13 must read books to become involved in social justice activism

Social justice activism and aiming to bring about change doesn’t happen overnight. However, one misconception that many people have about social activism is that they always view it in a political light. That is not always the case. 

Reading a book to me is like discovering a new purpose, finding something to ponder upon and just being able to reflect on someone else’s viewpoint and reflect. I recently read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a book on social justice activism that revolves around a 16-year-old, trying to make terms with her high-class school while dealing with the reality that brings her back to the narrow streets of her neighborhood.

I was intrigued to read this fictional account of Starr Carter who had to suffer from the trauma of watching a close friend getting shot before her eyes. Thomas beautifully deals with the complexity of standing up for your values from a young age.

In search of more such social justice activism books, I have listed down 13 books that will easily become any social justice activist’s absolute favorite in no time:

1. Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change by Stacey Abrams

social activism
[Image Description: Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change by Stacey Abrams] via
Leadership is hard but convincing others about what you believe in is harder. This is a handbook for everyone looking to work towards combatting the challenges that hinder women, people of color, the working class, members of the LGBTQIA+ community and millennials, who are ready to make a change. With the help of her insights, Stacey manages to break down how ambition, fear, money and failure function in leadership, going hand-in-hand.

Get it for $15.64 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

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2. Internment by Samira Ahmed

social activism
[Image Description: Internment by Samira Ahmed] via
Written by the bestselling author of Love, Hate, & Other Filters, the book follows Layla Amin, a Muslim-American who leads a revolution when she and her family are forced into an internment camp in the United States. Internment will inspire you to reflect upon Islamophobic rhetoric and politics, ensuring this scenario remains a work of fiction.

Get it for $10.11 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

3. Front Desk by Kelly Yang

social activism
[Image Description: Front Desk by Kelly Yang] via
Mia Tang, the main character of the books has a lot of secrets. Front Desk is all about Tang’s courage, kindness and the hard work she shows to get through whatever comes her way. How she can hold on to her job while chasing her dreams, is for you to read and find out for yourself.

Get it for $7.35 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

4. Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis

social activism
[Image Description: Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis] via
This handbook is more of a collection of essays, interviews and speeches. Davis brings her perspective of working for civil rights advocacy to present-day movements such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) and prison reforms to the forefront through this compilation.

Get it for $14.67 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

5. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

social activism
[Image Description: Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin] via
The author turned photographer Kuklin interviewed six transgender to represent them thoughtfully for this book. The book is full of portraits, family photographs and candid images that augment the emotional journey of each one of them. Each discussion, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other.

Get it for $11.95 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

6. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

[Image Description: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo] via
White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable and triggering. These triggers may include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear and guilt. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium which this book depicts perfectly.

Get it for $14.72 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

7. A Is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

[Image Description: A Is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara] via
Targeted for children, this illustrated book can come in handy for everyone, considering how ill-informed some people are despite easy access to information. Every letter is the definition of a different social movement. For F — you learn about Feminism, when we get to G –  you can learn about the meaning of grassroots organizing and why it is important. Learn ABC, the social justice activist way!

Get it for $10.99 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

8. As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker

[Image Description: As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker] via
This historical take on how the indigenous people have fought for environmental justice will bring back the social activist inside you to life. Journalist turned scholar Whitaker puts into perspective everything. From treaty violations to the efforts to protect sacred sites, you won’t want to stop reading.

Get it for $14.72 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

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9. Social Justice Activist by Ellen Rodger

[Image Description: Social Justice Activist by Ellen Rodger] via
Social Justice goes beyond individual human rights. Young budding social justice activists will get a sense of how the words and contributions of activists like Nelson Mandela and Marian Wright Edelman inspired others to choose the path of what is right.

Get it for $8.95 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

10. Hands Up! by Breanna J. McDaniel

[Image Description: Hands Up! by Breanna J. McDaniel] via
Hand up is a story of a black girl who has a habit of raising her hands regularly, be it for playing peek-a-boo or getting dressed. As she grows older, the girl uses the action of raising her hands for a more powerful cause. Read this book out to children to help them understand the meaning of empowerment.

Get it for $16.55 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

11. Friendship as Social Justice Activism by Niharika Banerjea, Debanuj Dasgupta, Rohit K. Dasgupta and Jaime M. Grant

[Image Description: Friendship as Social Justice Activism by Niharika Banerjea, Debanuj Dasgupta, Rohit K. Dasgupta and Jaime M. Grant] via
This compilation of essays brings essential conversations around love and friendship together, from a variety of contributors from across the globe. Each essay narrates how living and organizing within friendship circles and kindness offer new ways of struggling for social justice.

Get it for $42.00 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

12. Technology, Activism, and Social Justice in a Digital Age by John G. McNutt 

[Image Description: Technology, Activism, and Social Justice in a Digital Age by John G. McNutt] via
This book offers a close look at both the present and prospects of social change. McNutt delves into the cutting edge of the latest technology while discussing developments in social media, civic technology and leaderless organizations, not leaving behind the traditional approach to technology.

Get it for $36.95 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

13. Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America by Noah Rothman

[Image Description: Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America by Noah Rothman] via
This book is all about the two problems with social justice, one that it is not social and the other that it is not just. Rothman uncovers the real motives behind the social justice movement and explains why, despite its occasionally ludicrous public face, it is a threat to be taken seriously.

Get it for $28.99 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores. 

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All of these books are close to my heart as at some point or the other, they have shaped the person I am today and have enabled me to first think and then act.

The Tempest special offer: get 2 audiobooks for the price of one ($14.99) with your first month of membership with code TheTempest. Offer only valid for new members in Canada and the U.S.

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Health Care Health News Health Gender Wellness

We need to talk about prostate cancer

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), prostate cancer is the second most common malignant tumor. It is a non­dermatological tumor diagnosed in patients beyond the age of 50, which is also the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality across the globe after skin cancer. The lifetime risk of developing a microscopic, clinical disease and prostate cancer-related death is 30% in developing countries.

The prostate is a small walnut-shaped gland that sits below the bladder near the rectum, surrounding the urethra, the passage in the penis through which urine and semen pass. Most people are not sure what the prostate is, what it does or when to call a doctor if they think they might have a problem.

I reached out to medical experts and doctors in Pakistan to find out more about the disease. The overall elderly population of Pakistan currently stands at 10 million, half of which live in rural settings where health facilities are not as upgraded as they are in cities, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), 2017.

Dr. Shahzad Ali, an oncology consultant, said that prostatic cancer does not show early signs of physical harm unlike other forms of cancer.

“As cancer progresses, it spreads to the bones causing intense pain in the back, hips, and the pelvis,” he said, adding that there is still no robust medical arrangement that could detect the malignancy at its earliest.

“The cancer detection rate using prostate-specific antigen (PSA) measurements is between 2 to 4%.”

He further added that about 20% of men with prostate cancer will have PSA levels within the normal range. Therefore, PSA alone as a screening test is controversial.

