Whatever Next?

The title of this post is inspired by a board game I used to play with my family, called Whatever Next. Depending on the square a player landed on, they would have to imitate a certain animal, act out a certain scene or make certain choices in the game that would determine if they could move their token. It’s quite fitting, as it’s almost an analogy for the choices we make in our lives. 

2016 has been a year of chaos, reflection and change. As I welcome 2017, I think of the trials and tribulations I have been through on a personal level this year, but also the supposedly new world order that could affect my future, and that of my peers.

The future is daunting. My university graduation is six months away. I must admit, it is scary to go beyond the confines of education, and the safety blanket of family, friends and my day-to-day life that I have grown so accustomed to. However, when the time comes, I know I’ll have to meet the challenges of the big, wide, adult world head-on. While I will miss the life I have led in the past 20 years, there is no way to go back to them. When I wear my black cap and gown, walk across the stage to receive my diploma, and shake the vice-chancellor’s hand, my time will be up. And it will be time to move on.

So what will I be moving on to? I am getting this sort of question very often these days. Will I launch into a Masters degree? Will I go straight into journalism? What if I want to try something new?

I’m going to share a very personal story, that will hopefully help you understand the trajectory I hope my life will take.

When I was thirteen years old, I still held my childhood dream of becoming a well-renowned author. My dream life consisted of working for huge news organizations, of writing pages and pages of literature. My dream was to transport audiences into a world of dreams, and to write for hours on end. With that dream in my heart, I happened upon the chance to go to a book signing and workshop, by none other than Anthony Horowitz. One of my best friends found the event and made sure I went alone with her (thanks Shaneelah).

He had authored the last book in the Alex Rider series (or so we thought) at the time, and Shaneelah, her brother and I were very keen to meet him, and get the entire series of books, which I had coveted over the years, signed by him.

I remember being so starstruck, that when he chose me to ask a question, after waiting for 20 minutes with my arm up, I could not find the words to tell him what an inspiration he was to me. My mother, who caught on to my infectious excitement, spoke up.

“My daughter loves your books. She wants to become a writer, what are your top tips for doing so?”

Mr. Horowitz beamed at me with a warm smile. “Well, besides reading and writing constantly, get some life experiences. If you want to write about extreme sports, do some extreme sports. If you want to write about horror, go to haunted areas and talk with local people. If you want to write about the corporate world – you get my point.”

At the time, the fact that Anthony Horowitz spoke directly to me was enough to keep me going. I continued reading; I continue to write wherever I get the opportunity to do so. My desire to do an English literature degree quickly shifted, and I chose to study philosophy, politics and economics instead. I could see myself going for serious journalism upon graduation.

But then, something shifted within me at university. I started getting involved in startups run by my friends, and even founded my own social enterprise. I was doing marketing work, going to various conferences, meeting new people. I cast my mind back to those fateful words that Anthony Horowitz had said on that day seven years ago. I decided that I didn’t want to stop learning just yet, I didn’t want to just write without actually having new experiences.

When my parents heard this, they thought that I was absolutely bonkers. But the truth is, there are many people like me at university. People who want to dabble in consulting, work with a startup, campaign for environmental awareness and be the finance editor of their university newspaper.

Don’t get me wrong, I love writing. A lot of my extra-curriculars right now involve writing. Before I commit to writing full-time, I want to explore my options first. I am unsure of exactly what I’d like to do straight after I get my degree, so rather than doing nothing, I am doing everything I can to keep my options open. I’m applying for jobs not just in journalism, but in a variety of other fields, such as marketing and consulting. Should I get a journalism job, I will gladly take it, and will keep finding ways to learn and experience life outside of my office hours. But, should I receive a job offer unlike anything I’ve experienced before, I will consider taking it.

Life is too short to stop learning. I am at an ideal age where I can try new things, either succeed or fail, and learn new things. There is no time like the present, and that is how I hope to shape my future.

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Believe In You

Most of my close friends and I identify as third culture kids. We’ve had countless discussions about where we feel like we’re from, where we can call home and if we need to be pinned down by one place in particular.

