On paleness and the desire to tan.

It is that time of year again. The magazines are throwing out as many free summer goodies as they can possibly afford. Shorts and sandals galore. Paperbacks stacked by the garden loungers (unless you have a dog that is inclined to biting and hunting inanimate objects like mine, then I highly recommend stacking at a height). Not to forget the endless number of burnt faces, shoulders, backs and tops of feet.

We Brits spend all year praying to have a good summer: hot weather so we can go outside and roast ourselves in the sun, glass of Pimm’s in the hand while we lovingly burn meat on the barbecue. Yet when it finally arrives nobody seems to be able to do anything other than moan about the weather. “Oh it is so unbelievably hot today!” “I can’t cope with this weather” “I am wearing way too many clothes for this weather”

When a glass is just not big enough.

When a glass is just not big enough.

Make your minds up! I am far from exempt from this. I find myself struggling to pick clothes out of my wardrobe that will do all the things I require of them: leave enough skin on show so as to allow for maximum pre-holiday tannage, cover me up enough so I don’t burn/get sun stroke and also feel comfortable and cool enough simultaneously. Today for example I chose a pair of denim shorts and a baggy white cotton blouse. Actually not a bad decision for a heat wave day.

Perhaps it is just me. For those sun worshippers out there who can happily bask in the sun all day and night I am sure you are in your element. But then I also assume that when you look at the sun you don’t burn. Being a pale skinned being I am doomed to the curse of the burn-white cycle. I sit in the sun, I burn, the burn fades and returns back to its original shade of luminous whiteness. My skin never seems to remember how to progress. Wearing white does help to create the illusion that I have a slight tan.

Perhaps this year is the year. I have been off from uni for a few months now, reading in the sun, working in the sun, I have managed a healthy glow. My body is acclimatising to the heat slowly, but surely. Two weeks in Skiathos in 9 days time may allow for an actual tan. Could that be possible? Has my time finally arrived? I guess considering a couple of years ago I made it no further than I am now despite having 2 weeks in India, 10 days in France and 1 week in Cornwall maybe I shouldn’t get my hopes up.

I guess I should be used to paleness now. I have embraced it wholeheartedly, I really have. I am not in denial. I know that the chances of me walking down the streets with a perfectly even golden tan are slimmer than my chance of winning the lottery. But hope is always on the agenda. So for those of you pale and desperate for warm weather but unable to cope with it I hear you. Hang in there and I wouldn’t worry because winter is coming.

Advertisements

Discrimination prevents universal freedom of expression

“I am gay.” May be easy for some people to say, hard for others. The looming threat of discrimination can make it difficult for people to be true to themselves. The anxiety caused by living in a society that directly opposes your own beliefs and being can make life horrific for millions of people.

This is not just exclusive to the LGBT community, but it is a worldwide crisis. Discrimination has prevented freedom of expression from being accessible to many. Not just across the world but within different social groups in countries and communities discrimination is present, preventing everyone to their universal right. Poverty, unequal/lack of political representation, basic education, religion, sexual orientation. The people who most need the power of free expression are the ones who are prevented from using it. They need to make their voices heard. Not just because by making their circumstances public they may receive support, but because everyone deserves the most basic of human rights. In a rich country or a poor country, Western or Eastern, black or white, gay or straight. Universality means exactly that. Universal. Everyone.

Furthermore, freedom of expression isn’t just about letting people know about any discrimination you have experienced, but it is about that person’s personal development. Knowledge is power. Access to information helps communities to grow and prosper, creates better economic prospects, equal representation in politics, ultimately to a decrease in discrimination. Without freedom there can only be limited development, and the goal for all communities, cities, countries, the world, is growth. But with discrimination there cannot be freedom.

In Arundhati Roy’s book The God of Small Things the character Velutha is discriminated because he classified by the caste system in India as an untouchable. Outside of the four Varna’s, he is at the very bottom of society. This is only because of the family he was born into. As a person, he is the God of small things. Working as a gardener, handy-man, babysitter. His relationship with a higher caste woman ends with his death and her abandonment. How is this fair?

Yes I have used a fictional example, but that is only because using a real life example is too upsetting, more so than Velutha’s story. The worst (and simultaneously the best) part of the book, is its realism. It is so heavily rooted within Hindu and Indian culture that despite the country’s growing economic status, there is still this discrimination at the very heart of it and this class of people are absent from those benefits. Tradition is hard to replace. In this example, the laws are based in religion, which is then hard to alter because religion is such an important factor for millions of people across the world. This is the problem. This needs resolving before anything can be done in the way of ensuring everyone has the right to free expression.

While people are still being discriminated in their homes it will be almost impossible for the laws on expression to be changed. But this should not be disheartening, because you can also do many great things from inside your home, maybe even write a post on your blog.

Review: Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things is NOT a small book

Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things  is one of those books that seems to come along once in a blue moon. It seemed to defy all the conventional ‘rules’ of literature and in the process created a sensation. The characterisation, non-linear narrative, and unfamiliar and yet at the same time familiar setting make it hard to put down.

The story is set in Kerala, India and retraces the lives of an upper caste family in the lead up and aftermath of a tragic drowning accident, with  focus on the destruction of the fraternal twins Estha and Rahel’s lives. The story starts at the end, finds the beginning in the middle and finishes somewhere in the middle which allows the characters to be developed and seen at different stages of their lives. The vast array of characters also aid the storytelling because the narrative is not restricted to one person’s viewpoint; third person narrative enables us as readers to experience India through the eyes of children, grandparents, women, men and untouchables.

What I liked most was the political aspect of the novel. At the very heart of the plot was the transgression of the laws that have built Indian society and yet they were so easily broken, broken by ordinary people. The laws that surround religion, nationality, caste, gender, sexuality, incest: the laws that lay down “who should be loved, and how. And how much.” But it remains relatable, although it discusses and leaves those issues open for criticism it is not a political attack on the system. It questions the importance of the small things over the big, or in this case the social ‘laws’.

Love Laws

Love Laws define who we can love, when and by how much…

I found one of the characters particularly interesting. Velutha who is the God of Small Things. What I most enjoyed was his presence in the text, for the majority of the opening he is only referred to, and is not seen or given a large role because of his place as an untouchable in the Indian caste system, at the bottom of the hierarchical system. But as the ‘laws’ were starting to become more apparent as the plot picked up and they started to be questioned and broken, he became a crucial character. Despite the stereotype associated with the untouchables to the other characters he was, and is for me, one of the nicest characters. He was not aggressive or violent towards those who were ranked higher in the heteronormative society.

Although set in India between 1960-1990 depending on which part of the narrative we look at, the text was familiar. I have been to India and was able to imagine the places I had seen and compare that to the descriptions in the novel, but regardless of my experiences I still felt that I was able to relate to the characters. The descriptions of the exotic didn’t feel like Roy was trying to sell India, like some people have criticised, but it just felt like a description of a family home in India. For Roy, the scenes that she writes about are quotidian, nothing more.