Career Education Now + Beyond

If you’re heading back to school, you need this advice for extracurriculars

I’m not going to lie to you. Everything you do in school is not going to follow you for the rest of your life. Your grades won’t define your future, those certificates will stay piled up in your cupboard, your friend group might not stay together, and you’ll never use calculus to figure out your finances. 

When I graduated high school, I wondered, should I have put so much effort into extracurriculars? Maybe I shouldn’t have spent so many years in the Student Council, putting hours of effort into drafting minutes of meetings, writing emails, organizing my team, and being a bridge between students and teachers. When all this hard work couldn’t get me into the university that I dreamt of, what was the point of the hustle?

The answer came to me in little revelations. Putting effort into activities and extracurriculars does pay off. Whether it be a painting competition you participated in, organizing a sports event, or running a literature club, it makes a difference. I cannot guarantee that extracurriculars will help you get into university. But in a few years, you’ll realize how much it transformed you as a person. 

A few months after I started university, I found it very easy to put myself in new environments that would otherwise seem daunting. I could easily market my skills and manage my time productively. Furthermore, I was open to opportunities that came my way. 

Working with a team at school events is an opportunity to figure out what you want in your future career. Almost all activities in school are unpaid, but they help you grasp the idea of intrinsic motivation or satisfaction. You learn what motivates you apart from money and this can be the key to success in your life. It’s a chance to invest time and effort in the things that interest you. 

In fact, some aspects of our personality stay hidden until we challenge them. We’re meant to get out of our comfort zone and take chances. Putting yourself in tough situations doesn’t make you a bad decision-maker. It means you’re willing to see yourself grow and have faith in yourself. Confidence doesn’t come on its own. Having faith in yourself and your skills can tap into your true potential.

While clubs and organizations do so much to help you learn about yourself, they also help you learn how to interact with others. Extracurricular activities and student leadership keep you constantly in touch with your peers and teachers, whether you like it or not. Even text messaging or email help you develop a style of communication that sets you apart. You learn the dos and don’ts of interacting with people who work with you and the people you work for. 

Furthermore, if you become a leader in an organization or group, you learn additional skills. Leadership is NOT about being the best in your team. A good leader can recognize their teammates’ abilities and push them to do their best. Extracurriculars can help you learn these skills and even notice them in others. Being a good leader also teaches you to be responsible and accountable for your actions and decisions. Managing an event or participating in a competition with a team is a completely different experience than a group project. You will notice that the people you form teams with are motivated to perform better since they’re doing it out of their free will. You will also find certain people you cannot stand, but trust me on this: It helps you figure out ways to deal with people you don’t like. 

With all that communication, you also learn to manage conflicting interests and priorities. High school does this thing where you’re packed with everything: exam preparation, the biggest competition of the year, and a charity drive all at once. It can also give you a taste of multi-tasking: Learning to manage your academics and perform activities outside of that sphere is a very underrated skill. 

Assume that you’re part of a school club. That experience can answer so many questions you wouldn’t otherwise know. What kind of people get along with each other? What leadership style is necessary when your club isn’t doing well? What is the best way to assign duties? How do you deal with freeloaders? Do you need to stay back at school to finish decorating the auditorium or is there someone you can assign it to? How will you finish your artwork due Saturday when you have a big test the day after? Simply being a part of a larger organization can give you so many insights into how people work.  

School may be a nightmare for some, but we need to realize good things don’t come on a silver platter. The subjects you study in school today may not even be relevant by the time you graduate and start working. Instead, look for creativity in yourself and around you. Learn from the people you admire and stay open-minded. Invest time in yourself and your abilities. I assure you, it will make a difference.

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Sexuality Love + Sex Love

Dating as a queer brown woman is hard in a country that demands you to be invisible

Celebrate Spirit Day and support queer youth against bullying with us here at The Tempest.

The first time I fell in love, my best friend had shown me a printed still from Sailor Moon, I stared at the picture wide-eyed as I went over all ten of the Sailor Soldiers. Each girl was more beautiful than the next and as my eyes travelled over the different hair shades, it stopped for more than a minute on two women – Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, to my sixth-grade self, they looked like everything I wanted to be as an adult. Feminine, attractive and dripping with big lesbian woman energy (I’d think years later). 

“Who are they?” I asked my best friend as I peered at them with interest. 

“Oh, they’re Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune. They’re lesbians.” she said, as if my eleven-year old self knew what the meaning of lesbians were. 

“What does that mean?” 

“It means when women like other women.” 

“What? Really?? You can do that??” 

I sounded mystified. It was an unheard concept to me – no one had ever told me growing up you could date women and that was an actual thing. I assumed everyone was like my parents.

Then, I settled on Tuxedo Kamen, a.k.a, Chiba Mamoru – Sailor Moon’s main squeeze. He looked like every Disney prince but even better with his beautiful midnight blue eyes, tanned skin and an ugly green sweater that would become the running joke in all the fanfictions I would read in secret years later when I was supposed to be studying for my finals. 

He was lovely, he was the knight in shining armor, and he was the perfect man. 

The only problem? 

I didn’t know what to make of him and my mind kept going back to the image of Sailor Uranus’ hand wrapped around Sailor Neptune’s neck in the photo.

Was that love? 

I’m in tenth grade when I start to understand that something about me is different. High school was a confusing time for me and everyone I knew – we kept so many secrets from each other and we pretended to be something we were not.  It was a terrible time to discover you were maybe a lesbian woman. 

Classmates magically had secret boyfriends overnight and I would be asked ad nauseam who I liked (it was always Tuxedo Kamen or some new anime man I discovered during my many YouTube binge watching sessions). People thought I was childish and when pestered if I had a crush on anyone – anyone at all, I vaguely admitted I liked a childhood friend (a boy I went to church with). Everything was fine, I was alright, and they left me alone. 

It was only months later during a trip to India for my grandparents wedding anniversary, I would hear that my third favorite teen celebrity Lindsay Lohan was dating a lesbian woman and my life would change completely. 

