on was drenched with my own sweat. The colors slowly changing, while the sky moved in a tango with the wind. He got up beaming with energy and life, reached out his hands towards the light. It was then that I noticed his arms pockmarked with land mines from needle tracks and I thought “He’s been at this game for a long time now.’” A hazy, distant memory from the night before returned; someone was trying

63

t i m e w e c r i e d. B r e a k o n t h r o u g h to t h e ot h e r s i d e . B r e a k o n t h r o u g h to t h e ot h e r s i d e . Y e a h !   C ’ m o n , y e a h . E v e r y b o dy lo v e s m y b a b y. E v e r y b o dy lo v e s m y b a b y. S h e g e t ( s h i g h ) . S h e g e t ( s h i g h ) . S h e g e t ( s h i g h ) .

o the other side. Break on through to the other side, yeah. We chased our pleasures here. Dug our treasures there. But can you still recall. The

She get(s high). I found an island in your arms. Country in your eyes. Arms that chain. Eyes that lie. Break on through to the other side. Break o


Horoscopes Aquarius

He who thinks he knows, knows he knows he thinks. But he who thinks he don’t know, don’t think.

Libra

O beware my lord of jealousy, for it is the green eyed monster that doth mock the meat it feeds on!

Gemini

You will score FOUR HDs in your next semester, but behold the wrath of laziness! It will not come by studying a day before the exam but only if you study two days before the exam.

Scorpio

You will fall madly in love with a person of Asian origin who will sweep you off your feet! But herein lies the problem, the dissolution of your relationship will occur after three years when both of you graduate.

Taurus

Seize any opportunity that may present itself to you. Your fortunes have changed for the better and you will finally be able to get a parking spot at the car park. And guess what? It’s going to be free, absolutely free!

SagittarIus You will soon find yourself spending a lot of

time in the school library but do not fret just yet because you are not going to be actually studying….You will be stalking that special someone and love is in the air. But take heed as he or she may view you as a pervert! 64


Cancer

You have been eagerly waiting and craving for that special someone or anyone in fact to write a confession about you in the Monash Confessions but that day will never come so carry on with posting fake confessions about yourself.

ARIES

You will receive some good news soon from the Monash International Student Office….Who knows? You might just actually get your passport back on time!

LEO

Be prepared to stock up on some N95 masks as the haze is heading right in your direction. I guess it’s your lucky day. May the force be with you!

Virgo

You will receive a special call from Justin Bieber today and he will declare his insatiable love for you. Your Facebook status will miraculously change from being ‘single’ into being ‘in a relationship.’ If you are a guy, this may not be the best news for you but someone is better than no one so enjoy!

Pisces

A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool. Do not sit for any Mid Semester Tests or Examinations in the next two weeks and it might just be a good idea to start planning on your deferment strategy.

Capricorn

Love blurs your vision; but after it recedes, you can see more clearly than ever. It’s like the tide going out, revealing whatever’s been thrown away and sunk: broken bottles, old gloves, rusting pop cans, nibbled fishbodies, bones. This is the kind of thing you see if you sit in the darkness with open eyes, not knowing the future. Keep calm if you do not understand this. 65

These are not real predictions.


MAY the odds

Be ever in your favour D

JASvir DANG

o you truly feel represented in Monash? Do you believe that one voice is sufficient to represent you at the Monash Student Council and make a difference to your student life? If one-quarter of the student population comprises of international students, shouldn’t they be given an equivalent representation in the Monash Student Council? The Monash Student Council is spearheaded by the Monash University Student Association’s (MUSA) President and the MUSA committee members who have majority of the voting rights whilst the Monash University International Student Services (MUISS), the Head of the Clubs and Societies Division and the Monash University Postgraduate Association (MUPA) have only one vote each.

