Weekend Reads…The Good Liar

I went on a e-book downloading spree a few days ago, and have been spending my free time trying to catch up on that long list of books waiting to be read! I’ve noticed that a few of the books I’ve read or reviewed recently have not been new one, so I’m aiming to review books that have released in 2017.

I’m still catching up, so bear with me – this is an interesting book about a con-man who may or may not get his comeuppance – I’ve only just started it but it looks promising!

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Plaistow Street Art by Mr Cenzone

I love living in east London, because of all the colourful corners and walls I always come across. I’m a huge fan of street art (as I’m sure you’ve noticed) and can never go past any without stopping to have a good stare.

This is some artwork by Mr Cenz, a London-based street-artist, whose work I found in Plaistow, east London. They were both slightly hidden away and I managed to see both going past by accident (I saw one while was on a bus and came back later after remembering where it was!)

Apparently this one is called ‘The Wish’, and it’s a beautiful dreamy piece which covers the bottom length of a whole building block (took me a while to get the whole piece in one phoyo!). I love the whirls and contouring in this, as well as the black, grey and white tones on top of the colourful, magical background.

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Not far from the above piece is this more sultry looking portrait, a beautiful mix of blues, greens and purples on the side of a shop wall. Again, there’s a beautiful mix of shapes on top of colours, with a very dreamy look to the whole piece that I love.

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I’ll be keeping an eye out for more pieces around east London, especially some from this artist!

You can also check the artist out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Etsy pages.

Why I Am A Faceless Blogger

Some of you may read my other blog, which is a fashion/beauty blog about all things to do with Pakistani and Indian fashion trends, modest fashion, makeup and random ramblings (and some of you probably found this blog via that one!) I have been blogging for about six or seven years now, and have noticed that as my priorities and interests have changed, my posts and articles have accordingly adapted over time as well.

One of the things I have had some conflicts with as a fashion blogger (or is it influencer now? I’m still undecided about that word) is the fact that I don’t show my face, whether it’s for outfit posts, or pictures from weddings, events or makeup swatches.  My concerns are this – as I’ve been writing for some time and I have been getting more public interest in the couple of years because of my clothes, wedding posts and experiences which I have blogged about, I have had more exposure which means more opportunities to work with new brands. However I feel that a lot of the bigger bloggers I follow or who have successful businesses, have become successful because they themselves are the brand – they are recognisable, easy to relate to and trust, and because of this they are able to fit into a market who are comfortable with them.

Initially I never used to show my face in blog posts (I used to just cut my head off my pictures before I posted) for several reasons: firstly, I liked the anonymity, you can get away with a LOT more when people don’t know you. Secondly, I never showed my face for kind-of religious reasons – I don’t blog because I’m fishing for compliments or want someone to say I’m good-looking (that’s what Facebook and my husband are for), but because I want to show how fashion can be modest, stylish and wearable. The whole point of my fashion blog is about what I wear, and what I have in my wardrobe, rather than what I look like. I wear a hijab and the concept of it also includes having some modesty both in behavior and physical appearance, so why not incorporate that in my blog? Thirdly, I was also a little self-conscious because a lot of my personal friends and colleagues don’t know I blog – call it silly but I find it easier to write if I’m less self-conscious about who is reading it!

I have thought about it for a while, because as much as I’d like to protect my anonymity and modesty, there are still some pros which you can’t argue with. I am a bit of a risk-taker at times, and I can see the appeal in the idea of myself and my identity as a brand. It’s not that I’m shy, or that my identity is a big secret (even though I do fight crime at night sometimes), and really, it’s not even about whether I have a problem showing my face. But I have often found that a lot of blog readers and followers feel more connected to Instagrammers and bloggers that they can recognise, especially when there’s a lot of personal issues being shared. A big part of blogging is being transparent not just about who sponsors your posts or whom you collaborate with but also who you are. The most successful blogs are the ones where the bloggers are open about sharing opinions and parts of their lives.

The real issue is that if I decided to show what I look like, the pictures are out there, and it’s hard to go back. In today’s digital age, pictures can be shared faster than WhatsApp rumours, and I like the fact that right now, I have control over my images and my identity.

There’s also the fact that a lot of girls (and guys) can be pretty awful to bloggers, you have to pretty emotionally strong to be able to not let negative comments affect you, ruin your day or even influence your behavior. I’ve been lucky enough not to get many negative comments, but it can still be pretty tempting to lose your way by trying to please your audience or maintain popularity. The other issue is that I am in a place in my life where I am pretty confident in myself, my self-image and my place in life – and I can imagine that the struggle to maintain a ‘pretty face’ for a blog, or the psychological impact it could have.

