Cultural Appropriation – My Two-pennies Worth!

 

52a922b0-a8d9-0133-b344-0e438b3b98d1.pngA lot has been written on this subject recently, both in the world of fellow intercultural-relationship bloggers and in the mainstream media. The whole debate has on more than a few occasions ruffled my feathers. There seems to be an increasing number of condescending and negative anti-cultural appropriation articles out there (amongst some quite valid ones) so I thought I would do my bit to re-dress the balance and put my point of view out there. As usual there is a comprehensive list of links to other articles and blogs at the end.

So, cultural appropriation, what is it? Dictionary definition says:

Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture.”

So why is it such a touchy subject? Wikipedia says:

“Cultural appropriation is seen by some as controversial, notably when elements of a minority culture are used by members of the cultural majority; this is seen as wrongfully oppressing the minority culture or stripping it of its group identity and intellectual property rights… According to authors in the field, cultural (mis)appropriation differs from acculturation or assimilation in that the “appropriation” or “misappropriation” refers to the adoption of these cultural elements in a colonial manner: elements are copied from a minority culture by members of the dominant culture, and these elements are used outside of their original cultural context.”

Well thanks for clearing that up Wikipedia. I could carry on in a very academic discourse now about the “exotic” and the “other” and how neither of them are particularly wholesome terms when you are at the receiving end. I will state from the very beginning that I do not support cultural (mis)appropriation when it is done with bad intent and despite not being the biggest fan of stringent political correctness, when it is done in an uneducated and disrespectful way that causes offence or hardship to the culture in question. However, this article is not an essay – I want to share with you my thoughts on why it is not always a bad thing – or at least that certain acts need to be re-termed as per wikipedia above suggests.

So why am I in such a tizz about it all? Well there have sprung up actual hate groups – internet trolls who set out to harass and humiliate the ever growing number of white women in relationships with Indian men (I’m sure there are equivalents for other nationalities/races also but I’m going to talk about the one relevant to me). I find this bizarre and shocking. I’ve also read a great deal of articles also with subjects covering everything from white people shouldn’t be allowed to practice yoga or wear bindis to horrified reactions to various pop star’s costume/ dance move / music video locations choices. A lot of these are a little over zealous in their condemnation of the act.

I like to think that we have moved on somewhat from the hate and prejudice of the colonial and apartheid eras and that the world is slowly embracing this concept of a ‘global village’ where we are all in it together and equal. OK so we are not quite ready for world peace just yet and intolerance is rife but on the whole, we are living in increasingly progressive times. Due to the internet and wider accessibility of air travel, cultures are mixing now more than ever with more bridges being built than burnt. I am ever the optimist.

More and more as we occupy the same geographical spaces, we are naturally mixing our cultures together – our music, art, fashion, marriage, religion. It’s a natural and I would argue healthy process. It is certainly an unavoidable one – so why are some people so determined to fight against it? Minority cultures are not being lost – if anything they are spreading and receiving new acceptance, recognition and appreciation and without some degree of cultural appropriation this would not be possible.

In this day and age it is so important that we learn about and try to understand each other’s cultures – ignorance breeds fear and contempt and therefore oppression. When the unknown becomes known it is less threatening. Popular culture and imagery is a very effective way of spreading ideas and concepts – even though often they may be in a very base and stereotypical form. Children learn through role play and make believe – why can’t we allow a degree of that in adulthood and in popular culture and accept the innocence of it? If we look at the bigger picture and the greater good, global society as a whole is making an effort to understand each other. In this organic process there is bound to be a few misguided (mis)appropriations and reactions to them, but this is all part of the natural process of communicating and understanding each other better. A constructive critique is a much more positive way to approach public acts of cultural (mis)appropriation as well as a degree of tolerance and maybe a few ‘ten points for effort’ pats on the back where it has been done, perhaps badly, but with the best of intentions.

Anyway moving back to how this affects me personally, when you are in an intercultural relationship you are in love first and foremost. You don’t consider that you are white and your culture is ‘dominant’ over your partner’s Indian culture – it doesn’t even enter your brain. If you happen to live in India you feel very much the opposite on occasion as this is what is going on in your daily life – you are the foreigner and the minority. You consider that this is the person you love and both of your culture’s are of equal importance. You participate in each other’s cultures. You respect each other’s families by adopting each other’s customs. You learn each other’s languages. You celebrate each other’s festivals. You are a unit – two into one – and when you raise a child together it becomes even more so as that child has a right to know both cultures.