I don’t know how many women can claim that Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson were their queer awakening, but I would like to think that I was one of the few. I spent that whole summer secretly using my sister’s Wi-Fi connector to look up lesbians, especially queer women in pop culture, singers (K.D Lang, Melissa Etheridge, Tegan and Sara), The L Word and this word – “bisexual.”

She would become the blueprint for every woman I would ever be attracted to.

My dreams began to morph into me imagining relationships with women who I belatedly realized I was attracted to. I didn’t know how to navigate it. I spent the next two years denying every lesbian woman-themed wet dream, everything I noticed about a woman that I found attractive. I shifted schools but would secretly pine about high school crushes through my Facebook account and years later I would develop a very embarrassing crush on a girl in my high school friend circle. 

She would become the blueprint for every woman I would ever be attracted to in the future. A few months leading up to the finals when I was revising for my exams, I wrote her a poem filled with all of my feelings for her. I tore it into pieces later because I couldn’t bear to see it written down in front of me – could I be a lesbian woman?

 I would stop going to church (I was a very religious growing up), I would fight with my parents and God. I would make small compromises but mostly I would hide because I knew that the country and the family I grew up in would never understand nor accept me. 

Dating as a bisexual and possibly pansexual woman is like playing a game of Russian Roulette.

I would only come to terms with my sexuality in my university years and then also, spend the rest of my college life having to answer homophobic questions from well-meaning friends (and not so well-meaning) in attempts to fit in. Every woman I felt a little attracted to or even suspected I was batting for another team – I would deny my feelings and pretend I wasn’t a lesbian woman. 

It was lonely. Some days I didn’t know how to deal with my fluctuating mental health. When I was feeling particularly isolated, I would watch the few LGBTQIA+ movies I would find online copies of or lurk on in the Gulf section for leads on where I could meet more sapphic-adjacent people like me.

For all the people who hate dating apps and spend time deriding it – I get it but also, I’m grateful that because of those Godforsaken apps, I’ve had my share of good, bad and ugly experiences with men and women.

Dating as a bisexual, pansexual and possibly a lesbian woman is like playing a game of Russian Roulette. You don’t know what you’re getting each time you swipe right. I’ve had propositions by couples looking for a threesome (“We just want a unicorn!”), catfishes (“If you’re really a girl, send me a photo of your boobs.”), women looking to experiment (“I just want to have fun”) and to date. 

My dating experience was abysmal, I barely got a chance to do anything due to having a strained relationship with my parents. We frequently fought because I was too much and if they questioned why I went out (the few times that I did) – they would need a running order of the evening and what I was planning on getting up to while out. The few men I did date – well, mostly just be in situationships with, ended up being emotionally unavailable and I hurt.

Men were very different from women; I had decided after spending three years in university with them. I didn’t particularly like them, but they were widely accepted, after all if I was caught with a man – I wouldn’t be immediately deported or jailed. But men were comfortable, easy – it was much harder to match with women on dating apps like Tinder and Bumble. Most of the women I ended up matching with, ended up becoming friends and I would simply pine in the stereotypical way that all us sapphic  girls do when they couldn’t be honest about their crushes. 

But these apps gave me an Invisibility Cloak and let me live my truth. 

I learned to embrace who I am, I learnt to fall in love, fall in lust and take caution when I felt I was unsafe. It also taught me that despite the way things are here, I wasn’t alone. There were other women like me – queer, lesbian, bi and pan – other people who were trying their best to live their truth, survive in the land of opportunity till they could truly be the people they wanted to be. 

After all, without the rain there’s no rainbow.

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TV Shows Pop Culture

“One Tree Hill” premiered 17 years ago (feel old yet?) and these are my 17 favorite scenes

17 years ago, One Tree Hill first aired. To say it’s the one show I always go back to isn’t doing it justice.

I was 11-years-old when I started watching it. There was so much about the show and myself I didn’t understand then. But I knew how it made me feel – it was that thick feel-good threaded in with a sense of nostalgia, butterflies deep in my stomach, and an overwhelming sense of bliss as every season passed. That pure binging addiction, the need to see more, want more, constantly be in awe of every single episode. Even the ones that you never want to watch again (you all know which one I’m talking about – RIP Keith).

I’ve rewatched the show too many times to say. And the score, the characters, the dialogue – the town – One Tree Hill – all of it resonates with me. This was the millennial show. We grew up downloading the newest episodes on a USB at 6 am the morning before school, putting them onto a disc, only to come home and pop them onto our DVD players to watch. It was a different kind of viewing. The weeklong yearning for the next episode, the age of LimeWire, Jimmy Eat World, punk chic, and high school. Those years.

We grew up fascinated and obsessed with the lives One Tree Hill created on screen. Was it healthy? Maybe not. But the way the show affected us, with Lucas’s (Chad Michael Murray) narration leading us into an ease with every episode, with Nathan’s (James Lafferty) character growth and progression, Haley’s (Bethany Joy Lenz) soft heart, Brooke’s (Sophia Bush) candor, and Peyton’s (Hilary Burton) yearning. 

Of course the show also introduced most of us to Chad Michael Murray, the classic teen heartthrob. And there are so many other characters that deserve acclAmation: Jamie, Karen, Keith, Rachel, Quinn, Julian, Chase, Skills, Quinten, Mouth, I could go on… and JAKE! Always Jake. 

And yet every time Gavin DeGraw’s voice took over that screen with the silhouette of a 17-year-old boy dribbling his basketball across a bridge, I felt that connection to it. Are there any shows like One Tree Hill today? Will there ever be? Probably not.

Here’s a list of some of the most iconic scenes:

1. The State Championship (4×09)

Heartbeats playing in the background, confetti dancing in the air, and Lucas finally confessing his feelings to Peyton – this was one of the big ones. How can this scene not make anyone’s heart full???

“It’s you. When all my dreams come true, the one I want next to me, it’s you. It’s you, Peyton.”

