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This is how Desi creatives have revolutionized Mehendi

This Eid ul Fitr was the second time the festivities were held under a strict lockdown due to the global pandemic. My mom and I were once again tasked with applying Mehendi on each other’s hands the night before Eid. A task we would have – under ordinary circumstances – delegated to someone far more skilled.   

The first step was choosing a design. Since neither of us happened to be seasoned experts in applying Mehendi (my mom initially struggled with how to hold the henna cone), we resorted to scrolling through the Instagram Mehendi tag, waiting for inspiration to strike. We were immediately bombarded with a flurry of designs – Arabic Mehendi, different colors, glitter, stamps, stickers, and paisleys.

As midnight drew near, we sat in our living room, combing through endless content and rejecting each other’s picks. In the midst of all this, I pulled up Dr. Azra’s Instagram account. For those unfamiliar with her work, Dr. Azra has a verified Instagram platform of over 126,000 followers where she is most known for her ‘minimalist Mehendi art’, a phrase that many traditionalists would reckon to be an oxymoron.

This incredible demand for more of her work prompted the Mehendi artist to start her own brand of henna cones and stencils. Her artwork has been featured in exhibitions and renowned publications including Vogue and Allure, and she has even hosted workshops where she teaches the unique, often geometric, brand of Mehendi designs that have become synonymous with her name. She is biannually tagged in thousands of ‘inspired by @dr.azra’ Instagram stories before both Eids. 

Five posts of simple henna designs on a hand and one post advertising a henna cone and stencil kit in a box.
[Image Description: Five posts of simple henna designs on a hand and one post advertising a henna cone and stencil kit in a box. ] Via Dr.Azra on Instagram
Needless to say, I’m a huge fan. My mom? Not so much.

Not only did my mom make a face at every design of Dr. Azra’s when I tried to coax her into imitating her designs, but she couldn’t understand why anyone would want to have simple geometric patterns and lines temporarily tattooed onto their hands. Meanwhile, I found myself steering clear of the intricate designs that came up with images of fully decked-out brides (I had pretty realistic expectations of my Mehendi design abilities) and felt drawn to the more simplistic variants of Mehendi designs.

So, instead of drawing the poor-man’s-version of Arabic Mehendi or a chess-board imprint on our hands, we met in the middle and settled on a simple floral design.

Two hands with floral Mehendi patterns applied placed across from each other on a checkered background
[Image Description: Two hands with floral Mehendi patterns applied placed across from each other on a checkered background] Via Izzah Khan
Mehendi has been around for centuries, with its earliest use documented in Egypt where it was used to nourish hair and stain fingernails. It was then adopted by people in India (the subcontinent, not the present-day political state) and used for body art. Mehendi has even become synonymous with South Asian wedding ceremonies, where henna is applied to the hands and sometimes the feet of the bride pre-wedding reception. It is also a big part of chand raat (moon night) culture for Muslims, which is the name given to the night before Eid, when most of the prep for the festivities of the following day take place.

However, the chand raat experience with my mom did leave me wondering why our tastes regarding a centuries-old tradition happen to be so diametrically opposed. A reason I settled on was how desi creatives of recent times have been successful in reclaiming parts of their culture they were largely ostracized for growing up.

I remember being told to scrub my hands clean to fade the Mehendi faster after returning to school from our Eid break. This happened whilst living in Pakistan, when I attended a school where the majority of the population were Muslims who celebrated Eid. Still, we were taught that something so ingrained in our culture was not part of our uniform. We have been told henna tattoos look unprofessional, or mocked for how Mehendi smells. This has more to do with how we equate whiteness to professionalism and propriety than with anything wrong on our part. Despite how often I get made fun of for linking everything back to colonization, this too is derivative of it.

[Image Description: Mughal-era painting depicting an Indian man and Indian woman with Mehendi patterns adorning her hands and feet.] Via
Mughal-era Painting depicting an Indian woman with Mehendi on her hands.
[Image Description: Mughal-era Painting depicting an Indian woman with Mehendi on her hands.] Via
Nowadays, Mehendi has become far more mainstream and garnered the white-people-stamp-of-approval. I’ve scrolled past videos of natural redheads applying henna to their hair for vibrancy and the added health benefits (known to us of course, for centuries), TikTok influencers showing us how to use henna cones to draw on fake freckles and temporary tattoos, with their videos raking in hundreds of thousands of views.

