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Merriam Webster dictionary defines Dystopia as:

  • An imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives
  • Anti-Utopia

Dystopia derives from the combination of the two Greek words dys (meaning bad/hard) and topia (meaning place/landscape). Dystopia is also sometimes referred to as Cacotopia.

Humans have always been fascinated with imagining what future — near or far — has in store for them. Weaving dystopian stories is a natural progression of this attraction. So, dystopian fantasy (stories set in a less than optimal world) has been around, I’m sure, since man could exchange ideas with fellow humans using words. Dystopian novels have been published for more than a century now.

Dystopian fantasy is a popular sub-genre of science fiction or, more broadly, speculative fiction.

The young adult market is teeming with dystopian fantasies (Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix, The Giver by Lois Lowry, The Uglies by Scott Westerfield, to name a few), although many dystopian adult novels (The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Children of Men by P.D. James among others) have been popular over the years, too.

With the recent release of the movie The Hunger Games (based on a YA book of the same name), this genre is probably more popular now than ever.

These novels depict either an individual fighting against oppression or a group of people coping collectively as a society with the dehumanized conditions.

Some of these stories are set in non-specified (in terms of time and geography) worlds, though generally speaking they are set in a future that is dark, dismal and oppressive. The reasons why society, in each of these books, has slid into this state is one of many:

  • The rise to power of one political or religious group of people who then begin a systematic oppression of the society.
  • An apocalyptic disaster, natural or otherwise, resulting in pockets of survivors.
  • An unnatural/mysterious fear or disgust of the world outside. This usually is the consequence of a disaster in the distant past, the details of which none of the living members of the society remembers.
  • Advancement of technology at a more rapid rate than humans could handle. So man has shunned technology and gone back to the dark ages.
  •  Technology has taken over humans, making puppets of them.

 When I first began to read dystopian fantasies I refused to take them seriously, because they seemed overly fantastical and set so far in the future.

And then I picked up The Handmaid’s Tale. This story takes place in the United States where a theocratic regime has made the lives of women sub-human.

The ultimate shock for me? The story unfolds (in an eerily unemotional first person narrative) the truth of how the society has hurtled towards this state within the life span of a modern American woman. This novel forced me to look at the disturbing possibility that something like this could happen to any country, any time.

Despite that realization, I’m not a big fan of dystopian fiction. Why? Because, the eternal optimist in me shrivels up at all the gloom and doom in these stories. Who is to say what the future holds for us humans? Why look at it only through a pessimistic lens and expect the worst?

And the mom in me balks at the supposition that we may be leaving our future generations to such a miserable future.

Even if you haven’t had a chance to read a book set in dystopia, you may have encountered it in movies such as: The Matrix, Minority Report, Total Recall and Avatar.

So, do you like dystopian fantasies? Why or why not?

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Golconda Fort, which began its life as a mud fort, has withstood the assault of natural elements and humans for centuries and stands tall and aloof to this day. There are features inside the fort that are technologically so advanced that they could teach a thing or two to the military and engineers today.

Intimate details like: the low-roofed cubbyholes in the bodyguards’ barracks, where obviously the guards lived away from their own families with bare minimum necessities so they could protect their lord and master; or the alcoves in the walls of the queen’s palace where make-up articles could be stored; or the walkways within the several gardens that are smooth and worn from generations of ancient feet strolling over them tugged at my heart.

As I walked through the ruins of the Rani Mahal (the queen’s palace) and the zenana (the women’s quarters where the king’s harem lived), I could almost hear the rustle of silks as the women walked by in their colorful ghagharas and cholis (long skirts and intricately embroidered blouses), the numerous bangles on their hands tinkling in unison with their giggles and laughter.

They brought to my mind the fact that women and men — who had desires, aspirations, and likes and dislikes probably similar to mine — lived and died here. Some of them probably enjoyed the rich lifestyle given them inside these walls, but there were countless others who strained at the invisible ropes binding them to these palaces.

All that remains now to show for the lives of the various residents of the fort over the centuries are its somber ruins.