2. When Lindsay leaves Lucas (5×12)

Lindsay realizes that Lucas’s book had always been about Peyton, and we flashback to the first moment Lucas and Peyton ever spoke to one another. And everything we, the audience, had been yearning for finally culminates in that scene. Yes, Lindsay was sweet and good for Luke, but she was no Peyton. She was no comet.

“The boy saw the comet and he felt as though his life had meaning. And when it went away, he waited his entire life for it to come back to him.”

3. Haley and Nathan’s first kiss (1×08)

One of my favorite moments ever. When Nathan messes up but he finally gets his shit together and realizes that Haley is the one for him. ‘Dare You To Move’ slowly plays in the background.

“At this point, there’s nothing you can say or do to surprise me.”

4. The Wannabe Dance (4×21)

This episode was probably one of the best episodes of ALL TIME. Hyperbole is needed because that’s how good it was. It was filled with so much love, and hope and nostalgia. Like the crescendo finally reaching its apex, like a story you’ve held close to your heart for so many years, finally finding its place to rest. Because, let’s be honest, after season four things just weren’t the same.

5. Haley and Lucas’s roof traditions (2×22)

I loved all of their traditions and their friendship as a whole. Their golf course, their balloon throwing, their opening up of letters before the first day of school. Ah, so many feels. And of course, let’s not forget that this is the episode that ends with the iconic ‘May Angels Lead You In’.

“Because losing our way would be the most cruel of things. This year, I lost my way.”

6. Nathan and Haley’s first tutoring session (1×03)

This culminated into not only One Tree Hill’s, but TV’s, greatest on-screen tv couples of all time. I loved Haley’s no bullshit attitude, her love of tutoring and helping others out, and her fierce loyalty to Luke.

“Don’t say I never gave you anything.”

7. Haley sings for Nathan for the first time (1×15)

Being introduced to Bethany Joy Lenz’s voice was a blessing for us all. And the first time she sings in front of Nathan is an intimate, warm and fuzzy scene that’s quintessentially One Tree Hill.

8. When they graduate from high school (4×20)

Seeing all your favorite tree hill babies graduate from high school was so nostalgic – I’ve always loved graduation scenes. The scope for so much more out there in life, the thrill of new beginnings and closely held memories: all coming together. And how can we ever forget Haley’s water breaking while she gives her valedictorian speech? And of course, quoting Julius Ceaser automatically won my heart.

9. Peyton and Lucas’s wedding (6×23)

Their marriage ceremony taking place where they first spoke – everything coming full circle. What the fans had been yearning for since season one, finally happened in the most beautiful of ways.

“Peyton Sawyer will become Peyton Scott.”

10. Jamie and Quinten dancing together (6×01)

Their relationship was literally one of the cutest ever – little baby Jamie brought so much joy to the show.

11. When Sheryl Crow sings for Haley and Nathan (1×17)

I could go on and on about every Naley moment ever and this article would still not be over. But this one definitely deserves a top feel good appreciation.

12. When Brooke asks Lucas to fight for her (3×13)

I loved Brooke and Lucas’s relationship while it lasted, and this moment was filled with so much angst and hope for this young teenage love.

“The difference is I love you Brooke.”

13. Nathan and Lucas at the river court (3×02)

When Lucas fights for Haley and Nathan’s relationship, it’s one of the first moments you see them coming together as brothers. Were there tears involved? You can bet there were. Every big marker of their lives happened here: the first moment Nathan and Lucas played against each other. The last game they had with all their high school friends. The day they all vowed to meet there again five years later. All those epic, astounding, unchangeable moments that happened there.

14. When Haley records her first song (2×08)

Even though it was with Chris Keller and their relationship came in between Nathan and Haley’s, it was one beautiful song and beautiful moment. And every-time “Where the stars go blue” plays, you can bet I’ll be scream-singing it.

16. Peyton and Ellie bond over music (3×10)

I loved Ellie, her bold fierceness and her nature, the way she was with Peyton. When they discuss how music connects to the first time you heard it, the weather and all the smells and all the tiny moments that brought it together – a reminder of why this show is epic.

“It’s like heaven. Only it sounds better.”

17. The grand re-opening of Karen’s cafe (8×22)

The trusted quote “somebody told me that this is the place where everything’s better and everyone’s safe” hanging on a sign board to greet everyone as they came.

Honestly, every moment on the show deserves a place on this list for me. These are just a few. Yes, it’s the best tv show that’s honored our screens. And it always will be.

The finale was the perfect ending to that show.

“It’s the oldest story in the world. One day you’re seventeen and planning for someday. And then quietly, without you ever really noticing, someday is today and then someday is yesterday and this is your life.”

Will I ever be over the fact that Luke didn’t make it to the end? Nope. Not okay.

Writing this piece alone is giving me goosebumps because this was the show my childhood consisted of. Every word etched a space in my heart, and I’ll never forget the impact it had on me.

There’s a moment you reach when watching a show, when you feel everything the characters feel, when the music lulls you into a blissful mood, and every episode is like taking another bite of your favorite food.

17 years later, this show still does that. After all, there’s only one tree hill, and it’s your home.

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Movie Reviews Pop Culture

Netflix’s “The F**k-It List” shows what it takes to say “fuck it” and do what you really want

I just finished watching Netflix’s new film The F**k-It List, and I can safely say that it’s my new favorite movie.

It’s about a high-school senior, Brett, who shares a fuck it list of things he wishes he had done differently after a senior night’s prank blows up.

He is studious and moves on the right path of life academically. He has a 3.65 GPA and 1590 on the SATs. He makes it to seven Ivy Leagues and gets wait-listed from Harvard—every student’s dream life, right? But he makes one mistake and all colleges drop him. One prank goes wrong, and he loses everything he had worked so hard for.

“One mistake and everything goes away. Total bullshit.”

