Playful Indian: “You’re the chutney to my samosa”

samosacard-chillipaneercard

The Playful Indian www.theplayfulindian.com

“You’re the chutney to my samosa” and “you’re the chilli to my paneer” are some of the straplines you can find on Playful Indian’s range of greetings cards. These simple, everyday references to Desi culture and life are what make this range of products so appealing, in my opinion. Playful Indian founder Dina Mistry says:

“I felt there has always been a lack of fun Asian cards on the market. I wanted to create cards that would make people smile and laugh, as well as bring Asian cards and gifts up-to-date.”

I love that Playful Indian fills a gap in the market for British Asians. It reflects changing UK consumer demographics and there should be more choices for different ethnic groups. Whilst existing Bollywood themed cards are great in offering a little more choice than is currently available on the UK high street, they have got limited appeal.

Playful Indian brings something fresh into this arena; as well as a bit of everyday Desi humour that is lacking from this market- you know, little references that are almost like insider jokes. For example, it would’ve really made me smile to receive a card that said “Congratulations on your little laddoo” when my daughter was born!

The range covers all the main card- giving occasions; as well as a few Hindu and Sikh religious festivals. There are no cards for Muslim religious festivals; I hope she adds this for the sake of diversity. The Christmas cards are a little disappointing in that, although they are beautifully designed, they aren’t specifically Desi themed- which could put off Asian Christians.

Her most appealing product line is the humorous Hungry Indian range. These are digitally hand-drawn cards that focus on that basic Indian cultural reference point: food! The Hungry Indian line is fun and simple with a young appeal. This is definitely Dina’s strongest line and I would love to see it on the high street-I really think it has mainstream appeal.

all-cards

The Playful Indian www.theplayfulindian.com

Elsewhere there are also plenty of Indian-art inspired cards, as well as the use of the iconic Bollywood font. I particularly love that there are one or two cards in the range that depict brown skinned people- where else do we see this on the high street?

The ordering facility is easy and straightforward. Delivery (to the buyer not the receiver of the card) costs the same as Royal Mail first class; which I think is reasonable given that the cards themselves are priced at around £2.25. It would be great to see a personalisation function where you can add your own message and have it sent straight to the recipient (think Funky Pigeon et al).

I do think that ethnic cards in general, Playful Indian included, run the risk of slightly objectifying Desi culture. It’s important that manufacturers don’t rely on a handful of jokes, phrases and nuances within the Asian culture and keep churning these out – this will only serve to perpetuate negative stereotypes. What’s more, once you’ve bought one or two of these cards for friends and family, there’ll be nothing to get you to return to the range- unless new humour and designs are added.

But this is not to detract from what Playful Indian brings to the market. Dina’s offering is a step in the right direction in terms of British Asian consumer product representation. And with her entrepreneurial vision (“in 2012 I approached the Prince’s Trust for funding. I’m still only a small company but my customer base is fast growing and now includes America, Australia and India- how cool is that!”)  she’s definitely one to watch- I look forward to seeing further growth and innovation from Playful Indian.

Got to www.theplayfulindian.com for the full range of cards and gifts, and check out www.facebook.com/ThePlayfulIndian, @Playful_Indian

This is a personal blog, written and edited by me. I did not receive payment to write this review. Any payment for any advertising, sponsorship or product reviews will never influence content, topics, posts or opinions in this blog. 

Gurinder Chadha talks to me about her new show Desi Rascals

Desi Rascals

Don’t miss the new series of Desi Rascals on Sky Living HD from Tuesday January 20th at 8pm.

When I first heard about Desi Rascals, I must admit I was mildly sceptical. I’ve spoken before about the limited, usually stereotyped media representation of British Asians and the disappointing lack of positive roles we have. And with this show, I was really expecting more of the same. What I wasn’t counting on, was that with award-winning director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham, Bride & Prejudice) behind it, Desi Rascals isn’t going to be anything like we’ve seen before. This non-scripted, reality TV show featuring British Asians, shot in real time is going to be ground-breaking for the Asian community.

I talked to Gurinder about what we can expect from the show, how it reflects the diversity in today’s British Asian community and some of it’s boundary pushing characters.

“I am supremely confident that it will fit the bill in terms of showcasing the diversity in the British Asian community,” Gurinder told me. “The characters we have gives it a very multi-dimensional view.

There’s a great mix within the cast: Gujaratis, Punjabis, Bangladeshis- amongst others. There’s different social stratas represented, from small business owners to one very wealthy family who own a chain of luxury hotels.