When interviewed, numerous students and council members raised their concerns on the issue :

“I think that the international students are well represented in the MSC along with their views. We do not have restrictions on the nationalities of student council members. Therefore, even though they do not directly represent international students, they are given a position to represent their views on behalf of the student population. Also, MUSA does give avenue for concerns for both the international and local students to be raised through its welfare department and any other department. And if they want to represent issues specifically about international students, they have MUISS to go through. The only part where they might lack representation is in MSC meetings where only one MUISS vote is allowed. However, issues that pertain more to international students are discussed during the MUISS meetings where they are given a higher level of representation.” (Nandhini Radakrishnan, Former MUSA President, Faculty of Business, Singapore)

“I personally think as an international student that we need more representation in MUSA. Just one vote is not enough considering the amount of international students currently studying at Monash.” (Pasan Kavisinghe, School of Engineering, Sri Lanka)

“As international students, we represent quite a large section of the student body here, and if important decisions made by the Council affect us, we need more than one representative to voice an opinion. The more representatives we have to make a change, the better it is. Monash is an international university after all.” (Naadia Sehar Buhary, School of Science, Sri Lanka)

“Twenty four percent of students studying in Monash University Sunway campus are either International students or exchange students

“Well, we all know that Monash University Sunway Campus is well recognized for its students coming from diverse cultures and different countries. Our university has more than 1400 international students excluding the exchange students. Now,

Opinion

There are an estimated 1500 international students in the Monash University Sunway campus and will one mere vote truly reflect the opinions of the international students and holistically represent them? Can one man, one President, raise the concerns of the international population and fight for their rights? Would it be considered impractical and redundant to give the MUISS executive committee a vote each on the MSC?

66

coming from 90 different countries/ backgrounds. Why not increase their representation in MUSA by increasing the number of MUISS votes for the Monash Student council?” (Saad Ataullah, School of Business, Pakistan) “Yes, I definitely think that International Students should receive a greater representation in the Monash Student Council. International students constitute the majority of students at Monash and Student Council must take into account their thoughts and ideas with more than just one vote.” (Mehron Abuljabbar, School of Information Technology, Russia)


that is a very big number. The international students often go to MUISS with requests, which MUISS fails to fulfill. This is because MUISS does not possess much voting right in the Student Council. So, being an international student of Monash University I feel that MUISS, (which is the student body representing international students) should definitely have more than one vote in the Monash Student Council.” (Imad Dabir, School of Engineering, Bangladesh)

MUSA but stand hand in hand together with MUSA…then again, would that ever be possible or would it just simply be a distant dream that can never be achieved? Or would that decision be something that the international students would soon regret? Would more seats simply just further prevent the international students from being represented? The stage is set for the international students in Monash University Sunway campus to decide their fate.

“Well I guess, it’s a fair play isn’t it? The Monash Student Council is actually MUSA itself and as they set the rules where all sub groups have to oblige. But all I am saying is, to practice fairness. Everyone must exercise their right on what to do and how to do it. The MUISS president shall represent MUISS for the vote and MUPA for MUPA obviously. The conclusion is that one vote represents the whole organisation but everyone in the committee has the right to express their views” (Dicky Parengkuan, Former MUISS Activities Chairperson, Indonesia) “If every position in MUSA is entitled to one vote, it would be better if MUISS positions also have equal voting rights. If not for all of the positions, at least the major ones; like the President, Vice-president, General Secretary and Treasurer. Knowing that their opinions weight as much as MUSA members and that these opinions may bring some changes, they would be more motivated in bringing changes which reflects the aspirations of international students..” (M.A, Faculty of Science, Mauritius) “I personally believe that more MUISS members should be given the right to vote in the decision making process of the Monash Student Council. It so happened in the past that many decisions were shelved or very hard to come through in regards to MUISS matters resulting in the MUISS president being made to look like a puppet just following orders from a higher authority. One must keep in mind the fact that the student council circulates partially on funds from all students irrespective of nationality so its unfair to have such partiality in the decision making process and limiting the voting rights.” (Wahid Bin Quayum, Former MUISS Vice-President, Bangladesh) “On that matter, it concerns the organizational structure of MUSA. MUSA is the higher management of Monash Student Council (MSC). Each department/Division - except MUVP - under MSC holds a voting right. Therefore, MUISS, being a division under MSC holds one voting right in the Monash University Council meetings.” (Melvin Shawn D’Silva, MUSA President, Malaysia) Essentially, most of the students interviewed believed that MUISS should receive more than one seat in the MSC but that could imply that MUISS will no longer be a division under

67


Chaminda Dayasiri

I

t is obvious that pop stars have been known to make a

to ‘cuckoo’.

mark because of their preposterous performances and outrageous outfits. Critics label Madonna as the Queen of

At the beginning of her career, revealing photos encour-

Pop and Michael Jackson, the King. There is no doubt that

aged the media and many people to believe that Lady

these artists have deserved this status after ground-break-

Gaga was a hermaphrodite. In an an interview with Barbara

ing record sales and strong fan bases. At present, if there

Walters, she denied the rumor and mocked the rumor by

was one person who had to be labeled a rightful successor

sarcastically joking that; “I do have a really big donkey d**k”.

of Madonna’s reign, it would be none other than Lady Gaga.

