Gripping Tales of Struggle and Survival

I have thoroughly enjoyed Hosseini’s novels The Kite Runner (2003) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007). I have recently re-read A Thousand Splendid Suns and found it as gripping as the first time I picked it up! Hosseini is an extraordinarily talented writer who captures the lives of his character with such depth and portrays the troubling situation of a violent country so convincingly that you feel you are right there in between the pages of the book. The unimaginable hardship faced by characters in the novel really drew me in, allowing me to make the journey alongside them and letting me really experience their struggle.

I was torn between a sense of sadness that I had come to the end of the novels but also an overwhelming sense of relief knowing that some of the characters in the novels were able to have a new beginning. I experienced a roller-coaster of emotions, from  anger to fear and sadness, which finally gave way to feelings of somber alleviation. Though there is the message of hope at the end of the novel, it depicts life as it really is for countless people of the country. These novels stayed with me for a long time afterwards and sometimes i still find myself wondering about the characters. It really makes you aware of the plight of women and children in a country that has a tendency to be chauvinistic and unforgiving. Hosseini give voice to the vulnerable in society who desperately need to be heard and understood. These situations can be applied to countries throughout the world, not only Afghanistan.

I have not yet purchased And the Mountains Echoed which was published earlier this year, life got very very busy with assignments, exams and the dreaded dissertation. I am waiting for a time where I can slow down and really enjoy it!

Rape: The Injustice of Justice

Community Service for Rape?

‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ -Martin Luther King Jr.

I have been contemplating whether to write on this topic as it is an extremely sensitive issue. However as this is a completely anonymous blog and has nothing but my first name, I am safe in the knowledge that I will not reveal anyone’s identity.

A friend of mine was raped at the beginning of this year. I never thought someone close to me would ever have to deal with a situation like that. It is something that I am still reeling from and I cannot begin to imagine what my friend is going through.

She had made the journey from work to the bus stop many times since she started her first retail job (in a quiet and isolated part of London) without any problems whatsoever. Unknown to her, she had been followed to the bus stop that night where the horrendous incident took place.

The case was taken to court where it was concluded that the cretin would serve community service for his crime because it was a first time offence. To say my friend was devastated is an understatement, the unfairness of it is utterly soul-destroying. The violation of another human-being does not even equate to the mere slap-on-the-wrist sentence that had been handed out. How can this be, that a young girl is left physically and psychologically damaged and the man who did this to her gets to literally take a walk in the park picking up empty crisp packets off the grass? It makes me blind with anger and white-hot rage!

That is the unfortunate truth about the British criminal justice system. The victim is made to feel like she has over-reacted and the infraction of her body is equivalent to that of someone stealing a packet of sweets from a News-agents. Does this lenient sentencing then not serve as an encouragement for worthless individuals to commit first time offences rather than to deter them?

Nearly a year on and after undergoing a termination she is facing ongoing health problems and the possibility of never being able to conceive again. Though she has the support of her friends she is too ashamed to tell her family as she does not want to hurt them, and coming from a South Asian background a girls worth is considered to be in her virtue. A happy, bubbly, promising individual that had previously been getting amazing grades at the beginning of her second year of uni only scraped by at the end.

Nevertheless, she is determined and focused on doing the best she can for herself in her final year. She is stronger than I could have ever imagined! This is something that will haunt her for the rest of her life and it is not something that can ever really be forgotten but she has decided to try live her life instead of letting it destroy her.

How to Fake Confidence

‘Believe you can and you’re halfway there’- it really does work! Believe you can and it is possible to conquer anything! Half of what you want to portray is in your mindset the other half is acting it out. As cliche as it sounds, believing you can do something means you are more likely to achieve your goals because your positive thinking will allow you to progress. Scared of heights? Tell yourself you can do it and go skydiving! If you believe in yourself and in your abilities other will also.

We grow up thinking that figures of authority in our lives are naturally confident, our teachers, bosses and those in management. But confidence is something that is gained over time and regardless of how many times an individual has done something, feeling nervous is natural (believe me because I have had lecturers admit this during presentation preparation sessions!). There will always be hiccups along the way, it’s all about moving past those incidences and learning from them. Everything in life is an experience that makes you stronger and better and allows you to understand and progress.

These are my essential ‘Faking Confidence’ rules:

1. Smile: An easy and friendly smile indicates that you are comfortable with your surroundings and the people in it. It puts yourself at ease and others around you. You instantly look approachable!