In reclaiming our culture, desi creatives brought forth a new era of Mehendi, essentially breathing new life into a tradition that had otherwise seen little innovation over the past couple of decades. This trend of minimalist Mehendi is an act of defiance and rebellion, just as much as it is one of celebration.

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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.

20 things we totally need to stop doing at South Asian weddings

No one does weddings quite like South Asians. Desi weddings are multiple-event affairs that not even Bollywood can fully grasp the magic of. And that magic is apparent whether you’re on the Indian subcontinent or not.

When it comes to getting married, we Desis go bigger, harder, and wilder.

However, that isn’t always a good thing. Desis love their traditions, but there comes a time when you need to realize that some practices should be put to rest. The way your grandmother did things might no longer be feasible. What worked back in the motherland might no longer be affordable. South Asian weddings are one of the most fantastic displays of family, food, and festival. But there are a few things that need to change before we lose our reputation as the world’s best wedding revelers.

1. Inviting everyone and their mother— literally.


The average South Asian wedding has around 500-600 people. That number can surpass 1,000 back on the subcontinent! When I said I was only having 350 guests at my own, multiple people told me it was impossible. Desis literally can’t even comprehend having a (relatively) smaller wedding. But the economy is down and wedding prices are up, especially in the US. I told my parents that I was not, under any circumstances, going to invite people who don’t even know my name, let alone have any interest in my wedding past the food. Having a more intimate wedding with more invested guests results in a better time for everyone.

2. Feeling entitled to an invitation.


Since I got engaged three years ago, way too many people have asked me or my parents about my wedding… when they aren’t even on our B-list. Talk about awkwaaard!

I recently found out that a distant relative is even planning on buying clothes for my wedding; this person has never even invited either of my parents over for dinner! And then there are all the stories I’ve heard of people actually picking a fight with someone because they weren’t invited to their kid’s wedding. I blame this on my previous point: we’ve built a culture of invite expectation.

Well, not everyone can afford 800 guests. Nor should they. If you actually care about the newlywed couple but didn’t get an invite, keep your mouth shut and send a gift.

3. Neglecting to read or RSVP to an invitation.


For all the fuss that Desis make about receiving an invitation, they sure don’t seem to think much of actually reading it. You should not be asking me where or when a wedding is on the day of. That’s what refrigerator magnets are for! Invitations also have information about dress code, registries, and parking.

And RSVPs are not optional!

If you show up without one, your hosts will be scrambling to find you a chair and a plate. So, at the very least, make your kid call or go online to let them know whether or not you’ll be coming.

4. Bringing along an uninvited friend or family member.


This one’s my worst fear because it happens at every wedding. I’ve told my parents, as well as my fiancé’s, that I will have someone checking the guest list at the door of every event. Anyone not on it will be turned away. “But that’s so rude!” they said. No, it isn’t. Showing up at a wedding you weren’t invited to is.

I don’t care if your cousin or your childhood friend or your mother-in-law’s niece’s husband is visiting. They weren’t invited, and some rando showing up is extremely unfair to the bride or groom’s cousin or childhood friend or mother-in-law’s niece’s husband that was cut from the list. Either decline the wedding invite or leave them at home with the Netflix password.

I’m sure they’ll understand.


Man throws out cash
via Giphy

Ah, the cash grab.

Look, I totally understand why you wouldn’t want to deal with loading a hundred different packages into your car and figuring out how to get them to the couple’s home. But “no boxed gifts” is honestly a kind of tacky thing to write on an invitation unless you have a wedding registry. And it’s about time South Asians discovered this fabulous innovation for gift-giving. Registries don’t have to be for just items, either— you can give guests the option to pay for parts of your honeymoon or donate to your favorite charity in your name!

6. Showing up late.


Desi Standard Time is an integral part of South Asian life. But there are times when it stops being cute. In addition to having a curfew, some wedding venues will also charge you extra for overtime. And late guests result in delayed ceremonies, speeches, and food. Show some consideration for your gracious hosts, and show up on time so that everything stays on schedule.

7. Not showing up at all.


This is way more common at weddings than at regular parties or dinners, probably because people figure that the hosts won’t notice their absence at such a big event. But, trust me, they notice. And it’s seriously rude.

Weddings are expensive, and South Asian weddings are in a league of their own cost-wise. If you truly can’t make it after already RSVP-ing ‘yes,’ let your hosts know so that they can give your place to someone else or at least tell their vendors so that they aren’t charged.

