Dangerous traffic, blue skies and a question of water: my latest trip to India.

Before I start, I want to say I am sorry – it’s been a very long time since I last blogged. Nothing particularly bad had happened (except for maybe exams, which became the bane of my life) I just got super busy and then I was away in India!

As some of you know, I am of Indian origin and I go to see my maternal family every few years. Before this trip the last time I was there was 2015, so it had been a while. I was very excited to go back as I always love going to India; it’s different to Scotland in so many ways and I always learn something new when I got there, be it about family or the country itself.

This time, however, was a particular eye-opener. The city where some of my family reside, Chennai (also known as Madras) has changed a lot. Pollution is worse than ever before, the city has become less clean and population is getting to a point where vehicles on the road cannot even move. Not to mention the major water issue, where there is a shortage of water to drink and for bathing.

Of course, my family are among the more luckier ones compared to other people – my aunt has a house in a nicer area where these issues are not so prevalent. However my uncle is more central in the city and often runs into these problems, including not having running water –  it just goes to show how a middle class family like mine can still struggle, never mind a working class one.

To be honest, this is all I really know of the issue, and I could go on about how the Central Indian Government need to start paying attention to this issue, or even the local authorities in Chennai itself should, but what really hit home for me was how lucky I was to be in the UK. Water never was and never would be an issue for me or my family as long as we were in Scotland. It doesn’t take me two hours to get from one place in Edinburgh to another. Most shockingly, the population of Chennai was the population of my entire country of birth.

It’s one thing watching something like this on the news and another seeing it for yourself, that too in your own family. It put into perspective all the ‘problems’ I had – some of which, of course, were still problems. Yet I felt almost grateful for having the problem of not having a charger for your mobile or having to do University work instead of wondering if I could have a proper shower tonight or a drink of water.

On a lighter note, I also made some great memories – I went to a completely new part of India called Hyderabad, where the traffic was even worse than Chennai; I had lots and lots of food (as per usual), I bought lots of new clothes and my cousins and I made a group chat (may come to regret this later). Most of all, I got to see my family which is always great.

I returned to Scotland feeling incredibly jetlagged and cold, but grateful. It made me want to try harder at everything, give everything a real go, not just a half hearted one. Living on my own definitely gave me a similar epiphany, but this felt different. I had never run into the issues I had run into in India when living alone here in Scotland.

So I guess the take away from this is, whenever you’re feeling down or low, just remember there is someone out there – maybe even someone really close to you – that is having a harder if not harder time than you. It sounds cliché, but I feel simultaneously its equally true. It’s not always the most reassuring thing to think about, but I believe it’s better than nothing.

I’m sorry it’s not been the most cheery blogpost for making a return, but I hope you find the good in this article! I’m planning to make a return for writing once a week and will increase it from there.

You can check out my last article here.

 

 

 

Why you should think about what you read: what English Literature has taught me this week

Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw may have been published over a century ago, but aside the eeriness of the ghost story, a more literary critical point lies underneath. The principal narrator of the book, the governess, starts off as sounding as more than adequate as a narrator. As the story proceeds, however, one finds her story less believable and her narration unreliable as she recalls her tale.

James was undoubtedly ahead of his time. He brought up the idea of questioning what we are reading and why; and whether reader should fully believe the person writing or narrating. This concept could not be more relevant in today’s world; in a global phenomenon of fake news, swarms of paparazzi and endless clickbait, taking a step back and critically evaluating what we read is vital.

Whilst this may give people uncomfortable flashbacks to close reading at High School, the skills we use for reading in those situations can also be applied when reading any article or information. I’m not saying bust out all your highlighters and pens and look for alliteration; I’m saying think about who is writing this, who they’re writing it for, and why.

Take well-loved Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. I liked him; for a start, almost every article I read was saying how much of a hero he was compared to President Donald Trump – and I believed it blindly until I was fortunate to come across this article by the Guardian. Trudeau, as far as I’m aware, is not a racist or sexist (so far) – but like Trump, he’ll do what he thinks is best for his country. In this case I profoundly disagree selling barrells of oil is best for his country. I don’t hate him, but I don’t see him as a saviour for the West as beforehand.