When I hear of these hate groups protesting at a white woman having a Hindu or Sikh wedding ceremony or wearing a saree or bindi and accusing her of appropriation I think this is hugely unfair. It’s not appropriation – it is the unifying of cultures and done in a very respectful way. Then you see the counter arguments “well you Desi girls wear Western clothes – why is that OK but me in a saree not?” Then you see the argument back “well your culture is dominant and mine is not so that is OK!” I find the whole thing totally ridiculous and pointless. Firstly, why should I made to feel guilty that I happen to be born white and perceived to have more advantages to those born brown or black or whatever – what good will that do for the situation? I’m over the colonial hangover and couldn’t care less what colour someone is and will go out of my way to stand up against discrimination and injustice. How should something out of my control like my genetics equate to not being allowed to wear an item of clothing? Reality check ladies! It just does not matter. It’s a piece of cloth. Inside our clothes and skin we are all the same.  Everyone, no matter what colour they are needs to get over what colour they are and only then can we have true equality and resign discrimination to the vaults of history where it belongs.

We have to move with the times and fashion, art, music all now use elements of different cultures together because they are aesthetically beautiful and now accessible to all in the modern age. I wear Indian clothes sometimes because I think they are beautiful, for the same reasons I love the cut of Chinese dresses – so elegant, and I adore the colourful fabric of my Moroccan skirt. Me and my Indian partner both love DJ Shadow’s ‘Bombay The Hard Way’ album – the Bollywood samples sound great with hip-hop beats and electro sounds. I have some stunning artwork from Thailand hanging on my wall. Many would argue that this is appropriation – but is any of it negative or disrespectful or destructive in any way?

To suggest that only Black people should be allowed to listen to Black music as it is ‘theirs’ or only born Hindus should be allowed to pray to Ganesh and practice yoga because it is ‘theirs’ or no artist should be allowed to explore working using an ancient technique from tribal South America because it is ‘theirs’- is an unhealthy attitude to take. None of these acts are done with the motive of oppression nor do they result in it. To restrict the freedom to be able to explore, experience first-hand and participate in each other’s cultures will only encourage division and intolerance. If we can get out of the mind set of viewing White, Western culture as dominant and consider everyone to be equal and start treating each other as such – resigning the past to the past and moving on together towards an ideal future, then maybe we can manifest a better reality- one where we have a vibrant and diverse global culture.

 

Further Reading

Just a note – I’m not endorsing any of the views here – just giving some different opinions and resources.

https://onecuppachaiblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/02/am-i-guilty-of-cultural-appropriation/

A Personal Reflection on Being Multicultural

Who is Allowed to Wear a Bindi?

Talking About Cultural Appropriation in Fashion

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=cultural+appropriation

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/cultural-appropriation/

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/05/cultural-appropriation-in-fashion-stop-talking-about-it/370826/

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/10/the-dos-and-donts-of-cultural-appropriation/411292/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/08/21/to-the-new-culture-cops-everything-is-appropriation/

http://www.uua.org/multiculturalism/introduction/misappropriation

http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/cultural-appropriation-wrong/

Beyonce as a Bollywood Star Is Not Cultural Appropriation

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/these-are-the-scariest-examples-of-cultural-appropriation-in-this-years-halloween-costumes-a6715376.html

 

 

 

 

Posted in cultural appropriation, Culture, Desi, Ex Pat, expat, Hinduism, India, intercultural relationships, Intolerance, racism, Religion, spirituality, Tradition | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

A New Kidney for Filu – Reunited! an update

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Regular readers of my blog will know of my campaign to help my friend Filu get a new kidney. If you haven’t heard about it you can read more here:

https://anenglishwomaninmumbai.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/a-new-kidney-for-my-friend-in-india/

https://anenglishwomaninmumbai.wordpress.com/2015/11/12/a-new-kidney-for-my-friend-in-india-happy-update/

Towards the end of last year Filu finally found a matching donor after many years of waiting and painful dialysis and had her operation. I went to visit her at the end of last year to see how she is getting on and give her the remainder of the funds raised.

I opted against my original idea of the biggest bunch of flowers ever as she is under strict instructions from the doctor- everything has to be sterile and Filu has to wear a mask and limit her interactions with the outside world for several months to avoid infection while her body heals. Luckily she has her mother (pictured far left) taking care of her along with her beautiful daughter.

The following week after my visit Filu had another small operation and may have several more follow ups post surgery. She is on a huge cocktail of different pills and will have to take medicine for the rest of her life so her body doesn’t reject her kidney. However she was full of positive spirit and determination as always and we were very happy to be reunited (and our daughters also!) She told me how strange and wonderful it feels to experience her new kidney beginning to work and how she thanks God (she is Catholic) for giving her a new chance in life. I am once again in awe of her courage and humility and thankful to all the people who helped her.