You could even say that the issue isn’t showing my face exactly, since even if I did, I’d still dress modestly and would still wear hijab. Another thing I have always considered is the idea of ‘nazar’ (or the ‘evil eye’ which might intentionally or unintentionally come from envy), which is something I do believe in, which could arise once I lose that anonymity.

There are, fortunately a few ‘big’ bloggers who I do follow, that have managed to remain faceless, and quite successfully so. One blogger I’ve always been a fan of has complained in the past that it’s amazing how some people just don’t get that they want to remain ‘faceless bloggers’. She described a fashion event just last week (which I also attended) where a few of her followers took pictures of her when she was walking around, even when she went to the restroom; when she confronted them to ask them to delete the pictures, they told her she should expect this kind of thing to happen and shouldn’t have become a blogger if she didn’t want pictures taken of her. While I can understand that if you’re successful and on the fashion scene, you can’t really stop other people for taking your pics and posting them on social media or magazines – I also think there should be a line drawn for respecting privacy.

In the past my ‘facelessness’ has affected me in that one or two fashion brands who wanted to promote their brands have wanted to work with me, and in the end I have turned them down because they did not want to crop my face out. At the time it was a little upsetting, as it made me feel that I had ruined my prospects a little if I wanted to work with future companies, and also I had noticed difference in the way that bloggers who did choose to work with those company treated me. However, in the long run, I don’t regret my decision – I like the fact that I kept control over the content and photos of me, and if a company isn’t able to respect that, then perhaps they are not for me.

There have been times when I have debated for some time about showing my face, especially as I never have done in the past with my blogs. I spoke to a few friends about it, my sisters and even on blogger forums, and in the end I decided not to because I don’t want my posts and articles to be about how I look, as much as what I’m wearing, what I am doing and even who I am. In the long run, I’m pretty happy with my decision because although I’m not shy or have a secret identity (apart from the night-time crime-fighting stuff), I like having control over my privacy, and I think it also keeps me pretty humble.

The way I think of it, as Islamic as I try to be and however I try to live my life as modestly and well as possible, I will always, always love fashion and makeup, which I think I’ll always be channeling through my blogs and social media. This isn’t a bad thing, and I love that I can work with new ideas and different companies, and as I am a pretty visual person and will always want pictures to be a part of my posts, I think I can do this without compromising my values. I understand  that readers might identify with me more if they know what I look like and can visualise me, I think that I will be able to engage better when I show who I am in a more relatable level (like this post, for example!)

Some people have suggested using body doubles or models – this would work for a company but not for something personal like my own blog – when I go on holidays and days out, do I take a body double with me? I think not. In all honestly, this is something which has bothered me less and less over the years, as I have seen a lot of fellow bloggers follow the lead in ‘faceless blogging’ (like my elder two sisters here and here!) – influencing without making it about the way we look or how beautiful we are. I’m also at a pretty good comfort level right now, and am enjoying the things I do blog about, the events I go to and the pictures I post of myself. At the end of it, it’s not because I’m paranoid about how gorgeous I am or not, it’s the concept of hijab for me, and the principles that come with it.

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Winter Lights at Canary Wharf

Lasts week my sister and I managed to catch the Winter Lights Exhibition at Canary Wharf, which is a follow-up from the amazing Lumiere London light festival last year. It was a cold night but we persevered and followed our trusty map to get to as many light installations as possible – and were not disappointed!

The exhibition was on for a week, and like the ones before, it was pretty busy while we were walking around, but there was also a lovely vibe in the air – lots of people enjoying art, London and beautiful lights.

The first one which caught our eyes immediately was this egg-shaped installation, which was in front of the station as soon as we stepped out, with changing colours, musical lights and lots of people exploring the inside of the egg.

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We saw most of the installations (out of 30 I think we only missed two!) and managed to get a good look at most of them (and also take three hundred photos!). I loved the different ideas from all of these, from moving art to stationary, lights, pictures and words which all looked pretty beautiful.

Alongside the egg-shaped installation (called the Ovo), we also found lots of angel wings in the park nearby, which were very popular. I loved this idea, it let the public interact, take pictures and wander around exploring.

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We then walked onto West Ferry (which took us a while!) and got to these beautiful neon-lines wound around trees with fairy-lights. There was something very surreal about this part, which felt a little like a dream-world and was really fun to walk around. The interesting thing was, although these look like glowing strips, these were just ordinary coloured tape lit up with lights in the right places. We also went on a little further to see a Garden of Blooms – coloured baubles which changed colours and tinkled soft music, which looked like beautiful flowers.

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Next we went onto the more commercial and busier side of the area to Canada Water / Cabot Square, which had more buildings and offices. My favourite about this place was the Water & Light installation, which dropped quickly enough to form words (you can see in the video below). We also went into a few office buildings and saw spinning ‘Poemdums and Koans) which were cylinders and cones in various colours and sizes, some with words which caught your eye.

