Happy Independence Day India & Pakistan – 2018

Today marks the 71st year of celebration of Pakistan’s Independence as well as its creation, bring new days of hope and freedom for its citiznes. I have seen the proclamations and celebrations of ‘Azaadi!’ from Pakistanis around the world – freedom, freedom, freedom.

Independence Day celebrations always bring back a lot of childhood memories for me – dressing up in green and white kameez shirts sewn by my mum, running to the local main road with my sisters and cheering while we waved our flags. We would watch the cars go by beeping and honking, giant Pakistani flags sailing down the street, and watching people stop to dance to music and indulge in stories, hot food, the bright colours being paraded. I always remember the ambience in the air, the feeling of sheer joy, a celebration of unification amongst strangers. I remember the English police men who were there to keep watch hiding their smiles at watching people bhangra on the road to music blasted out of cars. And let’s not forget the free samosas and coke cans being handed out, which we also went for!

At that age it was a simpler understanding – our childish recognition that our country was free, even if Pakistan was somewhere miles away. As I get older, I begin to understand just how much more harrowing the experiences and sacrifices were behind the pride for our country – not just for Pakistan but for India instead. I begin to understand the strength of passion for such love for our countries, from stories which have been passed down from our grandparents who were present during the Partition and the eventual Independence.

My parents have always made sure we understood our heritage, and kept us close to our roots. We may be born British, but we are equally Pakistani. There are some who call us BBCDs (British Born Confused Desis, or ABCDs for the Americans!), but I really don’t think we are. We are just as in touch with our faith, our identity and our roots as Pakistani citizens are, even if it is in a different way, and we have just as much right to be proud of our country.

I remember growing up wearing salwar kameezes with trainers, proudly showing off my henna, my Eid outfits and my jewellery at school events. I remember visits to Pakistan where the vibrant smells, colours and people have always stayed in my mind, even if it has been nearly two decades since my last visit! I remember listening to Pakistani pop bands (courtesy of my elder sister and her music cassettes!) like Junoon, Abrar Huq along side the Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls tunes. Even now we mix our Pakistani dishes alongside with the English – sugary jalebis, piping hot samosas are often served in our house along with chocolate cupcakes, pasta salads and roast chicken and potatoes.

The recent victory of charismatic politician Imran Khan in Pakistan’s elections have added to the jubilation of this years Independence Day. Pakistan seems to really be looking forward to a naya Pakistan, a new Pakistan. Whether this will happen soon remains to be seen, but the hope is real, not just for its citizens but also for Pakistanis around the world.

So in that spirit, Happy Independence to Pakistan and India – it is better to be united by our similarities and celebrate our freedom together, rather than focus on the the hatred and division.

Happy International Women’s Day…! 2018

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day – a day which honours women’s achievements, their lives and the struggle for equality in this post-modern world. I’ve already heard criticism and grumblings though – some from women saying this day is full of hypocrisy, where companies cash in on a cheesy holiday, before going back to the uncomfortable reality where women aren’t all equal. I’ve also heard some from the men, who feel targeted, pushed out, marginalised and feel that it is unfair (to be honest, there is a International Men’s Day in November, but I’ve never seen it be celebrated.)

One of the reasons why I always like to talk about this day is because I know how much the women in my family have struggled in order for me to have the position, and privilege, that I enjoy today. My paternal grandmother spent her life looking after her husband, then her children, and then her last few years with her sons and grandchildren – but we all saw her as the matriarch, the Queen Bee of the family, and have such fond memories of her. We never knew our maternal grandmother as she died very young, but we have always held her in such high respect – the stories we grew up with about her focused on her being the jewel of her family, a much-wanted daughter and sister. One of the stories I remember being told was about her travelling in her ‘doli’ on her wedding day, and asking to stop so she could pray her salah – this for me was such a humble, awe-inspiring thing to do in the midst of a special day, and a reminder to not get too big for our boots.

And my mother. I could write pages about her. Whenever I read poetry about our roots, our struggles, our blessings, (“Our backs/Tell stories/No books have/The spine to/Hold” – Rupi Kaur), I always think of my mum and what she has taught us while she raised us, as well as what she has endured. My mother married young, and spent her life caring for others, where she never came first – her younger siblings, her husband, her children, her in-laws. I’ve heard a lot of stories from friends, colleagues, bloggers and many more about the relationships they’ve had with their parents, difficult or otherwise which all talk about how they impacted them as adults.