If it wasn’t for that article, I would have continued to buy the wonderful portrayals of Trudeau and how he could do no wrong. Of course, I don’t feel as strongly against him as the author of the article does (I watched the video of Trudeau and he did say he would sell the oil ‘safely’ and ‘sustainably’ – how he will do this I don’t know).

This brought me to think about how, if we feel so strongly for or against something, we will take on almost any article that supports or believes it. Countless articles link to videos or paraphrase what people said, and before you know it bloody battles are being fought on the well known battlegrounds of Facebook comments, with as much as half of people not even watching the original video or reading the original article or quote. Why?

We like to see what we believe, and belief is a beautiful thing. Anything that comes close to shattering this, we get our guards up and will look for anything that backs our point up. These days you can find any type of statistics and data to back up any point you want to make; if you find something that supports your initial belief or view in a paraphrase, you’re more likely just to go on that rather than check out the original quote.

So what do we do about this? Read actively. Find a quote? Look for the original. Find a statistic? Look for other ones to back it up and its source. Find an article supporting your point? Research the author and look at the newspaper its written for. I’m not saying you should do this for every Buzzfeed quiz or Film Review (though Buzzfeed’s reliability is altogether another question).

Like James’ The Turn of the Screw, a story can have different narrators and these people may or may not be reliable. So don’t just believe everything you read, even if it does match your viewpoints; if you can back up your point having said you’ve looked at all the influencing factors, you’re already further ahead than most people are.

Check out my last blogpost on living far away from your extended family here.

 

Looks may matter – but not in the way that you think

In a world where more people are undergoing plastic surgery than ever before and the cosmetics industry is worth billions of pounds, it’s clear people want to make themselves look good. But what does ‘good’ mean? And do looks matter?

Some people will say that looks don’t matter at all; some others will say that the ‘hard truth’ is that looks are the only thing that matters. Personally, I disagree with both statements:  in my opinion, looks matter but it is definitely not the only thing that matters – and that they don’t matter in the ways people think.

So what makes people want to change the way they look – to small and large extents? Do people want to look good for others or for themselves? I started wearing make-up every day when I was a teenager, but I only use eyeliner and a bit of foundation to make myself look a bit more awake in the morning. Others fill in brows or just put in mascara; some won’t be seen dead without a full face of make-up. There is a wide perception that everyone who wears make-up are doing so to look good for others – and of course this is true in many cases. Yet, there are also a significant number of people now who want to do this just to look good for themselves – not anyone else.

I’m certain people have been doing this for a long time, but this is a growing idea in modern society. Memes that show women dismissing guys when they make remarks such as ‘You’re wearing too much make-up’ or ‘You don’t need make-up’, and growing ideas of people being bold with – or without – make-up is becoming prevalent. This is good progress in society as it empowers people to do what they want with how they look.

There is, however, an ugly side to this too. More and more girls are being diagnosed with anorexia, growing trends such as thigh gaps and ridiculously small (and obviously photo shopped) waists. This costs confidence and far too often, lives. Much of the time, people end up at these extremes not because they want to look good for themselves but because society demands it; it is a toxic trend that should be addressed better by the cosmetic and clothing industries.

This leads me to my next point. Looking healthy contributes a great deal to looking good as well, as well as looking and feeling confident (see my article on confidence here). The more you appear confident in yourself and how you look, the more other people will perceive you in the same way; confidence is infectious, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be used as a tool to feeling good about the way you look.

I truly believe that beauty is in in the eye of the beholder; that is, different people find different things attractive or beautiful. Some people will scoff, but I think beauty is relative to different countries and a perception of beauty differs between every single person, however slight or great. What is conventionally attractive in India (fair skin) is not conventionally attractive in the West anymore (tanned skin). Even then, to say that every single person of India’s population 1.3 billion believes fair skin is attractive would be false.

