Diwali: A festival of lights or destruction?

As I’m sitting inside my home, I hear the noise of crackers, every few seconds, and occasionally I also hear a faint yelp from the dogs. There are a lot of things that you can do during Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, but we resort to doing something that harms not just us, but every single person in the surrounding area. I accept, till the age of 11 I too was an enthusiastic kid who thought bursting crackers was the best way to celebrate Diwali. However, thanks to my English teacher then, my perspective on how to celebrate changed.

In the year 2013, more 80 people from just Chennai were admitted in Hospitals with eye injuries. And more than half of these people were little kids. Second to eye injuries come burn injuries, which I hope you can imagine how painful it can be. In Ahmedabad, over 45 incidents of fire were reported in the mere 2 days of Diwali in 2015. The 108-ambulance service received more than 3,800 calls from across Gujarat in these two days. All the calls were related to either fire accidents or about respiratory complications caused due to the smoke of fire crackers.

When I cite the word ‘pollution’, most of you would haughtily reply saying, ‘We cause pollution every day. This is just for a day or two’. Yes, true, but the percentage that it causes in a day or two is alarmingly high. The pollution level increases 5 to 8 times above the safety standard these two days. Two practices define Diwali — lighting earthen lamps all over the house, and setting off firecrackers.  India produces nearly $38 million worth of firecrackers every year, most of which are sold in the weeks leading up to Diwali. Every Indian child grows up knowing the names of each different kind. Many Indian children, though, are too familiar with these crackers — because they make them. I won’t divulge into the ugly details of cheap child labour that is practised, you all know it already.

Let’s rather talk about how you can ideally celebrate Diwali? By being with your family, and if that is not possible, with your close friends. Make sweets, have as much as you want, play games, lose gracefully, go out and watch the latest block buster movies, call up your grandmother and grandfather to wish them (it means more to them than to you). But of course, if you are an ignorant person who is apathetic towards the environment, at least do the following when you are celebrating Diwali with fire-crackers:

1. Make sure you buy Fireworks from a licensed shop and keep them stored in a closed box.

2. Store crackers away from sources of fire or ignition; also, keep them away from the reach of toddlers. They are your children, have some sense.

3. Burst crackers in open spaces like playgrounds and fields.

4. While lighting the crackers, stand at an arm’s length, away from the Cracker. Safety comes first.

5. Discard used fireworks in a bucket of water this way you can avoid people from stepping on to and hurting their feet from used fireworks which are thrown on the ground.

6. Keep buckets of water and blankets ready, in case a fire breaks out. And yes, it will.

7. Wear thick cotton clothes while bursting crackers, so as to ensure maximum safety from fire. And wear footwear, please. Again, your safety.

8. While igniting Diwali aerial fireworks like rockets, ensure that they are not facing any opening like a window, door or an open building gate. If the rockets zoom into them, it will cause fire accidents.

9. As much as possible, avoid bursting more than one firecracker at a time. Especially avoid serial crackers.

10. Diwali doesn’t get over with just bursting crackers. It is your responsibility to clean it up the next day, which none of us do. This year would be a good time to start.

And most importantly, STAY AWAY FROM THE STRAYS. Dogs are our companions; they give us nothing but happiness and love. The stray dogs are poor creatures who cannot even speak for themselves, all they look for is some scraps of food occasionally. You don’t have to give them food if you don’t want to. That’s your personal mindset. At least don’t hurt them with your disgusting act. Especially for those who have pets, keep them inside your home please. And as much as possible, you don’t burst crackers yourself. You know how it harms the little ones. And this applies not just to dogs, but all kinds of animals.

Diwali is a time to be with the loved ones. Help around your home as much as you can. Do not send forwards that end with something like, “(((((BOOM))))) Happy Diwali!”, because that’s not what Diwali represents. It takes a certain while for people’s mindset to change.  For me, it took a 30-minute-long speech given by my teacher. For someone else, all it takes would be to lose their eye (I’m not joking, I read an article just yesterday). Do you want to belong to the latter? It’s up to you. However you celebrate, be safe, be happy. Happy Diwali!

 

 

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The M-cube phenomenon

‘The Universe is a pretty big place. If it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space.’