8. Ignoring seating arrangements.


Much to my excitement, more and more desi weddings are utilizing seating arrangements. And as a guest, you should abide by them! Without seating arrangements, people have a hard time finding a table for their entire party to sit together. Chairs get shuffled, people get squished, and the layout becomes very uneven and unpleasant to look at. Just trust the organizers’ judgment, and feel free to move around after dinner is served.

9. Ignoring the emcee.


The emcee is there to conduct the evening and make sure things run smoothly. If you don’t listen to them, you have no one but yourself to blame when the party becomes a bore. If you’re being asked to quiet down, please quiet down. If you’re being asked to put away your cameras, put your phone down and pay attention.

If you’re being asked to get on the floor and dance, either get your bhangra moves ready or encourage the person next to you. Keep in mind that the emcee’s requests are usually coming from the couple themselves, so do it for the two people you’re there to celebrate.

10. No rehearsals whatsoever.


Desis don’t have rehearsal dinners because the night before is almost always spent at another wedding event. But wedding organizers need to start at least having a quick run-through of the itinerary, who’s walking when and where, the order of speakers, dances, etc.

There was a mishap at one wedding I attended where the emcee announced the wrong names during family entrances! Last minute changes and additions are never a good idea. Discuss a plan beforehand and stick to it.

11. Talking during the ceremony and speeches.

Two birds talking
via Giphy

Just stop. Please. It’s extremely disrespectful, and the person you’re talking to can wait until dinner. Even though you probably just spoke last week. Or even last night.

12. Horrible speakers.


I’ve got a rule for my own wedding. Only two to three speakers for each side, max. My fiancé and I will specifically ask certain people, and they will be given up to two minutes. No one wants to hear my college BFF blubbering about my generosity and how I’m basically a sister and always there for her. Get a funny friend or the cousin with the best anecdotes, so that your audience isn’t falling asleep or going back to discussing girls for Simran’s son who just graduated medical school.

And know your parents. If your dad has a tendency to ramble or your mom has stage fright, encourage them to stick to a quick ‘thank you’. Your guests will appreciate it.

13. Serving the food late.


Make sure you hire caterers with good experience and a solid track record. If you’re running behind schedule, that only means the caterers have even more time to set up. Guests should not be milling about and start to curse you under their breath. While you hope they’re not there just for the food, you do want to make sure they’re fed well and on time. And, for the love of whatever is holy to you, please make sure the food isn’t cold!

14. Rushing the buffet.


Again, listen to the emcee, people! Wait until your table is called, and everyone will get their food much faster. Cutting in line is also not okay. You’re there to celebrate the happy couple, not to stuff your face. Desis are so bad about this that at a friend’s wedding, guests caught a glimpse of the buffet and ran to get food during the cake-cutting ceremony!

15. Taking more food than necessary.


Don’t be a glutton. If the food is a buffet, you can almost always get seconds, so stop loading your plate like you’re going to feed your entire table. Have some decorum!

16. Complaining if the food isn’t South Asian.


You eat desi food at home every night. You probably had desi food at the event last night. If there happens to be Chinese or Italian served at one event, appreciate having a variety for once in your life, and eat it. You’ll live.

17. Taking photos on stage with every. single. family.


Receiving lines make sense at weddings where the guest list is under 150 people. But when you have 600 guests from about 200 families, you’re just wasting everyone’s time and torturing the poor couple. Stopping to take a photo with each family that comes up to say hello is even more baffling to me. Out of the dozens of weddings I’ve attended throughout my life, I have only seen the stage photo from about five or six of them. And the worst part is the boredom the guests have to suffer through as everyone else takes their turn.

18. Letting children run amok.


South Asians need to learn about child-free weddings. I recognize this is a far-off dream, but the least you can do is leave the hall with your screaming kid so that you don’t disrupt the ceremony. And please keep them from running onto the stage or dance floor. No one wants to trip or have a random kid in their photos.

19. Harassing the DJ.


Chances are, you’re not more qualified than the guy behind the booth to control the playlist. Even if you were, you can’t just disrupt what they’ve already discussed with the family beforehand. And don’t even think about asking him for the microphone for your impromptu speech! Yes, I’ve actually seen it happen before. Stick to the dance floor or your seat, and leave the DJ alone.

20. Ogling the bride.


The bride is the star of the wedding in almost every culture, but South Asian brides go through a special kind of torture. Aunties will gawk at the bride and pick apart her appearance like she’s cattle for purchase.

