Monday, 2 November 2015

Exploring Sikhi and Interfaith Weddings

This is not going to be an easy post to write, especially because of the repercussions I may face. And it is because of these repercussions I must speak out even more. I have been weighing up writing about this for the last few weeks and have decided that though I might endanger myself by writing this, it is even more important that our society is better educated about this after it has been read.

I have had a tumultuous relationship with god. In my teens,I ran away from the family home, and turned my back to Sikhism, mainly due to my father's apparent devotion to the religion and yet being a monster. It wasn't until I was around 22 or 23 when I was once again drawn to this spiritual religion that I realised that despite leaving it behind, it had always been there for me. I realised that through all parts of my life, I had inadvertently followed what Sikhi aspired to teach us. It was then that I realised that my father was actually a very bad example of a Sikh and I found a new appreciation for Sikhi. Today, when I think of my belief in the Gurus' teachings I feel serenity and peace. It brings peace to my mind.

Over the past few years, there has been a greater presence of fundamentalism within the Sikh religion. Some gurdwaras are being used to forward the agenda of the Khalsa Brigade- a group of Sikhs who believe that the state of Punjab in India, birth place of Sikhism, ought to become it's own country. They give lectures at gurdwaras about their cause, I've been at gurudwara when they have been giving speeches and it was scary as it sounded a lot like brainwashing. It's probably no different to how terrorists recruit young impressionable people. Some of the more extreme fundamentalists even want 'Khalistan' to be a Sikh only country. What's strange is that despite these people having been born outside of India, their priority is turning the state of Punjab into it's own country and making Sikhi into a fundamentalist religion rather than focus on 'cleaning up' the many problems facing the people of Punjab today. For one thing, there is a huge drug problem- drugs come through Pakistan, go through Punjab and then through the rest of India. Young Punjabi men in particular are getting addicted to hardcore drugs. But these fundamentalists don't care about any of that. Another huge problem is Female Infanticide- though there is a law to stop women from having fetus gender scans and abortions due to finding out that it's a female, this is still happening illegally, and has caused huge disparities in the ratio of males to females.

A few weeks ago, something that has been happening for a while was published in a mainstream newspaper. Interfaith Sikh wedding ceremonies have been getting disrupted for years by groups of men who think that Anand karaj- the sikh marriage ceremony-  must only be undertaken by sikhs, discarding completely the decision by the gurdwara to let it take place- which they have been allowing for decades. It needs to be said here that from observations, not statistical data, many people have found that most of these disruptions take place at the weddings where Sikh women are getting married to a man outside of the Sikh faith. There have been countless incidents (all hushed up) but The Telegraph got hold of one such story, which started a whole new debate within the sikh community as well as the British Society as a whole. Sunny Hundal, a journalist had been writing about this for a while before they published the story. The amount of publicity (both positive and negative) he was getting amongst British Sikhs was overwhelming. I kept my eye on it and read the arguments by both for and against it. Many Sikhs were accepting that when one Sikh marries outside the religion they ought to be able to take part in the Anand Karaj whilst others said it was a ceremony between two sikhs only. What I saw was a lot of hatred towards people who wanted to marry outside the religion, and these radical minded people accusing these people of only wanting the Anand Karaj for show. From experience, I don't believe mixed couples would want to marry in a Gurudwara just for show after all the shame and adversity they have most likely had to face. Why would they put themselves through a ceremony that may get disrupted unless one of them is devoted.

This whole situation also brought to light other important questions, and I did wonder at one point how many Sikh- Sikh couples actually take part in the Anand Karaj just to appease their families, whether these couples are actually practising Sikhi or are they automatically allowed to have the Anand Karaj ceremony just because they were born in a Sikh family. The last part was even more important as there were reports that a wedding was disrupted this year when a sikh woman was marrying a white man who had converted to Sikhi. Despite him talking to the thugs who disrupted their wedding, demonstrating to them his knowledge of the Sikh faith, the thugs were still hellbent on interrupting the ceremony. This really does make me wonder whether the real issue is based purely on racism. There have however been non-racist based arguments too, but mainly it's been a bit of a liberals versus religious fanatics, and the religious fanatics came across a lot like radicals- very similar in their stance- verbally attacking people who stood up against their ideals. I found this article by the Sikhnet quite educational on the issue and welcomed their stance on it.

