History Forgotten History

An ode to two forgotten generations of Sri Lanka’s history makers

I first heard about Minnette de Silva a couple of years ago.

She was a pioneering architect of Sri Lanka, forgotten long before her death. This appears to be the buzzword when it comes to Minnette – “forgotten”. It’s in the title, or at the very least, the first paragraph of every article about her published twenty years after her death.

She’s not the only person to be forgotten by the world, not the only woman, or Sri Lankan, she’s not even the only one to be forgotten in her own family. There are many people left out by “official” histories and public discourse. Minnette de Silva, and her mother, Agnes de Silva, are not the first.

Nor will they be the last.

What I find most unsettling about their stories, however, is that in wildly different ways, they each dedicated themselves to their country and achieved great things in its name. Yet, until very recently, I had never come across their names or achievements at school or in my daily life. 

Agnes was a suffragette who fought for women’s right to vote in Sri Lanka, and she got it. She was instrumental in the foundation of the Women’s Franchise Union of Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon), fighting for the rights of Indian Tamil women, and granting a franchise to women above thirty. Not that she stopped there, she went on to fight for Ceylon’s independence from British rule, which was achieved in 1948. 

Minnette, based on her story, seems to have shared her mother’s drive and passion.

She was the first Asian woman to be appointed an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects. She was the first representative of Asia in the International Congresses of Modern Architecture. She pioneered the modern architectural style of Sri Lanka (years before her contemporaries caught up). She made it a point to incorporate local crafts and styles into her work, giving local artisans employment and recognition in the modern age.

She was also the second woman in the world to open an independent architectural practice under her own name. 

Her worldly social circle included Picasso, Homi Bhabha, Le Corbusier, David Lean, and Mulk Raj Anand. It paints a vibrant image of her early life that seems to only emphasize the tragedy of her much-talked-about lonely death. 

What little there is to be known of both Minnette and Agnes has already been saying. There is some poetic irony about being remembered as a forgotten pioneer, but my takeaway from them both is that I should have known about them earlier.  

Sri Lanka is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the first female Prime Minister in the world – Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Her daughter Chandrika Kumaratunga was (briefly) Prime Minister before being appointed President of Sri Lanka, a role she held until the end of 2005. 

In 2018, Sri Lanka reimposed a law that had for the most part been forgotten. The law makes it illegal for women to purchase alcohol from, or work at, a bottle shop.  

As a country, we forget to remember the people who fought for it to be better, who returned home to establish themselves in Sri Lanka and let their home, and their people, benefit from their hard work and talent. It makes me wonder how much more both Agnes and Minnette could’ve achieved if they were appreciated, and celebrated by the country they clearly loved. 

It also makes me wonder how many more Minnettes and Agneses there are out there that I didn’t learn about in the classroom. It’s time Sri Lanka showed more pride in the stories that can inspire their young women to follow in the footsteps of the women who came before them and paved the way. 

In 2018, the World Bank concluded that 51.97% of the Sri Lankan population were women, more than half the island’s occupants. 

What would my country look like if we heard more about the Minnettes and Agneses, and fewer justifications about why we shouldn’t be allowed in bottle shops? 

We don’t have to turn elsewhere for role models or vehicles for our ambitions and dreams; they’ve been sitting right under our noses all along. Rubbing shoulders with Picasso and creating the architecture of the island as we know it, fighting for the rights we take for granted every day….and in sarees, no less. 

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Culture Family Gender & Identity Life

This is my open letter of appreciation to my mother

When I was growing up in Dubai, I often butted heads with my mother – she was stubborn, and so was I. From curfews to outfits, we had our fair share of fights and disagreements. My childhood was a mix of entertainment and challenges. With so many family members and a thriving religious community, it felt like I was watched almost constantly, and that kind of monitoring felt stifling. I longed to break free, but my mom would admonish me – ‘what would the others think?’ Part of me wanted to tell off these “others”, let them know I didn’t care what they thought. I always tried to be my own person, while still trying to succeed in the real world. 

My mother’s own childhood was rich but stifling. My grandfather was a successful businessman and religious leader, meaning. she had similar situations of constant monitoring by her community in Kerala, India, where she grew up. Consequently, my mother internalized a lot of religious and community ideals. Married at 20, my mom was forced to drop out of college and accompanied my dad, a doctor, to Dubai – a then empty, sandy desert town with almost nothing to offer, with two kids in tow.

She spent the next 10-11 years as a housewife to two children who constantly argued, and taking care of a home, with a husband who spent most of his waking hours at a clinic. When I turned 8, my mother started working as a saleswoman to try and bring in some extra money.

My mother would often come home after work to a crying little girl, an angry little boy, and loads of housework. Despite not having a bachelor’s degree, her head for numbers led her past sales and into real estate. She got her real estate license and began climbing up, eventually becoming the manager of a real estate company in Dubai.

My dad let her manage the family’s finances – which meant that suddenly, we started doing well! She invested in property, in stocks, created portfolios, all while continually making real estate transfers and growing to become a popular real estate agent. By the time I turned 15, my mom became a successful manager and real estate owner. 

Having spent time in college, away from the family, helped me get a new perspective.

My mother wasn’t the controlling, bossy woman I made her out to be, but rather a self-starter. She was someone who had almost nothing and made enough money to buy houses in an expensive city. The best part? She’s more open-minded than I give her credit for. Her concern over the community was because she was raised in a small town and had a popular, ever-looming father. When we travel, she lets me be free – even when I went to college, she didn’t hover or ask what I wore or when I came home – in fact, she only would call about once a month, to check up on me.

