No country for women, girls, babies…

Asifa and Unnao. Two names that are juxtaposed in the Indian media today. Two names that may or may not reveal anything to people the world over. But two names that reveal the disgusting socio-political, religiously perverted society that India has devolved into.

In the years that have followed the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey, Delhi’s ‘braveheart’ who resisted and fought her attackers to death, has anything changed? There was outrage and public outpouring of grief and demands for justice back then. There was an examination of how and why such incidents occurred. Yet little if anything did change. In actual fact, statistics show that instances of crime against women  increased! Naysayers can argue increased reportage but the fact remains that a largely indolent but frighteningly nationalist government, an increasingly patriarchal society and a lack of punitive measures has stealthily given rise to a culture that allows its womenfolk to be routinely harassed, attacked and sexually assaulted.

Yet Asifa was only a little girl. An eight year old child who was abducted, drugged and raped by a gang of men for days, till finally being killed by a blow to the head by a rock. Were they a paedophile ring targeting children? Vile as that maybe, the truth is even more chilling. Asifa was targeted because she was a Muslim girl belonging to a nomadic tribe that had the temerity to graze their flock in a Hindu area. This was an organised crime spearheaded by the custodian of a Hindu temple and involving lawmakers and law enforcers. Shockingly, when an attempt was made to register a case against them, a Hindu nationalist mob including government officials, lawyers and women protested in favour of the arrested men.

In a country that has become inured to violence, this was an eye opener.

The Unnao rape case occurred in June 2017. A seventeen year old girl was lured to the house of a MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) of Uttar Pradesh, by a woman on the pretext of securing her employment. There, she was sexually assaulted by the MLA. Despite repeated attempts to register a case against him, it was not till she threatened to immolate herself in front of the Chief Minister’s house nearly ten months later, was any attention given to her pleas. Meanwhile, her father having been threatened and beaten up by the MLA’s brother and other assorted goons, died in police custody the following day.

Asifa and Unnao. Two names that have become inextricably linked within the Indian consciousness. Two names that have once again led to nationwide protests demanding justice, a change in laws and culpability for criminals of all ilk and provenance.

Yet this is a malaise that has deep roots.

Power, Patriarchy and Religion. A malevolent triptych that holds an entire nation to ransom.

In a country that began its life promising to be secular, promising to house and respect all religions and faiths, India has seen some of the worst sectarian violence in its seventy odd years of Independence. Whether it is Hindus vs Muslims, Hindus vs Sikhs or even Hindus vs Hindu Dalits (the lowest caste), theistic fervour has given India the dubious distinction of being the fourth-worst country for religious violence, trailing only behind Syria, Nigeria and Iraq. In an increasingly nationalistic atmosphere that celebrates Hinduism and marginalises all other faiths, a Saffron Reich of zealots are police stating their way into people’s lives.

Those in command have risen through the ranks on the back of proselytising the youth to their agenda. Fanaticism is bred and encouraged. Bigotry, extremism and partisanship are the cornerstones of a government drunk on its own power and ideology. It is no wonder that in this atmosphere hostility and discrimination towards minority religions is alive and well.

Yet, a religion that ostensibly worships the feminine ‘Shakti’ (energy) as a Devi in her many avatars, has zero respect for the women or girls of its land. When an eight month old baby is raped by her twenty eight year old cousin in the Indian capital of New Delhi, does Hindutva proclaim him a criminal or turn a blind eye as it always does? When rape is viewed as consensual sex, does Hindutva hang its head in shame or turn its face the other way? When a girl is said to be tempting a boy by virtue of her femininity, does Hindutva defend her as a Devi, or let her be mauled by its minions?

Let me be clear: I am a Hindu by birth and by upbringing. To me, being Hindu has never meant kowtowing to rules created by a patriarchal priesthood that tells me what to eat, when to eat, what to wear or who to worship. These man made rules do not govern me. For me Hinduism has always meant being inclusive, respectful and considerate towards all. I do not recognise or associate with this brand of Hinduism that is a weapon in the hands of the powerful and the corrupt.

Ultimately, no amount of slogan shouting or banner holding can even begin to address the root of the problem. A country that is steeped in religion, tradition and dogma is held with a leash to its collar by ruthless demagogues.

What hope can the women of this land have?

