Pitru Paksha

Earlier this month, from Monday 20th September to Wednesday 6th October, I participated in the Hindu ritual known as Pitru Paksha. This is a mourning period where Hindus pay homage to their deceased loved ones. This process is to help the souls of the departed to achieve moksha, which is when the soul no longer goes through the process of reincarnation, and so suffering is ended. I never paid much attention to this ritual as I was never particularly close to any family members who had passed away, and last year I felt unable to partake as it had not been that long since my mum passed away. However, this year I decided that this was something I wanted to do, to ensure that mum is having a good experience in her next life.

The rituals involve giving different offerings, such as food, water and charity. I think this is definitely an inspirational ritual as it allows you to help others, reflect on your loss and continue to move forward without trying to forget who you have lost. Even though this is a Hindu ritual, I personally think that the messages behind this mourning period can be beneficial.

Each morning I would offer water and I would use the time to think about everything I have learned from my mum. It was a time for me to acknowledge that whilst she is no longer around, her teachings are still present. As I was told once: my mum had so much to offer; she had so much wisdom that it was time for her to pass on her knowledge to other people in a new life. I like this way of thinking as it brings me comfort to know that, if reincarnation is true, she is out there helping someone else in the way that she helped me.

This is, for me, the best way to remember someone. To use what you learned from them to help others, to remind yourself that in this way, the person you miss is still with you. As long as you continue to share the memories and knowledge of the person you have lost, they are never truly gone.

It’s Better in the Movies

Image from SeekPNG.com

It is a bit of a cliché to say that everything looks better in films. Films always seem to have that happy ending, they dramatise the moments that are not so dramatic in real life and play down the more serious moments. It seems important for us to remember that television and cinema is there for our entertainment and, more often than not, we cannot learn exactly how life will play out from watching films, just occasionally life lessons.

However, more and more television programmes and films are using their platforms to discuss hard-hitting and taboo subjects.

When my mum was told that her cancer had spread to her brain and that the next course of action was whole-head radiotherapy, she became really invested in Coronation Street. In particular, Sinead’s storyline where she was dying of cancer. I remember asking her why she was watching the episodes leading up to and including her death, as I thought they would just upset her. Looking back I think she may have been watching to think about what death might be like, and to feel less alone.

It was excellently done by Coronation Street, showcasing the reality that cancer does not win because the victim didn’t fight hard enough, but because it is a cruel and unforgiving disease which knows how to take over your body. Of course, TV shows cannot showcase every detail and the exact harsh reality that comes with a disease like cancer, but what they can do is educate people and spread awareness of the different circumstances we can find ourselves in.

There are other examples of film, television and literature that are excellently conveying important messages through their work. It is great to know that people out there want to tackle the issues present in society and this continous effort will help to reduce the taboo surrounding death, grief and other subject matters.

A Degree of Compassion

I was in my final year of my undergraduate degree when my mum was diagnosed with stage 4 NSCLC. As most people undertaking an undergraduate degree will be familiar with, a dissertation or thesis is an integral component of your degree, and it is essential that you perform well in it. It was, naturally, very difficult for me to focus on both writing up my dissertation and caring for my mum simultaneously. Some of the lecturers on my course were sympathetic and compassionate when dealing with my situation. However, I had one lecturer in particular who was not so understanding.

I was very upfront with my ongoing situation with the superiors on my degree, so that any dip in performance or request for extension did not come as a shock. However, this did not work in my favour. I requested a couple of extra days to write up a draft for my dissertation, as I had been at the hospital with my mum and had not had time to write anything. I was told I had to submit what I had, but no matter how much I pleaded for even one more day, I was told to submit a draft. I remember writing some gibberish and handing it in, only to be told how awful my work was.

When I received such feedback, I explained again the situation I was in. The fact was, I was not trying to make excuses. I am not work-shy, and nobody who is trying to explain their situation is being lazy. But what was I told when I explained my situation? I was told that “we all have problems to deal with”.