Both my mother and one of my similarly confused third-culture friends, recently send me a link to a mini-documentary. The first line that popped up on the screen read:

“Can you make it in America without erasing your cultural identity?”

That’s a question we’ve often asked ourselves. Can we make it in the West, or in any foreign land, without losing ourselves? For most of my life, I’ve felt a bit lost. Not quite Indian, not quite a Hong Konger, definitely not British. I’ve tried to be all of those things, and then gave up trying to be anything after a while.

Also, sometimes in a so-called “global sphere”, “professional setting” or “diverse group” it’s not always appropriate to act or be a certain way, mainly because it could infringe on other people’s spaces, or an environment in general. The way I’m describing this is a little ambiguous, but let’s say you’re in a professional office environment, it’s natural to want to fit in with the majority. But what happens when you come home feeling drained at the end of the day, in a foreign land? When you put up too many fronts, the pretence can be jarring.

So, as a third-culture kid, I’ve definitely connected more to being Indian at university, but at the same time I’ve also become more comfortable with being in a stateless state. I wear my triple citizenship with pride, and I feel like it makes me more open and less judgmental of different walks of life, and different belief systems.

So why descend into the usual cultural confusion discussion? Because the quote we’ve just been discussing comes from a documentary about Raja Kumari, and upcoming hip-hop artist from Los Angeles. And yes, she’s Indian.

Raja Kumari (real name Svetha Rao) combines her love of hip-hop, her amazing vocal talents and signature street style with Bharatnatyam, popular Indian tunes and passion-infused lyrics. She laments on cultural indifference in her new track “Mute” featuring Elvis Brown, which could easily be the next hip-hop anthem of the lower floor of Smack (a club in my university town).

But it’s her track, Believe In You, that really speaks to me. The video and lyrics speak of growing into your cultural confusion, and embracing your ancestry as well as your current situation. The video pans from her childhood Bharatnatyam videos to her confidently dancing in a temple in Malibu (the juxtapostion is unreal).

Huge shoutout to Mum and Anu for introducing me to this fab artist. Raja Kumari’s EP is available for purchase as of November 17th, and her tracks are out on Spotify too. She was nominated for a Grammy in 2015 for writing a song with Fall Out Boy, and has also written songs for Fifth Harmony and Gwen Stefani.

It’s extremely inspirational to have an Indian person enter the foray of hip hop and popular music. I really hope Raja Kumari climbs the music ladder as fast as possible, because the world needs to hear her music, and her message.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiatus

Lol hi blog. how you doin’

It’s been around four months since I posted something on here. It’s shocking and quite frankly ridiculous that I haven’t come up with anything to write.

Actually, I tell I lie. I have. But then as soon as a wonderful idea comes to me it goes away, because I forget about it while clouding my brain with BuzzFeed Tasty videos. Go figure.

So I’ve recently decided to use a journal that my best friend gave me a year ago, great timing as usual. It’s called “Thoughts and Doodles of an Undiscovered Genius”; she found it in a bookshop and also got a photo of us developed, the old fashioned way, and gifted it to me. It reminds me of the power of the written word and of tangible, printed photographs. My plan is to carry this notebook with me wherever I go and note down ideas.

In general, I’ve also been behind on writing all sorts of things. I haven’t written for The Market Mogul since the Panama Papers leak, and I’ve barely written for Young Post. I pitched them a ton of ideas over summer, most of which were approved, and I’m also meant to write pieces for the regular columns.

Because of my confusion on my career, writing has taken a back seat to job applications and degree work. Initially I thought keeping an open mind and applying to different places would be a good thing, but now that it’s interfering with writing, I’m starting to second-guess my so-called “grand plan”.

I’m hoping that by using my new journal, and hopefully by managing my time better from this week onwards, I’ll be able to post more often. I’ve written a lot of ideas down in my year-old notebook which I haven’t opened until now, but better late than never (most of the time)!

