To Ramadan, With Love

My Dearest Ramadan,

We waited for you for so long – an entire year almost. We counted the months, then weeks,then days until your arrival and yet, even with our constant anticipation, it seemed that you came suddenly and all at once. One day you weren’t here and the next day you were.

I was happy to see you but frustrated at your swiftness. I had intended to prepare for you much better, but you found me in the late stages of pregnancy – my house a mess, my spouse travelling, a bare freezer and young children who had recently decided not to share me with anyone or anything.

So, I welcomed you the way I welcome all guests these days, with an open door, a big hug and an invitation to “help yourself and don’t mind the mess”. I didn’t sit with you the way I was taught to sit with guests, I didn’t give you the time or importance a host ought to give those who visit. I tried to check in each morning and night but some days (let’s be honest, most days) fell asleep awkwardly on the sofa and woke up in a panic hoping you’d forgive my awful manners.

But you never complained and you never made me feel bad. On the contrary, like the best of guests, you brought with you many gifts – a little something for everyone. And for me it was the all-encompassing feeling of goodness and peace. You let me know you understood where I was at and accepted my few good intentions and small tokens with much grace and encouragement.

In truth, I feel so ashamed – I took you for granted, but you took me as your friend. You made me feel special, important and worthy – all things that aren’t so readily felt these days. With the recent tragedy and hate-mongering in the world around us, you reminded me of the greater purpose of my life and the miracle that is my own creation.

Good company is a Divine gift and as I sit here on what may be the last morning of our month together, I am reminded of the words of our beloved Prophet, abundant peace and blessings be upon him:

A good friend and a bad friend are like a perfume-seller and a blacksmith: The perfume-seller might give you some perfume as a gift, or you might buy some from him, or at least you might smell of its fragrance. As for the blacksmith, he might singe your clothes, and at the very least you will breathe in the fumes of his furnace. [Bukhari, Muslim]

You, my sweetest Ramadan, your presence, your light, your very existence are a gift to me beyond all measure. I hear you packing your bags, tidying your things, checking your departure times and I am sad. My heart feels full and my eyes overflowing but still I am thankful that, by the Mercy of Allah, we have had this time together. That, like the best of company, simply being in your presence has enhanced me and though we soon say goodbye, your fragrance has infused my soul.

Thank you, my most precious perfume seller, my most honoured friend and my most cherished houseguest. May we meet again.




Also The Best Thing About The End of Ramadan



Image Credit: Unknown. If this image belongs to you, please let us know so we may credit accordingly. 


And The Winner Is …

After an exhilarating ten days our first ever Giveaway has ended and we have a WINNER!

Drum roll please! (see what I did there?)….

Congratulations to Uzma who commented to say ‘…I hope I win so I can give (the doll) to my daughter Zainab along with the book, so we can read at story time with her brother..’

Uzma, we’ve emailed you so make sure to get back to us ASAP, your Drummer Girl Doll is waiting to come home! 

Thank you for all the lovely comments and to all those who entered, we wish we had enough dolls and books to send to everyone.  The good news is, even though this is our first giveaway, it won’t be our last. We really enjoyed collaborating this one – thank you again Fareesa of Fairy Dast Productions for crafting this gorgeous doll. If Fareesa has plans to make more drummer girl dolls our readers will be the first to know! 

What other collaborations would you like to see on Mamanushka? Hit us with some ideas in the comments below.




Yes that’s a Drummer Girl DOLL ! Have you seen anything more adorable this Ramadan?

You all had so much love for last week’s post about Hiba Masood’s new book Drummer Girl. Our Facebook and Insta posts were full of queries from readers outside North America on how to get hold of a copy. Daybreak Press have been notified and something is in the works. 

BUT  here’s the thing – In honour of our first birthday we asked the lovely Fareesa of FairyDast Productions to make this beautiful bespoke doll especially for us here at Mamanushka. And Oh my, she has come out so beautifully! The details are amazing right down to that ‘flowy green scarf’! the doll is an absolute pleasure to hold and I have had to keep her very carefully hidden away from my kids because today we are giving one of our readers the chance to WIN this very doll for themselves! (Or a really special kid in their lives). 

We will be sending her off to the winner along with a copy of the Drummer Girl book with a special message inside from the author Hiba Masood herself.

You guys there is only ONE Drummer Girl Doll in existence! We wish we could keep her but her true home is waiting for her out there and it could be yours!

Can you believe she handmade this? Whats your favourite detail? 

To Enter Our First Ever Awesome Mamanushka Giveaway, Complete The TWO Steps Below: 

Subscribe To The Mamanushka Email List

Let's be 21st Century penpals! First, enter your email address below and not only are you on your way to being entered into our AWESOME GIVEAWAY but you'll also be the first to know of future giveaways and new posts!

Now check your email and confirm your subscription. Please use a working email address as we will use this address to notify you if you win.


Comment On This Post By Telling Us Which Doll Is Your Favourite

Then, visit  Fareesa at FairyDast on Facebook, Instagram and/or her Etsy shop here and leave a comment below this post telling us which doll is your favourite (or just say hi!).


That’s it! You are now entered into our Drummer Girl Custom Doll & Book Giveaway. Keep on reading below for more pics, terms, conditions and all that good stuff.

