Posts tagged ‘culture’

May 24, 2014

My New Seven Year Itch

delhi 025

Relationships…dontcha love ’em??  However, the relationship I’m about to ponder isn’t one with a guy…it’s with a country: India.  I first travelled to India at the end of 2006 and it’s been a rough and ready ride.  I travel there for my business and it just doesn’t seem to be getting easier or more pleasant even though I’ve had the most amazing time there.  How does that contradiction work? Well….

I’ve travelled and explored India and my interests have take me to wonderful cities and villages where I have met weavers and wonderful organisations helping creative artisans.  I base myself in Delhi and have an apartment there in  a lush, quiet, tropical paradise and have created a lovely bubble around myself and yet I am often incredibly lonely there while I get on with my incredibly stressful work.

I hate moaners and expats that arrive in Delhi wanting it to have the

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May 18, 2014

Cracking Up: The Evolution of British Asian Humour

British Asian Comedians,Anil Gupta,Sathnam Sanghera, Shazia Mirza, Saurabh Kakkar

From L-R: Saurabh Kakkar, Shazia Mirza, Anil Gupta, Sathnam Sanghera at Asia House

It’s the second time British Asian humour has been the subject of debate and discussion as part of Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival and this year’s event was wonderful.  Everyone in attendance was mostly in good spirits (some wine helped of course!), eager to hear and participate in the discussion. Despite the lightness of the topic, Bunty and I left feeling we had learnt new things and subjects to ponder. The evening event focused on British Asian humour, its development as mark of cultural identity and how it has evolved since Goodness Gracious Me.

Goodness-Gracious-Me

Asia House invited Anil Gupta, Saurabh Kakkar (both writers and producers) and Shazia Mirza the stand up comedian. Anil Gupta is well known for the revolutionary and groundbreaking series Goodness Gracious Me, The Office and The Kumars at No 42. The evening started with a few

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April 19, 2014

Free Women

the golden notebook

I just finished reading Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook.  It is a wonderfully bold book charting, amongst other important events and cultural/social changes, the freedom of women.

Free to have careers, sex and their own opinions it is set during the evolutionary stage of female emancipation that we, women of today, can relate to even though the book is set from the 1930s onwards.  This was a groundbreaking novel when it was published in 1962 and I would say it still strikes a chord today. 

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March 23, 2014

Asia House Literature Festival 2014

asia house litfest

The Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival is back in May and what a programme they have in store! The Chatterjis Blog will cover the event as official bloggers for the festival which includes writers from over 17 different Asian countries.  In addition to a regular festival format a new series, Extra Words will introduce debut authors from Pakistan, Nepal and Thailand.

the last word

The festival officially opens on 6th May with high profile writer, Hanif Kureishi who will talk about his new book The Last Word.  There are a few pre-festival events in April that sound fabulous too.  On 10th April there is an event called Separations discussing what happens when a country suffers from political divisions.  Featuring Korean writers Kyung-sook Shin (2011 Man Asia Prize winner) and Krys Lee and Pakistani writer Qaisra Shahraz whose work focuses on women and partition it should be a lively evening.  Why Do Indians Vote? Democracy in India is another pre-festival

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March 17, 2014

Colour Used As Punishment

widow plays holi

The Hindu festival of colour (Holi) was celebrated today and I was drawn to the story in the Indian Express of an NGO, Sulabh International,  that arranged for 1000 widows to celebrate Holi in the City of Widows, Vrindavan.  William Dalrymple dedicated a chapter in his book, The Age of Kali to this city and its unique population of cast out women.

In Hindu tradition, a woman is stripped of colour once she becomes a widow.  She can only wear white irrespective of whether

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October 21, 2013

Fasting: For Him Not Her

Kareena Kapoor karwa chauth

Kareena Kapoor made news in India today as she declared that she will not be starving herself tomorrow in order to prove her love to her husband, Saif Ali Khan.  What’s so special about tomorrow you ask? Well…tomorrow is Karwa Chauth – a one day festival whereby women fast from sunrise until sighting of the full moon (through a flour sieve…) of that same evening and it’s all to ensure the safety and long life of their husbands. Some women also include their sons in this ritual.