                                                                                                                                                            – Carl Sagan

I make it a point to begin or end my articles with a quote. Not just any quote, but something that makes me read it twice.

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A hundred years ago, Baron Munchausen landed on Mars. In his adventures the legendary and unfortunately fictional character had gone deep underwater. Not surprisingly, he meets a Martian in his fable. But what is the Martian’s countenance? Bug-eyed with elf like ears? Blue eyes sans nose? Is it after all human-like? These questions plague us till date. It has been a hundred years and after thousands of hours of research, innovation and relentless pursuit we have finally reached the culmination (or, have we?) of engendering a Manned Mission to Mars.

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A few months ago, some sharp-eyed observers of images from the Curiosity rover were convinced that they’d spotted a mouse on the planet’s surface. As Redditors poured over the grainy, zoomed-in photo, they were unknowingly participating in a long history of humans’ speculation of the Martian life—either through science or fiction. And the key element to this mission is the Orion spacecraft – named after the easily spotted and majestic constellation (now you can guess why there is an Orion at NIT Trichy).

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Orion is the first spacecraft ever built in the history of mankind which would take us earthlings, and along with us the entire mankind a step closer to discovering the unheard secrets of our Universe by taking us farther than we have ever dared to embark upon. Carried aloft by the tremendous power of a Space Launch System rocket, our explorers will begin their Journey to Mars from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying the spirit of humanity with them to the Red Planet.

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2 days ago NASA successfully fired up its second and final qualification test of the booster in Promontory, Utah. The gravitational pull exerted by Earth, while helpful in most cases, proves to be a nuisance here. To break away from this intense connection, the temperatures inside have to reach a scorching 6000 degree Celsius. This booster is expected to provide 75% of the thrust which is much required. To give you a frame of reference, Sun’s surface temperature is roughly 6000 degree Celsius. This 2 minute test will be providing NASA with enough information to certify the booster with a green check and proceed to the next stage. Isn’t that questionably amazing?

What is the next step you ask? An uncrewed, first of the series of flight tests of Orion of which the first one is scheduled on December 4, 2016. A Thursday. During its 4.5 hour trip, Orion will orbit Earth twice and travel to an altitude of 3,600 miles into space. This is critical. To test how deep the well is you don’t jump inside. You throw a pebble and wait for the faint sound. In this case, nobody knows if the well has even a reachable end.

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This flight will test many elements that pose the greatest risks to astronauts and will provide the data needed to improve the design and minimize future risks.

To give a short glimpse into an insider’s opinion,

“Today’s test is the pinnacle of years of hard work by the NASA team, Orbital ATK and commercial partners across the country,” said John Honeycutt, SLS Program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “SLS hardware is currently in production for every part of the rocket. NASA also is making progress every day on Orion and the ground systems to support a launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. We’re on track to launch SLS on its first flight test with Orion and pave the way for a human presence in deep space.”

If everything goes as planned, our species will land on an asteroid by 2025 and on Mars by 2030s. These are not just whims, rather goals outlined in the bipartisan NASA Authorization Act of 2010 and in the U.S. National Space Policy, also issued in 2010.

Did you know that you, irrespective of your knowledge of space exploration, can be on a crew that travels to Mars not more than a decade from now? Imagine, you will be one among thousands who represent our planet in a place millions of miles away. Does that sound cool? It probably does. However, I’d like to be a harbinger and give you some inside information on life on Mars.

Seeing as how ambitious and evolving we are, it is possible that one day in the foreseeable future we establish a permanent colony on Mars. So, how will a day be like there? The Martian year is twice as long as Earth’s, but visitors would still experience winter and summer seasons thanks to the planet’s tilted axis. Explorers would be treated to some mind-blowing sights, with vast canyons, giant mountains and sand dunes. The Martian air has a permanent veil of dust, giving the daytime sky an orange tinge although sunrise and sunset would be blue. Ice clouds similar to the cirrus clouds we see on Earth complete this otherworldly landscape. But apart from the scenic view, it is no resort beach.