I have spent quite a lot of time sitting on this article and feel that I can now finally publish it. Having explored my own views a little widely on the matter, I believe that the Anand Karaj should be open to all Sikhs marrying outside the faith, though I disagree with couples who hold 2 different religious ceremonies. But I also believe that the person who is not the Sikh ought to fully know and understand the ceremony and  at least the basics of the Sikh religion. There is also a bigger picture to look at here, which is the future of the children from that marriage. If the couple are welcomed into the faith then the children will more likely be brought up in the faith. Sikhi is not a religion that converts people, but it shouldn't become the religion that is borne of hatred either.

A few months ago, The Sikh Council UK made a decision:

References, for those who want to further explore:

Monday, 24 August 2015


I had the operation on my back in late June, and while I was incapacitated I began to really appreciate freedom. Once I was completely unable to do anything did I wish I had my wings returned to me so that I could fly again once more. I think it was then that I realised that I had been behaving like my wings had been clipped long ago, which has never been the case. I realise now that I have been ignoring a lot things, or I pushing a part of myself out of the way so that I don't have to see the stark truth in front of me. But as life is, those hidden parts hiding away in the shadows always find a way to come back bigger and uglier, and usually unannounced. Life tends to not give us the warnings, or shall I say that we tend not to see them. I had been hiding a huge part of me away from myself, that when it finally emerged from the shadows, I could not recognise it, and the story it had to tell me pretty much crushed me...

So while I was waiting for the pain to subside, I shamelessly daydreamed about some of the adventures I want to undertake. In these dreams I tended to be dressed as a Lara Croftesque figure climbing (steep) hills, hiking into giant caves or riding a horse. I know it sounds lame, but I kind of feel too afraid to dream any bigger. In the past couple of weeks, I have become hopeful, nay adamant that I will have no pain soon. For the most part it feels like the back was aggravated with, like someone has been flapping around with a car air fresheners letting off strong aromas, in my case causing the pain. I feel like I have been thrown up in the air mutiple times- handled roughly by a circus man. Or been thrown around the dance floor by an overly enthusiastic male lead. The one thing I have noticed is how much strainghter I am standing. The curvature has lessened and I can move parts of my lower back I haven't been able to in a while. The whole area feels less like it's made of stone and more like it could be made out of flexible wood.

Though I am delighted at the prospect of not feeling pain soon, I am also very afraid. This pain has been my constant companion for the past 10 years, and longer if I count the bouts of back pain I suffered as a child. So in a way, it's feels like I am divorcing myself from it, though I am relieved in one way, I realise that I am cutting ties with a one of the few constants in my life . And though it sounds demented, it really was always there for me when I was alone. Before this turns into a love letter to my bane of my life thus far, I must stop. breath and move forward.

The next few weeks in my life are very important. I feel like I have put all my hopes in this procedure, and in the back of my mind I have fears of it not working and how the failure will affect my life.

Until next time,

Sen x

PS- I know this is the second post of the day, but I seem to have written many posts but ever got around to posting them. This next post will be about a serious subject, so watch this space!


I recently achieved a highly personal goal, something that I believed would make me completely happy once it was achieved, a goal I had only somewhat of a control over. Once it happened and I was on the other side, I of course realised that there is always a snag to goals. They never really end. So, really, I am happy that goal was achieved but now I'm running towards the next step. I did imagine these metaphorical clouds parting and I would be covered in pixie dust of happiness. I imagined that I would level up at least and feel even for a few moments that I had reached something. Of course, life isn't exactly like a video game.

It occurs to me now that, we humans are always chasing after something, some goal, and we're never really satisfied, and we're not that different in our thinking to be following that different a goal. With the media and internet ever so over-bearing, I wonder how many of us are able to really think sophisticatedly, and independently of what it is that we want from our lives, without any kind of an influence. I believe there's too much pressure as it is to find that end goal of happiness without being told inadvertently by TV programmes as it is, and of course now you have a streaming newsfeed with so many links to "advice" type memes. And of course there is the now exhausted social media facade, where we share only what we want people to see. So, of course when we see our friends sharing their happiness, we think they're happier than us when really they're not really sharing the other parts. There's also the old consumerist argument about being told what to buy to make you happy. And it's sad that most people tend to think of other people who carry on believing that money doesn't buy happiness as hippies, or over-privileged.  In fact, I've believed in that same statement for many years now, I started off as someone who would have been seen to be over-privileged, to someone who couldn't afford nice things and was deluding herself to now as someone who examines things and see if she can make them herself (with a small aubergine ha). I guess culture and family values also play a big part in what become our goals. But in my mind, family influences are a little more organic than the other influences. Even though there comes a time when we all rebel against even those.