I suppose there will always be those people that everyone just looks at and thinks “Wow.” But it’s important to think that it won’t be everyone who thinks that. What was conventionally beautiful fifty years ago may not be conventionally beautiful today; and what is beautiful today may not be another fifty years. From this, therefore, we can learn that we should learn to accept all types of beauty; if we can learn to say that looks matter without forcing a desired look upon society, then we can go forward.

 

 

 

Not getting lost, late night snacks and drunken walks home: what clubbing is really like

Growing up in the Scottish Borders, house parties were the main places I went to drink and have a good time – so moving to Edinburgh and discovering clubbing was a totally new experience!

Now, I had watched videos on what clubbing was really like and taken it into account, but I still imagined it mainly to be what it appeared to be; a time to dress up, get drunk and have a super good time with no stress whatsoever. How wrong I was (well, about the stress part anyway!) Note: I am in no way trying to claim to be an expert in clubs – I’m really quite new to it all – this is just my experience of them.

When you’re a student, you’re pretty much needing to budget all the time, so a night out means good pre-drinks (enough to get you at least tipsy) so you don’t have to spend loads on buying drinks at the club; deciding what club to go to; deciding whether it’s worth getting a taxi or walking to that club; and when you finally get there, in some cases, trying to get in before you have to pay for entry!

This is all before you actually get into the club. Once you’re there, you have to decide whether you’re going to pay to lock your stuff away (and whether you can actually afford it) what drinks you’re getting; when to get up and start dancing (personally I just sort of go for it because I have no social conscience) and make sure you know where all your friends are! You know the types; the ones who get lost, the one who always finds a guy (I’ll leave this for another article).

Of course, once you’re drunk enough and everything is sorted, you can start to dance and have a good time; you’re not free of problems just yet though. There’s still the chance of getting awful blisters on your feet from those heels, guys getting the wrong impression because you smiled at them, disappearing friends, making sure your friends don’t get too drunk that you don’t get kicked out; making sure you don’t get too drunk so that you don’t get kicked out…

(So far I’ve been a massive spoil sport about clubbing, but I should say at this point that I promise clubbing is fun for a lot of people and that you shouldn’t let this put you off!)

Once the clubs close, you may think the night is over…but not just yet. You may discover 3am as a potential new eating time as you head to your local chippy or kebab shop for a snack (or even a whole meal as I have seen). Getting drunk and then dancing for hours can make you very hungry so definitely be prepared to spend some money on some chips. After this you will either get a taxi home or have a fun drunken walk back, which can be surprisingly fun when your mates are just as smashed as you are.

When you’re home, there may be after drinks or if you’re easily tired like me, you’ll head to bed! If you’re lucky enough you could wake up with no hangover (I have a flatmate who has yet to have one) but for many of us, you wake up with a pain to your head, a dry throat and achy body…or all three. Time for lots of water, food and rest!

If you’re a club virgin and reading this, I’m sorry if I have scared you. This is meant to be a guide of what to expect more than anything else! Clubbing can be great fun with the right people, the right club and good budgeting; if you end up with none of those three, the worst is you’ll have a bad night and know better next time. Of course, clubbing isn’t for everyone and that’s ok to; there are plenty more ways to have fun at University.

 

Check out my last article on 5 quick energy boosts for University here.

 

 

Welcome!

Welcome to my blog everyone!

My name is Vaishnavi and I am an eighteen year old student currently attending the University of Edinburgh studying English Language and Literature. I love to read, write (obviously) and snack endlessly on bourbon biscuits and more recently, dark chocolate digestives.

I have always loved writing stories, but also love writing persuasive pieces and articles and decided to give blogging a go. I can’t promise any regularity quite yet – and this is just a hobby for now – however I plan to give it my all!

On this blog you can expect to see opinionated pieces about current affairs or strong views of mine, general findings and tips on student life and possibly some creative writing.

I hope you enjoy reading my blog posts as much as I enjoy writing them!