A Few Good Things

"Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." – Ibn Battuta

A Few Good Things

Tag: Battle of the Words

How Colours impact Humanity : Kushi Athreya (3rd – Spark Mentor Essay Competition, Battle of the Words)


How Colours Impact Humanity?

Kushi Athreya – 8th Grade , Sri Kumaran 


Take a minute and imagine the world around you without colour , how boring and unexciting life would be!… Colours play a vital role in our daily lives and it is scientifically proven that our activities and responses are influenced by colours. Kenneth Fehrman, co-author of the book, Color The Secret Influence, states that most people are unaware of the profound effect of color has on their Behavior.

Let us unravel the secrets of colours. Did you know that our eyes can perceive seventy lakh colours? Colour is a powerful and important communication tool, and it is tied to religion, political, and social life. Most of us have a favorite colour or prefer some colour over others. This is because the colour affects our moods so we surround ourselves in the colours that have positive impact on us. A research by the University of British Columbia has proven that the colour blue enhances the creativity whereas the colour red helps us focus and has a positive effect on our memory. Just like smell, taste, touch and sound influence our emotional reaction, colour is also another such stimulation that creates emotional Reactions. Tetrachromats are people who have more receptors in their eyes, their brains are wired the same way as a person with normal vision but they can see many more colours. Like if one of them saw a leaf then they will observe other pigments other than green.

Wassily Kandinksky was one of the first pioneers of colour theory. He was a renowned Russian painter and theorist, who is often considered to be the founder of abstract art, believes that colours communicate many qualities. According to him, black signifies grief, dark and unknown, white signifies harmony and silence, while green signifies peace, stillness and nature. In different parts of the world, colours are associated to different meanings. For example yellow represents courage in Japan, mourning in Egypt and hope in the West. In politics, red is often linked to socialism and communism, and white has links to surrender and pacifism while black is linked to anarchism .The effects of colour differ between people. Factors such as gender and age can influence how an individual perceives colour. Colour expert Faber Birren carried out many studies and he found that children like long wave hues (red, yellow, orange) while after maturity the prefer short wave hues (blue, green,purple).

In particular the colour red has been found to influence sports performance. During the 2004 Summer Olympics the competitors in boxing, taekwondo, freestyle wrestling, and Greco-Roman wrestling were randomly given blue or red uniforms. A later study found that those wearing red won 55% of all the bouts which was a statistically significant increase over the expected 50%. The colour blue is said to have calming effects. In 2000, when the company Glasgow installed blue street lights in certain neighbourhood in order to reduce the crime rate.

Our sense of taste is often fooled by our sense of sight. This is because humans have certain expectations of how food should look. When the colour of food is off or is different than what we expect, our brain tells us that it tastes different too. Supported by scientific studies, we use visual cues from colour to identify and judge the quality and taste of what we eat.To give the impression of a certain taste, flavour, or quality, food colouring or dyes are added to processed, packaged, and even fresh foods. For example adding a red colorant to the skin of an apple, may influence consumers into believing the apple is sweeter in taste. In a study published in the Journal of Food Science, researchers
found that people confused flavours when a drink did not have the appropriate colour. A cherry- flavoured drink manipulated to be orange in colour was thought to taste like an orange drink, and a cherry drink manipulated to be green in colour was thought to taste like lime.

Colour therapy is the use of colour in a variety of ways to promote health and healing. The different colours we see in the world around us are the result of the eye perceiving light vibrating at different frequencies. Sunlight, or full-spectrum light, holds all the wavelengths of colour in the visible spectrum (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, and magenta) as well as infrared and ultraviolet light, which cannot be seen. Used to treat both physical and emotional problems, colour therapy may involve exposure to coloured lights, massages using colour-saturated oils, contemplating and visualizing colours, even wearing coloured clothing and eating coloured foods.

