Archive for May, 2014


Just one of those days where the weather is just right and there’s a cupcake thrown in too. Oh, and some random pretty flowers sprouting here and there for a botanic touch of beauty to brighten up the day.

Every now and then I’ll come across a dish that I fall in love with unexpectedly (and then try to replicate which always ends badly with some burnt fingers). I visited Basuba Eathai recently, and having no halal option, opted for the fish section instead. I went for the chilli cod dish with stir fry vegetables, which was scrumptious, and my friend went for the grilled salmon and rice option, which was also lovely (but not as nice as my dish!) I love Thai food and this is one of the reasons why, there’s a good palette of flavours and it’s healthy too – definitely one to go back and have!

20140421_135226 - Copy

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Today I heard the sad news that author, poet, icon, artist, civil rights leader, woman, Maya Angelou passed away at the age of 86. She was famous for many things, being a writer, singer, dancers, actress and acitivist, but at the core of it all, she remained a sunny, beautiful woman who had many lessons to give and moved many of us while we were growing up.

When you  learn, teach. When you get, give.

I remember reading Maya Angelou’s famous classic I Know why the Caged Bird Sings at the age of  eleven after it was handed to me by a teacher who knew of my love for books and was always trying giving me new genres to explore. I was a huge reader then (I still am, but these days I find that I make less time for reading unless it’s on my daily commute) and was hungry for literature which went beyond the usual Goosebumps and teenage-angst stories. I found my fill in Alice Walker, Adele Geras, Margaret Atwood, and as I grew older, in post-colonial authors, post-modern authors and feminist writers such as Chimamanda Ngozi, Toni Morrison, Meera Syal, Doris Lessing and Arundhati Roy, but to name a few. This is just a tip of the iceberg for the amazing range of authors out there whose works I’ve swam through, floated through, devoured and then looked for more of.

Until blacks and whites see each other as brother and sister, we will not have parity. It’s very clear.

Maya Angelou is all of these. She was someone who wanted to push boundaries, making us re-think the norm, and above all, celebrated life, being a woman, being a person and seeing the human in us rather than the stereotypes and the labels. Is it any wonder that she is remembered for so many things? The one thing about her which spoke to me through all of her writing, which really resonated was the fact that she had lived such a hard life, and yet remained a positive person. I’ve met so many negative people, and indeed it’s in our culture to not be happy with what we have, to want more and to criticise, and yet Maya Angelou empathised the importance of being assertive and being proud of who we are and what we have. Growing up, I’m sure we all have stories to tell in which we felt alone, different or pushed down – Maya taught us that we can either let it define us, or use it to buil character, be happy with ourselves, learn from our experiences rather than being just content

You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.

I love how this blogger put it. Maya Angelou’s words mean that we are not marginalised, pushed aside and made ‘just’. I, like my peers, am not ‘just’ a coloured girl, we ARE coloured girls – and this matters.

Maya Angelou may be gone from this world, but her words and her philosophy live on; as sad as it is that the world has suffered a loss today, it is also beautiful that she has left a beautiful legacy which continues to inspire so many generations.

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.

There’s several obituaries from prominent newspapers of the wonderful woman, here’s the one I liked most (and this one too) – the tributes, stories and accolades keep pouring in for this wonderful woman. I think they all sing the same thing – Maya Angelou was an inspirational woman to so many people because of many different reasons. For me, it’s because she introduced me to a whole new world at the age of 11 when I stepped into I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and kept going.

A great soul never dies. It brings us together, again and again

Maya Angelou, as her poem suggests, really was a Phenomenal Woman.
Rest in peace Maya Angelou, may you reach Jannah (heaven) and know the blessings and peace you showed to others. Thank you for your legacy – sharing your love, your knowledge and your wisdom and for generally being such a beautiful person. The world was, is and will be a better place just because you have lived. You will be missed.