“If digital rectal examination reveals a prostate that is hard and nodular accompanied with high PSA levels, then trans-rectal ultrasound scan (TRUS) and biopsy are indicated. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and TRUS are for staging the local disease. While x-ray of chest and liver function tests are carried out for metastatic spread of the disease,” explained Dr. Ali.

Sohail Rauf, 61, was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year. To further understand the impact and toll it takes to battle this disease, I reached out to him.

“I am a diabetic patient and last year I was facing excessive urinary problems. I thought it was due to high diabetes so I went to a doctor only to find out that I was suffering from prostate cancer,” he said.

Rauf went through a physical examination, followed by a biopsy. A biopsy is the only way a firm diagnosis of prostate cancer can be made. “The doctor removed small samples of tissue from the prostate, using very thin, hollow needles guided by an ultrasound,” he said.

Rauf faces no hurdles in his day-to-day life after going through prostate surgery.

“I was asked to limit my consumption of red meat, including beef, lamb, and goat, and was advised to stop smoking and drinking alcohol.”

The doctor suggested he consume healthier sources of protein such as fish, skinless poultry, beans, and eggs.

Apart from these precautionary measures, Rauf is supposed to visit his consultant for the rest of his life for regular check-ups every six months.

In response to a question about delay in seeking medical care, Dr. Masood A. Sheikh, a urologist said, “Men with urinary symptoms are hesitant to discuss the problem, perhaps, because of embarrassment, believing that all of it is part of ageing or due to the fear of treatments such as surgery.”

The findings of the study on clinicopathological characteristics of prostate cancer suggest that there is also a need to improve public attitude regarding urinary symptoms in older age men and knowledge about prostate cancer in Pakistan.

The Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride (DGR) is a unique event that helps raise awareness and funds for prostate cancer in Pakistan since 2015.

“It is a themed ride for café racers, scooter riders, bobbers, choppers, and scramblers,” said Faisal Malik, the official spokesman for DGR in Karachi.

“DGR takes place on the last Sunday of September. The event’s main aim is to spread awareness and raise funds for prostate cancer research and other health issues that men face in Pakistan,” said Nabil Hasan, media executive of DGR.

Talking about the event, Hasan said it takes place in over 400 cities, across all five continents, with more than 15,000 participants that ride their classic motorcycles, dressed up in their finest attire, taking the cause to the streets of Karachi.

One thing that sets DGR apart from other cancer-related campaigns is its future-oriented approach.

Prostate cancer is a risk for people as they age, but if it is caught and treated early, the outlook is generally good. So, as you or someone you know gets older, be sure to have open conversations with your doctor about your risk.

If you have any symptoms you think might be prostate cancer, talk to your doctor right away. And even if you do not have symptoms, consider adopting a healthy lifestyle to decrease your risk.

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Money Now + Beyond

Need finance tips? These financial advisors weigh in

I have never been one to care about money. I spend it on food like it’s my last day on this planet and I always have the need to try out every fancy eatery on the block. Before I know it, my tummy is full but my wallet is quite the opposite. In the quest of saving more and spending better, I started looking for women who would not only understand my situation but also impart their financial knowledge to me.

There is no science in saving money. The truth is, regardless of whether you are a college student, a housewife, or a businesswoman, you need to be certain of how much you are spending each month. No one can be too sure about what the future holds for them.

According to the World Health Organization, women live longer than men and earn significantly less as per data collected by the Center for American progress, even if they spend their entire life in corporate slavery. There is also the long battle that women have been fighting for centuries now: the idea that women and money have an unhealthy bond and that women are financially illiterate when compared to men.

To help you save better, I reached out to women who work, talk, spend, and save money like no other. Here is what these financial advisors had to say:

1. Use cash instead of cards

Rule one in the book of being mindful of how you spend money is to use cash instead of cards. Sarah, the head of a financial department in a well-known multinational company, shared that having a credit card made her feel like she was making purchases for free. It was only later, at the end of each month, that she realized that nothing in the world is a free lunch.

Instead, Sarah strongly suggests getting rid of that credit card as she calls it “the hub of all the extra spending.” Instead, having cash money means that you can keep a physical check on how much you are spending and hold on to your budget accordingly.

2. Dumb the debt

One thing the now 31-year-old corporate financer, Hannah, regrets is taking a loan for a luxurious car during her first job at 22 years old. She says that she is still paying the debt and does not know a way out.

“No matter how tempting a loan scheme might look like, do not fall into the trap as there is no looking back,” she said in an interview with The Tempest.

Try taking baby steps when it comes to paying off debt. Even if it means getting rid of the $500 you owe your brother. After all, a debt is a debt and you need to pay it off at the end of the day.

3. Invest in mutual funds

Neha, a 27-year-old financial advisor, calls investing in a mutual fund, “A day spent without having to work.”

She advises women of ages 21 and above to start saving and investing at least 30% of what they are earning in a month. Investing is part of saving in the long run, after all.

Many women do not know this, but you can save up to 40% of your taxes by investing in a mutual fund. A mutual fund is a type of financial vehicle made up of money collected from different investors for the purpose of investing in securities like stocks, bonds, money market instruments, and other assets.

4. Watch your finances like a hawk

Saving up without having a budget is like traveling without travel insurance. You never know what might happen next.

“You need to keep a check and balance of your finances, where and on what you are spending the money,” said Bina, a 37-year-old financial officer. “You need to be mindful and vigilant wherever money is involved, otherwise you would be at the losing end,” she added.

If you are someone who is clueless about how to watch over your money, here are few tips you can use:

  • Start by making a financial calendar. You can call it your money to-do list. Put your monthly utility bills, everyday expenditure, fuel costs, how much you spend on shopping, and, most importantly, what you are saving on this list.
  • Always set a budget. Live on a budget. Make it your life’s motto until you become responsible enough to not spend on anything and everything. Be realistic with your budgeting. If your monthly expenditure is $500, you should not expect to survive on $250. Cut short but, slowly. Try making it $400 for the first month by letting go of some luxuries.
  • Keep checking in on yourself by going back to your budget. If you won’t do it, no one else will!

5. Save first, spend after

“You need to think about saving first before you plan on spending. That is how it works,” said Tasha, a 41-year-old financial assistant for a firm in the United Kingdom. She learned this trick from an article she read in The Economic Times. 

She manages her household finances as well as her work. According to her, she has attained financial peace by making sure that she is not spending too much on unnecessary things like online deals and offers.

While taking control of your finances and planning for the future might appear intimidating, it is also something that you cannot afford to compromise on. One thing that I have learned by talking to these financial advisors is that saving is important and a must, even if it is just one penny each day. 

You can also join money-saving groups online (there are plenty of these for women, by women), such as Coupon Mamas and Couponers United. You do not have to rush into saving. It is a habit that you can develop over time. And it is only with time that you will realize how this newly acquired habit is helping you make a difference with your everyday money matters.

Happy saving!