It’s harder to explain the more complex things someone who may not have the same upbringing as us – the emotional-blackmail, the cultural-family politics, the superstitions and the ingrained racism, misogyny and general random weirdness that seems to come part-and-parcel with Asian society. One of the things I was always grateful for was that my mother spared my sisters and I a lot of this headache – she realised the value of letting us be ourselves without forcing us to follow the route she had gone through. We spent our childhood running to the parks, riding bikes, dressing in boy-jeans (well, one of my sisters did anyway), wearing princess dresses (me), devouring books and jumping up and down to Bollywood songs (me again). Our parents were not well off, but my mother spent most of her spare time tailoring, and saved money carefully so that when we needed (or usually just wanted) something frivolous, we always got it.

And shall I tell you about my sisters? One is literally Superwoman – she blogs, works full time, raises five children and still has time for a good natter, to cook, to take her children somewhere fun or find something interesting to do, watch or read. Almost every person I know who also knows her ask me how she does it – I’m a little baffled myself. Then there’s another sister of mine – possibly the most humble person I know, and also the most reliable. I always take her shopping with me (because she lets me be rude to her when she picks out clothes) and she’s always my go-to person for taking photos, organising events or just generally random bits of handy-man advice. And lastly there’s the baker in the family – when we were younger we used to get asked if we twins (we look nothing alike but used to be the same height as kids), and she’s probably one of the few people who loves horror movies way more than I do. I often find that she’ll say something I was thinking, usually the more stupid the more likely! When I was in school, I got told by one of my friends that I talked about my sisters ‘too much’, which I found weird – I always thought I was lucky to have sisters and have always felt sorry for those who don’t.

Having said that, as much as I understand how important it is to recognise and acknowledge the bounds and leaps that women have taken over the years, I feel that it is just as important to understand the issues that women still have. In my workplace I’ve often come across women who have problems, and still have them now. I met a very sweet Afghani women a couple of days ago who broke my heart with her story – she was a teacher in Afghanistan who taught at a girl’s schools, but received many threats for doing so. Her son was abducted, his body found a year later. Her husband was injured in an explosion while driving to work, and she fled the country to Britain in fear of her life. When I went to visit her, her landlord took me aside and quietly asked me to be gentle with her – she had just found out her husband died the day before. Yet when I spoke to her I found her incredibly sweet, thoughtfully asking me if I wanted to sit, to drink anything. I found her strength of character amazing – she was in the middle of grieving yet had time to think of others. There are still countries where women do not have access to basic necessities – clean underwear, sanitary items, clean toilets and even basic rights and freedom. It’s things like this which make us realise how much we take for granted, and how far the world still needs to go before we can consider ourselves equal or fair.

Lastly, I also wanted to share some links for some campaigns and projects that have been brewing recently, in celebration of International Women’s Day:

I’m very proud to say that I know these two wonderful women – Zainab Khan and Maariya Lohar, who with their #trailblazingmuslimwomen campaign put a list of 21 successful women who aimed to make a difference to the world. Their aim, Zainab explained, was motivated by looking at Forbes ‘Under 30’ list and seeing that there weren’t many women of colour, and decided to show the younger generation that there are goals like this which can be reached.

Another campaign close to my heart is run by a close friend who has been showcasing for years a’Modest Fashion Pakistan‘ – the modest lifestyle of Pakistani women, both in Pakistan and around the world. As much as I love Pakistani fashion (and I have a whole blog dedicated to it!), we all agree that the media in Pakistan really doesn’t reflect the ordinary women, and that hijab is not represented as much as it should be. Pakistani fashion in the media is glamorous, exotic, beautiful but not always modest, and it rarely, if never has women in hijabs, and many socialites and bloggers would rather not go for the modest look. Thus the #modestfashionrevolution was born – a campaign to show modest, hijab-wearing Pakistani women around the world, to show beautiful, modest and stylish women who don’t compromise their values.

Finally is The Other Box, a friend’s company which is an award-winning organisation which promotes and supports creative people of colour. It’s a really great initiative, and their latest campaign is with the Skinnydip Sisterhood which showcases 12 amazing women.

