India

So I’ve spent less time in India than most Indians, nevertheless I claim the title and love to flaunt it. The country is an explosion of colour, an overload for the senses to anybody who has never been before. The culture is incredibly expansive, varying upon location and religion, each region has its own dialect, some have their own language. The clothes, the food, the smells change as you travel from the simple roads through to the bustling metropolis.

Indian food is every taste in the world put in one bite, the produce is freshly picked and the fruit and vegetable sellers drag a cart around the streets daily. The milk is received in canisters fresh every morning, the biggest problem is thus the empty canister before the next delivery of milk.

Here’s a really happy milkman

It’s not as simple as going to the Sainsbury’s and buying another bottle, but borrowing some from your neighbours. Everything is prepared from scratch and the yogurt is terrible, it’s the most watered down nonsense.

Animals roam freely alongside on the road, gigantic trucks painted with the brightest “horn please” signs. Honestly, you could go there just to see the trucks, each has its own unique horn, that you’ll hear much more than you are used to. People honk as often as they say hello, just a little greeting to the fellow drivers that will probably deafen you eventually. And the signs on the trucks are a work of art, nobody knows who paints them but each truck is a masterpiece. The driver is represented by what is essentially their livelihood and there’s an underlying competition to get the most vibrant and attention seeking truck.

If trucks don’t take your fancy, there’s a whole variety of transport; rickshaws, autos and motorcycles. Motorcycles are omnipresent, they are everywhere, each family has at least one, cars are rarer. Rickshaw drivers have incredible stamina, I’ve never met one that’s complained about the laborious job.

There’s not a proper sewer system because the country grew too quickly for that to evolve alongside it, instead there’s a “nali”, a gutter alongside houses, carrying the dirty water from houses, you can’t call yourself a proper Indian if you’ve never gotten your foot in there. This is all my personal experience though, I’m sure there’s places in India that are perfectly modern and clean, that’s where all the tourists go. My grandparents’ houses are so much different than anything here, a giant courtyard in the middle, than a veranda on the side with closed rooms coming off it. The roofs have access by stairs and are where all the children play in the evenings, along with kite flyers. On a breezy evening when you go on the roof, you’ll see a sea of kites from around the area, with people trying to “cut” other people’s kites, an idea that sounds rude and usually crushes the spirit of some teenage boy when it happens.

The movies are amazing, Bollywood is full of every genre, every story you’d want and no movie is shorter than three hours. Three hours seems like a lot, so that’s why there’s always an intermission in the middle, watching a film becomes a bigger experience. Every movie has at least one song, it could be the most serious movie ever and still have a song and dance number somehow. Dream sequences allow Indian actors to go to exotic locations around the world, even though it’s not needed for the plot. It’s the same with television, the over dramatisation is absurdly cringey at times. The world stops still, thunder claps and the character’s hair goes wild with a convenient burst of wind just because she found out about her husband’s unemployment. She weeps and falls all over the floor, you just don’t know what to expect, it’s hilarious.

My hometown is a 5 hours drive away from New Delhi, the contrast couldn’t be bigger, the closer you get, the worse the roads become and the greener the view out of the window. I haven’t wandered incredibly far from the area near my grandparents’ houses but I know everyone in those areas, and they know me. No one locks their door except at night, you can randomly stroll in to anyone’s house in broad daylight. The same people have lived in the same house for generations, no one suddenly moves out and gets another house in another area, families grow in one house. The house grows with them as well, throughout my life, the houses have gone through several coats of paint and expansions.

We stay in my grandparents’ house, my maternal grandparents’ house is a 5ish minutes walk away from my paternal’s. No, my parents are not related. I can go back and fro easily and get treated like a princess everywhere. I have to admit though, the population is ageing, most people have now begun to move away to get a successful career, building their family elsewhere. That’s basically the story of my family, my brother was born in India, so was I, he only stayed there for three months afterwards, so did I. But I came back and lived in India for 4 years, till I was almost six before moving to Belfast. My foundation years were in India, so I can speak Hindi with fluency, which surprises most people who meet me, I even went to school for two years in India. This kid thought he was really strong once and lifted a table, the corner grazed my chin and an amazing scar with a story was born. My mother was doing her PhD at this time, I used to saunter into her labs and all her colleagues would spoil me, those were the days.

This is the India I know, a country full of people I love, full of the most delicious food you will ever taste, full of concepts that would blow your mind, full of sights that you thought you’d never see, just brimming with life. To anyone who hasn’t gone, you need to, you really do. With a great tour guide (hint hint) you’ll come back a completely different person, don’t visit the usual touristy places, they’re an inaccurate representation. Sure, you’ll get stared at a lot for being a foreigner and coming to a little town in the middle of nowhere, but you need to get in the shoes of an Indian to actually experience India. I’ve rambled on so lovingly about a country, take it as an indicator, you need to go. Visit India.