She’s accepted my irreligious nature. She’s proud of my talents despite them not being STEM-related. She hasn’t forced or coerced me to get married, despite her own history. She’s happy and successful.

My mom went from being a housewife with a high school degree to being a popular real estate owner. She’s the one who encourages me to learn about money, about investments. She’s the one who taught me how to save when I freelanced in college. She’s the best example I’ve seen of ‘if you work hard, you can make it’. 

Of course, we still have our fights, but I remember where she came from, how she managed to shed so many preconceived notions. I remember how she let me be my own person and have my own life, while still continually supporting me. This is for you, mom. Even though I may not act like it sometimes, I’m really proud to be your daughter. 

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Money Now + Beyond

‘Runaway’ money and financial independence are not the same thing

If there’s one thing that my mother always taught me, it’s to have your own personal account and money stashed away. When I was younger and she told me about her own card, a different color than the family one that I’ve seen her use before, I was shocked. It disturbed me. It was as if she was keeping secrets from my father and I felt ashamed on her behalf. I was raised with the idea that, in marriage, you give yourself completely to your partner. So why would she need her own money? Was she planning on leaving? I could not wrap my head around it so I kept quiet. 

But for my mother, financial independence meant so much to her. Although she was no longer making her own money, she could feel a sense of independence through buying what she liked every now and then. It was liberating to not have to report to anyone.

In the culture that I grew up in, it is only recently that women have been able to freely open their own financial accounts. Even without legal barriers, it was frowned upon by tradition for a long time. A married woman having a personal account, that her husband could not access, was a massive red flag. It’s called ‘runaway’ money. 

This phrase, ‘runaway’ money, is used around the world when referring to bank accounts that women hold that are unconnected to their family or partner—secret or not. I always hated the way that it sounded, like it was a dark thing, almost like conning your partner. Even the idea that you would need a stash of money to one day make a quick exit implies a lack of trust in a relationship. In those terms, owning a personal bank account is an ultimate betrayal.

As I grew, however, my mother and I started a personal account on my behalf. I was about to begin my first year at college in another city, much to the disagreement of my father. Having my own account meant a lot to me as I didn’t feel bound to anyone else’s plans but my own. I could add the money that I earned into the account and pursue my own life plan. While I didn’t have a lot on my own, I wasn’t limited by anyone else’s approval. I slowly came to realize my mother’s perspective from all those years.

“Money is psychological,” said Andrea Kennedy, the author of the book Own Your Financial Freedom. It’s true. It is a testament to my mother’s independence and my own, even when we are still constrained by the lives of other people and how my father, extended family, and society expected us to be living. Having a personal account shouldn’t be shameful or a sign of distrust in a relationship. Instead, it is a validation of your sense of freedom.  

Furthermore, I eventually realized that there is an immense difference between choosing to stay in a relationship and having to. Some women genuinely believe that it is impossible to be happy in a relationship if you are dependent on your partner.  ‘Runaway’ money isn’t about having one foot already out the door; it’s about having a choice in your relationships. Every argument becomes a kind of ultimatum; either you let it slide or you cease to be able to support yourself. Today, I can understand how that kind of pressure can strain any relationship.

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Plus, whether it is said aloud or not, financial dependence creates a power hierarchy in relationships that can potentially become dangerous. Although women will always face their own financial hurdles, such as gender wage gaps and even lower credit scores, at least having a personal account can potentially set us on equal footing in our relationships.

For so long now women have been reluctant to hold their own money. They’ve been conditioned to think that it is selfish, especially if they are part of a traditional family. The labels that women have over their heads (‘daughter’, ‘mother’, ‘wife’) are all in relation to someone else. But having their own bank account and a stash of money, no matter how small, can be a step to claiming their own selves back. Money may not be a source of happiness, but it is inarguably a source of independence.

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Family Life Stories Life

Leaving home was the smartest decision I made

Like any teenager on the cusp of adulthood, I could not wait to leave home, spread my wings, and soar. The world was my oyster. Despite being restricted in college choices, I knew I couldn’t stay at home any longer. My dad told me I had to either study in Dubai, or in India. I knew I had to leave, so I chose to study in India. I was finally ready for the adventure, for a new life.

What I was not ready for, however, was the food poisoning. Or the homesickness, the constant stress, the constant cleaning, or even the laundry. I spent about a quarter of my time just cleaning up. Honestly? I loved cleaning up because it was my space, it was my home. I also quickly realized why my mom was such a stickler for a clean house.

Preparing meals and maintaining a home can be exhausting, and it became easier to follow a routine. I learned that it’s easier to maintain a clean home than let it build and spend hours cleaning up. Having a routine made it easier to get things done, and helped me structure my day.

Living alone does have its benefits; you realize a lot about life and about yourself. It was surprising to see how much I learned about other people. I learned about trust, about opening up to others, and relying on people that weren’t my family. Living in a hostel meant depending on people I had just met, and I got an incredible chance to build a family of my own, a home away from home.

Getting an apartment made me realize how much work goes into caring for a house. I learned more about my parents when I was away from them, more than I ever did back home. I spoke to people who’s parents went to the same college my mom went to; it was a fun glimpse into my mother’s past. I learned that my parents cared for me but weren’t helicopters – they didn’t monitor my every move abroad. They called me often enough to check up on me, but also left me to handle things on my own. It was freeing, and comforting to know they were there if I needed them. 

Being away helped me become more tolerant and more accepting.