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TV Shows Pop Culture

21 shows and films you need to watch to become an award-winning journalist

When I read a story or watch it on the news, I start thinking about the people involved and all that they had to deal with during the time. In such circumstances, journalism-related films, shows and documentaries have helped me better understand the scenario through the compelling characters and in-depth research of the case.

Apart from helping me visualise important events such as the Iraq war and the Vietnam war, they are also incredibly relatable on a day to day basis. Be it through the challenges that I face in the newsroom or while I am struggling to strike a work-life/ personal life balance, these shows have entertained me and kept me sane.

Whether you are a journalist or have wondered what it would like to be one, here are the best journalism-related films, shows and documentaries for you:

1. The Newsroom (2012-14)

[Image Description: Yelling The Newsroom GIF that reads, “I’m going to single-handedly fix the Internet!”] via GIPHY
The show aired on HBO in 2012 with anchor Will McAvoy played by Jeff Daniels and his team. It revolves around the day-to-day challenges that journalists face in the newsroom and on the field. It also reflects on their personal lives and how difficult it becomes for journalists to sometimes keep the work/life balance. The Newsroom has 3 seasons but you would want more of it!

2. The Post (2017)

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The film stars Meryl Street as Katherine Graham, the first female Editor-in-Chief of The Post. The film follows the American newspaper’s quest of publishing the Pentagon Papers that proved the United States’ involvement in Vietnam and the difficult decisions that Graham was forced to make in the wake of the news.

3. Control Room (2004)

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This is a documentary film was produced by Magnolia Pictures that takes you inside Al Jazeera’s coverage of the US war on Iraq. If you are a journalist and want to cover war, this is your guide!

4. The Morning Show (2019)

[Image Description: Jennifer Aniston GIF By Apple TV that reads, “I’M GETTING MY GAME FACE ON.”] via GIPHY
This show produced by Apple TV has an A-list cast that gives the viewers a tour of all that goes in the world of morning shows. It is only on its second season but has already been nominated for the Emmys.

I am loving The Morning Show these days. Makes me laugh at my own behind the scenes of working in a newsroom and handling the chaos! Apple expanded the show’s scope and incorporated the #MeToo movement into the premise: In the pilot’s opening minutes, the beloved anchor Mitch Kessler, played by Steve Carell is fired from the titular morning show because of sexual misconduct in the workplace.

 5. Spotlight (2015)

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The film is based on The Boston Globe’s Spotlight unit, the newspaper’s investigative team. Spotlight follows a series of true events that unfold allegations of molestation against a priest. In the year 2003, the newspaper was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the same story.

6. Fahrenheit 9/11 (2018)

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Michael Moore’s remarkable documentary about the Bush Administration and the events in the aftermath of the tragic 9/11 aims to unmask the American system and gives the viewers the other side of the story to ponder upon.

7. Sharp Objects (2018)

[Image Description: Amy Adams Camille Preaker GIF By Sharp Objects] via GIPHY
This one is based on Gillian Flynn’s debut novel by the same name. The film is a psychological thriller that revolves around reported Camille Preaker who is back in her town from a psychiatric hospital to find out about two murders.

8. Frost/Nixon (2008)

[Image Description: Richard Nixon President GIFthat reads, “Well, when the President does it… That means that it is not illegal…”
The film is based on the post-Watergate interview series between the British anchor, David Frost and former US President Richard Nixon. The film was not really about Nixon or Watergate at all. I felt that it was more about human behavior, and it rises upon such tran­scendent themes as guilt and innocence, resistance and enlightenment, confession and redemption.

9. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

[Image Description: Meryl Streep GIF that reads, “IS SOMETHING FUNNY?”] via GIPHY
The film is based on the bestseller by Lauren Weisberger that is a documentation of her own experiences as an Assistant to the Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour. This Anne Hathaway starter film exposes the ugly side of fashion journalism and makes you wonder just how much you’d be able to give up for your career.

10. The Bold Type (2017-2021)

[Image Description: Tv Show GIF by The Bold Type that reads, “Are we doing this? Because Rihanna’s gonna be out in ten minutes, so…”] via GIPHY

A series that skillfully crafted a media fantasy world that was based on the life of Cosmopolitan’s former Editor in Chief, Joanna Coles. The show’s central arguments may just be ideas we can all emulate: women can be fulfilled by their careers, infuse the professional with the personal and modernize an often male-dominated, occasionally stuffy industry from the inside.

11. Kill the Messenger (2014)

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This 2014 film was based on a true story about the San Jose Mercury News, where reporter Gary Webb goes on a mission to uncover the CIA’s secret funding through cocaine trafficking for the Nicaraguan rebels.

12. Good Night and Good Luck (2005)

[Image Description: Good Night And Good Luck Media GIF By Ari Spool] via GIPHY
The film released in the year 2005 but, it is in black and white. The story is a fictional account of renowned journalist Edward R. Murrow’s report on the then US Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist investigations prevailing inside the Congress. Director by none other than George Clooney, the film was nominated for many awards after it hit the big screen.

13. All the President’s Men (1976)

[Image Description: Applause GIF] via GIPHY
Yes, it is an old one. Yes, it is also about the Watergate scandal, but hear me out.

The journalism-related film is based on The Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein who brought the political scandal to attention. The film was selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry, for its historical significance.

14. Being Mary Jane (2013-2019)

films shows about journalism
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The main theme of the journalism-related film and show is love (or the lack of it) in a journalist’s life. Mary Jane Parker played by Gabrielle Union is successful, has a high rating show, everyone likes her but, no one loves her. But of course, we are all here for Mary Jane’s happy ending and she sure does get one. You have to watch the show to know the ending.

15. The Pelican Brief (1993)

films shows about journalism
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This thriller released in 1993 and was based on the novel by John Grisham that explores a law student’s brief about the assassination of two Supreme Court justices. The student then gets into contact with an investigative reporter to help her connect the missing dots in the case.

16. The Insider (1999)

films shows about journalism
[Image Description: Al Pacino Money GIF that reads, “MY OFFER IS THIS: NOTHING.” via GIPHY
This is a fictional account of the 60 minutes report produced about Jeffrey Wigand, the whistleblower involved in the tobacco industry scandal. You have to watch the film for Al Pacino’s finest performance as an award-winning journalist, Lowell Bergman who unravels the case.

17. Nothing but the Truth (2008)

films shows about journalism
[Image Description: Reese Witherspoon Hello Sunshine GIF By Apple TV] vai GIPHY
As journalists, out of the many oaths that we take, one that we are sure to give our life for is protecting our sources and that is exactly what this reporter gets into trouble for.

The film stars Kate Beckinsale and reminds viewers of the real-life travails of Judith Miller, the former reporter for The New York Times who spent 85 days in jail in 2005. It adds to and pivots from the historical record, and it sharpens the difficult legal, moral and ethical issues in the Miller case.