I am keeping my campaign running and will continue to help as much as I can to raise funds to pay for her medication, especially in these months where she is unable to work doing her job teaching children. I am also seeking details for any charities and NGOs who may be able to help with the long term costs of her medication. Please take a look at my Fundrazr campaign and if you are unable to donate you can always help by sharing on social media or reblogging. Thanks!

https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/8xxs3/ab/d3vZef

 

Posted in friends, fundrazr, good news, happy news, Health, India, medical aid, Mumbai, organ donor, organ transplant, Uncategorized, Women | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

New Year’s Resolutions

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Happy new year dear readers! In a bid to make me actually stick to them, I would like to share with you all my new year’s resolutions….

  1. Move back to India – after a blissful month there at the end of last year spent with my beautiful daughter, my wonderful partner and his family, my final decision has been made in the India vs. UK where to live debate. All we have to work out now is new visa, new house, new business, new job, new school and a whole load of money to pay for it all….
  2. Become vegetarian (again) – I used to be a vegetarian, in fact a vegan. It was a life choice based very much on strong principles and morals and the last few years I have been a self proclaimed hypocrite, eating meat like it was going out of business! Now I return to a life of better karma, better health and hopefully better purse contents too. Might eat the odd fish though…..
  3. Blog more – writing is indeed good for the soul! Writing more will help me to be a happier person plus there are a lot of things I feel strongly about that I would like to share and write about and and maybe even change a few minds and make the world a better place.
  4. Write a cookery book – not going to give anything away about the theme but sure you can all guess!
  5. Make more music / sound art – I did two degrees in this but since having my daughter I’ve not written any music. Music composition, like writing is also good for the soul and I’m determined to have a soul improving year! You can hear some of my old compositions here: https://soundcloud.com/misskotton
  6. Be a better mother – spend more time with my daughter and have more patience. I asked my own mother what she would have done differently bringing me up and having more patience was her wish also. Sadly my level of patience seems to be inverse to the amount of time I spend with my child – ask any parent at the end of the holidays before their kids go back to school if they feel the same and they may well sympathise!
  7. Be a better girlfriend/wife – I have the most amazing, inspiring and supportive partner. I hope to marry him and I want to give him back every ounce of the strength and love that he gives me. He makes me want to be a better person, constantly challenges me and is always there for me. My daughter adores him as well and he is the best Pa a little girl could wish for. My biggest wish for 2016 is that we can all be together in the same country.
  8. Win the lottery
  9. Win the lottery twice – so I can give away all the winnings to charity but not be broke as I already won it before.
  10. Volunteer to help the children in the refugee camp in Calais – I have many friends doing wonderful things to help there – here are some links from friend’s projects to check out if you want to add helping refugee kids to your list:

http://art4warkids.com

https://www.youcaring.com/refugee-community-kitchen-474904

https://www.facebook.com/groups/RefugeeCommunityKitchen/

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A New Kidney for my Friend in India -HAPPY UPDATE!

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It has been 32 weeks since I started my fundraising campaign to help my friend in India get a new kidney. After on operation that could not happen due to a problem with her back and a lot of praying and waiting, yesterday Filu had her operation. It was a very long ten hours but thankfully it was a success and she now has a new kidney!

You can read her story and view details of my campaign in my original post here:

https://anenglishwomaninmumbai.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/a-new-kidney-for-my-friend-in-india/

She is still unconscious – her sister messaged me this morning and said she will be in ICU for 3-4 days. I hope to go and visit her next week with my daughter or whenever they allow visitors. Please keep your thoughts and prayers with her and her family for a fast recovery.

I would like to extend a huge thanks to everyone who donated and supported this campaign and helped to make this possible. I am still collecting donations towards the post-operation medicine and a great big bunch of flowers which I hope to deliver to her when I visit so please share this update and if you can then any last donations will of course be appreciated!

Please click on the link below to get to the fundrazr campaign where you can still donate and see how much we have raised so far.

http://fnd.us/c/8xxs3/sh/d3vZef

Posted in friends, fundraising, fundrazr, good news, happy news, India, medical aid, Mumbai, organ donor, organ transplant | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lessons I learnt from Durga

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This is the auspicious time of Navaratri so happy Maha Navaratri to you all!