Here are more pictures I took inside the fort…

This tall wall curtains off the main entrance to the fort and fools everyone into thinking it’s just a rampart wall. It has parapets above it, behind which soldiers used to crouch and take inventory of the enemy camps during battles. The entry inside the wall that leads to the gigantic doorway is quite narrow, thus protecting the entrance to the fort from the direct assault of an army.

 

The doors guarding the entrances are made of metal and have pointed studs on them to prevent the use of elephants and large logs to crash the doors down during battles

 

Barracks where bodyguards lived. These barracks are situated right by the entrance. Obviously, if anyone wanted to enter the fort surreptitiously, they'd have to deal with the bodyguards first

 

One of the many reservoirs found throughout the fort -- they were used to store water for the residents' use and also to water the many gardens

 

Pipes made of baked clay were fitted inside the walls of the fort all the way to the top which were used to pump water (using Persian wheels) from a lake at ground level, filling several tanks at various levels strewn inside the fort

  

The king's mosque at the top of the fort

 

A temple inside the fort, built by the Hindu ministers during the reign of the last ruler of the Qutub Shahis. This was one of the highlights of the fort for me. Up until then, I was immersed in the Islamic architecture and lifestyle. I turn a bend in the road and there I was staring at a huge “Om” (the symbol written in saffron over a white background in the picture, one of the most recognized symbols of the Hindu religion), on top of a temple right at the heart of the fort. And it does not seem out of place. In fact, it seems just right. You see such sights throughout India

 

Queens' Palace -- these buildings used to be three storeys high before Aurangazeb's canons reduced them to ruins and rubble

 

Private gardens for the enjoyment of the queens

 

Inside the queens' palace

 

Inside the harem -- cordoned off now to prevent graffiti on the walls

 

Durbar or the king's assembly hall. It can get suffocatingly hot in Hyderabad during summer. Inside, where the king’s throne sits, the hallway has been so designed so that cool air flows through it during all seasons of the year. Basically, it was air-conditioning.

 

Ruins of a once rooftop garden

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Originally posted on February 17, 2010.

I don’t have anything against technology, technically speaking. Heck, I was part of that field myself, churning out software for the hapless, before I jumped over to the other side. However, as much as the technological advancement is transforming the world into a Global Village, in my opinion, it’s also turning us all into collective imbeciles.    

Email, twitter, facebook – they are all the rage now, right? I agree that they provide the easiest means to keep in touch with old friends, make new ones, and generally keep abreast of happenings around the world.    

Here’s my gripe: all these networking tools do as much harm as they do good. Let me elucidate: can you hear the sender’s tone of voice in an email or on a facebook message? No! Exactly! So, sometimes you do not know whether they’re being sarcastic, or earnest, or just blah when they express their opinions.    

"I'm not leering at ya, I swear! There's just something in my eye."

And the smiley faces can only go so far — when someone winks at you via a smiley face, do you take that wink as a “hey, co-conspirator”, or “I hear ya”, or “I’m leering at you right now, baby!”? There are instances where all three (or more) of these scenarios apply to that winking/hung-over happy-face that keeps blinking at you from your screen. What’s a girl gotta do in that situation?    

Is there anyone out there, who has used any of these electronic media as a means of communication and not regretted or second-guessed themselves the very second they hit the “send” or “publish” button?    

It’s scary the way you lose control in a matter of nanoseconds.  If it were snail mail, you’d have to sit down to write it neatly, which in itself means that you’d have put careful thought into what you wanted to say. And then you need to find an envelope, print the address, put a stamp on it, and then seal the envelope. This provides plenty of opportunities for you to rethink your strategy, or just change your mind about sending the letter/message at all in the first place.    

One of my very good friends sent me an email two days ago asking me why I was not “approving” her comments to my blog site.  I quickly checked my Inbox (like I needed to! I’m almost surgically attached to it, especially these days, for various reasons) and there were no pending comments for my site. I mulled over this and thought about it some more, but couldn’t figure out which black hole had swallowed up my friend’s comments. And then something occurred to me, and I quickly checked it out. Yup, my suspicion was right – the software “protecting” my blog from spam got overzealous and had decided that her comments were spam. Why? No idea. There was not even an ounce of advertisement or as much as a hint of a URL for a product in her message.  Argh!    