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Crushing

My 14 year old has introduced me to K pop. For those not in the know, that is Korean pop. More specifically to a group called BTS, a bunch of androgynous pop stars that jump around singing incomprehensible lyrics and looking girlishly cute despite being young men in their 20’s. She and her 17 year old sister have already picked out their crushes. How they can tell them apart is a mystery to me. All I see is a blur of neon colours, toothy smiles, hyperactive bodies and mops of hair.

I guess I should feel fortunate that my girls have no problem sharing their various crushes with me. Whether these are remote celebrities or boys they like at school, they insist on inflicting these videos or pointing them out at Parents’ evenings. I try my best to look interested in the former, and not look like a pervy Cougar at the latter. I stay non committal most times, knowing full well that the shelf life of these crushes is 6 months to a year, tops.

My own teenage crushes, which were very many, started with a black and white film that was made in the 50’s. I guess my hormones had just started their teenage dance when I saw this movie and promptly fell in love with the hero, who at the time of my watching this film must have been in his dotage. I would make up time travel scenarios in which I would travel back to his time and he would sweep me off my feet singing a melodious number, and we’d skip into a (black and white) sunset. That lasted all of a month.

Oddly, the next crush was as result of this very hero. When a senior boy at school stood behind me singing a song from this actor’s movie and looking pointedly at me, the transference of affection was a natural consequence. The song, roughly translated went, “Give me your heart, give me your heart, give me your heart honey (dil deke dekho, dil deke dekho, dil deke dekhoji)”. Subtle it was not, effective very much so.

I nursed this  school crush a lot longer. It never came to more than looking at each other in assembly, or deliberately hanging out in the same place at lunch times. He was too scared to make the first move, and I was too shy. One day he found a proper girl friend, and I a slightly bruised heart.

At any rate, I discovered the delicious joy of crushing on a boy that realistically could never be mine. From Morten Harket of A-Ha fame to the boy in the neighbourhood who wore high waisted jeans and turned up his collars, I was a sucker for a good crush.

Having a crush had a distinct advantage over being in a romantic relationship. For one thing, I never got into trouble with my parents for not focussing enough on my studies. To them, my sitting at the study table meant I was studying, not whiling away hours dreaming of these various boys/young men. Secondly, there was no chance of discovering that my idols had clay feet. Exchanging looks or sighing over posters gave me no insight into their personalities or characters. Which was just as well, because then I could use my over active imagination and make them into whatever I wanted. And finally, I could pick and choose whoever I wanted, whatever colour or nationality or geographical location, without having to worry about any kind of reciprocity.

Of course, as I grew out of my teenage years, I also outgrew these crushes. But what a wonderful time it was, while it lasted.

Therefore, as obscure as K pop seems to me, and as alien as these pop stars appear, I am heartened by the healthy response my girls have to them. If the price I have to pay is listening to an unfamiliar brand of music, it is no more than what I subjected my poor parents to.

With ‘Take on Me’ playing on a loop, and me staring moonily at Morten’s picture in a magazine, my mother did the only sensible thing she could. She shut the door on me.

The subtle art of Humble Bragging

Once upon a time, I knew a woman who had elevated boasting to an art form. You would never know it, but ever so subtly she’d slip in details of her latest designer purchase, or her lunch out at a talked about hot spot or how ‘in’ she was with the people that mattered. She was careful not to over do it, and combined with what seemed to be a self deprecating sense of humour, most people acknowledged that she was lovely, and undoubtedly had an enviable lifestyle. I thought so as well. In fact, I considered myself lucky to call her a friend. The only hiccup was that every encounter with her left me feeling slightly diminished. Sub consciously I felt that I was lacking and that I needed to keep up.

It was not till a childhood friend pointed out my recently acquired obsession with expensive bags and shoes, that I realised that I was behaving totally out of character. Sure, I liked the good things in life too, but I had never been so preoccupied with hoarding labels before.

When that woman finally exited my life, and all ties were severed, I realised what a psychological number she had done on me. In trying to fit in and be accepted, I tried to be like her and buy like her. Ultimately, it was patently obvious to the both of us that the very foundation of our friendship was weak, built on the quicksands of want and need and social proximity. It also took time and distance for me to realise that she must have had multiple issues and insecurities of her own, to have the incessant need to flaunt her lavish modus vivendi, however skilfully and insidiously she went about it.