For one extra entry into the giveaway do all of the above AND visit our Instagram page and tag a girl who you inspires you to march to the beat of your own drum. (you do not have to have an instagram account in order to be able to do this)

The Giveaway is open to all our readers internationally. A winner will be chosen randomly on the evening of Monday 19th June 2017  (EST) . If you win you must reply to the email and claim the prize within 5 days or we will have to randomly select someone else! 

(That cute little drum though!)

Everyone involved in this collaboration from author Hiba Masood of Drama Mama fame, to Fareesa Dastagir who set up her own business of making Hijabi Ragdolls to the publishing company Daybreak Press are all Muslim Women led brands that we at Mamanushka are happy and proud to support. 

Also, we’d like you to know that neither Mamanushka nor Fairy Dast Productions were compensated in anyway for this collaboration! It’s straight from our heart to yours!


Image credit; Hijabie Ragdolls by Fareesa Dastagir 





Happy Birthday Mamanushka!

And just like that over the weekend Mamanushka turned one year old!

Since that first time Aiysha nonchalantly suggested we write a blog together without ever having met each other IRL (in real life) – Mamanushka has come so far, even though truthfully, in blogging years she’s just a baby.

Talking of babies, in December, around the time I was due to have mine,  we posted a six month round up – a half-anniversary of sorts, not knowing what the next six months may bring, and you know what? With a third baby for one of us and a third pregnancy for the other it definitely hasn’t been easy.

Schedules had to be reassessed and routines rewired. This third baby? Mashallah he’s a breeze, it’s the working around the other two kids with the baby that is a game changer. You might have noticed a little slowing down in quantity (but hopefully not in quality!)

We officially launched on the first day of Ramadan 2016 to be welcomed by so much love and readership all across the world.

Since then we have had messages of encouragement from as far across as South Africa and Australia, subscribers from as far as Singapore and the Republic of Congo and comments from readers spanning the globe. Basically you are all awesome and we love that you see something good to read on our pages.

We’ve come full circle to Mamanushka’s second Ramadan and we take this time to officially wish you all a Ramadan Mubarak and renew our intentions: Those of being a lamp, a life boat or a ladder and adding to the visual and narrative media that is of the Muslim Woman, by telling our own stories, sharing yours and collectively fostering a safe space for making our voices heard.

As a way of saying thank you, and in celebration of our one year anniversary we have a really lovely giveaway lined up for you – so check back tomorrow for all the details.

Our favourite feedback (and we’ve had this more than once!)  is when one of you messages to say that they wait for a new blog post and then love to brew a hot beverage and settle in for a cosy read. YES! #bloggoals!

Here’s to more cozy reads and happy feels – may your days be blessed, your nights illuminated and the year to come one of peace and goodness.


Also Let her ‘B’ (Our first ever post!)


Image Credit : Painting by Zarina Teli


Drummer Girl: An Immersive & Empowering Ramadan Story About Following Your Dreams

Book By Hiba Masood

Have you ever held a dream so precious, so seemingly  impossible a feat that you feel your heart race in anticipation of confiding in someone? And what then of the person in whom you confide? Who would you choose?

One day a long time ago, a girl on the brink of her tenth birthday said to her father ‘Papa I want to be a writer’. I know that feeling because this girl was me. As a child you are asked countless times ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ and most children ‘play’  through the roles of adulthood imagining what they might one day do as a real ‘grown up’. Teacher, Police Officer, Fireman, Doctor… but it is rare to find a child who knows, like really knows what they want to ‘be’.  And so it is with the latest book from Author Hiba Masood – Drummer Girl, a children’s book that offers a vision of truly listening to the child and giving them space to be their own leader, encouraging them to march to… yes…the beat of their own drum.

Famous for her hilarious and often times vulnerable posts on the widely popular Drama Mama, here in Drummer Girl, Masood pens a poignant  tale of a girl with a  dream and a plan to make it come true. 

She weaves a narrative and sets the scene with the finesse of a storyteller who has grown up loving , hearing and telling stories. We first meet our little drummer girl, years after her drumming days have passed, she is Grandma Najma sitting on the steps of her small white house with the brick red roof,  tapping strong wrinkled hands against knees carefully hidden under the folds of her long red skirt. 

In her totally immersive story telling style Masood manages to make us lock eyes with Grandma Najma and with that one glimpse through her brown eyes ‘the exact shade of a mabroor date’, we are transported back to when Grandama Najma was a little girl, living in that same white house with her Baba, her Mama and two brothers.

Young Najma leads a typical village life and like all children looks forward to Ramadan every year. She delights in the rituals of Ramadan -sighting the Ramadan moon, stringing up fanoos lights, drinking fragrant cardamom tea in fancy tea cups and falling asleep to the sound of night prayers at the village mosque but her favourite part by far is waking up to the sound of the ‘musaharati’. 

This is a man walking through the neighbourhood beating a drum and calling worshippers to wake for the pre-dawn meal. In Muslim populated countries with their tradition of the Adhan – the Muslim call to prayer – and in days before alarm clocks and smart-phones a musaharati was an essential  thread weaving through the  fabric of the festive month of Ramadan.

‘Every night in Ramadan, Najma would hear her father’s name being called out by the musaharati at their door’ ‘wake , o’Ali! Wake o’household of Ali, the time for the Lord’s bounty is upon you!’

