DESIGN, MOTHERHOOD

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.

 

MOTHERHOOD, RELATIONSHIPS

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.’.

 

FAITH, MOTHERHOOD

I’m The Mother Not The Circus, Right?

MAMANUSHKA.com || 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

DESIGN

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.

DESIGN, RELATIONSHIPS

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 .

DESIGN, MOTHERHOOD

Four Best Gifts to Give New Parents & Their Newborns

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Baby Gifts || Best Gifts For New Parents || Baby Photoshoot

Anyone who knows me knows that giving and receiving gifts is (one) of my love languages. Matching the perfect present with its ideal recipient and most appropriate circumstance gives me great joy. However, despite my well-honed gifting skills, for many years I struggled with what to give new parents when I visited to celebrate their fresh bundle of joy.

It always appeared as if new parents were inundated with stuff. From wipes warmers to crawling kneepads, every eventuality seemed well catered for by family and baby showers… did new parents really want another stuffed animal? Even if it was organic, fairtrade and handmade by a women’s collective in Bangladesh?

Not wanting to burden my friends with more, perhaps unneeded and unnecessary things, I often reluctantly ended up giving a gift card. For a passionate gift giver, this seemed like the lamest (and laziest) of options.

Then! I became a Mama myself and my gift-giving conundrum was, over the course of some months, completely solved! I finally knew the best gifts to give new parents and their newborns because I finally knew the things which were most cherished and helpful to me. As a new mother, it wasn’t so much about the actual physical presents but more about what they symbolised and how helpful they could be at a time of such change and transition.

Recently, a dear friend became a mother for the first time and putting together these favourite gifts – each useful  in its own way – for her and her little girl fills me with happiness and love. I’ve given some version of these gifts to countless parents and, even years later, they will tell me how useful they were or how they are still cherished.

So next time you consider what to get a new baby and their parents, take it from me, it can’t get better than this.*

 

The Wonder Weeks – For The New Parents

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Baby Gifts || Best Gifts For New Parents || The Wonder Weeks

This is a gift that keeps giving over that first roller-coaster of a year. An absolute life-saver and truly the only book that actually makes it easier to understand the new world of parenting a brand new person without any shaming or making you feel like you are doing it all wrong.

Based on long-term scientific studies undertaken by the authors on infant development, the Wonder Weeks pinpoint key times of development during a baby’s first year. As any sleep-deprived googling parent will know, just as everything seems to be going okay and you feel slightly confident in your skills/routine, all chaos breaks loose and overnight your gorgeous baby goes from contented to inconsolable.

I remember holding onto a wailing 4 month-old and thinking I broke the baby,  but thankfully, a quick glance through this book quickly allayed my fears. Written in a accessible manner it reaffirms what your baby may be acting like (clingy, crying, anxious), how you as a parent may feel (upset, frustrated, guilty) and then explains exactly what is happening and why (this is normal, your baby is working on object permanence etc.) and the best part, it then suggests what you can do to help get through this stage and together move forward with new skills.

The Wonder Weeks is easily available from both independent booksellers and online retailers.

 

A Stylish Outfit – For The Baby, For Now

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Baby Gifts || Best Gifts For New Parents || Stylish Outfit || Kid Fashion

I know this one seems like a no-brainer of a gift but in truth, seriously stylish baby outfits bring so much pleasure to parents when they open them and then again when they dress their babies in them. I like to make sure the outfit is as close to complete as possible – including tights/socks etc so that it’s easy for a parent to pull onto their munchkin. The only thing missing from this ensemble is a pair of booties that I had decided to knit myself and then ran out of time to complete. It happens.

I try to stick with classic outfits but personally also appreciated well made clothing from different cultures –  one of my favourites was an absolutely tiny wool Moroccan djellaba in which my baby looked like an adorable jedi. I still have it.

 

A Meaningful Children’s Book – For Baby, For Later

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Baby Gifts || Best Gifts For New Parents || Children's Books || Universal Message || To Catch A Star

Also a go to gift, most parents love receiving beautiful children’s books for their babies. The key to making your choice memorable and cherished is to choose a book which is meaningful for both you, the parents and what you wish for this new soul. Thankfully, there are so many wonderful children’s book which speak to the universals of human experience and the beauty of this world, it isn’t difficult to find one that resonates.