…it’s always fun having birthdays. I was lucky enough for the country to declare a Bank Holiday for mine : )

DSC_3613

I’ve been busy lately ‘designing’ dresses (i.e. stealing pictures from the internet and putting them together) for the upcoming wedding, as well as doodling away different ideas that I’ve been having. This is one of my older pictures from doodling maxi dresses that I loved (the final outfit didn’t really look entirely like this, so much for accuracy, eh) – but I’ve been staring at pretty dresses for the last few weeks so thought I’d post this!

Happy weekendings all : )

IMAG1133

I thought I’d try a writing challenge this week, which is about ‘blogging your block‘, that is, about the area we all in live in. I don’t often spend a lot of time wandering around my neighbourhood, especially because I tend to rush home from work, or jump on buses and trains all the way home.

Every now and the20140402_201545n I’ll stop to dawdle in the local shops, particularly the ones which display and sell beautiful Pakistani and Indian style outfits – beautifully draped saris, elegant maxi dresses, blingy abayahs and lovely embroidered shirts which come down to your ankles.

I’ll admit it, I’ve always been a bit of a diva when it comes to clothes. I like having a wardrobe of beautiful things, and I especially love my ‘desi’ wardrobe, that is, my clothes which are more on the Asian-influenced. And I also reluctantly will admit that I probably have too many clothes (somewhere in the world, a Bollywood star is crying and doesn’t know why).

Nevertheless, the Lane that I live near is chock-full of Asian shops with Indian and Pakistani style outfits which are always worth an ogle (and perhaps stepping into the shop for a moment or two doesn’t always hurt either!)

And there’s the flashes of jewellery displayed carelessly all over the display cabinets, draped along luxurious velvet and self-printed silk, beautiful gold-plated rings, jewelled necklaces and stone-embedded purses.

These days, there’s a veritable land of fashion shops lining almost every other doorway, all with  beautiful clothes, blingy jewellery and pretty scarves which all have their own styles and influences. It’s lovely looking through the window glass at the beautiful things (although these days, the more beautiful they are, the less I can afford them) and seeing the vibrant colours.

20130818_142605

I suppose it’s important to me because when I was a child, these shops weren’t there, and the fashions and styles were completely different. When I was a child, my mum used to take myself and my sisters to the local fabric shops to buy several yards of cloth to stitch herself on her sewing machine (which she still has!) and we’d always have the same generic style of stitched kameez (or shirt) with a salwar pyjama (the bottom, pants). Mind you, we still loved it, it was an adventure going to see all the rolls of fabrics lining the shelves while my mum dreamed up our outfits.

These days there are styles which I never imagined wearing – I’ve always worn traditional Pakistani clothes, and I’m always  trying new styles and cuts – but there’s always something else new to look at. I was 22 when I wore my first sari, which was to a close friend’s wedding, and I went for something simple and vibrant (in purple!) These days, there’s every style of sari imaginable, various colours, cuts, embroidery and influences – be it Indian, Pakistani, Bengali or even Western-influenced. When I walk along my local lane of fashion, I’m always getting inspiration, and not just for my wardrobe (although that bulging thing will always keep growing) – it’s a place of art, of beauty, of culture and when you’re fed up of shopping…of food food : )

20140107_164619

Pretty pretty things.

I had the wonderful luck if being spoiled by a few good friends this weekend, who made plans to have ‘Rock Tea’ at the beautiful W Hotel in Soho, London – made even more lovely because of the fact that I hadn’t seen these friends for some time. The hotel was beautiful and the experience even more, particularly as it provided a venue for an enjoyable experience with friends.

Being the typical snap-happy amateur photographer that I am, I took hundreds of pictures, so here are the ones I liked the most. It was a very ‘English’ tea, with about fifty billion (okay, I exaggerate, about 10) different types of tea to start off with, and several yummy goodies which were brought out bit by bit so we could savour them properly : )

DSC_3639

Surprisingly, the sandwiches were a mix of vegetarian, fish and halal chicken, and were honestly the best sandwiches I’ve had at a tea place yet – I could even say I almost enjoyed them more than the cake and nibbles (and I’m a real cake freak!). I also loved the fact that the service was impeccable – the waiters and staff were discreet, friendly and very non-invasive, which made our tea-experience that much more giggly and silly.