I am sure that most of us have been guilty of the occasional ‘humble brag’. Where we really want to call attention to something we are proud of, but rather than openly and loudly (and off- puttingly) boast about it, we call attention to it in a roundabout manner. Where people think, “Oh, how modest he/she is about his possessions/accomplishments”. I know I certainly have indulged in a ‘humble brag’ or two. Yet, each time, I’m left feeling a tad bit dirty, like I’ve done something not very nice or befitting.

Living in the UK, most people do not indulge in self aggrandisement. It’s just uncool. If you’ve got something to be proud of as an accomplishment, the general rule of thumb is, you shut up and let others talk about it on your behalf. If they so choose to do. If you are lucky enough to be blessed with La dolce vita, then showing off is unnecessary and in very poor taste.

In the US however, self publicity is seen as no bad thing. Entire industries are built upon it. Look at QVC. Look at the Kardashians. They are shameless in their self promotion. Loud and proud is the motto that brings the greenbacks in. The argument is: if I’ve got it, I will flaunt it and the world be damned.

So what is right? The former attitude or the latter?

I think there really is no clear cut answer to this. Feeling happy and proud and announcing something to the world and his wife in an enthusiastic manner is rarely misconstrued and normally well received. On the other hand, being a braggadocio and showing off loudly and constantly is obnoxious and distasteful.

Worse however, is cloaking it all in a garb of humility. People eventually cotton on to the humble bragger and the insincerity of their self deprecation.

Subtle or not, drop the act or be prepared to lose all respect in the long run.

#MeToo and why this hashtag matters

Year 2017 saw the birth of a new movement called #MeToo. Right on the heels of the sexual misconduct charges against Weinstein, a feeling of kinship and a need to tell their own stories led to the emergence of this hashtag. #MeToo spoke for women who had buried, suppressed, hidden and suffered their own indignities at the hands of men over the years. A sisterhood that had been bound in chains of silence because of the shame associated with their experiences or the powers that muffled their voices. Not any more.

As #MeToo gained momentum, more stories emerged. Stories of workplace sexual harassment. Stories of sexual assault on women too young to fight back, too scared to speak up, too powerless to defend themselves. Stories of careers sabotaged of those who refused to succumb. From celebrity origins it spread like wildfire with the quotidian accounts of the everywoman. It made news because it shone a light on a disease that a largely patriarchal society had accepted and condoned. ‘Boys will be boys’ no longer washed, and women were fighting their corner with every ounce of outrage they possessed. Hashtag after hashtag proclaimed ‘Me too’. Some simply whispered it, while others detailed the hows, the whens and the ignominy of their experiences being repeatedly ignored.

From someone who has suffered sexual harassment at the hands of men starting from the tender age of eight, I added my voice to the hashtag. It has been many years since the last incident occurred, but I cannot forget the feelings of shame, helplessness and disgust that I felt back then. Why did it stop? Because I moved continents, and started a career path that had women on an equal platform as men. Yet those early incidents left an indelible mark on my psyche.

Being propositioned by a roadside hawker when I was young enough to be his grand daughter. A passerby stopping his vehicle and exposing his genitals as I walked home from school. Being groped in a temple by a stranger. Heavy breathing and threats of rape over the phone by a male classmate. A forty year old friend of my father asking an eighteen year old me to call him directly on his ‘bedroom line’. A superior at work taking advantage of my naiveté and planting an uncalled for kiss on me. Incident after incident that left me feeling violated in a billion different ways.

Each time I wondered why? Had I done something to lead them on? Had I dressed provocatively? Did I come across as sexually uninhibited? Little did I know back then, that women the world over were facing these humiliations and asking themselves the same questions.

Sexual assault or sexual harassment has very little to do with sexual gratification. It is power play, pure and simple. Men, whether they are superior in rank, age, strength or because society deems it so, wield that power over women in every arena, including the sexual one. Not all men, but I’ll come to that later. If a sexual encounter is to be a pleasurable one, it needs to be consensual. Yet consent is something that these men trample all over. They get their kicks through the fear and vulnerability of their victims.

How does one fight back? After all, not only is sexism institutionalised, it is practically an institution in itself. If #MeToo is anything to go by, then joining hands, exposing the perpetrators and standing up for what is right, can be a start. Easier said than done however. Education is the foundation of everything. Education that begins at home and is carried on throughout life. Education that portrays women as equals not to be preyed upon or ill used. Education that is subliminal, ideological, conscious and subconscious. Education in the messages that are given and received from various platforms, be it entertainment or media. Education that emphasises that women aren’t just baby machines or primary caregivers, Madonnas or whores. Education.