This nine day festival was the first I celebrated when I lived in Mumbai, joining my neighbours for nine nights of dancing and celebration in honour of the goddess Durga. On the eighth day Ashtami my daughter had the honour of being invited to my neighbour’s house to represent one of the nine forms of the mother goddess – kanjak devis and take part in a puja which involved being treated as the goddess herself. Much to her bemusement and delight they washed her feet, fed her the most delicious puri, halwa and chana and given a red chunni scarf and some pocket money (which was duly spent on sweets!)

Recently I have been having a tough time of it and more than ever am feeling the need to welcome the mother goddess into my life and realise her within myself. I’ve not chosen to fast, but alongside my partner have given up alcohol and am generally participating in the idea of purification and reflection of oneself.

The festival has different rituals associated with it in different areas of India but all have the same sentiment – the triumph of good over evil, the appreciation of fertility and creative, feminine energy as a force to accomplish that and the importance of learning (in some states this is when children write their first alphabet or begin tutoring). The way in which I have chosen to interpret this festival is to meditate and learn about myself and better ways of thinking positively and to how appreciate myself and gain much needed confidence in order to have the strength to nurture and care for the loved ones in my life – my partner, daughter, our families and my friends.

Here, in order, are the nine forms of the goddess and my reflections on each:

Shailaputri/Parvati

She is the wife of Shiva and mother nature. She is the daughter of the mountain and the rock foundation or root of spirituality. Worshiped on the first day she represents to me the beginning of my spiritual journey and the importance of being grounded and to understand that each and every one of us are a part of nature. In every reincarnation she marries Shiva. From a romantic angle she makes me think of my partner and how the feminine energy unites with the masculine and how this is part of becoming spiritually whole. This also has the meaning of hope that every person can obtain enlightenment.

Bharmacharini

This form of the goddess is to do with penance. By submitting herself to suffer every torment and overcoming them she was rewarded by acceptance as wife to Shiva. While this may annoy feminists it can be interpreted in a different way and this is it’s meaning to me (see my previous article on Vat Savitri here). On a very personal level it means that I cannot progress in my relationship or be a good wife to my husband until I have found the strength within myself to overcome all my demons, both physical and mental. Only I can do this and it is not a gift any man can give to me.

Chandraghanta

She is the goddess form of grave and bravery. She defeats demons and persuades lord Shiva to change his form to something much nicer to save her mother. For me she represents the fearless warrior that is inside each one of us that can be unleashed to save the ones we care for. As a mother her spirit is strong and she represents the protective feelings I have for my partner and my family. She teaches that to be this triumphant warrior one must remain serene and calm and not lose our grace in anger.

Kushmanda

She is known as the cosmic egg from which the universe was created. I love the fact that the Hindu creation story has a female creator. Though creation is a loose term as everything, both masculine and feminine are part of her. Her story reminds me that I am a part of something great – the universe and that it is all one thing and many things at the same time. To be whole you need to accept all of it – positive and negative, masculine and feminine as part of the same cosmic egg. Plus I love the phrase cosmic egg.

Skandamata

This goddess took an adopted son and he defeated an evil demon and saved the world. She is about selfless love. As an adopted person this story is a dear one to my heart. She teaches me to love selflessly and not for personal gain and in return good karma will be attained. One day I hope to adopt a child and return the gift that was given to me.

Katyayani

I’m not sure how much I understand this form of the goddess – I know she is known as the third eye goddess and her legend includes details where she slays a king who thinks he can win her love through fighting. I have also hear that if you fast in her honour you will get the husband you wish to obtain unless that happens to be Krishna, in which case he will steal your clothes while you are bathing.

Kaalratri

She is the most violent form of the goddess – the destroyer. However what she destroys are negative things like demons and fear. She teaches me to behave the same with my negative emotions and remove all negative energy from my life.

Mahagauri

Another goddess form I do not entirely understand. She is to do with Parvati having fair and dark complexions and fairness being the desired one. Explains a bit about the obsession in India with having fair skin (goes way back before the British ever colonised India). All a bit dubious to me. I think the reading I take out of her story is that Lord Shiva washed away all of the dirt and suffering from Parvati in the river Ganga. If I can strive towards enlightenment then I can look forward to the same and become spiritually ‘fair’.

Siddhidatri

She is the giver of supernatural power and indeed gave to Lord Shiva. When I think of this I think back to Shailaputri – the root and mother nature. Supernatural power and divine knowledge can be attained by all of us as it is a part of all of us as we all come from mother nature. For some reason this revelation makes me very happy and makes my everyday problems disappear into insignificance.

Posted in Durga, Durga Puja, Feminism, Goddess, Hindu, Hinduism, India, Navaratri, Religion, spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sisterhood of the World!

