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the boar

Expectation

When I was about 13 or 14, I went to this intensive training weekend with a company that I cannot remember the name of. There were around 10 of us, I was the youngest, and we sat and listened to two trainers teach us how to achieve success. It sounds very far-fetched, but it has stayed with me to this day. It focused a lot of visualising what success was going to look like. Remembering all of the little things that you can see, hear and touch when you realise what success is.

I have noticeably been silent on a lot of what has happened this week. I am incredibly proud and humbled by all of the things that we have achieved this year and I have no idea how we got here. When I said that we were going to be the best student publication in the country, I was being naïve. I wasn’t lying because I believed it, but I still might be the only one who thought that we had a chance.

For me the nomination was always enough. At least, that is what I thought until I got to the awards ceremony and sat on my chair. As the night went on, I thought we would do the impossible and I have been kicking myself for the last few days trying to figure out what went wrong. I visualised what success and failure would look like – I dreamt about it and prepared myself for it. But in the end, losing on the night took all of the breath out of me.

The truth is that I am disappointed – upset, that we didn’t quite do enough – but that is the problem with expectation. I feel guilty for even feeling like this, because I am so proud of how far we have come. It is this strange inner conflict, of both complete happiness but a nagging sense of incompleteness that confuses me. I didn’t really know how to react and so I went with what I knew – I felt inadequate.

What is most annoying is that there are so many positives to take from this. All in all, the awards that we won were actually the ones that we deserved and the ones we put the most work into. Best Publication would have been a nice cherry, but in my heart of hearts, I know that we just weren’t consistently good enough. It is a hard thing to swallow, knowing that it wasn’t quite enough, but if I had it all worked out now, who knows what the outcome would have been?

The positive learning curve from this is that I am not quite there yet. Hell it hurts more than a lot of things that I have done, but it is the reason why I need to wake up early in the morning and keep going. We managed to do the best that we have ever done at these awards, and I need to realise how big a deal that is – regardless of my selfish motives and my ego.

Putting that all aside, I cried with happiness. I actually weeped and it didn’t feel like a bad thing. It felt like a wonderful thing to let the emotion out. Knowing that life never really works out the way that you know it, to have these pieces of glass, to go beyond the expectation, is one of the best things I have ever done.

It is with this that I finally put it to bed and realise that it is time for the next challenge. I have done everything that I can do here and it is finally time to say goodbye. For the millionth time, it is time to look back fondly, rather than turn my back.

Expectation is a bitch. But this is enough for now – there are more first places to come.

A Little Time Off

It’s been just over a week now since I left the best job I ever had. It feels weird to think that, let alone say it. When I was still there, it definitely didn’t feel like the best job, but the last seven days or so have given me some perspective. I wake up in the mornings not routinely checking my emails, clearing my Facebook messages or wandering onto the website to see how everything is going. I have started to make time for breakfast in the morning, I don’t wake up panicked and I actually have time to read on the bus without falling in and out of sleep.

I miss parts of it. Of course I miss the inevitable sense of importance and being able to work with fantastic people on a daily basis. I miss being at the beginning, middle and end of the story, watching the whole journey happen – and knowing that there was a small part of it that was down to me. The feeling of accomplishment that you get from doing a good job and working with people who (hopefully) feel valued is second to none. I miss watching the names and faces of those you start with, grow and prosper. There are so many fantastic individuals that have made me smile and gasp in awe this year, many of them close to home, but also a number that I can already see on the horizon doing their thing already.

It would be impossible to thank everyone that has been a part of this. There have been times along the way, probably more than I expected, when I needed to lean on someone for help and they have always given me the time I needed. I am not going to say that those people should know who they are, because many of them are reading this – and I wanted to express a heartfelt thank you. Feeling empowered in the position that I was in is only boosted knowing that I represent and sponsor the values of others walking alongside me. Like-minded individuals marching fervently towards change.

It has been a privilege to hold that baton for nigh on 12 months, but batons are meant to be passed. In truth, even though it was difficult at first, it has been refreshing to find myself again. It also amuses me slightly that at a moment’s notice of focusing on me I am back at this keyboard and typing it all out. I guess this gives me a platform to transform myself. A constant that I can turn back to for more challenges and puzzles that I am craving now.

It does feel empty at points. A numbing feeling looking back at some of the best experiences and achievements of my university life, knowing that it is not only the end of that, but nearly the end of another chapter. I look back at them fondly, but it hurts knowing that they are past and the future looks a little more uncertain.

However, I am taking a little rest to start with me. That is the reason why I have not been so diligent in responding to messages this month or have taken time out of other commitments. This phase of hibernation is slowly drawing to coming to a close with this succinct message, but it has been nice to have some time away from most responsibilities. As time like this, as much as I hate the mundane, it feels good to have a tidy house, a decent schedule and time to relax. It is something that I have missed immensely, and felt guilty about for too long. No one should begrudge themselves a little time off.

With the last few months of a staple life to go, before things take a massive upheaval, I can honestly say I feel calm for the first time in a while. I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen, but having fought against the impossible last year and managed to achieve some of it, I can’t wait to see what is in store.

The thrill is in the chase right?

