Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Ugly Side of Development

It's very difficult to know who the "big man" is when corporations and big businesses have no faces, or the faces they use are those of mere celebrity of the era. Somewhere, outside the Western world, say in an Eastern region, there are people living in the wastelands thinking of the very same question. And while you may have imagined a male in a suit, those in the wastelands are probably imagining us.

To blame a poverty stricken country simply on its corrupt government is akin to blaming only religion for war. This way of thinking leads to ignoring the many different actors at play. This way of thinking ignores the pressures many countries are under from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB). This way of thinking, of always finding someone to blame also stops people in their tracks to think and wonder why is that these countries are poor. And especially the countries that are rich in natural resources and minerals. The crippling debt these countries owe is monumental. It is so significant that no matter how much aid we give, it'll never be enough. People in these countries will keep dying from hunger and poverty.

 However, those of us from the privileged Western countries like to believe that our Aid money makes a world of difference. The irony is so strong here that it's a choking hazard. Contrary to popular myth, it is the poor countries that have made us rich, not the other way around. Because while we maybe be giving them millions in aid, they are having to pay us back double or sometimes triple with interest. Above all, they got there because of apparent aid (UK aid doesn't always have those types of conditions attached).

In the 1980s, when the WB, IMF, UK government and the US government gave aid to developing countries they used to put (and still do) conditionalities to them too. So, they would make the receiving countries lower the price on their exports, privatise publicly owned services OR threaten with the end to new loans. Now, these countries were in dire need so they 'tightened their belts', resulting in cuts that affected the most vulnerable in those countries, rendering the least powerful the most powerless (kind of similar to what we're going through right now). But lowering the prices also results in lower wages, and lower wages for working people. It also means that with the interests attached to the loans, the poor countries have to find as many ways as possible to pay back the loans since they cannot charge the right prices for their imports. The last remaining place they can go to is exploiting their natural resources. This is why a lot of very poor countries are very rich in natural resources; even though they are selling them away- it's goodbye to the trees or the gold or whatever else, just so they can pay back the over-bearing debts. The worst of it is that the WB and IMF are letting countries pay them back at the expense of our environment and people.

So, is there an answer? Yes, there is- cancel all debts. It is so simple that one has to wonder why it hasn't been brought to the table. But it has. However, the WB and IMF don't really want that as the solution, despite these organisations claiming to be set-up to end poverty and aid in development.

I have now created an online petition- please do go and sign it:

The video link below is to a documentary pretty much examining what this post is about:
War by Other Means by John Pilger

Until next time,

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Reflections on Tolerance

In the last few years, since the Tories weaseled their way into governing this country,we, as in anyone with any sense, have seen a strong and steady decline in the tolerance that we, the British, once held at the helm of our cultural pride. Where, once, the majority of the British were generally accepting of other peoples, now it seems that the majority are awash with anger, intolerance, and hatred towards anyone who is different, in any way, whether it be because of their gender, their sexual orientation, their socioeconomic background, their health, or their political beliefs.
And although I know, or actually hope, that many people are still tolerant and accepting, it does not help that our media tends to shed more light on the likes of UKIP cum Tories, and other loud mouths who are shouting out the message of intolerance and hatred rather than those who are holding the placards with the message of love and acceptance. If anything, the ones holding the placards are usually portrayed as troublemakers- people marching for their pensions, you say? Oh, they are breaking the peace- tends to be the usual reply. Rather than turning this post into something political, and having mentioned UKIP/ Tories once already, I would like to say here that it is these very parties and their followers who are rotting the very values and morals of our country. It is these very people who are ruining the very fabric of our way of life and society. These are the very people who are endangering our ways of living.

I can't just blame the Daily Mail et al readers; it's a cheaper option for them to buy them in comparison with how much The Guardian et al cost, therein lies an inequality. So, if you want better informed news articles, you have to spend more. It's ironic that these cheap tabloids apparently stand up for the workers in this country as anyone with any sense will know that they have consistently been on a rampage to condition the minds of its readers since their establishment. In the last 4 years, it is these spin doctors who have successfully managed to take the real blame away from Dave and Gideon's pals from the City, and handed it over to the Immigrants, the Disabled, the Ailed, the Vulnerable, the Young, the Non-Whites, the Multi-lingual, the LGBTs, and even our Human Rights.

The vast amount of people who seem to be swallowing up the misinformation as though it's the truth also seems to have an astounding ability to preach what have read, and in turn get more people to join their bandwagon of intolerance and hate. What's even more terrifying is that on a number of occasions when I have spoken to people, they demonstrate pure belief in the misinformation they have read or been told by peers or parents. On many occasions, they see internet memes or read posts from fascist groups on the social media (who lie about pretty much everything) which in turn makes these people feel bitter, angry, vulnerable and threatened. People who experience all those strong emotions tend to conform, break apart, repress, or lash out towards anyone who is different. For many people, the seeds of hatred and intolerance have already been sown and no amount of talking will help. But what also won't help is well-informed people looking down on the misinformed and treating them unfairly with intolerance and hate.

I remember watching sci-fi films as a child where in the future the human race is controlled by machines, or the humans could no longer think for themselves as they have been brainwashed. Okay, there aren't any humanoid robots everywhere around us just yet but without the Hollywood glitter and sparks, this is pretty much it. We're already there. 

Until next time,

I have now opened a facebook page for this blog. You are more than welcome to go and like it but I don't know how long I'm keeping it as I feel under pressure and a bit scared of what my friends might think of me reading these posts. I will keep it for a while, and see if I can overcome this fear...

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Let's Make Some Mistakes!

It's at this time of the year that I tend to begin reflecting on this past year and what I have learnt and whether I stuck by the resolutions I had hoped to follow. I tend not to make extravagant resolutions that will be hard to do but ones that have a real meaning behind them. It was on New Year's Day that Neil Gaiman, one of my favourite authors, shared beautiful new year's wishes, on his blog, that profoundly affected me. He simply said:
"...I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.
So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever."