It’s multi-generational too, which is a really important element. Having the older generations in our show allows us to show how the pressures on that generation are as important as those of the younger people. Parents sometimes put pressure on their kids, but there’s also pressure on them because they want to do the best for their kids as well as upholding certain traditions and values, which is where the tension and drama really comes from.

Ultimately, a more three-dimensional portrayal of the British Asian community will come from the fact that it’s non-scripted drama, that allows for spontaneous and real exchanges between the characters- you couldn’t write drama like this! And what’s also great is that we are not limited to any one person’s vision of the Asian community. Desi Rascals shows you how English we are as well as how British Asian we are.”

“I think you can safely say you’ve never seen Asians on TV before like this” Gurinder Chadha

Tell me a bit about the cast members?

“Well there’s Owais who is a property developer. He spent a lot of his youth trying to overcome a stutter. Then there’s Amita who runs her own business- she’s a beautician and is also a single mum. There are the boys Anj and Nurat- a uncle and nephew team who own their own gym.

Desi Rascals .Sky1..© Andrea Southam for Sky Living

Amita Patel from the cast of Desi Rascals © Andrea Southam for Sky Living

One of my favourite characters on the show is Naman who is an openly gay Muslim. He’s extremely family orientated and very sweet, very warm; and very close to our single mother Amita. He’s not just a gay guy, he’s very much part of our world. I think his journey is going to be hard, as an ‘out’ gay guy.

And he has been very supported by everyone on the show, including Owais, who has said “as a fellow Muslim, I’m extremely proud of you.”

“It really is the people that are going to take this into different areas-the types of people that have come forward to be a part of the show are what’s really going to drive it- who knows where they will take it- and there will be lots of surprises! The main thing that you’re going to see is not what you’re going to be expecting. I think you can safely say that you’ve never seen Asians on TV before like this.”

As the show features a beautician, a Bollywood dancer and a makeup artist I shared my concern with Gurinder that her portrayal of Desi women was limited to rather, shall we say, girly pursuits.

Desi Rascals .Sky1..© Andrea Southam for Sky Living

Expect to see some strong desi women in Desi Rascals © Andrea Southam for Sky Living

“Well what do think?! With my name attached, what do you think?! Anything that I do is not going to be namby-pamby you can safely assume, when it comes to women!” 

I think we can safely assume that anything Gurinder puts her name to will not be ‘namby pamby’ as she put it. And that’s what makes her such an important British Asian figure and such a hugely influential person in her field. Her contribution to positively shaping how the world sees British Asians has been really important- think of how Bend It Like Beckham brought the richness of Asian family, community and tradition onto our screens 12 years ago.

I’ve no doubt that Desi Rascals will do the same for us, 10 or so years on. And there couldn’t be a better time than now to see this happen. In our current news climate, where sections of the Asian community take a constant battering, it’s really time we see something else of who our community are. And I’m hopeful Gurinder’s Desi Rascals will do this for us- and perhaps give us some really positive role models to boot.

‘Desi Rascals’ premieres on Tuesday 20 January at 8pm on Sky Living. Watch the trailer below

You might also like “Where do we look for positive British Asian role models?”

Charlie Hebdo response pt2: Muslims must respond

Since 9/11, the Muslim community have been distancing themselves from the actions of militant Islamist groups and terrorists. They are dismissed as isolated groups who are acting on their own agenda or own interpretation of Islam, and it is always claimed they are not representative of Islam.

It’s clear that today, there are several different interpretations of Islam amongst its own followers. There are moderate Muslims, Muslims who say Islam is a religion of peace, militant Muslims, Jihadists… amongst others. All pray to Allah but all choose to focus on a different emphasis.

And likewise, there are any number of terrorist organisations and networks each acting in the name of Islam but addressing their own issue. Whether that’s Western education, British or US foreign policy or the war in Gaza…and probably more. We don’t know how many more there are. But it’s becoming obvious that this minority are creeping forward to become more than just a few.

Whilst the West needs to continue its response, it’s so vital that the Muslim community addresses where these radicalised individuals continue to come from- without saying they are nothing to do with Muslims or Islam. They are coming from within their ranks. The next generation of Muslims are watching wide-eyed as their religion and identity is being dragged through the mud by the likes of offensive cartoons. And the daily diet of news stories like the ongoing killing of Muslims in Gaza.  What’s causing young Muslim men and women to become radicalised? Are they simply disillusioned, disaffected individuals as the press like to say; or is it Israel’s treatment of Palestinians? Is it Britain and the US aligning themselves with Israel? How about the current backlash against extremism?

