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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Chai & Chats with: Iqbal from Desi Desciples

“People can’t take a brown person seriously in hip-hop”

Chai & Chats

 Read The Asian Destination’s exclusive interview with Iqbal from Desi Desciples.

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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!

When Spain Came To London Continue reading

Frustrations of being a British Born Indian Bengali


Born and brought up in the UK, I feel privileged to experience life in such a diverse country where different religions, cultures and beliefs are respected. That said, the Indian culture that I have experienced here is inevitably different compared to if I’d been brought up in India.

Visiting India every year, I have come across some misconceptions that people seem to have of the British Born which I will share below.

1. That non-resident Asians (may think they) are somehow ‘better’ than the resident Asians.

My mashi (maternal aunt) once told me a story of an NRI (Non-Resident Indian) woman at the gym that felt she was ‘entitled’ to be on a piece of gym equipment for longer than the suggested time….just because she lived abroad…..!!

And before you ask, no she wasn’t famous and EVEN if she was, it would still not be acceptable.

Yes, this is a true story.

Yes, it baffles me too.

Yes, it makes me ashamed and I apologise on behalf of all NRIs to any Resident Indians that may have experienced this outrageous behaviour.

No, we are NOT better.

We are ALL equal.

NRIs ARE OF course going to differ.

2nd, 3rd and subsequent generations born and brought up away from the country of heritage, WILL obviously be different from their corresponding cousins brought up in the homeland.

That is a given, due to differences in culture and society, yet there is NOT and should NOT ever be a distinction between who is ‘better’.

2.       Just because we’re non-resident, we are apparently incapable of venturing out alone or being independent.

There is a wonderful scene in the award-winning film, The Namesake, directed by Mira Nair, adapted from Jhumpa Lahiri’s book, of Gogol trying to go for a run in the chaotic streets of Kolkata. His Indian family become so worried that Sahib babu (Sahib – means ‘foreigner’ Babu – affectionate name for a boy/son/friend) cannot handle these unfamiliar surroundings, that they send out their servant to follow him.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the concern of my elders; any country holds risk and potential dangers if one is not alert and aware of their surroundings. However, to wrap us up in cotton wool in some false hope that these troubles will disappear, is in my opinion worse. Shielding us from the harshness of life is understandable when one is young, yet as we grow older, it is imperative that we, as tomorrow’s adults, learn how to best deal with hardships, how to be independent and responsible simultaneously and how to be the peace in times of chaos rather than continue a cycle of not avoiding the real issues entirely.

Have faith that we are culturally aware and responsible enough to make educated choices in today’s world and that even if you don’t, we still have faith in humanity, despite the many times you remind us that ‘din kal kharap’ (times are bad, in this day and age’).

3.       The misconception that we are all uncultured and uninterested in our heritage. 

There have been too many times to count where distant relatives and family friends have assumed I could not speak Bengali and have asked my mother questions about me, whilst I have been sitting there in front of them like an inanimate object! Others have started talking English to me and seem taken aback when I in fact reply in Bengali.

By no means am I completely fluent (I am still working on being able to write the script) yet I do take pride in knowing the language, taking an interest in the culture; whether it be visiting India every year or being sucked into watching the Indian soaps that my mother watches religiously!

Even the little things:

Turning up to school on a Monday morning with a right hand full of ‘yellow’ finger nails because Sunday was spent eating curry heavily laden with turmeric with my fingers, being admonished frequently for not oiling my hair enough or having all our appliances still in their protective plastic covers!

These little things make up my bigger picture, and denying them would remove a huge part of my British Indian Bengali identity. I appreciate that other people may disagree but for me personally, I am proud to say these make up who I am.


All views are my own. One may find they can relate to certain or all aspects of this post which is what I intended by sharing it. It does not however represent the views of ALL British Born Indian Bengalis, or British Born Asians for that matter. I am merely 1, and there are many of us around so attempting to characterise all musings would be difficult.

I’m open to adding more to this list so please feel free to comment below, subscribe on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and get in touch!

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Oily hair = healthy hair?!