The illustrations shine as much as the story endearing us to this little girl and the  dream she secretly carries within her heart. That of becoming the ‘Musaharati’, beating the drum and voicing a call to waken the people for the most important and blessed meal of their fasting day ~ Sahoor (the pre-dawn meal).

She would hum the tunes of the musaharati and imagine walking through the neighbourhood waking up her friends and neighbours

‘Rise up from your beds let sleep leave from you,

stand up in prayer let your lord be pleased with you’


One day when Najma is twelve years old and Ramadan preparations have begun she feels a little troubled and takes her worries to her father. 

She put her head on his knee and he stroked her hair, ‘Yes Najma? What is it that worries you?’

‘This dream is calling to me Baba. It has been calling to me for years.’ 

Yes she wants to be a musaharati but in her society, this is not so simple. Gender biases dictate what is permissible and even Najma’s friends think she has ‘lost her mind’. As with all things never ventured before, self doubt makes her wonder if it seems a little silly or foolish.

No woman had ever been a musaharati in her neighbourhood. In fact no woman had ever been a musaharati anywhere as far as she knew.

There is a  tenderness between father and daughter that is depicted lovingly and brought alive by the illustrations. Tenderness and love and also a respect and yearning for approval. Like any girl on the brink of teenagehood, not sure of her father’s  support but seeking it.

Baba tapped her gently on the nose and slowly smiled. Well… I don’t see why not. 

Award winning illustrator Hoda Hadadi’s mixed media expressions, make not only Najma embarking on self realisation come alive, but also her impish brothers who constantly tease her for her dream  and kind eyed father who chooses to stand with (and literally walk with) his daughter, even if it means going against the grain of his community. His approval means everything to Najma and soon an opportunity arises for her to take on her new role.

‘Like beads slipping by on a tasbeeh, the days passed and Ramadan came closer and closer’’ 

As her clear true voice rings out through the night air, there are neighbours who are astonished ‘was it really a girl’s voice they had heard? Some are scornful and laugh at her, others more welcoming throw candy and sweets down from their balconies in a gesture of appreciation. As the month progresses and the drummer girl continues to wake the faithful, all of them are drawn to her bravery and determination. Derision turns to  love, respect and a collective neighbourhood pride and admiration.  

After that first night, Najma has a beautiful dream, that is all affirming and deeply soul satisfying , an answer to silence all her doubts. 

From thenceforth Najma is Drummer Girl, as much part of her neighbours Ramadan as their dates, their cardamom coffee and their nightly prayers.

And slowly we too walk with Drummer Girl, just as her Baba used to…

As the years passed her baba began staying at home, and she would go alone or with her brothers. As more years passed Najma’s husband began walking with her. Later her children walked with her, after that, her grandchildren.

And just like that we reach Grandma Najma again, at the same white house with the brick red roof and join her sitting on the front steps.

This beautiful almost cinematic imagery of life surrounded by love and the representation of a supportive, feminist father might be my favourite part of the whole book. For what is a good life if not surrounded by love and what is good work if not a labour of love?

The mood of the book is joyful throughout. A Ramadan story yes, with all the seasonal and festive feels, but the soul of the story lies in many motifs ~ believing in yourself, determination and being true to oneself in the face of ridicule and underlying it all a  father’s role in building up a daughter’s confidence and self esteem. 

Right from the start, both my six year old (son) and three year old (daughter) were enamoured by the story and illustrations. Gone are the days when parents starved for representation and Islamic Literature for their children would pounce upon any book remotely passable as identifying with their child. In recent years it has been heartening to see availability of more options especially with strong female protagonists. From picture story books to YA novels,  the world of Muslim Children’s Literature is continuing to grow and  Hiba Masood’s  Drummer Girl is sure to win a place as a  future classic amongst this genre.

You can buy a copy of Drummer Girl from here

We were so inspired by Drummer Girl that we have decided to make her the focus of our FIRST EVER GIVEAWAY! Watch this space for a Drummer Girl X Mamanushka themed contest. Details next week! (InshAllah!)


Also Library Finds  & The Hunderedth Name: A Gentle Tale of Friendship, Family and the Power of Prayer



Ramadan Ready Children’s Party

A couple of weeks ago my  friend Artina had the brilliant idea of hosting a ‘Ramadan Crafts Party’. It had been a while since our tribe of mamas and kiddos had had a proper party and a celebration linked to a virtue of the deen was the absolute perfect excuse.  A lovely way to get children together, indulge in some messy crafts, listen to a little spiritual story time and of course cake. Always Cake.

Something I love about my friends and I,  is our ability to rally together and come up with something awesome that is the sum of shared skills and resources. We emerged with a joyful afternoon for the kids and minimal stress for the adults.

This followed on perfectly from our intentions to celebrate the Islamic calendar with our children and here is what we did if you’d like to see.

Our generous host Artina set up craft stations. Since ours was a collective of children on the younger age spectrum, these were kept fairly simple.

This festive table cover was the perfect touch and kept mess to a minimum.

Wooden lantern and moon and star ornaments from here 

Stencils, paper lanterns, Eid cards…

Of course there is always room for some free styling too!

How cute is this beautiful Ramadan themed reading nook?! I was specially happy to see this ‘Awesome’ book !

Two mamas prepared and baked sugar cookies ready for decoration. Not a job I would envy!

The results though, were delicious and word from the kids suggests that this ‘craft’ was a surefire hit!

