I am currently on a gap year studying A-level Chemistry and Biology, aspiring to pursue a degree in biomedical sciences at university starting in 2020.
I enjoy reading books ranging from autobiographies, novels, historical fiction and many more genres which captivate me. I am also interested in architecture, art and history and enjoy watching documentaries detailing different historical events.
My fervour for history and the global world stretches to my liking for languages which I exercise through watching foreign language films, TV shows, Duolingo courses and by travelling to different countries which i hope to continue in the near future. I am a volunteer for Team London created by the Mayor and I wish to continue helping my community and supporting key issues.
KS Learning provides tuition for all ages inluding GCSE and A Level for a wide range of subjects such as Mathematics, Science, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, English, History, French, German, Spanish, and more, in the Boroughs of Richmond-Upon-Thames, Hounslow, Kingston-Upon-Thames, and surrounding areas.
KS Learning provides tuition for all ages inluding GCSE and A Level for a wide range of subjects such as Mathematics, Science, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, English, History, French, German, Spanish, and more, in the Boroughs of Richmond-Upon-Thames, Hounslow, Kingston-Upon-Thames, and surrounding areas.
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With a strong interest in the world of science, Affaf is working towards a career in Bio-Medicine studying appropriate A levels and learning as much as she can about relevant fields.
Affaf has interests in many areas besides the world of science like reading, and writes about any topic that takes her fancy.
Eid is celebrated twice a year by billions of Muslims around the world; Eid-al-Fitr celebrates the end of the auspicious month of Ramadan upon sighting of the crescent moon, and Eid-al-Adha celebrates Hajj. Similar to how different countries have their own, unique traditions when it comes to celebrating Christmas, there are also different, fun ways Muslims in different countries celebrate Eid.
A common denominator in Eid festivities is the abundance of food – huge family dinners with many courses, special Eid desserts and communities arranging communal meals can be found around the world. Eid-al-Fitr is also called ‘Meethi Eid’ (Sweet Eid in Urdu) in Pakistan, signalling to the fact that a major component of the celebrations is indeed, desserts. During my childhood, I have fond memories and traditions linked only to Eid, such as my aunties and grandmas preparing Kheer (rice pudding), Seviyan (sweet vermicelli) early in the morning, just before the men head off to communal prayers at the nearby mosque. It is also a tradition to wear your best clothes on Eid, take a bath and wake up early, also you will find many people celebrate by hugging each other, friends and strangers both, after prayers at the mosque. The adults then give children ‘Eidi’, this is often money, but many people also give presents. After Eid breakfast, friends, family and neighbours visit each other’s houses to wish each other Eid Mubarak (Happy Eid), taking bowls of Kheer or other sweet desserts as a gift for the family. Eid typically lasts for three days, but with bigger families it can last longer!
Eid greetings differ everywhere too; in Pakistan one may say Eid Mubarak, in Nigeria people say Balla da Sallah and in Malaysia, Eid is called Hari Raya, so happy Eid would translate to Selamat Hari Raya. Interestingly, Eid-al-Fitr is called Eid Bayram which means Sugar Feast (similar to Meethi Eid in Urdu!), their greeting is therefore ‘Bayraminiz Mubarek Olsun’ (May your Eid Bayram be blessed), and ‘Mutlu Bayram’ means Happy Eid Bayram. The theme of sweet desserts is prevalent here too, Turkish desserts include Baklava and Seker Bayrami, and many other regional specials.
The idea of community is strong in Muslim celebrations, and this starts early in Ramadan when communities gather to break their fasts, often in communal Iftars (breaking fast meal) on the streets, lined with food for everybody. It is also common to give Zakat (charity) before Eid so those less fortunate can also take part in Eid festivities and enjoy with their families. During Eid-al-Adha, the meat from the animals slaughtered in the name of God is distributed amongst the poor first, and then friends and family. It is a common practice of including others in your festivities so a lot of the meat is distributed rather than all of it being kept by the families themselves. Furthermore, to make the process more inclusive to those who cannot afford to slaughter an animal, there is a practice of buying a small section of a big animal such as a cow, to include several people together in one Qurbani (sacrifice).