This post turned out a little longer than I expected! But I’m glad that I’ve seen so many positive messages out there – one of the things I am glad about it that it gives women a chance to support each other rather than judge and compete with each other. The sad thing is, sometimes our biggest critics are our fellow women, and if International Women’s Day help to combat that then I will always celebrate : )

Happy New Year!….2018, New Year, Same Me

Happy (belated! Okay, three weeks late) New Year guys!

I’ve been MIA for a little while, mostly because I wanted to switch off and take a break from blogging. And also because I got a little addicted to binge-watching Netflix series and posting on Instagram, so generally being fairly productive. But at the back of my mind there’s a little nagging voice that’s been telling me to go and update my blog, so here I am pretending I was here all along 🙂

I also wanted to spend some time gathering my ideas – I am definitely starting to go towards the trend of quality posts over quantity (this pretty much applies to most things in my life) and I’m seeing so many new niches, ideas and dialogues which I’m finding inspiring. So watch this space, I’ve already been doodling and drafting posts at work whenever I’m struck by an idea, so hopefully there’s some pretty interesting content coming soon.

So even though I’m a little late in posting, here’s wishing you all a productive, beautiful new year, with something a little different to inspire you everyday : )

Palexpo: The Palestine Exhibition in London

Last weekend, my sisters Everyphototunity, HappyMuslimMama, my niece and I went to the Palestine Expo 2017, a huge event organised by Friends of Al-Aqsa, in order to raise awareness about the issues which are happening in Palestine today.

The timing of the event was not coincidental. This year marks a series of devastating anniversaries for Palestinians: a hundred years since the Balfour Declaration, 50 years of Israeli occupation and 10 years of the Israeli government’s blockade on Gaza.

–  Mondoweiss

This is a topic we are all quite passionate about, as there is so much conflict, struggle and hardship for the citizens of this country, which is still prevalent today. As Muslims ourselves, it is hard to hear about the human rights which are being oppressed in this country, and the fact that this is continually being ignored – by the media, the Western governments and the rule-makers of their own country.

The Palestine Expo was a range of seminars and talks, exhibitions, film showings, workshops and interactive areas for people to walk around, to listen to speakers and get to know more about the country’s rich heritage and history.

Everywhere we went, there were strong messages about what is happening today in Palestine as well as Israel, and what we can also do to raise awareness, help the organisations who are friends of Palestine, and also support ethical companies.

We managed to sit and listen to a few lectures which were pretty emotional, informative, inspiring and moving. Firstly was Dr Inas Abbad, a Palestinian activist, teacher and researcher who spoke about her home, about how their identity was slowly being erased, with their roads, streets towns and even names being changed, and the continuous censoring, lack of education and danger that follows school children as they go to school every day. Secondly was Ronnie Barkan, an Israeli human rights activist and conscientious objector, who spoke about his support for the struggle. I found it really interesting that he pointed out the various things the Israeli government has done to hide their actions, such as mis-labelling passports in English and in Hebrew. Thirdly was Soheir Asad, a Palestinian activist and Human Rights lawyer who spoke about the legal routes that the Israeli government had taken, land laws which were used to take land from Palestinians and the way this was used against them in courts. Lastly was journalist Yvonne Ridley, who is also a political activist, who spoke about the injustices she had seen, about the images which have stayed with her since she was a child and the disillusionment she felt when she realised the lies and distortion of the media.

We also managed to catch an amazing talk by journalist John Pilger (which ended in a standing ovation), in which he talked about his experiences in Palestine, and the ways he had been blocked in reporting the truth – but also the ways people’s mentality was changing so that they were unwilling to stay silent in face of injustice.

There were several places for us to leave our messages of hope throughout the expo – a giant wall of messages, pinned postcards, and even a tree to hang our words. It was pretty inspiring to see such positive words, beautiful messages to support our fellow Muslims and humans from across the country.

We also managed to try some Palestinian cuisine during the lunch rush, and tried some seasoned chicken wraps from Tabun Kitchen, which was pretty tasty (although cold!)

There was plenty of opportunity to walk around and explore, and we saw lots of beautiful pieces of art, as well as some story-telling shows and some documentaries about Palestine which were on show. I love that there was so much to see and do, and that there are a lot of similarities to Pakistan and my family’s village, which has a focus on story-telling, culture and a peaceful Islamic way of life.