And so it was, that after reading this, that I decided to follow his advice. I very suddenly felt so very afraid, but also very much so excited. You see, for me, Neil Gaiman is trustworthy for he has been responsible in making my imagination expand beyond the depths I never knew existed. So, I felt that I had to do this. I had to give it a go. 

As a result of his wish, I was less hard on myself, which was very difficult to do at first, and I relapsed quite a few times but I kept trying. These days, I am a little easier on myself despite making mistakes. Prior to last year, I put far too much pressure on myself, to the point where I began to suffer from an uncontrollable amount of stress and anxiety. I constantly worried about all aspects of my life, even the parts I had no control over. It got to point where I worried about the future- as in when the sun would eventually die out what would happen to our planet? Or what if my child(ren) marry English people and then my grandchildren do too and then forget I ever existed and become UKIP-esque party supporters and forget their Indian roots completely? Pretty extreme/bizarre stuff. I still get these types of questions popping into my mind now and again, but I tend to mentally shrug at them. Another thing that I used to do was be overly controlling because I constantly thought of the consequences of every action I thought of taking or anyone else would be taking that would affect me in someway. This made me a terrible person for some time, and I was also restraining myself from taking risks. Neil Gaiman would probably say I was also restraining myself from making mistakes.

This year, it's been a pretty different story; I have been easy-going but I have still tried my best to achieve the top grades. And there was a couple of times that I didn't get the top grades in Sweden. I didn't actually cry or beat myself up too much about it. I was sad but told myself how well I had done in the other module so felt a lot less worse. I have also tried not to worry about things not being good enough, especially when it comes to my own art. I started the painting dedicated to the friend who passed away last year, and decided it would be dedicated to others who had passed away in my life too. I spent most of the summer on it as I couldn't get a job and now it's sitting on an easel in the living room, with about 3 hours of work left to it. I also spent the summer writing more of the novel that I have been aspiring to write for some time now. I managed to write an extra 12,000 + words to it, and redrafted the first couple of chapters too. For the first time, I sent to some people and asked for genuine criticism, not fearing my work receiving any kind of constructive of negative criticism. 

Finally, despite having planned my time in Sweden before the post by Neil Gaiman, it came in handy in so many ways whilst I was there. I let go of so many restraints, unbeknownst to myself until that point I had put on myself. Of course it took some time but it began with letting go of the fear of falling over. It was really thanks to the army boots from the local Army/Navy shop that a couple of my friends had recommended. For about a week I was walking like a penguin and after realising that I wouldn't fall- began to enjoy my time there.

The one thing that I was completely unsure of was whether I would make any friends, or more so if I still had it in me to make any friends. I was also worried about the age difference between me and a typical student. I missed my friends from England. I didn't think I would make good friends as the ones I already had but then I realised that I didn't need the same type of friends in Sweden. As soon as I let of this, I made real close friends, we had fun, we did silly things, we had adventures, we laughed and we cried. We walked on an iced over Nydala Lake (I shook with fear) from one end to the other. We saw Aurora borealis, and wished upon shooting starts together. We shared our secrets, fears and loves. We told each other our stories. We jumped over fences; I felt like a badass. We even judged a Yoiking competition. We did things on a whim, for once I really lived a spontaneous life. I opened up and started conversations with strangers. I spent a lot of nights alone at the lake, sitting there, breathing in fresh air and watching the sunset and sunrise at the horizon, or just sitting there staring at the moon and the stars above. They were so clear there, there was no light pollution, every star shimmered individually. There really did look like diamonds in the sky. 

I won't go out of my way to make mistakes but now I take risks and take actions of which the consequences aren't clear cut. I now no longer beat myself a lot for making mistakes and nor am I petrified by the idea of making them. I do my best to learn from them so that I can improve and develop from them in the future. I don't worry about things I have very little or no control over. (Or really, I am writing this article after making myself ill again after stressing myself out over not being able to get a job, and then I waking up yesterday morning and my mind-radio switching on and the first song on in my head was 'Let it Go' from the film Frozen only the words from the song went a little like 'Fuck it All...' you get the idea.) 

I also realised just now, that if we don't make our own mistakes we won't ever really learn anything worth learning. Whenever anyone ever says- 'Don't do this... learn from my mistakes!'- it hardly ever had the same impact as when we make the same mistake ourselves. 

As I haven't really shared any photos for a while, here is one of my new painting, very close of being finished. It is also the biggest in size yet- standing at 40x32 inches...

So until next time,
Have a great week or two,
Don't be afraid to make mistakes, and if you fear mistakes then make 'em! Be spontaneous, do something on a whim, but don't go to a random restaurant on a whim- go to tripadvisor first!

Sen x

P.S- I also didn't freeze- I took a pair of thermals (bad joke, but go on- humour me :D)
Neil Gaiman's blog post: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2011/12/my-new-year-wish.html

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Why I Need Feminism

The plethora of feminist related issues are still as prominent as they were in the 1960s. In those days, for example, women were sick and tired of being housewives. These days we are, for example, fighting to receive equal pay. For me, Feminism is an important perspective, as it not only fighting for the right of women, but also men. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it this way.
Last month, I watched a video of a lady walking around New York which demonstrated the well documented issue surrounded women's bodies being 'public property'. She was cat-called, stalked, as well as whistled at. After watching the video, I looked at the comments section- a lot of them didn't see a problem with it with comments such as:
Female's Comment
Woman with enormous breasts and skin-tight T-shirt, complains about receiving the attention she deliberately went out to attract.

