World

♥ Coming to terms with the impending death of a grandparent ♥

After 21 years of being fortunate enough to not have had to deal with the death of anyone close to me, I have recently been told that my eldest grandfather may only have a couple of months left to live. Yep, this is a fun one…

So I am currently in the library attempting to study for my final exam next week and thought maybe writing down my feelings would help to ensure that when the time comes I am mentally prepared. Of course, I’ll be devasted but I suppose I am lucky to have a warning. Coincidentally, my master’s degree in Medical Law and Ethics has introduced me to the medical world and the concept of death. I was so reluctant to choose modules relating to the ‘end of life’ at the beginning of the year as I branded it ‘too depressing.’ However, I quickly changed my mind when I realised that this reason was ridiculous! The module was popular and controversial (just like me! Just kidding – I am not popular,) and I am delighted that I changed my mind and did a module called Ethics at the End of Life. Basically, it taught me to grow the f*** up and come to terms with the bleak reality that we’re all going to die. Or even worse, end up in a Persistent Vegetative State. That sounds really depressing (and word of advice: have a think about what YOU would want in such a situation and consider signing an Advance Directive, or at least tell your loved ones clearly,) but I do think the module gave me a more positive outlook on death, and whilst some of my modules made me decide I want to be healthier and try to live to 100, this one forced me to contemplate the harsh reality of life. People will die. People you love will die. YOU will die. AND THERE AIN’T NOTHIN’ YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT!

I did some coursework on ‘ageism’ in healthcare and whilst my initial reaction to the question of whether resources should be allocated using age cut-off points was in favour of such policies, my view rapidly changed as I thought more about the meaning of life. Who has got a right to tell you when your time is up? Who has got a right to tell you how to live, or not live? In reality, whilst I started eating vegetables with the intention of living until 100, my grandparents seem to have rather different perspectives. They claim to have done all they have wanted to do, and seen everywhere they have wanted to see. I have no doubts that in my grandfather’s lifetime he has seen it all – he was a doctor in the British army, has lived, worked and travelled all over the world, and lived long enough to know all of his grandchildren when they are old and mature enough to really get to know him and spend time with him. He’s even stuck around long enough for the birth of his first great-grandchild! All whilst having Type 1 diabetes since his 40s.

I’m sure most people out there have been through a similar loss (or losses) before so maybe this is deserving of an eye-roll. Poor me! 21 and has all grandparents and has never experienced a huge loss! I admire everyone who has been through such things and managed gracefully. This is me trying! Though when the day comes I really have no idea if I will be mentally prepared or glugging a mixture of wine, snot and tears… I think with a touch of spirituality, an ounce of weed* and as much time as possible spent with my grandparents I should be able to make it through this with a grateful smile, a stronger family and ideally…. a training contract?

 

*Don’t smoke weed kids. Comedic effect.

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WINNING! KCL TO DIVEST FROM FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY!

YAAAAAYYYY!!!!

Okay. So I’m a week later than I wanted to be with this post… but the satisfaction still hasn’t died down!

After a couple of months of protesting weekly in creative ways to put pressure on King’s to divest from the fossil fuel industry… we have won! After decorating the campus, going on fasts, spraying walls with chalk-based paint… King’s College Climate Emergency (KCCE) have succeeded! We staged an occupation last Tuesday (I’m glad I got to do one before my student life is over) until we had a meeting with the Vice Principle to put the agreement into writing and go over our demands…

KCL, KCCE and KCLSU have agreed upon the following points, subject to confirmation by the College Council:

1. King’s College London students continue to demonstrate their commitment to creating a better world.

2. We are agreed that divestment is just one aspect of dealing with the imperative urgently to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

3. We will pump-prime new research to underpin this ‘carbon free’ delivery.

4. We agree that King’s College London will have divested from all fossil fuels by the end of the year 2022

5. King’s will be ‘carbon free’ by 2025, but this is dependent upon having options without significant financial impact.

6. King’s will increase its commitment to investments with socially responsible benefits from the present aim of 15% to an aspiration of at least 40% by 2025.