Muslims would certainly have found it difficult to celebrate both of the two Eid's under covid19 lockdown guidelines this year as a large part of the festival is the community and meeting other people.
The recent news of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey being converted into a mosque after spending 85 years as a museum, has garnered mixed views. I visited Hagia Sophia in 2018 on my birthday and it was reminiscent of history with Islamic calligraphy on one side and Christian mosaics on the other – it stood as an impressive pinnacle of secularism and coexistence in the Muslim world. However, Turkey’s President Erdogan’s decision to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque is a dramatic return of Islamic presence in Turkey’s secular identity.
Hagia Sophia, pronounced Ayasofya in Turkish, was constructed as a Christian church in the 6th century by the Byzantine Emperor (Roman) Justinian I. The structure itself is no less of a marvellous creation and with its marble piers, domes and windows, it redefined Byzantine architecture. Hagia Sophia represents a tumultuous turn of events throughout history via its numerous phases; a Greek Orthodox church, a Roman Catholic church, a mosque, a museum and then a mosque again.
Hagia Sophia served its purpose as the central church of Greek Orthodox Christians for over 900 years, notable ceremonies such as crowning of new emperors were also held in the church, further highlighting its significance to the faith. It also remained under Roman control following the Crusades (Fourth Crusade) and was restored in the 14th century. A significant addition to its pivotal role in the world arrived following the Fall of Constantinople – the Turkish conquest led by Sultan Mehmed II in 1453 – which redefined Christian as well as Islamic history. The Ottomans repurposed the Church into a mosque, added notable minarets, chandeliers and other architectural elements to serve its purpose as mosque for Muslims. The conquest also saw the city of Constantinople being renamed to Istanbul – signifying an end and beginning of an era; the name still lives on today.
Turkish President Kemal Ataturk secularised the building in 1935 and redefined its existence as a museum – leading the way towards a tolerant, secular nation celebrating all its history without religious preference, until 2020. I believe Hagia Sophia should have remained as a museum because it was significant for both Muslims and Christians since its first construction and it essentially erases its historical identity and importance by solely being a mosque. Furthermore, Hagia Sophia had reached a point in history where its existence was free of religion interference after years of war and bloodshed; its bloody past was figuratively laid to rest when it was repurposed as a museum to serve all of its identities.
There are not many secular Muslim-majority countries in the world, and the coexistence of Turkey’s Christian and Islamic history through the eyes of its historical monuments was strong and poignant. Nevertheless, Hagia Sophia is officially holding prayers, but it has not removed its status as a tourist spot, and is open to visitors of all faiths and the lack thereof. It still represents thousands of years of Christian and Islamic history through its beautiful mosaics, domes and chandeliers. It will not be wrong to articulate that the repurposing of Hagia Sophia has remained a major turning point of defining new eras throughout its existence and it continues to do so.
It is no secret that British museums are highly attractive to tourists, historians and just anybody interested enough to indulge in centuries worth of great British history: for free. It is, however, a lesser known fact that British Museums (along with many western museums in Canada, Australia and USA) feature looted goods collected by colonialists on their violent crusades around the world.
There is a rather huge debate surrounding the return of artefacts to their native countries. Many believe that removing and returning stolen goods by British colonialists erases British colonial past from its museums. This is because by displaying them in the UK, they can stand as a reminder of the atrocities of the Empire. Although I believe it is important to remind ourselves of the history, it is equally important for the owners and native countries to showcase elements of their history stolen from them without consent. Museum displays are merely a colonial fantasy as they do not address the imperialist history, the uncomfortable bits, but showcase rare collectibles as trophies or achievements.
I firmly believe these artefacts should be returned to their countries of origin because people from said countries can almost never afford to travel to the UK or the USA or any other western museum. As a result, they are kept away from seeing culturally important historical pieces stored miles away from them. In order for people to experience their rich and diverse history, they must have pieces of their ancestors: their creativity and hard work displayed in their own countries to inspire generations to come by giving them the opportunity to see these artefacts.