The majority of women, it seemed, were defending the video, who understood what the woman in the video was highlighting, many commented on having experienced something similar out on the streets. What made me feel sad was comments from other women who made similar comments like above, and many men who also failed to understand why it was an issue. This comment below summed up my feelings, it also happily surprised me that it came from a man, yet there was a clear presence in the comments section from men who were defending the video:
Male's comment:
People should stop saying that saying "Hi","Hey Honey" or "How you doing today" isn't harassment... It is the way these men said it. It is harassment and very creepy for someone to say "hello" or "god bless you" to a stranger walking by. They have their intentions, and they are all clearly hitting on her. In a city so big like NYC, where most people don't know each other, it is very peculiar and scary for a stranger to talk to you. Therefore, this video clearly shows the problems of harassment and the female vulnerabilities.

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1XGPvbWn0A

My own feelings pretty much sum up what the comment above is conveying. It is about the way those men said/ made those comments towards her. I have felt the other side of this, in fact only last week I experienced something similar to this twice in one week, I was made to feel uncomfortable due to the actions of two men, once at university, and another time by someone in another car in the queue next to ours.The first time was on last Monday at uni, while walking past the International Office, on my way to a lecture, a young man was waiting outside in the corridor. He looked at me as I walked past and made the most disgusting noise equivalent to- 'oh yeah'. This immediately made me feel naked, I was wearing a coat, which in no way was figure hugging. At that moment, I felt dirty, and the rest of the day, I felt disturbed by the encounter. The second time, I was a passenger in a car, we were waiting in the queue when a car pulled up to my left. I noticed while looking around that the male driver was staring at me. I felt uncomfortable, so looked away immediately. I was relieved when his lane's lights had gone green and now was moving, but realised that he had remained static. He kept staring at me, holding the traffic behind him. He knew what he was doing, I'm sure of it. It made me feel terrified. 

I had hoped that now being in my late 20s would mean this would stop, yet it hasn't. But the thought in itself, that it would have stopped by now sums up what is still wrong with the society we live in. This sort of thing happens to many women. It's not nice and nor is it a compliment. It is the worst kind of attention to be given. It is unwanted, unneeded. It terrifies the victim. It makes the victim uncomfortable. It doesn't matter how someone is dressed. So when I see comments such as below, it saddens me that people are ignoring the very important issues that still need to be overcome. For me, only feminism can fix these issues.

A male's Review of the Guardian on it's Facebook Page:
There are at least two feminist articles a day popping up on my wall. The Guardian has seriously lost its direction and been hijacked by a feminist agenda. Remember when it was good unbias leftwing paper that wrote thought-provoking articles? A pity we have to remember them instead of reading that sort of quality at present. I am unsubscribing from The Guardian on facebook because of this

As I said earlier, Feminism stands up for all of us. It doesn't just benefit women, and most of the feminists do not hate men, just as not all English people love tea. Men can be, and many are, feminists. But this post isn't about why feminism is good for all of us, and nor is it about trying to persuade anyone into becoming one. It is about the very real experiences that half of the population is this country is facing. Of course, women are facing a lot worse situations in other parts of the world, namely the kidnapped girls in Nigeria, or the women raped in Somalia but if we can't even get past our own problems, we cannot even begin to look at others.

Sen x

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Living with Depression

Depression has plagued my life for the last 9 years at least, before this time I hadn't been diagnosed but for years I knew that feeling the way that I did wasn't ordinary. And even though it is an illness, I have tried to gain as much as I can out of it. Unless I'm just floating below just my neck in it, I have found that it helps me to be creative too.

Many people describe depression as a big black dog that follows you everywhere, and that it's always there. For me, it's like a dark shadow, a cloud almost, engulfing my soul and all that I am. And of course it affects every single part of me. The harder I try to shake it off the worse it can sometimes become. Sometimes I do overcome it and once again I can feel the fire burning in my heart. This happened to me last night. While unable to sleep again, I began to think about all the things that had gone wrong for me this year. After coming back from Sweden, I have not managed to get a part time job, and not due to the lack of trying. I have dropped my CV off at countless places, applied for jobs online, had one interview and yet not got anywhere. University has been another pain; there was another bitchy incident in a seminar the other week. It almost made me feel the anxiety I suffered last year because of a minority of people in my class. As I thought of  these things, I realised how out of control I had let things go. Then I felt this fire start to burn inside me again, and once again I felt in control. This doesn't mean that I beat depression as I know it'll be back again, maybe tomorrow, or in a week, or perhaps in a few hours.

This illness absolutely affects every aspect of my life. One of my very early posts touched on my inability to go outside unless I really needed to. Perhaps that is the reason why I have always tried to do as much as I can otherwise I just cocoon myself inside, away from everyone. And because it's not a visible illness, no one really knows or realises how many battles you have to fight to try and live some kind of a life. I remember when I had just moved into the hostel as that's when it got really bad. I am naturally very hard on myself. A lot of things my father used to say to us still run through my mind, although it's now a lot less than when I had just left home. I remember the inability to get out of bed, and how exhausting it was to wrestle with my mind to leave my room and face the world. I remember remembering my father's voice running through my mind telling me that I was just being lazy, and that I am a failure. It was not so long after that my key worker told me I was most likely suffering from depression. It horrified me when I was diagnosed with Severe Clinical Depression as mental health illnesses were such a taboo in the Indian culture, and a big problem in our family. Once, my father lost his temper when he found out that my mother had been diagnosed with depression. I remember that night quite vividly. He could not understand how she could be depressed when he had given her a big house and a lot of money. He held the same belief that a lot of people still hold, these people fail to understand that money has no relation to depression at all. But then defining it by chemical imbalance in the brain is also, I believe insensitive. Depression is far more complex than that.

This is my own personal account: everyone who suffers from it have their own experiences. So, for me, I don't take any medication. This is because of a few reasons. Firstly, I saw my mother taking tablets every day for as long as I can remember. It affected me quite badly as she never got better. Even before she was diagnosed with depression, she suffered from post-natal depression, and one of the reasons we were sent to India was because she couldn't cope with us. So, as a child I saw that despite her taking tablets, she still couldn't cope with us. Secondly, I had a bad time with antidepressants, every single medication I tried made me feel either worse or zombiefied. I have had CBT and counselling in the past, which in the long term served me well. So, even though I am still a sufferer, I understand it better as an illness. Instead of tablets, I do the Balance Procedure, which is a therapy that I am trained in, based on positive thinking. I write, paint, knit, read, etc, all a form of therapy that help me feel relief.