The movie is beautifully made. All the loose ends seamlessly tie in together at the end and everything falls into place. The cast is also excellent, especially Eli Brown. No one could’ve played Brett better than him. He acted perfectly. 

 Brett looking at the computer in a gray shirt.
[Image description: Brett looking at the computer, wearing a gray shirt.] Via Extramovies

The movie fully encapsulates the life of a teenager. Everything a teenager feels, wants, goes through, gives up on. Everything that matters to them. Love. Relationships. Family. Friends. Transition. Expectations. Hopes. Mistakes. Failures. Adulthood. Dreams.

Brett feels liberated when he finally says fuck it and puts his list out there.

“By themselves, relatively harmless. Put them together and they’re life changing.” 

His dreams on the list are so real. Wanting to skip school. Punching his PE teacher in the face. Learning guitar. Falling in real love. Kissing his childhood crush

Throughout the movie, Brett delves deeper into the depths of what saying fuck it really means. What his list really stands for.

Brett’s video of the list goes viral on the internet and other children, inspired by him, start making their own fuck it lists. And in fact, they start following their lists. His idea spreads like wildfire around the world. It becomes bigger than himself. 

“You ever just want to say fuck it?”

Brett’s friend and childhood crush, Kayla, for instance, breaks her mother’s boyfriend’s car with a baseball bat. He got drunk and came for her when she was 11. When she told her mother about his sleazy behavior, she told her to shut up and stop provoking him. But then inspired by Brett, Kayla finally found the strength to stand up to Steve. This makes me think about how there’s so much that all of us give up for one reason or another. What we endure. What we let go. But what does it take to finally give up all excuses and do what we want?

 Kayla squints her eyes as she looks at the sea.
[Image description: Kayla squints her eyes as she looks at the sea.] Via Extramovies

People call Brett boring because he’s studious and focuses on studying all the time. I know how many times I’ve been called boring for prioritizing school work over having fun. But they didn’t realize that my grades mattered more to my parents than they did to me. And how could I ever let them down?

“Do what you’re told,” they tell you. “Stay on the right path.”

I’ve felt the pressure of making my parents happy, fulfilling their expectations. They sanded down my dreams. I didn’t know when they started living through me, but when that happened, I fell into an abyss. If I deviated just a little from the path they had chosen for me, they felt hopeless—like they had lost everything. They cared about how I was perceived. They paved the road in front of me, making me feel so small. Their desperation, expectations, and hopes settled inside me, holding me back from doing the things that I wanted to do. It was always about get this and get that and get there. Somewhere in between, I stopped caring about what made me happy

I keep thinking now, just for once, I should’ve let go and said—fuck it.

At the end of the movie, Brett is given another chance to attend college. But it comes at a cost. He’s told to write a college essay based on the theme of contrition—contrition, really? 

For what?

Brett made some decisions on his own and his life came crashing down at his feet like sea waves. And then he was told to fix his life. Move ahead. Do as he was told. His parents checked on him, again and again while he wrote his essay because they didn’t want him to blow up his last chance of ending up at college. They told him that they had invested 18 years into making his life. And he was so close now. But then, Brett blew it up saying Harvard wasn’t for him. He told his parents point-blank that he wanted to live his life in his own way. 

“Your frustrations—they’re real, as they should be.”

Sometimes, our parents viscerally start living through us. They don’t realize that we need the independence to make decisions, to choose for ourselves, to be on our own. Sometimes, we don’t want what they want. Sometimes, they just don’t get it. And it’s not just parents, it’s everyone, including our friends and teachers. It’s hard to put together pieces of your life when they don’t belong to you. 

Life is like what’s beyond the sea—the unknown. We don’t know what the future holds. We don’t know what’s to come. But sometimes, taking a chance is worth it. We shouldn’t kill the pursuit of the unknown. What if everything we want lies in it? The F**k-It List shows us that it’s important to hold on to things that matter even if we don’t understand them fully. 

I loved the movie for how real it was. 

Brett’s character is every other teenager—stuck in a life that he doesn’t want to live. 

But I think I’ve learned to say from him what I should’ve said so many times before. Fuck it. 

Book Club Books Pop Culture

Navigating queerness & tradition in YA fiction with Adiba Jaigirdar, author of “The Henna Wars”

Adiba Jaigirdar is an Irish-Bangladeshi writer, poet, and teacher with an MA in Postcolonial Studies. Her latest book, The Henna Wars, is a poignant story about two Muslim girls falling in love.

Be sure to check out our live Instagram event featuring Adiba and our own editor, Shaima. We’re also doing a giveaway of her book, enter now!


Adiba Jaigirdar’s debut novel The Henna Wars stems from a genuine desire to inspire joy. She was drawn to “write a story that made [her] happy and that was funny to read and fun to write.” She settled on the idea of a romantic comedy with two teen girls with rival henna businesses while “attempting (and failing) to teach [herself] henna”.

Looking to up the stakes of the girls’ rivalry, Adiba imagined what it would be like “if the two girls were also romantically attracted to each other, and grappling with what that might mean.” From there, everything else came together to make this wonderful tale of love, longing, and growing up. 

The Henna Wars revolves around themes of queerness, first love, culture, and family. Adiba interjects stories with themes that are relevant to herself and her life, and exploring them in the medium of storytelling.

Her influences range from The Princess Diaries, Hayley Kiyoko and Janelle Monáe to Bollywood film like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai which she cites as part of her introduction to romance.

She recalls the first time she encountered a person of color writing about people of color in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses (which we love!). Reading her stories made Adiba realize that it was possible to write about people like herself.

As a queer woman of color, she acknowledges that she has a responsibility to represent her culture, gender, and sexuality in her work. “There’s a lot of pressure, especially because there aren’t a lot of novels out there about Bangladeshi teens, and even fewer about queer Bangladeshi Muslim teens,” Adiba said. “Even though realistically I know that it’s impossible to represent everything as you write a single story, I still felt the pressure of that.” 

