“Elizabeth is missing” book review

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It’s been a long time since I posted but here it is, a short book review of Emma Healey’s ” Elizabeth is missing.”

This book was actually given to me as a present from a friend of mine so I was eager to try something that had been hand-picked for me, which I never let anyone do (I’m a fussy person, yes). The book is ultimately about an elderly woman called “Maud”. Early on, you realise that Maud is very forgetful, possibly dementia but this is not mentioned nor is it important to the book. Healey successfully flits through Maud’s memories post war to the current. The themes that are highlighted are memory, identity and ageing. I found it remarkably interesting to look at the glass from the other side. Here is a woman, who is evidently aware that her friend “Elizabeth” is missing, yet what she just ate, is a far more difficult task for her. You despair with Maud at her moments of frustration, loneliness and reminiscing, in her desperate quest to find her best friend, Elizabeth.

For me, the book was very slow to begin with but I quickly became very intrigued towards the latter part of the book. Due to her age, Maud is often ignored and her opinions are silenced by family, such as her carers and even her daughter Helen. Yet her desire for strong independence and her sweet, childish-like refusals are illustrated well by her own notes to herself and her fond memories. Elizabeth’s hazy son, Peter nor Maud’s own daughter are reluctant and hesitant in answering Maud as to Elizabeth’s whereabouts, it is  left up to Maud to solve this mystery. The clues that she surpasses on the way only force her to think deeper into her own past, particularly a tragedy that occurred more than fifty years ago, her sister Sukey’s disappearance. Could there be a parallel connection between these two unsolved mysteries?

As the book progresses, Healey has done a brilliant job in illustrating the irony of Maud’s memory getting the better of her amidst her compelling need for her to find out what happened to Elizabeth.. It definitely creates tension and grips the reader. For me , this book is well worth a read; certainly a different concept and narrative from a eighty-one year old which only enhances the reality of Maud’s then and now experiences. At the heart of this book is the story of the effects that age and mental illness can have on the human mind. 

Niru 

 

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“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” – Buddha

As Valentines Day approaches, I thought it would be the ideal time to talk about love. Yes, cringe cringe cringe… But whilst it is nice to be loved up on V-day or even celebrating single life with your closest friends, how often do you take the time out to just love yourself? Do you often have to be told to value yourself ? Do you see your self-worth?

I’ve had a lot of issues concerning self-esteem and self worth in the past. Even now, I can sometimes linger back to those dark moments, but I have to tell myself that I will NEVER go back. The amazing support from my family and friends are the constant reminders of how far I have come. Oddly, I never used to delve into the opinions of myself. I used to tell myself I loved myself, yes a huge deal of denial and then I would shower love and affection to everyone around me. I never said no and just tirelessly tried to manage my own life alongside doing everything for others. This was “love” to me. My strange reasoning behind it was that if I could be there and bend over backwards for everyone, then that love was sufficient for me. 

However, I did hit a point. A very rough point. I was tired, ill constantly and eventually the light and affection in my personality became painful and lethargic. I was no longer doing things for others because I wanted to, but because I felt that I had no choice. The worry that people would value me less for saying the horrid “no.” However, that was a long time ago. I can now prioritize my life and have built up the courage to say no as I have finally acknowledged that I am not SuperWoman. I am me… and firstly, I must learn to love myself before I can love and look after those around me. 

For me, I started looking after my health and well being via nutrition and exercise. I started writing again, hence this blog. All of these were ways to nourish my soul and feed my body the energy to love myself and love those around me. I also needed to surround myself with positive people, people who were going to support me and truth be told, I have honestly learnt that it is only one handful of friends that was necessary for me. I am also a major fan of homemade, natural methods of looking after yourself so cooking is something that I am starting to enjoy more recently. Apart from the fact that I have not killed anyone yet, it provides me with a sense of self-fulfillment that I CAN do it. Living at home with parents who cook all the time like mine, means that I didn’t really need to. I’d have lunch and dinner prepared  when I got home. However, this year I was determined to learn and put it into practice. Even my parents are surprised now at how good I am, which is a big achievement for me. So yay APPROVAL GRANTED!

I am also a massive fan of walking. Yes I can walk sometimes with music in my hears for 3 miles or so. Yes, I’m crazy. I remember university days when I’d get stressed and walk along London Bridge at 2am, in the freezing winter. Probably not one of the most bizarre things I do. Walking enables me to breathe.  It puts things into perspective for me and by the end of it, I have stopped being so hard on myself and am feeling fresh in my mind again. 

These are just some of the things that I do to ensure that I give myself some extra loving. In this chaotic world that we live in, we really need to take that small part of our daily lives to embrace ourselves, the journey we have travelled and the journey in which we are travelling towards. We are all individual in our own ways, but loving yourself is something that we all ought to do. Don’t let others put you down, don’t be afraid of saying no and most importantly, don’t feel guilty for putting yourself first. I’ve learnt the hard way but am glad of how far I have come. 

Happy Valentines Day people! 

self love

“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance”– Oscar Wilde

Caffeine Detox..

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This week, I decided to embark on a caffeine detox. Yes, I’m crazy, especially in this weather where caffeine stimulates warmth for me and prevents me falling asleep at my desk.

Growing up, I was never a coffee drinker; it was always my mother’s “milk tea” in the mornings, which consisted of hot milk with a teabag and lots of sugar to get through the intense school day and exams. It was my mother’s answer to stay healthy and keep alert during exam time. My body grew accustomed to it over the years but as soon as final year university exams hit, I knew I needed something stronger to endure last minute revision and the mindboggling piles of coursework. It was then, I introduced coffee to get through the dark and endless nights of studying. My tastebuds felt sickly to the taste of coffee and so I used milk to camouflage the aftertaste and even then, it was drunk all in one go with my eyes shut tightly and minimal thinking. Costa and AMT at King’s became my best friends as I began to experience their delicious lattes.

So post exams, I stopped drinking milk coffee and hardly had coffee at home, possibly had the odd latte when I went out. Funnily enough, about two years ago, I ditched all tea and coffee and lasted a good eight months and drank only water and herbal teas. It was definitely refreshing. But starting a fulltime MSc and work straight after, pulled me back to my old ways to the point I could not get through the winter without buying a Costa latte or a delicious, intensely sugar-coated, calorific Chai latte. Working in London often does that to you. The hustle and bustle of eccentric London and the fact that everyone around you seems to be buying caffeinated drinks all day long, can convert anyone to a heavy caffeine addict. Aside from the large outgoings from my debit card I was using to consume my latte and tea habit, I became apprehensive as to the sudden jitters and anxiety I’d feel. My NHS job at the time was stressful emotionally and physically, and I felt that the caffeine was filling the empty voids in myself in a bad way. My anxiety grew worse and eventually I did resign from that role.

So back to my detox, what worried me was that I was unsure as to whether my anxiety was being heightened by the caffeine. To be honest, I am not a caffeine addict, at most I’d have two cups of black tea, no sugar. For me, this was a minimal amount of caffeine to get me through the day and sufficient antioxidants for my immune system. I had eliminated coffee entirely about a month or two ago, so giving up the black tea did not seem a hard choice at the time. So last Friday, I decided to go to work and start the day with a green tea, instead of my normal black tea. I was content for about an hour before I became horribly lethargic and through the day, an intense headache came over me. My stubborn nature decided I would stick it out and carried on drinking lots of water, two more herbal teas . So many more bathroom visits. But by the end of it, I went home feeling tired, hungry and with a painful migraine. I got home and decided to give in, I felt guilty but felt so much better after a cup of black tea. Functional was the word. I felt “functional.”

This week, I decided to put my body through it again and am currently on “day 5 caffeine free”. This week has been gruelling to say the least. I have been experiencing intense “caffeine withdrawal” symptoms and have really been feeling the harsh cold conditions. Definitely a lot more tired and craving carbohydrates as a result.  I have tried to compensate with my body by  increasing my uptake of water and herbal teas double-fold as an alternative replacement  for my tea cravings. I really want to see how long I can last and who knows, maybe I can finally relieve my body from caffeine.

