Why I am Jealous of Brown Girls on Instagram

The rise of positive brown girls on social media is a phenomenon that I am not just in awe of, but as desi guy something that I envy. The global desi community in the past and present is a patriarchal society. As we slowly shift away from this misogynist way of life, the role of what it means to be a desi man is changing. However, role models for young desis are few and far between. I understand that there are big names like Hasan Minhaj or Riz Ahmed who are influencing the desi community in a positive sense, but it’s a top down approach. This is not the same as the brown girl’s movement of reclaiming our culture from previous generations, which is what the boys are completely lacking. To understand what the desi boys’ community needs to be, we first need to understand what the brown girl online movement is, why I think it’s commendable, my thoughts on the current role models, what I want the desi boys’ movement to be and how I’m trying to play a part in the process.

#browngirls

The brown girl movement online is simply a part of the fourth wave of feminism, with sections of third wave feminism (in a South Asian sense). Where brown women are standing for their rights & appropriating our culture for the better. You can go online and see the works of Simmi Patel with her page Paper Samosa or Maria Qamar’s hatecopy page (whose pop art features as my laptop’s background). There are several Facebook groups that my friends have made me aware of the solely exist to provide a support network for brown women in various cities across the world. Essentially this community is not only taking control on how they wished to be perceived but an actual community to help out in the “real” world. Just look at current Indian soaps or most films, to see that women still have a mountain to climb to be perceived as equals. A community to deal with the uncles and aunties of this world, is something that doesn’t exist in any sense for guys, outside a close few friends. This sense of control of the community’s own destiny, that being a brown boy I envy the most.

Role models

The two most famous male desi role models in/from the West would have to be Hasan Minhaj & Riz Ahmed. Hasan has his hit show Patriot Act talking about politics to doing AMAs (ask me anything) on Subtle Asian Traits. Riz Ahmed is an actor who was in Wired, Rogue One, Jason Bourne and Venom (though personally Four Lions is my favourite). Riz is also a musician and has spoken in the UK parliament about Islamophobia and the lack of portrayal of non-stereotype Muslims in the media.

The brown girl movement online is simply a part of the fourth wave of feminism

What I mean by Brown Girls on Instagram

Both guys have been breaking barriers for desi representation and helping to redefine what is it to be a desi guy. However, it’s not a community or a movement. It is an approach that relies on the few that breakout. Not a sense of togetherness or vulnerability that is controlled by us.

Our Cultural. Our Revolution.

Jameela Jamil is right, that the biggest failure is not to try. What should this online desi/brown boy community try and be, in this online world? My number one issue is that we need to be a feminist community. To the unengaged, this may seem counter intuitive for a male focused community. However, if we are to forge a future of equality then we have the same aims as the desi/brown girl gang. A movement that is progressive and wants us (this generation) to be in control. It is important to recognise that these are somethings that we all want for the future and thus we need to work together.

This sense of control of the community’s own destiny, that being a brown boy I envy the most

The second is a space for brown boys to start reclaiming our culture from the “men” in society. I suggest that guys start with the simple rebellion as being engaged when it comes to tidying up at family events. A place where I see aunties harassing girls to help clean up, but never seen an uncle do anything more than lifting a glass of whiskey. Nor do I see many guys my age helping or even making a real attempt to not become a spectator. It’s not right that our sisters are cleaning up and we just sit & chat. Yeah, it’s nice Now, I fight and argue that I should be allowed to help and just do it regardless of the protests. While this makes me the bau diyo child of the family, it really shouldn’t be that special (even if I am the bau diyo child of the family). Other things that can be done is wearing more traditional garments instead of shirts and jeans during festivals such as Eid/Diwali/Xmas. It’s not as though we can’t rock them at other events, I do try and wear Indo-Western to more functions, but I have no concern to go full Trudeau and wear it everywhere.

Thirdly, there is need to find an environment to talk to each other in a more open and loving environment. Not one that’s immune from criticism, but one where we can express ourselves knowing that the community is there to get to a better version of the past. One that’s more inclusive than before. Can a group of individual nobodies make this change if no major star can? Yes. Of we can. To be more than a flash in the pan, we will need a bunch of nobody’s talking to each other having this dialogue.

I have no concern to go full Trudeau

When it comes to wearing more traditional clothes

No point just talking.

Personally, I host a podcast with about being Brown in the West and through the show, I want people to know what it is meant to be a normal brown boy. No Instagram filters, or just highlight reels. The flawed human beings that we both were and continue to be, even as we strive to be better. We are bringing on guests to share more ideas and provide perspectives that we couldn’t imagine, because sometimes it’s better to have someone to empathise with instead of us just sympathise. This openness is what will drive the community forward. Where would this community be? I would love if people started using the blog to start having these conversations (there is a comment section after all). My blog is great for me, but honestly it doesn’t have the same reach as single hashtag on Instagram or Twitter. It probably needs to blow up on a social media site. Do I need to up my social media game then? Yes, but I’m still figuring how to do it, without sounding like a dick.

What I think will happen?

Personally, I don’t hold out that there will be an equivalent brown boys’ movement, at least in my age group. We haven’t been raised to challenge the world in the same way as our sisters. Instead we still have the same tropes and expectations that our fathers had been raised with, which will take more than a blog to overcome. Should we not bother then? Fuck no. Small movements will be needed to challenge what it is to be a brown boy in the future and if we want the future to better than we must raise the next generation differently. To be desi with pride no matter where they are from. Not one where there is no brown girl/boy movement in the future, the next generation will always try to better (whatever they think that is) than the previous. I just want a future where every brown kid is there own movement to change the world.

The 2019 General Election

My Election Round Up

The last five weeks have been a blur. I quit my job and dived head first into Luciana Berger campaign. In my last post wrote that I hadn’t been happier in ages and the truth is that I have been elated for the last few weeks.  I know why, even though there was no fairy-tale ending to this campaign, I started to chase my dreams again.