7. Regular progress towards delivering these targets will be made, including a formal annual report on progress.

So… I know this will not bring climate change to a halt (which would be ideal) but it is one small win, and similar action at LSE and UCL has already escalated this week. Campaigns for this cause have been going on for years without concrete results, and I consider myself to be blessed to be in the right place at the right time to play a part in staying on the right side of history. (Which, ironically, is probably by being pretty left…) The campaign would not have been successful without the incredible dedication of Roger Hallam, a KCL PHD student putting his ‘political activism’ degree to good use. He went on hunger strike for 14 days (FOURTEEN DAYS!,) took control of planning and press releases and made dealing with KCL staff a pleasure simply by having been a nice, friendly person to them in his time at the uni.

So, I have learnt several things from my experience. At first, I was extremely reluctant to engage in any ‘civil disobedience,’ however as the cause gained momentum I wanted to show solidarity to the other, more determined and braver protesters. Whilst I avoided painting on walls, I set off several smoke bombs and volunteered with two others to deal with security at the occupation (fortunately and surprisingly, they came in being lovely and asking us if we needed anything!) Learning about the law in my degree has taught me to steer clear of any risk of being on the wrong side of it… but now I question whether this is always the best approach when an injustice can be prevented. Speaking up is sometimes the only solution, and taking part in something bigger than yourself is truly touching. Being surrounded by like-minded people determined to contribute to making the world a better place has undoubtedly encouraged me to continue bettering myself by campaigning, volunteering, doing charity work and partaking in any other ways that I can spread the love! Not only have I met people with whom I hope to keep in touch with for a long time and made memories to last a lifetime, but I have learnt that in life you probably will be surrounded by many (if not most) people who don’t believe in you, or what you believe in, or have any faith that significant changes can be made with some chalk, flowers and cardboard signs. They can! Stay woke xxx

Oh yeah, and I made it into The Tab before my student days are over. Occupation… check! Tab mention… check! Challenging the establishment… check! Saving the world…….okay, still a long way to go with that one.

http://thetab.com/uk/kings/2017/03/08/kcce-taken-old-conference-room-24-hours-12512

Sidenote: The occupation took place in The Old Committee Room at the Strand campus… which felt like we’d stepped straight into Dumbledore’s office. It was probably the poshest room I’ve slept in (curled up on the floor in the corner!) The room is covered in photos of old King’s headteachers. We played ‘Find the Brown Person’ and all lost.

King’s College: Don’t be a fossil FOOL! DIVEST NOW!

I am angry and determined. I’m a ‘snowflake’ and ‘naive.’ There is a lot to be proactive about right now and whilst we may not be able to do much about Trump the C***’s presidency, we are in one of the best cities in the world to stand up for what is right. But I’m going to try (TRY) and focus on one issue here. It’s an issue that as a student, paying £9000 a year or more, we ought to be speaking up about!

So I just googled (ecosia-ed, actually) King’s sustainability and environmental policies and… they do exist. King’s CLAIMS to recognise ‘it has a responsibility towards being sustainable and protecting the environment.’ Funnily enough, sustainability week starts very soon! Yet for some reason, King’s still invests into an industry which, as we should all be aware, is DESTROYING OUR PLANET! For 30 years, the university has been investing student fees into the oil and gas corporations. Freedom of Information request made in 2013 revealed that the university invested over £8 million in fossil fuel companies (including Shell, Exxon Mobil, Rio Tinto, Centrica, Petro China, and China Petroleum.)

Why? Why is one of the top universities in the UK, if not world, still turning a blind eye to the severity of the situation? Why is action not being taken as fast as possible?  Why are others still failing to follow in the footsteps of Glasgow and SOAS (University of London)? Now, many in the UK have announced divestment plans. However, King’s only agreed to ‘phased divestment’ several months ago and progress seems extremely slow despite a recent survey showing that 96% of King’s students, support divestment from ALL fossil fuels NOW. I suppose we shouldn’t be that surprised that these colonial institutions are more concerned with profit than ethical responsibilities. Hell, even governments are not prioritising such issues. But surely, with levels of pollution being at the highest and most dangerous level yet and with three-quarters of the arctic now melted… you would think (or at least I would think,) that such well-educated bright young minds would be eager to do what they can to encourage sustainability and put pressure on our university to meet its ethical responsibilities.