To her, storytelling cannot be separated from politics. “Especially as a queer Muslim South Asian, there’s no way that what I write is not going to be political. My very existence is political.” 

As she writes in the contemporary era, I was curious to see what she finds unique to the time that we are currently living in. To her, this time is a time of “rising up against oppression and attempting to enact change.” Yet, she believes this has been the case for a while, as “marginalized people have been fighting for our rights for a long time. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.” 

If this story were set in the future, she would love to say that the “characters like Nishat and Flávia wouldn’t have to worry about their sexuality, race, and culture making it more difficult for them to fit in.” However, she has her doubts. “I’m not particularly hopeful of that happening anytime in the near future.” 

For the writers out there or those interested in what happens behind the scenes, Adiba admits that her writing process is “honestly a little chaotic.” When she first begins writing, she “usually have a very basic idea of the story I want to tell. I figure out the important bits that I need to be able to write the story—the beginning, the end, and bits and pieces in the middle. Then, I begin to write and it’s a process of stringing everything together. It’s a little like putting together a puzzle. Once it’s out there on the page, it’s time for me to begin revisions and shape it into something that really works.”

[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
The scenes that she enjoyed writing the most were the Bengali wedding scenes at the beginning of the book. “Bangladeshi people are obsessed with weddings, and our weddings are a whole event. So it was nice to explore that aspect of my life through the lens of a character like Nishat, who is surrounded by the familiarity of a Bangladeshi wedding, while also stumbling across her childhood crush.” 

As for how it feels to see her work being shared around the world, Adiba admits that “it still feels a little surreal.” Her dreams of being a writer when she was younger seemed to rely on her writing about straight white characters with whom she shared few experiences. Those were some of the only stories that she saw published or have mainstream success. “It was hard for me to imagine a world where someone like me could be writing stories about people like me.” 

In the future, she hopes that The Henna Wars can allow queer brown girls to see a reflection of themselves in its pages, and that it can open doors for more queer brown people to write and publish more of their own stories. 

For those that have enjoyed the latest book-to-movie adaptations like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before or Crazy Rich Asians, Adiba shares that she would love to see The Henna Wars adapted for the big screen in the future. Especially if the potential adaptation stays true to the ethnicities of the characters.

As of now, Adiba is revising her second novel, which will be out from Page Street in spring 2021. It’s another YA romantic comedy which follows two girls—one Bangladeshi Bengali and one Indian Bengali—who have to start a fake relationship in order to achieve what they want. 

Have you entered our Instagram giveaway yet? And if you absolutely cannot wait, get The Henna Wars on Amazon or on The Tempest’s own virtual bookshop supporting local bookstores.
Best Friends Forever Life

I’m a hypocrite for this, but I hate exclusive friendships

I remember all throughout elementary school I had a core friend group of four. We were best friends and we didn’t really interact with anyone else. I guess you could say we were exclusive. Of course, we would have other friends, but we made it pretty clear that it was us four against the world. The group did change – every year, it was with another group of four, until 7th grade, when I moved to Texas. Soon enough though, I formed new friendships that I thought would last a lifetime. Now, I am completely lost in my Junior year after quitting band and having three of my best friends move schools.

You’d think I would’ve easily moved on, I’ve never really had trouble making new friends, but this year was different. Before COVID-19 hit, I bounced around between larger friend groups within my school, and never really found a place where I felt like I belonged. Band was the perfect place for me. I felt accepted for being me. But now, I don’t know if anyone I’m friends with even likes me anymore. Or maybe my mind is just making things up.

High school in America is incredibly socially awkward, which makes everything a thousand times worse.

There’s so much drama, especially when you don’t have the support of a core group. This person hates that person, that person has a crush on this person, you can’t be friends with him because he’s a guy– rumors circulate, and it’s all a bit hard to keep up with.

Recently, I have come to realize just how much I hate the exclusivity of some friendship groups. I guess I’ve never really felt what it’s like to be on the outside – it’s no fun at all. Exclusive friendships leave people out and cause a lot of unnecessary pain. Now I’m the one being left out of my “group,” and it obviously doesn’t feel great. I do think it’s important to have people who really ground you and know everything about you. However, the close-mindedness of some friendships is just too much sometimes.

You can be exclusive and still accept others and be friends with different groups of people.

Sometimes, I like making friends with everyone and having only one specific person in my life who I know will always be there outside of my family. But other times, I miss feeling like I belong to a distinct group. I miss knowing that no one else would interfere with those bonds and relationships we’ve created. I’m being pulled in all these different directions, and I hate it. It all seems kind of trivial. However, I’ve learned a lot from this past year of not having my core group anymore.

I’ve learned that being open-minded is incredibly important. I’ve learned that I should try to be more accepting of others, even if I don’t know them very well. I’ve learned to stop worrying about what others are thinking of me (which is a work in progress). Most of all, I’ve learned that everything is transient – and that friendships and group dynamics change– sometimes they fade away. I’m learning to be okay with that.

TV Shows Pop Culture

“Never Have I Ever” on Netflix is an amazing representation of coming of age as an Indian American

We all know how hard it is to be a teen.

After classic John Hughes movies and Disney Channel original shows, it has been established that teenage angst and adolescent awkwardness would always be a sweet spot for viewers of all ages. But Netflix is giving the teenage experience a new spin these days. With movies like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Beforeand shows like On My Block, the streaming platform has been giving us a peek into the experience of growing up as a minority in contemporary America, and Mindy Kaling’s newest comedy teen show Never Have I Ever has officially joined the ranks.

Never Have I Ever follows Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), a first-generation Indian American teen and her plan to finally get a boyfriend in her sophomore year of high school. Sounds like an easy plan, right? But throw in some personal trauma, her exploration of her identity as an Indian American, a seemingly fruitless crush, a petty high school rivalry and some wonderful but sometimes clueless best friends, Devi’s plan might backfire so so bad, but it provides for a wholesome story about teenage angst, first love, beautiful friendships and family relationships.

