“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!

 

Scars: A poem to anyone who has suffered from depression or self-harmed (and also those who haven’t, I suppose)

I have scars.

We all have scars

Memories that never fade, blemishes that are here to stay

They’re like souvenirs

Skin memorabilia, your own Wikipedia

Your silly secrets branded on your sacred flesh.

There are some that are happy.

Scraped knees from playing kiss chase in Year 1

That one friction burn from your first love fun

The time you drunk burnt the nachos, then yourself

The painless marks caused by your shameless student self.

Then there are those which expose your identity

Expose the lowest of lows in your life, your hidden history.

When you have grown so much and come so far

Some scars show just how frail we are.

“You’ll have those on your wedding day,”

Dad said as I shook with shame, only myself to blame.

That’s what I felt like.

Some say it’s for attention but I have never wanted more deflection

Than in the moments that expose my secret even to those who I am closest to.

It’s been years. Years since the tears that I cried on that bathroom floor.

Years since teenage me, so lost and confused, had no clue what to do

No clue how to deal, how to feel, how to figure out whats real and what’s not.

No clue why I, someone so lucky and so blessed, could be selfish enough to feel this depressed.

It has been years. Years of wearing long sleeves, just wanting to be

Myself.. without silly scars.

Years of buying bracelets to cover the truth, to hide the struggle with my insecure youth.

And it’s silly.

I shouldn’t hide the scars on my knee, on my elbow or wrists

I am at one with the blades and the kiss

That I got in Year 1, along with the scar that came with it.

I am so happy and fortunate to be alive and to be me.

Sure, learning to meditate doesn’t solve the uncertainty

But I am certain that the wanting to hide does not come from the shame of the scars that don’t fade.

The wanting to hide comes from the fear

The fear of what lies behind concerned eyes, being naked and exposed and deconstructed and reconstructed,

as if seeing scars has somehow made me a different me.

It hasn’t.

DIY Cheap and Creative Gift Idea for a Parent

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1. Make a list of some ‘house rules’ or values important to your family.

2. Find or saw planks of wood into rectangles of different sizes – 8 to 12 is advised, including one long plank of wood into which the other pieces will be nailed. Make sure this long plank fits all of the others, including the heading! Wipe down the wood if needed.

3. You could choose your own colour theme – my sister and I chose pastel colours for a more rural vibe. You could buy these paints or combine some basic colours to make several new ones – we made all of these colours using white, dark brown, yellow and dark blue paint. Paint each plank of wood on the front side and leave to dry overnight.

3. One by one, write or paint each rule/value onto each plank of wood. Instead of using black paint, we used permanent marker which proved much easier than paint would have! You could use a variety of fonts. If you lack artistic skills, like me, there is no shame in using a pencil first!

4. When the writing has dried, use a drill (if possible) to nail each plank onto the main one. Try and make sure they are straight first!

 

And here you have a cheap yet sentimental present for your parent or parents!

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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?

Why hello there!

I haven’t yet introduced myself. I’m an almost(?) 19 year old law student at SOAS in London. Yes, SOAS. (‘What does that stand for?’ you wonder…) School of Oriental and African Studies. (‘Oriental and African?’ you wonder…) No, I am doing a normal UK law degree and am neither oriental nor african, I’m afraid!

Having just completed my first year at my wonderful little SOASian bubble, I reminded myself to, unlike the past year, actually achieve something other than drink a LOT of wine whilst I return to my wonderful hometown of Malaga. And does that involve studying for my driving test? Doing something inspiring? Finishing my mum’s two-week-belated birthday project I’ve been putting off for fear of splinters? No. It involves talking about myself every so often. About completely random things. With no clear direction.

And so that is my plan! Bear with me for some bantz. (Oh wait, i can’t do that, apparently. Bear with me for some riveting new posts!)

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