However, a valid question then arises, that once the artefacts are returned, will they be preserved to the same standards? I think this question is very appropriate to ask because while it is important that artefacts are returned, it is equally important that they are preserved - otherwise they will cease to exist. Hence, an unbiased and apolitical international body should make sure that once a country of origin requests for its artefacts to be returned and they must meet requirements to efficiently preserve, store or display otherwise their request may be denied. This will also mean that countries will push to preserve historical pieces more carefully and raise the standards of museums, displays and exhibitions more in their origin countries. This could potentially have positive effects on the country’s tourism and boost economies.
Many museums have started the process of repartitions – Manchester Museum and Edinburgh Museum have returned artefacts. Notably, Manchester Museum returned artefacts stolen from aboriginal Australians centuries ago – including a headdress made from emu feathers – to their ancestors. The items returned are known to be amongst the 32,000 aboriginal artefacts held by British intuitions. Manchester has paved the way for other museums to follow, however, the British Museum has repeatedly ignored and declined requests of repartitions of the Bennin bronzes to Nigeria, offending the sentiments of its native country.
Lastly, repartitions will allow countries to reclaim ownership of their own culture, history and past, otherwise old western colonialist countries still holding onto and controlling their sacred artefacts will remind people of oppression which exist as souvenirs in museums in London, France, Denmark and other western countries. There should be a joint consensus between countries exhibiting colonial goods and the native countries regarding whether they would like to have their goods back, or charge a fee for exhibiting the goods representing their native country.
Shakuntala Devi was an Indian woman born in Bangalore (now Karnataka) in 1929 and she is known for her extraordinary arithmetic abilities – also nicknamed a mental calculator and the human computer for her quickness and accuracy. She never received a formal education or attended a school.
Devi's father discovered her rare abilities when she was only three years old and quickly monetised her skills as the sole breadwinner for the household through road shows – ‘maths circus’ – in schools and colleges. Devi was only six years old when she first presented at the University of Mysore (Karnataka), answering complex mathematical sums in front of an audience. She continued this feat around the world after relocating to London, escaping her controversial past of shooting a man in India.
Devi exhibited her skills in universities, talk shows, theatres and radios and her charming, bold personality surely added to her extensive list of attributes and growing popularity around the globe. She is famously remembered for asking whether she should recite the answer ‘left to right or right to left’ in a Canadian talk show, in the same interview it is said that the computer will give the answer in three minutes but Devi answers within seconds. Armed only with her mind and memory, she beat one of the world’s fastest supercomputers ever built – the UNIVAC – in Dallas in 1977.
Much of Devi’s gregariousness could have been a disguise to hide her rather rocky personal life, starting as a sole breadwinner of her family (she had eight siblings) at an age of six, she knew nothing less than exploitation and a rigorous work life. She was an articulate, ambitious and independent woman who had tested the waters within many different careers, finding her niche away from mathematics. She became an astrologer, and wrote books on the topic, she contested against Indira Gandhi in an election as well as wrote a then-controversial book about homosexuality. She challenged the bigoted notion that homosexuality was immoral, unnatural and something that had to be cured and in the 1970s, this book attracted a lot of controversy around the world but was swept under the rug, failing to contribute to a movement. Nevertheless, a woman with such a remarkable set of attributes, wrote the first book demanding decriminalisation of homosexuality in India as well as became the first known LGBTQ rights activist. With her incredible list of achievements, she earned a spot in The Guiness Book of World Records in 1982 by calculating the multiplication: 7,686,369,774,870 x 2,465,099,745,779 = 18,947,668,177,995,462,462,773,730 in 28 seconds at Imperial College London, though she was only given the certificate posthumously in July 2020. She passed away in 2013 at the age of 83.
A biopic which explores her life as a mathematician, her personal life and her relationship with her only daughter is now streaming on Amazon Prime by the name of Shakuntala Devi created with the help of her surviving daughter, Anupama Banerji.