Not surprisingly, colour has been played a role in healing for centuries. At the temple of Heliopolis in ancient Egypt, patients were treated in rooms specifically designed to break up the sun’s rays into the colours of the spectrum. People also made regular pilgrimages to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, to take advantage of the healing colours of the exotic plants and flowers found there. In India, practitioners of Ayurveda, taught that specific colours corresponded with each of the seven chakras, the energy centres that represent organs, emotions, and aspects of the spirit. (Today Ayurveda medicine continues to use colour to treat a wide range of mental and physical imbalances.)

The beauty of the world is magnified through colours. Colours play a huge and subtle role in human life. They instigate our emotions, actions and our belief, playing an emphatic role in our life and instill imagination, creativity thus, changing the way we look at the world.


How Colours impact Humanity : Anvitaa Anandkumar (2nd – Spark Mentor Essay Competition, Battle of the Words)


How colours impact humanity

Anvitaa Anandkumar, NPS Koramangla


The world of colours takes its hold right at birth. The moment the nurses swaddle a tiny child in either soft blue or pink blankets, indicating whether it’s a boy or a girl. Whether the baby has red hair or brown, blue eyes or black. What colour clothes would suit the child? What colour should the room be?

Our lives revolve around colours. They are omnipresent in every decision we make. The colour palate consists of a myriad of colours and a million hues and they all affect us in different ways.

Would you consider wearing a chirpy shade of blue to a funeral or sombre grey to a wedding? I somehow doubt it. From our childhood we have been instilled with a set of rules, what colours to wear when and for what occasions. We have been ingrained with a sense of what colours mean. But these meanings are variable.

Lets start with bright Red – it stands for so many things. Red for an Indian woman could mean marriage, auspiciousness and the colour of the goddess Kali. In china, the colour red stands for fire, and means good fortune and joy. Red can also exemplify love, passion, desire, heat, romance, strength, leadership, courage, vigor, willpower, rage, anger, danger, malice, wrath, stress, action, vibrance, radiance, and determination. It represents physical energy.

Red when mixed with white forms pink. Pink is largely associated with women, describing soft, feminine nature while blue is used to assert masculinity. This is especially true in the case of newborn babies when their gender decides whether they have a blue blanket or a pink one. I find this curious because, in the past, especially during the Nazi era, red and especially pink represented the passion of men while calm blue was used to depict the woman’s supposedly calmer demeanor. I do wonder why this changed.

Green, the color of life, renewal, nature, and energy, is associated with meanings of growth, harmony, freshness, safety, fertility, and environment. Positive words those generally indicate moving forward. In Christianity, Green is associated with baptism and the feast of the Eucharist. Green is the sacred color of Islam and is a sign of respect and veneration. Green is also traditionally associated with money, finances, banking, and ambition. It is also got a negative connotation and personifies greed and jealousy, a stark contrast to its other meanings. See what I mean when I said that the meanings varied?

Colours also hold great importance in fields like branding and marketing. They are thought to evoke different responses from the masses. Brand Managers and admen make use of this fact and pretty much manipulate you without you even knowing about it. Fast food is the latest trend, and most fast food joints have logos, buildings and signboards in either red or yellow. These colours (along with the awesome pictures of food of course) generate hunger in people. A similar trick was used when the logo of Coca Cola was created. It is theorized, that when people look at the red logo, it makes them feel thirsty and the wave in the logo is the thirst quencher. Cokes rival Pepsi on the other hand, went the other route and used blue, saying it represented the cooling effect their drink has for people. Both the meanings are different but both companies are very successful.

Perhaps the most colourful part in our world is nature itself. The flora and fauna together form a riot of colours, clashing yet complementing each other to form something truly spectacular. Spring is green with fresh leaves and nascent blossoms. Kyoto is famous for its Cherry Blossoms, the trees bursting with blooms during the spring. The summer is dry, hot and bright, the raging white sun beating steadily down on the dry, harsh and desolate plains of the Atacama. Then comes autumn, dressed in a gown of all the shades of orange, yellow and red, a surprising burst of colours. Vancouver perfectly captures the beauty of this season down to every last detail, the shape of the leaves and the apple orchards, ripe for the picking. At last, comes the winter, dull and gray in its foreboding cold in some places, white a blinding blanket of white like cake frosting in others.