Criticisms of #MeToo have been that its ubiquity diluted its message, or that the LGBTQ communities found little or no representation, or that minor misdemeanours were categorised alongside major assaults, and that all men were tarred with the same brush. While there is merit in these accusations, it is important to recognise the spirit behind the movement. For the first time, in a long time, perhaps even since the Suffragette movement of the 1900’s or the feminist movement hitting its stride in 1960’s, were women banding together and calling attention to their respective stories. Change has to begin somewhere and in 2017, it began with one woman saying to another, “Me too”.

Nearing the end of the second decade of the 21st century, one can only hope that more voices chime in to stamp out behaviour that is absolutely abhorrent and unacceptable. Men, good men, who were equally horrified to see the extent of the problem, become a part of the solution. Shut down the locker room talk, stop viewing the female sex as commodities, take responsibility for your actions, and speak up when you see an injustice. Not too much to ask for.

As a mother to two teenage girls, I hope I have planted the seeds of self worth and self respect in them. They have watched the dynamic between my husband and I all their lives. Our roles have been fluid, flexible even, with each of us happy to take on traditional and non traditional parts. We are equals, we are partners and we are immensely lucky to think the same way about gender and equality. Moving forward, I hope my girls and countless others step into a world that is less skewed in favour of men. I hope they never have to encounter abuse or power play, and if they do, they are equipped to fight back and stand their ground.

#MeToo may not be a perfect movement, but it is an important one. By highlighting the extent of the problem, it has called attention to the behaviours that support and perpetrate abuse of power. Important people have lost their jobs and livelihoods because zero tolerance has kicked in. Companies are recognising that this sort of behaviour is unsupportable. Individuals who thought they were above the law, are finding themselves out in the cold.

Just as we take our voting rights or birth control rights for granted today, I hope a day in the not-too-distant future, will see us take our safety in the workplace, our rights over our bodies and swift and immediate punishment for anyone who violates us, for granted as well. Then and only then, can #MeToo die a quiet, acceptable death.

Until then, keep chiming in, keep telling your stories, keep supporting one another. For in numbers lies our strength, and in unity lies our success.

For those who are willing to go a step further to ensure that all voices are heard and there is accountability for all perpetrators, read and contribute to the #TIMESUP movement:

http://www.timesupnow.com

In solidarity and with respect, #MeToo.

The impossibility of saying anything even remotely comprehensible…… by Michael-Eric Schwaabe

One of my favourite pastimes and one that I had significant opportunities for indulging in as a younger man, was sitting round a table nursing a pint of beer (real ale please) and solving all the world’s problems in conversation with one or two good friends. We usually had everything solved by the third pint, which in turn, opened the way for a celebratory fourth thus reaching my upper limit, especially if I wanted to function well enough to navigate back home. Which describes a particular conceit of mine; in that the world’s problems are solvable. This was an odd thing to be doing and perhaps a greater reflection of the cultural privilege that a white Western man enjoys – although I could not have framed it in quite that way at the time. The conversations were usually between men and, since they only rarely extended to include women, they beg the question (which I could blissfully disregard at the time, although the alcohol-based mental lubrication may have helped somewhat): how are you going to solve anything if fifty per cent of humanity isn’t even represented? Or even, as was definitely the case for this young man in his twenties, I really didn’t control very much at all and actually still don’t. It’s not like I could set global transport policies, or make State planning decisions, or initiate a comprehensive waste recycling scheme – to mention just a few.

That’s not to say that nothing good has come of this particular pastime – on the contrary, some problems did get solved as a direct result. But many fewer than the number and grandeur of those mental palaces I constructed. Worse still, my ability to effectively capture the problem in words seems to be failing. Every time I try to nail something down the issue either slips through my metaphors or my preamble becomes so overly top-heavy that I’ve lost my audience before we can really get started. As there’s less beer involved too, this may underlie part of the difficulty. These days it’s usually my wife who will cut me off leaving just my progeny who occasionally has the patience to put up with her father when he goes off on one of his overbearing rants. But the problem remains – defining issues has become considerably more difficult for me. The thought builds, I try to speak, and in that precise moment a multitude of other issues occur to me demanding my urgent attention, all of which have a direct bearing on the relevance of the issue, and I then feel the need to systematically explore each one. Little wonder perhaps that my family’s switch from good natured tolerance to extreme exasperation sits on a hairpin trigger. Worse still is when I try to write, because most of the time, the effort involved in setting thoughts on paper (computer screen nowadays), it’s like swimming uphill through a sea of mental treacle.