The idea of a perfect healthcare system is subjective and relies on expert opinion, sustained statistics and the overarching longevity of such a model. However, I will discuss key points one may consider to produce an ideal healthcare system – a system which includes costs and practicality but does not exclude the role of the population to ensure that the system is maintained and not overwhelmed.
The foundation of a compassionate healthcare system should firstly be free of corruption, political interests and any malice which could endanger the population and how they receive their due healthcare. This includes a rigorous diversity training of staff to cater to patients who may not speak the native language, patients who are LGBT and awareness of race inequality in medicine which arises from systematic discrimination and appropriate strategies to eliminate bias in the medical field. in many countries, privatised healthcare has become a money hoarding activity which allows people to buy fake health certificates on demand, false positive or negative results and fake diagnosis. The problem lies within the system, such a system of bribes thrives on dishonest professionals and further undermines healthcare in countries where it may already be disproportionally compromised.
A comprehensive and adaptable focus on preventative healthcare will also be a major factor in producing my ideal healthcare system. This is primarily because if the population is well informed and equipped, they are happier to look after their own wellbeing and each other’s. This includes digitising healthcare (which is already underway by apps and wrist watches) and making innovations more public-friendly. For example, first aid training should be compulsory for all members of public and should be integrated in school or higher education curriculums. In an event of an emergency, majority of the general public will know how to deliver life-saving aid; it is an invaluable skill with the potential to reduce the time a patient receives medical attention as well as potentially save lives. Additionally, regular counselling on lifestyle habits such as healthy eating, smoking, drinking, regular checks and safe parenthood should be normalised, destigmatised and accessible for all.
Provisions to promote healthy eating and exercise are not new, but they are almost always perceived as restrictive for those who find healthy options inaccessible. There are many factors which hinder people from living a healthy lifestyle such as financial standing, upbringing, education and exposure to opportunities which determine your lifestyle ahead. Relatively poor communities tend to suffer in healthcare emergencies due to lack of knowledge or facilities required to encourage healthier lifestyles at home as well as maintain a healthier mental health. This is because vegan diets, plant-based diets and other forms of commonly advertised healthy lifestyles come with a price tag out of reach for poorer communities and relatively less healthy foods are cheaper. As a result, better indirect provisions need to be enforced to ultimately trigger a healthier lifestyle amongst the general public without it being restrictive and burdening i.e. cheaper healthy food, better work environments such as a 4-day working week with better living wages so workers feel less pressured, less overworked and invest more time into their physical and mental health. This could help eliminate financial disparities facing many countries around the world as well as the UK, where a healthy lifestyle is a privilege – unaffordable by many.
A free for all healthcare model eliminates bias which may otherwise arise, such as lack of affordability and accessibility. There are only a handful of countries in the world offering free at point of use healthcare, and the UK is one of them. Thankfully, many people in the UK do not have to worry about medical bills and medical insurance like our American counterparts and this is all due to the remodelling of the British healthcare system post world war two. Though not without its flaws, the NHS model of Britain should stand as a pinnacle for other countries around the world who wish to introduce free healthcare. I have seen relatives in Pakistan pay an amount of up to 90,00,000 PKR in medical bills at a prestigious hospital, the growing wealth gap contributes to medical inequality, as somebody with no means of affording such procedures will eventually succumb to death. As previously stated, a person’s living conditions greatly contribute to their overall wellbeing and a free healthcare system cannot flourish if other provisions disproportionally contradict it. Benefit sanctions in Britain have resulted in untimely deaths – people with no money to refrigerate their medicines or feed themselves are left to die alone and penniless, one being David Clapson. Therefore, while it is imperative that healthcare is free, it is also paramount that a thriving welfare system collectively achieves prosperity and people are supported wholly.
An ideal healthcare system is innovative and intelligently financed. Monitoring how the money is spent, and optimising the funds to critical areas of research is essential. This is because while providing care for treatments discovered decades ago, a successful healthcare system also strives harder to generate new treatments to lessen the impact of otherwise hard to manage diseases and conditions. Furthermore, safe, effective and long-lasting procedures are characteristics of a successful healthcare system that strives to provide the best possible outcome.