[Image Description: Three girls sit at a table hugging each other, smiling, with their eyes closed] Via Netflix
[Image Description: Three girls sit at a table hugging each other, smiling, with their eyes closed] Via Netflix
Mindy Kaling‘s image as an actress often makes people forget what a good writer she is. The show, created by Kaling and Lang Fisher is so snappy, the comedy is so fresh and I burned through the 10 episode series so fast. I’ve not had this much fun while watching a show in recent times. But then I also realized why, the show made me genuinely happy, a strange intrinsic joy in looking at this Tamil, Indian girl walk around and do normal things and have normal teenage problems. Those of us who grew up in the various countries of the vast South Asian community and diaspora are often connected by experience if not our exact identity, and there’s something so beautiful about a show that reminds me both of how similar and different I am to this 15-year-old (or I was, thinking back to 15-years-old me growing up in Sri Lanka).

Devi is a delight to watch. She’s angry and rude at times, but also kind and understanding. She’s ridiculously funny – especially when she tries to walk in heels in an attempt to reinvent herself – and the show isn’t afraid to poke fun at its protagonist… but never at the cost of her identity. It shouldn’t be a pleasant surprise to me, but you know how easy it would have been to have a bunch of racist high school bullies make her life hard and center all the drama around them and call it a day?

In the first episode of the show, Devi confronts her arch-nemesis Ben about how he calls her and her best friends Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez) and Eleanor (Ramona Young) “the U.N.”, a term that Devi calls racist. Ben looks surprised – not defensive, makes a lot of difference – and reveals that the UN doesn’t denote United Nations (as Devi assumes) but rather “Unfuckable Nerds.” Now an insult is an insult, and Ben is still horrible, but there is a twisted relief in knowing that the character is being mean, but not racist. The show understands the nuances on microaggressions, but doesn’t dwell on it for long. Devi’s identity is an integral part of her journey, but it isn’t the axis that the plot or tension revolves around.

[Image Description: Three women, wearing saris are looking at each other, smiling] Via Netflix
[Image Description: Three women, wearing saris are looking at each other, smiling] Via Netflix
While Devi’s romantic and high school life looms around in the background, in the crux of the show is her relationship with her mother. Once again, it would have been easy to portray Nalini (Poorna Jagannathan) as insensitive or semi antagonistic, but instead, we get a grieving wife and mother who is trying to keep her family intact after her husband’s untimely demise. There’s a desperation to her character, whether it be in attempting to be faithful to her culture or trying to instill the values in Devi, but even when Devi retaliates, the show never writes off Nalini as forceful in her attempts. The mother and daughter often misunderstand each other, but there’s so much love, so much shared pain that eventually bonds the duo no matter their differences.

The rest of the cast is so diverse, wonderfully fleshed out, and equally delightful. Eleanor and Fabi – Devi’s best friends – are so loyal and supportive yet aren’t afraid to call on her bullshit when she deserves it. Kamala (Richa Moorjani), Devi’s PhD student cousin from India, has her own thread of love and marriage going on in the backdrop and while I have my qualms with western media portrayals of South Asian arranged marriages, the way Kamala’s story was juxtaposed with Devi’s own love drama was so brilliant and illuminating.

The show isn’t perfect, it does fall into some teen rom-com cliches – but why not? Why not have a perfectly cliche and fun rom-com with an Indian lead? – and it might not be relatable to every Indian or South Asian, but I think after years of waiting to watch a mainstream show or movie where a South Asian’s teen’s highs and lows are so normalized, Never Have I Ever is not just a breath of fresh air, it’s also such an important step.

The South Asian community is so vast and so diverse, we are never all going to relate to one another in the exact same way, and for now, I am filled with joy and satisfaction after witnessing a very specific and individual story of a Indian American teen growing up in California suburb, and hoping that Devi’s story paves the path for many many more.

Standoms Books Pop Culture

Confession: I haven’t read books for fun since I was in 8th grade

One of my biggest obsessions used to be reading books. I was that typical fangirl “tween” who even wrote for a fandom magazine at one point. Hearing about all these different stories and worlds was exhilarating and I just got so involved with them. Picking up a good book, reading it all the way through in one sitting, and getting invested in the characters and plot was so easy for me. I would cry with the characters and throw my book across the floor when the author killed someone I liked.

Books were my thing.

From Harry Potter to Divergent, I was one of the most passionate readers you’d ever meet. I even used to write a bit of fanfiction, if I were to be completely transparent. In fact, I attribute my writing journey beginning to 8th grade journalism. However, it actually started before then in 6th grade when I started writing about my favorite books. And most of the kids at my school would make fun of me if I ever told them. Right off the bat, I think it would be kind of unfair to attribute all of why I stopped reading to just academics taking over. I will say this – judgemental teens suck. That didn’t stop me throughout middle school from reading the cheesiest, best Wattpad and YA stories ever. But, it did in high school.

In addition, once I started high school, academic reading became increasingly important, and reading quickly became more of a chore. At first, I still read novels to keep me sane in between all of it, because here’s the thing. Academic reading can be BORING. But as I progressed through high school, the readings became harder, the time became smaller, and the leisure reading became nonexistent. Going to the school library to check out a book is unheard of at my school, much less taking the time to go to a public one. I think this stigma around reading at my school actually stemmed from the fact that everyone cares so much about getting into college.

Reading a YA book can’t possibly get you into Harvard, right?

But, I think it totally can. Reading is an incredibly valuable experience. It can teach understanding, acceptance, and other values that you just can’t get from anywhere else. Books contain thousands of new words that you’ve never heard before. They have rhetorical strategies (that DO NOT need to be analyzed so in-depth in my opinion). In academic reading, we tend to read too much into the book, which makes it so unbelievably boring. But when you read simply because you want to read, there is so much more to gain, as your brain is also more invested.

I do miss reading a lot though. I want to go back to reading the best YA novels I’ve ever read and dressing up as Hermione from Harry Potter and simply enjoying living in a different world. Reading was kind of an escape for me, and I need that escape now more than ever. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get back to it while in quarantine.

