Category Archives: Uncategorized

Some brief thoughts on healthcare

Healthcare is nowhere near good enough and that’s the fault of politicians who would rather play with our lives or have forgotten why they are there in the first place.

There has never been any justification for making barriers to research for any substance: cannabis and psychedelics. Don’t legalise until the evidence is clear and a plan is in place, sure, but never block the channels to research.

Cannabis could have stopped people from ever having to go on to opioid painkillers. And why is it that our mental health resources are not anywhere near good enough (WHO: 300 million people with depression worldwide) when psychedelics show such incredible promise.

And not just as a medicine but for the betterment of well people.


A 20th century warning on #WorldBeeDay

A 20th century warning on #WorldBeeDay, which was yesterday, it appears…

In 1958, Chairman Mao Zedong started the Four Pests Campaign, otherwise known as the Great Sparrow Campaign, as part of the Great Leap Forward.

Mao ordered the eradication of rats, flies, mosquitoes and, notably, sparrows.

But this ecological imbalance caused insect populations to boom, with locusts in particular wreaking havoc, eating crops intended as food.

This horrific error on the part of the Chinese government is widely considered to have worsened the Great Chinese Famine, which caused between 20 to 45 million deaths. Just because sparrows were being exterminated from the ecological system. Seemingly irrelevant animals are often anything but.

Cross-pollination facilitated by bees has a role in the growth of around one-third of the world’s crops. We need to look after the bees.

2017: The year I went numb

It horrifies me to think that I once considered “mental health difficulties” to be attention-seeking bullshit. That changed a few years ago, but the reality of my naivety only truly sank in this year when a single negative occurrence could smack me with waves of darkness punishing enough to leave me bed-stricken for the day. In such periods, the only thing you don’t become numb to is the surprise that matters can get even worse – for me, that happened when I ordered a pizza.

I can’t even remember what pizza it was, but it would have been a very nice pizza. Well, if I could have stomached more than two or three slices without wanting to churn my guts up. Christ, this was bad. I love food – as long as it’s not green. How could I not eat a pizza? How could I not eat anything? Not long after I was in Bristol poking and prodding at a Five Guys burger – usually my favourite – for 15 minutes. But I couldn’t get it all down. Barely touched the fries.

This vicious sickness that was toying and tormenting my brain had started to show itself physically. I felt bony, having shed two stone in about a month. Upon mentioning this struggle to my friends, one noted that I had slimmed down. I hadn’t a clue, so trapped in my own head that reality had ceased to exist. And at that point, what did I care? It was fucking shit anyway.

I tried an experiment a week or so earlier at one of my lowest points. University had ended, three great years with several great mates who pulled me along even if they didn’t realise it at the time.

India and Pakistan were set to duel in the Champions Trophy final at the Oval, about an hour and a half up the road. I didn’t have a ticket, so I paid an obscene amount of money for a ticket. Money was no object, not because I had a lot of it, but because it had ceased to mean anything – a personal economic crash, if you will.

I am a sports nut. I would get up in the middle of the night during school time to watch Sachin Tendulkar bat, Lleyton Hewitt scuttle on the baseline and Ana Ivanovic lose. It was madness but I never cared – I loved it. To watch India v Pakistan live in a match of such importance should have filled me with unmatched adrenaline and joy – but it didn’t.

It was merely okay. Fakhar Zaman’s unexpected, punchy hundred to set the tone was just alright. Mohammad Amir’s unprecedented dismantling of Virat Kohli left me no more than appreciative. Being on the guest list at Pakistan’s date with destiny as they downed their greatest foe should have felt magical, instead, I was numb. Thoughts on other matters. Dark matters. I had a similar experience in Bangalore earlier this year. It was a wonderful trip and I met some wonderful people but one night, at an Indian Premier League match of all places, I felt dead inside. Couldn’t even get hyped for MS Dhoni launching a six out of the stadium.

I was physically and mentally drained by the time I got home from that Champions Trophy final. It was, admittedly, an extremely hot day. I felt my legs going by the time I arrived back at London Victoria. I was knackered, but it was more than the heat. As far as everybody else was concerned, I’d had an amazing day. And while at the time it was indeed my best in weeks, in the grander picture, it was just another blob of misery. And I’m sad for that, because somebody else could have been in my seat to drink in the action and enjoy the atmosphere between the Indian and Pakistani fans – frenemies, always.