In an interview with Jonathan Ross, however, she claimed

Being a pop star is never easy, and the profession allows

publicly that she had ‘experimented’ with women, although

for much criticism. Since the paparazzi never lie, the public

she had never fallen in love with them. Given that she is very

chooses to believe rumors about her ranging from ‘satanic’

open about her preferences and largely supports accep-

68


piece of meat.” Her entourage for the evening included military personnel since the message that she had ‘donned’ was aimed mainly to promote equality in the US military. After the arrival of Lady Gaga’s third studio album, ‘Born This Way’, there was an apparent misconception that she appeals to homosexual or transgender fans. The media failed to realize her numerous straight fans who also camp out for her concerts to take in the liberating and eclectic performance. The artist has since founded an organization called the Born This Way Foundation to empower people by supporting bullied youth (as she once was), not just LGBT but because of tance of androgyny, there doesn’t seem to be a reason as to

race, physical appearance, and conditions such as anorexia

why she would deny the rumors.

and bulimia nervosa. Her talks have been known for discriminating the usage of drugs such as cocaine - “…it is the devil…

When Lady Gaga’s hit song ‘Alejandro’ stormed the airwaves,

don’t touch it…” and premature sexual encounters.

it was received generally positively due to its catchy lyrics, but not everybody was as equally thrilled by the video. Gaga

It takes an intelligent person to accept the idiom “don’t judge

was accused of insulting Christianity as she performed as a

a book by its cover” and put it to practice, and the paparazzi

Christian nun among scantily clad male dancers. One scene

are known for diminishing levels of intelligence. So it is up to

even featured her swallowing rosary beads and a cross.

the public to look past the bizarre costumes and controver-

Director Steven Klein defended the video, explaining that the

sial metaphors that succeed in catching their attention and

religious symbolism was meant to portray the singer’s battle

to focus more on the enlightening virtues of her messages.

between the forces of dark and light. The swallowing of the

In the wise words of Lady Gaga: “If you don’t cast a shadow

holy rosary was a literal symbol of her appreciation of divinity

you’re not standing in the light.”

and how she wished to consume it. She has constantly reported being a devoted catholic at heart who once attended a catholic school. This was somewhat verified by her dancers and choreographers who claimed how the artist would start each and every performance with a group prayer. It was just a matter of time before the voracious Gaga released another single, Judas, where she was dressed as Mary Magdalene, and again stirred disagreement amongst religious organizations. The song consisted of lyrics including ‘I’m still in love with Judas, baby’ and ‘Judas is the demon I cling to’. However it did feature the virtue of forgiveness towards those who have wronged you (through the representation of Judas). She has struck down rumors of her supposed Satanism by claiming that the video meant no offense towards religion as it was purely a metaphorical representation of the journey through darkness into the light. As she continued to surprise her fans with unexpected pieces of performance art and avant-garde costumes, one of the most talked about shockers was her meat dress, worn to the 2010 Video Music Awards. As a response to offended animal rights activist organizations and confused audiences, she explained that the meat dress was a social and political statement; “if we don’t stand up for what we believe in and if we don’t fight for our rights pretty soon, we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And, I am not a

69


Bu g s o f STEEL CyREN WONG

I

am sure that most

where between

of us are no strangers

10 - 50 times its

to the genre of super heroes,

own body weight, and if that

villains, and comic books. Indeed, I

wasn’t enough to impress you, they

don’t think there is anything like the thought

can even do this upside down while cling-

of actually having super powers that

ing on to seemingly smooth sur-

can really get those imagi-

faces such as glass. That’s

native juices flowing! Having

said

pretty amazing!

that,

comic inspired super

Now, while it may

powers do not always

seem quite surprising

lie in the fictional realm. In the natural world, many animals, insects

that an animal that is so small could be capable of such feats

specifically, are similarly known to possess unique and amazing

of strengths, the reason behind all of it boils down to good old

super-power like abilities. The following are a list of the top 5 insect

fashioned physics. More specifically, the concept of “scaling.”