And then the other day, I was busy typing up something using a word processor (I’m not going to name it, but I’m sure you all know which one I’m referring to), and when I looked back, I couldn’t believe that I had typed so badly. When I looked at it more closely, though, I realized it was not me who was the bad typist. See, the word processor thought that it knew my mind better than I did myself; every time I typed something that it, in all its astuteness, knew to be obviously wrong, it patronizingly smirked behind my back and set about correcting my mistakes.    

(Ooh, just had a brilliant idea!) So, from now on, let it be known that ANY mistakes that you see in my posts (including idiocy in opinions expressed, along with typos), are due to my word processor taking over control and spewing its infinite wisdom onto these pages.      

And cell phones – don’t even get me started. That’s a whole series of posts for another time. I’m not touching that one. Not today. Not with a long pole.    

 I know I’ll sound extremely shallow and clichéd saying this, but I’ll say it anyway: Technology! Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.     

Or, maybe, it’s just me and my control issues.

Read Full Post »

I don’t have anything against technology, technically speaking. Heck, I was part of that field myself, churning out software for the hapless, before I jumped over to the other side. However, as much as the technological advancement is transforming the world into a Global Village, in my opinion, it’s also turning us all into collective imbeciles.    

Email, twitter, facebook – they are all the rage now, right? I agree that they provide the easiest means to keep in touch with old friends, make new ones, and generally keep abreast of happenings around the world.    

"I'm not leering at ya, I swear! There's just something in my eye."

 

Here’s my gripe: all these networking tools do as much harm as they do good. Let me elucidate: can you hear the sender’s tone of voice in an email or on a facebook message? No! Exactly! So, sometimes you do not know whether they’re being sarcastic, or earnest, or just blah when they express their opinions.    

And the smiley faces can only go so far — when someone winks at you via a smiley face, do you take that wink as a “hey, co-conspirator”, or “I hear ya”, or “I’m leering at you right now, baby!”? There are instances where all three (or more) of these scenarios apply to that winking/hung-over happy-face that keeps blinking at you from your screen. What’s a girl gotta do in that situation?    

Is there anyone out there, who has used any of these electronic media as a means of communication and not regretted or second-guessed themselves the very second they hit the “send” or “publish” button?    

It’s scary the way you lose control in a matter of nanoseconds.  If it were snail mail, you’d have to sit down to write it neatly, which in itself means that you’d have put careful thought into what you wanted to say. And then you need to find an envelope, print the address, put a stamp on it, and then seal the envelope. This provides plenty of opportunities for you to rethink your strategy, or just change your mind about sending the letter/message at all in the first place.    

One of my very good friends sent me an email two days ago asking me why I was not “approving” her comments to my blog site.  I quickly checked my Inbox (like I needed to! I’m almost surgically attached to it, especially these days, for various reasons) and there were no pending comments for my site. I mulled over this and thought about it some more, but couldn’t figure out which black hole had swallowed up my friend’s comments. And then something occurred to me, and I quickly checked it out. Yup, my suspicion was right – the software “protecting” my blog from spam got overzealous and had decided that her comments were spam. Why? No idea. There was not even an ounce of advertisement or as much as a hint of a URL for a product in her message.  Argh!    

And then the other day, I was busy typing up something using a word processor (I’m not going to name it, but I’m sure you all know which one I’m referring to), and when I looked back, I couldn’t believe that I had typed so badly. When I looked at it more closely, though, I realized it was not me who was the bad typist. See, the word processor thought that it knew my mind better than I did myself; every time I typed something that it, in all its astuteness, knew to be obviously wrong, it patronizingly smirked behind my back and set about correcting my mistakes.    

(Ooh, just had a brilliant idea!) So, from now on, let it be known that ANY mistakes that you see in my posts (including idiocy in opinions expressed, along with typos), are due to my word processor taking over control and spewing its infinite wisdom onto these pages.      

And cell phones – don’t even get me started. That’s a whole series of posts for another time. I’m not touching that one. Not today. Not with a long pole.    

 I know I’ll sound extremely shallow and clichéd saying this, but I’ll say it anyway: Technology! Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.     

Or, maybe, it’s just me and my control issues.

Read Full Post »

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