Back to my weight. The first stone I lost was unnecessary chub, the second I decided I could bargain away providing there was no more. But I couldn’t eat. I just couldn’t fucking eat. It was unexplainable. I feared losing three, four, maybe even five stone and wasting away entirely. Sometimes that even felt for the best. Depression is a nasty illness. Anxiety stops you from doing the things you love. Depression stops you from even wanting to try.

If you have ever known me personally, you will know I am something of an eccentric. I have grappled with whether that’s a fake persona or not many times. I have concluded it isn’t. Sure, it’s served as a coping mechanism at times, but my quirks are who I am. But the depression demons first want to kill who you are, before deciding whether to kill you. I’ve never felt suicidal, but I’ve understood why people would. And unless you find a way off that road, I don’t doubt that suicide is likely if not inevitable. Today’s world may well be drugged on hyperbole and exaggeration, but trust me, I’m speaking sober.

Things aren’t so bad at the moment. I’m afraid there’s no monologue as to why – I don’t really know why, and frankly, right now, I don’t care. Certain areas of my life are better, others are worse. But I am encouraged. My anxiety is more under control than it has been for four years. I am laughing again. I am loving sport again. I care about those two things as much as I care about anything.

If you’re struggling, I’m afraid I have no advice. Only you know your situation. The advice given in this area is the most well-meaning in the world, but that doesn’t mean it will help. Nearly everybody recommended I tell my closest family. It was natural advice, the best advice for pretty much anyone I’m sure, but not for me. Because that’s what I did, and it provided additional, needless stress.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate it. More than you’ll ever know.

The Privileged Feminists’ March

Trigger warning: mansplaining

In case you hadn’t heard, and how could you not have with the fawning mainstream media, there was a women’s march in America today and in other countries home to Lefties who love a good protest, but bizarrely, not voting.

They styled themselves as the Resistance, despite having spent eight years cheerleading the man who has just left the White House – very edgy. Anyway, a “women’s march”. What pressing issues facing women around the world could they possibly have tackled? Female genital mutilation (FGM)? Child marriages? The ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia because they may receive sexual gratification from the vibrations?

No, President Trump.

Strange, isn’t it? These are the women who love to bang on about “privilege”, specifically white, male, cisgender privilege. Yet in the midst of placard-waving self-righteousness, they forget their own first world privilege. Instead of fighting the real injustices their fellow gender faces around the globe, they’d rather whine about an elected president who threatens precisely zero of their constitutional rights.

So what are they moaning about? An incident involving the now-regularly correct Piers Morgan came a cropper to a privileged feminist who took umbrage at him referring to her and others as “ladies”. Emily Davison or Emmeline Pankhurst she most certainly isn’t.

One wonders what a woman in Riyadh or Somalia would think of a self-obsessed march focussing on what someone has said rather than done – it’s staggering ignorance and privilege. There is nothing brave or strong about the women marching in America, nor was there anything heroic about Meryl Streep’s anti-Donald Trump speech at the Golden Globes. It’s echo chamber – big echo chamber, granted, but still echo chamber – stuff from people crying to audiences they know will pacify them.

If these women were brave, they would be protesting the likes of FGM. Their “SlutWalks” would take place in the Middle East, not the middle of Los Angeles. That we could simply see their faces at the march is proof they aren’t that oppressed.

Another wildly inaccurate feminist line is that right-wingers only care about women’s rights when it presents a chance to bash Islam. Well, better to be accused of bashing Islam while caring about African and Middle Eastern women than not caring about them at all. And, with militant feminists being one of Christianity’s biggest critics, they can hardly claim to be the guardians of religious liberty.

All of this is even odder considering just a few weeks’ ago the same people were proclaiming how they were “citizens of the world”. To most of them, that means citizens of the predominantly white, liberal world, as they don’t give a jot as to what goes on outside of it. And in their world, the reality is Trump is of little to no danger.

In fact, despite pledging to defund Planned Parenthood – which Lefties, in a protest at Trump, amusingly proved could be privately-funded – the Republican president has praised parts of the organisation and is much more liberal than many in his party are and his former presidential candidates were on women’s healthcare, specifically on abortion. Trump stressed how important he felt it was for the government to fund women’s health issues. Agree or disagree, he’s hardly the enemy. Moreover, his daughter Ivanka is sure to nudge him in a liberal direction if the past 18 months are anything to go on.