A happy, healthy team of healthcare professionals and a healthy population is a win for all and this is achieved by an abundance of investments. There is a lot at play in the background when making important national decisions and I recognise the points mentioned may be too ambitious, too idealistic and rather imperfect to achieve in a real-world situation. An ideal world might be hundreds of years away but it is nice to think of it now.
Businesses have had to adapt to new lifestyles, especially restaurants. A popular restaurant Vapiano also had to close its doors for pasta-lovers amidst the global pandemic. Nevertheless, Vapiano has been sharing their loved recipes on their Instagram since the lockdown was imposed and I tried their Pollo Picante recipe. At home, we always make different kinds of pasta dishes, however, most are often made with a spicy style so this style of pasta was authentic, and new to us at home (though we had eaten this at Vapiano prior to making it at home). Recipe from @vapianouk on Instagram.
Heat oil in a pan, add your chopped vegetables and chicken (in this order: garlic, chicken, salt and pepper, ginger, pak choy and bell pepper). In a different pan, prepare your sauce by adding orange juice, ginger, sweet chilli sauce and corn flour to thicken the sauce. Then, add your sauce to the pan of chicken and vegetables and stir, then add the boiled pasta and stir for 30 seconds.
This pasta tasted fresh, zesty and fiery. My mum, sister and I all enjoyed this pasta as we typically do not add orange juice (or any juice) and sweet chilli sauce to the pasta that we normally cook so this was a good change and tasted amazing. The flavours are uplifting and I will definitely make this again!
With the lockdown in place, getting our usual (unhealthy) fast food intake was harder than before, for obvious health and safety reasons. However, I decided to make spicy chicken burgers with homemade spicy mayo and homemade DIY buttermilk with products readily available in everybody's pantries. The video was recorded when I first tried the recipe, and it was an immediate win at home, so we tried it again THREE more times! Each time, there was an addition of something new, as we perfected the recipe and made it tastier. I will briefly summarise the first recipe: the simplest with no additions, and then I will summarise the other three tries detailing what changed each time and then ranking the best one: hence identifying the BEST version of the recipe.
Recipe is inspired by @gimmedelicious on Instagram.
Marinate the chicken as above, and heat oil in a deep fryer. Dip the chicken into the breading (note: you can double coat by dipping the chicken into the buttermilk marinade again then breading and then fry - I single coated here). Shallow fry until the chicken is golden brown.
Prep your brioche buns by toasting on a pan with some butter. Spread the spicy mayo on both sides and place the hot, chicken piece on the bottom bun and finish by placing the top bun.
The second time that I used the recipe, there were few additions. I used a sesame seed bun instead, and added lettuce. This time, however, it was not such a big hit because I did not measure the spices correctly and ended up using a lot of garlic powder. The taste of garlic unfortunately overpowered the rest of the recipe and was hard to ignore. The third time, I added yellow cheese slices and lettuce and it was clear that the recipe will become a family favourite because the cheese, jalapenos and the lettuce added a different dimension to the burgers and tasted almost gourmet. The only setback was that the chicken cooked perfectly but it did not have the golden-brown colour - this may be due to the oil being too hot or the chicken not being coated enough. The fourth time was the best one to date: I used brioche buns, added sliced lettuce mixed with normal mayo, jalapenos, sliced tomatoes and cheese, served with seasoned curly fries (air-fried).
Overall, this recipe is easy to follow and evidently very open to improvisations to suit your own taste with the basics followed the same way.
For years, women have been disproportionately disadvantaged in STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and this has certainly reflected in the recognition they receive. They face countless numbers of hurdles in building reputable careers in science; breaking traditional stereotypes at every step. Women are not less hardworking than men, women are not less intelligent than men, but women are less likely to be recognised for the same or more amount of contribution in their respected fields. A prominent example of this are the Nobel Prize awards.
