Up and Coming Pop Culture

Here’s why Nitasha Syed’s talk show “Shaam Ki Chai” is bound to be your cup of tea

If you ask me for the one thing I look forward to every single day without fail, it’s sipping on my mug of chai as I sit outside in my garden, listening to the birds chirp away and watching the sun give off a golden glow to bid farewell. Sometimes my mother will join me and will occasionally comment on the peacefulness of it all. Other days, my friends will come over and we’ll catch up, laugh, cry and just have some glorious moments while we hold on to a steaming cup of chai.

As a desi person, a mug of piping hot tea in evening (or having my “shaam ki chai”) is so much more than just that. It’s an elixir of comfort, love and warmth (literal and figurative) to wind down from getting through another day. It has become such an integral part of our lives that, regardless of who we’re with or where we are, we can’t imagine the day ever being complete without it.

Pakistani-Canadian entrepreneur Nitasha Syed had the same sentiment, and it motivated her to create her digital talk show, aptly titled “Shaam Ki Chai.” The show highlights Pakistanis around the world doing amazing things and having light-hearted conversations with them… over a cup of chai while embodying its warmth in the content.

Image Description: Shaam Ki Chai’s logo on the left, with Nitasha Syed’s picture on the right. Source: Dope Desi Team
Image Description: Shaam Ki Chai’s logo on the left, with Nitasha Syed’s picture on the right. Source: Dope Desi Team

In an Instagram Live with our co-founder Mashal, Nitasha talked about her journey of becoming a software engineer in Silicon Valley, and how the lack of representation about Muslim Women in STEM careers inspired her to enter the media space. Watch the conversation here.

However, when COVID-19 hit and she was “sitting at home with all the filming equipment,” inspiration came to her. She created the recording set in the patio of her own house, and asked her friends and family to tell their stories in a conversation over a cup of tea. And that’s how “Shaam Ki Chai” came to be.

I think nothing encapsulates what the show is all about better than her opening line

“Having chai is like having a heart to heart with someone without realising you’re having a heart to heart with them. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the last few months with the Pakistani diaspora all over the world.”

While your average talk show is filmed in a carefully constructed set, with footage undergoing copious amounts of visual and audio editing in order to be presented perfectly, Shaam Ki Chai has none of that. And I think that’s what adds to its perfection.

The show is filmed in Nitasha’s own backyard patio, and wherever the guest is filming from. There is no editing of any sort; you can hear birds chirping, cars whizzing by and even the occasional airplane flying overhead. It’s as authentic as you can get, and it truly does fit with, as the kids say, the vibe it aims to give.

If you’re a 90s kid like me (hey fellow millennials!), you’d find the show almost nostalgic. However, the topics discussed are very relevant in today’s age and stage. Guests who have appeared on the show talk about tackling imposter syndrome, culture and identity, startups, navigating their respective fields and challenges, and fond memories of Pakistan that they carry with them.

Nitasha mentioned how she wanted to talk about all these topics without the negativity that often saturates Pakistani talk shows.

In the Instagram live, Nitasha very rightfully pointed out that conversations at home are heavily influenced by what the media focuses on. “Media affects our perspectives,” she said. “That’s why it’s so important to highlight these stories.”

Nitasha features CEOs, tech leaders, journalists and any Pakistani who’s making waves on weekly episodes. Some featured people include Kalsoom Lakhani (co-founder of I2I Ventures), Ali Ahsan (founder of Mangobaaz) and Abu Bakar Khan (founder of Diaspora Creative).

You can watch the episodes on their official Youtube Channel and their Instagram. I promise you it will definitely be your cup of tea, along with a literal steaming cup of one.

I’m the desi girl who will never refuse chai at any given time of the day. It looks like I’ll be having it twice a day from now on.

Check out our Instagram live with Nitasha here

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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.