Current Affairs, Original Writing

‘Afflicted’ – A Netflix Original Series

I did all of this work just to get sick and not be able to live my dreams

A new Netflix series aired recently surrounding the stories of people suffering from chronic illnesses, undiagnosed or “unspecified” by medical professionals. Symptoms were extreme, leaving most of the participants of this docuseries unable to perform any of their daily activities.

Each person differentiates themselves from another through their symptoms, and the symptoms present themselves as different illnesses entirely – from the offset. The words “psychosomatic” and “Lyme Disease” are thrown around often through the episodes, suggesting a potential link between the participants, their symptoms, and the disease. I’ll leave the opinions of other participants to the general public, however. There’s one person in particular that I want to focus on.

We’re introduced to Jake in the third episode of the docuseries; an aspiring musician whose career was suddenly cut short due to the onset of symptoms linked to Lyme Disease. The beginning of the episode features Jake’s struggle in articulating his current symptoms to the camera, and as the episode progresses, the viewer is lead to understand the events which took place in his life but most importantly, how his life has been dramatically impacted because of his illness.

22 minutes into the episode, I had to stop watching. Any documentaries featuring people struggling with chronic illnesses hit a nerve, so to speak. The intention of this post, however, is most definitely not to associate my condition on any kind of level with those in the series. This post was to highlight the unimaginable trauma of those who may look physically well but are struggling with an uncontrollable and unpredictable illness, of which there is no cure yet and treatment which consists entirely of trial and error. Watching a relatively young man’s life turned upside down due to something both entirely out of his control and entirely unanticipated is definitely heart-wrenching. To see the ambitious light in his character gradually diminish – it puts everything into perspective.

Learning about stories such as that of Jake’s really makes me realise how lucky we are, how lucky I am. I can call myself a survivor, but am I really battling a condition of no known cure? No. Has my life been stripped from my hands overnight? No. I agree with one thing, in particular, the docuseries mentioned; those who are sick have a tendency to associate their identity with their illness. They’re not just a person anymore – they’re a sick person. I, too, have fallen victim to enshrouding myself in self-pity when, in retrospect, my health is improving, I am most certainly not bed-bound, and I do not rely on medication to essentially live. Those who have suffered from chronic illnesses, and/or chronic pain can definitely identify with the overwhelming trauma it leaves one with, even once they’ve overcome the worst of it. And perhaps this motto isn’t the healthiest to live by, but the documentary showed me how people undeniably have it much worse than people such as myself. Granted my health isn’t the best it could be at the moment, I’ve learned that relatively stable health is often taken at face value.

I intend to bring myself to complete the rest of Jake’s story. And he’s taught me just how lucky I truly am, to be able to live my life to its fullest potential – he’s given me perspective. I sincerely hope from the deepest of my heart that his story has a happy outcome.

The transience of life is all too often overlooked and underestimated. We have an overwhelming ability as a society to conceal ourselves behind issues which are ephemeral in comparison to others.

The series, in general, verges on the side of sensationalism as opposed to information and fact, but the stories of the participants raise some interesting questions in relation to chronic illnesses, pain and an array of unspecified symptoms.

A x

Featured image: Afflicted, Netflix Original Series (2018)
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Life Updates

Internship 2017

This summer I’ve had the privilege of working as an intern for the very first time. I still can’t quite believe just how lucky I got, bagging myself an internship in my first year of university (perks of studying at Reading!).

The company I work for are based in central London, and they work with the top universities in London. My role is working as a Media Coordinator for the company, which is many ways perfect considering social media is my forte. Being in charge of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for the company in addition to visiting these universities, talking to students and scientists, and creating case studies for the students has been a rollercoaster of excitement and adrenaline, and 100% worth it.

The best part of this internship, however, is the people I’ve worked with. The environment is based on putting the staff first, being as flexible as possible for them, and making sure they are happy in the workplace. These are contacts I can honestly say I would love to keep for the future.

The skills I’ve acquired are also incredible. After working in retail for two years, I was desperately craving the taste of a degree-related job. The friends I’ve made working in retail, I’ve made for life and whilst I appreciate the somewhat relaxed attitude towards working in the fashion-retail industry, it became tedious. Folding shirts everyday and analysing stock reports is alright but I wasn’t challenging myself in any way. I was physically drained after spending 8 hours on my feet, but this internship has mentally drained me, which is exactly what I love.