18. His Girl Friday (1940)

films shows about journalism
[Image Description: Cary Grant I’m Just Gif’n His Judge-Y Moments Tbh GIF By Maudite] via GIPHY
Journalists have a personal life, too. This journalism-related film narrates the story of a newspaper editor who is desperate to get back his ex-wife, a reporter.

19. Good Girls Revolt (2015-2016)

films shows about journalism
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This Amazon Prime Original series was based on the sexual discrimination case chronicled in Lynn Povich’s book and set in 1969. It revolves around young female researchers at News of the Week. All they seek is fair treatment while they are being discriminated against by not being allowed to become news reporters.

20. Bombshell (2019)

films shows about journalism
[image Description: Margot Robbie Lionsgate GIF By Bombshell Movie that reads, “I BELONG ON AIR] via GIPHY
This 2019 film was based on a true case of sexual harassment at Fox News. Bombshell celebrates the women that the news channel in the spotlight made a mockery of and gives them a voice.

21. Supergirl (2015-2021)

films shows about journalism
[Image Description: Melissa Benoist Supergirl GIF By VIASAT3] via GIPHY
This CBS show was about a journalist who wanted to spread truth and justice through the power of writing. Despite having superpowers, Kara decided to explore a new path for herself and become a reporter.

These journalism-related films and shows have all helped me in some way or the other, be it after a rough day in the newsroom or helping me plan my next move in case I feel too stuck in my routine. Now that we are all still stuck in our homes writing, they also remind us of what journalists used to (and will) look like!

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Career Career Advice Now + Beyond

7 pieces of advice women would give to their younger selves

When I think about my journey from university to where I stand today, I wish I could go back in time and give some advice to my younger self. Family and friends have had my back throughout, but all of us need a few words of wisdom from someone who has gone through a similar phase in life. It makes the journey easier knowing that you are not alone.

I often wonder and think of all the things I would like to change in the past. A lot of it has to do with the mistakes I have made at my first job due to the lack of guidance. Those mistakes were not always work-related, but they were often because of naivete. Questions like: where should I start, what career path should I choose, am I making the right decision, etc. have confused me when I was in college and still exploring my career choices.

So, here is a roundup of seven pieces of advice that women, from all walks of life, would like to give to their younger self:

1. Do not settle for anything less than you deserve

women's advice
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When you start your career, there will be many who will put you down. They might say, “Oh, you are only a beginner” or “You are getting more than you deserve. Be thankful.”

However, Sarah, a 38-year-old banker said, “Ditch all such remarks and be sure to never settle for anything less than YOU think you deserve.” Having made her place in a male-dominated field, this equity manager told The Tempest that it was never easy as she felt pulled down the ladder every time she tried climbing up.

According to the Women in Workplace 2020 Report, women are twice as likely to provide more evidence of their competence and are more likely to have their judgment questioned in the area of expertise as compared to men.

Sarah has had all too much experience with her expertise being questioned. “I was in the elevator and pressed the button for the executive office,” she said. “Someone said to me, ‘Um, no honey. That is for the executive offices. The interns are going to this floor.’” But time and again, she reassured herself of her self-worth and did not let the thought of not being enough sink in.

2. Do not fear being left behind

women's advice
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Neha, a 27-year-old model said, “I started dreading the existence of my contemporaries because I felt that they got recognition before me.”

According to her, everything happens in its own sweet time. With everyone’s eyes on her, she felt heavily scrutinized and was continuously held to higher standards. As a woman, she often felt as though she represented an entire group and that if she failed, the entire group will be judged along with her.

“At 21, when I kept questioning my career progression, I started falling into a trap of my own,” she said.

3. Do not limit yourself to one industry

women's advice
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Naureen, at 42 years old, advises her younger self to explore different horizons once you step out. “All through my twenties, I have struggled accepting myself being in the medical profession because a doctor was never who I wanted to be,” she said.

According to her, if you feel deeply that turning down a promotion is the right thing to do, then continue doing that. Naureen said, “It was during my duty at the hospital one-night that I took the decision of sparing myself the trouble. I changed from scrubs, hopped back into my car, and drove far away.”

The next day was a new beginning for her as she started investing more time in her passion for start-up businesses. Today, she is happily working with investors.

4. It is easier said than done

women's advice
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When you are at a job, there will be people pouring in all sorts of suggestions and opinions. “You do not have to consider everyone’s comments,” said Abiha, a 32-year-old gym instructor by evening and a school teacher during the day.

“When I first started, colleagues who were employed before me tried to manipulate and influence me to be part of a social group at work,” she said.

All the women ever did was gossip about others or just spill negativity. Abiha did as she was told but now, in hindsight, she wishes that she knew better. “The true test to guide your actions is to be able to look yourself in the mirror and know that you did the right thing,” she said. Hold yourself accountable for your actions; do not let others do it for you.”

5. Never shy away from taking chances

women's advice
[Image Description: Clapping hands with a caption stating, “YAS QUEEN!”] via GIPHY
“If something does not feel right, do not do it. Even if your boss tells you to do otherwise,” said Reema, a 45-year-old saleswoman by profession.

There have been times she thought of giving up her career because she is an introvert. Her job requires her to be on the go and meet new people each day. She said, “I have learned to be more accepting of the nature of my job but, it happened the hard way.”

At her workplace, Reema underwent continuous bashing as he boss would keep telling her that she needed to be more ‘out there.’ But it was only a matter of time when her high number of sales proved everyone wrong and her boss did not push her for being a closed person.

6. Success does not always come from money

women's advice
[Image Description: Women literally lifting each other up] via GIPHY
If only money could buy happiness and satisfaction. “The thing with money is that as much as you have, you fear losing it or not making enough the other day,” said Sheema, a 47-year-old banker turned video jockey (VJ), introducing the viewers to the latest music videos and live performances on television–the complete opposite of her previous work.

Her corporate job had all the perks, but there was still something missing. After a long day at work, Sheema would still feel unaccomplished. It was only when she started chasing her dream, she realized that she was only running away from her true self.

Sheema advises all women to take that leap of faith. “When you have an idea, be passionate about it and get your voice or product out there. Do not allow fear of failure to hold you back from expressing yourself creatively,” she said

7. Invest in building contacts

women's advice
[Image Description: A group of women sitting together and reading a letter] via GIPHY
Naheed, a 37-year-old lawyer said, “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of building contacts and maintaining a healthy workplace relationship.”

Things were quite difficult for her early on during her career because she had no relevant contacts or people to go to. She felt settled in her field once she started connecting with like-minded people.

According to Naheed, it is important to realize that you are not alone in your experience as a young woman in the workforce. Try and connect with someone in a similar situation so that you can share your frustrations as well as achievements.

At the end of the day, you do you, no matter where and when. I have been denied access to places and looked down upon for being a woman journalist but, I have stood my ground and so should you! Talking to these women has made me realize that no matter what profession or career you choose, if you are not strong enough to make room for yourself, no one else will give you a place to sit.