Optimism

Optimism is a scientifically proven deterrent of many diseases although it is rather difficult to procure in such uncertain times. The word simply means “hopefulness and confidence about the future”, it can allow you to look past the worst and the see light in the darkest of times.  At a time where the world is hanging on the edge, it’s sometimes hard to imagine a perfect utopian world. So optimism is a rare quality, one that people admire and envy in others.

What do you have to do to be hopeful and confident about the future? One option is ignorance, they say “ignorance is bliss” and to an extent that’s true. Ignoring all your problems means that all that you acknowledge are the positive things but the problems still remain. Ignorance can only make a fool happy, eventually you lose all touch with people and dig yourself a deeper hole. That option isn’t viable, what do you do instead?

Perspective is the greatest tool like Oscar Wilde said, “Optimism is the donut, pessimism is the hole.” Looking at the bigger picture can be the solution to the pettiest of problems, your discharged phone really could be the minutest of issues. Sure, it could be incredibly important but giving too much gravity to that event isn’t going to help you deal with it, getting a charger will. Then there are moments when it feels like the entire world’s burden is on your shoulders. Unfortunately, you can’t be the solution to every problem, no matter how hard you try. The balance between the two situations is incredibly hard to achieve but remember, it’s all about perspective.

To achieve hopefulness and confidence about tomorrow, it needs to be something to look forward to. The future always arrives quicker than expected, so what do I want from it? With realistic expectations, I want a life that I would be proud of, a person that I would look up to now. I can recall when I was younger I used to admire these passionate people with strong opinions and then I evolved into what I thought was them. Now I see admirable qualities in driven people that carry themselves well and recieve the respect of many, my goal is to evolve into them.

The next time you see that glass that has half the amount of liquid it can contain, say it’s half full. Apart from making me feel like I accomplished something, you would be saying the truth and it’s a happier way of looking at the scenario. The same thought can be applied to all scenarios and with a dose of healthy realism on the side, an optimistic viewpoint  could rescue you out of your mundane life. So give the new life saving medicine a try, no side effects included!

 

General Election 2017

52 days ago today, a snap election was called by the prime minister, Theresa May. The consequence was a whirlwind campaign by all the parties that ended up harming the Conservatives more than helping them. An action May hoped would result in a bigger majority for her party produced an outcome that shocked the nation.  The Conservatives were 8 seats short of a majority government and eventually formed a deal with the Northern Irish party DUP. The combination of these seats gave them two more seats than the required 326, which was quite a small margin. However to inform the general world population, British politics is run by small margins.

Our country has faced three major elections in the past three years and we’ve all gotten a bit fed up. One of the reasons the Conservatives lost seats was due to the decision to call an election. A highlight in the portfolio of May’s u-turns, a snap election had been confidently denied many times. The British people had received a few months to judge the leadership of Theresa May and the result shows doubt nationwide. “Safe” seats for the Conservatives were taken by other parties such as Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Although she is adamant to keep her position, this election has certainly caused a stir in the political world.

Another key reason for the Conservative’s loss was​ Jeremy Corbyn. A man who had been in government for as long as Theresa May, attracted the votes of the younger generation. His new manifesto for Labour provided a glimmer of hope for the future and that got him the votes from the youth. He convinced young people to engage in politics and have a say in their future, leading to one of the highest turnouts from that group seen so far. Corbyn captured the people with his dreams for free tuition fees for university students and the rescue of the national health service. The views of Labour may have appeared too communistic for a lot of people that had gotten accustomed during the seven years the Tories have reigned, nevertheless they chose Labour, to defeat May. Albeit, Labour did not get a majority or form a coalition that beat the Conservatives, they were still impressive.

Additionally, Corbyn appeared in more television and radio appearances than May, started social media accounts that interested the younger population. His authenticity and eloquence gained him support as he consistently performed well in public events. Jeremy provided a refreshing outlook and challenged the controversial topics such as nuclear defense and arms deals. Considering the media bias towards the Conservatives and the regular heavy criticism Corbyn faced, he beat a lot of odds.

With an exit poll that stunned even the most optimistic Labour members, the population was motivated to stay up and watch the results be released. As they kept coming in, famous politicians and even party leaders lost their seats to other parties.  If we take my seat as an example it is evident, Colne Valley was a Conservative seat and the bookies put a ~99% chance of that remaining as the case. Surprisingly and with the slimmest majority of 915 votes, Labour won, due to factors such as the closure of a nearby A & E department, Thelma Walker won one of the supposedly safest seats. How can a prime minister be so self-assured with such a disappointing result for her party?