Of course we also have to wonder with all this significance based primarily on finding internal happiness, where does making other people happy go? Perhaps it's just me but on my newsfeed I would be hard pressed to find people sharing posts of themselves making other people happy, it's all rather sad. From my experience, I have felt the happiest helping others and it is a real shame that we are losing that message.

Breathe. Pardon me for my ramblings.

Until next time,

Sen x

Monday, 15 June 2015


It's been more than a month since I last wrote. I couldn't lift the silence as I didn't know what to say or how to say that I didn't know what to say. I had typed out one paragraph about how things were going, but that wasn't really a substantial amount for a blog post. I feel I am now ready to express myself once more. Since the last time I posted, things have progressed positively. I am now undertaking Low Intensity Exposure Therapy and I am glad to report that it is finally helping. We started off with me taking walks at night, as this was the time I felt less anxious to be outside, and today I have been told I am ready to undertake the walks gradually towards the daytime. Though I am still full of anxiety and feeling depressed, I am beginning to have moments of 'clarity'. And it is in these moments that I am beginning to build up my strength and determination to begin my assignments. And it is also in these moments that I feel inspiration to write a little bit of my novel. I still have little gaps in my memory and for a while keeping up with the world news became a chore, though I think a lot of it was because the news the world had to give was rather grim.

Life is still a chore. It's not so much a suffering as it is a struggle to keep up and keep going. I think for me the worst thing is the self-doubt and the voice in my head that keeps putting me down. It doesn't say 'You are...', in fact it says 'I am...' which I believe is even worse because it feels like I am those horrible things. For the last 8 weeks I kept thinking back to when my father told me I wasn't academically inclined, and an overwhelming part of me believed him. He also used to say, as an insult, that I would end up working in a Fish and Chips shop. For the last 8 weeks I felt I couldn't even do that. I was even lower than that.

Slowly though this has begun to change. The amount of work I have to hand in had turned into peaks that I could never reach, today they feel like hurdles that I will overcome. This level of certainty and determination is something I felt when I began my degree, it's a feeling so old, yet such a familiar part of me. It feels like it was hidden away under the many layers of such self doubt that cleared away enough for it to rise once more. I think this change in myself also has a lot to do with an event that took place last week, when I saw my brother face to face for the first time in 10 years. It became clear that my father has not changed, in fact it is now my brother who has taken my place. After I saw him I realised that I had spent far too long on worrying about meeting my father's expectations, and while trying to run away from his shadow I had inevitably let it envelope my own soul. Even though I had left home, I did not leave him behind. I realised that just like I was never good enough for him, no one would ever be good enough for me until I shed away his thoughts about me. It is not an easy admission to make, especially as I always excused that part of me with ambition but all along it was his expectations of me that I also reflected onto others.

I feel like I am going through a spiritual rebirth. I want to use the knowledge I have today and wake up tomorrow not feeling as crap as I did yesterday. I am hopeful, no- I am certain that I will become my own person one day, unhinged by a man who has no bearing in my life any more.

Until next time,
Sen x

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Weathering The Storm...

The thing about having an inner storm is that unlike a weather storm, there is no sunshine afterwards. If anything, the thunder keeps erupting every time you think there might be a gap in the clouds, because not everything has been cried over or even dealt with. Unlike a thunder storm outside, a break down is a long and exhausting process leaves your body unfunctionable.

This time I cried for almost everything, especially for the sorrow I feel from the lack of having my siblings in my life, or me being in theirs. Though I have learnt to live without them, the guilt has created a deep, dark unending pool inside of me that holds a lot of woes, a never ending ache for them that will always be there. Sometimes I wonder why I feel heartbroken when I shouldn't be and only now realise that it's from the all the yearning to see my brother and sisters. The gap that no one has filled, I guess it's difficult for people to understand this gap unless they too have been through something similar. But I think everyone can appreciate that unlike lovers who go in and out of your life, your siblings, if you have them, remain in your life forever. (This may put things into perspective, if you don't know why or how the way things are in my life.)

I get the whole 'making peace with your past to move forward', I really do and with almost everything else, I have done just that. But this one thing has got me stumped. The worst thing is that before Friday night (when I broke down) I could almost see the light, I was seeking help, I was nearly at the end of the long waiting list, I had been given the date to my first therapy session. I knew that all I had to do was hold everything together until then- May 7th for the first therapy session or just after May 15th when my last deadline was but as you can see, it didn't go to plan. I suppose the trouble with doing that is that you end up creating jenga like towers of everything, eventually something will slip, resulting in the avalanche that I experienced. Going back to the beginning though, it's only been a couple of days, and I still don't know if was a good thing or a bad thing- this inner storm. 