2. Make Eye Contact: This is very important! Too little eye contact and you can look fidgety and uncomfortable, too much and you can come across intense and slightly demented. Try to maintain an appropriate level of eye contact as this radiates confidence and control in any situation.

3. Open Body Language: Try not to fold your arms too much, you’re body language should always be open. According to psychiatrists crossing your arms is indicative of protective or defensive behavior. I recently got complimented on my open body language by a fellow interviewee after a group interview. What I usually do is when speaking to a group of people I use my hands animatedly to give off an air of comfort and confidence. Not too much hand waving though, you don’t want to look like you’re trying to swat a fly. When walking, look up, never down, and stride evenly and confidently with your shoulders back. Sit or stand straight and face the people/person you are talking to so it does not appear as though you are shying away.

Good old socially-awkward Sheldon shows us how not to act (unless drunken pervert high on crack is what you are going for):

4. Speak Clearly and Decisively: Do not mumble or ramble! Think about what you are going to say beforehand, rambling only accentuates the fact that you are feeling nervous. Stay cool and collected and remember to breathe! If you’re in a high pressure situation like an interview or a presentation, breathing regularly and evenly will help stop your voice from shaking. Most importantly try to stay calm so you don’t freeze up!

5. Look the Part: Most importantly looking the part adds to an individuals confidence. If you feel you look good/presentable then you will definitely exude confidence. It’s good to invest in a wardrobe that fits your body shape/type for different occasions. You don’t have to spend hundreds of pounds on designer outfits to look good! Dress well and pick items that suit you where ever you shop. Having fewer key pieces of clothing bodes better than having a wardrobe full of bits and bobs that most likely will never be worn!

So go forth into the world and fake some confidence!

Down a Rabbit-Hole into Starbucks

Down a Rabbit-hole into Starbucks

I absolutely adore the coffeehouses of Central London. I love to watch the hustle and bustle of city life from the comfort of my warm, if slightly worn, armchair inside the relaxed atmosphere of the shop whilst sipping on an iced Mocha Frappe (with cream of course). Alice stumbled upon a tea-party in Wonderland at the end of her rabbit-hole, I discovered the wonders of Starbucks! It is the most obvious hide-away from a busy lifestyle and the cold Autumn/Winter days! Is it weird that I love to drink Frappes even during cold weather?

When the weather gets a little chilly and it starts to get dark early my boyfriend and I like to spend the majority of our time sitting at a Starbucks talking, laughing and relaxing. Give us a cosy little corner near the big glass windows Starbucks is well known for and we’ll be there until closing time!

The Pursuit of Marriage

The Pursuit of Marriage

At this time in my life there is only one thing that’s on my mind, and that is marriage. Not because I want to get married but because my family believe that now I’m out of education and on the cusp of finding work it is time. As far as I am aware they have been checking out potential ‘husbands’ for the past two years, maybe even three, but they have not approached me directly yet. They think I am getting too old and they’re worried I will turn into a spinster because no one wants an old bride now do they?

I’m in my early 20’s. Hardly ready to take up a walking stick!

What makes it a high pressure situation is that the majority of (South Asian) girls my age are either already married (some have been for several years and some even have children) or have already started the lengthy process of allowing their parents to find them a husband. Of course there are some who will get married to their other-halves, but I am pretty sure their family will be able to pass that off as an ‘arranged’ marriage, so no-one but the immediate family will know of the pairs ‘scandalous’ history. South Asian girls are brought up with the mentally that they need to be good daughters, study hard, get a job and get married, in that order. I ask myself ‘there must be more to life then marriage, settling down and having children’? And there is. But when you’ve been brought up in that sort of environment it’s hard to break free, family ties and expectations are deep and sometimes suffocating.

I deliberately took a year off after finishing my Bachelors degree and before going on to enroll for my Masters to throw my parents off the search for a husband. My parents were annoyed to say the least. They could not understand why I would choose to work a year and pay for my Masters, when they were more than willing to pay for it themselves (my parents are scarily education orientated as are a lot South Asian parents!). The year I took out represented a year of me ‘wasting’ my life when I could have been closer to finding a spouse. I am currently taking another year out (I only finished uni last week) to gain payed experience working at a school so I can apply for my teachers qualification teaching secondary and college students! Muhaha! My evil plan is in progress! Time to take possession of my life and fulfill it the way I see fit me thinks.