Religion is funny business if you ask me and every religion seems to have their few eccentric laws/traditions/customs that remind women they are worthless,

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September 24, 2013

Dream A Little Dream

dreams

On a good night we might get eight hours sleep a night.  Whatever your pattern, we spend an awful lot of time sleeping and dreaming, however, little undisputed knowledge exists about dreams.  Not all of us have regular dreams although I’d be willing to bet that none of us have escaped the dreaded pre-exam anxiety dream.

Do you dream? Do they convey messages? Do you take them seriously?  Some of my family seem to receive messages

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September 23, 2013

Crime and Punishment

crime and punishment

I have a beautiful hard back copy of the literary classic, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  Even my copy with its font size 7 type it is the size of a brick.  I have been looking at it for years thinking about reading, feeling guilty that I hadn’t, so a few days ago I finally picked it up and read the foreword.   The following day one of my best friends rang me to say she had two tickets to watch Crime and Punishment at the Citz in Glasgow and I jumped with glee to be given a sneak preview into the book later that evening.

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September 16, 2013

The Voice From Heaven

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan

Madonna, Kylie, Pink Floyd, New Kids, Daft Punk, Metallica, Asha Bhosle and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan  are all happily lying in my ipod’s music library albeit in different playlists!  Who is is this last chap, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan aka RFAK aka The Voice From Heaven?

Having recently performed to a capacity crowd of 12,000 at London’s O2 Centre, Ustad (Maestro) Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is a Sufi qawaali singer

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August 18, 2013

Can Dark Be Beautiful?

dark is beautiful image

Bunty and I have covered the subject of skin lightening creams before (e.g. here: Nice Tan Lines).  A new campaign has launched in India with the slogan Dark is Beautiful.  Whilst we find this rather patronising, the aim of the campaign is to drum home the message that fair skin is not the only description of beauty and that people should be happy and proud of the colour that they are… in addition, possibly, to educate other Indians to reset their prejudices.

The skin lightening industry in India is worth over a staggering $400 million and the lightening products on offer range from face creams to a fanny wash.  Fairness = beauty = success = happiness = a guaranteed place in heaven??

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August 3, 2013

100 Out Of 100!

Prince-of-Wales-Book-of-Mormon-Marquee-Front-Night-800

Believe the hype! The Book of Mormon is amazing, the most funniest musical of all time. I didn’t know anything much about it in advance and I am certain that added to the enjoyment. The cast, set, lighting but most of all the script and lyrics are just so much fun!

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August 3, 2013

Swan Lake Reloaded

swan-lake-reloaded

Swan Lake… I loved it as a child and I’ve seen it so many times I lost count.  It’s my macaroni of entertainment…comforting pleasure.  I even saw Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall and Princess Di was there a few boxes away.  (Yes, I’m kinda old and yes she was stunning and yes so were her bodyguards!).  This coming week a new darker street dance version of Swan Lake is in town

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August 1, 2013

Putting the Pomp in Pompeii and a Couture Finale

India Bridal Fashion Week Delhi 2013 - Model seen in  Suneet Varma's Collection_2

Before mean old Mount Vesuvius erupted and engulfed Pompeii it was an exquisite, sophisticated city and home to some of the Roman period’s best arts and crafts. Pompeii provided the romantic backdrop to veteran Indian designer Suneet Varma’s bridal couture collection entitled ‘The Golden Bracelet’. There weren’t too many gold bracelets on display, however, there was a stunning gold bust that I absolutely must get my hands on.. it looks about my size…

India Bridal Fashion Week Delhi 2013 - Model seen in  Suneet Varma's Collection 

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June 29, 2013

Happy Birthday Alcopops!

bacardi breezer alcopops

It is 20 years since alcopops were invented almost by accident by an Australian farmer and his friend that had a pub next door.

I don’t care what anyone says about blah-de-blah encouraging children to drink

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May 24, 2013

Dear Diary

thebirds

Not another one!!

Dear Diary

I’m in my 30s and single.  Yeah, I’m ‘looking for lurve’ but I’m not in the slightest desperate and I’m happy enjoying my life with my friends and family.

Recently, in Delhi,  I have been approached by so many married men, one married to a very dear friend of mine, that have tried to kiss me and one even propose to me! Despite being already married.  Another married man thought nothing of sharing his sick fantasy – he wanted another two children with me besides his others.  Not with me mate!

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March 12, 2013

High Pryce To Pay

Vicky Pryce

Am I alone in feeling sorry for Vicky Pryce? She was sitting next to her husband whom she loved for almost 30 years and he turned to her and said it was over, he was with a younger woman, he wanted a divorce. And then he went to the gym.