The mountains, the oceans, the deserts, the forests – they are all adorned by colours that reflect their personalities.

I have always found it curious when people completely disregard black and white, not considering them colours. If they are not colours, what are they? Black and white seems so simple, but they create a world of depth. Black and white generally symbolizes two sides of a coin, the opposing forces. In most cultures, black is used to describe death, the devil, darkness and other negative forces while white is a symbol of purity, innocence and everything that is good. In Chinese culture however, this is slightly different. Black represents water and is considered the colour of heaven and the king of all colours in China. It is also the single colour that was worshipped the longest time in ancient China. White, here, represents multiple things. In the theory of ‘Five Elements’, white corresponds to gold, which shows that the Chinese people thought it to symbolize brightness. Along with this, it also stands for purity and fullness. See, generally the opposite. But together, they create a while new world of beauty and harmony, the unity of Ying and Yang.

Black and white however has perhaps been the most destructive colours in history. People were differentiated on the basis of their skin colour. The people with black skin were made slaves to the whites, denying them of their basic rights and making life a living hell. The white minority broke their spirit and treated them like animals for centuries. Almost all European countries and the USA had separate and derogatory rules for the blacks, making them inferior in every way possible. It was common to see insulting sign boards like “Blacks and dogs not allowed”. It was only in the sixties and the seventies where things started changing in most places.

Perhaps the most important part about colour is the way they impact the audiences. They are very effect means of telling stories. Famous artists like Van Gogh have created masterpieces that tell epic tales using the ever present colour palate, creating beautiful paintings that people not only see, but also read to delve deep into the world of colours and search for the layers of hidden meaning. They use colours to show emotions, depict how they are feeling what other people feel or have felt. Even poets use colours to bring their poetry to life. Famous lines like “a host of golden daffodils” use colours to actually bring the scene to life and enable readers to visualize and actually connect with the poem.

Perhaps the most fascinating characteristic of colours is how they affect us. This is called colour psychology. It is the study of hues as a determinant of human behavior. Did you know, that in Glasgow, in the year 2000, they installed blue street lighting in certain neighborhoods and subsequently reported the anecdotal finding of reduces crime rates? And that a railroad company in Japan introduced blue lighting in its stations in 2009 that effectively reduced suicide attempts?

Colors also help us when we are depressed and sad. Research suggests that bright and cheerful colours draw us out of our depression and bring back the joy in our lives. Colours provide us comfort, and radiate beauty, which the human mind cannot ignore.

The world is full of strange colours, which makes it an exceptionally interesting place to live in. Without them perhaps we wouldn’t have had racism and slavery in the first place but we also wouldn’t have had epic works of art, not recognised the beauty of nature and simply missed out on the amazement of seeing an interestingly coloured flower or the myriad of hues in a gorgeous sunset. The world just wouldn’t be the same and I am thankful that it isn’t.


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Autobiography of a Pencil – Surabhi Jain (1st – Spark Mentor Essay Competition, Battle of the Words)

Autobiography of a Pencil

Surabhi Jain,  NPS Koramangla


The End

It is finally my time. I have lived a long life, longer than most of my kind at least. Now, I am but a fraction of what I used to be. My once lengthy body has been shortened to a stub and my head has been sharpened for the last time. The blue colour of my exterior has faded along with the name of my maker and my pretty red eraser has all but disappeared. This is the last story I will write before I am put down forever. This is the story of my life.

It all began when my then flat head was skimmed with the sharp blade of a sharpener. As I was turned around repeatedly, a trickle of consciousness manifested. I started to hear the shavings fall to the table, to see the black inside of the sharpener, to smell the metal of the blade. I could sense everything around me. With that came my conscience. I, as an individual, was born. And when my head was removed from the confines of the black plastic, I was introduced to the world. A world which, I would later come to learn, is both brutal and kind.

