Centralised Blog

I have created this new blog to centralise and archive all my writing.

As I am no longer at University, I no longer write for student newspapers and have thus set up multiple blogs to continue writing. Here, you will find a link to my Human Rights blog, an archive of previous press clippings and online articles and new travel writing features.

If you have any questions, please use the comment form or contact me on nankikchawla[at]gmail.com

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LBTL: How hard is it really?

I decided to do a final post to cover my last two days because my meals were unsurprisingly much of the same! The only difference was switching out the microwaved eggs for beans on toast – a lot better but somewhat minimal…

2014-06-05 13.39.43

Sad beans on toast

I also stuck with my ‘poverty carbonara’ both nights, which I continued to really enjoy and will probably make again (minus the hot dogs).

I found the challenge harder and easier than expected – I did well because I planned my shop in a lot of detail and managed to get in a reasonable amount of calories everyday. It was harder though because I realised how much of your mental capacity it takes to plan every meal in that way for a long period of time. Having lived on benefits in London, I am definitely no stranger to budgeting, but this was entirely different!

2 weeks to Palestine!
Just wanted to reiterate the reason I’ve been doing this challenge: I’m fundraising for my voluntary placement in Palestine (leaving 2 weeks today!), where I will be working on a project combating youth unemployment. Conflict and occupation in the region has led to huge barriers to education, which hugely harm employment chances. We will be delivering courses and workshops on English, CV writing, public speaking and similar. The project is brand new, which means we will have a chance to design and direct it to be as effective as possible.

The scheme is government funded, and is running all over the world. Everything I fund raise enables other young people in the UK to take part! I have been lucky enough to have incredibly generous family and friends, and have smashed my target. If anyone still wants to donate, tomorrow June 9th is my deadline!

Final tips for Live Below the Line

  • Plan your meals very carefully – shop around before you decide and use mysupermarket to compare prices before buying.
  • Include a treat if you can (highly recommend the 18p chocolate mousse from Tesco) – this will give you something to look forward to and break up the monotony of the rest of your food.
  • Think about FLAVOUR! Definitely include some stock/tomato paste/allow for salt and pepper otherwise you’re in for a really boring week.
  • Try not to plan any heavy duty exercise as your energy levels are going to be low, particularly if you’re unused to 1200 calories a day.
  • Plan for your daily routine: might seem like an obvious one but it’s really hard to budget in convenience meals, however, I am sure there are better options to microwaving eggs. If you find any, let me know!
  • Stick to vegetarian food – you get more for your money and it’s probably less likely to be suspect…

Practically, these tips will probably make sure you are fine for the week, but it’s also definitely worth reading some literature around the poverty line and trying to understand what life is like for people who not only are living on that much food or less, but are also doing so without shelter (in the freezing cold or blistering heat), medical care, and while working labour-intensive jobs and supporting families on that £1. It not only reminded me of how hard life could be if I been born in different circumstances, but of how wasteful I tend to be with food even when on a budget. It would be fascinating to see how the challenge would vary in other countries, especially where living costs are much lower. However, either way, the figure is astoundingly low, especially when taking into account the cost of anything more than food.

I’m now really looking forward to working on a development project in Palestine, and will soon be blogging about it – watch this space!

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LBTL: How many calories can you eat on £1/day?

So, how many calories can you really manage on £1/day?

With pretty careful planning and a vague attempt at getting a reasonable quantity/variety into my menu, I have worked out using My Fitness Pal that I am getting roughly the following:

Average caloric values

Average caloric values

This chart may not be completely accurate but my caloric intake was roughly 1250 calories. This is probably the amount I eat when I’m trying to be really careful with food, but is most definitely not a healthy level for most people. Factoring in the roughly 50 minutes of speedy walking I do on my commute to and from work (and up a hill), my calorie level would drop lower. This kind of calorie level is likely to be below your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), meaning your body is not getting enough calories to sustain its basic function. It would be possible to eat higher calorie canned/processed food on a similar cost, but would probably be even worse for your system.

For most people, this would be completely unsustainable and in the long term, incredibly unhealthy and difficult to manage. According to the NHS, the recommended calorie intake per day for a woman is 2000 and for a man is 2500. I suspect for many people these would be too high, but clearly, it would be virtually impossible to reach that on £1/day. Many people living under the extreme poverty line are likely to be in high-intensity, active jobs, which require a higher calorie diet. The extreme calorie deficit would be hugely detrimental to their well being.

Despite the low calories, I am full post dinner. While my breakfast and lunch were as disappointing as yesterday, my dinner was miraculously good!