Our friend Nafeesa wowed everyone with the sweetest ‘Ramadan cake’. 

Decorated in dreamy pastel colours it looked like an illustration straight out of a cute children’s book. Even the inside of the cake was a gorgeous pistachio colour (and flavour). 

I loved that she had the idea of lighting one candle for each day that was left till Ramadan began.

Children plus cake plus candles? Whats not to love? It was like all their birthdays had come at once!

Guess what my ‘job’ was? To come with a ‘story’  for the story time session of course! this happened near the end, when all the wriggles had been wriggled out all the candles had been blown and all the cake had been eaten…

I started by expanding a little on the ‘two hearts’ analogy (something I had worked on with the same bunch of kids) and taking inspiration from this book, directed  them to imagine that Allah Created all of creation with a portion of ‘light’ inside each thing big and small. And that we all have a portion of this light inside our hearts which we need to nurture and use for ‘lighting’ up any darkness around us. 

The Little Lore of Light uses this idea that only the prophets were given light of the quality that literally shone ‘…on their foreheads…like a beacon … illuminat(ing) all the darkness around them’

This led to the second part of story telling, as I had prepared one of the stories of the prophets. A  prophet whose story really is so beloved no wonder children love hearing it again and again. It was the story of course of prophet Musa.  Concentrating of the babyhood and boyhood of Hazart Musa and using a combination of this book and my own narrative I told of how he came to have  two mothers and why that was so special. You can get a little peek of my narration here.

My children left with favors, balloons, and tummies full of treats. Best of all they left with connections from the heart to friends and the love and excitement for the eminent arrival of our most welcome of  guests… the month of Ramadan!



Also Costumes, Cake and Candy , How we celebrated the new hijri year  and Why the Lunar Calendar matters.



Your Mother, Your Mother, You

A memory comes to me quietly, like a small shy child slipping her hand in mine ~

My maternal grandmother. who is Nana to everyone: Nana to her daughters Nana to her sons Nana to her brothers and Nana to her then only grandchild – me – gives me dried coconut to chew on so that I may stop crying. My young aunt, Meam-Khala, herself barely a child has been given the job of bathing me. I am screaming, uncooperative and for that she admonishes me.  Me?! The golden child – apple of my Nana’s eyes, I scream even louder, enraged!

When my Nana hears of this she reprimands my still adolescent aunt and I get a hug, the dried coconut and comforting words of grandmotherly love. Exclamations in Kashmiri of how she would wrap her soul around me like a shawl ‘vound maya zoou’ – how she would take upon herself all the bad that fate may wish to hurl at me.

My maternal home is full of delights – Mama, a school teacher, leaves for work every morning and I am free to wander barefoot, play with Nana’s ducks and help feed her chickens. ‘Tutti  tutti tuuuti’ she calls to them, with a soft clicking of her tongue and I love to imitate her. There is a beautiful black and white calf which they tell me is mine and I understand then that we are friends because we are both the little ones.  I cry when they won’t let him feed from his mother – Nana explains they are saving the milk for our tea and what of the warm cup of milk that I must drink every morning? But I don’t care if I don’t get my milk. I call him ‘Boya’

I cry again next year when I go back to visit and he has grown up so much faster than me – I won’t believe them when they say ‘See? This is your Boya’

I play with the neighbourhood children –we make dolls from sticks and dress them in a myriad of colourful cut off cloths left over from the local tailor’s shop. I make a small pot out of mud and Nana places it to harden on a hot tin roof next to slices of tomatoes and aubergines drying out in the sun. I bask in the warmth of her love, my little four year old heart swelling with pride at her respect for my little mud pie of a ‘pot’.

In those days my mother is the only figure of authority to be afraid of. I see her coming back from work, recognising her walk even under her burka, and I fly in from the courtyard to sit with Nana in case Mama asks me, as she often does, what I have been doing all day- secure in the knowledge that Nana will defend me.

My Nana tells me stories at night and she always has her fingertips in my hair playing with it gently here and there – I have grown up equating that feeling with complete rest and respite.

Years later when we are in England and I can not get to sleep I bribe one of my sisters to play with my hair. I am the eldest child, but it is me who my parents find late at night standing outside their bedroom door, tears streaming down a sleepy face because I dreamt of Nana and I want to know – Why are we living here? When can I go back and see her?

And it is only now I think how those old arthritic hands never ached and never let me feel I was a bother. How easily I would fall asleep with the presence of her hand on my head like a blessing. And I wonder how she gave me so much physical comfort without wanting anything in return. Then, in my child’s mind, I never questioned this unconditional love and care, I expected it the same way I expected to be given water to drink.

My parents write letters home and ask us if we want to add our messages. It has become a family joke that I once asked if any of Nana’s grey hair had turned black again yet?  I must have known she was ill and maybe I thought her hair regaining its colour would mean that she was getting better.

Another picture comes to my mind of a white hospital bed in Srinagar SMHS hospital and Nana is lying asleep on it. My Uncle has taken me to see her. What is with me still, as sharp as it was that day, is the hospital smell. Since then that ‘white’ has turned a dirty kind of beige in real life and when I have visited SMHS – that room with Nana seems like a different world. Is it because since then I have seen other hospitals more white, more clean, or did it really change so much?