DSC_3641

The tea area itself is beautiful, with hundreds of decorative plates lining a huge shelf which partitioned it off from the bar and club area – the plates being printed with various celebrity portraits, icons and art. Perhaps it was the time of day, but the tea area was also pretty quiet, which created a really peaceful atmosphere and also gave us a chance to relax.

DSC_3688

All in all, a lovely day was had (we also didn’t have any pressure to leave after a certain period the way some places only allot you around 90 minutes or two hours before they hustle you to get off their premises!) I’ve been ooh-ing and aahh-ing at the lovely pictures because of how beautiful the set up was, and it’s made me want to go to tea again soon. I’m hoping to try a new place soon – *fingers crossed that someone (heck, anyone) takes the hint and takes me to the Ritz*

DSC_3617

This is a huge clock sculpture I saw at the wonderful Harry Potter Land (otherwise known to muggles as the Warner Brother studios) which I thought was apt for the whimsical mood I’m in today. I love huge sculptures (as well as miniature things too!) and thought this was pretty symbolic of the beautiful things I’ve seen lately. I’ve had a lot of things going on lately (hence the sporadic blogging, which I’m still trying to resolve!) and feel a little stretched for time – trying to make arrangement for a wedding, my potential living situation and also all the nitty-gritty things which come up at work, home and my own hobbies.

Not to mention finding enough time to read all those books I want to read (next on the list is the highly acclaimed ‘The Fault in our Stars‘, which I’m looking forward to!)

Nevertheless, weekends are my favourite times right now (okay, they always have been, but not more than ever they’re my favourite days of the week!) – it’s the time I get to spend with family, to reflect on myself and to have some ‘me’ time, even if it’s just to sit in peace and re-arrange all of my lipsticks : )

DSC_0924

I love the weather in May, it’s warm and balmy, slightly breezy and there’s plenty of daylight so that the sun sets late, making evenings the best time to walk around. There’s a beautiful calm which makes for a really eye-opening experience, particularly when walking around streets, past  hidden away stores and small parks which are separate from the rushing public and busy traffic.

This picture below was taken in the Embankment area, next to the River Thames, which was next to some empty offices (after all the usual inhabitants had gone home and only a few lights were on), and some quiet cafes, away from the main train stations and hubbub of the streets. There’s something soothing about the stillness of this picture, but there’s also plenty going on, the tumbling clouds moving along, the lamps just minutes away from being switched on, the small boats jostling in the corner, and most of all, the feeling that something is about to erupt onto the scene (most likely me with my camera).

IMAG3100 - Copy

Signs that you grew up in the 90s to Asian/Desi parents, or, 12 cheap ways to save your household costs

I am often reminded of the various facets of myself which has roots in various places; I am a British-Pakistani Muslim woman, waist-deep in Western culture and society, the other half of me in Middle Eastern and Pakistani idioms. Like many of my peers. I have followed various influences through high school colleges and university, and found myself in the nine-to-five workplace. I’ve watched the popular American television series, the dry-wit British stand-up shows, the silly YouTube videos gone viral and the thought-provoking Islamic lectures and Ted Talks. Not to mention all the Lollywood and Bollywood films you can think of, which certainly added a spice to my cultural awareness.
I’ve spoken about my family briefly before, and certainly think that growing up in the 90s had its own charm, and also was its own nightmare. One of the reasons we can relate so much to the classic 90s tv series awesomeness that was Goodness Gracious Me was that they were able to capture so well everything that makes us British-Asians – being cheesy, sarcastic, admiring our roots while recognising how embarrassing we (and our parents!) are. This post was long overdue in the list of things which I’m sure many of you will recognise in your own family’s upbringing (although please note I’m not trying to write anything offensive, and if anything I should be the most offended that most of these things happened to me in my poor, defenceless childhood)

Not us, but there’s parts I can relate to.