Its atmosphere is very thin (only 1% as massive as our own), there is no liquid water and temperatures are distinctly chilly. On a nice balmy day down near the equator the surface temperature could get a little bit above freezing. The cold, coupled with a lack of oxygen, very low pressures and solar radiation would confine astronauts to their spacecraft or enclosed vehicles, with the occasional Mars-walk in their spacesuits. Since the air density is astonishingly low (1% as that of Earth’s) and also since Mars lacks a strong magnetic field, it cannot deflect harmful radiations. So basically all three necessities for life – food, water and shelter would be a humongous challenge to overcome.

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But hey, you get 40 minutes extra every day. Maybe that compensates for it after all.

Wasted Words

It was only a month away. She couldn’t remember the last time that she felt such longing for an aimless day to arrive. What has marriage done to her? She was going through the old photographs when she found a hackneyed racquet at the bottom of the box. She had had her name specially inscribed in it, ‘J.Miller’. She smiled, but her eyes said otherwise. She took out a pen and paper to write down her ideas. Without caution, she was reminded of her checklist in college. 20 to-do things that no sane kid would dare to. Every year she would mark 5 things off it. Things were different now, she barely got out of the house.

She spent the entire afternoon writing down ideas and finally it struck her; a diary. A diary of the first one year of their relationship. That crazy year when 2 AM calls were routine, when a car drive to a city out of bounds was a weekly thing, when problems were solved, not created, by each other. Yes, she decided, rekindling those memories was the only way to hope for some happiness in their bleak marriage.

Everyday afternoon for the next one month, she wrote ten pages. Ten pages filled with heart warming moments, irreplaceable adventures and wet ink spots. She never had to worry about the privacy of the diary as he barely cared about what she did. The only conversation that happened everyday was if there was anything to buy from the grocery store. He left early morning, returned home past 9. Sometimes he would eat dinner outside, saving her the only time when she got to speak to him. She had considered running away a thousand times; every day she used to wonder why she never did it.

The day had finally come. To seal the diary with a gift, she got him a tie and kept both of it on his office table in his room. Like everyday, he woke up at 4:30 AM and went to his room and shut the door. She was waiting for his breakfast, to see his face, to hear him apologize for his negligence, to see some kind of change. Any change. When he came out of his room, he was already in his suit and ready to leave.

However, before he left, he looked at her and said, ‘Thanks for the tie, it looks good’. And he left, like it was just another day.

That Place, That Day.

I was having a bad day. I dozed off without completing my work, I was too exhausted and had no control over my eyelids. The bright stream of sunlight woke me up; I was late. To make things hard, Lily gave me a hard time in wearing her jeans and eating cereal. Lily. Oh Lily. She has so much in resemblance to the person after whom she was named. Stubborn and too naive. As I passed by the place, it hit me, like it did everyday. But today was different, for some inexplicable reason I wanted to enter the gate today. I was having a bad day.

I stopped and retraced a few steps of mine. The worn out sign still read ‘Allen Christophe’s Gardens ‘. I saw a plastic cup thrown away at the entrance. As I picked it up and entered, involuntarily my motor movements took me to that spot. Everything in that place had changed; but to me, nothing had changed. I’ve always wanted to bring little Lily here. Oh Lily. As I sat down, the violet Rose in front of me started at me in silence.
It was the kind of garden that emanated memories, rather than scent.

The memory of me, in my high school football jersey proposing Lily came to my mind. She thought it was hilarious, that I would choose such an attire. It rained that day, I still remember. Another memory, a painful one, crossed my mind. I broke off our engagement in that very place. She thought it was a joke, that it was impossible to make sense of what I had just said. Both of us knew it was going to happen I guess. That memory was still bearable.

When I looked at the bench next to me, I saw a faint mark of ‘AM+JG’. He was always the romantic one, the one who would give me flowers at the end of a bad day, the one who would bake my favorite cake even if I didn’t have a bad day. I didn’t plan to propose him, I simply wanted to bring him here. But as we were sitting and as I saw him carving out our initials, I knew it was the moment. Now when I looked at the bench, I realized I was crying, uncontrollably. How did that happen? I promised myself never to return again. I was wrong. I should have come here everyday. This was the one place that had his presence felt so strong. The one place where we weren’t judged everyday for our love for each other.