I’ve been pushed to work as hard as I can, to meet deadlines the day they’re set, and these are invaluable life skills I can carry forward with me into the future. This may sound awfully cliché, but now that I’ve had a taste for working in an environment related to my degree, I can’t bring myself to go back to retail. Of course, a job is a job, and when it comes to starting my second year of university in a month’s time, I will have to go back to retail part-time in order to pay for university costs, but my passion has now shifted from specialising in menswear to working in the marketing industry.

I take pride in the fact that I have put my free time this summer to great use. Thank you, to the University of Reading and to the company I’m working for, because I’ve had the best time. I definitely would love to do this again next year, and cannot recommend it enough!

A x

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Current Affairs

Faryal Makhdoom: The Stigmatisation of Daughters-in-law in Asian Societies

The current Khan saga will have most in hysterics over the mundane situation which has been awfully propelled into the media limelight. A bitter dispute between a wife and her in-laws has made headlines across eager tabloids, and most people think very little of the conflict. However, for Asian and Muslim women, this saga stands for much more than just a family dispute: it stands for the treatment of women across society by their in-laws, and the particular stigma associated with a daughter-in-law standing up against her husband’s parents.

Faryal Makhdoom, wife to boxer Amir Khan, has come forward on social media revealing the psychological and physical abuse she suffered at the hands of her in-laws. The details are, of course, readily available on The Sun, The Mirror and naturally, The Daily (hate) Mail, so I won’t go on about that aspect of this whole situation. However, I do want to address the fundamental issue that has arisen out of this dispute; the treatment of daughters-in-law in Asian families.

Firstly, Amir Khan’s parents took to Geo News¹ to publicly condemn Faryal’s dress code, claiming that was the subject of conflict in their family. His mother claims she wanted Faryal to adopt a scarf, typically worn in Islam by some women to cover up, as she was unhappy with her daughter-in-law’s Western dress code. This in itself is problematic for many reasons. There is nowhere in the Qur’an that says women have to dress in accordance to their in-laws. Secondly, as much as I appreciate that some can interpret Faryal’s dress code as not entirely in accordance with Islamic wishes, no one has a right to dictate what a woman can and cannot wear. A woman is perfectly entitled to wear a dress if she wants to. Attempting to exercise this kind of control over a daughter-in-law cannot and should not be accepted.

Many people, especially those in the Islamic community, claim Faryal’s refusal to adhere to her in-laws’ conditions are rebellious and disrespectful. This attitude of utter disregard for a woman’s plea for awareness is the exact reason why our culture and religion is given a bad name, because, by condemning Faryal Makhdoom as a Western, disrespectful daughter-in-law, we ultimately ignoring her in favour of very old cultural customs which cannot be applied to present day society. Furthermore, I’m baffled at the men who comment on this like they have any idea what is expected of a woman once she leaves her own parents for her husband’s. If anything, the comments made by some men on social media regarding this have come across as incessantly misogynist in nature and sexist. If a man was condemned to a strict adherence to cultural, and ultimately backward, norms, they’d refute them in a heartbeat. In our culture, men tend to prefer exercising control over women, and Faryal’s outburst on social media has exposed us to this harsh reality. The extent of this control extends to physical violence in many cultures, including beating and forcing wives to take part in household chores.

I’d be a hypocrite if I said I didn’t condone Faryal’s decision to take this to social media. In fact, I wholeheartedly support this. How else are we to understand the plight of women as they enter their husband’s households and are subjected to emotional and physical abuse? Of course a daughter-in-law should show nothing but kindness and respect to her in-laws, but the same kindness should be reciprocated: it’s not a one way street. Fundamentally, people cannot dictate and control their daughter-in-laws. That era is long over. Women should not be silenced into obedience and they certainly should not be forced into living under strict rules of in-laws. Women have no legal or religious duty to look after their in-laws, although it is culturally appreciated and desired.