That just broke me.

Who in their right mind would actually be using cancer as an excuse to not hand in a piece of work? I was just trying to explain the difficulties that I was facing and that I was struggling. Schools, universities & workplaces should be more empathetic and more understanding of the personal circumstances of those attending their establishments. It is not surprising that people struggle to talk about the issues they face when these are the sorts of responses received.

But we need to talk about it more. The more we are open about our difficulties, the more we can begin to educate other people about the correct way to deal with situations and the importance of being sympathetic and kind to everyone.

It has not been all bad for me, though. During my postgraduate degree, my lecturers were more sympathetic and empathetic when I informed them of my mum’s passing, and gave me the opportunity to interrupt my studies and return the following year after having time to grieve. They were also sympathetic about me not attending university events or meetings during difficult moments, such as my mum’s death anniversary or birthday. And this is the way it should be. Nobody should have to struggle with their issues.

It is important for us to normalise open discussion about all problems, whether they are physical, emotional or financial. And it is important for us to remember to be kind, you never know what is going on in someone’s personal life, and what you say can have a huge impact on their well-being.

A Letter to Mum

Dear Mum,

Sometimes, just as I believe that I’ve come to terms with everything, it all comes crashing down again. I will go days as if they are normal, and I’ll live relatively ignorant to the gaping hole in my life. But suddenly, like a ton of bricks, it will hit me. You’re gone. You’re not coming back. You’re only in my life in spirit.

You would have been 56 this month. I spent my whole life thinking it wouldn’t matter what adversity I would be faced with because I would have you. Now, I am forced to face each challenge on my own.

I don’t want to be brave. I don’t want to be strong. I want to have you again. I want to be able to curl up into a ball and have you tell me everything will be okay. 110% of the time you knew the answer, even when I couldn’t explain the question. Now life feels like taking an exam with no resources to refer to, I am just guessing my way through.

That’s the sad part of life though, isn’t it? Life is so beautiful, but it must come to an end. I just hope you are happy in your new life, and that I am making you proud in this one.

Tu es, et tu seras toujours, la meilleure maman du monde ❤️

Love Zenouska

At a Crossroads

Career Crossroads
Image from https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecastrillon/2021/04/04/what-to-do-when-youre-at-a-career-crossroads/?sh=249bb3f1e87e

Do you ever find yourself in a position where you aren’t sure where to turn? You aren’t really sure who could help you out? And you find yourself feeling rather lost?

I have found myself feeling this way recently. I will be handing in my master’s dissertation next month and will need to decide what I am going to do with the rest of my life. It’s daunting trying to figure out what career path I ought to go down, and I’m sure this is something others have experienced in some way, shape or form, too.

Whenever I had a decision to make, no matter how small, I always used to go to my mum. She always had the right solution, everything would always go right when I would follow her advice.

I have tried many times to ask other people for their advice, but this is just not the same. I find myself questioning their advice and wondering if my mum would have given me the same answer. It feels selfish, as I know that people don’t have to help me, but for now I can’t shake the feeling that no advice can compare.

However, now I have learned to make decisions by myself. I can’t say that I am always making the correct decisions but I know that I am at least trying my best. I think we always wish the person we lost was around for us to talk to, but one thing for sure is that they will always be proud that we are doing all we can.

My First Time at Wembley Stadium

My experience at Wembley Stadium and what it was like watching a football match live

I’ve been a Tottenham Hotspur fan all my life but sadly I’ve never been to White Hart Lane. My entire experience of Spurs has been through television and radio, and I never really had the opportunity to watch football live at a stadium.

That was until Wednesday, when I was lucky enough to be given two tickets for the game against Southampton at Wembley Stadium. I genuinely thought my parents were having a joke at my expense when they said they had tickets. I was so excited when I was making my way from university with my dad to Wembley Stadium. I was even more excited when I could see Wembley Stadium from my seat in the tube, brightly lit and enticing.