I cringe and feel tight chested thinking back on everything I went through that night. I just lost it and started crying over something that I would not normally cry about. I locked myself in the bathroom, sat on the floor in complete darkness. I questioned every fiber of my being. Just to interject- I had had a good day, I was content with my day- I had gone for brunch with two friends, we'd had a good time. And in the evening I had shut myself away in the bathroom- a room that I go to for solace when the going gets tough sometimes. I questioned my place in the world, my place amongst my friends, my degree, my home, my siblings, my achievements, my motivation, my strength. I even questioned my progress since running away from my father's and I questioned my life there after. I even messaged my friends to stay away from me. I cried until I lost all hope, until I had belittled away every inch of my heart, mind and soul, until I so small that I had become nothing. I was defeated. 

Thinking back on it right now, I realise that I still haven't got past it. I feel fragile. I think it would be worse if those friends hadn't come to my rescue, if my knight in shining armour hadn't sat outside the door trying to pull me out from the darkness I had let consume me, and had a friend not kept messaging me to try and lift me out of the dark pool. Now, this is a sensitive subject- I did not want to commit suicide at any point- I just simply didn't want to exist. And you may be wondering why I'm writing about this, I guess it's because when I'm writing, I feel free, unbound by those dark thoughts, and though I know that many people will read this, right now I feel like I'm only typing this to an extension of myself. 

Until next time,

Sen x

Wednesday, 22 April 2015


  Life is sometimes akin to being on a dinghy in the middle of great storm in the middle of a giant sea. The destination you were headed towards is suddenly lost as you are twisted around endlessly, the waves beating out all your sense of purpose, the rain dampening away your motivation, and the enthusiasm to go on is weakened further by the mist surrounding you, evading your sight from everything. It gets worse when the only oar you have is useless, not letting you move the dinghy in any direction you think might be the way to where you ought to be going. Everything, you realise, is out of your control.

I feel like this is similar to having a chronic pain and depression/ anxiety. Both of them are always there, bubbling away, sometimes one is more chaotic than the other and trying to keep both or even either one is exhausting. If I were to give them colours, Red would be the pain and Blue would be the depression/ anxiety, and as we all know, if mixed red and blue together they turn into purple, and as the painters out there will know, if one colour is too prominent in the mixing stage, it can completely affect the outcome. There have been times when I have added the wrong amount of either colour and ended up with a horrible brown, rendering it useless. Back pain mixed with depression and or anxiety has a similar outcome, although I don't get a lovely purple unless both of them are behaving.

I think it's a lot worse when one doesn't accept that initially, there's something wrong, and then finding out this is what's wrong. I don't think I've ever accepted that I am less abled, when I clearly am, and as inspiring as it may sound, it has also had a negative effect on me. This is because I want to be like other people- to believe that I am fully bodied, that I need to work harder- only I end up hurting myself which means that I cannot move for a long time after doing things that I perhaps ought not to have done, or just taken a break in between doing. Of course the latter also means that I would be forced to ask for help.

The argument that a lot of other hard headed chronic pain sufferers have used, and in turn made me take on their bad habits is, "If I don't do it, it won't get done". I wholeheartedly disagree with them- they need to learn to ask for help. This is a good skill to have and takes a long time to master, so why not begin now. Asking for help is by no means easy, in a way it's exposing your weakness, and for me, for a long time and even now feels like showing a weakness, but really it's showing to people that you are human. What we think of our ourselves and how others see you is very different- and there is no way of changing that apart from opening up and letting them in. Even then they won't see the whole picture, but at least they can see your struggles and at least appreciate how difficult your life actually is. I'm not the one for people pandering around me, but I think having that understanding with someone is important, for them to acknowledge it is a good feeling. You also then have someone to talk to, not off load to but talk openly. I am fortunate enough to have friends with whom I can talk to and share each others' pain. It really helps to have this.