Living with chronic pain also affects my depression. Although sometimes the depression also triggers my back. I have been in constant pain for the last 9 years. Apart from the 6 months of pain relief I had after my an operation last year. I've just had another operation a week ago so I am hoping it will relieve me of pain again. During those 6 months, I was still depressed, I had hoped and thought that perhaps I would feel different, that somehow it would break the spell, alas, it didn't entirely. But I think that when I am not completely crippled by it, it has driven me to try harder at things, and made me stronger.

Having this illness also makes me doubt my self worth a lot. I constantly need self validation, which sometimes is a good thing as it pushes me to keep going, and work hard, whether in education or other things. But when it's really, really bad, it over-empowers me which often means that I lose to it. This is where having good close friends and family really helps. I'm lucky enough to have people who understand, care, listen and love me. That is enough.


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Thoughts of the Day

I am not so clueless as to not realise that sometimes we have to hold up arms to defend our virtues, and our rights. Yet this year, it seems that people the world over have had to do this so many times. Rather than being the last choice to make, it seems like they zoomed past all the other options and went straight for the guns. I will not pretend that I know enough about verbal negotiation, especially when it comes to international politics but I do wonder whether we as the human species are failing at communication in something that is so vital to us. If wars are avoidable, and my belief is that they can be, then surely we may have avoided much of bloodshed we have had this year.

Perhaps I sound naive, and maybe I should shut this door and just concentrate on my own life. But I just can't do it. Even though my own personal life is beautiful, I just cannot shake off the wider world that also emcompesses my personal sphere. I am angry, and I am bewildered. Most of all, I am sad, sombre even, that our species cannot even get along and work together. Instead, innocent people of all ages are suffering and have died because the leaders of certain states cannot figure out a way that is peaceful. Why are they the leaders if they cannot even do this? I understand that some of the wars or the fighting is due to groups of people killing others who are not the same as them. And perhaps what my country's government and other countries' governments are doing is right or maybe it'll just fuel it even more. I cannot but feel sad about the innocent lives that will be destroyed today.

It makes me sorrowful that we as the human race are forgetting the lessons we learnt from the wars in the previous century. That those sacrifices had a shelf-life. And that perhaps all we really are is bloodthirsty. Never mind the climate change- we'll have killed each other well before all the ice melts.


Monday, 15 September 2014

Young, Homeless and Disenfranchised

Why do some, if not most young people feel disenfranchised?

Someone asked me to write a post about this topic yesterday, and although I don't know much about most young people, I do know something about the homeless youth, especially those who are currently living in homeless hostels around the country.

I will begin by telling you about my time in a youth hostel that I ended up in when I was 18, shortly before I turned 19. In a previous post called 'A Short Memoir' I touch on it very lightly. Although I cannot remember everything that happened during my time there, I will write about things I do remember. Now, there was a long waiting list to get into The Cambridge Youth Foyer, I was advised by my then Connexions worker to tell the advisor at Hobson House that I only wanted to go into The Foyer, the others she told me were horrible, unsuitable- rough. With this knowledge in hand, I told the advisor at Hobson House that I would only accept The Foyer. The friend I had been living with wanted me to move out. I was there living with her family for about 6 months at that point; I had outstayed my welcome. Within 2 weeks I had got a place due to being a priority. 

The Foyer was newly built by English Churches Housing Group (ECHG), now they are merged with Riverside. They had and still have a hostel solely for adult homeless people, and the Foyer was built just for the young. As soon as I arrived, my keyworker filled in forms for various benefits including Job Seekers and Housing Benefit. That was the day I became trapped like all the other young people living there. The rent was £189 at least per week. The Housing Benefit covered less so we had to pay the difference. 

I was still adamant on carrying on with my education, which I later found out that I could not complete as I had missed out on 7 months of it. But I did carry on going back to Ely where I had been staying to do work experience at the local newspaper. After a while I left because I couldn't afford to catch the train and I saw my father a few times which made me afraid. I got to know other residents the the hostel, who like me had problems with their parents too. I remember distinctly celebrating Christmases with many of them, as they too didn't have anywhere to go. I remember still holding onto my own personal goals of succedding in life, doing well, showing my father that I was capable of being successful but it shocked me to see almost everyone else had lost that fire. The hostel had stages of accomplishments. Everyone started off living in a shared house, then moved into either the disabled flat or straight into their own flats, and from then they would move into the community by being given a council flat. 

At my first meeting with the key worker assigned to me I noticed that she had printed lots of my poems from my website 'for reference'. And although she and her subsequent replacements helped me and supported me throughout my stay, I cannot say that this has been the case for everyone. 

As time went on- I was there for about 4 years, I too began to lose hope:

Firstly, if you got a job while living there, you had to pay almost all of your money towards rent as Housing Benefit would lower the amount it paid in rent. I got a part time job shortly after moving in, the benefits office completely stopped all my benefits, even though I was only working part-time. I wasn't earning enough to pay all my rent, and even though they restarted again, they did not back pay which meant that I was in rent arrears. 

Secondly, this had a huge affect on me, all my savings went on the rent arrears and for the first time in my life, I was genuinely poor. And as I was still living in fear, and still trying to be strong, everything fell apart. I tried to do a diploma but couldn't do it. I worked more to pay rent, afford food, but the more I earnt the more rent I had to pay, and the less I had in a pocket. In the end, I just broke. Everything ended. Now, I was just like everyone else at the Foyer, jobless, without purpose until I was told about the Mill Road Bridge Project. It took away my mind from thoughts about being a failure. We were given a number of months to complete our designs, and I must say I took my time on that.