For as long as I remember, I’ve known women to have an inferior title enforced upon them, simply because of their gender. Everything Faryal says is second-guessed and then compared to the plight of her in-laws who are elderly, and thus, assumed correct. A woman cannot be ridiculed for standing up against abuse. It’s interesting that people attack her for appearing fake, commenting on her undergoing plastic surgery and insulting her appearance before making a judgement on how right she was to come out in public and shame those who abused her.

Women are not bound by law into subservience to their husband’s family. And we most certainly will not be silenced by or into patriarchal dominance.

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Original Writing

Christmas 2015!

It’s finally over. The anticipation, the tension and the stress approaching Christmas Day has all been brought to an abrupt end. All that’s left is aromatic reminder of the food eaten and the foot yet to be eaten; it’s safe to say we’ve all put on roughly 3 stone in one day.

As a Muslim, I don’t celebrate Christmas. However, my dad’s birthday falls on the 25th December, giving us a reason to celebrate the day! As far as Christmases go, this one has been the best yet, fundamentally thanks to my good health and being pain free. It’s the first Christmas in three years that I’m not ill, in pain or in hospital which is a huge, huge deal for me. I also had my loved ones around me, with food to last us into February and laughter which carried through to the late hours of the evening.

I have a lot to be grateful for, but nothing more so than having my parents. They’ve been incredibly supportive over this year and all the obstacles thrown in our direction, but we’ve come out the other end smiling and happy. Just sitting with my family was something special on Christmas Day.

I logged back on to Instagram this morning after turning my phone off to properly enjoy some family time yesterday and sadly found my feed littered with a handful of followers sharing pictures of their gifts. Of course, it is to be expected. But it reminded me of the selfishness in society, where Christmas has been commercialised to the extent that it primarily revolves around what we get. I’m not entirely sure as to what the exact intention is behind people displaying their gifts for all to see: boastfulness, hoping to get burgled or showing everyone how spoilt they are. Sure, I got gifts this year. But they weren’t just for the sake of giving.  They were more like gestures as opposed to gifts; things which meant a lot to each and every one of us in the family.

My thoughts were also with families and vulnerable citizens around the world not so fortunate this Christmas. Those who didn’t wake up to fresh dinners or presents or even a roof over their head. We tend to be consumed by what we love and do to the point of ignoring pressing matters suppressed by the media and authoritative powers.

Whilst enjoying this festive period, please take time to reflect on how fortunate we all are. Ultimately, celebrating Christmas each year is a luxury we dismiss all too quickly.

Happy Holidays! 🙂

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Current Affairs, Uncategorized

Proud to be Brown

“Not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims.” 

The sad fact is today I’ve found myself yet again justifying my religion and faith in the religion. It appears Facebook is the social platform on which everyone believes they’re a politician when in fact, they’re ignorant, racist  members of society who use a tragic event such as the Paris Attacks of November 13th 2015 to reinforce their discriminatory ideologies and thoughts. From seeing a Facebook page named “Ban the Burqa” to hearing people wishing to bomb the entire Middle East including civilians, I almost reached wits end.

But then I realised something: I’m proud to be a Muslim. I’m proud to be brown. People have a glint of awkwardness in their eyes when they pass a Muslim such as myself since the events which unfolded in Paris and that inspires me to never lose faith in Islam. Islam does not promote violence as CNN once claimed. The main principles Islam advocates are peace and love amongst humanity. Where in the Qur’an does it allow the murder of innocent men, women and children? Where does it say that inciting terror will reveal the path to Paradise? Nowhere.

Furthermore, I am outraged and disgusted at people asking for all Muslims to apologise for the attacks in Paris. Yesterday, people began to unite against hideous sweeping accusations such as above. All Christians aren’t made to apologise for the existence of the terror organisation KKK. All Germans aren’t made to apologise for the Second World War. So why are all Muslims expected to apologise for acts of incomprehensible violence which they explicitly condemn, when IS and other terror organisations represent less than 1% of the 1.57 billion Muslims on this planet?

The Paris Attacks haunt Muslims as a reminder of what we’re being associated with. We, too, have shed tears for the French loss. Tears for the deceased. Tears for humanity.

Let’s pray for World Peace.

“Au nom de quoi?” 

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