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Some time ago now I was lucky enough to be nominated for the sisterhood of the world blogger award by the wonderful Carissa Hickling aka Everyday Asia aka Whisky Lady. Thank you very much Carissa and hope you are doing good!

How it works:

I answer questions from Carissa an in turn nominate some more of my fellow blogger sisters and ask them some questions. So here goes……

  1. What are your favourite rainy day activity(ies)?

I like to cook with my daughter – we make sweet dishes like fairy cakes and gulab jamen and fight over who gets to lick the spoon. We then sit in a sugar daze watching equally sugary kids films which usually involve a princess and if I’m a really lucky mama, disney singing. At this point I usually crack out the brandy and add it liberally to my hot chocolate!

2.  If you had to transmogrify into an animal – which and why?

Maybe a bear as they get to sleep all winter – or a migratory bird- anything that gets to escape the cold of England!

3.   What TV shows or films currently keep you amused or engaged?

Well there is the weather which like a true brit I watch religiously every morning! It has everything; suspense, heartbreak, excitement (often followed by disappointment) and is often the talking subject for the rest of the day.

Other than that, I’m not a big watcher of television but I do love downloading and collecting science fiction B movies, obscure eastern european cinema and japanese animee.

My daughter has given me a wonderful excuse to dig out old favourite kids shows like Ulysses 31 and The Mysterious Cities of Gold. I’m a massive kid so have no shame in admitting my love of animation and fantasy films like The Never Ending Story.

4.   What makes you howl in frustration?

Read any of my blogs on immigration! Being separated from the man I love in different countries is my worst personal frustration. Tory politicians and UK weather once again crop up in my room 101 list.

5.   And what makes you jump up and dance for joy?

My daughter is undoubtedly the most joyful thing in my life. There is no better way to start the day than singing and dancing all the way to school with her in the car. This produces some rather bemused stares from other drivers. She is the most fun person I know, my daughter, and seeing her happy is my reason for being.

Good red wine and good company feature also feature fairly highly on the list and world peace and stuff.

6.   What were you up to 10 years ago?

Travelling round Europe in big trucks filled with soundsystems going to massive week long raves and stopping everywhere beautiful and interesting in-between. Hot springs and historical cathedrals – wild forests and dried river beds through to German lakeside camp sites filled with teenage boys in speedos. We saw it all and made memories to last a life time. Travelling in convoy in a large group of people from all over the world all for the love of music.

7.   In a perfect world, where will you be and what will you be doing 10 years from now?

I would be happily married with a couple more kids, living somewhere hot doing something creative and getting paid well for it. Summers we would cruise around Europe in our dutch barge, winters would be spent on tropical beaches in Asia and Africa. I will take my children to every country in the world and educate them to make a difference and make the world a better place. Also to make some money so they can buy me a villa and a yacht.

8.   What’s the worst play / live performance you have ever seen? (as in shudder!)

I get to see a lot of cringeworthy miming in my job working in events – if I was to reveal which artists were doing it I would get into a fair degree of trouble though!

9.   What CD is in your player / song on your iPod / streaming…  you get it!

‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ by Billie Holiday

10.   What is the most useless thing you packed and never ever actually used when traveling or shifting to another place?

Shoes with heels. Why do I even own any let alone think I will ever wear them?!!

So now for my nominations……

Expat Lingo – Often very funny stories from a serial ex-pat with five countries under her belt!

Foreign Indian Wife – Previously My Hindi Heart – intercultural love, struggles and successes living abroad. Often very moving and always a good read.

With Love From Larissa – Very sweet blog – Swiss girl, Indian boy, lots of travels, love and adventures! Once her blog made me actually cry….

Nomadic Chica – Colourful travel stories from a chica from Chile travelling the world one step at a time!

English Wife Indian Life – Lauren’s blog is fantastic and engaging – another intercultural love story and a very honest account of living ex-pat life as an Indian wife. She has a great love for India and her husband and it’s just lovely to share her journey!

Supermum and other Disguises – Not a travel or ex-pat blog as such but involves a fair amount of travel and tips on parenthood from a lady who has certainly travelled a great deal!

One Cuppa Chai – A blog by the wonderful Heather Saville-Gupta, author of ‘Becoming Mrs Kumar’ about her reverse culture shock experiences returning to UK from India.

And my questions…..

