Pioneers inspiring generations

We are extremely proud and honoured to inform our members that two of our prominent Trustees (Prof Awadhesh Jha & Dr Sanjay Sharma) have been recognised as pioneers in their respective disciplines by the University of Plymouth.

I will not even try and summarise their pioneering work but please feel free to read in detail their considerable contributions and their respective journeys:

Prof Awadhesh Jha

Dr Sanjay Sharma

I will however attempt to emphasise the relative importance of such recognition within a modern multicultural British Society.

Recent research (Centre for Social Integration at Nuffield College, University of Oxford) points job seekers from minority ethnic groups had to send an average of 60% more applications to receive the same level of interest as those from majority groups. A number of factors contribute to such discrimination and some progress to overcome bias has been made. However, the report observes that the progress is far too little when compared with other studies carried out over the past 50 years. The latest NHS Workforce Race Equality Standard report suggests that 15% of ethnic minority staff in the health service experienced discrimination in the past 12 months, compared with 13.8% the previous year. Just under a fifth of the NHS workforce is from a black and ethnic minority background, yet the proportion in senior management positions is 6.9%. Progress has certainly been made as documented in the recently published report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities but the recommendations made in the report suggests that much more needs to be done.

The above references indicate the challenges in the preceding decades and despite these, we are now witnessing the recognition and celebration of contributions (like Prof Jha and Dr Sharma) made towards the betterment of the country and human race. We take immense pride as a diaspora that we do more than our fair share for the betterment of our local communities and the British Society as a whole. It is also reassuring to see that central and local governments are keen to work collaboratively to ensure a level playing field for each and every British citizen.

Awadhesh ji and Sanjay ji (as we address them traditionally), your recognition and achievement will undoubtedly inspire the next generation of aspiring scientists but you are also seen as exemplars of how to contribute towards community cohesion through voluntary work and action.

I felt inspired by you both when I joined SAaS and that feeling has not changed a bit.

You remind me of a famous quote by Steve Jobs “Stay hungry. Stay foolish”

Once more, heartiest congratulations on your success and keep up the good work.

Dr A Chatterjee

SAaS participates in £1.9M UKRI research project

man and woman sitting on sofa while looking at a tablet computer
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GOALD (Generating Older Active Lives Digitally) project the new work has been funded by UK Research and Innovation as part of the healthy ageing challenge to ensure we all live healthier and more connected lives. This programme is providing a total of £9.5m across the UK for interdisciplinary academic-led teams to carry out research into social, behavioural and design aspects of healthy ageing. The programme aims to contribute to the challenge mission of ensuring people can enjoy at least five extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035 while narrowing the gap between the richest and poorest by enhancing our understanding of the aspirations, preferences and needs of the ageing population.

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The three-year project is a collaboration between the University of Stirling and the University of Plymouth’s Centre for Health Technology. The project partners with seven charities and community groups in the South West working with older people and younger participants living in the community, as well as residents from eight care homes in Cornwall. Over the course of the three-year project, the research team will record the different groups’ experiences of digital resources and assistive technologies and then share their findings with business partners – small to medium-sized enterprises – to develop new technologies, product ideas and test design concepts.

SAaS is delighted to be able to contribute to this very important development as part of the post-Covid recovery. Further information will follow in the next few months and will be coordinated by Dr Mahrukh Mirza and Dr Satish BK on behalf of SAaS.

I Am Not The Body, I Am Not Even The Mind!

I am writing this in continuation of my talk on Raj yoga (BBC Radio Devon) to try and make a bit more sense of it. To begin with, let’s first see what does yoga actually mean.

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Yoga means union, joining or alignment.

What does it mean by joining with our true self? Of course, we are joined with ourselves and us as the spirit, but we have lost the link and to re-establish this link is the meaning of yoga. We are so strongly embedded with this idea that we are this body and this mind that we do not have the capacity to really pull us out. Re-establishing your essential oneness (not as body and mind that we are so closely related to), but something dramatically different, the spirit. This is the real meaning of the word Yoga.

birds flying on blue sky over waving sea
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It is a journey and destination is the freedom.
Freedom from all the limitations of the body and the mind. It is a freeing experience. Freedom from the shackles that keep us from understanding and experiencing this reality are also broken. You break free from every limitation. This is when you realise that I am spirit, I am not this body or this mind. It is an experiential dimension. It gives freedom from our vision of who we think we are.
This is the fundamental of Raj yoga.

The two crucial tools that we need for this journey are- Our body and our mind.
There is no one path to do this journey.

There are four different paths that we have been explained in Bhagwat Geeta and that all these four paths lead to the same destination of experiencing your true self as spirit.