Admittedly, the result was still in favour of the Conservatives and Theresa May remains the prime minister but the increased support for Labour illustrates the instability of modern day politics. In a time where no election can be forecasted accurately, calling a snap election was a sign of complacency. Now that May has seen the consequence​, the question remains, does she regret it? Her party has lost seats, they have lost the majority they were hoping to build upon and “the strong and stable” vision is a distant memory. Only time will tell how this weak and wobbly arrangement will pan out.

 

Birthday Suit

If you removed all the things that masked you, what would you be left with? Your body, your thoughts and your opinions. And if you look at that person, how do you feel? If that person resembles you, then you are lucky, honest and open. The people that surround you see your purest form, where you flaunt your naturally beautiful form. But what happens when this uncovered person is nothing like you? Have you become fake, or afraid of revealing yourself?

I would like to think that I would be in the first category, my closest friends and strangers view me in the same way as I see myself. However, I know very well that there are several prejudices against me by various people. I have come to a point where I have gotten tired of caring. Guiding people to see you truthfully is painstakingly slow, especially if they have a rigid mindset. I try my best to make myself have a positive attitude to everyone but if the other person is not even trying to accept you, why should you waste your energy on them?

Confidence is key, those that have two faces do not possess it, their truth is too shameful for them to display it. It’s a rare quality that is either there from birth or built up over several  failures. Honestly, I cannot stand two faced people, the fact that I know they are different to what they show frustrates and annoys me. A fine balance remains, overconfidence wards off people, as they grow annoyed of the vanity that they have. Though, lack of confidence is limiting and prevents people from pursuing their dreams. 

My confidence has been prominent throughout my life due to the fact that my birthday suit is quite unique. Everyday, my skin changes, never the same as before or tomorrow, it might discolour in one place and colour in another. This is because I have vitiligo, a rare autoimmune disease that affects the pigment in skin. I have been through everything, awkward conversations, strangers staring and many many prejudiced opinions. 1% of the population have it, making it relatively common but the number of children having is much lower. This means I am one of lucky few to have struggled with vitiligo through my life.  

I don’t say the word lucky sarcastically but genuinely which makes me sound like a crazy person. If I compare myself to other people, I see a higher level of maturity and acceptance in myself that is lower in the majority of my friends. My experiences  have moulded me into the best version of myself possible.  The reason I succeed at most things is not really because I am intelligent but because I have the self-confidence to believe that it is true. It might make me sound like egotistical preacher but I honestly believe that it is the truth.

My birthday suit had shaped my life in numerous ways, now I have come to a point where I have accepted it and cherished it. Cherishing yourself is vital because if you do then you are highly likely to be successful. Caring is important but sometimes you have to stop caring to allow yourself to be free. The most important thing is that the person you show is the same person that you are. Being this way is guaranteed to make your life amazing, so go ahead and enjoy yourself.

Depending and Independing

We all start off as babies,  most of the time,  your carers raise you till you reach adolescence.  A point where the balance tips and you become more independent than dependent.  Obviously you still rely on your carers for the bare necessities but other than that you are free.  The paths and choices vary dramatically and sometimes the path chosen isn't the best you could have taken.  So then you reach adulthood,  the majority of your decisions are your own and you become the envy of teenagers all around,  as they wish to become as liberated as you are.  Adulthood lasts for a while and eventually,  if you make it so far,  you reach old age.  The circle of life means that you begin to rely more on others and some even return to a state similar to a baby. 

In life you experience this range of constriction and freedom,  some reach certain liberties before others.  For example,  a big stage of independence as an adolescent is a phone,  some get flashy phones from a stupidly small age while others don't have a phone till they need to.  This device segments people into groups and so do many other trivial things. 

A child looks up to those who make their own decisions whilst adults wish to be children again.  The main idea is that we always want the things we do not have. So as independent as you maybe,  you secretly wish to be carefree and pampered like children.  The children with the flashy phones envy the close relationships other children have without phones. Those other children envy the flashy phone person and thus the cycle repeats. 

Dependence on anything for too long is harmful whether it be drugs or your parents.  Obviously the drug statement is self-explanatory but there comes a point when you have to be independent or you struggle with life.  Education tries its best to wean you off the support of anyone as you grow in knowledge and confidence.  Eventually you work in a job and provide for yourself,  this would not be possible had you stayed dependant.  

Independence too is harmful as those who isolate themselves further and further away from others over think small things. This leads to a period of depression which is only made better by reinstating yourself into society.  As you become a part of other people's lives,  your own problems fade away. 