When my Nana dies, we are in England. We all knew she was ill. Long standing diabetes, chronic arthritis and vascular disease had all taken their toll. I am 15 years old and I know her grey hair will not turn black again.  In those few days Mama is very quiet. Papa books an airline ticket. We pray everyday that she will survive for a little longer – at least until Mama reaches her. I am convinced she will be okay – selfishly I am almost sure she will give me a chance to see her one more time.

I can’t comfort my own mother; she keeps herself in her room shut away alone, I think, even from my father.  She is packing to leave, I want to touch her in someway but, in that strange way it is with my mother, I can not even hug her … I write her a letter in my broken Urdu, seal it in an envelope and slip it into her hand luggage where I know she will find it later. I write that, God-willing, Nana will be fine, I write that tell Nana I love her, I write that tell Nana that I will see her when I come again next year.

But Nana breathes her last while Mama is still journeying towards her. I don’t know what happened to my letter – Mama never mentioned it. It has been so long now and we still haven’t talked about Nana dying. We still haven’t held each other and cried mother to daughter over our loss of a bond that enveloped us together.

When Papa tells us, he is ready for my reaction. It was the day Mama had left. My father sits in the middle of the sofa, his four daughters all around him in various stages of the childhood acceptance of death. He holds me, his eldest 15-year-old daughter, in his lap and just lets her cry. The youngest, Zareen, is four and has no real memories of the lady who, I was then realizing, had made my childhood, sculptured it lovingly with her own hands.

I am 33 years old now, a mother myself and my mother the ‘Nani’ to my children. I don’t have to wonder anymore the reasons why of hands giving comfort without wanting anything in return, my own hands spend all day shaping the answer to that. Just like my mother did from her mother, I now live in a different country from her and I put my children through the same sweet sorrow of parting sweethearts, for who could be more in love than a grandparent with their grandchild?

With my first born cupped in his hands my father says ‘Shur che badam, shur sund shur che badam sun gooje’ It’s an old Kashmiri proverb meaning ‘Your child is the almond kernel from the almond tree, your child’s child the sweet almond fruit inside’

In front of my mother, I reprimand that same child, now 6 years old for sneaking yet another ice-lolly from the freezer. You must listen to your Mama I warn him and he reluctantly returns the tantalizing treat. Two minutes later I see him rummaging again and before I can utter my disapproval – he turns to me with the most satisfying of smiles and says ‘Nani-Mama said you have to let me take another one. And she said you must listen to your Mama. So there!’ It is perfect logic, with which argue, I can not.

I see again my mother not as grandmother but as that woman navigating her way through young motherhood and I feel now what I didn’t see then, a heart full of  gratitude that her child has this chance to feel the shade of her own mother. Behind the stern looks and many rules I see now what I didn’t see then, the stern look turned into a smile.

It is said that parenthood gives us a chance to live our childhoods again. Through our children, doing with them things we wished we had experienced, protecting them from some things from which we wish we had been shielded. And in some way perhaps grand-parenthood is a chance for us to live our parenthood again, making up for those times we wished we had let our child have that extra ice-lolly, wrapping grandchildren in extra hugs for those times we wish we had hugged our own child a little more.

Mama takes a bottle full of pumped milk and is feeding my newborn. She eases the bottle teat into the baby’s mouth, looks up at me and in a rare moment of sharing raw emotion says – ‘Sumaya – it’s as if he were borne of my own womb’.  I know everything she means in that statement. Like the Russian dolls my sister likes to collect, we are all born from the wombs of our mother’s mother’s mother’s. Mother.

The same womb that in the Quran is linked to the Divine Creator. Rahmaan-ni-Raheem. And indeed it is a sign for those who reflect.

In a HADITH QUDSI it is reported that the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم said that Allah said:

أَنَا الرَّحْمنُ خَلَقْتُ الرَّحِمَ وَشَقَقْتُ لَهَا اسْمًا مِنِ اسْمِي، فَمَنْ وَصَلَهَا وَصَلْتُهُ وَمَنْ قَطَعَها قَطَعْتُهُ

‘I Am Ar-Rahman. I created the RAHAM (womb) and derived a name for it from My Name. Hence, whoever keeps it (family ties), I will keep ties to him, and whoever severs it, I will sever ties with him.’.



I’m The Mother Not The Circus, Right? || Parenting Advice Gone Awry || Mother & Child || Original Illustration by Zarina Teli || Batik Inspired

Parenting Advice Gone Awry

This advice came the way these nuggets usually do, the WhatsApp group chat, via a screenshot, initially from a facebook post:

If I was to give one piece of advice to parents raising young children, I’d most likely advise that they get rid of the TV.

So far, so good. I actually agree with this, and not only with television in particular but screens in general. The evidence for minimising or eliminating screens from the lives of young children is both frightening and compelling. Let’s read on.

You need to become your child’s every source of entertainment.

I do? How did this happen? I mean, as their biological parent, I understand that I had to be their home for nine months, their primary food source for six months afterwards and from the moment I knew of their existence, their guardian, their well-wisher, their biggest worrier and greatest supporter.

I fully accept to be their playmate for the first seven years, their teacher for the next seven and, by the grace of God, their friend forevermore. But, source of entertainment? Perhaps there’s an explanation.

You need to be the reason they smile, laugh and are given happiness. They need to glue their eyes onto your face. You should be the greatest story, their favourite book, their most beloved parable.