King’s College Climate Change Emergency is a group set up to achieve just this, and I was proud to attend today’s rally, calling for direct action, at the Strand campus. Whilst campaigners have tried a variety of conventional channels over the years, such as peaceful protests, King’s are still failing to act fast despite the importance of such action for the planet, students and the reputation of the institution. Some activists sprayed removable statements such as ‘Divest now’ on walls of the uni in washable, tried-and-tested chalk-based paint. Foreseeably, some students disagree with this action despite the protesters turning up with an enormous bag of cleaning products. They also happily began to wash the walls and were stopped by King’s staff.

Now, I can try to understand the frustration of some. I attended SOAS, one of the most politically active universities in the UK (and the first in London to announce plans to fully divest from fossil fuels in April 2015.) There, students are vocal and active about causes they are passionate about, usually whether they see themselves as being directly affected or not. Sometimes, some students do take things too far when engaging in serious vandalism and disruption of other students and their work. However, this was rare and ultimately it was a blessing to be surrounded by active, compassionate individuals who dared to act to make the world a better place. Generally, the student body are willing to take whatever non-violent direct action necessary to ensure the institution lives up to its promises and responsibilities. Here is a snippet of the 2015 statement: ‘In June 2014, SOAS agreed to freeze all new investments in fossil fuels, while the question of divestment was investigated. Oil and gas equities currently stand at £1.5 million. In order to implement the divestment plan, an ethical investment criterion will be added to SOAS’ Ethical Investment Policy and the School’s Gift Acceptance Form and due diligence procedure for philanthropic gifts will be amended. The School will also continue to comprehensively collect data across SOAS to establish its carbon footprint.’ Professor Paul Webley, Director of SOAS at the time, said: “SOAS is proud to become the first university in London to divest and we hope more universities will follow suit. Divestment from fossil fuels will enable SOAS to fulfil its responsibilities as an ethical investor, while continuing to ensure that the School’s investments deliver a financial return. This is in line with SOAS’ commitment to environmental sustainability and an important part of the transition towards renewable energy, which SOAS takes very seriously as an institution. As the harmful social and environmental impacts of climate change becoming increasingly clear, these initiatives ensure that SOAS is doing all it can to show leadership on this issue.”

For environmentally-aware students across the globe who do not believe that climate change is all one big ‘hoax’… PLEASE do what you can to encourage your university to divest. The issue is an urgent one. With Brexit, Trump, and climate chaos, the peaceful prosperous future we all want is seriously threatened. We need to start fighting NOW! We may disagree about how to best achieve this goal, but let’s focus on being proactive and showing these institutions that we will not allow them to act like corporate monsters if we can help it. These are our institutions, and we should be able to be proud of studying at them.

“But…where are you REALLY from?”

Ever since I remember, the seemingly straightforward question has thrown me. I remember being 6 years old, in my school in Spain which I had only recently started, and being interviewed by older children for a survey. When I replied ‘Liverpool’ in my thick Scouse accent, they look perplexed and began to ask a question I have now heard far too many times: “But…where are you really from?”

Of course, I replied ‘India’ straight away because that is my ethnicity and a huge part of my identity. Now, having grown up abroad in the south of Spain since the age of 5 before returning to the UK fifteen years later to study, has only made my answer to a casual ‘Where are you from?’ even more confusing, usually resulting in me waffling on to cover all possible pieces of information this poor person may have wanted (or may not have wanted) to know.

This is, of course, to avoid the annoying racially presumptive question that follows (or a rephrased version of ‘Why are you brown?’) Or, quite often, to avoid the dismay of other Indians when they find that I, unfortunately, have not yet had a chance to visit their homeland and my country of origin, infamous India. I almost feel guilty when I am looked at with shock and despair when they then find out that, whilst I’m bilingual, I have not learnt Hindi or Gujarati. Whilst I cannot wait to explore my heritage and roots properly one day, I can’t help but wander what my truthful short answer would be…. My own grandmother, who has been in the UK since the age of 16, called me ‘a coconut’ the other day, laughing at my western ways!

Writer Taiye Selasi gave an inspirational speech on this topic titled ‘Don’t ask where I’m from, ask where I’m a local.’ She makes an incredible point – borders change and countries grow, merge or even disappear. “I am not ‘multinational.’ I am not ‘a national’ at all… How can I come from a concept?” she encourages us to consider. Our identities are instead a culmination of our experiences. Whilst my nationality is British and my ethnicity is Indian, my family, home and heart remain in my small town in southern Spain… and all of these make up where I am really from! What I love about my beautifully multicultural university in London is that my complicated answer is more often than not matched or raised. Being able to embrace and celebrate diversity is something I really hope I don’t have to let go of when I leave next month!