It’s been three years since we came here. Three years since I adopted Lily. It took me a year to fall for him, It will take me a lifetime to forget him. I was having a bad day. But when I left, I was happy.

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A Pseudo-humongous-transition

All of my posts till now have been formal and full of facts. But i’m gonna make this one more reader-friendly. 

If anybody asks me what I was doing half an hour before my 18th birthday, they would have openly cursed me for my reply. Washing clothes. Yeah, me being the obsessive-things-have-to-be-done-as-planned one in my family, I have grown up in such a way that it is unable for me to even sleep without establishing all the things that I’ve planned for.the day. So anyhow, being an NITT-ian, washing machine becomes a luxury here. Hence, as i was washing a butt-load of evil-smelling clothes, the first call arrived form my Best friend at around 11:40. Slowly as time flew, other calls started coming at around 11:55. I couldn’t speak literally for more than 20 seconds with a person, even with my brother, since I was barraged with calls. People, i.e my school friends, who i haven’t spoken to in months also called to wish, for which I was utterly grateful. 

Next came the cake-cutting, which right now has become a tradition in our hostel. Almost all of my class and non-class friends were assembled, and began the chorus as I entered my candle-light lit room. The chocolate cake was rich in its flavor, but unfortunately I cannot describe much about it since I had the least amount of pieces, being the birthday girl. More amount of cake was smeared on my face than my mouth. After a hell lot of selfie’s, laughter and GPL(If you haven’t heard of it, imagine a human being held at hands and legs and kicked from under). Later we all went to the night canteen inside our hostel to have soft drinks. I’ve always wanted to try to open a fizzling coke bottle, and finally I got the chance on my b’day. It was fun, mainly because it splashed on everyone else except me. 

Later as I came back to room and turned on my laptop, there was the job of replying to every post on facebook. Usually I just copy and paste it everywhere, but this time I replied separately and properly to every post. Later talked with some more friends and fell asleep at 4.

Woken up by my roommate, I had to hurriedly take a bath and get ready for class at 10 30. Thankfully, we had only two classes today, hence as it got over at 12 10. Myself, a friend of mine whose b’day was the day before mine, and 16 other classmates went to Trichy to a 3 star hotel, Breeze.It was a combined treat hence my pocket wasn’t burnt so bad. The food was sumptuous and delicious. While returning, we again clicked tons of pictures. I was exhausted after reaching my room. I was greeted with a courier from my school best friend. He had sent a dress, cooling glass, chocolate and album with all of my pics and a letter. By the time I finished reading the letter, my eyes were clouded with tears. I was so grateful hence I called right away to thank him. Later again I got ready to go meet a best friend. My school best friend who was in a nearby college also came to meet. Had a wonderful time with both of them, loved their gifts, and returned back happily and contented. More posts to reply to, pictures to upload and calls to return. Finally the end of the day arrived, with me talking with my best friend one more time and I still remember the last minute of the day. I was laughing happily as the clock struck 12 and date changed to 31-07-2014.

People always say turning 18 is something huge. I feel the same as yesterday, the day before that and the day before that. It is not a change that happens overnight. You learn how to be more mature and sensible from your past 18 year experience and not in one day. And that’s what I learnt on my birthday.

 

 

A feast-to-remember

Nobody likes to be in an unknown unfamiliar place which is blaring with noise and vigorous crowd milling around, constantly bumping into someone and getting cursed, unfamiliar faces all around and having no idea where you are. But what if you were one among the herd?

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What if you had the chance to spend 4 days with your best buddies milling around a 770 acre ostentatiously decorated campus, with events going on every direction you turn, workshops that you’ve always craved for taking place right in front of your eyes, pro shows that pump up your blood stream and tone up your energy llevel, choreo nite which carves out the dancer in you, and of course the stretch of miscellany food stalls which adds color to your barely alive taste buds, would you go for it?

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If you’re thinking yes, then ‘Festember‘ is the place to be!

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It is not just the activities that shape up Festember into a once-in-a-lifetime unmissable fest. The secondary reason is the surrounding aura of laughter, PJ’s, excitement and thousands of people from the nook and corner of India coalescing together just for three days to witness these activities which makes it all the more unforgettable.