Ah, okay, I think I understand this a bit better now but surely one person can’t be all things and in fact, the part of parenthood nobody warns you about is that these children will love you no matter what you do. It is the one responsibility you will feel most keenly and the one truth which will leave you most guilty. Even at your worst, they will always come for your best – best comfort, best love, best words, best actions. Somewhat frighteningly, you don’t have to do anything to earn this – you are their parent and for them, that is reason enough.

You need to seriously give them time. Take them to the library, make stationery beloved to them, take them on trips to the farms and to the countryside, enhance their skills in writing and learning and teach them self defence. Be fun, creative and full of surprises.

Yes. True, but only kind of. Children do need time. Not only from both parents but from an entire cohort of family and friends who love and adore them –  who revel in their daily adventures and shower them with grace. Raising children was never meant to be a solo activity.

I challenge any person to be fun, creative and full of surprises all day, every day, while at the same time living in a well-defined nuclear unit, in cities not made for easy travel – with friends and loved ones far away and the idea of a tribe perpetually just beyond reach. Heck, I challenge any person to do this even if they are fortunate enough and do have the benefit of a robust support system. It’s not very easy, in fact, it’s downright exhausting and well-near impossible.

We personally don’t own a TV and in their early years, my children had extremely limited screen time – I even avoided using mobile phones in front of them! – and despite that, I still couldn’t manage all the fun and surprises that this well-intentioned advice advocates. The fact is, life is an amazing, blessed, wondrous affair – the beauty of which is seen and felt most keenly by children.  It’s simply not necessary to manufacture diversions or morph into non-stop performers in order to keep them engaged.

The trouble is, in the past, I would have read this advice and thought it such a wonderful way forward as a parent –  without factoring in how unrealistic missives like this are. How they don’t consider a parent as a whole person or the circumstances many of us grapple with everyday, including the breakdown of close-knit communities and the lack of spiritual spaces for young families.

The reality is, rather than being empowering and inspiring, these words demotivate and demoralise the majority of parents by claiming they are the sole architects of their children’s happiness and delight. And I am so over it – parenting doesn’t happen in a vacuum and we need to stop talking about it as if it does.

Instead of giving advice that makes parents feel worse by completely disregarding their lived context, why not give advice on how to cultivate empathy between people of all ages?  Why not prioritise the creation of positive, long-term connections with each other, thereby creating environments which will uplift not only our young people and the parents who nurture them but our elderly, our teens and our middle-aged? How can we make it better for everyone without sacrificing someone? That’s the kind of thing I want to know.

Oh, and before I forget, there was one last part to this parenting advice, perhaps the only part that actually needed saying:

Nurture them (your children) upon the love of the Prophet ﷺ and just watch them change the world.

At least it ended well.



Also Things Parents Say

Image Credit: Original Illustration by Zarina Teli


Style Inspo : Pheranomenal Kashur Chic

You might have noticed I have had Kashmir on my mind. As an ode to her return to Kashmir, I shared Mama-in-Law’s method of making the ever elusive Koshur aanchar (there were only a handful of recipes when I googled for it online). I’ve been reminiscing about high-school days and assimilation and how one Kashmiri dress transformed my sense of self confidence as a teen.

But It’s been a cruel April in Kashmir. My news feed full of the recent strife and violence committed against the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir. 

So, a couple of weeks ago when we had the chance to attend the Kashmiri Gathering of North America 2017 – an annual get together of people identifying their roots from Indian Occupied Kashmir, I very much looked forward to meeting old friends and perhaps making new ones too.

That the people of Kashmir,  my own ones included, are amongst the most oppressed in this world is no exaggeration. 

This oppression includes cultural appropriation,  negation and systemic discrimination. Many of these issues and more were discussed in the gathering.  And as Kashmiris who live in relative security we came together to celebrate our loving and generous traditions – made all the more so miraculous because they continue under such brutality.  To introduce Kashmir as a place of exquisite taste and beauty is,  in fact, a way to honour it. Today I want to share with you just a little glimpse of the gorgeous textile and embroidery that is so unique to  Kashmir and Kashmiris.


We’ve talked about pherans before.  No Jacket or blazer can compare. THE most prevailing sartorial symbol of the Valley. Worn by men, women and children during the cold winter months it goes over the latest style of jeans just as easily as over a pair of traditional shalwar kameez trousers.

Men’s pherans are mostly plain and made of tweed, but the materials used for women’s pherans vary. The most prized is velvet, with embroidery, stitched from real silver or gold thread called Tilla. The Til or thread is sold by weight and it is this that determines the design. And oh what designs! Look at this gorgeous spade shape on the neckline of this indigo blue velvet number.

This was my mom’s wedding pheran 

I totally love the way you accessorised this with sneakers!

Oh yeah, comfortable feet all the way, the colour is jut a coincidence!