Then the press find the whole thing hilarious because the younger woman had been in a relationship with another woman.

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February 13, 2013

Child’s Play

child mannequins

These scary child mannequins are in every local shopping market in Delhi.  Of course these little monsters wouldn’t make it

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February 2, 2013

Cheaters

exam hall

Not the TV programme about relationship cheats I’m talking about exam cheats! Have you ever cheated for an exam??  I have not ever ever cheated for an exam or test, however, I am constantly shocked by my sister, a law lecturer at one of the UK’s top universities, as she recounts stories of catching cheats in action during exams.

Harvard University recently caught

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January 29, 2013

That’s Not My Baby

nursery

I visited a friend in Delhi today who has just given birth and, being British, found the differences in procedures and norms quite fascinating.  My dear friend was in a private hospital and is recovering well, however, when I arrived at the hospital I wasn’t allowed to take in the flowers I had just spend an hour selecting and directing how the arrangement should be done and when I walked into her room, NO BABY!

In India babies are kept

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January 10, 2013

A Chinese Puzzle

Hallstatt

An article in The Guardian reported the growing trend of China copying Western architecture on a grand scale.  I’m a fashion designer and I am miffed if people copy my designs so I can only imagine what some of the world’s most talented architects think of their designs being copied.  Fashions go in or out, however, buildings can last for hundreds of years.

What is China’s reasoning?  Some of the understandable accusations against the Chinese are

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January 2, 2013

A Woman in Delhi

India Gang Rape

You couldn’t have escaped one of the most tragic and gut-wrenching stories to have come out of India over the New Year period.  A 23 year old med student was gang raped in Delhi on a moving bus, then beaten with an iron rod for 45 minutes, thrown semi-naked off the moving bus and it emerged today that the bus driver tried to run her over but she was saved by her boyfriend who was also violently beaten during the attack.

Reading about this tragic and awful story is hard enough but this story gives me shivers as I live in Delhi half of year and I’m going there this week

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November 25, 2012

The Perfect Bride

An aunt recently lamented her mission to find her son a wife and the perfect daughter-in-law for herself.  The pair had hopped on a plane for a trip to Pakistan where her British-born and educated son was introduced to suitable young women but alas none would do.  She recalled

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November 1, 2012

Dull Passage Through India

Whilst channel hopping last night I happened across BBC4’s programme, Caroline Quentin: A Passage Through India.  It was the dullest and most patronising narrative that could have been written at the height of the Raj.

There are elephants in India!

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October 23, 2012

Happy Navratri

For those celebrating this wonderful Hindu festival, Happy Navratri.

Simply translated as “nine nights”, the festival is dedicated to female goddesses. It is celebrated twice a year; at the beginning of Summer and Winter as Hindus consider these times as important junctures in climate change and solar influence.

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October 15, 2012

Marriage and Prejudice

Dear Diary,

I have been with my partner for over ten years. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight, in the beginning we were just friends but then one day I realised that we were not going out to dinner as friends: we were on a date.

I am from Pakistan, though I have lived abroad for many years. My boyfriend is white British. I knew it wasn’t going to go down very well if my parents found out about him, they made no secret of how they felt about inter-racial marriages.  One day, while back in Pakistan on holiday, my mum found out about my boyfriend.  She made me promise to break up with him which I, very reluctantly, said I would do.

But I didn’t as I never intended to. My boyfriend and I continued our lives in London but I kept him a secret from most of

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October 11, 2012

34DD

The average bra size has gone from a 34B in 2010 to a 34DD. Bravissimo!!

The claim has come from Debenhams who have declared its best selling size as 34DD. The increase in size has come from obesity, boob jobs as well as people fitting bras properly.

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October 10, 2012

Laughing It Off

Justin Lee Collins has been caught laughing off his meager punishment for domestic violence.

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October 4, 2012

Spaghetti Union

A story broke today about an Italian local government officer who slashed the tyres of a disabled man’s car as he complained that the minister was using the disabled parking spot.  Yesterday news broke out from the Great Stiletto that the head of the tax collection agency had been arrested

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October 2, 2012

Ikea: Misogynists or Cheapskates?

Women were airbrushed out of the Saudi Arabian version of Ikea’s catalogue.  The company has come under enormous criticism for this decision in Sweden and now the news has been broken to the rest of the world.  The company has apologised but what does this show?