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History Lost in History Art History

Have you heard of Bharatnatyam, an endangered form of classical dance?

The cultural denunciation attached to performing arts in all forms – be it music, theatre, or dance – has caused classical dance harm in earning reputation and admiration in the eyes of many in Pakistan. This negligence has resulted in the dance form not gaining much popularity among talented individuals in the country who can help propel this revered form of artistic expression, especially Bharatnatyam.

Bharatnatyam is a genre of Indian classical dance which originated in Tamil Nadu during the late 16th and 17th centuries; the term is a combination of the Tamil words ‘Bhava’ meaning expression, ‘Raaga’ that is melody, and ‘Taaga’ that stands for rhythm. Traditionally, Bharatnatyam was performed exclusively by women and expressed Hindu religious themes and spiritual ideas, particularly of Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism. In the contemporary version, the dance provides a base for various dances in South Asia and is performed by groups.

“Not many people know what classical dance is,” said Sheema Kermani, a well-known classical dancer and instructor based in Karachi, Pakistan.

[Image Description: Indian Classical Dance GIF By MacArthur Foundation] via GIPHY
“The learning never ends,” she said. She has been teaching dance for at least 50 years yet still feels like a student.

The Ghanshyams were her first gurus. Both Mr and Mrs Ghanshyam had attended the Uday Shankar School of Dance in Almora, India. They were trained by Uday Shankar, the pioneer of modern Indian dance.

“The couple taught me not only the classical styles of Kathak and Bharatnatyam but also Manipuri and Kathakali. Their departure was sudden and hasty — they were forced to leave the country by President General Zia-ul-Haq’s military regime,” she said.

Recalling her first solo performance in 1984, Kermani said there were no other classical dancers in Pakistan when she started. Conservatives have repeatedly tried to stop classical dance using a no-objection certificate (NOC) as a tool and the practice continues after all these years.

[Image Description: Thailand Thai Classical Dance GIF] via GIPHY
“The process in itself is enough to make one not want to organize a dance,” said Kermani.

Kermani underlined that dance and other performing arts were always multicultural, with a fusion of traditions from many countries, namely India and Bangladesh but she stressed that this should not be taken religiously.

“When I started teaching, I created Tehrik-e-Niswan, a women’s movement active in the areas of domestic violence and peacebuilding for whoever is interested in learning. If you are tired of working on your dance techniques, then you can sit back and watch others practise or read books if you like,” she said.

Highlighting the significance of dance, Kermani linked the rhythmic aspect of the art form to the universe in motion.

[Image Description: Thailand Thai Classical Dance GIF] via GIPHY
“Dance is an integral part of culture through which artists express themselves. Those nations that are not in touch with their culture, do not progress,” she said.

Munawar (Mani) Chao, who has learned classical dance from Kermani and is now an instructor at the Arts Council of Pakistan calls Bharatnatyam a ‘real form’ of dance that sends a strong message and tells a story through expressions and movements.

The Arts Council of Pakistan initiated the Karachi Dance Festival in 2017, against all the odds. All major forms of dance, including classical, contemporary, and folk were performed at the two-day event.

President of the Arts Council of Pakistan, Muhammad Ahmed Shah said, “Almost a decade ago, many music and dance academies existed in Karachi. Today, merely a handful of people who privately teach dance are to be found.”

The younger generations want to learn classical dance and many have been trained by instructors like Kermani and Chao. Learning classical dance is a ‘heart to heart process between the giver and the receiver’ because you have to catch the taal (footwork) correctly while moving your body, said Kermani.

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Health Care Health

Thousands of women are silent about this medical nightmare

Obstetric fistula is a neglected tropical disease (NTD). NTD is used to refer to a baker’s dozen of infectious conditions prevalent in resource-poor tropical countries. Dr. Shershah Syed, the man behind Koohi Goth Hospital in Pakistan, where scores of cases are treated on a regular basis, described obstetric fistula as an abnormal opening between a woman’s genital tract and her rectum.

To be able to get a fair idea about what can be done to overcome this life-taking disease, I reached out to doctors in Pakistan, who are actively working against obstetric fistula.

An obstetric fistula occurs when a mother has a prolonged, obstructed labor but does not have access to emergency medical care such as a C-section. She often labors in excruciating pain for days. Tragically, the baby usually dies.

The development of obstetric fistula is directly linked to one of the major causes of maternal mortality: obstructed labor. Maternal mortality is unacceptably high. About 295,000 women died during and following pregnancy and childbirth in 2017, as per the World Health Organization (WHO) recent data. For the women who leak waste continuously due to this disease and are ostracized from society, normal life and regaining their health becomes a distant dream.

“[The Koohi Goth Hospital] is a 200-bed health care center where all obstetrics and gynecology services are provided free of cost,” said Dr. Syed. Additionally, he states, although they cover just 10% of the country, they act as a bridge between rural populations and urban-based care providers.

According to the WHO, each year, between 50,000 to 100,000 women worldwide are affected by obstetric fistula. In Pakistan, an estimated 5,000 women contract obstetric fistula every year as per the Pakistan National Forum on Women’s Health. Identifying patients has been difficult as many women with fistula live in abject poverty in isolated areas where education and awareness are low, according to extensive research in collaboration with the United Nations Populations Fund Association (UNFPA), which was funding initiatives for obstetric fistula treatments in Pakistan since 2005 but gave up in 2016 due to resource constraints.

Dr. Syed cited the case of a 28-year-old woman, a resident of the Khuzdar district in Baluchistan, Pakistan, who suffered from obstetric fistula for 16 years before she was finally operated on.

“She had a stillbirth and was left by her husband soon after her surgery,” he said.

Doctors were shocked to see the burnt skin of her abdomen and thighs. When they asked her family members, they said she was under ‘treatment’ by a faith-healer as they suspected she was a victim of evil spirits. Dr. Syed said that all the girl really needed was a simple 30-minute surgery that she got at the Koohi Goth Hospital in 2018.

To circumvent the problem, hospitals have mobilized Lady Health Workers – women who go door-to-door in remote areas delivering information on sexual reproductive health and rights, said Dr. Samina Naz, an obstetric gynecologist at the Murshid Hospital in Karachi, Pakistan.

Sharing her concerns over the lack of government efforts regarding the prevention and treatment of fistulas, Dr. Naz said the government needed to take responsibility for and compensate the women who developed an obstetric fistula due to the state’s failure in providing obstetric emergency services at state-run hospitals.

Considering the intensity of the disease, a state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit (ICU) has been providing free obstetrics and gynecologic services at the Koohi Goth Hospital since 2019.

“Fistula patients are 99% poor women, who cannot afford to get their child delivered under proper medical care facilities,” said Dr. Masood A. Shaikh, a urologist at the Orthopedic and Medical Institute (OMI) Hospital in Karachi.