  1. Where is the most special, favourite place to you in the world and why? I’m talking sentimental, gooey happy stuff here!
  2. Many of us on here are in intercultural relationships and write a great deal about them and the subject of love in general. I want to know about your first schoolgirl love/crush/ kiss? And do you know what became of that person?
  3. What are your desert island discs? (5 records that you would take to your desert island if you could only ever listen to these five tracks and nothing else ever again?)
  4. What is the funniest story you can think of that involves any part of your body?
  5. How did you meet your partner? If you’ve not met him yet tell us about your perfect man?
  6. If you could bump off three of the world’s politicians which three and why? (They don’t have to die a painful death as such, just be permanently removed from any kind of seat of power.) If you don’t like politics you can choose three celebs.
  7. Why do you write? (Big deep question that one!)
  8. Give us your best home cooking comfort food delicious recipe!
  9. Give us a link to the funniest internet video you have seen this year..
  10. If you could have three wishes what would they be?

So what happens next? Well the lovely ladies I have nominated write a post telling the world I have nominated them for this auspicious award. Answer my questions and nominate some more lovely ladies and ask their own questions!

If I have nominated you make sure you send me a link to your post – have fun sisters of the world!

Posted in blog, Ex Pat, expat, India, travel, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Immigration heartache pt 3 – Dead children

I had been avoiding seeing THE PICTURE of the dead toddler washed up on the beach but then it came on the news last week. My heart broke along with the rest of the world and I burst into floods of angry tears.

That week it was unavoidable as it seemed to be plastered across every form of social media to the outrage of many people. Personally if my daughter and I died fleeing a war torn country I would hope from the grave that everyone in the world would see the horror of what we had gone through and would sit up and notice and do something about it. I would want the world to reel at the image of our reality and mourn at the loss of life and the loss of humanity that caused it. While I can’t bear to look at it I don’t object it being shared for everyone to see and I hope it keeps politicians up all night.

That night I hugged my daughter tight and prayed for this nightmare to end for these people. If you have read my blog before you will know about my own immigration heartache but this SERIOUSLY PUTS STUFF INTO PERSPECTIVE. My experience of racism within bureaucracy is most certainly at the soft end of the spectrum compared to what these refugees are now experiencing. World attitudes need to change and everyone can play their part and make a difference.

It’s great that some countries are making an effort and even our own useless government here in the UK has been forced to react to the massive call for action. Clearly more needs to be done and not just to solve the immediate crisis but also the root of the problem – war and hate fuelled by greed, profit and masquerading as religion.

Towards the end of the week I found myself chatting to a nurse while waiting for a hospital appointment and overhearing some conversations in the waiting room. I was shocked and saddened to hear that there are people who don’t want to help the refugees and feel threatened by them taking homes and benefits here in the UK. I explained that these people who have had the resilience to cross miles to start a new life are looking to rebuild their lives. The will be more than willing to work, they will seek education and they will want to be accepted into and become a part of whatever alien society they find themselves settled in. In the long run this enthusiastic and optimistic workforce can only contribute to society and the economy – a fact that Germany has been quick to recognise. There is all this to consider let alone the fact that should the shoe be on the other foot how would you feel if you were fleeing for your life with your children and people who were better off than you refused to help? To help is the decent and human reaction.

The media has a lot to answer for and will be pivotal in how we can combat the long term challenges now. We need to combat racism, xenophobia and fear. We need to ensure that the recent refugee crisis doesn’t impact on already draconian immigration rules, worsening the situation for families like mine. We need to disprove attitudes that we don’t have enough space when there are so many empty properties including whole villages (see link below).

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/23/europe-11m-empty-properties-enough-house-homeless-continent-twice

Social media can make a real difference when mainstream media fails.

I will leave you with a more positive picture of some LIVE refugee children and their message of peace and hope for the world.

Below are some links to some things that you can do to make a difference as well as resources for refugees and I will be posting more as I come across them on my FB page – please feel free to add to the list:

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Refugees Welcome Here – National Day Of Action

https://www.facebook.com/helpinghandsofrhodes?hc_location=ufi

https://www.facebook.com/groups/calaismigrantssolidarity/

https://www.facebook.com/RefugeehelpfromWales

http://www.ecre.org

http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk

http://www.star-network.org.uk

https://womensrefugeecommission.org

http://www.refugeewomen.co.uk

http://www.refugee-action.org.uk

http://migrantforum.org.uk

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Refugee-support-Calais-and-Kobane-In-association-with-Red-London/1021781441199852?fref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1487942441500475/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Syria-Refugees/311540539041862?fref=ts

Posted in asylum, calais migrants, child welfare, equality, immigration, migrants, racism, refugee, refugee crisis, syria, uk immigration, xenophobia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Immigration Heartache Part 2

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I’m really fed up. This post isn’t even about immigration per se but about my boyfriend coming to visit for a holiday.