 

From Bliss to Bills

Adulthood… the fairytale freedom we spend 18 years waiting for. The independence to eat what you want for dinner (junk food,) wherever (in bed) and however (usually avoiding the use of cutlery…) Getting to lie in bed all day or go out all night free from disapproving, sensible moans and groans! The liberty to dye your hair any horrific colour of your choosing, to leave your bedroom in your chosen, well-lived-in state and wear whatever inappropriate clothing you desire!

But first, along come all ridiculously boring, time-consuming, stress-inducing jobs we never intended to sign up for.

BILLS?! I can barely remember how to turn my calculator on. WASHING UP?! Come on dishwasher, you should be bigger and better. I should be busy getting drunk and doing nothing.

A secular buddhist?

“Don’t blindly believe what I say. Don’t believe me because others convince you of my words. Don’t believe anything you see, read, or hear from others, whether of authority, religious teachers or texts. Don’t rely on logic alone, nor speculation. Don’t infer or be deceived by appearances.”Buddha

The other day, my sister and I decided to have a break from sunbathing and goat-watching in the countryside to embark on a journey through a nearby field to visit a ‘Kadampa‘ Buddhist temple, which is advertised as being open to the public. What we expected was to visit a room and a garden in which buddhists meditated and formed their own little community. What we encountered was an insight into the most welcoming, accommodating religion there is.

We strolled in on a Sunday evening to find the few staff and volunteers who run the temple preparing for their dinner. To our surprise, a middle aged German lady who spoke perfect Spanish and English gave us a long tour of the beautiful grounds and an introduction to Buddhism, inviting us to visit one of their two meditation rooms (one silent, one not) overlooking the mountainous Spanish landscape anytime. Although she assumed we were of Hindu faith being Indian, she explained that it did not matter what faith anyone is – anyone was welcome to join the Buddhist way of life. Upon leaving we were even invited to join the staff for dinner!

Since this visit I decided to learn more about Buddhism. Despite having grown up as a Hindu, I began calling myself an atheist from a young age. Only recently have I began to realise that I shouldn’t overestimate the intellect of the human race when the universe is so large and powerful compared to mankind, and have since preferred the term ‘agnostic.’ The principles of buddhism have always interested me – meditation and yoga are wonderful ways to remain peaceful and grounded in the midst of  the bustling London lifestyle! But the fact that I do not have faith in a particular higher being, nor believe in reincarnation has always put me off slightly…

The name of the religion comes from the word ‘budhi‘ which means ‘to awaken’ in reference to the enlightenment of Buddha, or Siddhartha Gotama after many years of studying different religions and philosophies to find the key to human happiness. Buddha taught these principles (the Dhamma) until his death at age 80 and never claimed to be ‘God’ or a higher power – simply a teacher who passed on his path of enlightenment to later generations.  The Buddist path in summary helps one find ways to live a moral life which is mindful and aware of our thoughts and doings as well as developing a deeper understanding of our own lives and happiness.

Whilst these teachings can be explained in more detail online, the question remains whether Buddism must be practiced as a religion. The quote above shows that Siddhartha Gotama did not present himself as a higher being and saw Buddism as a personal, subjective way of life. The Dalai Lama himself has said that if science and Buddism disagree, go with science. The tolerant and peaceful nature of Buddism to me suggests that it can be chosen to be practiced philosophically by any religious group, or non-religious group for that matter… and why would I not want to follow a path to happiness?

An alien way of life

So advanced and superior, they build and invent

They expand and discover, pretending to be content

They explode their own planet to show that they can

They differentiate between colour, women and man

 

A new cure is kept secret for a company’s profit

A man who leaves prison is denied jobs and benefits

Forced to return to a life of crime and shelter

What a mess of a world there is to enter

 

With all of their power and privilege to do what is best

Those in charge make money just to ingest

Whilst some take what belongs to others

The rest of the world are losing their brothers

 

The poor might die out but nobody cares

Changes are needed but nobody dares

To risk their short luxurious lives; to take a stand

Or even face the real problems at hand