I started to chase my dreams again

I learnt quite a few things about myself over the course of the last couple of weeks, that I seemed to have forgotten. The main thing is that I really cannot be motivated by money. It won’t ever motivate me because it’s just a means to end for myself. It doesn’t achieve what I want, being rich is nothing for me. I couldn’t care less. Not to say that money is unimportant, but I can’t imagine a boss offering me a bonus or wage increase that will motivate me to do more work. The second thing I have realised over the last few weeks and more honestly over the last few months is that I enjoy some form of leadership. Whether it be helping organise some leafleting rounds or, what I spent most of the campaign doing, leading canvassing sessions; the sense of responsibility and making sure that we were completing our goals as a team were more important than my personal stats (in the Liberal Democrats, you can review your stats on canvassing. Thus, we sometimes had some friendly competition who could knock on the most doors and convince people that they should vote for Luciana). I would say that when leading canvasing groups, it did feel as though I was a trying to herd cats at times. Especially when people had the audacity to be independent and not tell anyone about it! The final part of it all, is how much I miss politics in all it’s aspects. I love it, no doubt about it. I honestly could work in the field for the rest of my life and really be happy. I reminded me why I want to get a PhD in Political Science, why politics is important to the individual and why it’s important to stay true to myself.

What should have never existed [a Liberal Democratic chance] in Finchley & Golders Green became a reality with Luciana

I spent every day canvassing and I met so many incredible people through out the process, with small list of shout outs to Jake, Kobi, Ilana, Dora, James, Mark, Oli, Zach and so so many more people that I haven’t mentioned here, because otherwise the list would be seemly endless on a team that didn’t even exist two months ago. What should have never existed [a Liberal Democratic chance] in Finchley & Golders Green became a reality with Luciana. For the first time ever in a general election I was able to vote for someone that I liked and wanted to represent me. I must admit, putting a cross in a box with that feeling was nice for the second time in my life (I’ll get to the first time). Speaking of incredible people; I met several Lords, MEPs, former MPs, a couple of celebs, other parliamentary candidates, mayoral candidates, London Assembly candidates (and Member Caroline Pidgeon) and got spend so much time chatting to them over the days and evenings which has restored my faith in politicians. This is not just on the Lib Dems side, when speaking to other parties at the count (plus when I bumped into them out and about) that there are good people out there trying to make the country a better place. We might all disagree with what is best and how to get there, but I do not believe that there is an innate evil with others, even if the twitterverse would disagree. The reality speaking to people on the door steps was clear (this is for Finchley & Golders Green): people wanted the country to move on, people did not like Corbyn and some people are utter idiots who need to learn how to think. The last point may seem elitist and it is to a degree, but the most frustrating thing that I found were people who didn’t believe facts, in seat polling or did not want to engage with the records of the candidates; instead focusing on rhetoric. On all sides, including the Europhiles on mine. If people aren’t open to a different opinion or factual evidence, then it’s impossible to change one’s own behaviour. I think people should be ashamed of this attitude because it’s not just politics, but every decision that you make in life that is affected by this narrow thinking. It’s why I look back at my own education and while I studied a wide range of subjects, I look back at only really two that had significant impacts on the way I think, not what I know and understand or analyse. Critical Thinking at school and Analytical Philosophy during my Undergraduate. I don’t think this is the time or the place to go into why this is the case for myself, but feel free to ask me why in a message and I’ll get back to you, but I don’t believe that I would be in this position without my education in these subjects and that does mean that I am in a privileged position. I just don’t think it has to be a unique experience and that openness can be picked up at any point.

If people aren’t open to a different opinion or factual evidence, then it’s impossible to change one’s own behaviour. I think people should be ashamed of this attitude…

I feel that I should answer why I think that the results turned out the way it did.

Simply, the UK (well particularly England) has never been a left-wing country. It’s does not view itself as European, but still a global nation (whether this is true, is a different matter). Look at the local elections following the referendum: Conservatives votes went up, Labour down, Lib Dem share of the votes went up, but number of councillors went down. There have been some differences in the Scotland but look at UKIPs demise. Almost all their votes went to the Tories. In this election, the Brexit Parties disappearance in Tory held seats is similar. There was no split. So, it became almost impossible to split the Leave vote, but also meant that they spent less time being relevant for the majority of the public. That’s why Conservatives held many of their seats. The gains in the Labour heartlands? It’s tribalism. It’s part of the reason why people close their minds. They pick a team and it’s no longer just a team. It’s them. Their identity. Telling someone that their team is dumb, racist, lying, don’t care or what ever else: is saying that they are all of the above. Even if that has nothing to do with your intention. The left and even more sadly, the centre, can no longer say stories. I know that this doesn’t seem obvious solution to identity politics and tribalism, but it’s not the facts that people who wanted to stay in the European Union, the objective truth or the civility that will win over people. It’s a vision. That’s why Leave won, it’s why Scottish Independence nearly won (once Cameron decided to ditch stories for facts) and it’s why I think the Conservatives won this time (by just selling the same story from 2016). Yes, there were issues with the media, but there are enough sources of news to see lies and biases. It’s about being able to tell

Let me introduce to a not so hidden secret, my perceptions had changed. I used to support the England rugby team. I was a die-hard English nationalist.  I would sing the national anthem in front of the TV, watch the Queen speeches, berate Wales, run around pretending to be Beckham taking free-kicks against Greece, side step like Robinson with a ball in hand, scream for the British & Irish Lions. I wasn’t even ten and didn’t call myself British. I was English. Now? I’m British, I scream for the Boks, side step like JP Peterson with a ball in hand, take free kicks like Bale, berate Wales, I don’t watch/listen/read any Queen speeches & I cried when I saw Siya lift the trophy. What happened and what does this have to do with the elections (or politics)? I was young, open and more importantly new stories were introduced to me. The story of the South African rugby team final made sense, the importance Parliament instead of the Queen, how pointless Wales is as a country, heroes can change over time (I still love the England football team), I missed the Sharks players who I modelled a style that I could actually use on the pitch, I learnt more about my own history and how places like Jamaica where part of the Union for a longer time than the current house of the monarchy. I was told stories, ideas and allowed myself to be open to new ideas.