It seems that Indians are guilty until proven innocent if they want to come to the UK for personal or business reasons (general visit visa) and it’s just damn well unfair!

Recently I asked on a couple of web forums for people with oversees partners/spouses what kind of documents are required for such a visa, explaining that my partner had x amount in bank account, a letter from myself explaining purpose of visit (i.e. visit very unhappy girlfriend who hasn’t seen him for nearly six months) and that I will pay for his costs while he is here, a letter from my parents stating the same and that they are inviting him here so they can meet their future son-in-law (fair enough you would think?) and in addition a letter from a company who are interested in maybe working with him in the distant future should he marry me and move here.

Apparently we should not mention our relationship in case they decide that he will not come back to India because he will marry me illegally and stay here illegally. Apparently we should not mention any business meetings as obviously that means he intends to stay here illegally and work here illegally (despite the fact that would be pretty damn stupid as he is telling them which company would be in theory employing him illegally!)

Are the authorities a) thinking we are really stupid to try any of those things, b) super paranoid, or c) just plain racist! It makes me really angry that we have been advised not to tell the truth about a perfectly legitimate trip!

Apparently the main thing we need to prove is that he has a good reason to go back to India rather than why he is coming to the UK – stuff like land ownership (he has none like most people our age who are not yet on the property ladder) and letters from employers stating they have given him time off and he has a job to come back to (he works in film and works largely on short-term contracts). Surely the fact that we are good honest, hard working, law abiding citizens should be enough!

When (if) we get married and apply for a spouse visa we will supply all the correct documents then also. I have a good job and earn enough and we have pages of photos and messages to prove our relationship is genuine. I expect that visa to be hard to get as we all know about sham marriages etc but a TOURIST VISA!!! Really? Should it be so hard?

Asking for advice from others in the same situation has dragged up all sorts of heartbreaking stories – daughter’s separated from their mothers as they have left university and can’t prove they have jobs to go back to, elderly relatives (countless ones) who are not allowed to visit their grandchildren not to mention all the husbands, wives and lovers who’s hearts have been broken.

Immigration is such a controversial subject at the moment with immigrants being demonised in the press and by evil David Cameron and his gang. Rightly or wrongly immigration to the UK is getting harder and definitely wrongly this is splitting families up. However, being this draconian about allowing citizens of certain countries to make trips to the UK for family visits, leisure or business is surely immoral?

I have already lost one relationship due to immigration rules and I’m determined not to let this happen again. So will my love make it to the UK? Watch this space……

Here is a related post that contains some useful links:

immigration heartache part-1

Posted in immigration, immigration law, India, intercultural relationships, long distance relationships, Love, Marriage, Romance, travel, uk immigration, uk tourism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Love in The Electronic Age

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So as you may have gathered from my last post, I am in love, in a serious and long-distance intercultural relationship. I am clearly mad after my last attempt to try this. However, we can’t choose when or whom with we fall in love – I’ve always chosen to follow my heart not my head and go with the flow!

After I moved back to England and consequently split up with my (Indian) fiancee, I was pretty happy revelling in my independence and new-found self-confidence which came with my new job and once again being surrounded by my friends and family. It was summer in London and some days I even liked the weather! A friend I had met in India had stayed in touch via whatsapp and had been messaging me to see how I was. Our exchanges were witty and addictive and very fast turned into flirting. The flirting turned into romance and we fell in love through exchanges of words – electronic love letters. He told me to read “Dear Liar” by George Bernard Shaw which I did – by the end of the book I was head over heels with this intelligent and funny man – shame he was on the other side of the world!

How we came to meet was by an electronic case of mistaken identity – he thought I was an ex-pat girl he had met at a party and I thought he was a guy I worked with as had the same name and accepted his Facebook friend request. Then we realised we didn’t know each other at all! We did meet up in real life however to discuss work – he worked in film and TV and me in events and I was considering a change of industry. This was more than a year prior to any kind of romantic entanglement – not for want of him trying (I was at the time a taken woman!) Since succumbing to his advances we have physically met when I have been in India and travelled to Sri-Lanka together but our relationship has been largely online and by phone, with us communicating several times daily.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how strong our bond is considering it is largely non-physical and how in the long-term this getting to know each other without a big cloud of hormones floating about clouding your judgement may be the way forward for a long-lasting partnership.

It is a common thing these days to fall in love over the net, either through a dating site or social media. It has lost all the ‘geek’ stigma it used to have and I think that it has the potential to enable us to match ourselves more effectively through common interests and  attitudes (if you stay away from apps like tinder which focus on appearance!) I would be interested to hear your stories and views of internet love. Also your coping mechanisms for long distance relationships that begin via the internet as this is currently the biggest hurdle my relationship has to cross – while witty banter and conversation (along with lots of silly selfies) is great there is something to be said for hugs after a hard day and physical companionship!