Thirdly, my key worker told me I had to go to the doctor and get meds for depression or I would not get a flat. I had been penalised. I was effectively being told that if I didn't agree to them I would end up being thrown out. Even arguing that I would seek counselling wasn't enough. I was angry and upset but I went nonetheless. My doctor told me I was suffering from Severe Clinical Depression. I thought at the time that my life was over, and even to this day it has a huge effect on my life. I tried lots of different meds but none of them helped me. I started The Prince's Trust Programme. It helped me build my confidence again. I felt better doing it as well as the Mill Road Bridge mural design. I was busy at last, but as soon as the programme finished and the bridge was painted (my design won and you can see the picture of it to the top right), I was once again overtaken by depression. Then I got the back problems, one day my back just started hurting, and despite the meds making me feel numb, the pain still remained. I didn't leave the room for 2 months in a go once. When I finally emerged, I had lost the skills to socialise with people. The 2 months are still a blur. I don't remember much of it, and no one came looking for me. 

Fourthly, when my back went bad, my key worker had managed to put me on another benefit that meant that I didn't have to sign on after finishing the programme. But as I still had a lot of arrears from the time I was working, I was paying most of my money towards rent. If I didn't pay the amount they wanted me to I was told I would be thrown out. I remember I felt like I needed to do something with my life and so got a voluntary position at a local bookshop, and then also at a local radio station, and then also began meeting up with a local youth group that worked for equality. But whilst I was doing all this, I was told by DWP I couldn't work. I felt sanctioned, afraid but I carried on doing all that I could. I can't fully remember everything that happened right now, but at the time I was in a lot of pain all the time. I remember being crippled in pain and none of the meds ever worked, they just made me feel zombified most of the time. Thanks to my key worker though, I did manage to go on lots of different courses. As I was still in arrears I didn't always have a lot of money. I remember the time I didn't have enough money to buy some jam or bread. I had 80p on me until the next week, all I had at home was rice and mint sauce. That's all I ate. I remember an old friend seeing me not eating and telling her mother, who ordered me food and had it delivered. I'm still thankful for it. 

Eventually, I was moved to the disabled flat which I shared with a friend I had made there. And after a while she too started volunteering at the local bookshop. But like me, she too was afraid of working because she knew that she would end up paying most of it in rent.

Fifthly, going on from the previous point, the hostel workers wanted us to go forward in life. They cared about us. But it was the system that was corrupt. I remember making another friend there who had just moved in and went through the same motions as me. She too had got a job when she moved in, but she too ended up paying most of it in rent, eventually she began working full -time, then over time just to be able to pay rent and then have some left to feed herself. But the more she earned, the more they asked in rent. Whilst the girl I lived with and I were still paying more and more money to repay our arrears. 

Eventually, I moved into a flat there, and after a year I moved into the apartment I currently live in.

So, why are young homeless people feeling disenfranchised? Maybe because they have so many problems that it's hard for them to look above the clouds that are constantly raining on them. Or maybe it's because the only help they get after their parents shit on them is under threat. Due to the lack of social housing a lot of these young people have been moved into the adult hostels which are rife with drugs and violence. What's worse is that due to cuts the residents no longer have a permanent key worker. Most of the staff are from agencies, they don't really know the residents well, and nor do they really care. Then there's the issue of knowing that these young people are below the poverty line, and that no one really wants to listen to them or engage with them. 

While I was designing the Mill Road Bridge mural, most of the residents used to come and sit in my room, encouraging me to keep going, offering me any help they could. Someone even donated all their colouring pencils to help me finish the drawings. It was their way of having their voices heard because up until then and then afterwards they were once again trapped and invisible. 

Sunday, 14 September 2014

A Short and Rather Simple Review of Be The Change Cambridge

Yesterday I went to a conference called 'Be the Change'. For me, it was about the residents of Cambridge meeting together and seeing how we can make our city greater, fairer and more equal. There were politicians present too, who were there to listen and take away with them our ideas.

I suppose many outsiders wonder how such a great city has any problems, but the truth is that while our city is great and we are proud to live here, there are still problems we need to face up to and find their solutions. Yes, we are the forerunners in science and technology, but I feel that the ordinary citizens of the city have suffered from its success. Due to its success, Cambridge has become the beacon of hope, and the city where people flock to, to make a career. Due to this, we have a shortage in affordable housing, housing in general in fact, and issues surrounding education and traffic problems. These are not the only problems, and things aren't really as simple as I'm making them sound. The city is expanding too quickly, and due to it being surrounded by green belt land, it is becoming more and more difficult to buy within the city, unless of course you are a millionaire. Although the city has lots of new developments, they cost sky high prices. We are also suffering from investors buying up these expensive homes or people buying them and renting them out for extortionate sums of money. Then, there are other concerns surrounding the idea of the community and people trying desperately holding on to the endangered soulfulness of Cambridge.

At the conference, after coming up with these problems or issues, they were divided into 6 different sections. I went for the 'Housing, Green Spaces, Development' section. I found that being there showed me that I still have much to learn, I must speak out more and be more confident in my opinions. When you are in a situation that many people feel deeply passionate about the subject, it is often difficult to voice your opinions. Furthermore, it is made even more difficult when others dismiss them. It kind of showed me why so many people remain silent, and why many more people feel disenchanted by politics and speaking up about the solutions to the bigger problems. Although I was able to later on express this to the group, I still feel uncomfortable and slightly disheartened by what I experienced yesterday. Moreover, I can now understand why it is difficult to come up with solutions to the many problems our city faces. People are intolerant. People are impatient. People are disrespectful. If we became a little bit more open to other people's opinions on any matter, if we're willing enough to listen to their ideas, we may well come up with solutions we would never have thought of. That's what I've always loved about working in groups, listening to others' ideas opens up so many more possibilities.While listening to other groups, I felt happier, feeling hopeful that they had been able to overcome the pride that a few people in our group were unable to shed. Their presentation of ideas were much more positive. But then, housing is not an easy subject to discuss either.