For now, I’ve amounted to reading digital magazines, news publications, and, of course, the books that are assigned to us in school. There’s nothing wrong with any of these, and if it’s your style, you should definitely check out some great digital magazines. However, for me, reading was about romance, fantasy, and the stories that just won’t appear in a news publication or a magazine, or even an academic book. Reading was about the things I dreamed of and the things I desired. It wasn’t ever about why the author chose to write a capital ‘S’ rather than a lowercase ‘s’. Ultimately, reading still is and will always be one of my most favorite things to do in the whole world, but I just don’t do it anymore with a real, 500-page hardcover book. But you should.

Have YOU submitted your book nominations for our Reading Challenge yet? Hurry up, you only have until April 30!

Culture Life

I grew up shy and afraid. This is how I became confident.

As someone with a very big family, I grew up with a collection of nicknames.

“Erry-Scary” and “Twiggy” were the two that stuck, though all of these nicknames alluded to the fact that I was a very small child. I was small not, only in stature, but in temperament as well. I was (and still am) very shy.

The term “shy” is defined as being nervous or timid in the company of other people. This definition makes sense because that’s exactly what happens to me in new social situations. I am overwhelmed and my prefrontal cortex seems to abandon me in new relationships, taking my confidence and ability to speak with it! I typically slip into the background and quietly observe. I become quite small.

My shyness is something I’ve grappled with for most of my life, not only because it makes navigating life somewhat challenging but because I am constantly labeled it. Shyness is not a new concept and I can confidently say that everyone has experienced it at some point in their lives. It really is normal.

But, why then, are we viewed as being less capable or “less than” when compared to those who either don’t get shy or are simply better at hiding it?

This label made high school an infuriating experience for me. I attended a small private school in South Africa. Like so many others, my school seemed to hold loudness and confidence at the top of their criteria for what supposedly makes a good leader. Leadership was recognized with titles like captain, head of house or a prefect. High school felt a bit like a race in this way – competing to be the best, the fastest, the most charismatic. As an overachieving perfectionist, I nothing more than to be one of those three things. But the reality was that those positions had already been filled within the first month of school, the race merely a show to make it look fair. 

By the time I was in my final year, I had begrudgingly accepted that I had been placed in a box labeled “shy.”

Unfortunately, this box meant that I supposedly didn’t have what it took to lead and I was never made captain or a prefect.

Funnily enough, though, I was made head of house (much to everyone’s surprise). Head of house was the “ugly stepsister” of leadership roles. Our job was to create spirit and organize inter-house events. It was a big responsibility but it wasn’t announced in an assembly like the others. A few of us were nominated by our peers and the leaders were chosen by a show of hands.

Prior to this, I had been flirting with a very cute boy in the year below me. This particular boy belonged to the box labeled “cheeky and confident” and when he put up his hand to vote for me, everyone seemed to follow. Before I knew it, it was announced that I was head of house.

My best friend and I found this to be completely hilarious.

I had rigged the system without any effort at all. What at first seemed like a bit of a joke, turned out to be something I absolutely loved. I was never going to be the girl who stood in front of 100 children screaming, “we’ve got spirit yes we do!”

But I was the girl that managed to get every kid to their sports event on time. I was the girl who organized and made hundreds of costumes and float decorations. I was the girl that people felt safe coming to when they were uncomfortable or uneasy. I was a good leader…much to my surprise!

Looking back, this shouldn’t have been such a shock to me.

I like being in control and helping others achieve something and I have always been this way. But in high school, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t deserve that position or that “Erry-Scary” wasn’t and wouldn’t be enough. I had internalized all of the negative connotations that had come to be associated with my timid nature.

We need to challenge the assumptions we make about shy people; those who are labeled and categorized as quiet and “less than” because we are so much more. We are the ones who listen and who watch – we take in all the nuances.

It’s high time we began embracing these qualities in people instead of forcing them into boxes we are clearly too big for.

Culture Family Life Stories Wellness Life

High school social norms CAN end

I had a hard time as a teenager in school. In fact, I think that’s putting it lightly.  As I was going through it at the time, I always focused on a light at the end of the tunnel. One day all of it would be over. This became the torch I carried with me through six years of general non-stop embarrassment.  As I got older, though, I slowly began to realize that wasn’t the case. The high school films of old made it look so easy. You take off your braces and you became an adult and the past would fall away like a dead weight. Needless to say, I was very wrong.

There were a couple of issues that made my educational journey a difficult one. The first was the feeling of being overlooked. My sister and I went to the same high school, though not for very long. With five years between us, she was always on the way out just as I was coming in. She was everything I wasn’t; tough, popular, witty, able to command respect without even trying. So long was her shadow, that year after she graduated people would still come up to me and ask if I was her sister. My actual name never factored into the conversation.

My second problem was another thing that was completely out of my control; my face. Everyone knows that the years of adolescence are years of upheaval and transition. Your body is doing things it has never done before. But something I don’t think is discussed enough is how much your face changes during this period. It slowly starts to take on the contours of what you’ll look like in young adulthood. It’s often unsettling and confusing. Having people call you ugly right in front of you definitely doesn’t help matters either. Nevertheless, that’s what happened to me, over and over again. It goes without saying that it did lasting and profound damage to my self-esteem which I am still trying to address and heal to this day.

Almost ten years separate my adolescent self and young adult self. Still, I revert back to my fifteen-year-old body and mind when I run into a classmate that was part of a social hierarchy that I never had access to and still don’t.  There are clear lines, after all, this time between those who are cool and those who aren’t. It’s quite clear which side I fall on.  I wish I could say that once I exited my high school campus for the last time it ceased to matter to me, but that would be a lie.