As a South Asian bride, you get judged on your clothes, your makeup, your jewelry, and how much it all probably cost. Rather than being happy for the couple, guests speculate whether or not they’re a good enough match – usually looks-wise – but if you’re not gifted in terms of appearance, a career in the holy trinity (law, engineering, medicine) is good enough.

I don’t expect these things to change with one article or even with one generation. In fact, these aren’t even changes that need to be made, so much as improvements. South Asian weddings are some of the most vibrant celebrations in the world, and the issues that I’ve raised here are only holding us back. We need to make our weddings more about love and less about pageantry.

And we need to start serving the food on time.

Science Now + Beyond

Is henna actually safe for you to use?

You either love or hate the smell of henna, and I love it.

For me, it has only ever meant good times. My earliest memories of henna entail weddings, moon sighting parties before Eid, and my mom trying to teach white kids about our culture by bringing something fun to school. Friends of mine have said on separate occasions that it smells like Christmas and, while I don’t know exactly what this means, it is certainly a positive association.

So what a surprise it was when I learned that there were instances where people had in fact been harmed by henna.

Maybe you have an aversion to the smell and stain sure, it’s not for everyone, or maybe you don’t want to wear it for fear of drawing unwanted attention at work. But allergic reactions? Those were new to me.

And then I heard about black henna which is a very real and potentially harmful concern.

Right now in the United States, it’s wedding season, and part of wedding season is lots of henna.

But what about black henna? What is it exactly? How does it work, what’s the science behind it, and should you be concerned?

Henna in its most basic form is actually relatively conditioning on the body.

It is made by grinding up the leaves of the henna plant and mixing them up with water and a mildly acidic liquid like black tea to form a paste. It is only after this paste is made that the leaves will release lawsone, which is key to the stain. Lawsone is a red-orange pigment, and when henna is applied to the skin, it is lawsone bonds to keratin in the skin to produce a stain. People who have used henna before may have noticed that its color appears stronger on the palms of hands as opposed to their backs. This is due to the fact that the skin is thicker here and therefore more layers of lawsone can be absorbed into the deeper layers of skin. This is also possibly one of the reasons henna tends to turn out darker on women of color than on white women, because skin that already has melanin in it tends to be thicker than skin that does not.

Once the henna has dried and the paste has been removed, the henna oxidizes. This is why it can take a few takes to get that sought-after rich hue.

Black henna tends to work much faster than natural henna, and one of the reasons for this is that black henna typically contains less actual henna and more PPD. PPD, or paraphenylenediamine, is a chemical used in black hair dye (hence the name “black henna”). When black henna comes in contact with the outer layer of the skin, it can cause a reaction in some individuals though not everyone reacts. On people with particularly delicate skin, black henna can cause the skin to erupt in red blisters that can sometimes lead to permanent scarring. Some can become sensitized to black henna as well, meaning that, if you come into contact with black henna once, you can later experience a strong adverse reaction to it even if you did not experience one the first time around.

So what does this all amount to? Should you be worried?

Well, it’s a bit hard to say is everyone should be the same amount of concern. There’s not a great wealth of information as to if and how black henna affects different types of skin. However, it’s safe to say that it is certainly best to avoid if possible.

How can you tell black henna from more natural henna? If it’s coming to you in a powdered form, it more likely to be natural if it is of a greener shade as opposed to a deeper black or brown one. Real henna is also never actually black, neither as a paste nor on the hand, but closer to an orange or reddish-brown, so if it looks black, be wary. Some individuals have also said they can tell a difference in the smell between black and natural henna, but there is more research to be conducted on this whole topic.

Many henna cones sold at your local South Asian foods store lack accurate ingredient lists, so it can be hard to tell what’s in them before use. That’s not to say to avoid them entirely, but rather to test them out on a small patch of skin before a full design. If you’re really concerned, you can also look into getting an allergy test done by a professional. In the meantime, if you’re willing and able to find some, there are some local and independent businesses who make their own natural henna cones so you can know and trust exactly what’s in them.

To be honest, I will probably keep using the low-quality cones I get at my local South Asian store. It’s what I’m used to.

But knowing all of this, when faced with the option, I might try instead to go for the organic option. Either way, I don’t know that I’ll ever want to give it up completely.

Via [Image description: A henna design is applied to an outstretched palm.]
Via [Image description: A henna design is applied to an outstretched palm.]