Twelve years ago, Trump made filthy, derogatory comments about women, apologised for the words, denied the actions and hasn’t been prosecuted for anything. He has continued to be vulgar, crude and brash, yet on November 8 the New Yorker was elected President of the United States. The “Women’s March”, occurring one day after his inauguration, is a sulky protest at an election that didn’t go their way. Nothing more, nothing less.

Trump may not be a traditional role model, but were there protests against Barack Obama in 2008 when the former president won the White House while opposing same-sex marriage? Were shop windows smashed or conservative journalists pushed around? Of course not. But these protesters, despite the will of their nation (no, the popular vote doesn’t count) aren’t even willing to give the new guy an opportunity.

It’s further indication that the oh-so-tolerant liberals of the Left do not practice what they preach. Comedic talking head Sally Kohn mused before the election that Trump supporters would be violent if their man lost, while Hillary fans would simply be sad. Wrong, again.

Not to mention, many of the “feminists” peddling these marches are as morally bankrupt as they perceive Trump to be. Take the insufferable Laurie Penny for example. During the inauguration, she felt the need to bring up her period on Twitter, claiming that it “started with a vengeance” during the speech. As well as filing that into the “Things that Never Happened” folder, Laurie shows that she’s not exactly a role model either.

It doesn’t matter how many turned up to the march. It doesn’t matter how many signed your stupid petition. It doesn’t matter how many snarky comments you make. It doesn’t matter how many times Trump is “absolutely destroyed by John Oliver”. It doesn’t matter that you’re wearing a silly-looking pink pussy hat. Nothing will matter until you leave your “the world is against me” bubble.

America hates women so much that it enabled one to become nominee for president – even one as useless as Hillary Clinton. Saudi Arabia hates women so much that they all have male guardians, only one in eight work and they are told how to dress.

But keep imploding about your new president who said mean things, you privileged cry-babies.

Eurovision Song Contest 2016: Revelling in the Farce

Watching the Eurovision Song Contest these days tends to be a masochistic experience. Lacking class, respect and even a couple of night-redeeming songs, it’s hard to believe that the graceful Katie Boyle hosted this contest in its infancy.

But on we plod – some of us have nothing better to do on a Saturday night – to another year, safe in the knowledge that even if the music’s crap, our eastern European geography will get a much-needed brush up. Nice and easy this year. Stockholm… Sweden.

So what’s to enjoy in 2016? Not that much in all honesty. The usually trusty Scandinavians took a battering in the semi-finals, leaving only Sweden to carry the flag in Saturday’s Grand Final. The trashy Europop that normally floods the show – providing multiple chances to sneer – is notable in its absence. Even the Greeks have shied away from sending over a bit of skirt, evidently not prepared to take even the slightest risk that they might have to host it.

Armenia, however, has followed the unwritten rules, and Iveta Mukuchyan’s risqué outfit should be enough to keep Europe’s red-blooded males until the 26th – yes, TWENTY-SIXTH – and final act of the evening.

To only enhance the farce, Australia, those adopted Europeans, probably have the best entry with Dami Im’s Sound of Silence. The bookies’, late to the news that other countries’ X Factor winners can actually sing, have slashed her odds from 20/1 to 4/1 since her semi-final performance on Thursday.

It has not gone unnoticed that the last few years have seen Eurovision become an LGBT celebration of sorts. Hence, that Russia – cue the boos – is the runaway favourite to swoop to victory adds an element of interest for those who just like to watch the world burn. Since the “anti-gay laws” coupled with the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia has been Eurovision’s bad boys. And for that reason alone, there would be plenty amusing about seeing the carnival rock up in Moscow a year from now.

But enough about the rest, what about the best? The nation that has sent the nil-point Jemini, a half-cut Bonnie Tyler and the frankly pathetic Scooch to compete since our last victory in 1997, has cobbled together “Joe and Jake” this year – no, I hadn’t a clue either. Both took part in BBC flop ‘The Voice’ last year, but they have a chance of doing better than many of our recent entries… look, I’m trying.

Once the initial tricking of results confirm the British entry has bombed yet again, the drunken debrief can begin. Trashy song? Bloc voting? Probably a combination of both. What about if we put a transvestite up? That worked for Austria, and Israel. Suggestions, suggestions. If only Adele would bite the bullet and prove once and for all that the rest of Europe just loathes us, we could stop pouring in megabucks and FUND OUR NHS INSTEAD!