1. Cover everything with plastic – the carpet, the sofa, the remote control, half of the furniture in the house (it took us a couple of years to convince my parents to take the sheeting off our new dining table set) and even our mobile phone screens – remember that? We were one of millions of forward-thinking families to ‘protect’ and cover the hallways with plastic runners (all of which are pretty much identical in every house). Years later, when we finally convinced our parents to remove the plastic, the carpet underneath looked as brand new as the day we bought it, and the ones that were exposed looked like something had died and decayed on it. But the thing is, it was a normal thing to do in the nineties, because every other house down the road did exactly the same thing. Another thing our mums did? Cover the cooker over top with foil so that any food that spilled would get caught in the foil, which you could just pick up and throw away. My mum stopped doing that about 10 years ago when she got fed up of the foil getting caught on fire, and also because  I think she didn’t see the point in covering (wasting!) in foil when you’d still have to clean the cooker because some piece of food wriggled underneath. Something my mum still does is line all of the cupboards and drawers with old wallpaper or sheets, but that’s probably good practise (and not so funny either,  I suppose). My mum even used to lovely sew pretty sofa covers (which we could have tried to pass off as boho and eclectic throws, but it blatantly wasn’t), with frills and all, to cover the sofas. I’m not sure what we were trying to do, whether we wanted to preserve the sofas and carpets for the next ten years, especially as we don’t have any of the same furniture of carpet now. The first thing we did when we bought a new television a couple of years back was, yep, rip off the plastic before my mum even opened her mouth to stop us.

Remember those beautiful studs? Mmmm smell that plasticky freshness

2. Buying new things was a big event in our house, and even bigger was  then showing them to family and friends so that they would go out and buy the same thing if they liked it. I remember my aunt coming to our house and seeing our red and cream patterned sofas, then buying the same ones for her own house (which were there for years). It is with great relief that I can say none of the original furniture from my childhood remains in the house (except possibly my parent’s my dad’s old bookshelf which has gotten away with being in the hallway, and which no one moves because it’s a good place to surreptitiously put unwanted plastic bags and extra creams that mysteriously appear). Similarly, we’d all be involved in a trip to go buy something like a vacuum for the house, my dad would expertly examine it for flaws (and then never be the one to use it), while we all sat bored and begging to go to the toys aisle.
We weren’t a well-off family and didn’t often have new things – one thing we all remember is hand-me-downs from older siblings (I didn’t have it as bad because I was the youngest, but one of my sisters remembers having hand-me-downs from my brother which was less pretty!) My parents were very thrifty and careful with what they had, and it’s a trait we’ve all manage to inherit – it also meant having an array of junk in our house because things were on sale/free/being given away. These days internet shopping is a great revelation in my house (and not just because I buy a lot of junk, my dad is the worst) – it’s a big jumble sale out there and it’s easy to go crazy. Except for my mum, who still buys everything in cash and almost always finds a bargain in any store.

3. Who says you can’t fit eight people in a five-person car? You’re just not squeezing people inside hard enough. Coming from a family where I was the youngest of five, I spent most of my childhood squashed/half-couched in the feet area of the back seats (back then I was the skinniest and the smallest, which meant I got the least space). Oddly enough, although we should have spent half our journeys terrified of the police stopping us over for overcrowding a vehicle, we never worried about it, and it never happened to us. Booster seats for toddlers and seat-belts? Pah. Our car wasn’t that glamorous either, we had an ugly white Nissan when I was a child , which then got upgraded to an ugly red Nissan a few years later – although both of which still weren’t as embarrassing as the yellow three-wheeler down the road.

car-load-funny-taxi-pakistan

4. Reading books are full of nonsense and put silly ideas in your head. My sisters and I are all avid readers, and have been since we learned our alphabet as little toddlers. I remember holding my sister’s (sometimes my Dad’s) hand and being led to the local library which was minutes up the road as a child, and being in awe at the sheer number of books lining the shelves, getting greedy over how many we could take home. My parents, on the other hand, hated it. They hated the fact that we’d go glazed-eyed and deaf once we got stuck in a book (they had to shout at us up the stairs a good few times to get our attention), the fact that we wouldn’t stop reading for hours, or the fact that our books took up piles of space next to our beds. I remember being engrossed in books which I refused to put down even when eating, ignoring the television to put a book next to my play and accidentally drip a bit of food into the pages, which would drive my parents nuts. Even now our rooms (in all of our respective houses!) still fill up with books and crowd the bookshelves (which our parents keep threatening to dump in a landfill every so often, but we know they’re just empty threats).