I learned to live with other people and their quirks; I also learned how to share spaces, and be more accommodating. It was interesting sharing a room with another girl; I learned about other family structures – I grew up in a nuclear family, so those with joint or extended families was fascinating to me. I had to make decisions that impacted my life without a safety net. Being alone taught me about responsibility and consequence. I was in charge of my own meals, cleaning my apartment, and catching up with college work.

My biggest lesson was budgeting; learning to pay bills, rent, groceries, and have some money left over for other expenses, like dinners and movies. I also learned about people; those who mattered and those who didn’t. It’s interesting to see who sticks by you when you’re at your lowest. I had plenty of fair-weather friends, but a handful that I could see myself growing old with. 

Living at home because of the pandemic has been difficult. I’m suddenly stuck with a curfew again. Though my parents treat me like an adult in some ways, I’m still treated like a child in others. I suddenly have to watch how I dress and when I can leave. However, I am allowed to do what I want at home. I don’t have to explain all my actions, but I do have to reveal my whereabouts.

It’s been confusing, but I’ve learned to live with it.

It means that I can’t fully express myself, which is difficult.  I know my parents are just looking out for me. What used to be annoying is now seen as concerning. I know they want me to stay safe, even though that means giving up certain freedoms. I can respect that mindset. It can get frustrating, but I remind myself to try and see it from their perspective, too.  

When people wonder whether they should go to college abroad, or move houses, or even take an extended vacation elsewhere, I always encourage it. Traveling is the best form of education. Seeing new cultures can teach you so much, including your own. I never knew much about India because I grew up in Dubai. I never realized its diversity. Living there for four years made me appreciate the country I come from. It also made me want to explore more of it.

Coming home is always a mixed bag. Living away from home also made me realize just how comfortable home is. I miss the freedom of college, and I miss living alone. At the same time, I’m so grateful I have a home to come back to, especially during this time. I’m grateful that my parents are willing to take me in as an adult, but I do miss the responsibility. I’m glad I got to get out there and enjoy the world and I can’t wait to do that again. 

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Career Now + Beyond

Just because I teach children does not mean I have maternal instincts

While I have never thought of myself to be particularly maternal, I find it relatively easier to work with children. This is why I have increasingly considered exploring a career in teaching. However, this may come with a cost. In an interaction with a distant relative, I expressed my interest in pursuing teaching as a career and simultaneously not wanting children of my own. What followed next was an inexhaustible lecture on how having children is one of the greatest pleasures of life. I tried to explain how I do not picture myself as a mother in the future. According to them, however, I might have the instincts in me somewhere because nothing else can explain my desire for teaching. On the contrary, I think that teaching as a profession would provide me with a sense of fulfilment that is separate from my parental choices.

It is often inherently assumed that most women want children of their own at some point in their lives. In recent years, there has been a growing conversation about normalizing women not wanting children of their own due to various reasons. Many women choose to prioritize their careers instead of starting a family. More often than not, these women are still interrogated and counseled on the importance of having children. Ever since I began teaching, I have been questioned by various colleagues and friends about having changed my opinions on having children. I, however, do not feel that teaching has affected my maternal instincts. 

Teaching is often perceived as a gendered occupation. Whilst this has changed in recent years with more men entering teaching, it still remains largely female-dominated. According to author Bryan J. Nelson lack of male teachers is mainly because “working with children is seen as a woman’s work, men are not nurturing and something must be wrong with them if they choose to work with children.” Nelson explained that there is also the existence of a fear that men are more likely to harm or abuse children compared to women. It is difficult to determine whether or not men are more likely to be abusive than women in teaching, however, these stereotypical notions have undoubtedly added to the gender gap in the profession.

There seems to be a preconceived notion that all teachers would want to have children of their own. Even if they initially begin their careers with not wanting children, after spending an ample amount of time with kids it is assumed that they would eventually embrace motherhood. I, however, wish to challenge this view. As a teacher myself, I have never felt the desire to have children of my own even after spending long hours working with them.

I began teaching in my early teens and since then I have periodically taken on teaching/tutoring jobs. In all my jobs thus far, I have found teaching to be the most gratifying and a career that I see a future in. However, not once have I felt the desire to have children of my own. People may assume that this will change once I get married but I have also spoken to teachers who are married and would not like to have children of their own. Some teachers have also said that they would not have had children of their own had they began their careers before having children.

People find it difficult to dissociate one’s career choices from their life choices.

People often say that ‘childless teachers cannot truly understand children’. This statement automatically implies that women without children may not have maternal instincts. Maternal instinct, however, is largely a myth. It comes from deep love, devotion, intense closeness, and time spent thinking about the child. And is not limited to just mothers. Psychotherapist Dana Dorfman agrees that many aspects of maternal instincts are a myth. It is not necessary to be a mother to understand and care for children. Understanding and care come from observation and experiences. Many people land in jobs that they have had no prior experience in, however, with time they learn and excel at their job. So, why are teachers subjected to this form of generalization?

The idea that being a teacher affects one’s maternal instincts or vice versa is largely misogynistic as it exposes the underlying trend of women being incomplete without children. In the case of teachers, it becomes rather problematic because people find it difficult to dissociate one’s career choices from their life choices.

Globally women have gained greater autonomy to choose their careers and overcome misogynistic trends prevalent in societies. Choosing teaching as a career option and simultaneously not wanting children is largely questioned and viewed skeptically. So much so that people often go to extreme lengths to explain to me that working with children will lead to me changing my mind sooner rather than later. However, that is yet to happen.

