The 2nd Year of The Ramadan Tent Project

I was blessed enough to experience the magical community spirit of The Ramadan Tent last year.

The Asian Destination:  The Ramadan Tent

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Friday Fun:: May Cause Glastonbury Withdrawal Symptoms! Oxfam Stewarding 2014

Can’t quite believe it’s already been almost two weeks since Glastonbury!!

The Asian Destination:: Glastonbury 2014

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Spiritual Sundays :: Where actually IS God?

 So this might be a bit controversial..

Where is God?

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When Spain Came to London

Everyone loves a good old Bank Holiday Weekend, right? Especially when it means you get to travel…without jumping on an aeroplane!

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Christmas doesn’t have to be over just yet! Here’s why…

Winter Wonderland

Okay. So, Christmas may be officially over BUT if you’re in London, you can still enjoy the festivities for one more weekend. This is your last chance to enjoy Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park so if you haven’t visited yet…why not?!

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Officially Allowed….FINALLY!

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Is it just me this year or has the run up to Christmas been forever this year?

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving

The world is filled with wonderful festivals & holidays that create opportunities to learn about new cultures and traditions.

BUT – Don’t waste your time waiting for Thanksgiving in order to give thanks.

#ShowYourGratitude Everyday!

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Light up, Lift up and Don’t be afraid to SHINE

So, we’ve spoken about this before. The fear of ‘shining’. What does this mean? What does this entail?

A Christian friend said to me at her local church service today, this theme was also discussed.

What often amazes me is that at their core, so many religions share fundament core values such as love, peace, hope and an ultimate faith in the ‘divine source’. The term ‘religion’ often just acts as a means of different people reaching their own ‘enlightenment’ or ‘path’ and if that path helps maintain their faith, brings them closer to a sense of meaning…then what is the harm in that?

I thought it was apt to discuss it here, given that today is officially Diwali, the Festival of Lights, in the Hindu calendar.

As a child, I was painfully shy. I would still classify myself as ‘shy’ though age, experience and wisdom has helped me to spread partial wings and leaving a shell that remains, if I ever need it to retreat to.

One other thing that happened as I was growing up is that I became scared to ‘shine’. There may be some people that can relate to this. We don’t want to appear different; we would rather hide in the shadows and be a ‘sheep’ than step out into the unknown and embrace the things that help us stand out, even if it was to the detriment of our own success. I was scared of being unique.

Diwali is a time for rebirth, rejuvenation and reflection. It reminds me that we don’t need to wait for the new year to make a new resolution (however, today is obviously convenient because The Festival of Lights symbolises new beginnings anyway…!).

Why?

Because each and every moment is a moment of rejuvenation, an opportunity to change. Though obvious, the idea hit me again today and emphasised one important point.

So many of us are victims to making ’empty promises’. You know what I mean:

When ‘x’ happens….I’ll do ‘y’

We wait for ‘the perfect time’, we make up excuses and dim our light.

STOP. Today is your day to ‘Face A Fear Everyday’. Today is your day to not ‘shelf your light’ but in fact to shine your light.

Embrace what you have to offer the world, we’re all different. Be proud to be unique.

Happy Diwali & Kali Puja 2013!

Today marks an important date in the Bengali calendar, Kali Puja.

It represents a day of good overcoming evil and going from darkness into light.

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Click here to read more about we celebrated last year.

As we prepare for a new start, we wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous Diwali & Kali Puja!

Wishing you light and love from,

The Asian Destination xo

 

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Happy Raksha Bandhan

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A very happy Rakhsha Bandhan or Rakhi Purnima (in Bengali)!

Today is the day sisters tie the sacred thread or rakhion their brother’s wrist to symbolise her love for him whilst in return he pledges to protect his sister.

These days Raksha Bandhan is a day where brothers and sisters feed each other sweets (yes, yet anotherexcuse to eat!) and basically celebrate the kinship between siblings.

Rakhi Purnima, does now however exclude only children, like myself. As most of you know, I’m the subcontinent, cousins/close friends are usually recognised as brothers and sisters too. In fact, as well as tying rakhis on my male cousins, I would also end up tying them on my other cherished male relatives: my grandfathers and my uncles.