Race, Religion and Rationality

As seen in The Boar, University of Warwick’s student newspaper:

‘I am the prisoner of hope’ were the words spoken by Rev Reeves, founder of the Soul of Europe initiative, as he discussed how difficult it is to break down deep rooted barriers of faith and race in Eastern Europe. Listening to his missionary work in Bosnia and Serbia gave me deep reservations about the ability of human beings to respond to peace, when peace itself is considered a dirty word.

The discussion, run by the inimitable One World Week Forum team, was one of the most intellectually stimulating two hours of my time at Warwick. There was no room for rhetoric or dogma in the packed out Woods-Scawen Room of the Arts Centre, as each speaker eloquently gave a unique and intellectual take on the topic. One of my personal highlights was the presentation by Hull PhD student, Zhaleh Boyd, who discussed the ever present danger of slavery or trafficking in our society.

She commented: ‘The existence of slavery is dependent on the process of constructing otherness – the use of these differences allow certain minorities to have power over others.’ Her conclusion reflected the fact that race and religion were tools to differentiate individuals from their common values, and to focus on obscure, physical details in order to manipulate them. It was a frightening thought. The fact that someone’s name, skin colour, strength, place of birth, sex could be used to dehumanise them, and it is even more frightening that in some societies it is more commonplace than we think.

The most interesting aspect of the debate for me was the idea that religion and rationality could be used in the same sentence. It has been clear to me, especially living in a secular society, that those who have religious or spiritual beliefs are deemed to be irrational. It was refreshing to sit in a room with academics that could see the merit or religion in a world that seems to be constantly fighting it.

There is rationality in race and religion even if we choose to ignore it. Our very own chaplain, Rev Dr Alistair Kirk said: ‘The world is a religious place’ and we cannot continue to undermine this fact. We have to learn to embrace the fact that religion and race continue to do good in parts of the world that we have no contact with, with work that is funded on pittance and beans. Where only faith endures.

Even from the prosperity of One World Week itself, we can see that diversity is celebrated and promoted at a multicultural university. It is now time that our attitudes shifted towards maintaining these attitudes throughout the year. This is the legacy the co-ordinators hope to create.

Confessions of a Curious Vegetarian

As seen in The Boar (The University of Warwick’s student newspaper):

There has only been one ongoing debate in my kitchen. How can you be vegetarian? It seems that from the people I have spoken to, it is puzzling how I can walk past a pan of fried bacon without being tempted to promptly shovel it into my mouth with a huge smile on my face. Incredibly, it isn’t that difficult.

Considering I am of Indian descent, I can understand why people think that I am vegetarian because of religious reasons. And it is true that my whole family are vegetarian and we are influenced by Hinduism. The belief is that no animal should be harmed as one living thing has no right to harm another for pleasure. However, this is only a side issue for me…the real reasons are far more practical which I will discuss in a moment.

Before that, I’ll break down some myths about vegetarianism. First of all, we are not grass eaters. For those of you quizzically looking at your paper right now, I was asked this seriously by someone in my first week at Warwick… very awkward.

Secondly, we don’t only eat vegetables…we also gorge down on bread, milk and cheese (excessively in my case).

Thirdly, we don’t eat fish like some people commonly believe, those are actually pescetarians.

Fourthly, despite not eating meat, we get ready sources of protein from lentils, nuts and pulses which are actually better sources as they aid digestion.

Lastly, despite what my friends think, vegetarians don’t have less fun that omnivores. I just thought I’d point that out.

Now, joking aside, let’s get onto the real issue here. Recently, I watched a fly on the wall documentary called‘The Fried Chicken Shop’ (still available on 4oD) about a fast food outlet based in Clapham, London. There were some facts about the consumption of chicken that shocked me: “Chicken used to be a luxury. We used to eat the equivalent of just one a year. Now we slaughter 2.5 million a day.

We eat it more than any other meat and it has changed our high streets. It’s the front line and bread line of Britain” The average price of a piece of chicken was no more than £2, which accounting for profit margins, franchise and distribution costs means that the unit cost could be as little as 50p. This is the cheapest that meat has ever been, how is it possible to get it down to this price?

Well, it isn’t pretty. A prior warning before I reveal this, the link I am going to give you is not for the squeamish. If you watch “Possibly the Most Eye Opening 6 Minutes Ever on Film” (the video above) you will be able to see the impact of the cheap meat market.

I first watched it I was disturbed by the fact that you could see chickens literally being sucked up by a machine before being slaughtered. It would anyone feel sick.

The frightening truth is that it just isn’t sustainable for us to be consuming meat in this way. If we are happy to buy this cheap meat, now knowing where it has come from, can we really say that we are enjoying it? Does it not taste a little bitter? Some would now argue that eating organic and free range produce would combat this problem, but the truth is that our collective appetite seems to be insatiable.

All around the world, arable land for crops is being given up to raise livestock, which is actually reducing the absolute amount of food in weight that can be taken from the same surface area of land. It means that by continuing to pursue meaty motives, we are actually worsening the problem and reducing the efficiency of the production of other food.

Let me be clear, I am not expecting you to drop your turkey sandwiches and devote your life to munching cucumbers. But I do want you to think about the implications of what you might be putting in your mouth and the story of how it got onto your plate. Just by refusing to eat cheap meat, or by having a veggie day of the week, you can start to make a serious dent in this issue.