The Year That was…

We are into the last  few days of the 2016.

I often wonder , if the belief that the new year brings new opputunities is a is something we have made up  to console ourselves, as another  year of our lives slips by?

Nothing much changes, the world and the and our lives remain the same, but we change our perception and look to each new days with renewed hope, as we are in a new year.

Some will be glad to see the year go out ,hoping; the things they disliked in the outgoing year will somehow disappear.

They will not, the political and financial un certainty  caused by Brexit will remain, Trump will be the president of America and we will have the same day to day lives. But we will get a new dose of optimism, a new hope ; that things will look up/change for the better. And if they do then we brand the year either good or bad!

Am a born optimist, I have always looked forward to the new year, I go as far as to believe that the first day of the year ,is indicative of how the year will pan out for me!

I know , it is daft. But that is my way of rationalising my hopes for future. It is said that it is necessary to keep hope alive, to always hope that things will be better than they are today, and have an aim in life. In our younger years we do not think much of the passing years, we have children to raise, their future occupies our mind, we strive to give them a better life.

Soon they grow up and have a life and family of their own, as someone said ,they become from “us” to “they”. Their lives revolve around their families  and their children’s future. And one suddenly realise that we no longer have an aim for the future.

I suppose ,then one realises that, we have fulfilled our main purpose. Procreation,and then providing a responsible and productive generation. Everything else seems and feels trivial after that.

The urge to procreate and nurture is so strong that it takes over our lives, and once done, it is not uncommon to feel empty and useless.

I have been there.

A lot harder to create a role for yourself late in life, create a purpose. Especially if you are left on your own. It makes you ask very hard questions to yourself, and often there are no answers.

But, another year is departing as we like to call it, a year when thousands were made homeless, we learnt the words “refugee crisis”, and Brexit. We looked to America with trepidation as it elected a businessman, with no political experience or diplomacy as her president. Our prime minister resigned in a hurry and we were given the second female prime minister.

A year when a very large number of show business stars died, and we are probably right in thinking that this was not a good year.

But we look with hope and some trepidation to the coming year, how much it will change what is gone wrongs anybody’s guess.

But, in the long running tradition of pinning our hopes to the coming year ,let us hope it will.

So here it is Happy New Year, and let us hope it lives up to our expectations.

Another report

Another day, another report!

Today’s report on integration points out that among other things , women come out worse ,because if they don’t learn or know the language then they know nothing about the law of the land, or the rule of the , but they rely on Sharia law. A doctrine based law made by men , and imposed mostly  on women, often against their wish, but enforced by religion.

I have written a lot about this,( I used to blog on a on line magazine called Asians in media, and then on the My Telegraph ; the latter from 2007-2015.

As well as writing I have done a lot of voluntary work, once when I was on a committee for the local authority, the local health professionals approached me ,they were trying to get a few Muslim women to attend the ante-natal classes, as they were expecting their first babies. They women spoke no English and their men folk wouldn’t allow the health visitor to take them to the clinic. Suffice to say, I failed to convince them , and the women received no essential care ,they should have .

In 1999, the Labour Peer Lord Desai ,has commissioned a report into the fact that more than half of the Muslim women in this country ,of working age were un-employed or were un-employable, as they spoke no English, and have never been out of the  house without a male chaperone.

I was part of the action plan, as volunteers we were tasked with approaching these women and making sure they acquired some learning. We met so much hostility from the men folk, they ;under no circumstances wanted to change the status quo. It suited them that the women remained subservient and did as they were told.

Muslim  women can be divorced by a man saying “I divorce you” three times. Sharia courts settle their divorce and as the women know nothing about the law of the land or what they are entitled to ,according to the British law, are often short changed. The same goes for the  rights to their children and maintenance. Because these women do not speak the language , they are short changed and deprived. Not to speak of the money the NHS and other agencies spend on translators.

These women have no privacy, they cant even contact their doctor with  either their husband or their child present to translate.

Such women tend to insist on marrying their children to spouses from “back home”, they surely dont want a daughter in law or a son in law who is not like them. Especially daughter in laws, they want another woman who will stay home ,be company to them and will keep the family together.

The whole cycle is then repeated.

This morning’s report has been sneered by a lot of male radio presenters, they have no idea what life can be like for these women.

And of course they cant say, as they speak no English.

 

This and That..

A lot has happened since I wrote my last blog. America has got a new president, we have a woman prime minister and winter has arrived!

As you grow older ,you tend to get less exercised about world affairs  and politics, as experience teaches you that there is not a lot you can change, despite the claims of democracy the political band wagon grinds on regardless of what you think or want.

So back to getting older.

Old age suddenly descends on you without warning, one minute you were rushing around raising a family, holding a job and had little  time to think about it, next you know , they have grown up, created their own families, have little time for interaction and you have lost your life partner.