10 ways our celebrities have totally changed Desi weddings

If I were to describe Desi weddings in three words I’d say grandeur, endless events, and food. Well that’s four words to be precise but come on, all Desis out there know that only three words can’t do enough justice in describing our weddings. A flashback to the early 2000’s would show how earlier, our weddings used to be a simple three-day ceremony of just a Mehndi, Nikaah+ Baraat/Rukhsati and a Valima (reception). Yet, sometimes even these three days used to seem hectic and way too long.

Fast-forward to the present, and one often hears people saying, “Oh it’s a short wedding, just three days you know.”

So if a three-day wedding is called short, what is long?! Our weddings, as it turns out, have become a week-long (or sometimes even longer if you’ve got a lot of time on your hands) saga of functions, photo shoots and more functions and more photo shoots.

[bctt tweet=”If a three-day wedding is called short, what is long?!” username=”wearethetempest”]

A factor that heavily influences the wedding industry is the celebrity weddings that happen every year, setting numerous trends which develop a cult-like following. Here’s my take on 10 trends set by celebrity weddings in the last two years.

1. Celebrating things further with bridal showers and bachelorette parties

Attribution: [Image description: People dressed in traditional South Asian dress are dancing and singing 'We do Shaadi all night!'] Via Giphy
Attribution: [Image description: People dressed in traditional South Asian dress are dancing and singing ‘We do Shaadi all night!’] Via Giphy
A relatively new trend in Pakistan, this was first seen at the Urwa-Farhan wedding in December 2016. While the western concept of a bachelorette filled with a night of drinks and strippers can obviously not be incorporated into Pakistani weddings, this event has still become a regular, prior to most weddings with the bride and her girl gang getting dolled up for a night of pictures, dances, and endless gossip!

2. Hosting multiple mehndis and dholkis

Attribution: [Image description: Characters from The Office are dancing with party lights in the background.] Via Giphy
Attribution: [Image description: Characters from The Office are dancing with party lights in the background.] Via Giphy
Because ‘jee ek Mehndi toh larkay walay kareinge aur ek mehndi larki walay’ (One mehndi will be done by the groom’s family, and one by the bride’s). Once again seen at the Urwa-Farhan wedding, a Mehndi which was once a simple event filled with yellows, reds and greens has now been replaced by multiple, extravagant ones done separately by the bride and groom’s families and then done together as well (cause we have shit loads of time, so why not do the same thing thrice?!)

[bctt tweet=”We have shit loads of time, so why not do the same thing thrice?!” username=”wearethetempest”]

3. Holding a Qawaali night

Attribution: [Image description: Ross from Friends is looking upset and saying, 'Why, why would you do that?'] Via Giphy
Attribution: [Image description: Ross from Friends is looking upset and saying, ‘Why, why would you do that?’] Via Giphy
So our Pre-Nikkah events don’t end with bachelorettes, mehndis and dholkis. Qawaali night bhi toh honi chahiye (There totally needs to be a Qawaali night). Enter another night of music, lights, food and fancy-shmancy outfits, except this time it has a Sufi theme to its music (Yes, I still don’t get how this is even relevant to a wedding).

4. Having the nikkah at the Badshahi Masjid

Attribution: [Image description: A woman is looking shocked and saying, 'Hai Bhagwan'] Via Giphy.
Attribution: [Image description: A woman is looking shocked and saying, ‘Hai Bhagwan’] Via Giphy.
Or should I say, Hai Allah?!

A look at the Instagram page of The Videographers would show that Badshahi Masjid has become a go-to spot for almost every other Nikkah ceremony. A trend also set by our infamous Urwa-Farhan, has made our dolled up brides in their ‘heavy kaam walay’ (heavily decorated) dresses, head to one of the most crowded districts of Old Lahore for the sake of a 5-minute ceremony.

  5. Executing amazing photoshoots

Attribution: [Image description: A man is dancing and singing 'Ho jayegi balle balle'] Via Giphy
Attribution: [Image description: A man is dancing and singing ‘Ho jayegi balle balle’] Via Giphy
Be it 40 degrees in the UAE desert or 5 degrees in Lahore’s winter, couples are now seen getting special photoshoots done because ‘Instagram pe bhi toh pictures lagani hai. Aur candid wali bhi honi chahiye’ (The pictures also need to be on Instagram. Oh, and there should also be candid ones.) 2016 saw this at Taiwanese actor, Peter Ho’s wedding shoot in the Gobi desert.

