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.

 

 

 

8 weeks and counting: a reflection of my first two months at University

Eight weeks yesterday I had moved out of my childhood home of eleven years and embarked upon a new life in Edinburgh. I was excited but also immensely terrified; I had worked very hard to get into Edinburgh University. What if it wasn’t what I expected? What if my flatmates hated me? What if I wasn’t good enough for the course after all? Questions flooded my ahead and the answers were not immediate; two months later, I’m almost a changed person.

But it’s only been two months! That’s what many of you will think, and that’s why I say I’m almost a changed person. I do miss home in some ways, of course, but I couldn’t have been more lucky since moving to Edinburgh; my flatmates are incredible (more on them soon), my course has been great, I’ve made loads of new friends and couldn’t have settled into Edinburgh life better. In Fresher’s week alone I found myself doing things I never would have otherwise; I’ve pushed boundaries since too.

Yet, it’s not all been amazing. Needless to say I have been a lot more lucky than some other people I know, who have been finding themselves incredibly homesick, stuck with a bunch of uncooperative flatmates or on a course they hated. Nevertheless, a couple of weeks ago, I myself started to really miss home all of a sudden. It wasn’t like I was constantly sad, but I did start to feel more down than usual.

I soon came to realise that many students that are initially on a high from the start of University suddenly get down about halfway through semester one; deadlines are looming and you’re suddenly not going everywhere meeting new people all the time like at Fresher’s.

So what did I do? I got up every morning and kept going. I tried to meet up with new friends to solidify friendships; I met with old friends to remind myself home was not too far away; I worked hard on my coursework – in short, I kept myself busy. This served me well and I’m already feeling better.

In terms of living in self-catered halls, this has proved an altogether different education. What you thought was ‘cheap’ before when spending your birthday or Christmas money is suddenly really expensive  (or, if you get to the point of absolutely denial of how broke you are, you go all out and into your overdraft. Thankfully this hasn’t happened to me). Anywhere with free food is a must go – and balancing your work, social life and making sure you actually feed yourself can be a great challenge. I suddenly woke up and thought one day how much my parents do every single day, as well as dealing with us teenagers and kids. Realising how much you take for granted, you suddenly become a lot more grateful (before you go back to living off your parents money and buying that extra coffee you know you shouldn’t have).

If you’re from a quiet not so heterogeneous place like me, you also realise how much more of a world there is outside your home. My flat alone has eight different nationalities including my own. I’ve met people from all over the world and learnt about different cultures within a matter of days, never mind months. I found a society for pretty much every single culture or country, which was a refreshing experience for me coming from the Scottish Borders.

However, the thing that struck me most about University was that – unlike high school – people just don’t seem to care who you are or where you’re from. Though certain groups do form after some time and circles of friends are established, the social hierarchy is not as it is in high school. There are no ‘popular kids,’ no ‘uncool’, no ‘don’t talk to me.’ There are no horrible cliques or them and us. That’s not to say University is free of racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination – it’s far from perfect. Yet, you can go and talk to anyone or attempt to be friends with anyone you like. The worst that’ll happen is that the feeling is not mutual and even then, you have literally thousands of other people to choose from.

University, I have found, is not always perfect; at times it can be far from it. But it’s the time for you to find out who you really are, without being judged (too much) for it. That, for me anyway, is a wonderful thing.

Check out my last article on looks and beauty 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.