Storytelling

the scariest thing in my life is not death, but my mother with a velan (thin rolling pin)

Back to politics and storytelling. Scolding, as many modern parenting guides say, are not efficient. I say this as a child who used to be hit with every utensil in the kitchen. It just means that the scariest thing in my life is not death, but my mother with a velan (thin rolling pin). Something that is common in all the world cultures going back thousands of years are stories and the oral traditions. Now we don’t need stories to tell the other side to put on their hats before going out in the winter, rather we need a vision that people believe in. Before anyone tells me about the Labour manifesto being full of ideas and dreams. You’ve missed the point. It has never been about what you’ve been selling but how you’re selling it. Otherwise there wouldn’t a schmuck on this earth. But there are, because charlatans are good story tellers. We like stories as they can be fun, add some drama to hook us and with this new context we can analyse our positions without attacking our identity. It’s not a quick process. I didn’t start one evening and then changed by the next morning. It’s starts with being open, luckily, we’re all open to stories. In my mind, if you want to change the world, become a good story teller.

Now that I’ve solved politics and thus humanity, let me leave you with the first time that I ticked a box that I believed in: Leave. I am a Eurosceptic, leaning towards anti-European. The English nationalist is still apart of my identity, though I view myself more of a Londoner which is an international city because of our ties to Europe. I don’t care about the economic cost of Brexit. I want out of an institution that isn’t evil and full of bad people. Quite frankly, I don’t buy the European dream. Not for my beloved England. I don’t want to pool sovereignty or help French farmers. So, why did I campaign for Luciana Berger, the United to Remain candidate, the People’s Choice candidate, the Liberal Democrat candidate; given that this is the opposite view? Objectively, she was the best candidate for the job on the ballot paper. The Liberal Democrat manifesto is one I could support and there are many ideas that I wish to be implanted: mainly the penny tax. For Luciana I could put away my differences, tell people that a second referendum is a good idea (which it is, even if I would still vote leave), how revoke would be democratic is the Liberal Democrats got into power (which is would have been, as it is democratic for the Conservatives to pretend that they have the faintest idea of what they are doing) and argued for staying in the EU, because there are good reasons to be in the EU. At the end of the day, it’s just about being able to tell a story.

That was a bit more of a wall than I was expecting, but I feel indebted to this campaign that I gave everything up for: I was able to find myself again. A kid with a dream to chase.

I was able to find myself again. A kid with a dream to chase.

Aditi Mittal and going home

This week has been über busy, but let’s be honest, it’s always busy. Been going out every night, but the highlight this week was seeing Aditi Mittal.

Now, if you don’t know who she is, then all you need to know is that she is hilarious! Quite useful, given that she is a comedians. Forget laugh out loud, she is tears rolling down your face laughter.

I went with Carl, who I hadn’t seen for a few months, we didn’t even know what to expect from the show, but I do prefer watching comedy completely blind.

Forget laugh out loud, she is tears rolling down your face laughter

Haven’t had such a good laugh in ages!

I had grabbed front row seats, because why the hell not. If you go to a show, and the comedian decides to pick on someone, it’s more memorable if it’s you (or your friend).

Turns out that Aditi gets nervous before the show, so she came out and sat down and had a quick chat with us, which was lovely. That’s part of the reason I love being in the front row, especially at Soho Theatre, I’ve always had (or what feels like) a personal experience with the comedian. Apart from Hasan Minhaj. Bastard.

Back to Aditi, her show is all about the classical African/Asian problem. Seeking validation from the boss of the house. In her case, it’s her Mother. Aditi took us on a whirl wind tour of her life in Mumbai as a comedian and modern feminism in India. We go through the caricature of her father and why it’s all about her mother, who is also caricatured, can garner gravitas no matter what is going on. While some jokes may have missed the non-Indian audience, Carl was still laughing allowed throughout the show, so no problems there.

Ultimately, I got a night of laughter, catching up with an old friend and story that reminds us all the love within family. So go watch her Netflix special (that’s what she wanted plugged).

Home

Speaking of family, I returned home for the first time in years. I went back to Tottenham and visited the new Stadium. They call it The Tottenham Hotspur stadium, but I’ll only refer to it as the Lane. While it’s not the same as White Hart Lane, it’s an amazing stadium.

Bit weird to see a different stadium name
Walking down from Seven Sisters and sighting the golden cockerell

Dan Levy honestly deserves a statue in front of the stadium. It’s not just world class, its class setting. I’ve been to a fair number of stadiums over the years and most of them have been shit. Our home is other worldly. It has cheap alcohol, really cheap alcohol, decent food, you’re close to the pitch, it’s beautiful to look at, the sound resonates in the stadium and most importantly it’s in Tottenham. The walk down from Seven Sister is not that different from when I last came in 2017. It’s still pretty crap. It’s Tottenham after all. However, as you walk, you see the golden cockerel glistening in the light. On a brand-new stadium which rises out of the ground. A spaceship, given how modern it is compared to everything in the surrounding area.

The interior of the stadium, looking at the largest single tier in the world.

I’m not going to go into the details of Son taking apart Palace and seeing the first new player in ages (cheers Daniel) when Ndombele walked onto the pitch. What I realised is that I miss going to live events. I know that I’m writing here, on a very non-live format. However, seeing the football reminded me that sport is best viewed there. Not necessarily for the view, though mine was gorgeous, but for everything else that happens. Most importantly is the singing, in football at least.

I miss going to live events

The main takeaway from this week

Singing at a pub or at home is not the same. The roar of the crowd, where the sea of emotions ebbs and flows, is best felt and sent across to the team in the stadium. You can be nervous at home, abroad or surrounded in a Spurs only environment. It’s just not the same. If you are not a sport fan, think about watch a concert on YouTube vs being at one. It’s not even worth comparing. Being there there, if you catch my drift.