[bctt tweet=”Instagram pe bhi toh pictures lagani hai.” username=”wearethetempest”]

6. Planning a destination function

Attribution: [Image description: A woman wearing a black a white striped shirt is saying, 'One must prepare for any event.' She then turns away and laughs.] Via Giphy
Attribution: [Image description: A woman wearing a black a white striped shirt is saying, ‘One must prepare for any event.’ She then turns away and laughs.] Via Giphy
#AnushMunib – a hashtag that took over Instagram for 8 months in 2016 because – yes, you guessed it right – the wedding was EIGHT MONTHS LONG! What began as a Dholki in Lahore went on to become a boat cruise, dinner party and club night in Istanbul! Of course, not everyone can do that, so most desi couples head to Dubai for a mehndi or two (given its one of the cheapest and closest destinations and also because, It’s Dubai, DUH!)

7. Rocking flowers, flowers, and more flowers

Attribution: [Image description: A man pulling out flowers from behind his back and saying, 'Magic.'] Via Giphy
Attribution: [Image description: A man pulling out flowers from behind his back and saying, ‘Magic.’] Via Giphy
From the table centerpieces to the stage setting, from the chandeliers to the wedding cake and buffet table, EVERYTHING has to be covered in flowers. 2017’s #Kissmuss and #Miraj weddings were displays of such floral extravagance that God forbid if any of their guests were allergic to flowers.

[bctt tweet=”God forbid if any of their guests were allergic to flowers.” username=”wearethetempest”]

8. Attending valimas in the daytime

Attribution: [Image description: A sun rising over mountains.] Via Giphy
Attribution: [Image description: A sun rising over mountains.] Via Giphy
Move over late night functions! Here come daytime receptions – a surprising trend in Pakistani weddings, given our brides take at-least 4 to 6 hours to get ready, I can only imagine what time they must wake up for a function in the morning. Pakistani model, Saheefa Jabbar Khattak’s daytime shaadi saw a wave of light pink, beige and ivory outfits, a shift from generic deep blues, reds, and purples often seen before.

9. Listening to live music and in-person singers

Attribution: [Image description: A person standing on the street and singing into the back of a baseball bat.] Via Giphy
Attribution: [Image description: A person standing on the street and singing into the back of a baseball bat.] Via Giphy
Along with the choreographed dances by the couple’s family and friends, live music has now become a part of these festivities with families calling the industry’s crème-a-la-crème to perform at their Mehndis. Coke Studio sensation, Asim Azhar, was seen performing at Zara Noor Abbas’ wedding last month, entertaining the bandwagon of A-list guests present.

10. Rocking a nude or no-makeup look

Attribution: [Image description: Ariana Grande pursing her lips and applying blush to her cheeks.] Via Giphy
Attribution: [Image description: Ariana Grande pursing her lips and applying blush to her cheeks.] Via Giphy
The recent #Virushka wedding showed that while Desi weddings were once all about the heavy layers of makeup, a lot of brides have now started opting for a nude/no make-up look.

[bctt tweet=”You now know the recipes of our big, fat Desi weddings.” username=”wearethetempest”]

For all the non-desis, you now know the recipes of our big, fat Desi weddings. You’re welcome!

Fashion Lookbook Inequality

7 fashion trends you absolutely need to stop appropriating

This past week, both Beyoncé and Coldplay had a blast culturally appropriating Indian, Bollywood, and South Asian culture – leading to a discussion on colonialism, oppression, and Orientalism.

In honor of the critics who are doing a fine job of calling out these moguls on their orientalist ways, here are 7 things that you may not know are culturally appropriated – and if you don’t, you should stop wearing now that you do.

(If you need a quick rundown of what cultural appropriation is, check this out.)

1. Bindis

Kylie Jenner posing for a photo in 2016 with a bhindi on her forehead.
[Image Description: Kylie Jenner posing for a photo in 2016 with a bindi on her forehead.]
Bindis have very specific cultural and spiritual meanings in South Asian culture and are worn throughout various countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc. In regards to married women, a simple red dot on the forehead symbolizes marriage, love, and prosperity while a black one signifies the death of the partner.

The bindi is placed between the eyebrows, the place of the sixth chakra (the seat of concealed wisdom). It also represents the third (inner) eye and functions as a reminder to Hindus of their religious obligations.

Perhaps Selena Gomez and Kylie Jenner didn’t get the memo that they’re essentially stealing parts of a religious tradition in order to appear fashionably stylish?