Over the past few months I have begun to come to a realisation. I feel like the way I have been measuring success has been having a terrible impact on me. I always forget that both my inner self and outer shell are somewhat damaged and I should give myself a break once in a while. If I don't give myself a break then who will? I've also realised that my mind and body shut down when my inner self is conflicted with it's outer shell. Of course I push myself hard and of course I have deeper disappointments when I shut down. What I am trying to tell and teach myself lately is to understand that I need longer, more patience and more importantly, accept me for who I am. Because this is the only vessel I have; this is my mind and this is my body. The more pressure I put on me the worse pain and suffering I cause myself. My personal goal for now is to relax for once and not beat myself about it.

And I realise now that measuring success is an important component here. It isn't just measuring success in itself though, but also whether the type of success is appropriate to each individual. I know I must accept that I need to take more time. If I keep comparing myself to others, I will surely fail. I am capable of just as much, and perhaps even more. But in order to get there, I need to allow myself extra time and patience or I will keep setting myself to failure. How can I possibly achieve all that I can when my mind and body are left in chaos. The one thing I can count on is my determination. As long as I have that I know I will make it, eventually, with both my heart and my soul hand in hand with me.

Until next time,
Sen x

You can find me on:
Twitter: @senlanoire

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Be The Change- Community Action Meeting

Be The Change Cambridge is an on-going project rather than an organisation. This way I feel it feels more as an open door rather than a closed one, here everyone is welcome rather than a select few, which seems to be what much like the growing trend in Cambridge. Because of it being a project, they are always looking for more people to join in or volunteer, or both when they throw these amazing events because no matter who you are, they believe that you will bring a new perspective and ideas to something that no one else may have even thought of.

I am a great believer in group work and I feel that Be The Change are going about things the right way. But the little girl inside of me is always surprised by the amount of different views people have about one subject and even though we really do want the same thing, no one really thinks of the same approach and no one ever arrives at the same conclusion. In many ways, I believe that this in itself is a beautiful thing as it shows that many different perspectives of human thinking. If everyone thought similarly, no one would really think widely on issues and no one would make an educated decision. Having said that, from what I have learnt, people who are supposed to represent us hardly make decisions based entirely on information or education. Everyone has their own agenda and the most important decisions end up being made based entirely of personal opinions.

The latest event took place on the 20th March, and this time I facilitated a workshop and tried to help out in the planning as much as I could. I have to say, this time my experience was very different, I didn't take part in the event as much but was at hand to help and do anything I could to see the smooth running of it. But from what I have heard from people who attended it, they really enjoyed themselves and felt empowered.

There were a couple of issues outside the event's sphere, but connected through the political paradigm nonetheless. Firstly, the same certain person from last time took over the discussion in the workshop I was facilitating. Last time, I was in their group and was felt very deflated and sad for being effectively gagged for not having the same opinions or approach to Green Spaces as them. But this time with the help of a volunteer, we were able to steer the discussion away and include everyone in that group. This does not reflect the event as it was just an individual overtaking the space that was meant to be used by everyone in the workshop. I did begin the workshop by laying down the ground rules such as listening to one another- just because I saw that this individual was there. But I think that this is something that is a wider issue in a lot of areas of life in general. Certain people see themselves as superior for a number of reasons and see others as inferior for whatever reason. Perhaps because they think their ideas are the best or because their needs are the biggest.

Secondly, we didn't have our MP or the other candidates, although we did see all four party representatives coming in at different points of the day. I am still surprised at the MP Candidates not showing up, especially as we are so close to the general elections. They could have at least shown up for 10 minutes. But of course of the 4 candidates, there are still disputes of how many actually live in Cambridge, apart from of course the Labour candidate Daniel Zeichner and the MP Julian Huppert. I say this because the last time we had this event, Chamali Fernandez- the Tory candidate- had no idea about the social problems in Cambridge, she didn't even know there were homeless people in Cambridge, it seemed to me like she either hadn't walked around before, or just stayed in the more Utopian side of Cambridge. She also said that she was from London (figures). But as it was self-evident, she didn't really live here and she wasn't from here. And finally, Rupert Read, representing the Green party, actually lives in Norwich. So, of the 4 candidates only 2 live in the city and understand the dynamics probably more deeply than the other two.

If I had one negative, it would be about Anglia Ruskin University the host who okayed the rooms we would have and yet forgot to let us know that there were exams taking place on the day in the exact rooms we had booked. So this meant that we began a little later. Because the event was determined to be bigger, we had rooms throughout the Lord Ashcroft building, on the ground level as well as the 1st floor. I can say that I really preffered the first event, with its compatibility, so next time, I would like to see the event take place in the rooms on the ground floor perhaps, closer to one another. But as Antony Carpen- the founder said, we got the rooms for free and we'll take what we can get.