I knew Wembley Stadium was big, but nothing could have prepared me for the walk from inside to watching the stadium open up in front of your eyes. It was an amazing view, and I was even more excited to be sitting behind the goal, I could see Heung-min Son and Lucas Moura score right in front of me (Harry Kane’s goal was down the other end!).

I was disappointed that the stadium wasn’t nearly as full as it could have been, although the North London Derby defeat had just happened the Saturday before, and it was an 8pm fixture on a Wednesday, it makes sense that fewer people attended the game. Despite that, the fans were not quiet, and instead of screaming at my television and my family telling me to shut up before the neighbours complain, I could shout out at my heart’s content and I still couldn’t be heard! It was brilliant seeing how passionate other Spurs supporters are, and there is a communal feel about chanting alongside fans even when you have never met them before.

One thing that I found rather odd was the number of people that were on their phones during the match. This may just be because I was there for the first time and wanted to get the full experience, even if I got my phone out now and then to take photos, but I would have thought everyone would be watching with their eyes peeled for the full 90 minutes. However, the other matches that were being played that night were important, as those results influenced Spurs’ position in the table, and so I realise some fans were on their phones to view that. It was also rather funny that I’m rather short and so I put a lot of effort into stretching over people’s heads to see what was going on and to try to film the match!

Watching a match on your television screen is nothing compared to watching it in real life at a stadium. There is just something about the build-up before the match, seeing all the other fans also hyped, and waiting to see the players walk out so close to you. Realising that the players are literally right in front of you instead of figuratively in front of you on a screen gives a feeling that I can’t explain in words.

Disclaimer: this is just me talking about my experience going to a football match, since it was my first and only experience with it. I thoroughly enjoyed and loved every minute of my time at the match and I’m just commenting on what I thought the experience would be compared to what it was actually like. Thank you for reading!!

The Open House: Netflix Film Review

Usually I don’t enjoy watching trailers for films because they can often give away plot twists and storylines, but when I watched the trailer for ‘The Open House’ it was entirely the opposite; very little information was given away. I thought this was a sign that there would be many surprises in the film that they didn’t want to spoil, but unfortunately, the film was exactly how the trailer was: vague. This was a shame as I actually thought the trailer set the film up to be very mysterious since it gave away very little.

The Netflix original film stars Dylan Minnette, who plays Logan Wallace, a teenage boy struggling to cope with the death of his father in a car crash he witnessed, and Piercey Dalton, who plays Naomi Wallace, Logan’s mother who makes the decision for Logan and her to move into her sister’s holiday house which is for sale. Most people probably know Dylan Minnette for his portrayal of Clay Jensen in the Netflix series ‘13 Reasons Why’, and I thought the film would be good if he is in it. Unfortunately, this did was not the case.

Film Summary

The film surrounds the aforementioned Logan and Naomi Wallace, who are struggling both emotionally and financially after the death of Brian Wallace, husband to Naomi and father to Logan, played by Aaron Abrams. They go to stay in Naomi’s sister’s house, where they experience a variety of strange encounters, such as Logan’s phone going missing and being found in the basement, the hot water tank in the basement randomly switching off and the landline phone ringing but when they answer the phone nobody speaks. We are also introduced to a couple of other characters, such as Martha, played by Patricia Bethune, a woman who has Alzheimer’s and behaves erratically, and Chris, played by Sharif Atkins, who is a store clerk and strikes up a friendship with Naomi and later befriends Logan, who is initially put off by Chris and Naomi’s flirting. Certain events, such as a crumpled-up photo in the bin, cause Naomi to believe Logan is messing with her, despite his insistence that he doesn’t know what she is talking about. Eventually, there is a reported break in, and they realise that there is definitely something weird going on in the house, especially as police officers find nobody responsible for the break in. Logan calls Chris and asks him to spend the night at the house with them after all of this. That night, Logan notices a car in the driveway and goes to investigate. He finds Chris has been murdered in the front seat of the car, and as he is investigating this, an unknown man knocks Logan unconscious. The unknown man then gets into bed with Naomi as she is looking through photos. She notices there have been photos taken of her and Logan whilst they have been sleeping, and the unknown man attacks her and ties her up. He then breaks her fingers and leaves a knife by her, presumably so Logan will untie her when he finds her. Logan does so and then leaves to look for a phone to call the police or to find the man himself. He hears his mother’s cries from the basement and goes to find her, but when Naomi startles him Logan ends up stabbing her. Naomi tells him to run away and she is left dying. He is chased by the unknown man, who removes Logan’s contact lenses leaving him unable to identify the unknown man, but Logan manages to get away. He survives the night but the unknown man eventually finds and murders Logan, before driving off to another open house event.