Are you really Charlie?

And let’s just talk for a moment about the current backlash- Western Europe’s response to last week’s attacks. There is a lot of blatant hypocrisy going on. Yes it is right and imperative to condemn the attacks. It was a brutal, positively barbaric and unnecessary act.

But declaring “Je Suis Charlie” was one step further. Really? You are a racist, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, homophobic, (plus other labels- there are too many minority groups that they’ve offended) publication?

It started as support for freedom of speech. But in the eyes of many, consciously or not, this has been an aligning with Islamaphobia. Indeed today Medhi Hasan political director of the Huffington Post UK, himself a Muslim, said he didn’t want to ‘be’ Charlie- given what it stands for.

Sadly though, the terms have been set. Alliances have been drawn and it’s been like an open statement to the Muslim world: we are with Charlie.

How will Muslims respond?

We can only watch and see what the true cost of all this will be. Will this response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and France in its declaration that they are Charlie Hebdo, become another Israel- another perceived enemy of Islam and Muslims?

It’s important that the Muslim community don’t make it into one. The Muslim response at this time needs to be measured and carefully worded. They must deal carefully with vulnerable ears that are listening to an older generation, potentially speaking hatred towards Western Europe. The anti-Israel sentiment is already there. I don’t believe they can afford to further stoke those fires by adding another “enemy” of Islam.

 

 

Charlie Hebdo: Is it right for freedom of speech to cause offence?

What happened in Paris last week has changed us all. It’s felt like another 9/11- thankfully not in levels of destruction, but in that it’s been a real watershed moment. It’s made us all stop and think about our rights and actually how free we are in today’s world. Are we free to express ourselves? Are we free to write what we really think? How free are we to ‘live’ in today’s multicultural, multi-faith society?

The staff at Charlie Hebdo felt that it was their right, and that they had the freedom to produce satirical cartoons about the Prophet (and for that matter, black people, gay people, women, Catholics and many other minority groups). Ultimately they paid for it with their lives.

Last week, I read article after article talking about freedom of speech. “It’s our democratic right.” “Uphold it at all costs.” “They will never silence us” were some of the sentiments.

As a blogger and a writer I get that. We all want to be heard, and some of us shout louder than others. But have we ever really been free to speak? Hasn’t there always been a cost? Online trolling has become a vicious part of 21st century life, with any number of people and groups receiving abuse on a daily basis, and even death threats for speaking up on their given cause.

My Muslim friends have been not only shocked and saddened by the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo journalists, but they’ve also been outraged by the cartoons of their Prophet. But they’re not allowed to publicly say that, because they’ll be labelled as extremists and terrorists- they are themselves not free to speak. (And however you feel about that kind of response to the cartoons themselves is not the point. By saying someone should have freedom of speech doesn’t mean that you have to agree with what they’re saying.)

So it seems that freedom of speech comes with this caveat: if you have something that you feel is worth saying, that absolutely must be heard, then there just might be a price to pay.

Will that thought curb what we say in the future? Will the Paris attacks make us a little less bold? I hope not because it’s important that we continue to add different voices and opinions to the melting pot, because otherwise we tread dangerously into some kind of communist state media.

But in the wake of last week’s terrible attacks, how about we try to be a little more respectful of each other’s views? One editor I worked with- a black man, said today on his Facebook page: yes freedom of speech, but what about being sensitive and respectful of others? And I totally agree with him. Yes I know, that sounds idealistic, even naiive and childish. But don’t we all have the right, not to see something we hold sacred, denigrated and publically trashed? If nothing else, can we learn to be more tolerant of each other? Muslims believe that to depict their Prophet, let alone mock him is a serious offense. It’s an offense to them, as well as to their God, they believe. So why do we have to tear down what’s precious to them, just for the sake of free speech? So once again, yes freedom of speech, but can we be a little bit wiser in what we say?

One commentator in today’s Guardian put it like this:

“All societies draw lines, that are…constantly shifting and continually debated, about what constitutes acceptable standards of public discourse when it comes to cultural, racial and religious sensitivities.”

As we now dust ourselves off from the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo murders and try to make sense of it all, perhaps it’s time that our society think about where the lines of acceptable public speech lies. It can be the only useful thing that comes from this awful atrocity.