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College 101 Dedicated Feature Life

This is why you should study abroad – I went to Madrid

I’ve always been a little hesitant and unsure of myself. When I started telling people that I planned on studying abroad for the Fall 2019 semester in Madrid, I could tell that they were worried. I mean, how was I going to survive alone? I wasn’t fluent in Spanish, I didn’t know anyone else that was in my program, and I don’t exactly have a plethora of common sense – I’m more book-smart. I think that part of it was that they didn’t want me to get my hopes up. Studying abroad could be a really great experience or a really terrible one, and there wasn’t room for anything in between. 

But, I was determined to prove them wrong. I always have been. Ever since I was little I’ve always felt that people saw my capabilities as one-sided. I could do this but never that. To me, it seemed like an expectation thing. No one expected me to be so independent and sturdy, especially when I appeared in front of them as fragile or sensitive.

The truth is that I had never been given the chance to prove myself in this capacity. The second that I took too long or wasn’t doing something precisely the way that someone else would, they took over. And, as a result, I became apprehensive, kind of shy, and extremely nervous. 

However, it turns out that I was right. I had been largely independent all along, and studying abroad was a great idea. I slowly realized that I could do anything I set my mind to, even this, all the while holding on tightly to my emotional tendencies. I learned a lot about myself while basking in the Mediterranean sun. 

During my time in Madrid, I met people and made connections in ways that are indescribable. I don’t know if it is because I finally found myself in a situation in which I was free from implicit restraints and boundaries or if I became a product of my surroundings. But, I am sure of at least one thing, that being that I was entering a moment in which I was young enough to still have the ignorant belief that nothing mattered, but also wise enough to know that everything mattered much more than it had ever before. There were so many things, and so many people, clawing at me and insisting for my attention, and I finally let go.

For the first time I acknowledged the positivism of this sweet, even blissful, point in my life—one that I may never get again. So, I gave in to the extremities. In doing so, the whole world opened up. I found security in empathy, I learned about ambition, self-awareness, and I felt genuine longing for the first time. I spent days dancing in streets that were once touched by Goya, Ernest Hemingway, and Velasquez. I read poems by Pablo Neruda on the metro and I ate TONS of churros con chocolate.

What I found to be the most pivotal about my experience in Madrid, though, would be living in a home-stay. This is where I spent the most time, had the most laughs, and learned the most about myself. The day after landing in Madrid I met my host family and moved into their home. While they didn’t speak any English at all, and whatever Spanish I did know I forgot the second I opened my mouth, we managed to work through it. 

I knew I wanted to build a relationship with them, but before I could do that, I had to conquer my own confidence battle. I had to remind myself that yes, they were strangers with whom I would be living with for months, but I was also a stranger to them. Frankly, we were all in the same boat. Eventually, I got used to their habits, learned their family traditions, and studied their culture until I felt like I belonged there. They made me feel like I was as much a Madrileño as they are.

At dinner, my host parents would always ask about my day, my classes, and if I was up to anything fun. On the weekends, they would recommend countless restaurants or art museums to my friends and I, and then ask me if I liked it the next day. They even comforted me when I felt overwhelmed or insecure. What I appreciated the most, however, is that they actually listened to my stories, which I am sure that I told in broken Spanish, and always seemed interested.

We really grew to love and care for one another. In those four short months I am sure that they watched me grow exponentially. I truly became myself and started to feel comfortable in my own skin. Plus, I came out being able to speak and communicate in Spanish light-years beyond my ability from when I first arrived in Madrid. 

My memories from this time in my life are whole, and they always will be whole. I’m finally able to show off my independence and I’m never turning back. This just goes to show that a little bit of introspection and determination could go a long way. Of course, I was scared to be alone and so far away but I knew that it was what I needed.  Once I convinced myself to just rip off the band-aid my possibilities for personal growth became endless.

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College 101 Life

15 things you learn when you live alone for the first time

There’s something magical about the first time you live alone. Everything has the glow that’s exclusive to things that are new and exciting – your first laundry day, the first meal you cook all by yourself, or the first time you open the door to your place and think of it as home.

With your new independence comes a lot of learning. This isn’t necessarily a dramatic evolution, but every little mistake, you will undoubtedly make will also make a great story.

Here are 15 little things you’ll definitely pick up over the course of your first solo living adventure, based on my own personal experience of making mistakes (a couple of times over just to make sure).

1. Mealtimes become optional (but they shouldn’t)

[Image description: A girl narrows her eyes as she stuffs food in her mouth] via giphy
[Image description: A girl narrows her eyes as she stuffs food in her mouth] via giphy
You no longer have to eat at a specific time to make things easier on everyone else, but sticking to a regular schedule will stop you from groggily staring at the contents of your fridge at 1 AM because you haven’t eaten anything since that mid-afternoon bowl of cereal.

2. Don’t convert currency, just compare prices within the region

[Image description: hand snatches wallet instead of taking the bill that is offered.] via giphy
[Image description: hand snatches wallet instead of taking the bill that is offered.] via giphy
Foreign exchange rates had me shook and it took me a while to realize that I just wasn’t going to find things at the same prices that I was used to back home. Roll with the punches and work out a budget.

3. Laundry piles up….quickly

[Image description: "I scrub and scrub, but the stain of human suffering remains".] via giphy
[Image description: “I scrub and scrub, but the stain of human suffering remains”.] via giphy
Realizing that you’ll start a whole new cycle when you have to put the clothes you wore to do your laundry into the hamper at the end of laundry day will make you feel a little pang of sadness. The sight of an empty hamper is oh so satisfying and oh so fleeting!