However, while the music itself – you’re not actually here for that, are you? – will be instantly forgettable, in Sweden, we have a country that knows how to put a show on.

Thankfully for us in Blighty, the Swedes’ humour is not all that dissimilar to ours, so expect popular host Petra Mede to deliver a snigger-inducing innuendo-filled performance. An appearance from another Eurovision “favourite” (she is, in fairness, mildly entertaining), Lynda Woodruff, “spokesperson for the European Broadcasting Union” is expected, as she reprises her role from 2013, the previous time the contest came to Sweden.

A pre-warning: it’s scheduled to last three and a half hours, but expect it to go on even longer. Not that it will matter if you are suitably plastered, as is Eurovision tradition. So, how will I be getting into the spirit of things? A homemade curry – to celebrate the Indian diaspora in Europe, of course – is on the menu, which will be appropriately washed down with Germany’s finest weissbiers. Any excuse.

It’s a shambles, but it’s Europe’s shambles. There’s something still relatively charming about its awfulness – and anyway, what respectable Brit would pass up the opportunity to have a 210-minute moan? And, on the off chance that you still need a reason for Brexit, it won’t hurt to give this a try.

Holi – The World’s Greatest Festival

Towering stacks of vibrant coloured powders can be seen lining the streets in the days before, children are fervently snapping up pichkaris (water-guns) ahead of the big day, while the more mischievous may look to acquire some bhang. This is Hindustan’s party. This is Holi.

On Friday, India will once again stop for their annual festival of love, celebrating the arrival of spring and the triumph of good over evil – or more namely, Prahlada’s triumph over Hiranyakashipu. A chance to spend time with family and friends, one of the country’s most important customs.

I was lucky enough to play Holi last year in the Pink City of Jaipur, during my tour of Rajasthan and two-month excursion of India. It was the most memorable moment of the trip by a stretch – usurping the Amber Fort, the Golden City of Jaisalmer, and even the iconic Taj Mahal. An almost exclusive diet of paneer and vegetables didn’t always sit well, but it was an acceptable sacrifice for this mesmeric journey.

The locals, plastered in the most vivacious hues, while dancing unburdened around the forts, palaces, and gardens. For one day, this city and countless others halted to rejoice in unrivalled happiness. “Bura na mano, Holi hai!” (Don’t be upset, it’s Holi!) you’ll be told, as someone splatters you.

There are plenty of parties organised for tourists offering the chance to play “safe Holi”, but the real fun – albeit somewhat more boisterous – takes place on the streets. Things get wild, and from afar it can seem rather intimidating, but you have to go with it. A couple of hours dancing Bollywood style, drinking, and throwing colours before the kids proceed to soak you with their pichkaris will leave you looking like a modern-art canvas and probably knackered, but koi baat nahi. It all comes out in the wash.

Holi Festival
Playing Holi in Jaipur. Photo credit: India Parish

It’s not always fun and games though. Holi has come under fire for not being safe for women and a few have even labeled it a “festival of groping”. Too many bhang lassis (a cannabis-infused drink) can lead to some pretty sleazy behaviour but many of the offenders appeared just to be opportunists. In truth, as a male, it wasn’t an issue I gave much consideration at the time. As to all travelling, the usual advice of “keeping your wits about you” applies.

Predictably, light-skinned tourists stand out and regularly attract attention from the inquisitive – which is most people in India! – although it is nearly always harmless and in fact, quite welcoming. Conversation is an underrated art, and one technology is endangering. Indians are extremely proud of their country and as people, things aren’t perfect, far from it, but at times you could be forgiven for thinking they were.

Things are changing. Jaipur’s traditional Elephant Festival didn’t take place last year after pressure from animal rights groups although it looks to be going ahead this time around.

Holi has become a more international experience over recent years. I was one of many Western people who had made the trek, some had come solely for the festival. Europe and America have also attempted their own imitations. But they are just that. Imitations. Only the frolicking and intoxication remains. They are glorified paint parties with a pretence of cultural enrichment that reek merely of commercial gain. You can take India out of Holi, but you can’t take Holi out of India… Well, it’s big in Nepal too.