 

To a dwell a little deeper into the plethora of activities, Proshows are one of the most anticipated ones. At the dawn of dusk, the crowd hitherto lazily whiling away their time in the food stalls, suddenly evacuate the place which might even trick you into thinking it to be a mass drill of some sort. But i bet you would do the same if you knew legends such as Punya Srinivas, Kadri Gopalnath, Guitar Prasanna, Benny Dayal, etc to state a few are giving one of their awe-inspiring performances. Festember has witnessed a wide range of artists excelling in diverse fields and the 4 days are categorized into Rock night, Classical and Popular night to give you a glimpse of it all. This year being the Golden Jubilee one, wait for some truly spectacular luminaries.

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While Proshows are most anticipated, Workshops form the soul of Festember. Simply because they quench the thirst of hundreds of souls who crave to do something beyond their reach, let it be a Pottery workshop or a Party dance workshop. Workshops ensure that the students while thoroughly enjoying it, also get the chance to pursue their inner hidden passion, which might not always be the mainstream and monotonous path of engineering, medical or commerce. Be different.

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The backbone of Festember are its Events. With over 50+ events sprawled out in front of you, you will be stuck in a state of dilemma as to which event to pick. The events range from the most eagerly awaited Choreo Nite, to the billingual Tarangini, to Cinematics, to Dramatics, and of course the event which serves a feast to everyone’s eyes- The fashion show. There will be a schedule put up in a huge banner with all the events and timings. From there it’s Sophie’s Choice for you!

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Festember is not only known to increase your talent by its Workshops, It is also a platform for you to flaunt your skills. With the innumerable Competitions stacked up, you will find at least one in which you can show your handy work. And with the lits taking place in English, Hindi and Tamil Festember achieves the task of keeping everyone busy. If that isn’t enough to keep you entertained, the Informals sure as hell will do the task. What was the last time you had the chance to be on a Virtual ‘Minute to Win it’ show? Or the last time you played street football just for the sake of it, or galli cricket? All you have to do is let yourself be taken away by the charm of it.

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And what makes Festember stand out is the fact that all of this is organized by our very own college students, who work tirelessly for an entire year just so that those 4 days pan out well. And it doesn’t stop there either. Festember while being a cultural fest is not just about the glory, a separate team renowned as ‘Festember Social Responsibility’ undertake the job of taking care of the community with its first it’s first ever drive ‘greEndeavour’ in 2012 turning out to be an enthralling success.

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And last but the best, the Gold Dustbin initiative proved to be immensely useful by achieving both the task of getting rid of your old stuff economically and raising money from waste. This is just to let you skim through the book of what this year’s Festember, like every other year, is gonna be. So many things have been squeezed into mere 4 days that it’s a formidable task to choose what you want to. But it’s a task that you’ll love doing.

 

And with the theme changing every year, this year’s theme ‘Hawaii’ is one which when someone hears, mentally paints a picture of vacations, relaxation and enjoyment. And that’s exactly what you should expect because that’s exactly how this year’s fest-to-remember will be. Don’t miss it cause later you’ll be like..

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Read between the lines

Once in  a while, everybody likes departure from the normal routine. Let it be the normal routine of your day, your food, or the routine of writing.

Poetry. There is never one true definition to it. No matter how comprehensive the definition, there is always one troublesome poem that refuses to succumb to the standard dogma. This website – http://poetinthecity.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/what-is-poetry-50-definitions-and-counting/ has a list of fifty definitions for ‘Poetry’ and yet there is the need to add more. Personally, the 20th definition is something that is close to my heart.It says, 

Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting with the gift of speech

 

Since if you think about it, a painting is never superficial. The beautifully and seamlessly woven colors on the outside is just a facade which veils much deeper emotions and feelings, and it takes more than one glance to recognize this expertise. 

And a poem is no different. At times, a poem can convey a message stronger than a monotonous article containing a 1000 words. Simple because you never take a second look at an article, your gray cells are able to comprehend it on first sight (I hope so). Whereas, poetry is an enigma. There are poems which i have read a dozen times, scrutinized it, studied it carefully, still couldn’t contemplate it. But it is like an unrelenting mathematics problem. Once you understand it, there is no better feeling in the world. 