4. You may not feel like doing the dishes now but once they’ve been sitting there for a while you really won’t want to

[Image description: Man shoves his dirty dishes on the counter and quickly exits the room.] via giphy
[Image description: Man shoves his dirty dishes on the counter and quickly exits the room.] via giphy
What’s worse than doing the dishes? Doing the dishes after they’ve been sitting in their own filth, getting grosser and grosser by the hour. You can try to convince yourself that the stars will align and you will feel like doing them at some point in the future, but you won’t. Just get it over with.

5. There’s a big leap between buying vegetables and cooking them

[Image description: A man forces his coworker to eat broccoli while saying "Eat it, eat it!"] via giphy
[Image description: A man forces his coworker to eat broccoli while saying “Eat it, eat it!”] via giphy
All the good intentions you had at the store wilt along with your vegetables once you get back home and deposit them in your fridge. The self-congratulatory feeling of owning a vegetable, every time you reach past it to get to the chocolate milk, will turn into a deep sense of shame when you’re tossing a limp, squashed version of your healthy intentions in the bin.

6. You have no one but yourself to blame for your mess 

[Image description: A guy frantically pulls a curtain to cover the mess on his floor] via giphy
[Image description: A guy frantically pulls a curtain to cover the mess on his floor] via giphy
So apparently it wasn’t your sibling coming into your room and tossing all your belongings into the air that made your room look like that. You really were the problem all along. Who could’ve seen that coming?

7. You have to deal with creepy crawlers

[Image description: Man holding a swatter runs and hides.] via giphy
[Image description: Man holding a swatter runs and hides.] via giphy
There’s no one to scream to for help. It’s you vs nature and you’re not hopeful of a win. Especially if it flies. If it flies then it has won. The room rightfully belongs to it and you need to make other accommodation arrangements.

8. You can feel lonely sometimes

[Image description: Joey sits behind what looks like a window watching the rain outside. It's revealed to be an indoor water feature.] via giphy
[Image description: Joey sits behind what looks like a window watching the rain outside. It’s revealed to be an indoor water feature.] via giphy
Independence feels great but that doesn’t mean you won’t sometimes miss a hectic full house. Your entire family and pets filtering in and out of your room, having three full meals on the table that you didn’t shop and prep for all by yourself, and always having company regardless of whether or not you want it.

9. Throw the garbage out sooner rather than later

[Image description: A girl wearing an orange vest says "I love garbage"] via giphy
[Image description: A girl wearing an orange vest says “I love garbage”] via giphy
This will sound obvious but garbage stinks more than the act of having to dispose of it. Convincing yourself that the bag can be fuller is damning your future self to a much more unpleasant trip to the garbage chute.

10. Getting locked out is a new fear

[Image description: Girl throws herself against a locked door.] via giphy
[Image description: Girl throws herself against a locked door.] via giphy
The flood of relief you feel when you find your key just when you’d resigned yourself to sleeping outside. The flip side being the confident reach for the key that really isn’t there. From personal experience, taping a sign to your door asking yourself if you have your key before you leave, really does help.

11. Watching a cooking tutorial and following the cooking tutorial doesn’t take the same amount of time

[Image description: A girl refers to a recipe as she cooks in a kitchen.] via giphy
[Image description: A girl refers to a recipe as she cooks in a kitchen.] via giphy
“It took them 40 seconds, why is it taking us 4 hours!” Apparently pre-cut, perfectly measured ingredients don’t just appear along with your resolve to recreate the recipe.

12. You save a lot when you make coffee at home

[Image description: Kim Kardashian makes it rain.] via giphy
[Image description: Kim Kardashian makes it rain.] via giphy
The experience of standing around and having a warm cup of coffee handed to you is great, but mastering good coffee at home will be much easier on your finances (that’s probably still reeling from adjusting to exchange rates). This also applies to all take-out food. Your parents were right. There really is food at home.

13. There are a lot of frantic calls home about how to actually do things

[Image description: Girl appears agitated as she picks up the phone and holds it to her ear.] via giphy
[Image description: Girl appears agitated as she picks up the phone and holds it to her ear.] via giphy
“How far past the expiration date does something expire…..really?”                                                                                      “Quick! Have I gotten the chickenpox vaccine or chickenpox?!?”                                                                                              “Why does this not look exactly the way I remember it looking at home even though I followed your recipe?”    “Who…….wait what was my question?”

14. Housekeeping hacks get a lot more interesting

[Image description: Girl wearing headphones cleans a room.] via giphy
[Image description: Girl wearing headphones cleans a room.] via giphy
Clean out the communal microwave in 5 minutes? Yes, please and thank you. There’s nothing better than finding the easiest way to clean something when you’re the one responsible for cleaning it.

15. There are no rules. Enjoy it….but also maybe set some rules for yourself 

[Image description: Man rips up a piece of paper with the word 'Rules' on it and says 'No rules'] via giphy
[Image description: Man rips up a piece of paper with the word ‘Rules’ on it and says ‘No rules’] via giphy
You’ll make mistakes when you live alone, but you’ll learn from them and be better because of them!

Your first experience living alone will be unforgettable. So make sure you personalize your space, pick up some essential skills, live your best life, and make use of every single minute of your live alone adventure.

USA History The World

This Independence Day we must remember the harrowing history behind Mount Rushmore

Yesterday was the 4th of July. A day known around the world as signifying the day that the USA became independent from Britain back in 1776. That is, for white people at least. What came after this so-called independence was a number of treaties with Native American tribes in order to implement ‘Manifest Destiny’; a rouse to further colonize and destroy the Indigenous population in the states.