The recent Christmas vacation brought all these conflicting emotions into focus for me. I went back home. The familiar faces were everywhere and the work I have done to rid myself of lingering feelings of inadequacy and poor self-esteem was put to the test. I usually try to avoid places where I know there will be a large congregation of ex-classmates, but I chose not to do that anymore. I determined to start doing things and addressing things that make me uncomfortable. It’s through this discomfort that I know I’m growing. I simply cannot hide anymore. I suppose I could, technically. But I won’t and didn’t.

This isn’t to say I was a perfect person in high school. That was never the case. I made some wonderful friends during this period of my life. I learned to be resilient and not to run away from my problems, but to find ways to cope with them, some less healthy than others. It isn’t even to say I was a particularly kind person either. I could be petulant, annoying, hurtful and spoiled. It’s easy to make yourself the protagonist in your story because the only perspective that’s readily available is yours. However, what sets me apart is that I am well aware of this. Not only that, I made strides to grow mentally and spiritually. I wanted to be able to look back and see how different I was, in a good way.  High school may never end for some people in their quest to preserve the strict sects of social groupings (to what end? I don’t know) but for me, moving into a new decade and a new chapter in my life, it finally has.

Gender & Identity Life

I am a dog person, but I’m terrified of meeting new dogs

If you look at any photo of me before I was 16 years old, I could likely be spotted fawning over a dog. Not my dog — any dog would do, as I thought they were all perfect angels and much better than humans. This all changed when I was 16 years old, not because I randomly became a cat person, but because of trauma. I had a traumatic experience with a dog that has left me feeling like I have been drowning for the past four years. It also made me afraid of meeting many new dogs, particularly big dogs.

On Halloween in 2014, my friends and I had decided to go Trick-or-Treating for the last time ever. Sure, we may have been too old, but this was still a fun tradition. I would have done anything to go back in time and decide not to go out. I dressed up as a Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, and my dog Terry was Toto. We, my dog and I, had this group costume for five years. It was perfect, as she was the same breed, a Cairn Terrier, as the dog that played Toto. These two dogs looked like carbon copies of each other.

We walked up to a house, which must have been located less than 10 minutes away from where I lived at the time. It seemed like a normal house with, what I thought then, a Newfoundland who wanted to play with my dog. I asked the owner if the dog was friendly, and I let my dog walk up. Terry was the friendliest dog ever. This is not an exaggeration at all. Terry, on more than one occasion, had jumped into cars when she had the chance to meet “new friends.”

Terry ran up, excited to meet this new friend. I would be lying if I tried to tell you the precise details of what happened next because I can’t. I remember the bigger dog grabbing Terry, her screams, my friends and I pulling her away, and us running away. What I can remember next is me being drenched in her blood. I remember telling Terry, my best friend that she was such a good dog. Then she passed away less than a minute after I told her this.

To be blatant, I was a wreck for the next six months. I couldn’t sleep. Well, for more than three hours a night, which felt like nothing. My nightmares were terrible, but the flashbacks I had when I was awake were just as bad. At the same time, I had somewhat of an identity crisis. Before this experience, I was a proud believer of the idea that dogs were better than humans, and anyone who said anything different was wrong. Well, that dog that killed my best friend was capable of being violent like any human. I still love dogs after losing my dog at the hands of a  violent one, and I even have a dog now, but I’m afraid of meeting new dogs.

I should not have had to deal with this experience. But, on the only bright side, it made me understand what trauma can do to a person better. I should never have judged people for not liking dogs, as I don’t know what others have been through. By looking at me, people don’t know what I’ve been through either.

Roughly five months after losing Terry, my family got a Havanese named Lucky. Yes, he’s the light of my life, but he’s also a replacement for Terry, and I can’t detach my relationship with Lucky from that. One thing is for sure, I won’t let Lucky play with bigger dogs, as I’m so afraid to lose him too. I see the look that owners give me, trying to assure me that their dog is friendly, but I can’t trust them. I was told that once before, and then I was covered in my dying dog’s blood. I love dogs, I always will, but my relationship with them is different. I don’t like this, but I shouldn’t judge myself for trauma has changed me as a person, as it changes everyone.

Gender & Identity Life Stories Life

The girl I thought was my best friend tried to ruin my life

When I started high school, I met a girl almost nine years older than me. In the beginning, I was very social and could adjust to any environment easily but everything changed once I met her.

One second she would be friendly and the next she would utter bad words, hating and criticizing others but always indirectly. At the beginning of our friendship, she treated me like her little sister and I used to think of her as an older sibling. But eventually, I saw that she didn’t care who she was insulting, even if it was someone close to her.  

She had the habit of getting jealous of every single person around her which led to tense situations with many people but we were still best friends. She would indirectly fight with others, but it was a proxy war where I was constantly in the middle. She would demoralize, ignore and treat people horribly. Then, at some point, she decided that I was superior to her and she turned against me.

She started degrading me at every step when teachers’ demonstrated favoritism towards me. She would talk bad about me to others and discuss my grades with them, even if I had higher scores than she.

It didn’t bother me at first. I was happy and had problems with others. But, eventually, things went upside down. Her backstabbing was starting to bother me.

When was she talking about me? Who with? Why?

I had no answers. I attempted to ignore her actions but eventually accepted defeat. Human beings cannot bear disgrace for long without starting to suffer. I struggled for almost a whole semester.  

Her bad mouthing started to change my behavior. I began isolating myself. I started taking her remarks seriously and I lost confidence in myself. I cut relations with people. I stopped talking to everyone and made my own little depressing world where I was all alone and didn’t allow anyone to step inside.

She had the ability to be nice to everyone when she wanted to, but I couldn’t. I pulled away from everyone because of what she did. This semester almost took everything from me: my social circle, my confidence, my ability to stand up for myself.

Later, I realized the importance of others who I had ignored and fought to come out of the dark place I was in. I started getting back to normal with the help of books and one good friend. They helped me while I was going through the worst of it.

I now understand that hiding yourself from negative people is not the solution to the problem. That response is how you lose and they win. I almost lost to myself. Don’t permit them to control you.