Before i derail off track, i wanted to try an onerous experiment of comprehending a poem. There are countless renowned poets and poetess, that choosing among such legends is itself a strenuous task. And then i came across E.E.Cummings (Edward Estlin Cummings). Being a poet, exploring the sea of imagination and penning them into incomprehensible yet articulate words is a gift to be treasured, but being a poet who departs from the standard norms to create his own set of rules is something to be astonished at. And E.E.Cummings had accomplished it. Barring the criticism that he received, his poetry was widely loved by people, especially youngsters, since it brushed up on sensitive topics such as sex and war.

And one of his famous poems goes like this..

           since feeling is first
          who pays any attention
          to the syntax of things
          will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

 

my blood approves,
and kisses are a far better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
–the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

 

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

 

And death i think is no parenthesis

                    -e. e. cummings 

This type of poem is called a lyric, written in the author’s trademark style, containing unpredictable punctuation and unconventional style. In the poem he talks about how deeply felt passion is better than merely correct and conventional feeling. 

“since feeling is first”

The poem starts with putting it out there on the table that feeling comes first. Yes, this can be agreed unanimously. There are only a few things which a human can’t change about himself/herself. And one of them is the way they feel. So many great scientists and psychologists have wondered why a human feels so much,why do we experience such countless emotions? Disgust is a quick, nasty response that we experience when we encounter something that might make us sick. Anger quickly transitions us from a placid state to one where we’re ready to fight; fear prompts us to flee from dangerous situations. Sadness, on the other hand, can generate the resolve needed to change the direction of one’s life. Emotions can also motivate us to continue what we’re doing; the experience of joy is a pleasurable one, and we’re motivated to carry out the behavior that led to the emotion.

“who pays any attention
       to the syntax of things
          will never wholly kiss you;”

In the second line he starts to ask a question ‘Who pays any attention..’ and then ends abruptly by not asking any. Only when you read the next two sentences will you understand that the poet is trying to emphasize the importance of feeling with how someone kisses. He says if you are conventional, you can never completely experience the immense pleasure of a kiss. To do that you must put your feeling before your cognitive thinking. He could have easily phrased this more coherently, but this way, it grabs the attention of the reader to continue reading till they know what it means.

 

“wholly to be a fool

while Spring is in the world

 

my blood approves,
and kisses are a far better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
–the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter..”

 

In the next few lines, we see that he stresses on the same point. The word ‘Spring’ here refers to ‘love’ obviously, for he says he is willing to be a fool wholly, willing to seem irrational and listen to emotional impulses instead of a proper sound mind. And how kisses are a better fate than wisdom. And one tends to believe him as he claims to swear on all the flowers. These lines tells us how deeply and madly he has fallen in love with a women, and how concerned he is of her and her feelings, and how important she is to him, for he considers the mere flutter of her eyelids to command more power than his greatest gestures.  

 

“..we are for each other: then

laugh, leaning back in my arms”. 

 

And here we see that the poet is someone who likes to live in the moment. Neither does he reminisces over the past nor does he mourn about the future. And finally, 

 

“for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis”

 

These two lines are the most powerful of all, since they convey a strong meaning. It says how unlike most people are mistaken, life is not a paragraph, its not about writing but its about experience and sensation. However, it also creates a link to the following line, the last line of the poem, “And death i think is no parenthesis.”  With the reference to death in mind, “life is not a paragraph” could mean that life is not even as long as a paragraph. Hence is it very short and begs us to make the most of it.  A parenthesis is only the end of a phrase set off inside a sentence; however, death is not one of those. It is presumably a period, a full stop, the final end.  Once the “parenthesis” is passed, there is no going back, so it is important to make the most of life while it is there.

There might be a hidden meaning here as the introductory “since” in the first line of the poem, if read as a conjunction of time rather than causality, means that feeling comes first in life events, and death is last, both in the poem and in life itself.

To sum up this carpe diem poem, 
When you are in love you don’t worry about every thing being in order, you go by how you feel and just let it soak into your being each and every day. Just to be with the one you love and feel their kisses is better than all the “brain” stuff in the world put together. And to live in the moment, because it uses the threat of death to urge the addressee to hurry up and live life to the fullest, especially through love.