This time we gifted To Catch A Star because this book holds a particular place in our own library as it was given to us by the very same friend with a message we then echoed in the new copy we gave for her daughter:

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Many years ago, your parents gifted us this book with this reminder: That our tradition teaches us that when you have a noble aim, the entire universe conspires in your favour – whether it’s catching a star or reaching for them… may you shine with the brightest of stars and glow more everyday.

If you are feeling a bit lost about which book to go for, there are many great lists to point you in the right direction. I especially like the ones from What Do We Do All Day and We Need Diverse Books.

 

Panjeeri (Pajeeri) – For the New Mama

MAMANUSHKA.com || Best Baby Gifts || Best Gifts For New Mom || Traditional Food || Panjeeri || Pajeeri

Last but not least, a post-partum superfood. I am sure some version of this exists in every culture, this specific panjeeri (sometimes called pajeeri) hails from the asian sub-continent and is a traditional preparation given to new and nursing mothers. Filled with powerhouse ingredients like ghee, nuts, gum arabic, melon seeds, lotus seeds and butea frondosa, panjeeri uses ayurvedic principles to help create a healing heat in the body, detox excess fluid and increase milk supply. A little goes a long way, and a small chunk will give a new mama the energy she needs to nurse and the nutrients she needs to recover – especially, if like me, she doesn’t fancy heavy meals or much food in the early days.

Panjeeri is a difficult thing to source/buy, so gifting this means you will most likely have to make it yourself.  Many households have their own mix of ingredients and secret proportions they’ve tweaked to their tastes and truthfully, the best panjeeri I’ve ever had is that made by my mother-in-law – so tasty and delicious, I’d want to eat it even if I hadn’t just had a baby!  She’s generously shared her method with me and hopefully I will be able to share her recipe on Mamanushka once I’ve perfected the making of it,  but in the meantime a quick google search provides some solid looking alternatives including this one and this one.

 

 

*… or maybe it can? I am always on the lookout for new ideas so please leave your own absolutely favourite newborn/new parent gifts in the comments!

Also The One Gift Perfect For All Occasions

FOOD

Authenic Vegetable Pickle From Kashmir ‘Koshur Aanchar’

A Tale Of Tradition

It’s a common question in most diasporic households… every time someone is planning a trip to the ‘Motherland’ they will ask;  Is there anything you’d like me to bring back? My answer to anyone visiting my original heartland of Indian Occupied Kashmir is always ‘aanchar’. A jar (or two) of The Kashmiri pickled vegetables that most people eat as a condiment with their traditional batta (rice)  and I will basically eat as a salad replacement!

Adding it to anything and everything, I especially recommend sneaking a few morsels of it into any sandwich just to savour that sound of ‘crunch’ when you blindly bite into a piece of tangy, pungent, pickled cabbage. All the die-hard traditionalists reading this can look away now because – I’ll add it to pasta along with some mayo and I even love it mixed up with a dollop of cold honey yogurt. It is quite different to the Indian and Pakistani Chutneys and Chaats with their plethora of spices and sometimes paste like consistency. In Koshur aanchar each slice of carrot, each floret of cauliflower is still recognisable as such and if done right all of them retain their ‘crunch’.

It’s not easy, sneaking a homemade jar of this past customs at any airport, never mind U.S.A borders. But food is my MIL’s Love Language, her daughter in law wanted aanchar and aanchar, Mama in Law assured me, I would get.

She asked if she could make it for me in my apartment kitchen when she arrives (erm…Yes!) and whether all the ingredients would be available?. After assurances from me that yes mustard seeds will be available to purchase here from any Desi (South Asian) store and that yes so will coriander seeds, she still bought small packets of all the masalas (spices) she would need. Some of them still packaged in the old school way of being twisted in a piece of newspaper. 

There are many variations of this aanchaar, but this is a good basic method that will hit the spot (especially for the one eating out of nostalgia for that ‘back home’ taste). Trim your nails and wash your hands because things are about to get physical! I know you could wear gloves but then how will you infuse the whole thing with the secret ingredient? ‘Love’.

Traditional Home Made Kashur Aanchaar, those who know, Know, and those who don’t know get to find out by reading this post ~  An ode to my lovely Mama in Law who made this for me with her own hands.

 

Ingredients: 

Carrots

Collard greens

Cabbage

Cauliflower

Garlic  1-2 bulbs / (12-18 cloves)

Kholerabi (this funny little veggie is not a must but great if you can find it)

Lotus root (again addition of fresh lotus roots would elevate this recipe, its commonly found in Kashmir, however not a problem if you don’t have any on hand ~ we certainly didn’t have any this time)

Salt

Red chilli powder

Mustard seeds

Coriander seeds

Mustard oil: This is a must for that authentic earthy taste. If you can’t source this then use any non smelling oil like canola, vegetable or sunflower oil (as opposed to olive, peanut or sesame). The mustard seeds in the aanchar  will impart some of that pungent smell and taste to it all on being crushed anyway.