For obstetric fistula, precaution is the best cure, and the cure is simple. Women in Pakistan need to deliver babies under the supervision of trained hands and with basic health care facilities. This cure is still a distant dream looking at the state’s negligence to the current conditions of government hospitals.

“By and large, you do not witness obstetric fistula among upper or middle-class women,” said Dr. Syed.

Dr. Syed stresses the importance of training midwives to battle obstetric fistula. He said that there is a need for at least 400,000 midwives across the country, but improved obstetric care in general and the proper use of C-sections when needed can make a massive dent in preventing obstructed labor in Pakistan.

According to the Koohi Goth Hospital’s website, more than 1,000 patients out of the about 6,000 fistula cases which are reported in the country are at the hospital. Dr. Syed says that obstetric fistula remains one of the most under-reported and hushed-up health problems in Pakistan.

A lot of women with this condition lose bladder control and are disturbed by the odor that emanates from them.

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Patients come to the Koohi Goth Hospital from areas where even basic health facilities are hard to find in a country like Pakistan. Besides treatment, the hospital also has a rehabilitation center for its patients who are often admitted for months.

The sense of shame, coupled with a woman not being able to decide about her health and body, and lack of awareness among health practitioners as well as the community are some of the reasons for this injury to remain invisible to many. The disease, however, is preventable and largely avoidable by delaying the age of first pregnancy, the cessation of harmful traditional practices, and providing timely care to obstetric fistula.

Countries around the world celebrate International Day to End Obstetric Fistula on May 23, with a variety of events to raise awareness of this neglected health and human rights challenge. Last year, ahead of the day, UNFPA coauthored a commentary in The Lancet Global Health, which underscored the critical role of universal access to skilled care at birth for ending preventable maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity.

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Career Career Advice Now + Beyond

“A man’s job”? These women beg to differ

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a non-traditional career is defined as “one that employs 25% or fewer women in the specific field.” The bureau, to this day, has a list consisting of 100 occupations that fall into the category of non-traditional career paths for our gender because either the profession is not apt for women or vice versa.

In Pakistan, the situation is even worse. Women are mostly concentrated in sectors known for low levels of productivity, less income stability and low security of employment due to their dual role at home and the workplace. The rate of unemployment among women is consistently higher than that of men, both in rural and urban areas.

As upsetting as it may sound, the truth is that we are underrepresented in occupational groups such as technology, science and anything that requiresstrength.’ The reason for this is that these fields are labelled as “a man’s business.”

Regardless of these labels, many women actively choose to ignore them and pursue their ‘non-traditional’ passions. I reached out to women online to find out more about their ‘manly’ careers.

Here are their fields and what they had to say about them:

1. Biotechnologist

Biotechnology is used in many areas such as agriculture, food processing, energy production, etc. “Experts in this field are high in demand yet women are advised to only seek an academic path after becoming a biotechnologist,” said Vengus Pirzado, who is currently pursuing a bachelor’s in biotechnology from the University of Karachi.

Biotechnology, as an industry, continues to stagger in progress with gender diversity. A Credit Suisse report shows that the recruitment of women in senior management roles has decreased globally from 18.9% in 2014 to 15.5% in 2016.

“All my teachers mock me by saying that I am a girl who is eventually going to get married,” Pirzado told The Tempest.

Despite been told multiple times that biotechnology is a field best for men, this 19-year-old is adamant to prove all the haters wrong.

2. Film Director

Remember the thought-provoking action film The Matrix? Do you know that there were women behind the science-fiction blockbuster? Not one but two amazing women directors, Lilly and Lana Wachowski. These women do more than just make a perfect film. The struggle to prove their worth on-set is another task these women deal with.

Representation of women in films is a point to ponder over the world. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film, men account for 66% and women 34% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers working on films selected and/or screened at the festivals in 2019-2020.

Shafaq Khalid, a film director based in Karachi, Pakistan, told me how initially men in the fraternity would not acknowledge her existence, let alone take instructions from her.

“When asked a question, vendors would address a male crew member rather than look me in the eye and answer it. It was frustrating at first but I have learnt to establish my authority somehow,” she told The Tempest.

According to her, the best part is the utter disbelief these misogynists experience when an idea gets approved or she gets publicly appreciated for her work. You go, girl!

3. Gym Instructor

Would you rather pick an instructor who understands your body and trains you accordingly or do you only care about their gender? If a man is an instructor, he is considered to be macho. When there is a woman trainer, however, more eye rolls than ab rolling exercises are done.

Sexist assumptions can hold employees back and channel them into the wrong roles. Women have been shut out of senior positions or diverted into roles seen to require stereotypically ‘feminine’ skills. According to the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs), there are a total of 13,770 registered personal trainers in the United Kingdom and only 35% of them are females.

A barre instructor based in Karachi, Pakistan expressed her concerns about not being able to find a perfect match due to her unconventional career choice as she nears 30 years old.

“Whenever I am supposed to meet a boy in an arranged marriage setup, my parents present me as a nutritionist instead,” she told The Tempest.

The fact that this girl is honest with her work and a better trainer than most men in her profession does not count for much in her personal life. Only her gender does.

4. Tour Guide

Zehra Shallwani, 27, co-runs her own inbound tour agency by the name of Dastan Travels and Tours in Karachi.

“Time and again I have been told to get a ‘real job’ and leave this business to men as it is too odd for a woman to be a tour guide,” she told The Tempest.

Women are usually regarded to stay indoors and considered unfit for jobs that require fieldwork or mingling.

Having lived in London during her higher studies, Shallwani is indifferent to such remarks and does not get bothered much. Just because women are getting accustomed to such sentiments does not make them okay.

5. Truck Driver

Trucking has long been considered a male domain, requiring long hours, lots of travel and the occasional interaction with sketchy characters. However, that is certainly changing with Irene, a 35-year-old woman based in Karachi, Pakistan who likes to drive trucks.

“Driving heavy automobiles gives me a different kind of high,” she told The Tempest.

It all started when they were moving houses and could not find a reliable truck driver to move the stuff from one place to another. That is when she took charge of the truck and, as they say, there was no looking back.

The trucking industry is male-dominated but it certainly is no longer a man’s world. Women have been joining the trucking industry at a steady and growing rate in recent history all across the world, with trends changing in Pakistan as well.

Women continue to take places as drivers, artists, film directors, dispatchers and brokers in increasing numbers all over the world, even if patriarchy tries to stop them. We love traveling and adventure. We get paid less for the same work and position as a man. Many of us even raise kids, support families and ourselves without asking for any kind of welfare or handouts. These are the same reasons men enter any profession. Therefore, there is no profession as a man’s job.

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TV Shows Pop Culture

‘Modern Love’ shows that the love pill does not fix everything

The second season of Modern Love is all set to release later this year due to the massive acclaim it received after it went on air in June 2020. An Amazon Prime Video original, the series brings a new love story with every episode. The episodes are an adaptation of the famous New York Times (NYT) column that runs by the same name.