Treaties such as the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 recognized the Indigenous people’s right over the land and the areas in which the white man could enter or live in and which they could not. Unsurprisingly though, many of the treaties made with indigenous peoples were quickly ignored and broken. When Native Americans took actions and resisted the mistreatment of such treaties, they were decimated. As a result, reservations were created to further isolate these people from mainstream American society. These spaces are known among the community as Prisoner of War camps with infertile lands and poisoned water supplies.

A turning point in Indigenous history is the massacre of Wounded Knee in December of 1890.  Here men, women, and children were slaughtered for preforming a Ghost Dance meant to rid them of the settlers, who had up until this point not only massacred and raped their people but also brought contagious illnesses with them and ruined their land. In United States history, no ‘battle’ has since received more congressional medals for bravery than was awarded to the soldiers who committed the massacre of Wounded Knee.

Another major part of the Fort Laramie Treaty was the ownership of the Black Hills, commonly known for the part of it that is now called ‘Mount Rushmore.’ As per this treaty, the United States recognized all of the Black Hills as part of the Great Sioux Reservation, set aside for exclusive use by the Sioux people. The Black Hills are therefore sacred to the Sioux People, considered to be the womb of Mother Earth and the location of ceremonies, vision quests, and burials. At first, the settlers really did accept that the Black Hills belonged to the Sioux nation, primarily the Lakota People.  However, with the discovery of gold the Fort Laramie Treaty was basically thrown out the window. Subsequently, the Lakota people were then threatened and bullied into selling their share of the Black Hills, but, of course, they did not sell their sacred land. A new treaty was enacted in 1877 in which only 10% of the Lakota men signed out of fear that their family would not be able to have food. It’s important to recognize that during this time, the US government was actively caging in many Indigenous populations across the US plains, keeping them away from fertile hunting grounds. And, as a result, enacting further oppressive measures or hardships onto the native population – in a sense stealing the rug from right under their feet –  which is an unfortunate theme that we see throughout all of US history.

Almost immediately after finding gold there the Black Hills were butchered with the faces of the men who had actively committed and awarded acts of genocide and pillage against the native population; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson. Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. This was met with condemnation from the Lakota Nation as a sacrilege to their sacred site.

Fast forward to 2020, US President Donald Trump is due to go to the Black Hills in order to celebrate Independence Day. As a part of this event, fireworks were to be set off, sparking fears of potentially destroying the natural wildlife and causing fires in the area as its dry climate is prone to wildfires. These concerns were met with protests and sit-ins by Indigenous Peoples, who were incidentally met with a violent response. Tear Gas was used on peaceful protestors and numerous arrests took place in an effort to ensure ‘the safety of the people’ attending the Presidents event. Yet, no one at the event was even required to wear masks or practice social distancing – so, who are they really trying to protect? What are their priorities? Let it also be known that Trump has delayed proper Covid-19 support for many Native populations, including the Lakota nation, which still has rising infection rates.

On a day of ‘independence’ it is important to recognize who this land belongs to, first and foremost. I am not a Native American but a 1st generation immigrant living in Britain with parents from India and Pakistan. Our resources were taken, but in the USA and Canada, resources are still being extracted and their lands are still being used for capitalistic gain. Every single day. Certain memorials, and Indigenous cultures in general, are disrespected, objectified, and commodified in this country. So take today tp read up on the history of the Lakota Nation, educate yourself, and, if you can, donate to the bail fund.

Donate to the bail fund here.


Culture Weddings

Here’s why there is no “right” time to get married

The South Asian “now it’s time to settle down” statement after graduation has become infamous. 

For the most part, the statement has become a joke amongst a younger generation that doesn’t buy into the same notion of there being a Right Time, but that doesn’t change how earnestly the statement is said. 

The logic that is often utilized during these conversations is that the first twenty-odd years of your life weren’t the right time to be on the lookout for a significant other because education had to be your priority.

Now, more than ever, young people can choose to be equal partners in life.

“Getting friendly” with someone during your school days or having “special friends” were largely frowned upon, and involved a web of deceit in order to pull it off (shoutout to the many relationships that flourished and died without any parent knowing who their offspring was pledging their undying love to).

The focus on education will last right up until you graduate university and get handed your diploma and that’s when suddenly the stars align and then?

It. Is. Time. 

Aunties go from asking you about school and your career plans to rooting out prospective husbands. Rising up out of the cracks to tell you about these nice boys (men) that they know of that have no other compatibility besides….existing at the same time?

While education does need to be a priority for many of the early years of any individual’s life, education isn’t a dead-end that can be ticked off a bucket-list as soon as your diploma gets handed to you. It’s not a title you can stick in the matrimonial section of the Sunday newspapers. 

If anything, life post-graduation is when you really need to be focusing on yourself. Figuring out what you want to do and where you want the education you worked for to take you. 

The part of your life where you’re working towards your goals isn’t over once you take off the cap and gown. There’s no way to overstay your welcome or reach a limit on your own personal goals.

What the Right Time is ignoring is that none of us are going to university for 3, 4, 6(!) years just to make our exit and go straight down the aisle.

Aunties go from asking you about school and your career plans to rooting out prospective husbands.

Even the many people who don’t actually believe that marriage is an immediate priority still perpetuate the notion that post-graduation is The Time to Start Looking.  