Something else that was discussed in the conference was Unitarian Authority. Cambridge is effectively run by 3 authorities, which makes things a lot more difficult rather than easy. One thing that all the groups spoke of was the idea of joint up thinking, and a separate entity that over looks the housing situation. It seems that despite Cambridge being run by 3 authorities, they've still not gained the skills of working well together. There seems to be no effective communication between different parts of the council and then similar departments of the 3 authorities that run the city which in turn has resulted in poor communication to the residents. There was an interesting talk of a unitarian authority as one of the sections. It was interesting, and something that will need a lot of support behind it to have any chance of becoming a reality.

The Conservative MEP for East of England, stumbled in an hour before the end of the event, and to me seemed to have completely missed the point. Instead of discussing our solutions, she tried to make us feel guilty for having any views on any matters. She reminded us about how we should be proud of Cambridge, and how Cambridge is the city of advancing science etc. In other words, she just gave a political speech. She may as well have not come and just sent us a video. The leader of the council addressed all the topics and demonstrated that he had listened. He discussed at great length the issues facing us and made a great effort. The city's MP was the only one who made the links- we had all pretty much said that we needed joined up thinking. He also made a great effort on his part.

Someone else worth noting about is the Cambridge Conservative Parliamentary Candidate, who left quite early on in the day. She seemed to know very little about the real issues surrounding Cambridge, and seemed to know very little about the city she is standing for soon.

The idea of having politicians at this conference was excellent. It made me feel positive, as though my ideas were listened to and someone who had the power to make a difference had heard them. This, in turn, made me feel powerful as an ordinary citizen. As I've already said, I will be taking a few things away with me from yesterday. The most important thing is that I will speak up, I stupidly thought that since we're all adults that I didn't have to but you really have to fight to be heard. I will keep learning as I still have so much more to learn, and I will stand by my opinions. At the same time, I will remain respectful to the opinions of others.

Overall, it was a great event, albeit in a room half full of egos.

Until next time,

Thursday, 11 September 2014


WARNING: Written while extremely upset

It's sometimes difficult and impossible to heal old wounds, especially when those wounds cause bitterness between two people. Time never heals wounds. Those who say so are deluded or lying to you.

I have a difficult relationship with my mother, I hadn't spoken to her for over 6 months until very recently. I haven't spoken to my father for nearly 9 years. The one thing I have realised is that no matter how old one gets, one always craves for the love only a parent can give; the safety blanket laced with love and affection that is the warmest and the softest. God only knows that I've been craving their love for such a long time. No amount of love from friends or past loves have ever managed to fill the hole I've always had in my heart.

Why is it that forgiveness comes so naturally for me in all other situations, and all other people apart from them? I suppose I hoped that they would know better, understand things better, and know me better. But then again I wonder how well parents would know the children they never raised.

In the Indian culture, we are told that when something bad happens to us in this life, it is due to the bad things we have done in our previous life. I sometimes wonder whether I left my own children in my previous life, because I don't really know if there is a worse pain or punishment out there than this. I know I sound naive and idiotic saying that, there probably is a worse pain but I don't think I've ever felt this amount of anguish....

I understand that everyone has their own problems in life. I try not to publish these types of posts because I don't want to make people sad; I want to make people think.

This post probably looks unfinished, it kind of is but I just couldn't go on.

Until next time,
Sen x

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

My 8 Mantras For Living a Good Life

There comes a point in our lives where we doubt our purpose, question our decisions and fear our future. In that moment, we believe that the reality we find comfort in is somehow distorted, that what we think of ourselves and what we think others think of us is completely different. We wonder whether the truth is what we think it to be, or whether it's just a lie we have created in order to live happily. And if it is a just a reality full of lies, we wonder when this reality will come crashing down.

After that moment passes, it is sometimes difficult to know what the reality really is, and whether some of those dark thoughts were real. Some of us experience these thought more often than others. I believe that by living by some life mantras, we can find relative happiness. That is not to say that we won't have these dark thoughts, but I think that having some core human beliefs will mean that those thoughts won't make us question our life once the darkness subsides. So, I have compiled a small list of things that I try to live by and I hope it helps:

First, it doesn't really matter what others think of us, as we will never be able to live fully or happily if we are restrained by others' views.

Second,  try not to hold extreme views about anything, unless you have thought through it, after finding out both sides of the argument, and done some research on the subject.

Third, pick a side, never stand in the middle.

Fourth, don't jump on any bandwagon, find out what it's about, then think about it.

Fifth, never let people walk all over you

Sixth, try to do something that makes you happy as often as possible.

Seventh, try not to hold hatred in your heart, it eventually turns to poison.

And finally, be open to changing your views, as you grow and learn.

I would greatly appreciate reading your life mantras in the comments section. I hope that the ones I live by are helpful, (although, I haven't listed all of them) and also please know that we all have those scary moments where we question ourselves. Sometimes, they mean nothing, and at other times, a part of us is telling us to make a change. Only you can know whether this is the case. Remember, this is the only life we have, so make the most of it.

I hope this post wasn't too cliched, but sometimes it's good to remember that we just have one life, and one which we would like to be relatively happy,

Sen x

Monday, 11 August 2014

Swedish Blues

Life has not quite been the same since returning from Sweden. I still cannot believe that it has already happened. Although it was half a year that I spent there, it went so quickly that now that I am back in England, it feels as though it was just a dream. I suppose life experiences are a bit like that, they are intangible and holding on to them is a bit like trying to hold on to sand in the palm of your hand. Of course, I miss those times, and although it was only in June that I returned, it feels as though it was many years ago. 