The Nobel Prize is not necessitous of an introduction; it is well-renowned for rewarding pioneering innovation and research in science as well as literature and humanitarian work through its Nobel Peace Prize. To put their work into numbers, 919 individuals have been awarded a Nobel Prize since 1901, and only 53 of these individuals have been women; just over 5 percent. In 2018, Canadian physicist Donna Strickland became the third woman ever to win a Nobel Prize in Physics, since 1963. These figures highlight the existing disparity amongst men and women in STEM careers which can be traced back to schools whereby the ratio of girls studying A level Physics to boys is unfavourably low.
There are many factors that can be attributed towards the low number of recognition as well as the low number of participation of women in science. For example, gender stereotypes, bias in the industry and the Matilda effect. .
The Matilda Effect is a bias against acknowledging the achievements of those women scientists whose work is attributed to their male colleagues. This is clearly evident in the case of renowned astrophysicist Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell. As told by Burnell herself in an episode of the podcast Life Scientific, she was at the receiving end of misogyny, gender discrimination and bullying by her peers and professors in a male-dominated field. Burnell continuously had her ideas dismissed, her research disregarded, and her curiosity undermined to the point where her colleagues received the Nobel Prize in Physics for her ground-breaking discovery of pulsars.
Burnell, with the help of her peers, spent two years building equipment as a PhD student, installed over 100 miles of wires and analysed 3 miles of graphical paperwork of her findings. Burnell's attention to detail noticed a repeating pattern - only a quarter of an inch in size - on her graphs. The regular pattern that she had spotted are now known as pulsars. The core of neutron stars that are formed when a bigger star (supernova) collapses creates this regular pattern of rhythm and flicker as they emit electromagnetic radiation which captured Burnell's attention. Pulsars were a poignant discovery as they made the existence of black holes more credible and accelerated rigorous research into the 'dark' side of the universe.
Burnell's story resonates with the story of scientist Rosalind Franklin, whose work also went unrecognised on the discovery of DNA as her male colleagues, too, won the Nobel Prize for her research. Although the stories of these 'hidden scientists' remain inspirational, we must understand these are stories of women who faced institutional sexism, treated as outsiders and alienated amongst a sea of entitled men. A female scientist struggling to be credited for her work, struggling to be enrolled and struggling to merely work in an uplifting environment must not become a norm and must not be glamorised. They should have won the Nobel Prize for their contribution to the discoveries and be remembered for their research, intelligence and resilience.
In her early life, Burnell had to fight to study science at school at a time where curriculums for boys and girls were segregated with science being taught only to boys. As a young adult in the early 1960s, Burnell was the only girl in University of Glasgow enrolled in Physics. Physics and sexism are historically inextricably linked. For centuries, women have been pushed into a mould of interests they can develop: frantically reading romantic novels, utilising their 'caring' nature in professions such as teaching and nursing while men pursue careers which require grit.
As a society, these stereotypes have been ingrained and stand as a hindrance to progression of women. Secondary schools, colleges and universities in the UK are working tirelessly to increase female participation in traditionally male dominated fields such as engineering, physics and maths through access schemes and workshops, and still 0 girls studied A level Physics in almost half of all schools in England which enrol girls in 2016. This raises an important question of whether we are doing enough at the grassroot level - starting from early education - to ensure girls are supported and are not burdened by societal pressures when pursuing careers in non-traditional fields with phrases such as "maths is for boys" or "physics is too difficult for girls".
This idea of established gender roles and related professions from an early age may explain why more women have won the Nobel Prize in Literature and Medicine/physiology than they have in Physics. Does the higher number of women winning Literature Nobel Prize contributes to an already stereotypically disadvantaged system? Nevertheless, pioneering scientist Burnell has expressed that more female colleagues and mentors would have made her experience smoother. On the one I hand, I agree that it is vital to have senior women working together to normalise female presence in male dominated fields. On the other hand, it is equally important that we enhance the curriculum to celebrate women scientists explicitly of all ages, race and ethnicities so that they are not alienated and belittled by their male colleagues.