Gorgeous

I also miss how easy it is to escape at these events. No phone out and about needed. Just focus.

Podcast

Also just wanted to point out that I’m on a podcast called Chai Noon where myself and Kiran talk about our experiences of life and being brown.

Here are some links to find them:

Anchor: https://anchor.fm/kiran6

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/kiran/chai-noon?refid=stpr

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/2NJPlT9cmhhnlmiSoQBTtZ

Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/chai-noon/id1478436904

RSS: https://anchor.fm/s/dc949a8/podcast/rss

Heading home from the game, maybe you should listen to a podcast next time you head home… Just suggesting…

Standing on the Shoulders of a Dragon

My trip to Switzerland, was all about catching up my friend Allen before he heads back to Shanghai.

Just a normal view in Switzerland

The theme of the last couple of blogs have been friendship and this is the finale of the three (that’s the plan). How to say goodbye to someone you care about, whether to let go and how to stay in touch. Well that’s the plan. I’ll do this while going through my tour of the Swiss-German side of the country.

Having someone to say goodbye to

Before saying goodbye, is it worth it?

Now, I booked this flight out of the UK as soon as I had enough cash to come and see Allen. You see, Allen is my older brother and dear friend. I know this through the times we spent growing up in New Hall, where Allen introduced me to my first real sip of alcohol. Red Star Vodka in a mug. Warm. I had two sips, with my two friends in the year above. Allen and Samko. It was not the first time I had alcohol, that was when I was around 5 and given the wrong drink. This was the first when I decided to have a drink. It was not the last of our drinks together, or just ourselves, but we had a good time. That’s the first mark of a good friend, someone you enjoy being with; hence when Allen told me that he may have to leave, well then I had to go and see him.

AT always the poser

AT (my nickname for Allen), got a massive hug as soon as I saw him, because that’s what I said that I would do, but the reason why I he was getting that hug was more than not seeing him in a while. Allen is one of those people I regard as my emergency contacts. I’ll call him at 4am and ask for help and I’m pretty sure if he picks up, he will help. Not try to, but actually help. This is something that truly matters. I’m sure that anyone on my contact list would try to help, but AT is one (of a few) I’m sure will do everything possible to help me and then follow up to make sure that I’m okay. Does AT feel the same way? I’m pretty sure that we can rely on each other. That’s why he and my very good friends get a massive hug. It’s that bond that you have, knowing that even if things get messy, there’s someone who is willing to help you out. Got someone similar? You got to hold on to them.

AT with the Frisby guns! (Frisby being Mr Crosby’s nickname from Mr Briggs)

How to run off a cliff

Conquering fears

Having some chai to calm the nerves pre-flight

I don’t why, but I have this fear of heights. Yet, I tend to climb any thing high and then stare down questioning what I just did. My aim is to get comfortable with throwing myself off a plane and go skydiving! Easy to say, but I’ve been slowly working on it. Walking around the top of CN tower in Toronto five years ago, to climbing some tall towers across Switzerland and going up some tall towers in Dubai. So, logically running off a cliff is next.

AT taking off. Running less than 30m

Paragliding was amazing. Let me tell you that. The sheer bliss from lack of noise when you’re up and above it all, is something else. It’s instantly addicting. It’s a reminder on how precious our planet is. Plus I got to see Yash Chopra’s Lake from the sky. Ultimately, that’s why I wanted to paraglide in Interlaken. I wanted to see some DDLJ ( Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge) and other Yash Chopra locations: sue me!

Above Interlakken
Snow topped mountains in the background

Preserving Future Generations 

The view after the cable car and a brief walk

We continued our running around by heading to Oeschinen Lake and going for a swim. Now, the only way to describe how cold this lake was, is simply to say that my balls shot inside my body as soon as my toes touched the water. It was soo so cold. Instant regret to swim, but I don’t think I would have done it any other way. After the swim we went further ahead with a hike and got some spectacular views of the lake and mountains.

Betrayal! The water was so cold!
Just before I threw him into the water
Back to the serious business of hiking in swimming trunks, while the Swiss Hikers were all in full gear with walking sticks

Further into the mountains

We then moved onto Lauterbrunnen to go stand behind the waterfall, but this meant going back on ourselves for part of the way. The reason, why not and we had a Swiss Passes, so why not use them to the full. We got to the falls, before sunset but it meant we missed our train and had to wait for the last train out of the area and get home after midnight. Spent some time chatting about the day over a beer, how we all suddenly became experts in paragliding and going through pictures. When we returned to Olten we grabbed a pizza, which honestly for such a dump, was great food. Far better than any takeaway places in the UK.

Lauterbrunnen

Do dragons have shoulders?

A farewell requires a bit of strength

Some moments of unplanned synchronisation are beautiful. AT and I planned to leave for Luzern at 9am, but as soon as our alarms went off, we both just thought nah and went back to bed. No words spoken, just a quick glance and we knew that we could sleep a bit more. However this decision meant that we had a day of rushing around ahead!

Dropped my bag at the hostel early and got some cheap tickets up and down Pilatus. Now, we were not in the best mood to climb a 2,128m mountain, so we took a boat ride around the lake. Grabbed a desperately needed tan, got into a queue, to get a slot for another queue. That queue was for the steepest cog wheel train. A casual 48°. Went up into the azure sky. Only to get a bit peckish. It was such a hard day so far. Went to the hotel grabbed a window seat and chatted with the clouds coming at us.

We moved onto climbing a higher point and grab some photos. Mate, I cannot express how bad some people are at taking photos. Ended up taking some selfies for a decent shot!

Selfie skills on point
Not a bad sight, plus the background is decent

We took the cable down one station, mainly we short of time and also our shoes weren’t built for climbing up or down mountains. We went down one level and then started walking down.

On the way down Pilatus
AT going off road and for what reason, is still unknown

You see that’s all you really need with a good friend. A bit of time to hang and chill. No need to say anything fancy, but just to be able to be yourself. Thus this day of just being with AT was probably the best way to spend our last few hours together. Not doing anything dramatic or rushed, that was the day before, but just having time to chill and chat about life. What we chatted throughout the day? That’s just between us, but I can assure you that it was nothing important.