This  pheran had the full traditional details – look at the pockets and those sleeves! I have never seen sleeves like this outside of Kashmir. They are called Quraab Daar  sleeves and they feature an embroidered slit at the inner elbow, through which the wearer can extend their hand. The rest of the sleeve is then pinned back – so it doesn’t flap around. There are so many explanations for this design, ranging from being an archaic status symbol, worn only by the upper classes, to this more poetic reason which fellow Kashmiri Ramisa shared with me:

‘The quraab was used by upper class women to hold rice etc. when giving charity — in keeping with the merit of ” one hand not knowing what the other hand was giving” i.e. good deeds done in secrecy. The longer the quraab, the more charitable the lady. However, as the times changed the decorative element became more prominent in the latter days with the charitable element forgotten’ 

Also, I adore how this silver thread has taken on the patina of age so gracefully (silver slowly oxidises when exposed to air), giving this pheran its ‘vintage’ look. Click here if you’d like to see more pics of this particular one.

This is an example of the thick and curlish embroidery called aarie kaam in Kashmiri denoting the kind of needle used in the process. Here, not a pheran, but this gorgeous embroidery, in perfect flower blossom colours on a light wool jacket/overcoat is what caught my eye. Ideal for early spring and cool summer evenings.The retro hair, tiny nose stud and those earrings add just the right touch of royal glamour to this beautiful Mughal inspired look.


I prefer taking photos in natural light, but on spotting this lovely Aunty at the evening formal dinner I made a beeline for her and just had to ask her for a photograph to share with you all.

This is a rare sight out side of the Valley itself. The style of head covering is so unique to the matriach of a Kashmiri household. I remember my own grandmother hair wrapped like this, the pockets of her pheran always heavy with keys, a pocket knife or two, an apple, some sweets, and my favourite – chunks of dried coconut!

I’m wearing a pheran almost two hundered years old, it belonged to my grandmother…’

This Antique brocade pheran, embroidered with gold thread had held up amazingly with hardly but a couple of wispy threads of the brocade starting to fray.


This almost painting like pheran is a work of wearable art. The material, a light wool with aari kaam in silken threads.



Although no tilla kaam here, do you notice the silverish thread as an outline to the blue embroidery?  Kashmir is also famous for its silk production and we love the way this gorgeous tie-dye silk hijab is framing this lady’s face so gracefully!

Talking of tie-dye, look at this cool mint green pheran made so modern. This one is typical for very casual wear and I spotted this young lady carrying  it off perfectly as her choice of Sunday picnic wear.

‘I’m so hot in this! It’s wool, so I prob shouldn’t have layered so much!’

Well we think you couldn’t look cooler! Mashallah! And love that breezy head scarf!

Another great combination is tilla on wool. This lovely lady, doesn’t just have a flair for great pherans (I’ve been privy to her collection!) but another of her passions is reviving the art of Kashmiri songs. You can hear her here if you’d like.

My bestest friend got this made for me, she sent it all the way from Kashmir,it has that cool and trendy look. The neckline is not a traditional pheran design, its rather a ‘kurti’ style, the tilla is not ‘handwork’ though, its done by  machine.

So Aiysha thought it important I share the outfit behind the camera! And so here I am. Literally ‘wearing’ a sweet little babe, just three months old (babies are the best accessory right?).

During the event I wore my share of pherans (you can take a peek here and here), but I chose to forgo them for a more casual look at the picnic. This burgundy linen/silk mix shirt completely covered with the most autumnal colours and foliage is so comfortable. I love the Nehru collar -perfect for wearing my hijab in this style without compromising on coverage. I paired it with a skirt I’ve had for more than 10 years (!) and the sparkly nude flats are my shoe uniform! (as soon as the weather allows I wear them with everything)

Image credits for these two photos goes to Mehrunissa Wani Kamili & Faraz Kamili

There were so many more beautiful, elegant and absolutely stunning works of wearable art walking around, but as you can see I had my hands full most of the time!

I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to photograph the ladies that I did and for this to be one of the many communities I am part of! Thank you all.

Also Design Inspo : Uzbekistan


Top Image, Burgundy Velvet Pheran with Silver Tilla. Modelled by a friend.


What I Wore When I Wore Me

Growing up I had very few,  ‘English Clothes’,  as my sisters and I used to call them. Seems so funny to think about it now but back then I was totally  happy in my sheltered life, living in a large house with a rambling garden in a small village in the Lincolnshire Wolds of England. Attending an an all girls Grammar School, my life was school, home and school again and in the moments in between I lived for books and reading. At school there was a uniform and at home there were comfy shalwar kameez –  so you see, there was just no need for too many other sartorial choices.

I like to think I saved my parents a small fortune by not being a shopping obsessed teenager nor caring to keep up with the trends. I had no interest in ‘going to town’ as my classmates used to call meeting up and wandering around the nearest town square. Sometimes my best friend Erin would come over and we would lie on the grass reading each other’s diaries, sharing the same chit chat of school girls all across the world. I think I owned one pair of jeans and a couple of oxford shirts, which in the name of ‘modesty’ were two sizes too big. Oh yeah and these awesome pair of black ‘outdoor, extreme weather, pocket for every eventuality, waterproof,  trousers. These my sister had bought for an outdoor camping expedition she was part of, and like the amazing big sister I am, I stole them from her.

Mama was never a huge shopper either, always being of a more practical mindset. She only bought what was needed and even as a mother of four daughters, never indulged in preening and posing us in extravagantly pretty clothes. Clothes were a practicality – did they cover us sufficiently and were they comfortable? That is, until the long summer holidays, when – like many diasporic families –  we would journey back to the ‘motherland’, in our case – the Valley of Kashmir, India.