What I thought of the film

The storyline is very much a horror film cliché, with the creepy house and the random scary events, but the film doesn’t add anything extra to this basic storyline. Logan himself is an average teenager, but apart from him enjoying running and being good at it, we don’t really learn what else defines him as a person. The film is also rather boring and the pace is very slow for much of the film, with most of the action towards the last fifteen minutes or so of the film. I understand that horrors and thrillers do not necessarily have a lot of action until the end, but it felt that there was not really much build up to the main event.

Since the unknown man is left unidentified by the end of the film, we do not know what this man’s motivation was for killing Naomi, Logan and Chris, or what his relationship to open houses even is. He doesn’t appear to be a ghost so I don’t believe he used to own the house and is now haunting people who stay in his house, especially as he is seen driving to another open house (I think there was supposed to be a bit of a twist as most people probably believed Martha and her strange behaviour was the reason weird things keep happening, and this turned out to not be the case, but the mention of her Alzheimer’s took away this twist way before the final event). So, because we have no motives, we don’t really understand why this is all happening, and the strange events don’t make much sense, as collectively they don’t really do much to tell the story; it feels as though a bunch of weird happenings were thrown together just to fit the genre of the film. The only suspect which makes sense to be the unknown man is the man who killed Logan’s father in the car crash, although it is stated the man was suffering a heart attack at the time when he crashed into Brian, so this is unlikely to be the case. It could be someone related to the man in the car crash but even then, I am not sure what the motivation would be, as Logan could not remember much about the crash, wouldn’t be able to identify the man responsible and therefore he would have no reason to kill Logan.

Conclusion

Overall, this film was below my expectations. The acting was convincing but unfortunately the story was too bland to be really entertaining, and the characters were not particularly well defined or interesting. Supporting characters like Chris, Martha, the plumber who fixes the hot water tank etc. seemed like suspects but didn’t add anything to the overall story and were just mysterious characters purely for the sake of adding mystery. The ‘villain’ of the story remains unknown and therefore his actions appear random and unnecessary. It is just a shame since Netflix has been able to produce so many great films and shows, but this just happens to be one of the worse ones.

Predictions for the World Cup 2018: Round of 16

The World Cup Round of 16 is approaching, and I’m certain it will be exciting!

So, I was wrong with my initial prediction of Germany winning the World Cup, they were very poor for the three games they did play, but kudos to Mexico and Sweden for making it through to the next round, and congratulations to South Korea for the splendid display against Germany, even if they didn’t progress from there. From the remaining teams, my prediction now would be Brazil to win the World Cup, as they looked like the most solid and talented team in the group stages, but we will have to see, as there are other teams, like Uruguay, who have looked quite good up to this point.

Round of 16 Matches My Predictions to Win
France vs Argentina France
Uruguay vs Portugal Uruguay
Spain vs Russia Spain
Croatia vs Denmark Croatia
Brazil vs Mexico Brazil
Belgium vs Japan Belgium
Sweden vs Switzerland Switzerland
Colombia vs England England

 

France vs Argentina

Argentina didn’t really pick up until their final game of the group stage, which I’m sure surprised people. France did win their games against Australia and Peru, and drew 0-0 with Denmark, although by that point France was already through to the Round of 16, and didn’t need a win. Since Argentina have got some great players (of course Lionel Messi springs to mind first, but there are others like Marcos Rojo who got that winner), I think they will put up a good fight, and will be determined to prove they are a great side, but I think France will just edge it.