We ended doing what all good friends do. Grabbing a drink of choice and sitting on the side of the road; just talking about the musings of life.

In the end, the trip with AT ended in the same way that it started: with a hug.

There’s not much else you can do in these moments. We didn’t try and make it perfect, or do a hell of lot planning. We had an idea what we wanted to do together and just did stuff with that in mind. It’s like everything in life. Be honest, have a goal and just do. Don’t hope. Don’t fret if you make a mistake. Just enjoy the moments. Remember any lows, make the highs higher. I’m might be upset to say goodbye to AT, but at least I have someone to be upset about. It’s all about dealing with the expectations.

And before this gets too soppy, I’ve already messaged AT several and he’s helped out when he didn’t even need to get involved. Why? It’s what friends do.

Are you really friends if you don’t break the law together have a picnic together? (though we didn’t have three flavours of crisps)

A final day in Switzerland

Zurich, roaming around and running to work at 4:30am

So, I left Luzern in the morning and headed to Zurich. Went to the Rhine Falls, which were okayish. I mean, they’re no Vic Falls, but still quite interesting. If you don’t have a Swiss Pass it’s not really worth it, but I am comparing it to the best waterfall in the world.

You can get pretty close
Look a rainbow!

I came back, got onto a boat for a tour of the Lake and get an all important sun tan! Now I got bored on a 90 minute boat ride and decided to play my brown card. Essentially I saw an Indian couple with a spare seat. So I sat down, in broken Hindi started a discussion (we switched to a mix of mainly English, Gujarati and Hindi) and then had a lovely chat about life, religion and I helped them plan for the rest of time in Switzerland. You know, just a casual conversation. That’s what we all have to remember. Life is too short to worry about what others think. We can all learn from each other, best way is to be open.

Just cruising a long

I then found a vegetarian restaurant where I had wonderful avocado toast, because if I was going to be ripped off; it should be in style! After explaining to the barman my plans for the rest of the day, what I had done and if he had any advice; he said what I had already done today, was enough for a weekend. Clearly, I am a man on a mission when left to my own devices.

Could have put this up social media
University of Zurich

I decided to headed to the University take a look at some Greek artefacts and then ran across town, went past the closed museum (because it’s Monday!) and headed up to a viewing point. As one does with a fear of heights. After learning the Zurich transit system, I went to what the Swiss considered a hill and climbed the radio tower and had view of the city over 820m!

Only holding on for dear life!

Headed back to the hostel, checked in, went for a walk with one of my roomates and then realised that I had to leave the hostel at 4:49am (gave myself 19mins to get ready). What a quick day. I made it to work and had a pretty productive day.

The water is stunning, though not sure why this photo as a weird edge on the left.

Final thoughts

Explaining the title 

Seeing AT reminded me that we are all standing on someone’s shoulder. We all have friend or that help us reach slightly further than we could do on our own. The dragon, is two parts, first it’s relating to Pilatus having medieval legend relating to dragons having a magical healing properties at the top of the mountains. Secondly, I’m blessed to have friends that not only help me reach a higher place (shoulder), but some take me higher than I could have ever imagined (dragon vs giant). AT is one of my dragons. 

Thought: Why do European dragons need wings and Chinese dragons don’t?

Community Ties

Joining YLS, making friends, a cooking competition and what the future holds

For the uninitiated, YLS stands for Young Lohana Society which is the youth wing of the LCNL (Lohana Community of North London). Now, Lohana is the caste (or Varna if you want to be more classical) that I am born into. Now, this is a bit of a moral quagmire, because today the caste system is part of a system of oppression; even if it is banned and illegal in India. Caste discrimination does not end in India. I have seen it in the UK and in the US; it’s never official, but it definitely exists. So, with the issues of caste that are present, why would I join a society that still discriminates (becoming officially members, not going out and campaigning against others etc) due to caste? First, I don’t have that many Indian friends in the UK, let alone those from the Gujarati community. Secondly, I have not made that many friends over the last year, which is a major failure in my mind. Third, my father was the social secretary (back in the YLA) back in the day and he is still touch with some of the friends he made back in the day.

Caste discrimination does not end in India. I have seen it in the UK and in the US

The first YLS event I attended was drinks around Faringdon and I arrived on time, which meant that I was one of seven people who followed the time on the poster. That was fine, because I was able to socialise longer and get chatting to as many people as possible; before it got absolutely packed. Apparently there were a 150 people at the event and I got to speak to over 50 people. It was a great night and I left early around 1am because I was heading to Southampton for the cricket in the morning (India vs Afghanistan). Did I make any friends at the event? Well no, because no one would (well it’s pretty much impossible to be friends with someone straight away. You can get along really well, but friends is something else). I made loads of acquaintances though, where two (Nekhil and Bhavs) are turning into friend, though there’s hope for a couple more… Just need to increase interaction time with others.

Now, since I did enjoy myself, I decided to go to the next event which was a domestic cricket match. Now, I don’t like cricket; I love it. However, I don’t really give a damn about domestic cricket, let alone a T20 cricket in England which is a part of a tournament that I don’t care about. Put this way, I’m barely someone who barely cares about the Ranjiv Trophy, but I still love the IPL. I went to the match straight from work and got caught in the rain. With the rain and lightning delay, sat down with Bhavs and chatted away with the game in the background. Shared some snacks that I brought over (apparently I was well prepared) and made sure that I had my thepla! Seriously, who goes to cricket without Gujarati snacks? Well apart from everyone else there! Sharing is caring and I got some decent ribbings about the fact that everything had come from India; the khakra went down really well though, as well as the mini thepla.

The oval pre-match and pre-rain…

Seriously, who goes to cricket without Gujarati snacks?

Thepla is a bare minimum!