My induction into the world went in an unexpected manner. As the dark interior of the sharpener left my vision, I was met with the view of a colourful room and cluttered room. Building blocks littered the carpeted floor and along with sheets of paper and crayons. Awed by such a foreign sight, I didn’t notice I was moving until I was right in front of a human child’s face. His chubby face was lit up with a brilliant smile as he observed me lying on what I now know was his father’s hand. He clapped his hands with sheer delight and reached for me with his pudgy fingers. He lifted me up and looked up at his father with a pleading expression on his face, “Can I take it to school tomorrow Dad?” And then I was dumped in the dark space where I would make my first friends.

The stationery pouch was a scary place at first. There was no light and a fear of the unknown ran through me. I shivered as I wondered what was going to happen. Abruptly, a voice cut through the silence, “Hey everybody, we got a newbie!” And then I was in the middle of a flurry of activity. A crowd of voices started up and I was being tugged this way and that. It was a very disorienting experience, I must say. From the cacophony, I managed to discern a few names: Bob the eraser, Marty the sharpener and Penny the pen. As the ruckus grew in volume, a scream rent the air, “Silence!” All was quiet. A bulky shape came up next to me and it said, “I’m Patty the ruler. You are?” I stutteringly explained that I was new and that I didn’t have a name. After which Patty proceeded to rudely tell me to get one. So I said, “Scratch”, thus naming myself. Initially, Patty scared the living daylights out of me. She was snappy and sarcastic; traits that were intimidating to a novice like me. As time went on, I realised that she was just overprotective of her pouch mates and that I, as a stranger, was suspicious to her. Nevertheless, life was good.

The weeks following my ‘birth’ were happy. The residents of the pouch and I became family. We’d go to school with the child-whose name was Daniel- and do our work. The rest of the time we’d play and chat for hours. I began to love Daniel as well. He took care of me, making sure I was always sharp and ready for anything. He treated me with care and never threw me or broke my tip. I was content. One day, it all changed. I was shown how uncaring people can be and what a lie I was living. It was a school day like any other. We went to school and I did my work. I was lying on the table while Daniel used Penny when suddenly, I was airborne. I flew and smacked into the wall, rolling into the corner. Trying to shake off the dizziness, I realised that Daniel hadn’t even noticed. I lay there waiting for someone to pick me up and return me but no one did. I watched as the day passed and still I lay in the darkness. When the children left, I hoped that Daniel would see that I was missing and would search for me the next day. Alas, that was in vain. The next day dawned and the children filed in. When they started opening their pouches, I watched Daniel, waiting for him to rescue me. Instead, I saw him pull out another pencil with the same care that he used to show me. I saw Bob and Marty chatting with the replacement the same way they used to speak with me. The betrayal of all those I loved cut straight through my heart.

After that incident, I was transferred to the ‘Lost and Found’ box and when no one claimed me, to a big carton labelled ‘Castern’. I was put with hundreds of other pencils, most of whom had suffered the same treachery that I had. We stayed in that box for a long time with no idea of what was going to happen to us. Fear was the dominant emotion of most and we nearly drove ourselves insane pondering our fate. Finally, the day came when the lid was opened, putting all of us out of our misery. Sunlight found its way to us, warming us and reminding us of hope. Then we were picked up in twos and handed to children waiting in line. The look of joy on their faces as they received the pencils far surpassed the one I saw on Daniel’s face so long ago. Here were people who truly appreciated their belongings. As my owner, Cedric, carried me and the other pencil, Matt, into his home, I was struck by the stark difference between his abode and that of Daniel. While Daniel’s had spoken of wealth and class, Cedric’s was humble. There was no television and the furniture was plain and simple. There was no mess here though. Cedric’s room was neat and tidy. I knew that I would be genuinely loved here.

Matt and I became good friends over the years. We only had each other for company but it was enough. Cedric took good care of us, writing conservatively so that he didn’t waste our lead. He prolonged our use as much as he possibly could and now the time has come where he can extend no further. I write this story on a spare piece of paper on Cedric’s desk so that he may know how much he means to me. He restored my faith in this world and made my days happy. For that, I am forever grateful.

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