This is where I saw my mother soften. On our shopping trips in Kashmir, home of Pashmina and Shahtoosh  wool, she would sit down in front of shopkeepers who spread their wares for her and I felt her relax. I watched her fingers feel the fabric, heard her voice confident in Kashmiri, asking for a better quality, their best cut, which embroidery  was ‘hand stitched’ and which was ‘machine’ ? (the former being more sought after).

It was in these same small shops, I fell in love with the motifs of Kashmir: The embroidery reminiscent of gardens and flowers entwined with paisley or ‘badam’ as it is called in Kashmiri literally ‘almond shaped’ and the ubiquitous Chinar leaf. The colours and designs were such a pleasure to watch unfold. The materials, the exact type of ‘stitch’, either thick curlish and bold or thinner and ethereally subtle. I am sure a certain passion for clashing colours and patterns was also born on these shopping trips and oh, the designs and combinations – soft navy blue wool, with the neckline, an up-side-down spade shape filled with hues of blush pink and dark purple and in between sprouts of forest green. Another, lipstick red silk mix with embroidery like tulip heads in a repeated pattern, giving it the look of art deco mixed with turkish tile. Yet another sunshine yellow bursting with happy petals of all the shades of purple in ombre. Heaps upon heaps, and no two were the same. I imagined the artists, masters in stitch and needlework and I fancied them making not shawls but intertwining maps, each telling a story.

One year, Mama let us choose our very own and very first Kashmiri shawl. I chose a pink magenta with a needle stitched design of pale blue, sea-green and flecks of orange. My younger sister an aqua marine blue  and my third sister a turmeric yellow. I often think of those first shawls how we chose bright colours with such girlish delight. I was 12 years old, it felt like my first piece of ‘grown up’ clothing, the first time I chose my own style. I still have it. And that ‘hottest of pinks, as my closest friends will tell you, is still a colour I can not resist.

Back in England, these shawls and dresses would be packed away, the loveliest of which to be worn to ‘dawaats’ (dinner invitations) with my parents and one or two saved for Eid. To be seen wearing the full ensemble of long knee length dress with ‘jasmine’ pants underneath (long before jasmine pants became a ‘thing’) on a UK high street was just unthinkable, as awkward as it would have been being caught on the street wearing my PJs (long before wearing PJs out became a ‘thing’)!

Once a school mate had ‘caught’ me like this and asked if I didn’t have any ‘normal clothes’ another time a teacher, fumblingly commented that he hadn’t recognized me in my costume, (costume? really?).   So you can imagine how much I loved the anonymity and ‘normalness’ provided by my school uniform.

In fact, it is difficult to describe how much I used to dread school ‘non-uniform’ days. Being one of three non-white girls in a sea of around 800,  it was a nightmare trying to figure out how to blend in with everyone without the comfort of those mandated threads.

But one year, something changed. It was 1997, I was 14 years old and I couldn’t bear the thought of a button down shirt and awful pair of high waisted jeans (again before high waisted jeans were a thing). I know! I would wear those black hiking trousers I had stolen from my sister. Hipster or flared trousers were ‘in’ and if I just unzipped one particular zip near the ankle, the legs took on a flared shape. I was probably wearing the dress part of a shalwar kameez at the time of trying on said trousers and must have seen something of a good connection, because I decided to try on one of my favourite Kashmiri dresses with it.

That year, it was this black material with thick embroidery on it, in all the shades of red. From fire engine red to rusty ochre, the beautiful mix on the backdrop of black was exquisite . On one side the design fell all the way from the shoulder to the knee in a straight line but spreading away from the straight border, the design unfurled like flames of a fire, asymmetric and curling. That black on red with the addition of grungy black trousers was so perfect I knew I had to do it.

Dear reader, I don’t know who you are reading this, you might be a fellow 90’s child of the diaspora, thinking Yes! This was me! I had no ‘English’ clothes either. Or you might be almost half my age and wondering – What’s the big deal about a dress over trousers? But oh you see, it was a big deal. I was going to go to school, wearing me. A ‘me’ I hadn’t seen reflected or represented anywhere else around me. There was no instagram, no ‘ethnic’ style blogs to follow, this was not ‘in’. I didn’t live in a diverse city. I had no ‘desi’ friends, there was no ‘woke’ in my surrounding vocabulary, this was as Sleepy English Countryside as you could get.

I walked proud that day in the hallways. Felt beautiful. Nobody asked me if I had any ‘normal’ clothes, my best friend Erin squeezed my hand and smiled.  My favorite teacher complimented me. A sassy girl from the local comprehensive school, who normally sat at the back of the bus with other ‘hard’ girls came up to me and told me I looked ‘cool’ this was akin to being recognised. Oh man, it was liberating. I was fourteen and with one idea I had just created for myself a new wardrobe, I couldn’t wait to go and see which other of my dresses would look ‘maazing’ on my funky trousers (that were so ‘waterproof’ I couldn’t walk in them without making a ruckus!) But for a long time that combination of ‘fire dress’ and hiking trousers became my power outfit.

The only time I came close to having a similar clothing related euphoria was when, five years later I decided to don the Hijab. Now that, is another story!

What is your relationship with clothes from your cultural or ethnic heritage? Do you love to wear and share or do you not really care? 

Image Credits; Top Photo of my Sister on a beach in NYC

Photo of artisan in Kashmir, stitching embroidery outdoors by Sanjeev Saith .