Spaghetti with vegetables, hot dogs, in an egg sauce

Fake Carbonara

Carbonara under the poverty line
I cooked the spaghetti, vegetables and hot dogs as normal (boiled as per packet instructions), and then cracked two eggs into the still steaming spaghetti, added a splash of milk, salt and pepper, stirred, and created the poor man’s carbonara! It was surprisingly delicious, considering how little it cost to make, and although I would substitute the hot dogs for bacon, I would definitely make it again.

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LBTL: What was on the Shopping List?

Living below the line definitely gets harder, especially when you’re working. My concentration was flailing and I was completely exhausted by the end of the day. In terms of quantity, I’m not eating that differently from normal but having to budget so carefully means I’m focusing on meals far more. I’ve been enjoying(?) the meals I’ve been making so far, but I know that the mundaness of it will set in later this week. So here are my meals from Day 2:

Day 2:

A pretty good spread!


Toast is boring

Scrambled in the office microwave!

Scrambled in the office microwave!

Scrambling eggs in the microwave was a little tricky, because they briefly turned into a hard but foamy disc, which needs to be literally ‘scrambled’. The trick seems to be cooking them a little at a time on a lower heat, scrambling, and then repeating that process until they’re the right consistency. Although they look slightly insipid, they tasted pretty good!

The chocolate mousse however was clearly the winner at 4.5p. A bit concerned about what what they put in it though…

Pasta minus cat food hot dogs

Pasta minus the cat food hot dogs








Full Shopping List
Anyone who wants to do this challenge will probably be most curious about what’s on the detailed shopping list.

Top tip: Shop around at a couple of supermarkets to find the cheapest options, but look online to save you the legwork if you can. At least roughly plan your meals beforehand or you’ll probably end up with a random assortment of items.

15 eggs £1.25
Mixed veg £0.89
Tomato paste £0.37
Bread £0.45

Milk £0.49
Hot dogs £0.50
Baked beans £0.24
Spaghetti £0.20
Stock cubes £0.20
20 tea bags £0.15
Mousse £0.18

Total: £4.92

I’m pretty happy with my choices minus the hot dogs. Steering clear of meat would definitely have been a good idea: a reminder of how hard protein is to come by when you’re living on so little.

This is reminding me more than anything how much we take food for granted, how much we spend on it, and how little we can live on if we have to. But, constant budgeting is grating, and takes up a huge amount of your mental space and energy. I am fortunate to be among the minority that can take food, drink, shelter, and health for granted.

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LBTL: Lessons from Day 1

I’m at the end of Day 1 of Living Below the Line, and am pretty happy to say I’ve been doing well so far! I’m sure this might change, as my menu is going to involve essentially eating the same meals everyday.

I planned my menu pretty carefully though, and am lucky enough to live reasonably close to a Tesco Superstore, which had the ‘value’ version of most things I needed. I did trek to both Tesco and Lidl, and harassed the sales staff at both to find what I needed even if it wasn’t on the shelf.

£4.92 for all this!

£4.92 for all this!

Everything came to a total of £4.92, with the remaining 8p left over for salt/pepper. Incredibly happy I managed to work tea and milk into my budget, because working full-time without caffeine would have been a nightmare (for me and my colleagues…)




My meals for Day 1:

Brunch on a budget

Brunch on a budget

Surprisingly good pasta/questionable hot dogs

Surprisingly good pasta/questionable hot dogs

Brunch on a budget worked out pretty well and so did my pasta.I also had a slice of toast mid-afternoon, which kept me going until dinner.

Top Tip: Flavouring is vital on a budget – 20p stock cubes and 35p tomato paste made all the difference to this dish. On the other hand, 50p tinned hot dogs genuinely taste like reconstituted cat food. Might have to give those a miss for the rest of the week…

Poverty and the brain
I also came across this amazing infographic from the Social Work Degree Center, which shows the ways in which poverty affects the brain and how malnutrition can impact every aspect of your life, from employment to education  to mental health and even sex. It’s US-focused, but definitely worth a look to think how living in extreme poverty creates challenges in every aspect of your life.

I expect that hunger at work will make me more grumpy, less focused, and probably less efficient this week, but I (and my boss) know that this will only affect me for 5 days. Having to deal with this long-term however would create far greater challenges, ranging from poor health to potentially reduced cognitive ability.

The work that International Service is doing aims to alleviate this kind of extreme poverty, by finding ways to empower the people it most effects. I’ll talk about the work I will be doing in Palestine in my next post.