That being said, I won’t post content for the sake of posting. Naturally there are a lot of recent developments around the world (hello Trump) that are necessary for me to comment on, but I promise it will all come in good time.

Also can we make allowances for the fact that I’m a final year student, and I’m trying to balance everything? 🙂

 

Stuck in a rut?

Until recently, I was dead set on becoming a journalist.

This doesn’t surprise many people. Pretty much all I do is write stuff so I guess I might as well.

Sometimes  I don’t see the point. All I’m doing is writing words that people will read whilst scrolling on their phones. Maybe they’ll think nothing of it, maybe it will move them for an entire minute, or maybe they’ll actually value what I’ve written, share it everywhere and get people thinking.

Continue reading Stuck in a rut?

Strips, Thread and Judgment

Ever since the age of five, I have been called out for having hair on my arms, legs, and face. In fact, I have hair everywhere. EVERYWHERE. The worst place being on my cheeks, my chin and my upper lip. As I grew up, everyone pointed their dagger-like gaze on the ragged hairs that grow from my arms a week after I wax. Over the years, so-called friends and threading ladies have remarked “don’t you want to remove the hair from your cheeks?”, “Maybe you should try laser”, “If you have sensitive skin try depilatory cream”.

I have nothing against removing my hair. A part of me loves how smooth my skin feels after an hour of waxing (yes, one hour). I’ve been waxing since I was 11 (a little young I know), but over the last 9 years I’ve become numb to the pain, if I wax within 3-4 weeks each time. But should I dare to wait any longer, I feel the punishing, pulling pain of cloth strip against wax, against long black hairs.

I recently found this poem, by Naina Kataria, which really spoke to me. It’s also worth mentioning that 95% of Indian girls experience this throughout their lives. And I couldn’t ignore something that essentially spelled out my life story. So here it is:

When a man tells me
I’m beautiful
I don’t believe him.
Instead, I relive my days in high school
When no matter how good I was
I was always the girl with a moustache
He doesn’t know what it’s like
to grow up in your maternal family
Where your body is the only one that
Proudly boasts of your father’s X
While your mother’s X sits back and pities
It’s unladylike-ness
He doesn’t know the teenager
Who filled her corners with
Empty consolations of
Being loved for who she was- someday.
He doesn’t know hypocrisy.
He doesn’t know of the world that
tells you to ‘be yourself’
and sells you a fair and lovely shade card
in the same fucking breath
He doesn’t know of the hot wax and the laser
whose only purpose is to
replace your innocent skin
with its own brand of womanhood
He doesn’t know of the veet and the bleach
That uproot your robust hair
in the name of hygiene
Hygiene, which when followed by men
makes them gay and unmanly
He doesn’t know how unruly eyebrows are tamed
and how uni brows die a silent death
All to preserve beauty
And of the torturous miracles that happen
Inside the doors marked
“WOMEN ONLY”
So when a man calls me beautiful
I throw at him, a smile; a smile that remained
After everything the strip pulled away
And I dare him
To wait
Till my hair grows back.

I used to resent my father’s genes as I grew up. I teasingly call him a gorilla, which he really is. He has hair everywhere. EVERYWHERE. And like Kataria, says, it’s painful to “to grow up in your maternal family /Where your body is the only one that/Proudly boasts of your father’s X”. This is the part of the poem that speaks to me the most, and will be the main lines that I centre my ranting around.

“I was always the girl with the mustache”

My mother’s family has nowhere near as much hair as my father’s, which is lucky for my brother, having predominantly inherited my mother’s genes.

Me? I wasn’t as lucky.

I resent my father’s genes every time a look in a mirror, two weeks after a threading appointment, and see unsightly black hairs contrasting against my pale skin (you can blame the lack of sunlight for that). I wince and shudder every time a waxing lady asks me why I won’t thread my whole face, why I get rashes, why I can’t just get rid of all of my hair. Not only have I inherited my father’s fur, but also his sensitive skin.

“He doesn’t know the teenager / Who filled her corners with / Empty consolations of / Being loved for who she was- someday.”