2. Dreadlocks

[Image Description: Women with long grey dreadlocks.]
Although locs have been dated back centuries in Egypt, Africa, and India – specifically in religious contexts – in terms of modern history, they have largely been associated with the Rastafari Movement that emerged within Jamaica.

They gained huge popularity in Western culture through artists such as Bob Marley as Rasta style was culturally appropriated in the ’70s in order for fashion and beauty industries to capitalize upon.

Lost within this was the spiritual symbolism of dreadlocks – which represents the Lion of Judah and are inspired by the Nazarites within the Bible.

So yes, they’re more than just a hairstyle.

3. Native American Headdresses

[Image Description: Karlie Kloss modeling Native American-inspired outfit on Victoria’s Secret runway.]
Long-serving as the go-to for music festivals, Halloween, and, more recently, Victoria’s Secret fashion shows, the Indian headdress – also known as a war bonnet – has been culturally appropriated for decades. Many will argue “but it’s just a cute headband with feathers and stuff that the Indians wear!”

What these misinformed masses don’t know is that it has very deep political and spiritual and political implications. Worn by the American Plains Indians and specifically reserved as ceremonial regalia to be worn only by chiefs and warriors, they are the highest mark of respect for someone who has displayed immense courage and service to his tribe.

Takeaway: so unless you’re a Plains Indian who has been honored with the Indian headdress, it’s probably better for you not to look like a racist with your fancy “headband”.

4. Henna (Mehndi)

Although the history of the use of henna dye is unclear at best, there is little doubt that the art of applying henna tattoos emerged within the Indian subcontinent.

Originally used for wedding and religious festivities by Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, etc., it spread to the Middle East as Arabs started applying it for the same cultural and religious reasons – thus adding an element of sacredness to it. In Pakistan, it also serves as an indication of the coming of age for a young woman. However, in Western fashion, henna and mehndi have been used as temporary tattoos to get at the beach or a music festival – with no connection to their roots.

There has been quite a debate on this hot issue. But when you slather henna all over your body with butterfly designs to make a “fashion statement” (instead of putting on henna while appreciating where it came from and what it means), it definitely is cultural appropriation.

5. The Hamsa/Evil Eye

[Image Description: Heidi Klum, Jennifer Anniston, and Madonna wearing Evil Eye necklaces.]
The Hamsa hand – also known as the Hand of Fatima or Hand of Miriam – is a symbol found frequently in the Middle East, North Africa, and western South Asia – particularly in connection to the Islamic and Jewish faiths. Together, the hand, eye, and the number five are significant factors in the Arab and Berber traditions, and they are used to ward off the evil eye – a curse believed to be cast by a jealous and dangerous glare, thus resulting in injury or misfortune. Furthermore, the five fingers are said to represent the Five Pillars of Islam.

Today, the Hamsa is a widely popular charm that takes its form in jewelry, key chains, wall hangings, and other decor. However, as the Western fashion industry has taken over, the Hamsa has been appearing on various clothing, tattoos, and is worn by many who don’t know it’s significance.

Frankly, I’m not sure how much protection it’s gonna give you when someone glares at you for stealing their culture.

6. Day of the Dead

[Image Description: Woman posing in Day of the Dead face makeup.]
Although the tradition of honoring the dead has roots in various parts around the world, including Europe, the Philippines, and Latin America, the Mexican Dia de Los Muertos is continuously appropriated for fashion, Halloween, and other trends. Within this specific holiday, it is believed that the gates of heaven are opened on October 31, and the spirits of deceased loved ones reunite with their families. Those living prepare elaborate festivities, altars, gifts, and foodstuffs to share with their loved ones. Specific aspects, such as sugar skulls (the Calavera) and decor, have gained more popularity the past few years.

As one Mexican advocate has explicitly written, the tradition seems to be going through a “Cinco-de-Mayo-ization… in which white hipsters wear calaca face paint, stand amongst broken marigolds listening to white bands, and drink gentrified, holiday-themed micro-brews, without so much as a thought to what the true tradition is or means.”

Random fact: Disney even TRIED TO TRADEMARK DIA DE LOS MUERTOS, and they failed. Just like every other culture-stealing, sugar skull touting colonist does.