Uruguay vs Portugal

Of course, Portugal’s stand out player is Cristiano Ronaldo, and the pressure will be on him to score against Uruguay, and I think he can. However, Uruguay have forwards like Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani to score goals and defenders like Diego Godin who look solid at the back. Uruguay have looked very good in the group stages and overall look like a better team compared to Portugal.

Spain vs Russia

Spain have got an array of talented players in their team, but haven’t necessarily played as well as they have the ability to do so, drawing to both Morocco and Portugal in the group stages. Russia finished second in their group, losing only to Uruguay, but with the players Spain have, I think the hosts will lose out.

Croatia vs Denmark

Croatia have got players like Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić, who really do stand out and have great talent. Croatia won all their group stage games, and really looked talented and solid. Denmark haven’t looked as though they are a more than an average side, and so I don’t think they will be able to beat this Croatia team.

Brazil vs Mexico

As I said earlier I do think that now Brazil are the favourites to win this entire competition, but Mexico have looked good, especially that win over Germany. However, I don’t think Mexico are good enough to win when Brazil have players like Phillipe Coutinho, Douglas Costa, Roberto Firminio, Gabriel Jesus, Thiago Silva and Neymar, to name a few.

Belgium vs Japan

Belgium have got some amazing talent, Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Mousa Dembélé and Dries Mertens, just to mention a few names. Belgium is full of good team players and they work very well together. Japan won a game, drew a game and lost a game in the group stages and do look a bit average, and so I think Belgium will have no issues in playing Japan.

Sweden vs Switzerland

Neither Sweden nor Switzerland looked particularly great or terrible during the group stages, and so it is difficult to predict who will most likely go through. However, I think Switzerland will have the edge over Sweden, as I think that they are the better team overall.

Colombia vs England

Despite defeat to Japan, Colombia went on to beat Poland and Senegal in the group stages, and looked good. They have key players like James Rodríguez, Radamel Falcao and Juan Caudrado, and will probably put up a good fight against England. On the other hand, England’s players like Jesse Lingard, Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford and of course, Harry Kane, will prove to be a real threat in this game, and I can see England coming out on top.

Of course, these are just my opinions, and if we have learned anything from this World Cup it is that anything can happen!

Why Everyone Should Watch ‘Dark’

The first time I watched ‘Dark’ on Netflix, I was really confused. The first couple of episodes led me to believe that this was going to be another missing child story, some regular crime or mystery show. Then the show brought in the element of time travel, and I realised that this show was going to be a bit different. Towards the of the show, there were three different timelines to watch and understand, all interlinked, and this was really when it started getting complicated. However, that moment when you piece everything together and it finally starts to make sense makes the show so incredible to watch.

The show begins in the fictional town of Winden in Germany (which actually makes Dark the first German original Netflix series), where a teenage drug dealer named Erik Obendorf has gone missing, and the main characters are discussing his disappearance at high school. Jonas Kahnwald, one of the main characters, has just come back to school since he has been struggling to cope with his father’s suicide. His best friend, Bartosz Tiedemann, suggests the idea of going into the caves to find Erik’s drug stash that evening. Bartosz also brings along his girlfriend Martha Nielsen, whom Jonas has developed feelings for & Martha’s brother, Magnus. Magnus & Martha’s younger brother, Mikkel, wants to tag along, and so Magnus brings him as well. As the youngsters go to retrieve the drugs, they find that they have been followed by Franziska Doppler, a teenage girl who also attends their school, who overheard their plan and went to take the drugs herself. As she offers to sell them to Bartosz, the teenagers hear frightening sounds and their torches flicker, causing them to run away from the caves and out of the woods. Having run away, they realise that Mikkel is no longer with them and go back to search, but he has vanished without a trace. The episode ends with Erik in a strange bunker, strapped to some sort of mechanical chair, and a dead boy being found by the caves the next morning, but is neither Mikkel nor Erik. There are other characters introduced such as Ulrich Nielsen (the father of Mikkel, Magnus and Martha), who’s own brother Mads went missing in 1986, and his wife Katharina, Hannah Kahnwald, Jonas’s mother whom Ulrich is having an affair with & Charlotte Doppler, one of the police chiefs who’s own marriage is falling apart after discovering her husband Peter was having an affair with a transgender prostitute.

