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

 

 

The City of Cambridge

All, Travel

Since moving back to London after living abroad, I’ve tried to make an effort to see more of the UK. After all, with its history and landscapes, there’s lots to see right here, without even setting foot in an airport.

And so, I recently visited the quaint, and very old city of Cambridge. It was the perfect combination of intricate college architecture, history and nature (note: spot the horse at the breakfast table), with a spot of punting sprinkled in for good measure!

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 – Nikita