The four different paths are-

Karma yoga– This is the path of action in its widest sense. It’s your devotion to your duty. Your duty to yourself, your family, your society, your country and to the planet you’re living in. Duty in a selfless way. Nothing wrong in feeding or taking care of your family, but slowly expand it. Best service is the service that is performed without being attached to the fruits of one’s actions. Work for the greater good.

Bhakti yoga– It teaches how to love without any ulterior motives. To see the divine spirit in every living being.

Gyan yoga– Yoga of intelligence or intellect. This is for the philosopher, the thinker, he who wants to go beyond the visible.

Rajyoga– This incorporates all the previous three yoga pathways and goes way beyond. This is also the path to harness the brain and meditate.

Now we are just going to see in further detail about Raj yoga. It is possibly one of the most important one and also the most difficult one. There were different schools of yoga in ancient times. Sage Patanjali compiled them 3200 years ago and made a framework of eight steps to make it easier called Ashtang Yoga.
Asht stands for Eight and Ang stands for limbs.
So this is a framework of eight limbs.

The basis of Raj yoga is that if you can hold your mind still, reality in its true sense can become visible to you. It can then come face-to-face.

Unless you bring discipline in your routine life, it is highly unlikely that you will succeed in meditation. For this reason, Patanjali brought the first two steps Yam and Niyam.

Yam – literally means discipline, it’s your discipline with the outside world. This includes speaking truth, avoid lust, non-violence, non-possessiveness or free yourself from greed.

Niyam– The second step is for self-discipline. It includes self-hygiene, self-study, contentment, show discipline in body, speech and mind.

Patanjali says that unless you bring Yam and Niyam to your daily life, it is unlikely that you can successfully meditate. So the initial requirement is that your routine life should come in the harness first.

Aasan– third step is the Aasan or postures. Holding the mind still is going to be difficult let’s begin by holding the body still to start with. These are postures in harmony with one’s inner consciousness. Out of the eight different steps of yoga, posture or exercising is only the third step. That too, a lower step to go up to the further five steps of yoga.

Our body is a very important tool that we possess and it’s very crucial to take very good care of it. For meditation, healthy and sound body and still mind are required. We need to be aware that the body and mind are very closely linked. If one gets affected in a good or adverse way, the other one gets affected as well. It has an important place in Hindu philosophy, but it is not the end. It is just a stepping stone to get ahead for a higher goal.

Pranayam– this is control of breath which is our life force. It also balances nervous system and encourages creative thinking. This makes us more in regulation of life force and how to utilise it completely.

So you can see how we are travelling inwards so far with each step we climb from outside world alignment, then self-discipline, body postures and then breath control. Now let’s move further inwards and thereby further up the ladder.

Pratyahar – this is to get a better control of our five senses. We often tend to abuse our five senses. We overeat, oversleep and overdo lots of such things. So Pratyahar or the fifth step is to try and control our five senses rather than them controlling us.

This is rightly managing the senses and going beyond them instead of simply suppressing them. This helps to concentrate on meditation better.

Dharna– Having attained the fifth step, now your mind is not going in all different directions. It will start to come to one point. This is the sixth step called Dharna. A sense of concentration. It involves developing our power of concentration.

Dhyan– After Dharna, you are prepared to do meditation for a long time. This takes you to the seventh step called Dhyan. This is where you are single pointedly focused. There are many ways to meditate as per what suits you. The previous limbs help to achieve the preparation for meditation.

Samadhi– when you’re in meditation for a long time it takes you to Samadhi, which is the eighth step of yoga. This 8th step Samadhi is explained in numerous ways. In general, it is that spiritual state which gives you the first hand experience that you are not this body nor are you this mind but you are one with the spirit.

Going up the steps. mind goes from chaotic to calm and in the process we do our social duties in the step one and gradually move from outside world to more and more inwards. Not that I do this all the time I fail multiple times but then I keep going up to the first step in an attempt to climb up again. Patience is the key.

It will fill your lungs with oxygen, body gets stretched, relaxed and stronger. It motivates you to self-care and social duties. It empties your mind of trash and fills it with positivity and hopefully more clarity.

I would like to end with a quote from Swami Vivekanand, a spiritual giant who introduced yoga to the western world

Talk to yourself once a day, otherwise, you may miss meeting an excellent person in this world. Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached.

Swami Vivekanand

It was his message to the world to get out of their hypnotised state of mind.

By Rachna Sharma

We still need to be responsible

light blue one use medical protective masks
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These first days after the easing of the lockdown in England coinciding with the unfurling and blooming of nature in spring and the Easter break hopefully marks a turning point bringing the promise of new activities and easing of social restrictions.