So today: Whether you are Indian or not, an only child or one of many:
Be grateful for your siblings. Not just those that you are related to, for we are all one. We, as people, are the same: we breathe the same air, we share the same biology and fundamentally, we all have a desire to love and be loved.
Extend a Rakhi, the bond of protection to allyour brothers and sisters today. You may realise you have more siblings than you once thought!

Happy Raksha Bandhan to all!
With love,
The Asian Destination xo

Feeling blessed, overwhelmed and grateful at The Ramadan Tent

Yesterday evening, I went to The Ramadan Tent, situated in the grounds of The University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Set up by Omar Salha, a SOAS alumnus, this Ramadan Tent welcomes Muslims to break their fast for Ramadan by serving iftar, the sunset meal.

The Ramadan Tent

News of the Ramadan Tent has travelled fast. One of my good friends learnt about it through her flatmate and now both volunteer there, helping in the iftar preparation and disposal, and ensuring that everyone feels welcome, and is accommodated with food and a place to sit.

Muslim or not, it does not matter. Committed volunteers have made this special iftar possible and welcome the public during Islam’s holy month, regardless of religious, socio-economic or political background making it truly an event that brings old and new faces together.

It truly was a special feast. Sustained by charitable donations, it was so inspiring to see so much food being provided for so many. As we sat on the ground around long mats acting as tables, it felt like a large family picnic was about to start. There was a sense of community, a sense of belonging and a feeling of togetherness. The homeless sitting amongst students and members of the public, no prejudice or judgment was placed. Each person was treated as part of an extended family.

Ramadan Tent

Before the call to prayer and breaking the fast, a speaker is invited to speak. Yesterday, Omar had invited Jehangir Malik OBE, director of Islamic Relief UK to talk. Malik reiterated how wonderful it was for so many people from across London to come together in the spirit of Ramadan. In a recent Huffington post article, Omar mentioned how not only did he hope this Ramadan campaign would challenge some misconceptions about Islam but also bring communities together.

Similarly, Jehangir Malik also feels that Ramadan Is a Time to Break Down Barriers, Not Build Them Up’.’ Having just completed a trip to Syria, his words had a lasting impact on me and I could tell on others too. Here we were sitting down, surrounded by a family we’d only just acquired, being provided with food and water whilst there were so many across the world struggling for just one of these basic privileges.

Dates were passed around to eat and symbolized the beginning of iftar. A change in the wind during the call to prayer made for a magical atmosphere. Despite not being Muslim myself, it was as if the summer breeze whispering around us had somehow cast an invisible spell, connecting everyone there. It did not matter what religion you were, where you had come from or what your economic situation was.

Ramadan Tent

As people, we were all the same; we all hoped and prayed for a world that we could feel proud to live in, we all desired an end to the suffering of those less fortunate and we all wanted to leave our positive mark in some way or another. It was an overwhelming and inspiring moment.

My friend told me how, on one occasion, due to the increased popularity and interest in The Ramadan Tent, there had not been enough food to accommodate all guests as well as committee volunteers. In this instance, volunteers refrained from eating to ensure every single other participant had food in front of them. Bearing in mind, the majority of these volunteers had been fasting themselves, it was moving to hear the extent of their charitable duties.

I have an immense sense of respect for those that are fasting during Ramadan. It requires dedication, commitment and perseverance -it is only when one is tested that one realises their true potential.

Ramadan Tent

Many are all too aware of how the media can misconstrue or demonise Islam and as a result alienate communities. This event however, as Omar hoped it would, disputes Islamic misconceptions and teaches non-muslims about the core values of Islam. There were times during yesterday’s iftar that I could not say a word. There was a spell I did not want to break. I felt proud and privileged to have experienced such sharing, generosity and sense of community. I left feeling happy that this was such a positive opportunity for others to appreciate the true spirit of Ramadan.

Ramadan Mubarak to all those participating!

Love, respect and blessings,

Ana at The Asian Destination xo

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like Celebrate Being ‘Unique’

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Destination: Inspiration (105) 15th April 2013

Happy Bengali New Year!

 

“Notun Asha, Notun Rang, 

Notun Sure, Notun Gaan, 

Notun Usha, Notun Alo,

Notun ‘bochor’, Katuk Bhalo!

Shubo Noboborsho!”

Today is ‘Poila Boishak’ or the start of the Bengali New Year. 