At this point, it might seem really boring or terribly cliché that these young boys have been capturned & killed, but the motivation could not be more different from other shows – Spoilers Ahead!

Mikkel is actually not captured, but travels through a wormhole which exists under the Winden caves to 1986, 33 years prior to where the show begins, 2019. The other boys in the show, Erik, the dead boy (who is revealed to be Mads), and another boy named Yasin (who goes missing later on in the series) are revealed to be unfortunate guinea pigs in an experiment pioneered by a priest named Noah, who wants to invent a successful time machine, and builds a prototype in 1986. Whilst the machine does work, it kills the young boys in the process, and only sends them through time in 33-year cycles: Erik and Yasin end up in 1953, 33 years ahead of 1986, and Mads in 2019, 33 years after 1986. Further details are revealed throughout the series, such as who else is behind all this, and who else is aware in Winden that time travel is possible. The time travel in ‘Dark’ shows that not only is the future influenced by the past, the past is also influenced by the future in a cycle that questions if we really have the free will to choose our actions, or if everything is already decided. We also get to learn what happens to Mikkel when he travels back in time, and get to see other characters travel back in time as well in attempts to change the future and put things right. All of the characters have issues that they are dealing with themselves, and makes the characters relatable and interesting.

Season One has already had so much action, mystery & drama packed into it that I cannot wait for Season Two to be released, and I highly recommend this show to all.

Who will win the 2018 World Cup?

With the World Cup starting tomorrow, everyone has one question on their minds: who will be the champions? The rational choices include Germany, who of course won the previous World Cup back in 2014, France, who made it to the Euro 2016 final but lost out to Portugal, Spain, who have just hired Fernando Hierro as their manager going into this tournament, & Brazil, who will definitely not want a repeat performance of their 7-1 defeat in the last World Cup, and will be looking for more this time round. These teams have definitely got some of the greatest football players in their squads, but are there any squads this year who could give the top teams a run for their money?

Many people will be waiting to see what England can do, and with a fairly disappointing history in tournaments, it would be unlikely that England go on to win the competition. With players like Harry Kane, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford & Raheem Sterling, it appears that England have a great attacking force. Trent Alexander-Arnold received, in my opinion, a well deserved spot in the England squad, and has had a crucial role in Liverpool’s back line, playing extremely well in their Champions League run. Some players were a surprise inclusion, such as Gary Cahill, who will have earned his place due to experience, while there were also surprise exclusions, such as Joe Hart, who has not been playing particularly well at West Ham and Jack Wilshere, who could really bring creativity to the team, but is not very reliable when it comes to injuries. We will have to wait and see if the players will be able to work together against the teams in group G: Tunisia, Panama & more importantly, Belgium.

I think if any team is going to be a dark horse (although they should not really be classed as a dark horse, they should be challenging) in this tournament, it is going to be Belgium. They definitely have talented players in their squad, including Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Mousa Dembele, Romelu Lukaku, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen & Vincent Kompany, all of whom would be able to challenge the greatest teams at the World Cup.

However, I do believe that the team which will win the World Cup 2018 has got to be Germany. Germany has a squad of motivated, talented players with a winning mentality. Almost every player in this squad consistently plays well and delivers in every game, and have an near perfect mix of experience and youth. There are other teams which offer youth, experience, a great defence, a great attack, but I do not think any of them compare to what Germany has to offer. For these reasons, I believe Germany will win the World Cup once again.

 

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