The world is increasingly changing and progressing, and more and more women in science have reclaimed their space in traditionally male-dominated spaces and the future is bright. We must not repeat history by continuing to dismiss female scientists and stripping them off their well-deserved recognition and do more to eradicate the thought of gender-associated careers and professions.
In Bapsi Sidhwa's Ice-Candy Man, a heart wrenching story of India's worst religious riots is told through the lens of a young Parsee girl living in the epicentre of the 1947 Partition bloodshed, Lahore. This novel cleverly and solemnly discusses many key issues with postcolonial literature and the representation of female characters. As a result, Sidhwa denounces the victimisation and suppression of women with a strong set of female characters to steer the novel forward. There is also a recurring theme of violence, murder and abuse perpetrated by both men and women, towards women.
The narrator is a young Parsee girl who is polio-ridden and aged 5-8 during the years 1942 - 1947 named Lenny. This is significant because Parsees were a marginalised group and were not the targets during the riots as the riots were particularly between Hindus-Muslims-Sikhs. Therefore, unlike traditional postcolonial literature, where Partition is a recount of religious tensions and ignores minorities, Ice-Candy Man discusses life before, during and after Partition from the perspective of a young girl and it provided a fresh and a raw account. Using a child narrator is also used to eliminate impartiality and bias towards postcolonial history.
In the book, Lenny quickly learns that marriage is to be the most important part of a girl's life, highlighting societal pressures. Her doctor, Col. Bharucha, suggests marriage will be the key to 'lead a carefree, happy life' as Lenny's mother expresses her concern towards the sudden halt in Lenny's education due to her polio. This further implies that in a patriarchal society as such, education served no purpose in a woman's life - limiting them to the four walls of their domestic sphere as suggested. Women are continuously shown as less important and their abilities are overshadowed by societal norms which undoubtedly leads to violence against women as the supposed 'lesser beings'. Furthermore, Lenny is also exposed to sexualisation and objectification of women through the treatment of her Hindu eighteen-year-old Ayah (caretaker) Shanta. Initially Ayah has many admirers: the Muslim Ice-Candy man (Dilnawaz), the Sikh zookeeper and many more; this turns bleak as her admirers turn against her in light of the horrifying Hindu-Muslim riots.
Sidhwa does not end the novel at the expense of Ayah's pitiful suffering, as other postcolonial literature tends to, instead she uses her other prominent female characters as saviours and rescues Ayah from the brothel Ice-Candy Man forced her into upon a forced conversion and marrying her. Lenny's mother, previously shown as a housewife, becomes a social activist during the riots as she houses and rescues many women who find themselves at the hand of national upheaval whereby torture, abductions and rape of women are used to infuriate the men as they fail to guard their 'honour'. This idea of honour and the symbolism of women as the epitome of respect for a nation was a warmongering tactic to further the riots. It also implies that women had very little control over their own identities. However, the role of Lenny's mother and Godmother portray that roles of women expanded beyond domesticity as they assumed new roles and responsibilities at a chaotic time. Eventually, women were the saviours of their own as Ayah returns to her hometown to be with her family after leaving Dilnawaz.
Indisputably, Sidhwa discusses the British 'divide and rule' tactic here in India to break up into two nations: India and Pakistan. As shown in the first few chapters, there is no animosity between Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities as the characters continue to coexist as friends and house-helps of Lenny's household, however, this takes a sudden change as a dangerous atmosphere around them is intensified. The future is uncertain of the possibility of Hindus and Muslims coexisting. This creates enemies amongst friends at a time of sheer ambiguity leading on to violence with no reasoning other than to avenge violence.
The overarching significance of the novel is that Sidhwa very impressively attempts to reclaim traditional postcolonial literature by reconstructing Partition from a female perspective. Sidhwa succeeds in doing so because her novel does not end in a pity against women, but instead shows women as survivors of horrifying violence in a deeply misogynist, patriarchal society able to rebuild their lives from afresh. Her semi-autobiographical novel also urges communities to reflect beyond their immediate surroundings to bring social change to protect women, children and each other from divisive tactics and violence.