Too much of anything is bad whether it be good or bad,  our zeal for what we don't have drives us but also anchors us.  Independence is overrated to those who have suffered with it and dependence is seen as a fault with those who have it.  So live in the moment,  appreciate the controlled beginning to your life which nurtured you into a self-sufficient person.  Enjoy the freedom which life provides as it fades away with age and most importantly value your life as it is. 

Refugees

In a world where millions seek haven from war and repression, Trump’s order suspended refugee admissions for 120 days, even for those already thoroughly vetted and approved. A ban reasoned by the increasing of terrorism has probably increased it even further. Personally, I think this ban is illegal, it is against fundamental human rights,  to ban people due to their religion and nationality should not be allowed in any circumstance. Not only is it immoral to discriminate in such a way, it is also deeply ineffective.

People from seven,  predominantly Muslim, countries have been temporarily banned from entering the US.  Whether they hold dual nationality does not affect the shocking treatment these people are receiving,  not only refugees are disturbed but everyone around the world is surprised.  We shouldn’t be,  I expected nothing less from Donald Trump,  a divisive move that would alienate a whole religious group.  As people are trying  to stop Trump from entering  Britain for a state visit,  parliament is having to debate this protest.

After watching the  debate I was stunned,  firstly by the informality and brashness in the parliament of one of the the most politest countries.  Secondly,  I could not understand the need for such a debate,  it was clear not many people wanted to allow Trump to visit but due to “the special relationship we have with the US” the end was inconclusive. The only reason Trump picked these seven countries was due to the minimal effect their absence would cause.  They will not stop other people from dangerous countries from entering like Egypt or Turkey.  Why?  Simply because these countries have “special relations”  with the US.  Special relations obviously entitle firearms,  money and oil,  amongst other political reasons that would sink Trump into a deep sea of controversy.

Developing and often fragile regions host more than 85% of the world’s 22 million refugees. Without the aid of one the most developed countries in the world, many people are suffering, much more than those who were suffering due to refugees being in the US. Refugees are the building blocks for many of the world’s civilisations and there may come a point in the future where Americans seek refuge but with attitudes like these they are unlikely to receive it.

Trump’s executive order bars people from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia from entering the U.S. for 90 days, along with banning refugees. Even people such as Mo Farah, are affected by the ban then. Mo Farah is a British athlete who is originally from Somalia, it is unclear whether he is permitted in the US however I am sure that he will be, to avoid conflict from the UK. But what about the regular Somalian? They do not have such support and nor do they have the influence or wealth.

Trump has represented the notion of the world these days clearly, we have all become obsessed with financial happiness and anything that obstructs this has been removed. The obstructions could be a large group of innocent people or a struggling co-worker. The clumsiness of this move and the retaliation against it suggests the future of the 45th president. Only time will tell how much more turmoil will be caused…

 

Wandering

I have been to many places and not stayed in a place for more than two years at a time. It’s been eye-opening and exciting, my life would be a bore any other way. Thankfully, I have been gifted with parents that are researchers which results in a life with many homes, all of them unique in my development as a person.

Every place is a blank slate. You can start again and fix previous mistakes, make new friends and learn new things. Of course, moving often results in awkward situations when relocating, you lose good friends and have to make new ones. I try to remain in contact with as many people as I can but friendships die over time. There are many regrets after moving, many what ifs and a frustration with the concept. As a young child, I found it amusing and fun  but over time I have come to realise the importance of places. My brother displays my long-lost enthusiasm for moving now although he too will get frustrated soon enough.

Lots of people have come and gone, the majority of them do not understand how one person can move so often. Strangely enough I feel sorry for those who are less travelled, without trying to sound too patronising. Travelling is honestly the best thing that has happened to me, I have vastly matured and gained a wealth of experience that is incomparable to most people.

My sense of self is largely settled because the things that haven’t changed too largely represent me very truthfully. I can choose my friends very quickly and they never disappoint in any way, the relationships that can last all this are unbreakable. I know that anything terrible will only have a temporary consequence because eventually I leave and people forgive and forget. I have a very fixed idea with what I want out of my future and its been shaped by my surroundings, I want to do something I enjoy, something that allows to explore and expand.

There are lots of apparent bad effects to mental health caused by moving frequently but I haven’t discovered them yet. Somehow, I have ended up in the best places at the best times, my education has been greatly enhanced because I have always been a year ahead of wherever I have been and the stress has not impacted me, yet. I don’t value stability and security as much as others do but to me they aren’t the most important things, the thrill of moving gives me a drive.

Home isn’t one place for me, home is seven countries, two continents and anywhere where my family and friends are. I know one day I will have to move from here as well but that’s fine, I have had lots of preparation.