Tomorrow: Charlie Hebdo response part 2: Muslims must respond

Think, plan, achieve!

business resolutions for 2015

Not getting anywhere with your new year’s resolutions? It’s not too late to set your goals for the coming year. Here are a few thoughts on approaching 2015.

Goals v’s resolutions

Keep it simple. Write down no more than three goals you’d like to achieve. And think big-however crazy or unobtainable they seem. Because it’s those crazy big dreams that really make you tick and working towards them is what will make you want to get out of bed everyday.  Then work out the steps you need to take in order to achieve them. Set a time frame to work towards. This could be something like achieving a certain number of steps by your birthday, for example. Visualisation helps. So if it’s paying off a debt by the end of the year, get a credit card bill and write “paid in full” across it in big red letters, and stick it somewhere that you’ll see it everyday. Make sure you review your progress on a regular basis.

Other people know stuff too

Take time to listen to people- you’d be surprised how much you can learn. Everyone has a story to tell and something that you can learn from, you just gotta take time to really ‘hear’ them. The problem is, that we all assume we already know what we need to. Never stop learning! Knowledge and learning is exciting and fun as it opens up new possibilities.  Never underestimate what other people can teach you and always assume that there’s more stuff you need to know.

Hope never fails

My best friend taught me this. Sometimes faith can fail us- your faith in other people, faith in yourself, faith that you’ll get the job done, get that bill paid off, shift the extra weight. But the hope that things can change, can be better, never fails. So if you’re starting this new year in a difficult place, hold onto the hope of better times. And when you start to think more positively you’ll have the motivation to make change happen.

Keep on being your awesome self

My biggest problem with the whole new- year, new- you- thing is that it assumes you were doing something wrong before. You weren’t. There’s nothing wrong with you and your life is ok!  Yes, new year is a chance for a do-over and it’s great to set your sights on achieving something new. But don’t let the pressure to reinvent yourself overshadow the great work you’ve done this year and how far you’ve come. So keep being yourself- trust me, you’re ok.

That’s it! Keep things simple in 2015 and focus on making it happen.

 

This post is dedicated to my three best friends- special ladies who have taught me so much over so many years. x

Some of my favourite blogs

faveblogsheader

 

Ever wondered what other people read?

Well here’s a selection, in no particular order, of some of my favourite blogs.

Enjoy!

P.S. Do click on them and take a look- they’re all fab I promise! x

Nail Art

mynailpolish

Image: wwwmynailpolishonline.com 2014

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love manicures, nail polish, nail art and anything to do with nails. My Nail Polish Online was one of the first blogs I ever started following. There are a ton of nail art bloggers out there. Some are truly awful: amateurish photography, visible hang-nails (yuk), messy painting… My Nail Polish Online is incredibly professional, and features innovative nail art designs, the latest products, shades and trends that are all beautifully photographed. Now to just have a steady enough hand to copy the designs!

 

 

 

 

 

Technology

This is fast becoming my favourite site. ShinyShiny features gadgets, apps and wearible technology for women. No, not pink versions of everything. We’re talking about truly innovative technology for women who are early-adopters. Whether it’s intelligent lighting for your home, a review of ‘sleepphones’ (headphones designed to help you sleep) or simply what’s new in at ASOS, this is a really original, always informative read.

 

 

 

Feminism

TheBelleJar2

The Belle Jar

The Belle Jar first caught my eye as I ‘ve always been a fan of Sylvia Plath. And the content never disappoints. Writer Anne Theriault is an unapologetic feminist and staunch women’s rights supporter. I love that she is never afraid to tell it like it is- you’ll get absolutely no bullshit from her. I might not always agree with Anne’s opinions, but The Belle Jar is always a refreshing, informative, challenging, often hilariously funny read. Anne suffers from depression which she writes openly about. This aspect of the blog is an interesting departure from her feminist writing, and I really respect how she rallies people to talk more about mental health issues.

 

 

South Asian issues

anushay

Anushay Hossain on HuffPostLive. 2014

Human rights activist, feminist policy advisor, journalist, commentator, editor, friend to the likes of Hilary Clinton and Sheryl Sandberg- what’s not to love about Anushay’s Point? Bangladeshi-born Anushay Hossain writes on women’s issues, South Asian issues and current affairs. It’s great to see a South Asian woman speaking out so prominently and being taken note of, on some very important topics.