A few months ago, while putting up with waxing and threading, I put up with a hairless beautician who said I will never find a man because of the hair on my face, that I’m unsightly to look at, that I have genetic issues. And to you I say, if it weren’t for my hair, you wouldn’t have a job. If it weren’t for my father’s genes, I wouldn’t be as tall, as weirdly wonderful and hilarious as I am now. And with all of those wonderful qualities that my father possesses, and has passed on to me, he has also passed down his body hair. And I am prepared to deal with it, and embrace it (that will come much later).

“the torturous miracles that happen”

This is what we go through to look acceptable in general, particularly Indians. We’re often discriminated against for having too much hair, and while we’d love to accept our bodies, we’re not in a position to do that yet. It’s actually great that this is being talked about, but just because some people are comfortable with their body hair on the internet doesn’t mean that I or anyone else needs to be comfortable with it overnight. I’d never judge someone for growing out their body hair, in fact I’d admire it! However, I’m not in a position to do that yet so we need to consider that side of the debate too.

I was recently involved in a Facebook-comment spat with a girl of white heritage, who found a BuzzFeed video involving men being waxed for the first time a barbaric display of low confidence. I’m walking on eggshells here, but white women generally don’t have as much of a struggle with body hair compared to women of colour. And here, I speak for Indian women.

White women have recently taken to social media, in experiments showcasing how they go against shaving and waxing for a month and decide to grow out their body hair. They are then praised for breaking patriarchal stereotypes and for being powerful women. If an Indian woman of our age and generation did the same, I can assure you they would not receive the same response.

The reason? Some of it could be to do with racism, but the truth is we have more hair. And we’ve been raised to remove it. Unlike the underam-hair growing crusaders that parade on BuzzFeed, our hair is actually visible, unsightly, and according to hairless beauticians “means that you cannot find a boyfriend”. Which is obviously all that I am aiming for in life.

My problem here is this. There are a lot of statements on the internet telling girls to embrace who they are fully and to love themselves. Sometimes, it can be suffocating. It doesn’t give us the space to deal with our flaws and try to correct them, and by trying doing so, by trying to correct what we feel are our flaws, we are wrong. We’re considered “barbaric”, as my white-girl Facebook opponent commented. If I ever met her, I’d show her the hair sprouting from my fingers and cheeks, and ask her to reconsider.

That’s not to say I haven’t tried not waxing. In winter I do grow out my body hair because no one is ever going to see it. So you see, I can be brave. Threading is something I can’t give up just yet, and probably never will. I hate it while it’s happening, it’s painful and demeaning and punishing. Is it wrong to love how I look afterwards? My threaded face is the face you see the most. It is the face you’re used to, and I hate showing my face when the roots of my hair are visible.

“a smile that remained / After everything the strip pulled away / And I dare him / To wait / Till my hair grows back.”

This is why I used to hate it when people complimented how I looked. They didn’t see me as a child, they didn’t see the awkward, lanky kid with hair sprouting prematurely, the girl with the mustache and unibrow. I shudder when I hear the words “beautiful”, “gorgeous”, “sexy”. If only the people who complimented how I look today could see me as a child. If only the people who tormented me as a child could see me now.

That being said, I’ve now grown as a person and have somewhat accepted my body hair, sometimes. I’ve also learned to judge the character of my friends by growing out my eyebrows, etc. And so far, all my true friends haven’t run away yet. My mother completely understands the struggle, despite having nowhere nearly as much hair as I do. We’ve talked for hours about my encounters with people who have pointed out more than they should have, talked about laser etc. After hours of discussing this issue, we came to the conclusion that I would have to keep removing my hair, and having to accept that I have hair and that I’m comfortable with removing it. I don’t feel like any less of a feminist for not “embracing my body hair” the way I am “meant to do”. I can accept it and remove it at the same time, and the balance I’ve found is the place where I want to be. I sincerely hope it is a place where young Indian women can reach too.