I’m so grateful to have reached my minimum fundraising target(!), but want to raise as much as possible for the charity, so please donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/Nanki-Chawla

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Living Below the Line for International Service

From this Sunday, I will be ‘living below the line’ for 5 days, in order to raise funds for a Right to Education project in Palestine. I will be leading a team of UK and local volunteers in order to set up skills-based courses and workshops in and around the West Bank, in order to combat massive youth unemployment. This has been a huge barrier to opportunities within Palestine and needs to be addressed. I will be working with International Service, an amazing charity that uses human rights to underpin their development work.

The project is 90% funded by the Department for International Development (Dfid) and the other 10% is raised by the Team Leaders and Volunteers themselves. The proceeds go directly towards the International Citizen Service scheme and the charities. None of the proceeds go towards my placement.

As part of my fundraising efforts, I will be living below the extreme poverty line at £1/day for 5 days. ‘Live Below the Line’ has already raised huge amounts of money towards alleviating poverty, and helps people to understand the daily challenges of living in extreme poverty.Lack of nutrition affects your energy levels, motivations, and even your abilities to enjoy the basic things in life. I will working full-time while taking part and am aware of the impact it might have on my concentration levels (not to mention my caffeine-deprived mood!)

While this is true, it remains an artificial challenge because the money will only cover my food and drink, and not my travel, accommodation, clothing, medical care and myriad other needs. I am however really excited to begin my challenge this Sunday and hope that you will support me!

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

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Rape to be renamed ‘fake’, says Delhi police

The Delhi police has recently unveiled plans to rename ‘rape’ as ‘fake’ as a response to recent media reports which reportedly show police officers explaining that rape is the fault of the victims. The Delhi Police Commissioner states: “All women who come forward to report cases of rape are loose women with no morals and therefore we believe that it’s time ‘rape’ was renamed to reflect its true nature in the national capital as ‘fake’.”

According to made up and unsubstantiated police figures, only 1-2% of reported rape cases are real. In the rest of the cases, it is because the woman asked for money, dressed provocatively, drank in bars, travelled late at night and happened to be born a woman. “Rape ‘victims’, as it were, are really just liars who believe they will receive money if they pretend to be raped. They are loose women who are trying to trap an innocent man by playing with his emotions,” said the Police Commissioner.

In a contentious move, the Delhi Police has confirmed that they will “begin workshops which will sensitise our male police officers to the devious acts by women who claim to be raped because they want to take our money and ruin our morality.” They are also in the process of establishing a Special Ops branch for the moral police.

As women are no longer allowed to work past 8pm in Gurgaon, the police force has also decided to put measures in place to ensure that those wearing provocative clothing (detailed as skirts, tight-fitting or low-cut t-shirts) are no longer allowed out on the streets of Delhi. The Commissioner clarifies: “By wearing such things, they are obviously asking for rape; they only do it to corrupt this nation’s men. It is time the accused receive some justice, they were only exercising their freedom of movement.”

Women’s rights activists have expressed concerns at legally renaming the act of ‘rape’ and are calling for an immediate retraction of these comments by the police.

Many cops in the Delhi police force have expressed outrage at this egregious assertion against their communal character.  “The two finger test we do to determine a woman’s virginity proves that this new measure will help protect our nation’s men. If it’s a Delhi girl, we know for a fact it was fake.”

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Things should no longer be said, say offended people

In a dramatic move by the Government of India, things are no longer allowed to be said due to the “hurt sensibilities” of different religious and cultural communities in India. Following on a recent trend to stop things from being said, the Government of India has finally introduced legislation in the form of the Do Not Talk Act 2012, following the Your Opinions Are Wrong Bill 2011. A team of prominent lobbyists, activists and members from both civil society and the Government have been in the process of drafting the bill for several months now; it was finally passed by parliament on 23 January 2012.

Experts explain that the provisions of this act will most definitely stop things from being said: “Anything which offends the moral, political, cultural and social sensibilities of any of our many religious communities are not to be said by the residents of this country, due to national security concerns.”  The provisions of the bill include the spoken word (such as talking and conversation), the written word (such as articles and novels) and all social media. The Telecomm’s Minister says: “We must eliminate all objectionable and incendiary content on social media sites, as the sentiments of all sensible people are being hurt. For this reason, we will censor, I mean, pre-screen all uploaded content by the people of this county and the rest of the world.”

The Act also makes it clear that people who say things will suffer the consequences of either death by lynch mob or confiscation of all their worldly possessions.

A spokesperson from the Offended Party of India explains: “People are saying things, which is just not appropriate in a traditional society like ours. We must stop this now before communal riots begin.” India has a long history of communal riots due to things being said, where an estimated total of 2 people have been grievously injured.

This has sparked protests around the country, where the father of saying things, Salmon Fushty, has been unceremoniously booted out due to fake intelligence from police authorities. He is now being hailed as a champion and symbol of speaking.

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