The last event was the picnic, which was on Sunday. Due to the weather (there’s a pattern with this in England), there was a last minute change of location, but that didn’t really matter to me. We went to a community hall which had a couple of fields which we could use and had a day of fun (from an egg race to a rounders game). Now there was a “bake-off” which I decided to enter, mainly because I wanted to show off my cooking skills and I wanted to learn a new dish. The rules were simple, vegetarian and picnic food. I decided to enter handvo (ondhwa for some) and make a green chutney to go with it. Now, I was actually quite happy that I didn’t know anyone too well at this event; I got to speak to new people, catch up with people whose name already escape me again and towards the end of the day catch up with my Kaka (well one of the seemly hundreds of them. Also yes, I have a couple of Kaka’s that aren’t that much older than myself; with a few younger than myself to boot). I regret not getting any further plans with people from the event, but I’m sure that with a bit of help I can get in touch with some of the people again.

Quick recipe:

Rice flour, chickpea flour and lentil flour mixed together. (100ish grams of each)

Add sour yoghurt (500ml), turmeric powder (1/2 tsp) and chilli powder (1 tsp); plus a dash of oil. Mix . Leave overnight to ferment (or at least 6-8 hours).

Then finely chop dudhi, carrot, courgette and cabbage. Mix together [batter]

Then fry chopped garlic, ginger and onions (more than you think) with mustard seeds, with some coriander powder [vaga]

Pour batter in an oven tray (cupcake holder) which has been oiled. Then pour in the batter, then pour vaga on top.

Place in a preheated oven 180C and cook for 1 hour.

Leave to cool and you’re good to go. Or stuff your mouth and burn it. Both are acceptable.

Now, I won’t be attending the event due to work, but there’s still garba coming up in a few weeks (Navarati is at the end of September, though I’ve already agreed to head to several mandhirs already!), plus I’m sure that I’ll be helping out at one of the sewa events. I should be more active in the charity life and feel that actually volunteering is better than just giving some cash (which I still do). Thus, I might write about that soon.

The chopping board that I won, with a green chutney an award winning green chutney

I still haven’t really dealt with issue of caste. Nor have I mentioned how this relates to creating friendship or what the future holds.

Caste issues

So, what to say about a society that is based on caste. It’s weird, slightly backwards and out of touch. You can’t become an official voting member, unless you are born into the caste or marry a member of the caste. However, that’s just if you take everything at face value. The time I spent at events, no one really mentions caste issues (though that could be an issue for another blog post), rather I met some wonderful people, no jackasses or anyone who I might be unhappy to bump into the streets and grab a cup of chai to catch up with. Some who happen to be Lohana and others who just know someone who is in the caste and society; be it a friend who is a commity member, or someone who wanted to meet up with people of a similar age and background. It’s more samaj than caste, on first glance. Is it a perfect split? No, but then you have to remember that the society is for the community to stay close: know what weddings are going on, who died and when the funeral will take place, religious events and general socials. We don’t have to always bowl alone [a Putman reference to my political science nerds] and if we believe that not having a society is the best way to continue our shared history, then I’m sure that the society will cease. Do I imagined that it will be here in a hundred years? Probably will be, just unrecognisable to us now. You may have noticed that I’ve been mixing them/we/I when referring to the society/community/caste and that’s because I’m still trying to figure out, in my own head, how I should feel. My ancestors have definitely benefitted from the system, which has given me a wonderful life, there is no argument against that. The social justice warrior within me wants to tear the whole thing down, the conservative within wants to protect it for future generations and the social animal part of me enjoys that there is a group of people who I can open up to and they will get everything I say to them (okay most things, seriously still can’t believe that no brought chakri to the cricket…I digress).

It’s weird, slightly backwards and out of touch… that’s just if you take everything at face value

If you only observe from the outside. Like most things, it’s far more nuanced.

Creating friends

Now, I don’t think you make friends instantly. Not unless you happen to be around someone constantly. It’s a bit of slog to be honest. And it’s not always worth it, even if there’s always a lesson to be learnt. That’s why I want to meet more people, so I can learn from their failures. I think that I would call Nekhil and Bhavs friends, but we’ve got 6+ years before we become life long friends (takes seven years of resistance before you give up and just accept that someone is part of your life forever, if I remember correctly). I started playing badminton (though playing with Swaminarayans might be a bit of concern) and even tennis, though I’ve been absent for the last week and next (off to Switzerland, see next blog); I owe this all to Nekhil and Bhavs, for having the bollocks to invite me and I’ve fallen in love with sports all over again (I’m even looking for a touch rugby group to play with because I enjoy running around so much! Let me know if you need an extra player). Back to Nekhil and Bhavs; those two even went out for night in town with me and a couple of mates, though these golden oldies were a several hours behind in the drinks! We had a great time and I even dragged them to my favourite dive bar (if you know, you know). We’ve definitely got a thing going here, but I’m sure that it will last for a good while more.

The future

Now, wwith YLS, I’m sure that I’ll be at more events and there will be more friends to be made. I actually believe that someone from the society will read this and reach out to try and become friends with me! As I said before, everyone want an interesting friend & I’m damn interesting [💁🏾‍♂️] . With the new friends, we just have to wait. Dhire dhire (slowly, slowly). How about old friendships? Like anything, they need TLC (touch, love and care; for the Bird who never knows any acronyms). I don’t buy that you need to wait for someone to reach out to you, because it’s too passive. That doesn’t mean chase everyone, but for those who you really care for and you believe care for you (though if another friend says that they don’t, take a step back and reexamine your relationship), then go make an effort to see them, speak to them and share the love. In practice, it’s hard especially when we have so many people in our lives, so I suggest that you create a list (which is no surprise. See prior poetry) of those who matter. For me, I’m going to Switzerland next week to do exactly this. One of my brothers from another mother, Allen Yuwei Tang may be leaving Europe for the foreseeable future in the next couple of months. So, I have to go see him and give him a hug. Spend some time away from everything else and we’ll just be. You know, when you are with a close friend, calm and relaxed. Well maybe not calm! Planning on conquering my fear of heights, by running of the side of cliff (aka paragliding) and lots of hiking.