I’m pretty sure Roald Dahl must have based Matilda on a Pakistani family. Minus the witchcraft and car-swindling parents.

5. PG films didn’t apply to us. As long as there wasn’t any inappropriate scenes about K-I-S-S-I-N-G, we became pretty desensitized to violent films, because our parents didn’t see them as unsuitable. Mind you, the kissing thing became pretty old, we could be watching a scene from an innocent, joyful Christmas family movie, and as soon as any kissy scenes came on, the channel got changed, and we’d lose control over the remote.* Gory killing scenes in Predator were okay though, cos that was just men running around with knives. There’s been many a film that we didn’t see the ending of because of this problem.

Predator – just a film about getting exercise and fresh air in the jungle. With guns.

6. Yes, our parents were those ones who said if you didn’t get A grades, you might as well not have bothered. Admittedly, we were lucky enough to be that family which were high achievers at school and who made our cousins’ lives (unintentionally) miserable because their parents were always smacking them on the head asking them why they couldn’t get our grades. Also funnily enough, when I got my GCSE grade, the majority of which were A grades, my dad pointed out that I only got a B in Maths, which was a bit of a let-down – yet a day later a few of my uncles congratulated me saying my dad had praised my grades. My dad wanted one of us to be a mathematician (because it was his favourite subject) and my mum would have preferred it if one of us did something respectable like become a doctor or lawyer. Seeing as no one in the family has yet to reach these lofty statuses yet, I’m still waiting for them to transfer their attentions on the grandkids.

funny-desi-doctor-meme

7. Clothes and fashion in the 90s wasn’t as glamorous as they are for us today, and we didn’t have it all thought out. My sister and I are 18 months apart, which meant that as kids, we got dressed exactly the same. We looked nothing the same as kids (and even less so as adults), but this didn’t stop my mum from dressing us up exactly the same, and for relatives to ask if we were twins. Another cost-saving fashion method we had was to buy a roll of fabric and for all the girls in the family to have the same outfit stitches (which we’d have to wear at the same time) – hence our aversion as adults to wear anything pink, frilly, netted or similar to anything any other sister is wearing. And my brother wasn’t spared either, we have many photographs of him growing up displaying his stylish shell-suits with his curtain hair styles.

Can you see that look of scepticism in my face? My sisters (behind) had the same frilly dresses as me in yellow, which were our mum put on us for special occasions.

Can you see that look of scepticism in my face? My sisters (behind) had the same frilly dresses as me in yellow, which were our mum put on us for special occasions.

8. Bollywood films were a staple when we were going up, as much as Power Rangers, Blue Peter and the Indiana Jones films were. Every week, my mum would send one of us to the corner video shop to pick up the latest pirated Bollywood video tape and watch huddled together in the living room (they were a lot more family friendly than they are now, no kissing scenes here). My dad hated us watching Bollywood films, so we would watch it whenever he went out with (blatant, over-acted) ‘stealth’, – whenever we’d hear the sound of his key in the door and him stepping into the house, we would be scrambling around to switch the VCR off and pretend to be staring at the news/carpet/empty bowl when he came in.

Die Hard had nuthin’ on this guy.

9. Weddings in the 90s were a world away from the grand affair they are now. Weddings in the 90s were purely about eating food, wearing puffy dresses and tinsel, and lots of cramped seating. And don’t get me started on the cringe-worthy wedding videos and their ‘special’ effects (one of my uncle’s wedding videos features the cameraman’s hand holding up a piece of glass to make a kaleidoscopic effect in the lens. It worked, too). Compared to the bridezillas of today who take a microscopic look at wedding dresses, cakes, flowers, seating arrangements and a hundred other things, wedding back in the day involved booking a hall and food, turning up, watching at least one fight and leaving as soon as you ate. The poor bride was usually miserable and spent the whole time with her head down, and the groom was usually an obscure figure on the stage. The best thing I remember about those days was running around with the other kids and picking up loose change on the floor (and feeling really rich!)