You are left to fend for your own needs. In the west especially, there is very little interaction with anyone. In the East where I grew up, people just drop in , relatives, friends of your relatives , and those you didn’t know could have any connection with you .

I remember, in my grandfathers house, a huge house ,at any given time there will be ten to twelve “guests” . My grandfather has come from the north of India ,and was now living and practicing as  a lawyer in the south. So people from the city where he came from  arrived all the time, seeking a better life or a visit ,will consider it their right to use our ancestral home as a guest house.It will be rude ,not to;” was the mantra. Most of them stayed for a month or two , and most of them were unknown to us and even to my grandfather. But he was very happy to offer the hospitality. I think I have the same family trait, I love people, entertaining and having house guests. But I do know that this is not the norm in the west and am sure a lot must view my intentions with suspicion!

Am lucky that I have a lot of friends, good neighbours and well wishers, I do other things and am in good health, but these wet, grey and grim mornings put me in mind of those who are not so fortunate, how do they cope with old age, loneliness and isolation. How and why this happens , am not sure.

But the world has changed since my childhood, even in the East, joint families and support to the older generation has declined. Most children these days go abroad and elsewhere , and no one can afford big houses to accommodate  family, never mind friends and acquaintances .

This is progress, most people work so hard just to look after themselves and their immediate family , they haven’t got the time or the money to interact with their elderly relatives.

So it has nothing to do with cultures , we all are in the same boat! So when we say that we try to stay young as long as we can, it is not just for aesthetics. Old age has become a dirty word, they suddenly become isolated, may be because interacting reminds us all of the future which awaits us all.

A grim thought indeed.

Religious symbols

 

I dont know how many of you have heard about it, but when the Nice bombing happened ,in summer the news was reported on by the C4 reporter Fatima Manji, who wears a Hijab( the head covering),some people took offence, but I, along with others defended the fact that she was a good reporter who was doing her job well, that she wore a Hijab was of no consequence.
The Editor of the Mail (or Sun?),Kelvin Mckenzie it seems wrote an article berating the fact that the event shouldn’t have been covered by a Muslim ,wearing a Hijab. C4 and Ms Manji launched a complaint against Mckenzee, but the press regulator rejected the appeal ,on the ground that under freedom of speech Mackenzie has a right to his opinion .
This morning Fatima was on the Today programme, saying that this means an open season on Muslims, and it was distressing to her and her family.
I disagreed, my tweeted reply to radio4, brought a big response, most agreed with why I disagreed.
I disagreed that if you are in the public eye, your looks/dress are often criticised, it is the nature of the job, it doesn’t mean this is an open season on Islam.
2. C4 is partly public funded, it has a remit to represent minorities, so if they are going to represent a Muslim woman wearing hijab, they should show Christians sporting a Cross, Hindus wearing their religious symbols and Jewish and other religious groups should be represented too.
3. In a secular country ,I feel either every religion should get equal support or no religion should be visible.Not just one faith should be given prominence.

Personally I would like to see no religious display on screen, religion and ones relationship with God is an intensely private matter, and should be kept as such.
Some Muslim men, one in particular on Twitter ,took umbrage to my comments and accused me of playing into the hands of ‘racists and those who deride Islam”. He said that Mckenzie’s paper showed naked women and degraded them , where as he is deriding a woman who wears a hijab to protect her modesty.
My point is in a free society ,where (thank Goodness) we have freedom of speech , people who want to look at those pictures and women who pose for it are free to do so. No one is forced to look at them , but public broadcasting is another matter, and unless a channel is funded and belongs to a certain interest, public broadcasters should cater for all faiths ,if they are so minded.The BBC doesn’t allow any particular  garb or symbols  in ints broadcasts or reporters.

I find it sad that whenever something is criticised it takes on the mantle of being persecution and attack on a faith.

May be it is not a case of persecuting any religion , may be it is because these days more and more people do not want to subscribe to faiths and religions.

Whatever the reason may be, though I didn’t  read the offending article in that newspaper , so am not aware as to what was or was not said, but my comments are based on this morning’s interview on the Today programme.

 

 

Tissues and Tears

It was just a bit of crumpled tissue, and I was in flood of tears. Who says you get over the loss of a loved one, you don’t . You just live from day to day ,sometimes feeling very pleased with yourself that you have completed another,year, month or sometimes day without them.

let me explain.

It will be three years,next Febuarary ,that I lost my husband of many years. Actually he was married to me for some 43 years, but we knew each other long before that ,we met when I was just 17, we changed continents,made our home in a different culture ,raised a family and thought we have made a success of our lives. Perhaps we have. Our children have done well, we had a comfortable life style, life was pretty good, when suddenly he was diagnosed with cancer, for two and half years our lives lives were like a roller coaster,between hope and despair. Until death put an end to it.