I have to go see him and give him a hug

On seeing AT

That’s what to expect in next week’s blog, an update with some views and thoughts on how to deal with the loss of friendship or whatever [supposedly] profound idea that comes to me in the mountains.

Some Reflections On Friendships

I had a couple of interesting chats last week with different friend groups. The main topic, was regarding the longevity of friendships and how over time people just disappear. Involved in their own world and then moving from chatting constantly to weekly, to monthly and then essentially never. They say that’ll meet up and then, when asked to make plans, disappear on short notice: you know, flakers.

Richard said something that we all need to hear time from time: “Sometimes you got let things die.” There is no need to keep in touch with everyone in life, that the effort is not always going to bring in reward and not everyone is going to be there until end.

Well, if you do not know me, I rank my friends. I have a list that is updated every month or so, it’s just a top 100 list.

The reason I decided to talk about friends, was due to going to a funeral. Not just a random funeral, but one of my best friends father died.

Now, I’m no funeral expert, but the speech given by one of the friends was fantastic. It wasn’t a sugar coating, nor was a rip into the man. It was honest and reminded you about the fragility of life; but also how few people you can truly rely on. The friends that stay with you throughout your life are rare and people you need to hold on to.

In this regard, I feel very lucky. My friends are across the globe, I have someone to chat to in most time-zones and catch up with, no matter what time of year. I have my friends that I haven’t spoken to in years, but I’m sure that if I saw them on the street; it would be as though nothing had change and we would pick up wherever we left off. I have my close friends, who I rely on my emotional support on every issues. Finally I have my best friends, the ones that regard as family.

Now how do I know whose who? Well, if you do not know me, I rank my friends. I have a list that is updated every month or so, it’s just a top 100 list. Now I know that this may sound weird to you, but I’ve been doing this since I was around 9 years old. Let’s be honest, we all have list of close friends. However, I guess that most people don’t have actual list like I do. People go up and down the list, some jump right to the top, some never drop below a certain number. It doesn’t matter, as long as you want to talk to them. I have decided over the last few weeks to start making new friends, which I luckily have never struggled to do so. Why? I have my best friends and they’re not going anywhere soon [on the list]. Essentially, some people will come and go; but we gain lessons from people. The more people you know, the more you can learn from their success and mistakes. Plus, I feel as though I lack friends from my own Gujarati community. It’s always good to know people who have similar experiences to talk to… well… let’s say: have similar cultural issues to complain about! Plus, they’ll understand certain things straight away.

“Sometimes you got let things die.”

Richard Osho

How do you make new friends? The simplest answer, is be interesting. What does that actually mean? No-one, that includes you, likes to chat to a person who is boring. You want to make friends, you need to go out into the world and do something. Start playing online games that require cooperation, head into pub and start talking, join a book club…whatever. You’ve got to go and do something that you enjoy, just with other people. Enjoying yourself should be the number priority, because we all want to chat to the person with a massive smile on their face: even the biggest twats.

Now, the new friends I’ve made, will they be by my death bed in the future? I don’t know. I’m sure that my best friends will be there, potentially a family and my close family. Don’t need anything else. However, we don’t progress with just focusing on needs, it’s our desires that push us to do more. I wanted more Gujarati friends, so what did I do? I joined a society and next week I’ll be submitting a dish into the cooking competition. Have I already made some friends? Yes. Will I make more? Of course, because I want more friends.

The One Who Wrote Destiny, by Nikesh Shukla

A book review, which lead to thoughts about representation in the media.

Having representation in the media. When most people think of such a topic, they think of having a TV personality, I would even say that online stars (be it, YouTube, Instagram, Podcasts) is an important part of being viewed as accepted. What never occurred to me, was the fact that I have not read a book until last night about having a Gujarati person as the lead character, even more specifically to be from an East African background. I have never been a great activist of having representation in the media, not that I am against it; it has never seemed to be part of the world I really care about. For me, I have always been able to see people like myself in the cinema, with Bollywood films, or television in South Africa with the classic show of Eastern Mosaic and Carte Blanche with Devi Sankaree-Govender doing some of the main reporting; heck even BBC World has loads of Asians, with Michelle Hussain & Yalda Hakim being some prime examples. I’ve always felt that I could find representation in the media. Then again, I have never found a Gujarati person in the media to latch onto as a role model; or anyone that comes to my mind right now.  

So how did this book impact me? I was entertained, made to laugh and in tears by the end. Laughter from the pure moments of joy and happiness and tears to the heartful realisation that I can see myself in the characters; that I recognise my own grandmothers. How my grandfather talks about his past. To me, this was scary; that generational divide that exists between those of us who have left India.

What is the point of having people to look up to, if none of them are like you; with their different life paths and opportunities. What control does anyone have, on where life is going to take us? What does this have to with the book I’m reviewing? Apparently at least.

For starters I’m now listening to “John Jaani Janarden”, from the classic film Naseeb, on repeat. Let’s just that I haven’t listened to classic Bollywood music in ages, at least on my own accord. Only because this book reminded that this song exists. Sometimes, it’s nice to go back to your roots (and yes that’s a reference to the song that my father loves to listen to).

The book itself is about an Indian origin family, from East Africa in the United Kingdom. Our main story is about Neha, who has contracted the same cancer that killed her mother, Nisha. We start in Keighley which is over 300km away from London; where Mukesh is sent by his friend Sailesh to spend some time before they both end up in London. This is where Mukesh meets and falls in love with Nisha; and we learn that is repeated by Mukesh to his children throughout their lives.

The story jumps in time, back and forth; starting with Mukesh and moving to Neha, then to Rakesh (Neha’s brother) and finally to Nisha’s mother (aka Ba). While the story fills the picture of this family’s situation [I’m trying to keep this a spoiler free review, everything said so far is from the blurb]. We learn about the circumstances that have shaped the way they are meant to be perceived by those around them, in the family and of course internally; where they are struggling with what they have become and what they will make of themselves.