On 23rd February, the star-studded cast for the upcoming season was announced. There are more than two dozen actors, including Game of Thrones star Kit Harrington, Judas and the Black Messiah breakout Dominique Fishback and Anna Paquin of True Blood and Flack fame. Other prominent names include Minnie Driver, Garrett Hedlund and Zuzanna Szadkowski AKA Blair Waldorf’s all-knowing maid Dorota on Gossip Girl.

OMG. What a cast!

I am so excited for Season 2 of Modern Love and what it has in store for us! Stories in Season 1 explored love and its related emotions in all its complicated and heart-achingly beautiful glory. Since it is an anthology, who knows we might even get to see some of our favourite celebs slipping into different characters than what they did before.

What I appreciated most about the series was the uncommon anthology format. Such shows usually run on the sole premise: “the next episode might be good.” Only here, the premise was: “the next episode is going to be even better.”

[Image Description: Rejected Amazon GIF By Modern Love] via GIPHY
[Image Description: A doorman closing a glass door on a woman and then turning away from her.] via GIPHY

The 8-episode-series opens up with “When the Doorman is your Main Man” which focuses on Maggie, played by Cristin Milioti, and her complex love life that she neither has control over nor has any idea of what is going on. Someone who does have a clear picture of what Maggie wants is her apartment’s doorman. Guzmin played by Laurentiu Possa watches not only over the apartment but, also every man Maggie brings there.

The story depicts how a doorman who has seen this woman live there for years, feels concerned about her without having to want anything in return. It’s a sweet episode based on an emotional connection between two people, leaving the romance behind.

[Image Description: Anne Hathaway waiting in a computer and stretching.] via GIPHY
Episode 3, “Take Me as I am, Whoever I am” starred my favourite actress Anne Hathaway as a woman with bipolar disorder. Need I say that I was not only mindblown by the star that Hathaway is but the episode was also an eye-opener that left me teary-eyed.

As people, we are too quick to judge others and form an opinion about them, their life, their family and just about everything, without considering what they are going through. The episode reflects the same. The struggles of someone dealing with a mental illness, how she finally gathers the courage to accept and discuss it with a former colleague is the highlight of the entire show.

Don’t we all just need someone to listen to? What Hathaway needed to conquer was her fear of being judged.

[Image Description: A woman in an elevator turns to see a man holding two drinks.] via GIPHY
Episode 5: “At the Hospital, an Interlude of Clarity” again served as a reminder of how empathy and kindness take care of most of our woes.

The story is about a boy who has an unlucky track record of going on dates, accidentally ends up on a date with an Instagrammer who is both pretty and way out of his league. As fate has it, the man lands in the hospital and the girl, instead of running away, takes care of him till he gets discharged, only after knowing him for a couple of hours. With time, both of them realize that they have insecurities of their own. By gradually opening up to each other they discover that all they really had to do was to find someone to understand them better.

Image Description: Amazon Dog GIF By Modern Love that reads, “I honestly DIDN’T HEAR YOU. I thought you said your dog was TUTORED. NEUTERED.” via GIPHY

The ultimate-feel-good episode was episode 7: “Hers was a World of One.” This episode revolves around a gay couple who is looking for adoption options but has had no luck in the past. The two end up finding a hippie who is pregnant but cannot take care of her child because she does not believe in the conventional ways of living life.

The episode shows how the couple, who is reluctant at first due to the hippie’s shady background, gradually become accepting of her after they realize she is not a bad person. The bond that they share through the last days of her pregnancy and how incredibly they manage the baby’s coming into this world is the best part about the entire episode.

Such shows are a great reminder that love on its own is not capable of making much of a difference. You can spend the entire day telling someone that you love them but, what about at 3 am in the middle of the night? What about when they are at their lowest? When they are breaking apart and feel the ugliest? That is when you would need to really show that you care for them; by being there for them, by trying to understand what they are saying or simply lending a shoulder so they can cry or put their head and lean on.

That, for me, is love in its purest form. A love that I crave, a love that I want to be able to give.

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Aww Nostalgia Movies Pop Culture

Here are the 13 best romantic films to watch this Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is here – lovebirds and palentines – follow along with our Vday series right here!

If you are looking for ideas to spend a COVID-19 Valentine’s Day then there is no better way to spend Cupid’s holiday other than watching romantic films, even if you have to share your screen on Zoom to watch them with your date. Single, committed, separated, pro or anti-Valentine’s Day, there is a romantic film for everyone.

So, grab your remote, light up a sultry scented candle and fire up a romantic film on NetflixAmazon Prime or Hulu for a cozy night in that will rival any party.

To make things easier, I have compiled a list of some of my all-time favorite romantic films that will not make you feel like you are missing out on anything by staying in:

1. Valentine’s Day

[Image description: Taylor Swift in Valentine's Day smiling next to an elevator and a giant teddy bear] Via GIPHY.
[Image description: Taylor Swift in Valentine’s Day smiling and jumping next to an elevator and a giant teddy bear] Via GIPHY.
Well… duh.

This aptly-titled film takes place in Los Angeles on February 14. The ensemble cast reads like the guest list at a splashy Hollywood event: Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper, Anne Hathaway, Taylor Swift, Jamie Foxxx, Patrick Dempsey, Jennifer Garner, Ashton Kutcher…, the list is endless. Their love experiences that will resonate well with you because there is literally something for everyone!

2. Titanic

romantic films
[Image Description: Titanic Kate Winslet GIF] via
If you have never seen Titanic, you must and if you have, consider watching it again this Valentine’s. This classic romantic-disaster film won eleven Oscars because of its superb cast, plot and music. Titanic is a tear-jerker with an epic romance that is fated to failure.

3. P.S. I Love You

romantic films
[Image Description: Gerard Butler Love GIF that reads, “I love you ’till the end] via
Grab the tissues for this one which is about a young widow who finds out that her late husband left a series of letters for her to move on after his death. This is a serious tearjerker that will make you want to hug your sweetheart just a little tighter.

4. Forgetting Sarah Marshall

romantic films
[Image Description: Jason Segel Dancing GIF# via
So, maybe, you do not want to watch something overly romantic on Valentine’s Day or end up crying your heart out, for that matter.

Perhaps, you have gone through a recent breakup. Well, then Forgetting Sarah Marshall is just the film for you. Join Jason Segel in this hilarious and painfully honest comedy about a man who is just trying to get over his ex.

5. The Five-Year Engagement

romantic films
[Image Description: Vince Vaughn Clinger GIF that reads, “I’VE GOT A STAGE-FIVE CLINGER.”] via
Modern partnerships require equal sacrifice. This film shows how people’s careers are likely to change and partnerships need to weather location and vocation change, all while putting marriage and baby-making on hold to be able to navigate all of this.

6. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

romantic films
[Image Description: Lana Condor Tatbilb GIF By NETFLIX] via
A feel-good YA adaptation with Asian representation? Count me in.