Now on to the positives, I would like to thank Antony for letting me participate in this event. One thing he wanted this time was the participation of young people- students. I thought this was a great idea, and looking inwardly I realised what an amazing thing this event would be for fellow students on my degree and so got a lecturer to email all our students in the faculty, alas I was the only one that I am aware of from the degree that actually turned up. I would say that that was a missed opportunity. We did however get a lot of students from the sixth forms and the other university, and they seem to really enjoy the event.

Another positive of the event was the conversations I had with a variety of different people, from being taught how to speak in public by a professional to speaking to the Mayor and her Consort about my workshop on Cycling. Cycling is a topic that a lot of local people have an opinion about. Our local newspaper always has cycling related stories. People are passionate about it, positively and negatively. I feel that it affects all of us, whether we cycle, walk or drive as we all use the roads to get from A to B. It was insightful to learn about the processes of how things get done in this area- which by the way is very slowly in Cambridge, and how things are very messed up and confusing when the different local authorities are involved. I was a little surprised to realise that there were a lot of childlike tactics used in that people in politics throw their toys out of their boxes a lot.

The one thing I have started to do quite recently is to see things more objectively- I believe this partly due to having attended these two events and also due to the degree I am currently undertaking, as well as time spent studying in Sweden. I am attempting and most of the time looking above the clouds filled with drama so that I can recognise the real enemy and the real issue. I think we spend too much time being bogged down by the fake enemy and end up spending too much time on things that won't really solve the problem; we often ignore the root cause. It's like gardening- there's no point cutting down the weeds, there's just keep growing, we have to pull at the roots. The event has taught me that there can be so many different solutions to the many problems people face in Cambridge, and yet I wonder why is it that the changes aren't being made. Of course it depends quite a lot on the politics and the agendas of those with power but I believe that with enough pressure, we can make those with power accountable, and ensure that our solutions for our communities are heard. And really, I think this is what Be The Change Cambridge is trying to do. I'll keep helping, supporting, and taking part in their future events, and if you want to really make a difference in the world, I believe going to their events is a good place to start.

Until next time,
Sen x

You can find me on:
Twitter: @senlanoire

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Thoughts on Democracy and Cosmopolitanism

Over the last few months, a little, tiny part of my mind has had a niggling feeling of uneasiness. It's been there for a while now, having a growth spurt the day that Nigel Farage was 'scared away' from attending a Cambridge University talk. I saw the facebook event about a protest. I even thought of going with a friend, who for want of a better word could be described as one those 'lefties'. While I was having a look at the event, I saw that something like 200 people were attending, in the end we decided not to go and I'm glad that I didn't. 

While many people feel that joining the anti-UKIP bandwagon is 'obviously the righteous path', I feel uncomfortable by it. I feel uncomfortable now, realising that I have and still to an extent look down at people who want to vote for them. I agree that their policies are terrible, and they haven't really got many, or any. But I also realise the importance of democracy, since we are apparently living in a democratic society. It is therefore ironic that it is these people who attended the protest are also the ones destroying the meaning of a liberal society where everyone should have a right to their own opinions and vote for whoever they wish. These people who wanted this protest were also the people attending in the name of the right to free speech. It is therefore ironic that they took that right from someone else because their opinions are not in line with theirs.  

I despise UKIP, I think they are terrible and believe that they have succeeded in getting anyone who was ever a closet racist to join their ranks and vote for them. Their ever-growing fandom has affected my life in ways that may not be obvious from the outset.  I'd never felt different to anyone else unless people asked me where I was from, and let me tell you that replying with 'Cambridge' is never the right or a good enough answer. These people then usually ask me where my parents are from and even though I sigh loudly, they never notice that they are the ones who've just made me remember that I am never going to be accepted for just being another human being, because they can see that my skin is darker than everyone else's in the room. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm proud of my heritage. I'm proud to be British and Punjabi, but being reminded, when I forget that there aren't any differences between anyone, isn't very nice. Because I am reminded that I cannot be privileged to have those thoughts because I am the one who is 'different'. I used to get asked the 'where are you from' question before UKIP got popular. It was annoying then, but I just put it down to people being ignorant or curious, but since that party's rise, it's gotten darker, with a hostile scent. I sense danger these days whenever I get stared at or asked what I do or why I'm here. I am less confident when someone asks me where I'm from because I wonder whether they will accuse me of being an immigrant or tell me to go back to my country (it has happened before). For some people I am their only 'coloured' friend. it's not delightful to know that they might use me as the 'I'm not racist, I have an Indian friend...' (also happened before). It's also not nice to be told by people moaning about immigration that, 'oh, it's okay, you're one of us, we don't mean you.' But what doesn't help is people who decide for me what's offensive to me and what isn't, and people who cannot accept my decisions when something that has to be offensive to me isn't actually offensive. A good example would be Citizen Khan and Goodness Gracious Me. These are my opinions, and they cannot be seen as the views of everyone who's Punjabi, or British Indian, or from South Asia. 