I was born in England, and though spent much of my childhood in India, I returned when I was 11. At the ripe old age of 27, I believe that I have finally made a home for myself in Cambridge. It's a city that I studied in as a youth and still study in as an adult. I know most of the little gullies in the Centre and still feel this enchanted with the city. It's a beautiful place. But being in Umea, I felt for the second time somewhere where I belonged. At the lake, that was about 3 minutes from where I was staying, amongst the old, long trees, I felt like I truly belonged there. The first time I felt like that was in the mountains of the Himalayas, where I studied as a child. This sense of belonging in Umea was so strong that it also had the undertones of tragedy. I wasn't going to live there forever; I would only be there for a few months. 

Over the months I spent there, I took a lot of photographs, I didn't really need to add any filters or play around with the camera, most of the pictures are taken as is. 

Sen x

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Making a Difference... A Fool's Errand?

The more I study the more I realise how big the world is and how big its problems are. The problems can almost make you feel hopeless, unhelpful, and lower your self-esteem. In many ways I see myself fortunate, as had I not become homeless and had my back not become problematic, I would never have discovered how much difference one person actually can make.

What difference can I make?- is the kind of question a lot of people ask. The majority of people have this answered by their cynical side, which replies- 'nothing', or 'very little'. So, these people just move on, not doing anything, and you know, it's not really their fault. There are also another group of people to whom making a difference means having a job somewhere in an important organisation in Brussels. Even I'm guilty of thinking that.

Making a difference is like a reflection in the mirror. In the UK, and these days, most places on this Earth, we are unlucky enough to say that we live somewhere that needs some kind of help. Now, some places need more help than others but, it's all relative. A lot people think that going away to help people in their countries is the only way to help people who really need it when this is not true. It's like watching the news in a far away country and them showing a news piece on an organisations helping build schools. In the same way we can also do things where we help our community by doing projects to make it better, whether it's a soup kitchen or visiting patients. Just imagine that showing on a news channel, and someone else feeling inspired by your actions to do something too.

But really, no matter where you decide to make a difference, the one important question we have to ask ourselves is this: Why do we keep on, every year, raising millions of pounds for charities across the world, that every year are just as desperate as the were the year before and the year before that. So, far, as far as I know, it's because of their corrupt governments. So, no matter how much you help, it'll never be enough.
This brings me to the next question: Why should we abandon our country to help those in other countries when we have children living in country living in poverty too?
Is it because these people who are focusing all their energies in helping people in those far away countries really believe that they can make a difference despite the evidence.

I don't mean to sound cynical, but the evidence is right there. Instead of doing that much ground work, people should be pressuring those countries' governments to straighten up! Then and only then will your money mean anything, then and only then will that money actually reach those who need it rather than line up the wallets of those fatcats! And then and only then will poverty lower in those countries. Of course it will take some time, but eventually they won't need our money.

I don't think people should stop helping people in those countries; a lot of people probably rely on them. But instead of accepting that those people will always be poor and will probably always need help, we should instead be pressuring their governments to stop their corrupt ways. The reason they are helpless is because that is what poverty does to you. It cripples your mind, leaving you helpless both mentally and physically.

I wasn't sure where this post was going to end up, I actually didn't imagine it would be here.
Making a difference isn't so hard. There are always places looking for volunteers, but no matter where you live in the world, always ask yourself why things are they way there are, even if they don't work. It may seem easier to go with the flow, but we don't have it as good because people before us just wandered around quietly.

Sen x

Thursday, 26 June 2014

A Note to My Younger- Pre- Uni Self

Since coming back from Sweden, I have had some time to reflect on my life thus far. I am sure that a lot of people experience their own rollercoaster of a life, and that I am not the only one, but no matter how much advice they will give you, you can never learn from their mistakes, but your own. But as Neil Gaiman says, 'there are no mistakes'... 'regret nothing'. I took that on board last year and I'm not sure yet of whether it has made my life better or worse. I definitely can say with some confidence that as life goes, my current life is still better than when I lived with my parents. But with liberty and freedom, one can only blame oneself for one's choices and decisions. But, then, I guess we can never know fully the consequences of any decision we make, and of course, some things come back to bite us on the arse many years later too.

Something I realised today, although have been doing myself for years was pretending to be okay. I thought that I could see it when other people were pretending to be okay too, but after reading a friend's blog, I just realised that I don't know about that at all. Which brings me to another point, since leaving home I have been obsessed with going to university, to show to my father that I am capable of studying and standing on my own two feet that I have completely overlooked understanding and learning the capability of human empathy. To learn that a friend has been to hell and back on their blog is pretty shameful. Besides, what am I if not just like my father who put education and money before love. I feel that I have been so obsessed with my own life to hop over the fence to see what's been happening in other friends' lives, to be there for them, when they were there for me when I had the biggest heartbreak of my life.

I think that my life is lacking, but I have been the one who has made it so. I finally went to uni and since then I have become complacent. I am not living my life fully, instead I roam around the edges. All I can say is sorry... forgive me for not being there for you when you needed a friend the most.

Sen x

The blog in question: http://mysinglelifeandi.wordpress.com/

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Little Realities

Since the last post, I am glad to report that I am once again positive, and feel that not everyone in the world is a bad person, and that humankind still have hope... or perhaps I have yet again been sucked into the distorted reality I was in before the glass finally shattered...

 I'm not saying that I've gone back into the same crystal bauble with self reflective walls, with a few scratches to see outside only when I squinted really hard, but I feel that the one I currently reside in has clearer windows with which to view the world, and to top it off, it isn't the embarrassing bauble that gets hanged at the back of the tree, you know the one you handmade but looks crap yet you still refuse to not put on the tree amid out of sight. This bauble is now in the front, and as I learn more and more, I am certain that it will move closer and closer to the top. Of course, as I move closer to the top, I might just try to hop from branch to branch to the back, from time to time, unable to watch anymore, but knowledge is power and as I see I shall learn... but I will become power hungry and become the very person I was hating on last time.

Well, enough with the Christmas metaphors.