 

 

 

Fashion

 

Everyday around lunchtime, I get this little treat of an email in my inbox. Wearing It Today, or WIT blog as it’s affectionately known showcases some great fashion trends complete with a shopping guide. WIT started life simply capturing the daily outfits of fashion editor and stylist Laura Fantacci. Laura left her day job to work on WIT full time and also launched Wardrobe Icons, a shopping website dedicated to ‘wardrobe essentials’. I love Laura’s ‘grown up’ elegant style, it’s very accessible. Ok so the prices aren’t always- she features a lot of designer pieces but the looks can be translated onto the high street. I’ve picked up many a style tip from WIT blog this year, so you’ll often see me channelling Laura whether it’s with my fur coat, leather look leggings or some other WIT-inspired trend….

 

Parenting

mm logo

Masalamommas. 2014

Strictly speaking not a blog, but the articles are mostly blog-style so I’m including it here. I’m a big fan of MasalaMommas, an online community for mums with a South Asian connection- a kind of Netmums for South Asians. It’s written by other South Asian mums and experts on a variety of topics, and edited by the brilliant Anjum Choudary Nayyar. I always find they are ahead of the game in terms of content. A must read for any South Asian mum.

 

 

 

Baking

sallysbakingaddiction

Image: Sally’s Baking Addiction, 2014.

sba

Image: Sally’s Baking Addiction 2014 http://www.sallysbakingaddiction.com

I don’t really bake as much as I used to, but I love Sally’s Baking Addiction for the
simple, fun, creative recipes. I love the professional photography (it will seriously have you reaching for a brownie)- all of which she does herself, and the fun and pretty layout of the site. Sally’s Baking Addiction went from being a hobby to a professional blog, and Sally shares lots of useful blogging tips, loads of photography tutorials and advice.

Should Asians celebrate Christmas?

 

christmas garland2

I’ve yet to see an English or Western family get really caught up celebrating Eid or Diwali, not even ex-pats who live in India, Pakistan etc. I mean really going all out with the big family meal, presents, decorations and all of the anticipation that comes with it. And yet I know many Asian families who get really carried away with Christmas. And these are devout people who celebrate their own religious festivals at the appropriate times and attend places of worship regularly. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with them celebrating Christmas if they choose to. But as someone I know recently asked, why are Asians celebrating Christmas if they are not Christian?

Ok well the obvious answer is how commercial Christmas has become. With that, it’s become much more accessible too. To the non-Christian world, Christmas is no longer a Christian festival. Most people have bought into the Coca-Cola version of Christmas and any real Christian meaning is put aside. It’s kind of a pick and mix thing: it’s choosing to celebrate the aspects of Christmas that have mass or secular appeal like family, gift-giving, decorations and parties without any of the spiritual meaning.

And it’s fair to say that people everywhere- not just Asians- now celebrate this kind of self-styled Christmas, rather than the Christian holy day that is Christmas.

But it’s when one considers how important religion, religious festivals and religious identity is to most Asians, that it seems contradictory that we would engage in any way with this Christian occasion. Writer and political commentator Sunny Hundal recently described himself as a ‘cultural Sikh’. So for those who see religion as a matter of culture and tradition rather than one of spiritual conviction, I can see that there is no conflict in celebrating Christmas in any form. What’s more, for those of the Eastern religions that believe all paths lead to God, there won’t be an issue.

Indeed, a Hindu friend I was talking to recently was telling me that in their household, Christmas is bigger than Diwali. They have a big family do, complete with turkey, presents and decorations. They whole-heartedly embrace the occasion and don’t have a problem either way that the day marks the birth of Jesus.

Certainly my Muslim friends are not as relaxed on the subject. Many of them won’t have a Christmas tree in the house or even give cards that say “Merry Christmas” on them, opting instead for those that say “Seasons Greetings”; or in keeping with the increasing Americanisation of our society, Happy Holidays. For them, taking Christ out of Christmas really works, because they can still be a part of the festivities, without feeling they have betrayed their religious beliefs in any way. They still have a meal together but argue that this is simply because everyone’s off work and school. I’m not sure I buy that reasoning but there you go.

In the end, it all comes down to personal choice and what works for you and your family. You won’t find any judgement from me! I get that Christmas means different things to different people, whether you choose to embrace it or not. I think if it’s a chance for families to get together, enjoy some good food and hopefully spend some quality time together then Christmas can’t be a bad thing. And if it’s not for you I respect your conviction in taking a stance for what you do believe in.

Either way, I hope the festive season brings some joy your way.

So, Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings, Shub Naya Baras, Happy Holidays, Feliz Navidad, to you all!

 

Love British Asian Woman x