This Netflix original, starring Lana Condor and Noah Centineo was all the rage in 2018. If you have not seen the cute and cringe-worthy story then follow it up with the sequel and a new addition to the trilogy this Valentine’s.

7. One Day

[Image Description: Anne Hathaway looking at a man and smiling] via
[Image Description: Anne Hathaway looking at a man and smiling] via
Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess star in this sweet story about two former flames who reunite on the same day year after year. Watch this film if you are losing hope in your relationship because sometimes all you need is a little reminder. that love exists.

If you like pinning, then you’re in for a ride.

8. Bridget Jones’ Diary

romantic films
[Image Description: Renee Zellweger Comedy GIF By Bridget Jones] via
We know that Pride and Prejudice is the ultimate Austen novel, but perhaps you’re feeling more in the mood for a modern adaptation of this great classic.

Renée Zellweger is forced to choose between two handsome potential suitors, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant, in this British romantic comedy. I certainly know what I am watching this V-day: a Bridget Jones marathon.

9. You’ve Got Mail

[Image Description: Tom Hanks Joe Fox GIF] via
If you thought I was going to make a romantic film list without the romance OG think again.

Watch the most dynamic duo in cinematic history, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks play rival bookstore owners who, unknowingly, become email pen pals in You’ve Got Mail. Who knows? Maybe it’ll inspire you to look out for love even during a pandemic. 

10. Friends With Benefits

romantic films
[Image Description: Black And White Love GIF] via
Friends with Benefits stars Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake who meet in New York and agree to be just friends with benefits, thinking that it won’t complicate their friendship. As their relationship progresses, the two begin to develop romantic feelings. This angst-ridden love story is full of chemistry and all you would be wishing for is for the two to get together.

11. The Wedding Singer

[Image Description: Drew Barrymore GIF that reads, “I wanna grow old with you.”] via
How can I not add one of Adam Sandler’s romantic films to this list? The film highlights the charm and romance of the ’80s/ From the fashion to the killer soundtrack. Also, this film will have you laughing at Sandler’s classic comedic antics.

12. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

[Image Description: How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days Title Card GIF] via
This classic rom-com shows the cringe-worthy hilarity that occurs when one magazine writer makes it her life’s moto to ensnare a date and then drive him away. The man in question has a bet going with his boss that he can make any woman fall in love with him. Watch the film to find out what happens when they meet.

13. Crazy Stupid Love

[Image Description: Girl Love GIF] via
Who doesn’t love the chemistry between these two? They have many movies together, but we have chosen to end our list on this one.

The scenes between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in this film are a depiction of sizzling on-screen romance, along with other intertwining love stories. Watch this film to make sense of love, even when it makes you do crazy and stupid things. The best part is that no matter what age group, you will relate to the film at some point.

With so much uncertainty around due to the ongoing pandemic, some of you might have cancelled extravagant date ideas with your significant other. But, hey, do not be disappointed, think of this as a way to stay indoors and close, play a film and just cuddle up. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Life Stories Life

A love letter to my blue LED lights balloon that left too soon

Valentine’s Day is coming up! Follow along with our Valentine’s Day series right here.

This is a story of joy, lights and darkness; the darkness that comes with death, the darkness that comes after losing something precious. But do not be sad because like all misery, it started with sheer happiness.

Three years ago, I went to a food festival. Walking by different food stalls, indulging in the taste of churros served with hot chocolate sauce and sprinkled sugar, I saw something shining. There were lights everywhere, the sky was lit. That is how I remember you, that is how I will always like to recall you. I followed the lights, stuffing my face with churros. The adrenaline was kicking in. As I approached you closer, I could see you clearly. There were many like you being filled with air and waiting to inflate, but my heart chose you, my eyes only admired you.

You were the right kind of round and so transparent, adorned with blue LED lights. The lights that filled me with joy and made you shine. When I held you for the first time, I remember being careful and gentle. I did not want to lose you. Children all around me were trying to reach out to you, forcing their parents to get them one of your look-alikes.

As a child, I was intrigued by the idea of finding magic. However, with time, I learned to navigate situations around myself by making sense of what seemed too overwhelming. For me, the balloon was that special companion that brought the magic back into my life.

This was one casual night out. I was dressed up, even put up a smile to hide all that I was going through internally. I do that sometimes. All of us actually. I think that is why when I first saw you, I instantly thought that you would bring light to my otherwise dull, routine life. Looking back, I sometimes long for the joy I derived from the simplest things of life like getting a balloon and being the happiest seeing it float in midair. My LED light balloon was exactly that newfound companion that I was reunited with in adulthood.

My heart was pounding as I saw some of you die; popping one by one. Oh, the carnage. Why must you be destroyed by these little monsters? I wanted to hide you but I also wanted to flaunt you and your twinkling lights.

LED lights balloon
[Image Description: Haddiqua with her blue LED light balloon] via Haddiqua Siddiqui
I remember us taking our first walk together. You swayed with the wind. The memories of that night are special and still fresh. As I approached the parking lot, I remember it being dark and quiet but you brought light to my life.

That night I took you home and looked for a safe place to put you. I wanted you to be comfortable. So, I placed you right at the back of my bed’s headboard. You were gleaming brightly in all your glory. I sent your pictures to my best friends and family that night. Everyone thought that we fit perfectly together. I agreed.

On my birthday in March 2017, when my room was full of others like you, you stood out. They were no competition to you, no matter how bright their lights shone. Amongst all the celebrations, cake and presents, you brought me the most joy.

My nights were filled with your teal colored lights, always cheering me up. Being away from you made me anxious. The thought of not seeing you again was unbearable.

LED lights balloon
[Image Description: The LED light balloon with other birthday presents] via Haddiqua Siddiqui
On October 21, 2018, my worst nightmare came to life. As I was getting ready for a family gathering at my house, I kept looking at you to make sure you were there by my side.

According to an old wives’ tale, the breaking of glass is a bad omen. That moment, while rushing through getting ready and answering people in the house, I broke a glass I had placed at the corner of the side table. Juggling between cleaning the mess and getting ready, I forgot about you and how sensitive you were to harsh light. The beaming bulbs of my makeup vanity suddenly hit you.

Before I knew it, you were gone. I did not know what had happened at that moment. I was numb. I could not think properly. There was no one to blame but, myself. In a split second, due to a tiny mistake, I lost you.

Your size had changed and the shape of you now looked like a plastic bag. I switched off the vanity lights as soon as I realized what had happened. I took you off the headboard and held you close.

LED lights balloon
[Image Description: Haddiqua holding her blue LED light balloon] via Haddiqua Siddiqui

With teary red eyes, I started looking for the wound. I wanted to put a bandage and help you recover. The worst part was that even broken, you were still beautiful to me.

I remembered what my mother once said about you, “Do not get too attached. It is only a balloon.” Maybe, if I had listened to her, I would have saved myself from so much pain.

I still find myself switching on your blue lights whenever I miss you. You are not the same as when I first found you, but our memories together still bring me joy.

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