I know for South Asian girls our families expect us to get married in our early twenties (for some late teens even) but the thought just makes me feel depressed. I know a lot of girls grow up understanding that this is what they must do and it is a duty they must fulfill. Don’t get me wrong, there are also lots of girls who want to get married early and start a family, and if that is what they sincerely want then that’s great! I am not against this system of marriage but only if the person really wants it. I just don’t believe marriage should be a duty. Do it because you want to and because it feels right, regardless of whether its arranged or with someone of your choosing.

Ps. I am nowhere near ready to get married yet! I want to live some life before settling down, is that so bad? Rhetorical question. ‘Living life’ is the job, the marriage and honouring my duties and commitments to my family. My family are lovely really however old fashioned and traditional they may be, they only want what they believe is best for me! A good husband with an amazing educational background, high-flying career and a loving, decent, hardworking family who will welcome me with open arms! Now that’s not so bad is it…?

Warm Cookie Dough & Ice-Cream

chocolatecookies1

My version of Warm Cookie Dough & Ice-Cream is a quick and easy cheat. All you need are three main ingredients:

  1. Cookie mix with chocolate chips
  2. Chocolate sauce (cold)
  3. Soft-scoop Vanilla ice-cream

To make this indulgent dessert all you need to do is:

  1. Spray/rub butter all over the inside of a shallow baking tin.
  2. Follow the instructions on the the cookie mix packet to make the cookie dough (usually add milk or water and mix until smooth).
  3. Pour the mixture into tin and bake in pre-heated oven for 6-7 minutes.
  4. Let it cool for a few minutes before topping with 1-2 scoops of ice-cream and drizzling on chocolate sauce.

Make sure to check frequently as you do not want the cookie dough to turn hard because then it will just be a cookie.

TIP: Insert a toothpick into the center of the cookie dough, it should come out ever so slightly moist and doughy. If it comes out covered in the mixture it is under-cooked, if it comes out clean then it has turned into a cookie!

The cookie dough should be slightly soft so when you sink your spoon into the it it comes out somewhat doughy and oozing thick warm chocolate. The contrast between the warm doughy cookie and cold ice-cream and sauce is like an explosion of flavours and temperatures in your mouth. Whoever invented this is a genius!

It really is that easy and tastes just as good as every other cookie dough & ice-cream I have ever eaten. This is usually my go-to recipe for a quick fix, both kids and adults love it alike!

The picture is from Portuguese Girl Cooks, she has lots of amazing recipes!

Autumn- New Beginnings?

hello

I know technically there is still a week left until Autumn, but the change in weather makes me want to pull out my woolly scarves! For the first time in my life September represents the end of an academic year. I complete my Masters at the end of this week *yay*! I’m in my early 20’s and starting to feel the panic of stepping into the unknown that is adult life and leaving education and the care free student living that comes along with it behind. So where to from here?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a complete novice at living as a self-sufficient ‘adult’. I have had a taste of the ‘adult’ lifestyle in the year I took out after completing my undergrad and before staring my postgrad. Suffice to say, after a month in a full-time nine-to-five job (along with working three evening a week volunteering as an English and Maths tutor and part-time weekends in a retail outlet in busy Central London) I was knackered but satisfied. As much as I love working and keeping busy, I do ask myself ‘when do I get time to myself’? Even when you’re not at work you are working, meeting deadlines and completing tasks. It’s almost heart-breaking to see your social life board a one-way train to oblivion whilst you mournfully stare after the departing train with your nose pressed up against the window.

‘Let me know when your entire life goes up in smoke: then it’s time for a promotion.’- The Devil Wears Prada (2006).

The MA gave me one last opportunity to be carefree and so I took it!

It is absolutely shocking how living gets very very expensive very very fast once you cease to be a student. There are suddenly endless things that need paying from tax and rent to helping out with a million-and-one bills, travel (good-bye student discount!) and of course paying for your own personal upkeep. But the plus side to this is that you feel like an individual in charge of your own life. Yes, of course you miss the care free days of being a student when all you had to worry about was planning your next budget trip with your friends, and a fish-finger sandwich was considered a meal. But the transition from student to adult is not a bad one (once you get over a huge chunk of your salary disappearing every week/month), I guess it’s all about finding a job that will inspire and motivate you as well as discovering the right balance between work and play.

Let the job-hunt commence!