Posted in Ex Pat, expat, India, intercultural relationships, internet dating, Love, Romance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Proud Houseboat Owner!

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Today I became the owner of a lovely Dutch barge houseboat. I’ve been living on her for several months before the sale went through so the feeling that I ACTUALLY own her hasn’t quite sunk in yet. The past few weeks leading up to the sale have been a roller coaster ride of a whole load of mixed emotions; the decision to buy the boat finally sealing my decision to stay in the UK and not run away back to India where a large chunk of my heart still resides- at least for the next few years while I pay off the MASSIVE debt I am now in!

Never being one for convention or staying still on one place, I have made my home in lots of different and sometimes strange places in various countries – an old church, several caravans, a printing factory, a West London mansion’s walk in wardrobe, a vintage horsebox, a hammock on a beach in Goa, a car showroom, a clothes factory, a treehouse….. the list goes on! Back in my youth I chose to squat empty properties rather that claim benefits and live in overpriced rented accommodation that I couldn’t afford. Landlords often gave us a license to stay and be caretakers of their empty properties to keep out junkies and prevent vandalism. Recently the UK government changed the squatting laws (which were originally made to help soldiers who had returned from the war to find their homes bombed) in a stupid and unfair decision which has caused homelessness and hardship and caused an increase in benefit claimants. There are still hundreds of thousands of empty properties which is a travesty and a shameful waste.

The housing crisis in London and across the UK due to rising rents by greedy landlords and estate agents is very real. I chose to live on a boat as an alternative to the mainstream housing solution for many reasons (sustainable and environmental living, community, ability to travel with my home and have adventures, location of mooring to my work and daughter’s school, other personal reasons) with financial ones playing a small part only. However, there has been a lot of press about people seeking houseboats as a financial solution to expensive housing especially now squatting has been outlawed. This in turn has brought more people to the waters and caused a crisis in itself resulting in overcrowding and strain on some facilities. It has also led to a lot of disappointment when these new boaters realise the hard work and expense involved in keeping afloat – it is not quite the romantic ‘free’ or cheap way of life that they expected! I have put some links to more articles on squatting and houseboat life at the end of this article if you want to find out more.

Anyway, I’m a sucker for hard work, and hard work is what I have to look forward to for the next few months (maybe years!) renovating my boat making it into our family home. All I need now to complete it is for my Indian partner and love of my life to come to the UK and find a good job here. It’s an exciting project and a big life event as I am finally putting down some roots – thankfully for me only into water so I can still move if the fancy takes me!

Articles on houseboat living

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/23/london-houseboat-slum-rents-barge

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/27/business/international/in-london-houseboats-offer-alternative-to-high-rent-but-new-problems-emerge.html?_r=0

http://www.independent.co.uk/property/house-and-home/property/taking-the-plunge-on-houseboat-living-8990658.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-3086131/The-ultimate-houseboat-Blue-cottage-complete-wisteria-apple-tree-garden-floats-London-s-River-Thames.html

http://www.contemporist.com/2015/06/15/maa-architects-design-a-houseboat-in-londons-river-thames/

http://metro.co.uk/2015/04/29/theres-only-43-affordable-homes-including-houseboats-left-in-london-says-charity-5172522/

http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/entertainment/articles/2015-07/14/houseboat-buying-guide-first-time-buyer

https://nbtalondon.wordpress.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZHHjsaSGqU

http://www.standard.co.uk/homesandproperty/living-on-a-houseboat-in-london-a-romantic-lifestyle-with-some-additional-costs-a123116.html

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/10000-people-live-londons-waterways-180950491/?no-ist

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10320666

http://www.completelylondon.co.uk/guest-blog-houseboat/

http://internationalliving.com/2012/08/living-on-a-houseboat-in-london/

http://www.oxfordtimes.co.uk/news/13582611.display/?utm_content=buffer85c5e&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jul/29/ten-years-living-on-a-boat-its-a-fun-life-im-not-a-watery-hobo

Articles on Squatting

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squatting

http://inthesetimes.com/article/15231/a_brief_history_of_squatting

https://aaron.resist.ca/history-of-squatting-in-the-uk

http://tlio.org.uk/government-anti-squatting-law/

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/dec/03/squatters-criminalised-not-home-stealers

Posted in alternative living, boating, houseboats, housing, intercultural relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments