The Beauty of being British Asian

All, life, personal

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As a child, I remember being one of two brown girls in my class. I was born and raised in the leafy suburbs of London by my parents – Indian immigrants from India and Kenya. Like most, they tried to retain the culture of their roots when raising their children. They did such a good job at it in fact, that sometimes I feel more Indian than British. Being brought up immersed in one country’s culture but living in another – life as a British Asian is a beautiful blend of the best (and sometimes worst) of both worlds:

It’s the butter chicken and the fish and chips. It’s not being able to handle spicy food (Nando’s lemon & herb everytime). It’s having so many cousins that I couldn’t count them on two hands – let alone one. It’s telling my spelling teacher in year 4 that I don’t know all the English words yet. It’s speaking Hindi and Punjabi at the same time and not knowing when I switch to the other. It’s family gatherings that are filled with (very) loud laughter, big hugs and endless hallway goodbyes. It’s cardamom-infused Indian tea, crispy samosas and sweet mango chutney. It’s my brown skin and British accent. It’s making finding an eyebrow lady a priority when I move away. It’s being called a ‘coconut’ by other immigrant kids. It’s addressing the cultural conflicts. It’s the three day, colourful, big, Indian weddings and the ivory and blush shades of smaller English weddings. It’s bringing the East into the West. It’s keeping traditions alive and challenging those that are archaic and patriarchal. It’s shouting down the phone to relatives in India and being overly polite to strangers. It’s opening a tub of ice cream in the fridge and being faced with frozen daal. It’s blindly respecting your elders as a child and growing up to realise that respect is a two-way street. It’s being racially profiled at airports, but having a British passport. It’s feeling like a foreigner in India and looking like one in the UK. It’s learning about colonial history at home and not at school. It’s cheering on whatever team is playing against England in the World Cup. It’s navigating between the cultural values of my family’s homeland and our adopted home. It’s the snap of a poppadom and the crunch of a bag of ready salted crisps. It’s being a corner shop kid. It’s listening to both the whimsical waves of Bollywood music and the rough rhymes of UK grime. It’s using my Hindi writing skills as a party trick. It’s having the freedom to choose what I do and who I marry, when my ancestors (and parents) didn’t. It’s planning a fusion wedding and adding a new culture to the colourful palette of my life. It’s celebrating Christmas and Diwali. It’s being rich in history, languages, literature and ways of life. It’s strength and resilience. Its open-mindedness and tolerance. It’s being a global citizen. 

– Nikita

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Why I’m reinventing my (online) self and you can too

All, life

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Five years ago, I created Making Apple Pie From Scratch in a haze of inspiration, wanderlust and longing for the previous summer. I was a 21 year old Biology graduate that had recently returned to the leafy suburbs of London after a whirlwind 3 months abroad in Florida (read my old-school first ever blog post here). It had been an unforgettable summer in the sunshine state, spent watching rocket launches at NASA Kennedy Space Center, taking classes on space exploration, meeting (and partying with) astronauts, and making lifelong friends with people sharing my vision of the world.

Brimming with stories of the summer that I spent studying the stars, I felt compelled to share my journey and this blog began as a way to do just that. I caught the travel bug and have lived in 6 countries in the past 5 years, communicating science along the way. I have written about how our bodies will react to living on Mars, described astonishing light displays on Saturn, personified spacecrafts, dissected the anatomy of an asteroid and explored how satellites can help us to protect our planet. Creating #scicomm content is what I love to do and  when sprinkled with a dusting of my travel posts, the combination was a great fit for Making Apple Pie From Scratch.

That was until recently however. My blog – created by 21 year old me – hasn’t quite caught up with the 26 year old me that is writing this article. I am convinced that our digital persona and real-life self almost always never match up. And, with every year spent abroad and every experience along the way, I’ve felt my blog drift further and further away from who I am today, towards who I was yesterday. I’ve changed – as I’m sure you have too with every passing year of your life. Ever feel like the you you’re putting out in the world could be a little more truer to the real you? Same. This feeling affects writer’s block too – I’ve found it often happens when what you’re trying to write about isn’t really what you want to write about at that moment in time. That’s exactly how I realised that my online self needed a digital makeover. My interests include science, space and travel, but are not limited to those things either. Realising that you don’t have to pick one thing when you care about many is a profound moment that I think many of us don’t allow ourselves the creative headspace to ever reach.

Going forward, I’m going to begin sharing more of myself on this blog. I’ll be posting more honest content that is relatable and hopefully, helpful. That doesn’t mean less science, or travel, but more posts on other topics that interest me – which may, or may not include science and travel. As a young British Indian women who has a global perspective, I care about things as diverse as ethnic minority representation, climate change solutions, social enterprises and startups, the diaspora of 2nd gen immigrants like myself, creating technologies for change and empowering people to be their best selves. I’ve already written an article on the unexpected realities of living abroad that I wish I had known before, and am vocal about my many interests on Twitter already. My blog, it seems was the last online platform to catch up with my modern-day self. But, as I have learnt, it’s never too late to reinvent your online self. After all, as astronomer Carl Sagan said, “if you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe”. Well, Making Apple Pie From Scratch, here’s to reinvention.

-Nikita

From London to Oxford

All, life, personal

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Just typing that title gave me déjà vu. Yes, I’ve moved again. This time though, I’ve stayed in the UK (despite the unfortunate Brexit timing) and have made the beautiful city of dreaming spires my new home. I’ve been in Oxford for the better part of half a year and so far, noticed a lot of similarities with the big smoke.

I’ll be real with you. Like London, it’s expensive. And, pretty polluted. But, I should add that as a Londoner these things, although real causes for concern, made me feel weirdly right at home.  I’ve fallen in love with the majestic tall spires which dot the Oxford skyline – the university buildings are a dream. The stars even shine brighter here in the green pastures of Oxfordshire and the noise levels are low enough to make me notice the quiet. The cobbled streets and sheer small size of the city remind me of my Dutch home of Leiden.

Since moving, life has gotten in the way of blogging. However, in true new year, new me style – I am determined to write more musings, share more travels and communicate fascinating science and the people behind it.

– Nikita

 

 

Leaving Leiden for London

All, life, personal

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It’s been longer than I’d like to admit since I last sat down and blogged. Life has changed since then. As I speak (type), this blog post is the result of ignoring multiple reminders on my phone reminding my future self to update my blog *hangs head in shame*. Due to a lot of moving and putting myself and my career first – content on my blog was quiet for a while. Since this blog post is titled ‘Leaving Leiden for London’, I should probably explain.

Last year I was living in Leiden, the Netherlands – one of the many countries I’ve had the privilege of calling home (for now). At the end of 2015, I made the decision to move back to the UK. It’s where I’m from and the place that I left 4 years ago to travel the world in search of well, as cliché as it sounds but, myself. I left as a bright-eyed 21 year old excited to see the world and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I caught my first solo flight to Florida and didn’t look back, moving to France soon after and not long after that, San Francisco, Munich and most recently, Canada and the Netherlands. My blog had a constant stream of travel content as I took every opportunity I was given and ran with it. I started Making Apple Pie From Scratch in 2012 as a result of the new experiences I had abroad and  in order to share the fascinating science I was communicating.

I returned home as a 25 year old woman that pretty much knows what she wants and that the place to get it is back where it all started, in London. Leaving Leiden for London, I began 2016 in my new (old) home and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Fast forward 4 months and I’m now living the life that I envisioned from the start. Working for the brilliant National Physical Laboratory – I communicate science right from the place where it’s done, working closely with the inspiring minds that do so. It’s great to remain involved with European science but to do so with research conducted in the UK, for the UK and the rest of the world. I love the innovative inventions that arise from international collaboration and co-operation in science.

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After years of living and working abroad, it took returning home to realise that it’s the simple things that matter the most. To me anyway. A job that inspires me. My loved ones. A car that I can finally call mine (and practice my driving with)! And a country that I can always call home. Perhaps it’s boring. Perhaps it’s predictable. And yes, at times I do miss the excitement of landing somewhere new, but I know that the world is still out there.

I think that the “quit your job to travel” attitude that a lot of millennial-targeted articles out there have, portray travelling through some very rose-tinted lenses. In my opinion, this approach leaves room to not fully appreciate the life that you have already made for yourself. I hope that by sharing my story, others can relate to and realise that travelling doesn’t have to be a black or white quit-your-job-tomorrow-and-deplete-your-savings- type luxury decision. It can be something to work towards, whilst carving out an everyday life is fulfilling, inspiring and is simply enough. Without that feeling of something lacking.

Moving home has allowed me to set myself up professionally and financially so that travelling will always remain a big part of my life. Because, after changing country every few months, catching a flight every other weekend and packing and unpacking countless times, I grew tired of my ever-changing location and longed for something a bit more normal. And if you ask me, there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of normal.

-Nikita

p.s check if you ditched your world travels for a 9-5 job too, then this article might resonate with you like it did for me too.

Easter Weekend

All, life, personal, Travel

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This Easter, my folks paid me a visit in (sometimes) sunny Holland. It was a wonderful long weekend filled with cheese, chocolate, Indian food, boat trips and general tourist-like behavior.

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The tulip and cheese museums were a big hit. Unlimited cheese sampling + tulips = a winning combination in my books.

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Standing by the Amsterdam sign without being photobombed by several other tourists is pretty much near impossible on Easter weekend, but I’m glad I finally took a photo by the famous sign after having lived here for over 3 months already!

Easter and food go hand in hand (just like Christmas, calories don’t count during Easter remember)! After a spot of baking, I ticked off two other Dutch delicacies as I tried Dutch pancakes and Hagelslag .

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Nutella and banana is one of my favourite food combinations so I had to get that on my pancakes. Next time, I’ll be sure to try some traditionally Dutch toppings.

Hagelslag is the wonderful rainbow-sprinkled bread shown above. These sugary sprinkles eaten on buttered bread are a common children’s breakfast in the Netherlands, something that I could definitely get used to 🙂

Hope you had a wonderful Easter wherever you are in the world!

-Nikita

Weekend Inspiration

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Weekend Inspiration

I think these words apply to any field of work, dream or ambition and any person who knows that they want their life to have had some sort of impact on the world, regardless how small. Believing that you, a single human being can make a difference in your short lifetime on  Earth is a magnificent one. Whenever I’m feeling uninspired I try to watch a TED talk or speak to someone else on a similar wavelength to me. In my case it’s wanting to make more people excited about space and science. Whatever your dream is, whether you’re an up-and-coming entrepreneur, promising writer, future doctor, aspiring actor or in any other budding career, the point is that you’re rising towards something. You’re wanting more and when you want something, working hard for it is worthwhile and eventually you will make it.

-Nikita

p.s: I’m going to be doing ‘Weekend Inspiration’ as a regular bit from now on. I’m quite the optimist so I hope that by reflecting this in my blog it will inspire others to think positively about themselves too.

München

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It’s been a month and a half since I moved from London to Munich on New Years Day. Time has flown past and I’m already finding myself giving people (wrong) directions around town!
Occasionally, I look back to my first few days at work when everything that seems so clear to me now was all new information and realise how much I’ve already learnt in this short time. The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is a wonderful place to grow professionally and I can only imagine the perspective I’ll have on my last day — leaving as a better writer than before.
Sitting at the forefront of cutting-edge astronomical research of the Southern skies incredible new discoveries, exciting projects and magical images of the Universe are ESO’s forté. One such project that I’m working on is the ESO Ultra HD Expedition, which is the journey of four world renowned astrophotographers to Chile in order to capture the magnificent ESO sites in all their grandeur . A week or so ago, Christoph Malin, one of the talented ESO Photo Ambassadors embarking upon the trip paid a visit to the office where he took some photos of us hard at work 🙂
Living in a sleepy village outside Munich city centre means that I am always a tourist whenever I visit town. The weather has been unusually warm, but I’m not complaining!
I thought I’d share these snippets of my daily life as a short glimpse into working and living in Munich 🙂
-Nikita

It’s My Birthday!

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It’s the last hour of my birthday and of course I had to share it with the most important creative space that I have, my blog! However much fun Taylor Swift makes being 22 sound like it is (and it was), turning 23 has been a weekend full of my favourite people, food and places. The perfect combination 🙂 

 

I thought I’d share a few snippets of my birthday with you in this small insight into my life as a space graduate in London. Hope you’ve all enjoyed your weekend wherever in the world you may be. Can’t wait to share more space, science and travel posts with you soon, here’s to another year of space adventures to come.


– Nikita

Nikita’s News

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We’re well and truly into Autumn here in the UK and the time I usually spend starting a new academic year has now been replaced by time spent planning my time in 2014! Turning 23 next week, I’m now back in London with a few ideas up my sleeve for what the year ahead may hold. One of these is the newly released daily, online newspaper that goes by the name of Nikita’s News (I’m a sucker for alliteration). It has a nifty way of sourcing my favourite online posts via twitter into one beautiful place for you to read easily and conveniently, allowing me to select and edit daily content as I please. Covering sources from my favourite astronaut Cmdr Chris Hadfield, to the life-changing International Space University and my favourite writer & comedian Mindy Kaling, Nikita’s News has a range of information for everybody to enjoy. Whether you want an update from the European Space Agency (ESA), the magazine I’ve just begun writing for Space Safety Magazine, inspirational businesswoman and role model Sheryl Sandberg or even from little old me via my twitter account Nikita_, then Nikita’s News is the place to be!
 
Take a look for yourself at: http://paper.li/Nikita_/1380979535

Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button 🙂

 

 
-Nikita
 
p.s I’ve been asked if I can really make apple pie from scratch. Find out soon whether I can invent the universe/my cooking skills and make Carl Sagan proud!
 

The SETI Institute & Google

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If any of you have seen the film Contact then get ready to meet the real-life Ellie Arroway. I was invited to the Search for extraterrestrial intelligence Institute, otherwise known as the SETI Institute this week. Founded by Frank Drake, the equation guy, they host regular lunchtime talks on various space themed topics. I attended the one titled “New tricks to find and study habitable exoplanets” Scientifically obtaining images of rocky planets in the habitable zone is key to detecting whether life exists outside of our solar system and how it does so. If you’re wondering, the habitable zone is the zone within which conditions for life are just right, usually not too close and not too far from the star it orbits. Planets found within the habitable zone are sometimes called ‘Goldilocks’ planets, after the porridge from the fairy tale that is also not too hot and not too cold but, ‘just right’. Yes, science is cute as well as fascinating 🙂

After the talk, my friends and I had a tour of the centre and were lucky enough to meet Dr. Jill Tarter. Astronomer and director of the SETI Insitute, she has spent 35 years of her life in the search for extraterrestrial life. Her work is illustrated in Dr. Carl Sagan’s 1985 book ‘Contact‘ which tells the story of Ellie Arroway, a radio astronomer also searching for extraterrestrial life. Played by Jodie Foster in the 1997 movie, Dr. Jill Tarter provided guidance to the actress during the making of the movie in order to ensure scientific accuracy. The real-life Ellie Arroway taught us about the Allen Telescope Array in Hat Creek Observatory, California that studies many areas of the sky at once,bringing us one step closer to detecting a signal from extraterrestrial technologies and discovering intelligent life off of this planet. The Earth flag, shown in the above photos is a suggestion of the flag that should be used when humans visit planets, moons and asteroids. As opposed to the American flag that is on the Moon today, the Earth flag illustrates our local neighbourhood (in space distances of course!). With the Earth, our Moon and our nearest star the Sun illustrated, the flag would make more sense to another spacefaring species. I think the flag will encourages people to think of themselves not as the nationalities of their country, but a collective group of of animals of the Homo sapiens species living on this rock that we call Earth. 

I returned to work after visiting SETI just in time for the end of the weekly Director’s Colloquium talks that take place at NASA Ames Research Center.  This week, Google driverless cars were up for discussion and one was even parked outside the building! Obviously, I had to take advantage of the photo op with the futuristic technology. I can’t wait for the day when they are the norm and road accidents due to human error is something of the past.

 What do you think? Are self-driving cars an obvious progression of our technologically advancing society or would you rather be behind the wheel? 

-Nikita