It was a pretty informative day for all of us, there were a lot of things which made a lot more sense to me by the end of the day, and it was amazing to see so much support from Muslims and non-Muslims at the show. There was a protest briefly outside the venue from anti-Palestine protesters, but this didn’t discourage anyone from attending the event, and I liked that there were no shows of arguments or clashes as a result – people just left the protesters to it, and they slowly dispersed.

I would highly recommend to everyone that they do their most to find about this issue – even though we don’t live in Palestine, it is an issue which affects all of us. It isn’t enough just to know that this is happening, but to understand why, what we can do to help, and how to  make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Lazy Sundays

I’ve had a pretty busy week this week, so I’m finally settled in this Sunday and multi-tasking with some yummy home-made chocolate cake, blogging catch-up and getting on with that (digital) stack of books I’ve been waiting to read.

I’m hoping to do a few book reviews for this week, so watch this space! In the meantime, here’s my view today : )

Happy weekendings, all x

Happy New Year!…2017

Here’s wishing you all a year full of love, light and unicorn sparkles!

Is it me or did 2016 rush past too quickly? It was a year full of sad news and unsettling truths for all of us, but I like to think that there were also many triumphs, personal and otherwise for a lot of us (like this list of good things) – Leo finally won that much-awaited Oscar, wild pandas and tigers have had a good year, and of course health-wise, people are getting better news. Not to mention all those amazing movies, books and technology we have discovered this year (or are still on my to-read/to-watch waiting list!)

I think 2016 gave us all a lot of things to think about and reflect, and we all are looking forward to 2017 being a new year that we all want to make the most of as well as use to take the opportunity to make improvements and build better relationships. One of the things which really bugged  me personally about 2016 was not making the most of my time – it always felt like I was busy doing something boring like housework or grocery shopping. It’s not the fact that I had to do these thing which bothered me as much as the feeling that I wasn’t making more use of this time (although part of this comes from my self-pressure to always be doing something productive!)

So this year I’ll learn to take it easy and enjoy the moment, but also think more about what I am doing – putting my whole self into the things which need to be done without worrying about wanting to be elsewhere (or that FOMO feeling!)

So here’s something I put together this morning before I had my breakfast – a golden, glitter 2017 welcome to the new year – I had a lot of fun doing this, and loved the result. It’s also made me realise just how much stuff I have in my house, on my shelves and in my wardrobes, so I think there won’t be much sale shopping this year!

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KitKat Chocolatory, London

I’ve heard about this a few days ago – KitKat is opening a chocolatory (very much like the popular ones in Japanese) in London – specifically, east London at Westfield Stratford! So when the store opened today, I popped down at the first chance (i.e. lunch time) to take a look for myself – and loved what I saw!

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The store is located at The Street, Westfield Stratford and is a lovely, bright pop-up shop where you can customise your own bespoke KitKat – from flavours, colours and toppings and even box design – on a computerized screen which is brought to life by a group of chocolatiers, all while you watch.

I really like the idea of a bespoke KitKat (you get to design an eight-fingered bar, so at least it’s big enough!) which I think really appeals to Londoners who like something a little creative. And of course, seeing lots of melted, sumptuous chocolate always makes me feel happy too.

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You can watch a mini clip of how the KitKats are made below – sorry for the grainy quality!

If the bespoke KitKat is too pricey (or takes too long!) for you, there are also various ‘Special Edition’ flavours – new flavours are introduced every week, I’m told.

Here are some of this week’s flavours, don’t they look beautiful – almost too pretty to eat!

I think that this a really interesting concept brought over from Japan – I’ve always been fascinated with the quirky flavours from Japan like matcha, lavender, cheesecake and there’s even a potato flavour! (not sure I’d try that one though). I’ve already posted a few of these pictures on my social media and the viewers are loving the idea – although be warned the KitKats are slightly pricey for £7 to design your own bar.

The pop-up KitKat bar is open for the next 5 weeks until mid-November – pop down if you’re around! You can also see more pictures here of the opening today – what do you think of this?

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Sweets from Japan!

I love getting presents (who doesn’t?), and I especially love getting presents from other countries. I’m lucky enough to have friends who bring me back presents from their holidays, and I thought this was pretty cool – sweets and chocolates from Japan from great friend who now lives there. This isn’t the conventional stuff either – this was the quirky wasabi-flavoured nuts, Kit-Kat you put in the grill to cook, and almond-flavoured hard sweets. Some very funky flavours, but fun to explore and of course, I loved the colourful, bright packaging!

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