Why are words so damn difficult? Each word is a box inside of which sits the idea of what it is you want to say. Except it’s not really your idea. A “cup of tea” clearly means a mug-shaped vessel made of some kind of porcelain containing about 250ml of recently poured boiling water over brown tea leaves, usually held in a porous paper sachet or bag, with about 30ml of added cold milk. Except it doesn’t, to people who don’t like milk in their tea, or who prefer green tea, or insist on a cup and saucer, or it might even mean a cup filled with tea leaves. Ultimately, you won’t know what the other person understands unless you ask, and if you have to ask about every little thing then life can become quite exhausting. So most people prefer to rely on a form of shorthand and assume that their “cup of tea” is exactly what they imagine it to be. How easy it is to be fooled into a false sense of security, as anybody who has ever had the experience of being asked for “hot tea” by an American. Of course it’s hot, dammit, otherwise it wouldn’t be tea! All this confusion arises from three little words. What these words, these boxes surrounding ideas, these forms of mental shorthand really represent is a social construct – a “cup of tea” is like this because, well because everybody else around me who is like me thinks that this, and only this, is a cup of tea.

This social construct is my identity, and the brilliant thing is that I have many which express themselves in all the different roles I assume every day, as a parent, a husband, a friend, at work or while playing around. Here’s the rub – certain identities carry consequences, whether I like them or not, and I may not even be consciously aware of them. Things such as national origin, religious affiliation, as well as gender, ethnicity, degree of privilege, all define the boundaries – that is – the outer limits of what I’m prepared to accept that each word box will surround. And this has a real bearing on solving all the world’s problems, even when lubricated by my favourite beer. For example, I tend to assume that governments are benign structures mandated to help improve their citizens’ lives. Clearly, most governments are neither benign, nor do their officers feel in any way compelled to act in accordance with enacting or enforcing fundamental human rights principles. So, sitting in the pub, enjoyable though that may be and the odd exception aside, is not the most direct route to solving the world’s problems.

So this is my understanding: fixing anything requires us to understand that everything is a social construct that has been collectively invented by people who share the same identity. So if something is broken, or a problem, a big part of understanding the issue is understanding where the boundaries of our word boxes have been set. Commonly referred to as the paradigm, but that is only a particular word box which contains the idea of a commonly understood idea (I hope you begin to understand why I often feel like I’m swimming uphill through a sea of treacle).

When you are in the forest you can’t see the wood for the trees – what is required is a different perspective. And that means seeking out those who have a different identity, persuading them to share their understanding and taking the time to learn.

Anybody fancy a beer?

 

Michael in his own words:
For several years, my day job was largely (though not entirely) based on my skills in both the English and French languages – which I found highly amusing as these were, PE aside, the things I was worst in at school. The skills of caring, attention to detail, and customer focus I need for my current day job were essentially acquired through the example given to me by my parents, and most significantly my mother. Married with one lovely child, I live in London. I used to ride motorcycles, but development work and a Masters got in the way, leading to the occasional blog at: http://www.conversareblog.net/.

I aspire to do so again.

 

Pecking order by Prianka

The hierarchy of secondary school. Or, as I like to call it, the stupidity of teenage children.

Growing up, we always look at ‘high school’ as the years you will succeed, go to prom with a handsome boyfriend and go to exciting parties.

At least, that’s what movies like High School Musical and Mean Girls teach us.

Actually, it is the opposite. It is the time where you learn that standing out may not be a good thing, despite your parents saying so. You learn, that putting your hand up in lessons isn’t cool by the standards of the popular people. You learn, that having opinions gets you bullied.

I learned this the hard way.

I learned this from getting weird looks after doing something remotely ‘different’. I learned this, by getting laughed at after putting my hand up too much. I learned this, after having views in RE(Religious Education) that deemed me the opinionated feminist girl amongst the boys.

But the popular girls, they somehow got it right. On the first day of school, they all stuck together, like a pack of wolves. But all white. Coloured people aren’t cool, I guess?

The stereotypes aren’t like, ‘the goths’, ‘the nerds’, or the ‘drama club’. It goes in two ways. Those who are cool, and those who aren’t.

I fall amongst the latter.