Aunties please, we had more time and opportunity to interact with people our own age back in the education stage. Post-grad, we just want to be employed. So thank you for the heads up about prospective SO’s being around every corner just waiting to be discovered, but now is not the time.

The whole concept seems to belittle the career trajectory a woman may aspire to, and subscribe to a reality that was valid just a few generations ago when there was no way a woman could support herself or be economically independent without being married, but this is simply not the case anymore.

Now, more than ever, young people can choose to be equal partners in life. A step in the right direction for all genders, and rendering the Right Time to be married a myth.

There is no doubt in my mind that there are good intentions behind the preaching of the Right Time. It’s based on their own experiences and a belief that life isn’t truly complete without being married and producing offspring. But times have changed and there’s more than one way to find independence and fulfillment in life.

The focus on education will last right up until you graduate.

There’s also no better time than post-graduation to figure out exactly who you are as an individual, and how you want your life to be before you consider conscientiously stepping out to find someone to complement that (or discover that you don’t want that at all).

There’s no Right Time, the time is right when you want it to be.


Here’s why tattoos are more than just skin deep

There has always been a lingering, extremely negative stigma around tattoos. Whether that be the impression that they’re a reckless craft or profession, that they’re a reflection of unprofessionalism on the wearer, or that the kind of person who gets tattoos is a bad influence and misguided. My whole life, the narrative that tattoos are associated with illegal activities and reckless behaviour has been practically embedded into my social imagining. For a while, I believed it too. I thought that having a tattoo very much meant being unsuccessful in the career that I chose and that I would be going against the picture that had been painted for me. And in doing so, I would be letting everyone around me down, everyone who played some kind of part in raising me. Funnily enough, these are the same people who told me countless times that it is important to march to the beat of my own drum and to be the captain of my own ship. Go figure.

Especially being a girl, I’ve been told that tattoos are ugly, inappropriate, and distasteful. That the second I taint my body with ink, the body that is also supposed to be my own canvas, my worth diminishes dramatically. People start to look at me differently. I am no longer the girl that they thought I was. In a matter of seconds, their entire perception of me changes and everything they know about me is altered. 

This is the reality for so many young people and it is incredibly disheartening because most tattoos, if not all, can hold a deeper meaning. Plus, it shouldn’t even matter if the tattoo is meaningful or not, as long as the person adorned by it is happy and comfortable. Tattoos can be an exceptional medium for self-expression. Every little detail in a tattoo is an example of individuality that is impossible to replicate because everyone’s skin and everyone’s intent is entirely different. 

Most tattoos are real-life embellishments drenched in symbolism and motifs, and if you really think about it, tattoos are beautiful beyond being art. They are meant to be read like a book and tell you something about the wearer. You can learn a multitude of unspoken stories about a person just by looking at their tattoos, and these are usually the things that are most dear to their heart and truly make them who they are. These are the things that they’re so determined to never let go of that they literally make it a part of their skin and their blood. They tell you stories of growth, romance, culture, grief, passion, religion, wit, and determination. People wear art that speaks to them and makes them feel something. Tattoos are a love story in and of themselves. 

I cherish my tattoo. It’s a very small pink dove near my left rib cage. I was 18 years old at the time that I got it done. Most people thought that I was acting in defiance, that I was being rebellious, and that I would regret it eventually. 

Well, they were all wrong. 

I wasn’t being defiant and I will never regret it. I got my tattoo because it is something that I knew I needed to do for myself if I was ever going to move past what had happened, if I was ever going to move forward. That year, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a double mastectomy, and went through multiple rounds of chemotherapy. With all of those odds against her, she survived. She is the strongest woman that I’ve ever known and will ever know. 

But still, the pressure and the helplessness that I felt and continue to feel can sometimes seem never-ending. I can never shake that fear, no matter how relieved I am to be out of the thick of it. So, I decided to commemorate the moment with something meaningful that is mine, and mine entirely. 

My favorite quote from the novel Jane Eyre says this: “I am no bird and no net ensnares me, I am a free human being with an independent will.” That quote seemed to describe what I was feeling, and really what I needed to be told, effortlessly. So, my bird is pink for breast cancer. I got it as a daily reminder of strength, resilience, and soaring above the ashes, just as my mother did. I too can soar.

Family Life

The men in my family taught me how to love and be loved properly

I have spent nearly every day of my life actively trying to keep up with the men around me. They are spontaneous, excited, proud, and empathetic. They’re damn hysterical too. 

Take my father, for example, the first and only man that I trusted to treat me right and to love me all the same. I get my goofiness, and of course my obsession with The Beatles, from him. He doesn’t take anything too seriously, even though sometimes I wish that he did. Nothing seems to bother him, meanwhile, everything bothers me. I don’t know if I wish that he reacted more or that I reacted less. Regardless, I want to be able to let things roll over me, un-phased, like he is able to. I’m still working on that.  

My father is incredibly kind and generous, and he cares tremendously about any person he comes in contact with. One day, he spent hours showing me how to do the time warp dance from Rocky Horror Picture Showwe did the combination repeatedly until I got it down. That’s when I learned that he and my mom met on a blind date at a live viewing of the show. I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. My dad never fails to make me smile, too, even when it’s the last thing I want to do. Seriously, I could be bursting into tears and all he has to do is make a silly face or say something bizarre, and I’d feel like a million bucks again. That’s my dad for you. Always the pleaser. So, although he never taught me how to ride a bike, I am willing to replace that life skill with another one that he did teach me. That is, the keen ability to conduct an entire performance in the car to practically every song from the ’80s.