We then moved on to the Cross Rail which was the busiest part of the Winter Lights exhibitions, although it was spread out on three floors with lots of outside exhibitions that were lit up in the night. These are my favourite pieces, colourful rainbows, columns which mirrored your movements, flowers that lit up, recycled bottles used with lights, and a really fun musical and light show on the water controlled by people’s movements.

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There were quite a few very innovative ideas, which were really interesting as these were things we hadn’t seen before. I managed to get a clip of a very popular exhibition which was lightwaves affected by brainwaves, and the idea of thoughts, focus and brain activity. I also liked another exhibit which were mirrors that said one thing but changed into another word when you looked at the reflection, as well as a ‘body scanning’ exhibit which scanned the person standing in front and posting a quick ‘imprint’ image on the screen in front.

We finally finished by wandering around and enjoying the lights (and even popped into Zara at one point) on our way back to Canary Wharf station, so that we had come to a full circle, where we found this poem lit up in the park.

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We also managed to find lots of light benches (which we spent lots of time sitting on and posing on!) in front of a colourful lit-up ice-skating rink, which looked very surreal. I’m pretty terrible at skating, so didn’t want to risk damaging myself but having a go on the ice rink!

All in all, it was a really fun evening (although still pretty cold!) and we found a lot of things to see which we loved. I love that light shows are becoming more popular in London, and that a lot of people like myself and my sister enjoy wandering around and exploring the city. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of these over summer, and have already seen a few which look interesting!

Did you go to this event? Which light installation did you like best?

World Hijab Day…2017

Happy World Hijab day everyone, whether you wear hijab or not, and whether you are Muslim or not.

I think it’s pretty apt that it’s World Hijab Day today after so many troubling recent events – whether it is events in America such as the new legislations being put in by Trump, the devastating shooting in Quebec at a mosque or whether it is the general spotlight on Muslims, the attitudes of people around us and even the growing Islamophobia a lot of us have begun to come across.

In the midst of all this, there are so many reports of solidarity, beautiful, moving protests, rallies and speeches which celebrate the beautiful in Islam and helps women be confident in their religion and hijab. I read yesterday a comment from someone on a social media forum who said he was glad Trump was elected, even if he did vote for him – his being elected led to the outpouring of support, the solidarity and the show of friendships being shown from across the world have served to unite us and give us hope that there are people out there who support other religions.

So in that way, at the risk of sounding like an epic fantasy movie, I will say this – in dark times, there is light. I have seen so many examples of the very best of humanity in their celebration of not just the right to wear hijab, but the right to practise our religion. These days, hijab is so much more than the right to cover and be modest – it is our way of life, our right to be Muslims and a representation of women who, amidst struggle and discrimination, show their very best in themselves.

There are some who have criticised World Hijab Day, saying it is too politicised and has been made into an agenda to make money, or even push a non-related feminist idea. I say this is silly, because for ordinary women this is a chance to express their love for hijab, set an example to their families and friends and also show non-Muslims the beauty of hijab. There is also the criticism that celebrating hijab inevitably suggests that non-hijabis or ‘exposed’ women have something to be ashamed of, or that they are doing something wrong. It is very difficult to wear a hijab and be confident with it – yet including myself, most women I know who wear hijab really aren’t trying to make a statement or make anyone feel inferior or less. It is never okay to harass a women just because she chooses not to cover, just as it is not okay to bully and harass a woman for wearing a hijab. It is also not okay to assume that wear a hijab automatically makes you better, more blessed or more privileged than anyone else, just as it is not okay to assume women are oppressed because they choose to wear hijab.

I have been very lucky to be surrounded by friends, work colleagues and family who are very supporting of my choice to wear hijab, and been sheltered from a lot of negativity and abuse from people who don’t understand Islam or our reasons for hijab. It has become so much more normal, acceptable and even fashionable to wear a hijab – just look at any London street and you’ll see plenty of us walking around and leading our lives.

World Hijab Day is not just about  the act of wearing hijab as a human right, but actually protecting the right of an individual to safely make that choice. With hijab comes a lot of responsibilities and rights, and it is great to have a day to celebrate wearing it openly, whether you choose to or not.

In that spirit, I’ll leave you with an image I saw yesterday which I loved – a Jewish father and son allying with a Muslim parent and his veiled daughter. It’s such a simple picture, but beautiful – this is how it should be, united. I have read a few complaints online and from Jewish friends about the concerns of anti-Semitism, particularly from Muslims. I would like to say that this is not all of us, our religion teaches us to respect others’ faith and unite over our similarities rather than fight over differences.

Assalaamu ‘Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah (May Peace and Mercy of Allah be upon You.)

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