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.

 

I Spy

Yesterday morning, I appeared on BBC Asian Network – exciting times – and gave my views on a fairly eyebrow raising topic: marriage detectives. You can listen to the show so click here to hear my velvety voice! (I come in at 37 minutes) with the inspiration coming from this article which you can read here. It was a fascinating yet thought provoking topic which has naturally resulted in a blog post.

The brains behind the Delhi based marriage detective agency is Taralika Lahir, who has worked in the private detective industry for 25 years. Lahiri’s investigations range from anxious parents or would be brides and grooms to run a full background check on their partner to couples who suspect their other half of playing away. Lahiri’s methods involve 24 hour surveillance, recording phone calls, running financial background checks to taking photographs and more, provided that she is able to present physical evidence of her findings to her clients.

I personally feel quite conflicted about marriage detectives: on one hand I think it can be a force for good as it can really avert major disasters that could potentially wreck someone’s life (fraudsters, serial cheats). But I also believe that you should listen to your gut instinct: if you don’t initially trust or feel comfortable around someone then you shouldn’t marry them or be with them – regardless of it being an arranged or a love marriage. In addition, if you can’t be faithful or responsible or mature enough to get married or be in a relationship, don’t get into one and ruin the other person’s life and their family.

As expressed in the radio interview, I find it really sad  that people feel the need to resort to using marriage detectives in order to find out about their prospective partner. For me it boils down to trust; without that you can’t be with someone. Many British born Asians joke and complain about “the aunty network” who report back to our parents and families by exaggerating little lies about us (no aunty, I was not smoking, I was eating a lollipop!) – but they come in handy for things like this even though their intentions are questionable, their timing isn’t always right nor is their venue of choice appropriate (mandhirs and gurudwaras).

A marriage detective agency sounds crazy: 24 hour surveillance? Recording phone calls? Having undercover detectives snooping around with a camera in their hands ready to catch you at your worst?  I thought it was too until I had a proper think about it: we’re more or less under surveillance for the majority of our lives (CCTV) and I know many couples who admit to going through their other half’s phones, Facebook messages and Whatsapp chats. Isn’t that just a smaller and more personal scale of what Lahiri is doing? And more so: why do we do it?