You will also need some jars or containers that have airtight lids. Wash with soap and hot water before hand and let them completely dry out.

Method

Traditionally the making of aanchar was not something one did all by themselves, nor did it entail the filling of one lonely jar. Back in the 80’s, in rural Kashmir, as a young boy living with his grandparents, my husband was witness to one of the biggest social events post harvest ~ making of the aanchar.

As as with many Kashmiri cuisine practices the realm of Aanchaar preparation is not left only to women. It was a huge family affair. The cleaning, cutting and blanching of vegetables, (all sourced from their own edible gardens) the mixing of spices and the most prestigious part the ‘aanchar barun’ literally the ‘filling of the containers’. Dadaji (my husband’s grandfather)  would take on this role himself, putting the first handful into a container with a momentous ‘Bismillah’*.

And what containers they were! No cute mason jars here. My husband tells me of barrel like pots made of clay called ‘aanchar noutt’ six or seven of which would be filled. The whole process could go on through the night till the early hours of dawn. Saffron Kehwa would be made and served in huge samovars and old ballards sung, to while away the hours at the event that was  the Aanchar Barun.  I love this photo of my husband’s Grandmother,  cleaning the ‘haakh‘ (collard greens – one of the main ingredients of Koshur Aanchar), whilst enjoying some sun in her garden.

But what to do with all this aanchar?

Made as a post harvest food, the airtight pickling allowed a mixture of common garden vegetables to be easily available for eating during the winter. It also added a bit of extra spice and flavor to the oftentimes blandish winter staples like lentils. Of course in true Kashmiri style, especially in the villages and rural areas – it was shared out generously amongst neighbours and friends.

You may only want to make that one mason jar of this aanchar, but I suggest if you are going to the effort of doing this you make a couple more. In December Mama in law filled at least 7 jars for me (not one is left!) and maybe I should have added this  to the ingredients list above, but to make this aanchar you will need (at least) one friend.

For ease of following I will be sharing amounts relevant to 1Kg (2.2lbs)  of vegetables, and you guys can just double or triple as you prefer.

Wash all vegetables. peel, cut, slice carrots into disks of around 1-2 cm thickness, separate cauliflower into small florets, Blanche by immersing in boiling water once for three to four minutes. DO NOT blanche the garlic, this should be kept separate.

Gather together all the vegetables and toss so well mixed. Spread out in a sunny place to dry out for one night.

Keep Garlic thickly sliced but do not immerse it in theboiling water and keep separate as there is no need to ‘dry’ it.

The next day 

Lightly Dry roast the mustard and coriander seeds and coarsely crush them. 

Heat approximately two cups of the Mustard Oil in a pan till just before smoking point, and keep aside.

Add masalas/spices to the vegetables and also add the sliced garlic. 2 heaped Tbs or crushed coriander seed and 2 heaped Tbs of crushed mustard seeds for every 1Kg of Vegetables.Using your hands, rub well. Add salt. Rub again.

Its up to you how ‘hot’ you would like this for medium hotness add one heaped table spoon of red chilli powder for extra level Hotness add two Tbs.

Add a glug of oil – not too much and rub into everything.

Take a clean jar, add a small splash of the warm oil to the bottom of the jar. 

Start filling it as you fill the jar keep packing it well, pressing down on the top, till some of the oil starts seeping up through the top. It’s the pushing and pressing and and sheer pressure that creates the anaerobic environment for  fermentation. This breaks down sugar in the vegetables and turns it into lactic acid, hence that amazing Tangy taste. Use a wooden spoon or similar object to push down if needed. 

When you feel you can not physically pack any more into the jar screw on the lid and leave aside.

Keep packing jars until the last of your vegetables have been used.

If you want the aanchar to ‘ripen’ quickly don’t refrigerate, just leave out in a dark cupboard for 2-3 weeks and then open for a tangy and sourish aanchar, that still leaves the hardest of the vegetables with a little bite to them. If you prefer it less ‘sour’ and more crunchy then leave in fridge and open in one-two weeks time. 