Writing all of this out has been a major catharsis. I’m more ready and willing to embrace myself. I’m more ready to except how beautiful I am with my so-called flaws, but society has told me that I’m not at an age or position to willingly reveal my flaws to the world. I still need to wax and thread to escape personal and social judgment. And I can’t let go of such vices just yet.

Weathered Soles: Los Angeles to San Francisco

I found this fantastic, extremely high-quality and probably heavily edited image on Unplash, which got me thinking about my Californian road trip with my family.

(Thank you Unsplash for being my source of amazing images for this blog). 

Anyway, the image above is that of Big Sur, one of the most beautiful coastal cliffs in the world. Big Sur, along with the various spectacular sights along the Californian Coast’s Pacific Highway completely changed my perception of the United States. It reminded me that this wasn’t white man’s land, but belonged exclusively to it’s indigenous people and to nature. The towering redwood trees, clear blue waves crashing against treacherous rocks and omnipresent, unrelenting sunshine offered an escape from the capitalist image that impressions of America so readily subscribe to.

Of course, I didn’t think about all of this while on my road trip. I was only fifteen at the time and could barely formulate responses to the world around me beyond anything written for my GCSE English coursework.

We drove from LA to San Francisco over a period of two days, and purposely took the longer route as it was more scenic. My family and I really bonded over the sights and sounds of our first road trip, which included my brother and father arguing over the GPS, my mother screaming at Dad to drive faster, and then to stop every 15 minutes to get out of the car and take photos. By the end of the journey we wanted to strangle each other, thinking we’d never reach San Francisco.

However, the purpose of the journey wasn’t to reach San Francisco, but to enjoy the ride itself. San Francisco was fun for about a day, but the real highlight of the trip was the drive. We met some interesting characters along the way, including a couple who lived along the highway so that they could be “one with nature”, as well as a herd of seals basking on the beach.

You’re probably expecting me to say something very inspirational now about how the journey told me to enjoy the highs and lows of life and to enjoy the ride etc. etc.

To be fair, that is kinda true. I really did enjoy the journey more than the destination, and I can say that for my life so far. For example, I think I have an idea of where I want to reach after I leave university, but looking back, I genuinely appreciate the little trips and memories I’ve made to reach this point, be it maneuvering my feet on slippery rocks and falling over to take a perfect family picture in Big Sur, to running for a train in Vienna and almost getting arrested in Budapest with my friends. The greatest parts of traveling and life are the actual journeys you take to get there.

When traveling, the anticipation, excitement, moments to appreciate the scenery and the funny conversations that seem meaningless at the time, but are actually the foundation of great memories, are actually more fun than the destinations themselves. The same can be said for my life so far.

I could completely change my mind on this Zen outlook on life by tomorrow, but for now I’m going to pretend I’m really wise.

P.S.  Reach out through the comments anytime! 🙂

Coffee Architects

When I first moved from the food paradise that is Hong Kong to the middle of nowhere for university, I knew I’d be missing out on good food. After a week I got sick of campus food and there was only so much I could cook at the time (my skills were limited to stir-fry broccoli and scrambled eggs).

Luckily I discovered the existence of the U1, a somewhat unreliable bus that would wind down roads through fields dotted with sheep to a small yet gorgeous town: Leamington Spa.

It seems ironic that I found so much novelty in Leamington at the time, considering I live here now. Despite our complaints about the terrible U1, being cooped up when the sun is out during exams and the dodgy shadows of South Leam, I don’t think I’d be happier studying anywhere else. There is so much food everywhere. Each day I find new little gems, whether it be a new type of quiche, an aromatic coffee, authentic Hong Kong-style noodles or a perfect eggs Benedict.

And the latter is exactly what I found at Coffee Architects.

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Photo Credits: itsagidlife

I personally feel that the best judge of any breakfast/tea outlet is its eggs Benedict. If the egg is cooked perfectly and if the Hollandaise sauce is divine, then it’s only fair to go back to that place multiple times.

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BENEDICT, MY ONE TRUE LOVE. /PC: itsagidlife