super powers I could come up with. A fair warning, this might just

Because of their relatively small sizes, ants do not have much

change the way you come to regard insects for life!

body mass but with their significant muscle mass which gives them the ability to lift and manipulate objects that are much

Super Strength Super strength is surely a staple superpower in any comic book universe! What would DC comics be without Superman, Marvel without The Incredible Hulk, and the natural world without… the industrious ant?

larger and many times heavier than their own body weight. In fact, this is most often the case with all insects and many other invertebrates that exhibit super-strength to varying degrees. Honey bees for instance, have been observed to be able to lift up to 80 percent of their own body weight… in flight. The same ability is often utilized by Marvel’s very own Ant Man (one of the original members of the Avengers) whose strength increases proportionately as he shrinks. It is not an absolute rule but a general one that the bigger the animals get (and the larger their body mass is) the less able they are to lift objects equal to, or heavier than their own body weight. In the case of the super-strong insects, this is clearly one situation where size works to their advantage.

Flight Another fairly common special power in comic books is the abilAnts are one of the strongest creatures in the animal kingdom as

ity to fly. Virtually 50% of all super heroes and villains possess this

they are capable of lifting several times their own body weight! If

ability, though they may achieve it through different means (be it

you think an elephant is strong, think again!

some form of self-propulsion ala Superman, or through the use of wings ala Angel) and the same may be said for insects.

The actual degree of super-strength varies between every ant species, but on average, each individual ant is capable of lifting any-

70

Almost all insects can fly and those that do not are very likely to


grade alloy steel filament of the same proportionate diameter. Purportedly, a proportionately spun web with silken strands of appropriate thickness would even have the strength to arrest a commercial airplane in mid-flight! And while spiders are technically arachnids and not insects (no need to get your knickers in a twist, I did not forget that fact!) they aren’t the only invertebrates capable of producing this miracle-fiber. The larvae (immature form) of many insects most notably those of butterflies and moths, are also capable of excreting a fibrous substance that is also known as silk. The silk produced by the domestic have evolved from those that did. One thing that many people

silkworm (bombyx mori) are one of the strongest natural fibers

often forget about insects is that they were virtually the first

known to man. Not only is it resilient to natural elements, it can also

animals to colonize the planet. Quite literally while the first fish

resist the effects of most mineral acids! And this actually makes a

crawled out of the ocean and evolved into amphibians, insects

lot of sense as the silk is naturally spun as a watertight cocoon that

had already been well established on terra firma. Incidentally, they

protects the larva as it metamorphoses into an adult moth!

were also the first animals that evolved the ability for sustained flight. Couple that with the period of several million years they have been buzzing along on this planet and you have some of the most perfectly evolved, accomplished fliers known to the natural world! While all flying insects have a unique method of propulsion though, arguably none are as accomplished as the dragonfly. Dragonflies have been around for millions upon millions of years, and aside from a drastic decrease in size (prehistoric dragonflies were the size of large birds!), they do not seem to have changed very much from their prehistoric ancestors. And why should they, when they have clearly mastered the ability to fly. Dragonflies flap their wings at about only 30 beats per second - which is quite slow considering a bumble bee can flap its wings at over 300 times a second - but they make up for this by having unique wing muscles that give them perfect control of each wing! By adjusting the angle of one wing in relation to another, dragonflies are capable of enacting aerial feats of stunning magnitude! Sharp turns, sudden dives, aerial cartwheels, and even flying backwards. They are also extremely fast, and an Australian species of dragonfly is recorded to be able to reach speeds of up to 58 kilometers per hour! (though the general average is anywhere between 15-30). Not surprisingly, they are also aerial hunters that can snatch other insects as small as midges and mosquitoes in mid-flight!

Webbing

Radioresistance If that previous “super power� somewhat lowered your expectations, here is another one that I think might whet your appetite before I break into the grand finale! Radio-resistance, or the ability to withstand radiation. I am sure that most of us are no stranger to the urban legend that cockroaches are the only animals capable of surviving a nuclear blast. Now, white it might more accurately be said that cockroaches are capable of surviving the aftermaths of the blast (the actual blast would pretty much vaporize any roach caught in its vicinity by sheer explosive force alone), I have got even better news for you: the same applies to most, if not all insects!