Funny little fact; there is something that comes extremely close to tasting like this, you’d never guess what ! ~ Korean Kimchi! It must be the common denominators of fermented cabbage, garlic and red chilli powder, so if you are big Kimchi fans you will LOVE this Koshur Aanchar!

 

*Bismillah means ‘In the Name of Allah’,  Muslims take the name of God as the best way to begin anything!

DESIGN

How To Plant An Edible Garden

MAMANUSHKA.com || How To Plant An Edible Garden || Easy Guide to Growing Your Own Fruit & Vegetables || Squash || Beans || Tomatoes || Harvest

After the success of our last gardening related post, A Foolproof Guide to Growing an Absolutely Glorious Container Garden, many of you wrote to us to ask about a companion guide which focused more on growing fruits and vegetables, in containers and out of them. What a great idea, we thought! So we asked our friend and fellow blogger Atia Azmi – whose gorgeous container herbs and allotment garden have captivated us since we first began seeing her images in our fb feed – to share her hard-learned wisdom with us. Here she writes about how she went from growing simple sunflowers to a scrumptious edible garden and shares a step by step on how we can do the same! 

 

An Easy Guide To Growing Your Own  Fruits & Vegetables

A few years ago I started growing my own vegetables.  I was interested in growing organic produce and the unusual varieties which can’t easily be found in the shops: beautiful purple and yellow-streaked tomatoes, rainbow chard and bizarre shaped squashes provided all the inspiration I needed to give my green thumbs a go.

MAMANUSHKA.com || How To Plant An Edible Garden || Easy Guide to Growing Your Own Fruit & Vegetables || Sunflower

I began by growing radishes and sunflowers in our small shady back garden and then expanded to courgettes, tomatoes and herbs in containers and pots. Encouraged by the success of growing plants from seeds, I felt ready to grow bigger and decided to rent an allotment nearby. Almost instantly, I went from having about 12 square metres of growing real estate to  nearly 10 times that amount at 100 square metres (that’s nearly 1076 square feet)!

I’m pleased to say that my foray into growing fruit and vegetables has become a thriving and satisfying enterprise and that with a little effort and some patience, you too can grow your own beautiful and tasty edible garden. Here are some good tips I picked up along the way to help you get started – you can do it!

 

The Easiest Way

The easiest, and arguably fastest, method  to getting started with any garden is to buy plants from your local garden centre or large DIY centres such as Homebase, B&Q or Home Depot . You can either plant into pots of compost (peat free is better for the environment as it doesn’t use up precious reserves of peat) or directly into the soil. You can also buy tiny plants, called plug plants which have been started off from seed but are too small to go outside yet. These can be bought much more cheaply than larger plants from online shops but need some extra looking after before they can be planted (see Potting on). Truth is, the cheapest and, in my opinion, most satisfying way of growing is to grow from seed but you are not any less of a gardener if “from seed” is not for you, the most important thing is to nurture healthy plants and enjoy doing so.

 

Preparing Your Planting Space

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If you are planting in your garden, use a spade to dig over the soil and remove any weeds or unwanted plants with a fork, using gloves. Once the soil is weed-free and crumbly, you can make a hole for your plant and pop it in, replacing the soil around it. You can buy Grow bags or raised bed kits to fill with soil also, as well as almost any pot or container. I have seen people using baths and old tyres to plant in! As long as water can drain through easily and the material is safe for food, you can use it, so be creative.

It is important to plant at the correct time. Check whether your plants are hardy (able to tolerate frost) or tender. You need to wait until the last frosts are over (usually mid April in London)  before planting out tender plants, otherwise they will die and your hard work will be ruined. Tomatoes, beans and courgettes all need to be planted after the last frosts.  If you are growing from seed, you will need to plan your growing so your plants are ready in time to go outside at the correct time.

 

Growing From Seed

MAMANUSHKA.com || How To Plant An Edible Garden || Easy Guide to Growing Your Own Fruit & Vegetables || Growing Seedlings

Growing from seed (or propagation) can be very exciting! It’s always amazing to see the fresh green seedlings emerging out of the soil. Growing from seed allows you to grow more interesting varieties of plants than those available ready to plant from the shops. You can buy rare heritage varieties from companies such as The Real Seed company as well as different coloured vegetables, and varieties bred for the best flavour rather than just for reliability or disease resistance (which is what matters to commercial growers) .  It is also much cheaper than buying seedlings as you can grow many new plants from each packet of seed.