7. The Keffiyeh

[Image Description: Man wearing a keffiyeh scarf.]
The keffiyeh – or kufiya – is a traditional Middle Eastern scarf often used as a headdress – and has been used as such for over a century. Although it is Syrian in origin, the keffiyeh has a long history as a political and national symbol. In the 30’s, as the Arab revolt against the British Mandate and Zionist organizations in Palestine gained momentum, the keffiyeh became a resistance symbol to be worn in solidarity. By the 60’s, it was a clear symbol for the national movement of Palestine, made especially political due to former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Over the years, Arab countries incorporated the keffiyeh as a significant symbol in many different ways. Since the 80’s, the keffiyeh has emerged and reemerged in Western fashion – most recently sold by retailers such as Top Shop and Urban Outfitters – and continuously bought by many who think it’s just a “chic” piece of clothing.

Sidenote: I wonder how many Islamophobes are rocking the keffiyeh with no idea about what it means… heh heh heh…

Remember, the next time you decide to wear one of these items, ask yourself this question: are you part of the culture? No? Then it’s best to step away and admire from afar.

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Beauty Lookbook Weddings

20 beautifully intricate henna designs that’ll blow your mind

Ever since I was little, I’ve spent every holiday and wedding season sitting at the kitchen table, getting my henna done by my mother. She would cover my hands and wrists with flowers, paisley drops, and other mandala-like designs. The stuff stinks, but there’s a kind of comfort associated with the memories of it too.

The practice of using organic dye to decorate the skin is most popular in the Middle East, India, and Pakistan. Large flowers are more indicative of an Arab artist, while Indian and Pakistani artists incorporate smaller, geometric designs and typically cover more area.

We’ve all experienced the struggles involved with getting henna done. Picking a design and carving out a few hours is honestly half the battle. And once you’ve found someone willing to sit down with you, mustering the patience to sit still as the henna tip tickles your skin is the second battle. Not to mention the arduous wait for the paste to dry and subsequently flake off.

Honestly, though, these designs are so incredibly gorgeous, they’ll make you want to hit up your local henna artist ASAP and cover your entire arms in henna too, struggles and all.

1. With detail like this, you can’t go wrong

@almasbridalhenna / Via

2. Finger-to-elbow perfection

@mpsinghphotography / Via

3. Is it just me or does this look painted on with SILK!?

@allthingshenna_  / Via

4. Symmetry is SO aesthetic

@kamsmehndi  / Via

5. Delicate. Defined. Dreamy.

@atlantahennastudio / Via

6. Red nails complete this look!

@hennabydivya  / Via

7. You DO NOT want to smudge this!

@tanuusmani_henna   / Via

8. Spot the bride and groom

@hussainmaaz  / Via

9. Henna: the ultimate princess accessory

@amansmehndi / Via

10. Okay, but like, is this real life!?

@henna_by_taj / Via

11. Henna like this does not happen in an hour

@hussainmaaz / Via

12. *mesmerized*

@zubhahenna / Via

13. I could stare at this forever

@neha_beauty90 / Via

14. You can’t go wrong with a classic

@zoipetrosyan / Via

15. Absolutely geometrical. Count. Me. IN!

@bysoor  / Via

16. Wow

@leedsmehndi / Via

17. Decadently dramatic

@shaadiwish / Via

18. I love those city skyline details!

@minal_beauty / Via

19. There’s nothing Victorian about these lace gloves…

@sarashenna / Via

20. Ah, wedding bliss!

@wedmewell / Via

Are you just as blown away by these as I am?

Fashion Lookbook

18 stunning henna designs you can’t miss out on

Ever since I was a small child, I’ve been obsessed with the intricacies and delicate designs that so artfully comprise the henna designs done during weddings and religious celebrations. At 13, I made a friend who would spend hours upon hours carefully tracing designs she found online, covering her hands and feet (and mine, if I was lucky) with ornate flowers and geometric patterns.

Although some people butcher the designs and call it henna, it’s easy to differentiate between the amateurs and true artists. So if you’re in need of some henna inspiration, get ready for it. These designs are more than beautiful.

1. It seems so simple – but so complex.

2. Absolutely stunning.

3. Asymmetrical beauty!

4. So gorgeous.

5. We are not worthy.

6. Can we just pause for a moment?

7. Unconventionally beautiful.

8. Elegant and perfectly detailed.

9. Love!

10. Henna is the best part of any wedding.

11. Sophisticated and sweet.

12. The details are incredibly intricate.

13. Absolutely bridal.

14. Royally inspired!

15. This might be more modern – but it’s stunning.

16. Love, love, love.

17. Adore the absolute attention to details!

18. Stunning, sensational, spectacular – obsessed.