Having said that, it is important that when someone is racist or says something discriminatory, people no matter their socioeconomic status should stand up to it. Standing up for what's right is important; racism and discrimination are not opinions. People who hold these negative, oppressive opinions fail to see the bigger picture. They are forgetting that cosmopolitanism is as much a part of the human condition as it is past of human history. This idea is old as the time of Socrates and Cicero. 

We all have an innate curiosity of exploring the world, and seeing what's out there, past our own multiple borders. It's much more than about exploration and adventure though.  In my time in Sweden, I had the great privilege of studying Seyla Benhabib's text- Dignity in Adversity: Human Rights in Troubled Times. It is here that I was introduced to Kant. In Kant's view, every single person has the right to go wherever they like without the fear of hostility from their hostsWe, therefore, are quite privileged to see Kant’s vision come somewhat to life with being part of the European Union, as we have free movement throughout any of the EU member states, and on top of this almost all of the European countries are also part of the Schengen Agreement. The world, or our neighbouring part of the world is becoming even more accessible, or rather has been accessible for quite some time, and yet it seems further away in some people's minds. 

'Our little island apparently is too full, bursting at the seams, we don't want anymore of them.' This is an argument I hear almost all the time. I don't go out there to talk to these people, instead they come to tell me, sometimes they even look me in the eyes and tell me, as if I will go back and report to the immigrants and tell them to 'return- for this little island is full'. Instead of rejoicing at the idea that many countries are looking past their borders and giving people the right rather than the priviledge to move freely, many people are bemoaning it. Of all the reasons there might be to leave the EU, Farage chooses the reason that we have apparently got too many of 'them' here. Instead of looking at it as an opportunity, our citizens are constantly barraged with the overpopulation due to immigration, rather than the scandals surrounding the bankers headlines. 

Having said that, as I've discussed in other posts, the media has a lot to answer for, they are somewhat responsible for informing people and widening people's minds, yet our certain media outlets  owned by one single man) are set on imprisoning our thoughts and shrinking our horizons. Just take a look at Ofcom's initial decision that Green Party was too small to be included in the Election debates. Despite their decision, or perhaps because of their decision, it brought on this wave of people power that I had not experienced within British politic before. I believe that as a direct result of Ofcom's decision at that time, the Green Party's membership went through the roof. They may not have gotten such high regard or memberships had they not been effectively gagged. This time collective action gets my nod. 

Until next time,
Sen x

In case you are wondering, this is a post I've been sitting on for a while and have released at the same time as the one below. And it may well be the last political based post for a while, though no promises. But I have decided to mix it up and work with people and write an article on hobbies and the arts and crafts. So if you make jewellery, read, knit, sew, game, draw, write, or paint or anything else then please get in touch. If you would like your hobby and pictures added please get in touch:

You can find me on:
Twitter: @senlanoire

Nothing Worth Knowing Can Be Taught

I've been trying to write this post for a while now. I've had thoughts on writing non-political posts for a while but of late I have been finding it difficult to express my feelings and thoughts. Today, I am in grumpy cat-esque mood so please do excuse the attitude and some swearing.

I read self-help type posts on The Guardian, Buzzfeed, Howto etc, mainly about how to be successful, articles by successful people, how to go to sleep, how to overcome depression, you get the idea. Most of them are pretty useless. Apart from the one I read in The Guardian by a doctor that said that having no rituals before going to sleep is the best way forward (I wasn't enjoying hot milk with turmeric all that much). But with social media's expansion everyone thinks that they have the best advice about pretty much everything. There are people out there who have made their fortunes by writing self-help books and columns, for me none of them provide the answers to my questions. I've found that only the individual can provide the right answers for themselves. And the advice from these successful people can only apply to them. I hate it when people share the 'Work Hard' memes on their facebook. What a load of bullshit. Social mobility is non existent in this country, working hard alone won't get you anywhere is the grand scheme of things.