MAMANUSHKA.com || How To Plant An Edible Garden || Easy Guide to Growing Your Own Fruit & Vegetables || Growing Seedlings

I have a set of windowsill propagation trays and a couple of larger plug plant trays which hold up to 90 seedlings each. You can also make your own pots with newspaper using a potting tool. Fill each hole up with seedling compost (this is finer than normal compost) and then put a seed into each hole (called a cell)  and cover with a thin layer of compost. For larger seeds, such as pumpkins, squash or courgettes, I use 9cm pots or larger trays as they outgrow the tiny cells too quickly. Make sure you water regularly so the soil is moist but not soaking wet.

 

Potting On

MAMANUSHKA.com || How To Plant An Edible Garden || Easy Guide to Growing Your Own Fruit & Vegetables || Growing Seedlings

Once the roots are coming through the bottom of each cell or pot, it’s time to move the plant into a bigger pot (if it’s not ready to go into the garden yet). Simply fill up a larger pot with compost, leaving space for your plant to go in, gently remove the plant from its cell and place it into the pot, covering up any gaps around the edges with more compost until the pot is filled. Remember to keep watering your plants!

 

Hardening Off

MAMANUSHKA.com || How To Plant An Edible Garden || Easy Guide to Growing Your Own Fruit & Vegetables || Growing Seedlings

If your plants have been grown indoors, they will need to get used to being outside before finally being planted in their final spots in the garden. This process takes a week or so and is called hardening off. It simply involves taking your plants outside during the day and bringing them back in at night time so they learn to adapt to the windier and cooler conditions outside.

 

Growing and Harvesting

MAMANUSHKA.com || How To Plant An Edible Garden || Easy Guide to Growing Your Own Fruit & Vegetables || Zucchini || Courgette

MAMANUSHKA.com || How To Plant An Edible Garden || Easy Guide to Growing Your Own Fruit & Vegetables || Allotment Raspberries

MAMANUSHKA.com || How To Plant An Edible Garden || Easy Guide to Growing Your Own Fruit & Vegetables || Crown Squash

Once your plants are out in their final positions, you just need to water, weed and harvest when the time comes. You can feed your plants to give them extra nutrients using chicken manure pellets or organic fertilisers. It may seem that the growing part of gardening should be more detailed but as long as their needs are met, plants really do it all themselves – it really is this simple.

 

Recommended Varieties

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Tomato Tigerella – This is a beautiful red tomato with yellow stripes.

French Bean Cosse Violette  – A lovely dark purple climbing bean which turns green when cooked.

Courgette Sunstripe – A bright yellow and delicious courgette variety.

Patty Pan Sunbeam – Flying saucer shaped vegetable similar to courgette but sweeter.

Rainbow Chard – Easy to grow spinach like vegetable which comes in beautiful jewel like colours.

Sweetcorn Incredible – Growing sweetcorn is a special kind of magic! Delicious sweet cobs of corn.

 

Further Reading

MAMANUSHKA.com || How To Plant An Edible Garden || Easy Guide to Growing Your Own Fruit & Vegetables || Pumpkins || Harvest

The Edible Garden by Alys Fowler – This is a book which accompanied the TV series (highly recommended, it can be found online)

Veg Patch by Lucy Halsall – A great step by step guide for growing with little space

Allotment Month by Month by Alan Buckingham – Provides instructions on what to grow each month

 

Buying Recommendations

MAMANUSHKA.com || How To Plant An Edible Garden || Easy Guide to Growing Your Own Fruit & Vegetables || Zucchini || Courgette

Sarah Raven – Inspirational photos and planting guides for each month, she sells seeds, seedlings and all the kit needed (although more expensive than others)

MoreVeg – Cheap seeds sold in small quantities so you can try lots of different plants

The Real Seed Co. – Heritage and rare varieties to grow from seed, with worldwide shipping

Organic Plants – Organic plug plants sold in collections or ‘pick’n’mix’ your own

Rocket Gardens – Ready to plant gardens

MAMANUSHKA.com || How To Plant An Edible Garden || Easy Guide to Growing Your Own Fruit & Vegetables || Allotment Flowers

 

Thank you Atia, for inspiring us to get started with our own edible gardens – your tips make us realise just how straightforward it can be! Have any questions on getting started with growing your own? Leave it in the comments, where we will ask Atia to answer them.

Atia Azmi is a physician and mother of three living in London and enjoys gardening, sewing and other creative crafts. Read more from Atia on her blog and make sure to follow her gorgeous instagram.

