Tick Tock: Time to Change

(c) Virgin Unite & Ashoka UK

(c) Virgin Unite & Ashoka UK

There’s been a lot of changes both for myself and Avid Scribbler as a blog. It all began a month ago when I received a rejection from a company I really really wanted to work for. It was quite hard to stomach because I’d set my heart on it. Usually I would have just told myself: “It’s ok Chayya, you did your best” but for some reason I decided that I wouldn’t take no for an answer. After a few emails stating my case, I now find myself in the position of blogging for one of the UK’s biggest companies and en route to a new venture.

From a young age, I’ve refused to give up and have always done whatever I can to be the best, this ranged from the trivial such as being the first to finish breakfast to getting As at school. When I was younger I used to refer to this streak as my Inner Lion – and it used to really drive me (believe me: there are MANY entertaining tales from my childhood to be told).

For the past two years, it felt like my inner lion had curled up into a little ball and  lost its luscious mane. However, things got really bad following the death of my great-uncle earlier this year and a steady flow of job rejections didn’t help. I unusually went in myself, became very quiet, thoughtful and disinterested in life. Gradually I came to terms with things, began to build myself up, eased myself into the swing of things and eventually got my fire and confidence back.

When you change, the world around you changes.

Last week (October 16) I attended an event called “Makers of More” in Bethnal Green. It’s easily been one of the highlights of my life so far. You can read my article on the event here. All of the speakers were incredible, but one particularly stood out for me.

Her name is Pamela Chng and she’s the founder of Bettr Barista in Singapore. She spoke about fear and how it had driven her as a social entrepreneur. Chng’s speech itself had a physical influence; when she spoke the audience was shrouded in darkness. The feelings of fear that she spoke about were ones that I had (and have) felt for many years and it was very emotional for me to hear a successful business woman say them aloud. What Chng said has stayed with me and inspired me, so much so, that I’ve shared the quote of the night:

We often have to imagine how to get beyond your fears to make the impossible happen. I’ve realised that imagination actually starts in your heart. Your heart needs to soar into the clouds to imagine a world that’s different. And the only way for your heart to be unbridled in its existence is it to fear less.

 

Mission to Mars

india mission to mars

If I could hold my very own “Picture of the Year” contest on my blog, this would be it for 2014.  On 23rd September, India became the fourth country in the world to successfully launch a satellite – Mangalyaan – into orbit around Mars.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) made history in several ways. Firstly, it is one of three international space agencies (including NASA) to succeed in its mission to Mars. Secondly, the mission’s budget was cheaper than Hollywood film Gravity – $25 million less. In addition, Mangalyaan is the first satellite to have been successfully launched on its first mission.

What impressed me the most was when this image surfaced on social media and various news outlets. The second my grandma saw it, she pointed and shouted: “Oh my God! Look! They’re scientists AND wearing saris! I never thought that I would see this!”

The space agency and programme industries are largely male dominated, but this image proves otherwise. And it makes sense: after all education in the South Asian community is deeply respected and revered. So much so that many South Asian girls grow up into women wanting to be educated and financially independent. One of the system engineers, Minal Sampath, told the BBC :

“I forget I am a woman sometimes, working in such an organisation. Maybe it’s because we spend a lot of time working in clean rooms with full suits on, so you can’t tell who is male or female.”

Isn’t that great to read? The statistics show great signs of promise: approximately 20% of all employees at ISRO are women, with 10% working as engineers. Whilst it doesn’t look great, it is a sign that women are slowly entering STEM industries in different countries. In the UK, it is estimated that only 17% of women currently hold jobs in the technology industry – a sobering figure which also needs to be addressed.

Science, technology and engineering industries, in most countries, rarely see women enter such professions. However, this is on the up,  following various campaigns like Little Miss Geek in the UK and other groups who prove to girls that STEM careers are not exclusively for men.

As someone from a creative background, seeing and reading about ISRO’s female scientists hugely inspires me and fills me with hope that more women will enter such industries and build fulfilling, sustainable careers. Whilst it is challenging and very difficult to overcome career obstacles, barriers and break glass ceilings, we must not forget that we are the biggest sources of inspiration for both ourselves and those around us.

 

With this ring I wed thee, thee and thee

polygamy-figures

Recently I saw a documentary. I tend to favour Channel 4 over most channels because they produce really quirky, thought provoking, controversial programmes – just the stuff I like! This documentary was beyond anything I’ve ever seen and to be honest, I was surprised that it happens in the UK. It was called: “Men with Many Wives” and was centred around the trials and tribulations of men who had more than one wife and their children both in the UK and abroad. One man had 3 wives; 2 in the UK and 1 in Morocco with their 2 children, whom he only saw every 7 – 9 months.

Polygamy is something I didn’t know too much about it or why people chose to have multiple wives. The first thing that sprang to mind was that TV show “Sister Wives” which was a bit full on for me. However, it is interesting to note that the documentary didn’t mention or show cases of polyandry (women having multiple husbands). For those in the know, it is illegal to practise polgamy under British law, yet over 20,000 polygamous marriages exist in the UK.

I generally have a “live and let live” attitude with regards to what people get up to in their private lives – as long as it’s not illegal and/or causing harm to others. There were aspects of the documentary that I found interesting, valid, infuriating and unacceptable – all at once! My main beef with it was that the reasons for polygamous marriage largely came from a male perspective and what they were doing is illegal under British law.

When the director Masood Khan asked why these men practised polygamy their responses ranged from: “It makes a nice, big family” to “…wanting companionship” and “polygamy is something normal in Africa and many parts of the world” to “looking after and protecting women.” One man went as far as comparing his wife to “a nice car that you cover up so that other people don’t desire or want it.” This didn’t sit too well with me – especially the last point.

Over 20,000 polygamous marriages exist in the UK

I personally believe that marriage is something undertaken by 2 people who want to dedicate their lives to each other and raise a family; to me it’s not just a romance thing (though that might help). If you want to be committed to multiple partners, it’s called an open relationship. It’s all well and good wanting a nice big family, but there needs to be financial, emotional and mental stability in order for both people to provide for their children. With a sky high living costs and dwindling salaries, it is important for people to be able to look after themselves and their families. In the programme, most of the men were unable to adequately provide for their wives and their children which made me question why they wanted more than one wife.  It’s all very well and good saying that you want a big family, companionship etc, but if you cannot sustain or look after your family sufficiently, then there’s no point having more than one wife and having lots of kids – it’s not fair on them.