So today:
Have new hope (notun asha) & see new light (notun alo).
Always know you can change your path at any point, change your tune for a new one (notun sure) and alter your song (notun gaan).
Every day can be seen as a new chance, ‘a new year’ (notun bocchor).
May it be enjoyed well (katuk bhalo)!
 
If you liked this post, you may also like:

Chai & Chats with: Roshni ChuganiChai & Chats with: Pavan Ahluwalia and Chai & Chats with: Malika Garrett. 

Destination: India and Destination: Bangladesh from Destination: Travel

Happy Durga Puja and Happy Kali Puja & Diwali from Destination: Celebration

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Chai & Chats with: Pavan Ahluwalia

Photo Source: pavanonline.com

Photo Source: pavanonline.com

Self-taught henna artist, Pavan Ahluwalia holds the world record for painting 511 unique armband designs in just one hour. The Asian Destination (TAD) talks to Pavan (P) about how she has integrated her passion into a successful career and also gives us tips on achieving the perfect mehndi!

TAD: Congratulations on being the Guinness World Record Holder for fastest henna and on becoming one of the UK’s leading henna artists! 

Many of us like to experiment around with henna; during the excitement and togetherness of Asian weddings, applying henna can be a social event as well as a tradition. When did you see henna art as more than just a fun past time or ritual? Have you always been interested or involved in art?

P: It was at family functions as you said, where everyone would get involved in the henna fun and I wanted to be a part of it! I would do designs on family and friends and I started doing it at every function I was invited to.  When I learned that it could be turned into a career I jumped at the chance as it was something I thoroughly enjoyed doing and couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time.  I did Art GCSE but my main foundation through college and university was business, which helped me turn my passion into a career.

Pavan Ahluwalia at pavanonline.com

Pavan Ahluwalia at pavanonline.com

TAD: What would be your advice for achieving the perfect henna? How do you ensure your colour remains even? It can be one of the most frustrating things to spend time on detailed, intricate designs only to realise the henna colour fades quickly. What suggestions do you have for enhancing the colour?

P: The perfect henna relies very much on the consistency, a thin paste ensure the flow of your designs.  It’s essential to bring out the colour and after care is also important.  Our body temperature also plays an important part in the colour deepening, so keeping the hand over the gas (at a safe distance) works great on making the colour deepen and maintains it for longer.

Pavan Ahluwalia at pavanonline.com

Pavan Ahluwalia at pavanonline.com

TAD: Many of us will be quite familiar with the ‘lemon and sugar’ (squeezing lemon juice and applying sprinkles of sugar to the henna) method to allow a better colour, do you have any other ways? 

P: This method and the heat works great, however all ingredients are in the henna cone that I  make myself so a lot of that is not needed. You can literally have the henna done and let that do the work for you.

Pavan Ahluwalia at pavanonline.com

Pavan Ahluwalia at pavanonline.com

TAD: You have already worked with big names such as Alesha Dixon, The Sugababes and Selfridges. Tell us how you came to do the famous Harrods window displays?

P: The Harrods window display was an honour for me, they had an A-Z of style in their windows and appointed me with the letter E for Embellishment.  I embellished a mannequin with my designs and the display was up for 6 weeks!

TAD: You have become an established entrepreneur and sought after henna artist, are there more exciting projects we can expect to see you involved in?

There are! I will be announcing a few in the coming months so keep an eye out!

Pavan Ahluwalia at pavanonline.com

Pavan Ahluwalia at pavanonline.com

Keep an eye out for new updates from Pavan at pavanonline.com, on Facebook or Twitter: @PAVAN_HENNA.

If you liked this post, you may also like:

Chai & Chats with: Roshni Chugani

Destination: India and Destination: Bangladesh from Destination: Travel

Happy Durga Puja and Happy Kali Puja & Diwali from Destination: Celebration

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Destination: Inspiration (45) 14th February 2013

Cakes from Hummingbird Bakery. Source: The Asian Destination

Cakes from Hummingbird Bakery. Source: The Asian Destination

 In the midst of a busy semester, surrounded by essays, projects and upcoming exams…one can ALWAYS make room for cake! Share some love (=cake!)  with your loved ones today!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

With love,

The Asian Destination xXx

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