After all, what would this article be without a tip off the hat to our

Now, I may be no expert on radiation but from what I have read

friendly neighbourhood Spiderman? Spiders are one of the few

up on the subject, this has something to do with the differing

animals in the world that can produce silk, one of the strongest

nature of vertebrate and invertebrate cells. Radiation is deadly to

organic substances known to man!

vertebrate animals because our cells are constantly multiplying. Old cells die every second and are replaced by new ones through

The drag line silk of many spider webs (typically that of the orb

a process called mitosis. Radiation affects these growing cells by

weaver spiders, nephila sp.) are designed to stop flying insects,

causing them to act and multiply in ways that are different to their

and even birds, in mid-flight! Consequently, it is not surprising that

original function eventually leading to mutation.

they have been equated to having the tensile strength of a high

Before this gives any of you X-Men fanatics any bright ideas, these

71


quite superb as villains) - the parasitic wasps! Parasitic wasps are quite literally the living nightmares of the insect world. If you could imagine the worst fear you have ever experienced in your life, it would probably still amount to nothing compared to what a grub might feel when facing down the compound eyes of a parasitic wasp. Elegant but deadly assassins, the parasitic wasps employ a wide range of methods to subdue and coerce their prey. The female of the Emerald Wasp (Ampulex compressa) preys on the common cockroach. When she finds a suitable victim, she approaches it swiftly and delivers two stings that mutations are the kind that give people cancer and not super powers . This differs from the average invertebrate cell which only multiplies rapidly at specific moments in the insect’s life cycle, typically when they are about to undergo the process of molting. Molting is the process whereby an insect sheds its old skin so that it may grow. The old skin is cast aside as new cells begin to furiously multiply thus contributing to the insect’s development. An insect does this on an average of 6-7 times during their life span and not at all once they have attained sexual maturity. This means that of all the insects who survived the initial nuclear blast, those that are not close to the process of molting, and those that are already sexually mature, would be unaffected by the cell-splitting effects of radiation.

are targeted as the cockroach’s ganglion (the insect equivalent of a nervous system). First, she does this to paralyze the front legs of her victim thus reducing mobility and inhibiting resistance. Next, she delivers as second sting at the direct spot of the Roach’s brain. This causes an immediate behavioral change in the cockroach. It becomes docile, it becomes compliant, and it will now follow the wasp willingly (as if being led on a leash!) to her nest where she will proceed to deposit a single egg upon the cockroach’s abdomen. When the egg hatches, the wasp larvae will feed on the cockroach, eventually living inside of it as an endoparasite. The larvae feeds only on the non-essential organs of the roach thus keeping the roach alive until the larvae is matured and ready to emerge as a fully grown wasp.

Through prolonged exposure in such a manner many insects eventually adapt to be genetically radio-resistant. By way of natural selection, this positive trait is eventually passed on to future generations of insects that are born in the same environment, and because of their high reproductive rates, eventually produce radio-resistant strain of insects in a relatively short time! That, in my opinion, is survival at its best (I’m sure most of you other Star Craft fanatics may appreciate the sentiment. Heart of the Swarm!). P.S: this is no science fiction or urban legend as naturally radioresistant strains of insects, worms, and even plants have already been discovered in places like Minas Gerais, Brazil, where radiation levels are naturally high.

Mind Control

Throughout the entire process the roach is as docile as a kitten. It is a live, and yet does not attempt to escape. For all intents and purposes, the wasp’s sting has transformed the roach into a zombie,

And finally, for the coup de grâce, I have indeed saved the best

seemingly content to lie at rest in the burrow while a foreign entity

for last! Mind control is often associated with super villains in the

burrows through its flesh from within. And if that little tale of body

comic book genre. In fact even when heroes such as Charles Xavier

invasion does not freak you out, consider alternatively the parasitic

actually possess the capacity for it, they often use it only sparingly

vesparum flies. Unlike the parasitic wasps, who kill and emerge

or not at all! And why would they? There is something entirely sin-

from their prey upon maturity, these flies live out their entire lives

ister about invading the thought processes of another creature and

inside the abdomen of various species of communal yellow jacket

bending it against its will!

wasps (vespula sp.). While inside of the wasp, the flies control every behavioral aspect of the larger insect. Think, basically, of the

It is therefore with no surprise that this category goes to the super

Starship Enterprise but manned by a single crew member. Never

villains of the insect world (not only because they are villainous

mind the body snatchers from outer space! Talk about the body

creatures that possess “superpowers” but because they really are,

snatchers from my back garden!

72


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