 

Image Credits: All images courtesy of Atia Azmi

FAITH

Beautiful Adhan Recitations From Around The World

MAMANUSHKA.com || Beautiful Adhan From Around The World || Muslim Call To Prayer || Man in Kashmir || Image by Ruman Hamdani

I live in a city filled with choirs and churchbells. Harmonies fill the air while we walk through the town and bells ring melodiously from towers on holy days and Sundays – hopeful reminders that sacred connections can still be found and are, indeed, cherished and nurtured. And even more wondrous, whenever my ears catch these tones, my heart is reminded of another sacred sound.

Growing up, my only experience of hearing the adhan (the Muslim call to prayer) was at home or in the mosque. The adhan is what it says it is and announces that the time for one of the five daily prayers will soon begin. As children, my siblings and I would compete in reciting the adhan ourselves, memorised its translation and learned the best things to do when we heard it. It was simply a part of daily life and I never gave it any deep thought or even reflected on how it connected me to so many others.

In truth, millions of people around the world grow up hearing the adhan five times a day – soaring over their villages and cities, sweeping through their streets. I can never forget my first experience of reverberating adhans floating over and around me as I sat on the banks of a mountain river in the foothills of the Himalayas. At the top of each peak was a mosque and each mosque, it’s own muezzin and each muezzin calling to prayer and each mountain itself responding with it’s own echo.

Overcome by the sheer sensory force of that experience, a new appreciation for the adhan began – for the first time I reflected more deeply on its significance, beauty and true spiritual meaning.

Come to prayer. Come to prayer.
Come to success. Come to success.

Upon my return to normal everyday life, I found myself drawn to seeking out different recitations of the adhan. I loved how every place had its own unique way of expressing this call and it confirmed for me that Islam has no one expression or culture – as each community brings its own colour and harmonies to the faith.

This week we welcomed the beginning of the sacred month of Rajab and the official lunar calendar countdown to Ramadan. Never in the year is the adhan so welcomed than at sunset in Ramadan, when its first sweet words harken not only to prayer but also the breaking of the fast.

So with all this in mind, it is our pleasure to share with you the Mamanushka Adhan Playlist, featuring beautiful recitations of the Muslim call to prayer from around the world, including Liberia, Bosnia, Malaysia, America, Kosovo and Mali.

We hope they inspire and uplift you as they do us, so please share and enjoy. Have any favourites you’d like us to add? Let us know in the comments and, as always, may your every moment be blessed.

 

 

 

Image Credit: Ruman Hamdani
Main photograph – Man & Mosque In Srinagar, Kashmir
Soundcloud photograph – Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir

MOTHERHOOD

Philosopher Kids

Have you guys seen this video from the NYT?  Kelly O’Brien, an independant film maker shares this small film she made about questions her daughter has asked her over the years (‘Can girls be robots? ‘Why do trees just stand there?)  It makes for a divinely lovely mini-doc. As O’Brian says in the article One day the flow of questions will stop, but of course even as adults we’re still searching for the answers.

Aiysha was the first to send it to me and we both waxed lyrical about the absolute truth of it. This may be my favourite thing about being around little people she said  and I totally agree.

Children really are the true philosophers of life.

They see with the eye of truth and speak without the inhibitions of world weary experience.

ln a single breath their questions of why’s can range from the most mundane to the utterly phenomenal and the beauty in it is that for the child each ‘why’ holds exactly the same weight in wonder.

In not just their questions, but often in the answers they come up with themselves to make sense of the world, is the best kind of magical logic. My daughter (then two) told me once that a half moon was a cut moon which somebody, (who Mama?) must have decided to make with their skissors.

Their observations can come so unexpectedly, in the middle of a bath or through a yogurt smeared mouth and crush your heart in sweetness more than a love letter from your beloved.

And sometimes they speak poetry itself. My son, Ismail, at the age of four on what he loved about me:

‘I love so many things of you… I love every word of you’

Granted, I’m a little biased, but I never heard poetry more beautiful!

Image Credit: Paper-cut-art by Zarina Teli

What curiosities do you remember of your own childhood before self editing caused you to lose that wild abandon most children have naturally? No censoring, no hiding, heart as shining on the outside as it is on the inside, no agendas except to be and to learn to be.

Tell us the profound or unexpected  things your child has said that made you laugh or cry or both? We love hearing about the most thought-provoking observations from the little people in your lives! 

“My heart is so small

it’s almost invisible.

How can You place

such big sorrows in it?

“Look,” He answered,

“your eyes are even smaller,

yet they behold the world.”

Rumi