No, to immerse yourself and truly understand the magic you have to bite the bullet and go. For all the pictures that utilise the whole spectrum, nothing beats being there. And as I look at the paint-stained shirt hanging in the wardrobe, I long for the day I can return and do it all again.

Good people, bad people, no other difference

“There are only two kinds of people in this world. Good people who do good deeds, and bad people who do bad. That’s the only difference in human beings. There’s no other difference.”

As we descend into further chaos, the world would do well to take note from the highly successful Hindi movie, My Name is Khan. The 2010 film, starring Shahrukh Khan and Kajol is one of the most successful Bollywood productions ever for a reason. One, the star cast, and secondly – and perhaps more importantly – the film’s powerful message.

The film is centred around Rizwan Khan (Shahrukh Khan), a Muslim man with Asperger’s syndrome and his quest to meet the US President in a bid to prove his innocence and win back his wife Mandira (Kajol) in an America reeling from the shock of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Without focusing too much on the plot, Khan’s character is one of humility and hope, battling American anger and Islamic fundamentalism through various acts of goodness, in a journey across the country.MNIK

Race, religion, and any other discriminator pales into insignificance – or at least should – when making a judgment between right and wrong. This core principle is ever present in My Name is Khan and is one that would be worth adopting by a British society becoming more and more apologetic for increasingly despicable acts.

We must be very clear in showing no compassion to those who have committed unforgivable acts of wrong. The sheer barbarism seen in recent weeks from the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria are some of the worst in living memory.

To think that there is nothing to stop terrorists who have left Britain to fight for this “cause” returning and slipping back quietly into British society is both frightening, and unbelievable.

The human rights argument completely falls flat when considering the human rights of those whose lives they have ruined or worse, taken away. The inseparable attachment the UK in particular now has to human rights continually acts as a prevention to achieving justice for the victims of such crimes. As necessary as they are, they should not serve to protect those who have committed heinous crimes.

It is my belief that once you infringe on the human rights of another person you begin to lose your own. That is fair. The “eye for an eye leaves everybody blind” argument does not hold when it is the innocent who are the victims.

It is not a case of perpetuating hatred but protecting ourselves from acts of terrorism as well as the silent growth of it. Protection isn’t being insular, in cases like these it’s required. Ir is a country’s duty to act first in the best interests of its citizens.

Another case of being apologetic and fearful of causing upset has become apparent in Rotherham where it has emerged 1,400 children have been abused since 1997, from rape, trafficking, to abduction, predominantly by Pakistani men.

Yet in fear of being labeled racist, the authorities made every effort in order to cover themselves. Criminals were shielded whilst the victims were left helpless. Any consideration for justice was completely disregarded. Referring to the point I made earlier, race, creed or culture has no bearing on whether something is right or wrong.

Unless sensible action is taken to secure justice, and all criminals are held to account, the door will remain open to unchallenged crime.

However, whilst there should be no fear of being labeled racist for pointing out factual evidence, there is also no justification for real racism, which is still a prominent issue and is given somewhat of a platform when events aforementioned occur.

Tolerance is key. I don’t need to explain that discrimination on race is never acceptable but neither should it be for religion.

Religion can be used as a moral compass, and a guide to how somebody can lead a good life. The God fearing little old lady at the Church has almost certainly not used religion as a hate tool.

Although if religion is interpreted to justify criminal acts – most significantly on those of opposing beliefs – then it has no place.. Die hard religious – I use the term religious lightly – fundamentalist organisations such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Islamic State have no place in this world.

I am no expert on religious scripture but feel certain that no sane minded person attempting to lead an honorable life would ever murder or abuse other human beings, or see religion as a way to justify it.

Being apologetic and sympathising for those who have committed wrong is not an act of tolerance, but one of cowardice.Yet criminalising people on baseless accusations is equally indefensible. Distinguishing between whether something is right or whether something is wrong is made far easier when removing race, creed, culture etc. from the equation.

For those who haven’t seen My Name is Khan – which is probably most considering most people reading this I assume are from a Western background – I couldn’t recommend it further. Not only is it a good damn watch but it re-emphasises the values I have tried to put forward, as well as offering a different perspective to the modern world than the Western one we are almost solely accustomed to.

Having spent time in India, I’ve also developed a soft spot for their cinema. The Indian film industry isn’t the world’s biggest for no reason you know.