10. Family portraits were another disaster in our household, and not just because of the fashion faux pas – I don’t think we have a single family picture which has everyone with a straight face (one of us were usually sniggering or hiding behind someone else). My sisters remember my mum telling them not to smile too much (and keep their teeth inside their mouths) because it didn’t look respectable in pictures – which is a far cry from the fake smiles and poses we all have today (I’m pretty sure we could submit a lot of ours to this website). A lot of our pictures from an early age look quite serious and sombre, usually because we were sitting on sofas in the front room which we weren’t usually meant to go in, which is ironic because I don’t think any of us were particularly miserable children. These days we’re all about arty-farty pictures and looking our best in pictures (okay that’s probably just me, but still), and the grandkids in my family have grown up with camera phones in front of their faces.

Me and my sister’s hijabi selfie

11. Food in our house was another affair which hasn’t changed. I watched Russell Peters at one of his stand-up shows once, and he correctly talked about how our mums only ever cooked whatever our dads wanted, no matter whether we wanted it or not. This was the same in our house – I can remember countless number of times that my mum made my dad’s favourite food (usually lentils) while we all moaned about wanting chicken and chips. We also didn’t eat out or have much junk food as kids (which is probably a good thing in hindsight) – I think I was about 13 when I had my first McDonald fish burger. Whenever we wanted junk food, my mum would make us home-made fish and chips (peeled and chopped potatoes, of course!) on Sundays, or otherwise make us home-made kebabs to put in burger buns. Over time we discovered halal chicken burger shops, and I remember making weekly trips with one of my sisters after saving up all of our 5ps and 10ps to buy burgers from the local shops (with all of our change in our hands, who needs purses?)

12. Storing and hoarding is a trait that probably all Asian (and other ethnicities) family have – we can’t bear to throw anything away. We have a cellar full of junk from our childhood which we are constantly trying to clear and then end up filling up again. Granted, we’re a lot more neater at storing our junk than those weird shows you see on tv (and we uses to think that the number of books we had were bad, until we drove past a house once which had newspapers and books lining the hallway in stacks until it reached the front door). Part of the problem is we hate to chuck something that we’d paid for, especially because we think we’ll need it again (we won’t). My dad even built a shed (which we’ve named the cow-shed) to ‘store’ our extra tools and things, and which is our latest dumping ground (plus it’s a haven for spiders so everyone’s too scared to go in there).

Another habit we all have is storing and stockpiling enough food and toilet paper to fuel a small country, even though my mother goes shopping every week to buy more of these. We always say that if there’s ever a siege, at least we won’t starve or need toilet paper.

All in all, there were plenty of embarassing moments (this is just the tip of the ice-berg, really!) but there were also lots of perks. Things were simpler then, video games were easier to play (have you tried to play one now? jeez.), cartoon shows were better, we weren’t obssessed with mobiles and the internet, and being an Asian nerd wasn’t always a bad thing if it meant you got A grades at school instead of beats (I rememeber a boy in my class on results day who didn’t go home for two days because he was too scared to tell his parents his grade, when he finally came home they told him they’d been waiting for him to come and show his results).

I’m sure there’s a part two of this coming soon, but in the mean-time, I’m off to browse 90s films to make fun out of (starting with this one, one of the funniest re-caps I’ve read!)

*Ownership of the remote control is a serious thing in our house (I have no idea if this is a thing in other people’s house, although I suspect it is) ‘Having’ the remote is taken pretty seriously, and whoever has it is a lucky devil because they can hold on it and control what everyone else watches. The only exception to this is my dad who has the power to take the remote and change it to Geo channel or BBC news at any and all times, no matter how much we might complain.