I have gone through school, being terrified of the popular boys and girls. Only last week, none of my friends were in my DT(Design Technology) lesson, and no one sat with me. I was alone at a whole table by myself. This led to me running out of the classroom in tears, because I felt like I wasn’t worth sitting with.

The popular girls have the ideal secondary school experience, with the boyfriend, the prom, and the parties.

The rest of us are left clinging to each other, trying to keep our confidence from crumbling, and trying to ignore the obvious fact that we aren’t loved or cared about by our peers.

After a while, we manage to not let it affect us too much. But there are moments when we still crave to be popular and be invited to parties.

Sometimes, I wonder where these people will be in 10 years. Will they be successful? Will they have huge families? Will they still be popular? Or will these years be their prime, and will they slowly fall and reduce to nothing?

The truth is, we don’t know. We don’t know what will happen in the future. A lot of our teenage years go towards trying to figure out what our future will be. From choosing our GCSE subjects at 14, and then doing the actual exams at 16.

But I can’t judge all of the popular people by the same yardstick. The time I ran out of my DT lesson, one of them came after me and invited me to sit with her.

Maybe I just have to get to know them, and I will like them better. But that won’t change the fact that they have ignored me for so many years.

The idea of leaving secondary school is exciting for me. Meeting new people, and finding my place in the world.

Until then, I am caught in the grasps of the hierarchy of social lives and popularity.

 

 

Hi! I am Prianka and I am 13 years old. If you remember that article from a while ago, I was the one who asked where the smoked salmon was in the middle of the fish market in Pondicherry. I love Shawn Mendes and llamas and I hope to become an actress one day. And an author. I hope you enjoyed my thought piece.

Just a number

When I was just a chit of a girl, I thought life ended at 40. You were meant to have done it all by then: Career, travel, marriage, babies, hobbies, accomplishments. I mean 40 was Old. Surely, life’s trajectory would start to power down. Right?

Wrong.

Now, I find myself on the other side of 40, and laugh at my infantile vision of the future. Sure, I’ve done the career, travel, marriage, babies and hobbies thing. But accomplishments. That I’m only just getting started on.

There is a lot going for youth. For one thing, you have time on your side. There is an expanse of a lifetime waiting to be discovered, to be explored and enjoyed. Also, all your faculties are pretty much intact. You can still hear and see, and soak up knowledge and information like a sponge. Your memory hasn’t taken a beating yet. Your hair is thick, your skin is supple and your body is limber. You are admired by men of all ages. Your personality is not set in stone, and your innocence still shines through attractively. Yes, youth is a valuable currency indeed.

What youth doesn’t have on its side are wisdom and experience.

It’s been oft repeated that “Youth is wasted on the young”. I’d like to think that youth is just a rehearsal for the main event. Can you imagine a world where age and maturity had no standing whatsoever? Where youth and naiveté governed everything? Where everyone was put out to pasture at 40? Shudder!

I remember when aged 18 and supremely confident of my intelligence and looks, I’d joined a Foreign Language course. Amongst the predominantly youthful class, one person stood out. He was a pensioner over 60. Our initial surprise was soon overtaken by his charisma, his enthusiasm and his desire to learn. Needless to say, he was a star pupil. I learned then that age was no bar to scholarship or edification.

Even as I set about living my life: finding a job I loved, a man I loved and discovering through the years, the joys of parenthood, I realised how facile my initial timeline had been. I had been trying to condense my life within parentheses, when true living had commas and exclamation marks and paragraphs that ebbed and flowed and sometimes crashed into one another.

Whilst all those initial milestones of my imagining were secured, it was the lesser moments, the ellipses of my living that made the story of my life a rich and colourful one. I realised that no matter how old I got, I could still carry on learning and exploring. I could still diversify. I could still re create and re imagine myself. I could be student and mentor. I could inspire and be inspired. I could marvel at the accomplishments of a 20 year old just as I could at a 50 year old’s. The only limits were the ones that I imposed upon myself.

With that in mind, I choose to live my life with gusto. My manifesto is to try and experience everything (within reason). I pursue my hobbies with the same passion that I give to my career. I try and be a good partner, a good parent and a good friend.
My mantra is to live life to the fullest. If I fail, I pick myself up, dust myself off and try again. What’s the worst that can happen? I will fail again. So what?

When that full stop comes, as it inevitably will, I want the book of my life to be a worthwhile read.