It is strange ,when a person’s identity is suddenly reduced to some belongings in a plastic bag, with the logo of the Hospice. One day he was there, and the next he was no more.

I come from a culture where a woman has no identity without  her man. A widow is considered un-lucky, is confined to home, doesn’t wear colours,or jewellery or make up ,has no say or participation in happy occasions,like weddings etc. In Asia it is believed that if a widow crosses your path ,it is un lucky! A bit like the black cat,who is considered an omen of doom.

At least I didn’t have to face that, but was told by one  Asian lady (an educated one living in the UK),that I will never be invited to a wedding now! Suffice to say I have attended three weddings so far, my European neighbours ,when their daughters got married, the bridesmaids stayed in my house,and I drove them to the venue. I was sat with the family and was treated as a VIP.

So I thought I have reasonably “moved on”. I travel and meet friends and do charity work and enjoy the company of my children ,so life has been ticking along as they say.

Until yesterday that is, we get bags through our letter boxes to donate clothes and bric a brac to charities.

And I regularly  give, if I buy an item of clothing , I get rid of at least two, hate having to stock pile things.

But I haven’t given a lot of my husband’s stuff. He was a very elegant dresser, expensive suits, sports jackets and shirts and silk ties. It is not the value, it is just all his stuff is hanging in his wardrobe,next to mine, I cant bring myself to chuck it away  ,look at it, or give it to charities, whose shops are already overflowing with clothes,I want these clothes to go to those who will enjoy /appreciate wearing them. I read somewhere that Mrs Thatcher ,never got rid Denis’s clothes ;for years after he died. One night she had a row with him in her dream,and woke up in the middle of the night and filled black bags with his clothes, put them out of the door, and went back to bed!

But I digress.

I opened the wardrobe yesterday to put some of my husband’s clothes in the charity bag, picked up one trouser , and checked the pockets. Only to find a tissue ,slightly crumpled. Taking that out was like a current ran through me.As if I have touched his hand, at least something which was last touched by his hand.

Since our children were born he always carried tissues in his pocket, and produced them whenever the need arose. Moping spills and mouths and tears. Those tissues were life savers. And then it become a habit with him, he always had tissues in his pocket.

This tissue was part of who he was,someone always ready to come to the rescue of his family, mopping up life’s spills ,when we have been careless to cause them.

It suddenly has brought back a huge sense of loss ,all over again, may be a sense which is multiplied with the last years and months when I have deceived myself that I have moved on.

It is only a piece of tissue, but it has become something very significant for me.

 

The British Summer

 

However unlikely it may seem, we do get a summer and some really  hot days and if we are lucky, even weeks.Though you can never guarantee it,as far as weather goes,we can never be sure though.

Given that we are an island in-between the Atlantic and the mainland Europe, it is no surprise that we get such un predictable and often silly weather. I have known all the four season to happen in one day, hale, snow, sun and warmth.

So as I was saying, we do get warmth and sun, short lived though it may be ; but there is such a thing as the British summer.

Because it is a unique occurrence and a short lived occurrence, we tend to get a bit silly  when it happens. I was brought up in India, and there ,as you might say it  summer hap all year round.

Am constantly told that “you must be used to the heat”! Err no, we avoided the heat like the plague. When I was growing up and later too, we were not allowed to be outdoors after midday or so. The afternoon sun is avoided like at all cost. Only those who worked outdoors,like the manual workers were seen outside.The office workers and and everyone else will be indoors, blinds drawn and with coolers and now the air conditioners. When I was a child, there was no air conditioning available but we had thick blinds made of aromatic grasses,known as “Khas”, they had to be constantly sprinkled with water,and if an electric fan was placed behind them they produced the most refreshing, aromatic cool air, Far superior to the air conditioning. Not as dry or harmful as the latter.

So though I should know better ,and not go mad in the mid day sun, I have and I do. I too have, whenever the sun has shone ,in the past ;have packed my children in the car and headed towards the beach! Or rather have joined the masses , and queued for hours in the traffic jam,for what is the norm for us Brits ,our yearly ritual. When the sun shines, we have to be out in it. Contrary to ,what I was told by my mother,that the sun will make my skin go dark and then no-one will marry me!

We Brits must be the only ones, as Noel Coward said ,who go out in the mid day sun. We feel compelled to.It triggers something in our psyche. Those who may be should keep their clothes on,strip off,feet are forced into sandals,and not being to walking in them ;we waddle off feeling elated and cheerful.

And though am still not bold enough to let it all hang out, am out in my garden, sitting and soaking in the sunshine. Often chuckling to myself as to how cross my mother would be if she could see how dark I have become,being out in the dreaded sun.

As I sit here on my patio, and  the scent of my Tuber rose plants wafts in this warm and humid evening,am also grateful for these wonderful .rare summer’s days. They are so precious,simply because they are so rare.

British summers. I LOVe them.