He was my first friend, and even my first date given all of those daddy and daughter dances that I spent cradled by his side. He is the gentlest man that I’ve ever met, but because of him I like to think that I am much tougher, more resilient, and a hell of a lot funnier. I found confidence in our moments of bliss together, knowing that this is all I’d ever need to lead a complete and fulfilling life. 

I have four older brothers too, with whom I have spent days upon days fighting for things like the last pancake at breakfast, and, eventually, for the car keys. It has certainly never been easy, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. They are all different in their own right and if I were to tell you about the uniqueness of my relationship with each of them, I might as well write a book. But I will tell you this: these men are my forever and a day’s. 

They are my history holders, sharing with me all of the turbulence and tribulations that we have ever and will ever endure. Because of them, I’ve learned to be quick, but not sloppy. They taught me how to tie my shoes, swing a bat, draw a car, and build a make-believe fort in the middle of the living room. We’d trade candy every Halloween, spend hours with a deck of cards playing go-fish, and watch movies on the DVR. For every holiday or birthday I’d make a personalized, handmade, card for each of them and now, years later, they are quick to show me these sentiments of mine, which they have all kept and deemed precious. 

So, maybe it took a while for me to realize, but I can tell you with certainty what it feels like to be loved, respected, protected, and appreciated because of my brothers. They never treated me differently just because I am a girlexcept when we played football in the basement with my dad. I was the lucky one who got to wear the only helmet we had. 

Sure, to this day I am always the one sitting in the middle seat during car rides since it’s the smallest spot, and I am always the first one to cry. But, I’ve also always admired each and every single one of my brothers since the day I was born. They seem infinitely cool and I am desperate to emulate them, even just a little bit.

Growing up, I remember that I’d do anything, and I mean anything, to be like them. So, I’d sit and watch and do everything I could to imitate their actions and behaviors. The catch here is that they believed in me, the real me, all along.  I was the one who had a hard time believing, until now. 

My family is my backbone; they are constant and reliable. I have learned a lot from them, but one of the most important things that they have taught me is how to love and be loved properly. Because of them I am stronger, wiser, and more independent. I can stand on my own, even though I would prefer not to, all because of the lessons that they have enriched in me.

Editor's Picks Culture Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Will getting married really make my life complete?

I love, love. I just don’t love marriage. The married people in my life have always adored each other, but something was definitely missing. Something was always wrong. Someone was always upset, one way or another.

This constant irritation gets old after awhile.

It’s the fights over bill payments, disputes over the most trivial matters, mistakes from 20 years ago that are brought up again and again, and just plain stagnancy. I can tell that some of my family members feel stuck in their marriage even if they are too embarrassed or terrified to say it. This is not love, or at least it is not the love that I’ve always dreamed about. Marriage might be too co-dependent, and too predictable for me.

Many people marry to fill the void that society tells us our lives would not be complete without. For some reason, our relationships struggle to be considered valid if there is not a diamond ring to be accounted for. When love is real and meaningful it is also eternal, so why do we feel like we need to march declaratively down the aisle to prove its validity?

Marriage might be too co-dependent, and too predictable for me.

For me, it seems that marriage has become an economic institution in which you are given nothing more than social status and succession. It is so easy to become blinded by the conceptions surrounding traditions like marriage that there appears to be no other choice than to join in.

At this point though, most of the romance and novelty has already been sucked out of the tradition. Perhaps this is because when you get married, your relationship becomes a need rather than a want. This is not to say that true love can’t fuel a marriage, but that factors other than love are increasingly becoming a reason to get, and to remain, married. Not to mention that those reasons have the potential to diminish whatever love already existed. 

I am afraid to get married because I don’t want to make a mistake.

Marriage is meant to be a fairytale, or so we are told. Yet so many people are in unhappy, even toxic, marriages. There are marriages that have strong power dynamics which make it nearly impossible to leave. Once married, couples are viewed as parts of a whole, rather than as whole themselves. I don’t need my “other half,” I can stand on my own.

Reluctant to divorce because of societal pressure, many people know that the love that they had for their partner was far more profound before marriage put a label on it and boxed it up. Genuine love is built with patience and tenderness. Love should be natural, compassionate, and without barriers. 

I am afraid to get married because I don’t want to make a mistake. I don’t want things other than love to get in the way of my relationship, but I also know that from the moment I say “I do” it is inevitable. There is a tiny, and very exclusive, narrative of marriage that all people are supposed to fall into when they take that leap into tradition. I am not saying people shouldn’t get married, but I am saying that I don’t think genuine and ageless love requires such an archaic label.

What I want is love, not a marriageI think that is the main difference.

The problem here is that if I don’t get married, I know that I will be making someone disappointedmaybe even myself. When I think about these life-defining moments, I often remind myself that love will live forever, whether you are married or not. What I want is love, not a marriageI think that is the main difference.

The couples that fall out of bounds, though, are sometimes the ones that put so much effort into focusing on what their relationship “should” look like, rather than its reality. The ones that do not get married are often viewed as being abnormally strange, and in some societies as having lost their way.

Marriage is apparently that guidance.

But, when we get married, we are so willing to accept that not everyone is the exception and can have a miraculous, long-lasting, and passionate love story.

We are so willing to accept that the love dust has settled and that since every marriage is built on the same foundation, we have made it to the peak. That the wedding day is the best day of a young couple’s life and the rest is downhill from there.

I think we all deserve a better narrative.

I think every single one of us deserves to be swept off of our feet every day for as long as we loveand true love, while it may ache, never dies.