Sweden is lovely. I think my inner self has developed here a lot more, the literature given to me has genuinely made me think, and relate it onto my own life and so enabling me to relate it to the wider world. I wish I could finish my degree here. I don't want to go back to my home Uni. A Swede told me I could just move here, live here. It sounded so tempting, who knows I may well do that if an opportunity came by. Since coming here, I think I've heard the word 'sincere' more than ever before. I think that has had a profound effect on my own life. People also really know how to live. They do things with their lives, other than sitting with their phones in their hands. Of course, not everyone is like that but I'm glad to be in the company of adventurers.

I am reluctant to return. Just thinking that this adventure will be over in 2 months makes me feel sick and I dread it. I guess I really have settled in. I'll miss the beautiful sunsets, and  how the orange sunlight at around half 5 in the afternoon hits the trees making them look so breathtaking. I'll also miss the blue skies we've had all this week, the snow we had in the first two months that looked like diamonds when it had settled as well as pure white powder. Things will never be the same when I get back.

 I have made friends here that I will be sad to say goodbye to. All we can do is make more happy memories and keep them with us for the rest of our lives.

Sen x

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Seeing through the Rose Tinted glasses No More

There always comes a time when we all have a moment or moments followed more moments when reach self realisation. I feel that so far I have suppressed that moment with an overwhelming sense of positivity in almost everything I do. From every day tasks such as cooking food to my hopes and aspirations, what I want to do in life, to what I feel I was born to do.

Yesterday for the first time in a long while, I decided to write down my thoughts. When the ink had dried, I realised that perhaps there is no hope in what I want to do in life. That perhaps there is no hope for helping the human race. There seems no point in saving it, for it was made to self-destruct. Humans, we are not worth saving. Yet my degree has always been about saving, preserving and helping those in need, those without equality and those in suffering. I suppose the situation in Ukraine was the catalyst in this small self realisation. I am proud be British, I always thought my county helped those in need. Yet we won't stand against Russia because we don't want to lose their investors. Of course, I always knew that diplomacy itself wasn't based on what's right or wrong, but on what can be gained or lost. I suppose I had been naive to think that the Tories would do the right thing. This whole situation shows the reality of diplomacy, and it truly saddens me. It has made me wonder what can I do in a world that has already established it's own way of doing things, as I will only get swallowed and then spat out. There is no room for honest, naive people out there. What change can I really bring when the world is controlled by fat cats?

Perhaps, tomorrow I will wake up with determination to keep going and keep fighting, but today I see the world without the rose tinted glasses.

I have lost hope today. All I see is misery.


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Full Circle

Since the last post, not as many things as one would think have happened. The main, most important thing I suppose is that this post is not currently being typed away in it's usual habitat, but instead the noise of someone typing away can be heard, if someone wanted to be nosy, on a bed in a room somewhere in the northern region of Sweden.

I am here to study for a semester- the process was pretty much straight forward. When I first joined uni I was told by a lecturer about this Exchange Student Programme for second year students, and since then I became kind of obsessed with the whole idea. I told people about it and said I was going to do it. Well, I believe I told people so that I would have to do it. Finally, when the time came, I signed up, waited to hear back and now here I am.

I got here in late January and will remain here until June. It's completely white with snow, and usually pretty cold. Perhaps I should add that I am very happy here, people are pleasant, respectful and generally I feel at peace. I add the last bit because the snow, the cold and even the general grey skies cannot dampen my spirits, which is in stark contrast to the terrible time I let myself suffer during the last semester. The phrase 'haters gonna hate,' I think is quite appropriate to use here, however, it does not even begin to express even a droplet of sadness and fear I felt and was made to feel to the degree that I genuinely don't want to go back to my home uni.

I spent a lot of time last semester wondering why I was being treated the way I was. Obvious statuses on Facebook about me, ignoring me in class, sitting away from me, moaning every time I mentioned anything to do with Sweden, arguing again any views I presented in seminars, laughing at me, etc and generally making me feel crap. It may have been because I took up the opportunity presented to us, no one else bothered but then turned sour towards me. Or that I befriended the new girl- man, this really sounds like a bad chick flick, what's worse is that this type of behaviour took place at a uni. By this stage in higher education, one hopes that ones fellow peers would be grown up, alas, this has not been the case.

Moving back to the present, however, the situation is completely different. Not once have I feared to go into a lecture here unlike last semester when I pretty much stopped going to one of the modules. Here, I want to go into uni and see people I haven't since the last lecture.

I think that it will take me some time to regain my strength, but I plan on going back stronger. After all, this is my education and I don't want anyone to ruin it for me, but most of all I don't want my weakness to ruin it for me. Most importantly, this time around I will go to my tutor as last semester I was pretty embarrassed about it. I was afraid that my tutor would think I was being childish.

This whole situation has raised some questions such as how many other people who are currently in uni also remain quiet about being bullied by their peers. I wonder how many students who don't' fit in' for whatever reason end up feeling isolated as a direct result of being bullied. Their potential peers may perceive the friendship with the victim as a social suicide. In my opinion, in school if the child is the victim of bullying, usually that child has no or very few friends. This, in turn, makes me wonder whether there are any similarities in adult life. Had the earlier mentioned new girl hadn't been there for me, I would have been completely alone, I truly believe that I would have dropped out. I observed that most of the people had joined the bullies' social group, but not necessarily joining in with the lame facebook statuses or making sarky comments. I must also mention here that more than 90% of my peers are female.

Despite all the crap, I feel like I have achieved a huge goal. There are always the big goals and then there are the small ones. As mentions earlier, I believe that I told my friends and family about Sweden so that then I would have to do it. This was definitely a big goal and I am glad that I had people behind me pulling me up when I was being pushed down by others, especially those who kept hold of my arm every time I let those idiots get to me.

It hasn't been easy, the journey here has only just begun. I don't know what the future has install for me, I, however intend on having the best time of my life. I am beginning to feel less fearful of 'bad' things happening to me or around me. As this whole situation has shown me, I am more capable than I give myself credit, and despite the crap, I am still achieving my goals!

Until next time,
Sen x