The thing about self-help books/ columns or advice is that a lot of the time unless you experience something, reading about it won't teach you any lessons. No matter how much advice someone gives you, you won't arrive at the lesson unless you go through the pain or difficulty first hand. Although saying that would make many of my non-political posts worthless. Having said that, I try to keep it to what I've learnt, rather than push my advice down your throat. And perhaps we are all meant to suffer a little, or maybe even a lot, how else can we learn the price of happiness and truly appreciate something beautiful?

In earlier posts, you may have seen that I was feeling low about a few people on my course making negative comments about me loudly and how it had got me down. Well, I have to say that I am now at the other end of it. A lecturer and a few peers helped me to finally arrive at a conclusion. I was told before by lots of people to ignore it but I had to get to that moment alone and I have. I don't care about what they say anymore. It really does feel like a cloud has been lifted. I understand now that I let them make me feel crap but I won't anymore. I have the power and I won't let them take it from me. Although I think it's so simple now, it wasn't for a long time.

This week has been rather tough for me. Apart from being in much pain, I have had some sad news. A close family friend passed away, and today Sir Terry Pratchett did too. I am now at an age where a lot of family members and people I grew up knowing of are passing away, and it isn't becoming easy. Of course everyone dies and I know that but the pain is still always fresh and the wounds always new.

Until next time,
Sen x

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Life is Full of Uncertainties

Uncertainty in life is a natural component of life. Some of us have come to realise that it is as much a part of life as it is about the journey we all take from the time we are born, knowing fully that our plans will never go straight from Point A to B, but that instead we will face obstacles and challenges that will try to knock us down or succeed in knocking us out cold. Many of us will get up straight away, while others will take a little longer.

Instead of looking at people who take their time to stand up again as weak, we should relish in their behaviour, for they may be lying there longer thinking, consoling themselves, only to become stronger once they are up again ready to fight and inevitably win. Whilst the person who got up straight away didn't give themselves the time to build up their strength meaning that they would easily fall again.

The reason I am writing about this today is that I as always the media relishes in showing us 'success stories' of those who have faced adversity but survived and then thrived, and it has made me wonder why I have taken so long to overcome what I faced and whether I have taken too long to recover. Or whether I am thriving but yet cannot see it. I suppose it is also about how we ourselves perceive our own success. Not a moment passes between a goal is achievement and then we are on to the next one. Do we give ourselves a pat on the back for achieving each goal? Or would that make us complacent?

I know that being afraid of uncertainty and hiding away because of it is definitely not the right way. But the world is full of uncertainties, many out of our own control. The lovely view in the front of my apartment is gone, replaced with the high concrete jungle blocks, out of my control and though it is sad, I must recover and relish instead at the memories of the never ending sunset skies. Whoever said that life is what you make it is right, it's how we overcome the uncertain events and changes that truly makes us grow. There's little point being afraid of what is yet to come, all we can do is be prepared.

Until next time,
Sen x

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Gagging on Our Own Voices

Since starting the petition on Avaaz regarding cancelling all debt, I have learnt something truly disturbing. The petition has had over 75 views but only 10 signatures, including mine. There have been varied responses to it. Some people have very reacted badly to it, by personally messaging me on facebook and telling me that it is impossible or telling me outright that it will never happen. Others have wanted answers to questions I cannot know the answers to. A lot of people wanted me to tell them the ramifications of the debt being cancelled. They asked me about how it would affect the world and one person even asked how the world could feed everyone if the debts were cancelled. 

At first I was puzzled by this reaction. I wondered why people felt so afraid by this idea. But soon I realised that it wasn't just that they were afraid of the unknown but that they feel so disempowered already that they cannot imagine that we, the people can collectively try to make a difference. So, then I began to wonder when did people forsake themselves, or shall I say, when did people lose hope in themselves? 

I feel that it is our responsibility as residents of this planet to step in and say enough is enough. Okay, maybe it is very difficult to stop The IMF and World Bank from doing what they are, but how can we truly know whether something is possible or impossible unless we all try? 

It truly scares me that so many people went on the petition's page, read the short information on it and didn't sign, purely because they don't think that they can make a difference, that their voice won't matter. About 2 months ago, I remember asking my Lecturer what the point of development work was if it wasn't really making any structural changes, and she replied with-' at least they are trying, it's better to do something rather than nothing.' 

We all have some power within all of us, and I believe that collectively we can make a difference. 

Until next time,