It is a story about the weakness and fragility of being human. Nikesh’s male characters are shown to be weak and frail; which is the opposite to the trope of the Indian masala movie staple. The women are strong and brave, but still flawed in their own way. It’s refreshing to see this in characters that are meant to sound and look like myself; I do hope that more books, heck media, that show this sort of side to characters from India (or Indian origin). The book also mixes in mysticisms of Hinduism in here, which I loved. Normally, I see characters that are all super into Hinduism or totally no part of the character. Rarely in English, do you see the religion portrayed in a positive context or one that represents what is more prevalent in India; or at least in my experience in India. That prevalent nature that religion evolves and that while there are negatives, we can choose to bring the positive aspects forward. Essentially, it’s not a simply good or bad thing.

Through the lenses of the first person and even exploring a character purely through the second person; we not only see ourselves, but how a judgement of others effects the way they act. The novel is absorbing not just because the story itself is part of this strange family trying to figure out whether one can know the future. Are things pre-determine? It brings in the nuance, that is maybe different for a person of colour or an immigrant coming into the UK. Maybe our choices are just a façade. That is the crux of this book. It’s not a depressing book, even it made me cry and yearn to return to Africa. It’s real and reminded me of what being human is about. Being in love, opening yourself and allowing to hope for the best. That’s all we got, in this life at least.

Who are we to question the one who wrote destiny? Well it’s quite easy; first decide if you are in charge of your own destiny. Then worry about the writing.

Inside

Sitting on the grass. What felt like a farce.
I left to escape hell, only to find that it was within me.
There are no demons that follow. The am the demon, the gargoyle... the mutant.
Constantly in dispair. My hope comes alive when I can escape pain; by avoiding reality.
I don't want to escape to paradise.
I just want to escape me.

Working

Last week I started working for the first time outside the family company. I’ve ended up at FCI London, with a role that I never expected to be in and in a company I have never heard about. What I can say is that the role, so far, is challenging myself in new ways and allowing me to dip my toes into the water in areas of work that I’ve never considered myself in.

I’m honestly overjoyed by the opportunity and I do think that I will have the space to grow and develop. My proximity to the CEO, is better than whatever bank or multinational mega-corporation could give me. I’ve already been put in charge of events and finding an intern. It’s been six, that’s right six, days in! I’ve got to push myself to ensure that the opportunities are taken; but I do see a bright future for the next few months.

I could give you a day by day breakdown of the last week, but unfortunately, I have a bedtime to stick now! Let’s just say that in the coming weeks that I’ll start typing about my experiences at work. Of course, things will be redacted; but I am sure you’ll enjoy what I post. I mean, why else would you still be reading?

As always, have a good one.

My trip to India

The preamble

Yeah, my MUN days lead to the sub-heading….onto the show

Well, I guess I should wish everyone a happy new year first. Or should I wait for Chinese New Year? By the way Erik (yes, just to Erik), when’s Taiwanese New Year? Jokes aside, I literally stayed up for around ten minutes for the initial fireworks and then called it a night.

So, after my flyby trip to London, I returned to Dubai for a week of work and then off to India. I’ll start off by explaining my reasoning for going back to India, then I’ll move onto my daily life in Mumbai for the next week, then my week in Gujrat and then my final week in Mumbai. I’m going to write it as three separate blog posts (one for each week). Let’s get started!

Having tea that is hallucinogenic, let’s just say me and Alex got wavy
Saw Yasmin giving a speech to the current MUN-ers at Essex (forgot who is on the right 🤷‍♂️)

Back to choosing India

I chose to go to India, rather than join the rest of the family for a few reasons. Firstly, I missed India, which is odd considering that I don’t have that much affinity to the sub-continent. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Gujju who would follow the Indian Cricket to the ends of the earth. I am practicing Hindu, a full vegetarian (if the Gujrati did not make it obvious) who eats Indian food almost every day. I’m addicted to chai. I’ll happily go to a Hindi film or run to see the latest Rajnikanth film. I have one grandmother from the country, let alone my infinite number of Masis and Kakas in the country. But, I only consider myself Indian in certain aspects. I’m pretty sure that this has to do with me being a third-culture kid, as I chose what part of cultures I like. I prefer to say that I’m African over Indian, because my childhood was on the continent and my parents and the rest of my grandparents are from East Africa. Sometimes I like to say I’m British, because I’m obsessed with tea (see what I did there). Also, because London is my home as well, as well as being the greatest city on Earth (no bias whatsoever). This doesn’t really answer why I was missing India, not really sure what I’ve pointed out other than me being me, but I was missing India… I don’t know what else to say about that.

I’m a Gujju who would follow the Indian Cricket to the ends of the earth


Secondly, I wanted to go to the Jalaram Mandhir in Virpur. So, this has been on my bucket list for years. Essentially Jalaram Bapa is my favourite saint and his mandhir in Virpur doesn’t take any donation, yet continues to feed people every day! Last year, we (as the nuclear family) made it to the outside walls, but there were so many people we had to choose between praying or catching our flight. Well, we picked the flight…I guess I had unfinished business!

Thirdly, I wanted to see my family. I’m not going to lie, my niece Raaisha was the number #1 person I wanted to meet. I had already flown to couple of countries to see her and she was never there! I also wanted to spend some time with my family in Porbander, meet some of my Kakas and Faibas for the first time in Ahmedabad. Plus there were plenty of Masis in Mumbai to catch up with; while not being married off! 😅

Fourthly, I wanted to see the Unity Statue. Mainly because most of my friends hate Modi, so I thought the best way to mock them would be to go see the statue and dab with it in the background! Spoiler alert! There weren’t any tickets available! Seriously, who is trying to see this bloody statue. Guess I’ll have to head back to see it.

Fifthly, I wanted to eat some proper Indian food

Finally; I wanted to buy some Indo-western clothes. I just had no intentions of paying Western prices.

A dumb mug shot

Here’s a dumb photo I took the day I got a haircut before I left. Why? Why the hell not, I’m sure there’s meme out there