From 29th March, changes to the Covid regulations in England will mean some limited relaxation of the current rules around social and outdoor activities. However, it is imperative to emphasise the need to be responsible and careful in the way we carry out these activities. Needless to say that evidence stacks up that it is safer for people to meet outdoors rather than indoors, however, outdoor gatherings have to conform to the Rule of 6 or two households. Even outdoors we need to avoid crowding places and keep social distancing.

There is more guidance available on the Plymouth City Council website: https://www.plymouth.gov.uk/coronaviruscovid19information

Census 2021

The census is a survey that happens every 10 years and gives us a picture of all the people and households in England and Wales. The next census takes place on Sunday 21 March 2021.

Your answers to the census questions will help organisations make decisions on planning and funding public services in your area, including transport, education and healthcare.

You can complete your census as soon as you receive your letter, but make sure you answer about your household as you expect it to be on Census Day. If you complete your census early and the number of people in your household changes, please let us know.

The census should take about 10 minutes for the household questions and 10 minutes per person.

Spring, hope and creative endeavours

A very warm and luminous greeting to you from the editor’s desk this spring time; I pause to breathe in the beauty of this annual changing of the seasons. Every year, it comes, and I know it will; yet it never fails to amaze me by its promise of welcome changes, new life and energy, longer and lighter days.  Poets have over the years sought to capture its meaning signalled through the many changes which we all see and experience around us. Their words have evocatively captured their interpretation of the beauty of spring when nature bursts forth into fresh beginnings.

The following words have been penned to accompany the photographs taken by fellow Trustee and friend Professor Awadhesh Jha.

Magnolia trees burst forth into flowers almost on cue
Branches profuse with their waxy furry, 
yet so soft buds. Oh! so many, not few, 
The leaves will come much later in a flurry.
Their flowers in shades of white and pink and rose,
Star or lily shaped, or saucer-like their decadent flamboyant petals.
Their smell wafts in the pleasant evenings. Calm repose. 
Reminding us of memories past, together for events specials.
The genus, so ancient bequeaths resilience 
We too for surviving must have patience.

“Dorothy Wordsworth’s Journal Written at Grasmere (From 1st January 1802 to 8th July 1802)” in Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, Vol. I (of 2), by Dorothy Wordsworth, edited by William Knight, London: Macmillian and Co., Ltd., 1897.

Yellow, the colour of spring so full of charm and grace fills our beings with life and energy. Yellow with that dhani shade of green (colour of wheat plants, we can call it spring green) beckons, enriches and nourishes from the fields and pathways, around houses and corners. Yellow forsythias bloom so richly, never a leaf edges in in their riotous blooming. The hedges of orange glow pyracantha Firethorn reminding us of the warmth of the sun are a sight to behold.

The daffodils, narcissi in their shades and hues and plumages are there everywhere, by the roadsides, in the roundabouts, in the fields and the gardens. Gracefully swinging and nodding in the breeze, dancing to their own magical, celestial beat. Tantalising beauty, filling us with hope.

Photography : Prof Awadhesh Jha

This brings to mind the famous poem by Wordsworth I wandered lonely as a Cloud.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze…

This beautiful evocative poem was inspired by a walk William Wordsworth took with his sister Dorothy, who was a poet and a writer herself in the Lake District. Dorothy’s journal entry describes the walk:

It was a threatening, misty morning, but mild. We set off after dinner from Eusemere. The wind was furious.….The wind seized our breath. The lake was rough. … we saw a few daffodils close to the water-side. We fancied that the sea had floated the seeds ashore, and that the little colony had so sprung up. But as we went along there were more and yet more; and at last, under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful. They grew among the mossy stones about and above them; some rested their heads upon these stones, as on a pillow, for weariness; and the rest tossed and reeled and danced, and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind, that blew upon them over the lake; they looked so gay, ever glancing, ever changing.

Dorothy Wordsworth’s Journal Written at Grasmere (From 1st January 1802 to 8th July 1802)” in Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, Vol. I (of 2), by Dorothy Wordsworth, edited by William Knight, London: Macmillian and Co., Ltd., 1897.

Dr Smita Tripathi
SAaS Newsletter Editor

What’s the Story Study – Serum Testing of Representative Youngsters

University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust is researching a new way of surveying how well protected we are from infectious diseases by collecting blood samples from people who represent different groups across society. What happens in this study?

They are looking to enrol children and adults aged from birth to 19 years old.

  • There will be a single visit with a blood test. 
  • We will ask you some basic information including age, gender, vaccination history.
  • We will arrange to see you in a clinic at the Lind Research Centre, level 5, Derriford Hospital.
  • Participants seen in clinics will be offered £20 reimbursement in the form of a voucher for taking part in the study. If they are seen at home there will be no reimbursement.
  • Local anaesthetic skin cream would be used for children to reduce any discomfort from blood sampling
  • The whole appointment should take around 45 minutes.