Money can buy morals: Did the Saudis make this a condition of allowing Ikea to enter its market?

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September 28, 2012

Burqas Behaving Badly

Lady Gaga opened Philip Treacy’s London Fashion Week exhibition with a bang in a hot pink transparent burqa and how fab it was!

I’m a Muslim, no one in my family wears head scarves or burqas therefore unsurprisingly I am in the burqas-are-opressive camp.  Apparently not all women who wear them are forced

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July 16, 2012

Another Skin Bleaching Product…..

We have discussed skin bleaching before on this blog with Nice Tan Lines and White Faced Blunder By Body Shop but recently I read about a new product recently launched in India that astonished me no end.

“Clean and Dry Intimate Wash” promises to make the skin around the vagina brighter.

The product is on sale for Rs 90 (about £1) and can be bought online, where a blurb reads: “Life for women will now be fresher, cleaner and more importantly fairer and more intimate”.

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July 12, 2012

RSVP

It is quite normal to respondez s’il vous plait to invites but there still seems to be resistance to this very polite etiquette by elder members of our South Asian community. Especially to wedding invites.

I recall in my youth attending weddings that I hadn’t been invited to because I was spending the weekend with an aunt or so. Not something I would even consider doing today…. But this was normal. Weddings were a festival that anyone remotely related could attend. Huge buffets were laid on. What was a handful of extra guests going to matter?

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June 26, 2012

Manly Moustaches

It’s not Movember, but this film looking at the decline of the moustache in India is really interesting, funny and worth a watch…

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June 26, 2012

Kinder Than London

Having just spent a weekend in Brussels, I was overwhelmed by the numerous genuine acts of kindness in the city. I rarely experience kindness in London from strangers and in the few times that I have, it has been from those visiting the city. However, in Brussels, people were really helpful.

Is the world really a kinder place across the Channel?

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June 12, 2012

My Baby’s Almost Perfect Head

For the first time in twenty three years there is a baby in my family and it is of course lovely yada yada but I have been having amusing discussions with my mum and sister-in-law as they engage in their quest to mould the shape of my darling nephew’s cute little head!

He has, of course, a round head and they want to flatten it!

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June 11, 2012

The Educated Housewife

A recent article on the wonderful feminist blog Jezebel asked the question: Why aren’t educated Middle-Eastern women joining the workforce?  Apparently in two thirds of Middle Eastern countries there are more women that go to university than men.  There are parallels in South Asian culture even amongst British Asians.

One University professor in the US who was questioned about this disparity commented that Middle Eastern women simply went to university to fill time and find a better husband.  

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May 23, 2012

My Daughter, My Property

The on-going trial of the alleged honour killing of Shafilea Ahmed and evidence given by her younger sister is a chilling reminder of what can happen to girls and women in the name of culture or religion, particularly those from a South Asian background.

Demonstrating the utterly shocking nature of this ‘cultural’ practice, the UK Forced Marriages Unit dealt with a case involving a girl who was only five years old and another of a woman who was eighty-seven! 

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April 26, 2012

Why Are Women Always To Blame?

Dear Diary

What is it about Asian society that will always blame the woman for everything that goes wrong and for nothing that goes right?

Gossiping among men is as potent as the stereotypes against women portray……. In fact it is even more dangerous because they are taken seriously.

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April 12, 2012

No Boxed Gifts Please

I love this line at the bottom of invitations. Which plainly means cash or nothing!! Of course, you cannot go empty handed so cash it is.

I can’t quite remember when this phrase placed neatly on invites started to appear but it is no longer limited to wedding invitations. We see it on anniversary invites, birthday invites etc… What this little phrase did was end the mass recycling of unwanted gifts that have been stored in cupboards waiting for that wedding of a relative you hardly know.

Just this week Nigella Lawson got caught out recycling, or rather reselling on Ebay, a gift that was given to her by a family friend, Sophie Waugh. She only went and sold it a friend of Sophie’s who read the message in the book addressed to Nigella. Oops!!!

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April 9, 2012

Doctor, Doctor, There’s A Child Slave in My House

Except what’s to be done when the child is employed by the doctors themselves?  The story of a thirteen year-old girl locked in an apartment while her doctor employers went on holiday to Thailand has rippled across the globe from India to New York.  The girl’s screams were heard

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