Niru

Taking control..

As headlines reap in about  “lack of beds and staff in A&E”, the future of the NHS has become unstartling. Will the NHS be able to survive and still provide free healthcare? One nurse described the current state of A&E to “worse than a warzone.” Whilst, on the one side these type of comments means that staff feel that they can  boldly make these opinions without fear and shows that staff’s comments are being valued, yet there bears an enormous uncertainty of how these issues will be resolved.

Conversations have come about about the idea of proposing an “entrance fee” to A&E services. Maybe this is one way to prevent the “intoxicated” that pop in after a few heavy sessions, or the hypochondriacs (myself included, but in my defence I hardly go to A&E as I dread waiting) . However, the idea of pregnant women miscarrying on the floor, elderly patients dying in their own faeces disgusts me and demonstrates the reality of the NHS. And by no means, am I blaming NHS staff as having worked at the bottom level , I understand the great demands and just how exhausting it can be.

But the question I pose is, can WE take better control of our health? Now, I am not saying ignore your health problems or feel guilty about attending your GP. However, perhaps we could do a bit of Internet research or consult our local pharmacy for over-the-counter medications. Yes, I agree that not everything on the internet is legitimate or can be classed as “valid” evidence to self-diagnose yourself with tonsilitis or a new stomach bug. Yet, there are some websites such as the NHS or registered health websites that provide sufficient evidence and quite often, treatments too. GPs are having to turn away patients and this is the big reason why many are going to A&E instead, or some go as they simply cannot get to a GP during working hours. This has led to proposals such as, should  GP surgeries be open on the weekends or should there be more international staff recruitment for our NHS? However, will these really help the NHS or are they just solutions that could make the problem far worse?

 

 

 

Niru

 

First week..

Firstly, HAPPY NEW YEAR !

The first working week is officially over and yay it’s FRIDAY! Getting back into work after the constant binge eating, movie marathons and sleeping in till a half decent Christmas movie comes on over the Christmas and New Year, is always challenging. This week has actually gone by quickly and glad to be back in a working mode routine . How are the new years resolutions going so far? Supposedly, our new years resolutions generally don’t last more than three weeks so I’m trying to remain motivated to keep mine up.

For those of you who know me well, I’m always getting ill. I usually get sudden bouts of it, like a cold, where either I’m just constantly ill for a few weeks or it will come in short bursts. It’s something I have  encountered since a young age and I don’t have any health problems so I can’t even blame that. So in December, I decided that I had, had enough so I am trying to be more consistent and religious with vitamin supplements rather than popping a supplement whenever I remember. Being a vegetarian/vegan does mean it is harder to obtain some key vitamins and minerals via food but still, it’s no excuse. I think the answer is in exploring new food varieties and being open-minded. So I have been looking at Jamie Oliver recipes, eating more vegetables such as mushrooms and cauliflower. Now it is just trying to find the time to do more cooking :p

Another resolution for this year is to take a step back. I truly believe that our mind and health are strongly interlinked and it is the little anxieties that directly reflects on my health. If one was to describe how my mind works, I would call it somewhat of a fuzzled mindmap. I am constantly thinking of things and they are not even necessarily interconnected. Hence, my memory is reasonably accurate as I tend not to forget things as it remains in the deep whirlwind, that is my brain. So I do apologise if you have to put up with my random moments during a conversation. However, to stop me from “burning out” before, I am slowly learning to say “no” to people and focusing on the tasks that need my importance. This way of thinking has already helped me lots and really dedicating some time to “me”. Yes, “me time” has become so crucial more recently, whether it’s out walking or watching a movie on my laptop. Before, these things used to make me feel guilty or I was too impatient but now I use these activities to alleviate any stress and give my mind a well-deserved rest.

I also want to run a half marathon by the end of the year, not within a particular time or anything. Just without fainting :p The winter months has seen my fitness levels droop and I would really like to get back into it. So I’ve started walking a bit now and again, but hopefully will use the fact that now I’ve publicly said it, as a pressure to actually train and complete it. I have printed some half marathon plans and asked my “far more fitter than me” friends for any advice.