Taking part in this research study is completely voluntary.  If you would like any further information please visit www.whatsthestory.org.uk or contact us by telephone on 01752 432447 or email on plh-tr.whatsthestory@nhs.net.

Register to trial

SAaS Youth Forum

We are exploring a proposal to set up a youth forum for the South Asian Society. A youth forum is an organisation run and developed by young people for young people. They exist to represent the views of young people at a community level, giving them the opportunity to have a voice, discuss relevant issues, engage with decision-makers and contribute to improving the lives of other young people within their communities.

The youth forum usually consists of members across age range of 11-18 years.

Youth Forum Benefits

  • develop greater self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • develop communication skills.
  • develop leadership skills.
  • develop organisational skills.
  • gain self-worth and inner strength to battle negative peer pressure.
  • develop winning attitudes
  • learning how to work with other young people.
  • build strong and lasting friendships.

The youth forum will strive to extend and expand on the core mission and activities of SAaS but with a new and independent outlook. This will also provide a route to represent in the regional youth parliaments improving integration and cohesion from a very young age while enhancing the overall contribution of SAaS towards the local communities.

Art, reflection and the Covid

I have asked myself what insights and solace can poems offer us during this time of fear and contemplation, self-isolation and silence. Such thoughts pre-occupy me as I go for my daily ramble amongst the bramble and other such fauna. We are among the lucky ones who live in the leafy suburbs and picturesque South West with plenty of room for strolling around the neighbourhood, and within a few miles of the South West Coastal paths and the Moors and surrounded by so much natural beauty and an abundance of walkways. It will take more than a few lockdowns to explore them all.  

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Simon Armitage, the UK’s poet laureate has written about the consoling power of the art form in times of crisis because it “asks us just to focus, and think, and be contemplative”. His poem Lockdown recalls the outbreak of the bubonic plague in Eyam in the 17th century when a bale of cloth wrought havoc when it brought fleas carrying the plague to Derbyshire. He refers to the epic poem Meghadūta by the Sanskrit poet Kālidāsa, and captures how an exile sends reassuring words to his wife in the Himalayas via a passing cloud.

On a similar note, I am reminded of creative exuberance and skills revealed by budding writers-poets in our community who took part in the Talent Competition last year focusing on the Covid theme. We plan to share excerpts of shortlisted entries over the new few months with our members. We are sharing 3 such entries this month.

Charu Sharma in her evocative poem A Dazzling Piñata With a Ray of Hope used the Haiku style to great acumen

Corona, an invisible greedy eagle, swooping down to hurt its prey
A booming cannonball yearning to explode with illness
A shooting star that fails to grant people’s wishes
A balloon bursting everyone’s happiness

A rising sun, seeking to evaporate the dark clouds
A dazzling piñata to burst with a ray of hope
We shall all fight this together
Soon, the menacing dragon will vanish off the globe

We have to be patient
Do your part and help in allowing this pandemic to end swiftly
Corona is just an infection and won’t last much longer
But certainly will create a story to remember forever

Charu Sharma (U13)

Anvi Purayil penned the Ghost Town, truly portraying fear and emotions of what is happening and has expressively and imaginatively used the epic format to her credit.

The bustling city streets are now quietened, the railways muted and now the loudest noises are the hushed whispering of the trees telling secrets to one another.
Families imprisoned in rows of the same houses. Even windows can’t show you what’s going on inside. Fear, loss and pain surrounding what used to be a city, region, nation – world.
Suppressed and silenced the world is a ghost town.

Anvi Purayil (U16)

What a graphic and true exposition of the deep isolation and the many-hued silence that has come to prevail in our communities haunted by death and Covid 19. She goes on to express hope with new beginnings in sun and light-filled world.

After a cold harsh storm, the skies will clear the rain will stop to a drizzle and the sun will always come out stronger, better and, with a rainbow.

Anvi Purayil

Read the full writeup here

Adit Sobti penned down his A Ray of Hope! which goes through the gamut of emotions accompanying the pre-, during- and post-crisis phases. The poem strikes a poignant and sombre note with a child in a family who is caught up in the throes of the pandemic and with hope awaits its passing into joyful dawn.

The children had time with friends,
They loved lying in bed!
Mother and father don’t worry about things,
There was too much good everywhere!

Now, mother is ill,
Children try to manage dirty washing.
Strange things worries us tonight,
We believe soon its stop!

Wish medicine could do us good;
Possibly, throwing enormous worry off soapy-water.
How pleased to see that night had finished,
Lovely faces shone with joy!

Adit Sobti (U10)

Article editor

Dr Smita Tripathi