For me, these resolutions are not about me wanting to form resolutions, because it is a new year but because I want these to become life changing habits for me. I try not to pressurise myself now, and instead am far more selective in my approach to everything I do. So I will keep you updated on how these resolutions are working for me over the next few months.

Happy 2015 and hopefully may this year bring you many more blogs for me, and be sure to keep reading! 🙂

Niru x

 

Review of “I am Malala”

I’ve finally finished this book. Sorry, it’s taken so long but this month has been crazy. However, I was adamant I’d finish it before the New Year. So here goes……. I actually really enjoyed the book. This was the first time that I had read an autobiography as I’ve mentioned before, so I was slightly sceptical about the fact that this genre of books was not going to be my usual form of escapism, filled with romance and happy endings. Yes, I do need to get out more. However, whilst it was most certainly a very different read for me, it has developed my knowledge and allowed me to reflect upon the views and lessons from this book. So I’ll try my hardest  not to spoil it too much for you. 

I’ve never been interested in Politics so you would actually be wasting your time if you ever attempted to ask me which Party I vote for, because Tory, Labour and Conservative defer no meaning to me. Yet this book keeps the reader well informed about Muslim political leaders and holds particular references to “Benazir Bhutto”, the first female politician in Pakistan. Malala writes strongly about her admiration for her and the other strong female figures in her life such as her “illiterate” housewife mother,  who is devoted to her children and her teacher who still comes to teach at Malala’s school, despite the dangerous consequences it holds. Malala’s emphasis is not on physical strength, but the inner strength of that, in a woman. As women, we go through so many changes, encountering obstacles here and there, yet we forget this inner strength we have, how far as women we have come. Our strength is deep within us, yet we fail to sometimes see it. It is clear that Malala views the politics as an “us” against “them”. “Them” being  the Taliban and the Pakistani army who she sees as one, as both sides seem to be using the civilians as pawns in this chess game for power. 

The first half of the book is concentrated on Malala’s father, Ziauddin. It is evident that it is his brave, encouraging nature that is instilled in Malala from a young age. Her awe and respect for him is clear, as she describes his financial troubles in completing his English bachelors and masters’ degrees. “My father longed for freedom….He wanted to encourage independent thought, “highlights Ziauddin’s strong passion for education. I found his devotional attitudes towards education fascinating and the way he encouraged his daughter to learn and speak out, despite living in a village where women were expected to wear “burkhas” and practice “purdah”, a religious and cultural custom where women are kept in seclusion and punished otherwise. 

I especially enjoyed learning about the Pakistani culture and history, through this book. The fact that Buddhism was prominent before Islam in some of the villages, such as Swat Valley where Malala lives, is something new I learnt. I came to learn more about the historical and  brutal separation between India and Pakistan which highlighted my lack of knowledge concerning this topic. “It could hardly have been a bloodier beginning” as Malala describes the millions that were slaughtered as they tried to cross the Indian borders to Pakistan. 

Cultural customs such as the “Pashtunwali hospitality” where feeding everyone who came to visit regardless of wealth and their concept of being simple is reiterated throughout the book, ” we prefer to sit on floors rather than chairs.” This reminded me of stories my own parents tell from Sri Lanka, and really reflected on the concept of a sense of gratefulness over luxury. Living in well- developed countries such as the UK, we often forget to appreciate and instead quantify our happiness by the number of designer bags we have or how many flashy cars we drive. I loved the life lessons that came from the book. Malala recalls  the time where she was caught stealing and the huge disappointment she felt from her father. It reminded me of family relationships, our values and beliefs that our own parents have passed on to us. More importantly, it allowed me to truly appreciate how lucky I am to be a woman in this day and age. No offence to men, but as women, we have come incredibly far. Our voices are heard, not silenced. We have the capability to achieve whatever we set our hearts to. 

So I’d definitely recommend this book. Even if you don’t quite understand the politics, allow yourself to be immersed in the life of the people of Swat, through Malala’s eyes. It really makes you appreciate the small things that we take for granted. A perfect book for me to end this beautiful year 🙂

Happy new year too guys 🙂

 Niru