If you’re Asian like me, you will at some point in your life been encouraged by your mother or other female relatives, to oil your hair to ensure your hair maintained long luscious locks comparable to the commercials on television.

Seeing hair glistening in the sun, freshly oiled and neatly combed can be a common sight amongst schoolgirls (and boys) in Asian countries. However, growing up in a more Western society where ‘greasy hair’ equates to poor hygiene, can make this beauty regime a bit of a nuisance.

There has also been some debate as to whether oiling the hair does more harm than good. Some say that it can unnecessarily aggravate the naturally produced sebum which promotes healthy skin and hair.

So what’s the verdict?

From personal experience, my hair definitely feels softer and silkier if I shampoo after an overnight oil mask. After doing a little research I have found that it is important to distinguish between the different type of oils; petroleum-based or mineral oils may actually add to hair dryness by reducing natural moisture. Natural oils such as coconut, jojoba and olive oils are thought to be the most nutritious and encourage re-growth, particularly in damaged hair.


Many of the natural oils can be found in any local supermarket and are relatively cheap to buy.

Your Turn…!

  1. For maximum benefit, pour some oil into a small bowl and heat for around 20 seconds in the microwave until warm.
  2. Massage oil into hair and scalp.
  3. Wrap your hair in a towel to lock in moisture.
  4. Leave oil on as long as desired (You can either choose to shampoo your hair after an hour, or for best results, leave it on overnight and shampoo your hair in the morning).
  5. Studies have shown regular hair oil treatment ensures healthier hair so make sure you treat your hair to some weekly TLC!


Not convinced?

Other cosmetic brands have started bringing out their own hair oil products.

VO5 Hot Oil Treatment

superdrug hot oil vo5

Tresemmé Keratin Oil

Tresemme Keratin Oil

Vatika Hair Oil in Almond

Vatika Hair Oil Almond

All products can be found at affordable prices at your local drugstore such as Superdrug (in the UK), so what are you waiting for?!

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This week’s: You Know You’re Asian When…

image (23)


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Destination: Japan

Destination Japan

Map-eating deer, Japanese Green Tea-flavoured everything and being served by giant frogs…

Come visit Japan with us as Josh (J), Kelsey (K) and Rachel (R) share their Japanese adventures with The Asian Destination!


Places Visited & Duration of Stay:

Keio University (Photo Source:

J: My stay was a 1 year exchange at Keio University. I lived in Yokohama and kept my visits to Tokyo/Yokohama for monetary reasons. I went to places like Kamakura as well.

K: Japan for 1 year. Tokyo, Miyagi prefecture, Niigata, Nagano.

R: 2 weeks:Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima

Miyagi  (Photo Source:

(Photo Source:

Yokohama  (Photo Source:

(Photo Source:

Favourite Destination:

J: Zusshi which is a seaside town. The beach is more of an inlet and in the past I cycled along that coastal road from there to Enoshima – great views and great atmosphere!

K: Nagano.

R: Kyoto.

Enoshima (Photo Source:

Enoshima (Photo Source:

Nagano  (Photo Source:

(Photo Source:

Describe the country in 3 words:
J: Respectful, helpful & beautiful.

K: Wacky, futuristic & tranquil.

R: Best country globally!

Kyoto Gardens (Photo Source:

Kyoto Gardens (Photo Source:

I wasn’t expecting to find…

J: A lot of people attempting to speak English. It shocked me a bit as I was expecting to hear less.

K: I wasn’t expecting to find… how down one road there would be neon lights advertising oxygen bars, and then on the other side of the road there would be a temple. Such a mix of old meets new!

R: Ginger haired groups of fashonistas hanging round at the corner of shops. Dyed ginger hair is a massive phenomenon out there, complete with 3 inch platforms and amazing make-up that looks straight off the catwalk. Also, women walking down the street in traditional Japanese dress – I thought it was more for special occasions!

'Tokyo Fashion Tribe' Photo Source:

‘Tokyo Fashion Tribe’ Photo Source:

My favourite part of the culture was:

J: The inherent politeness that people would have; they’d be willing to walk in the complete opposite direction of their own destination to make sure that I could find the place I was looking for. In some cases I didn’t even need to ask for directions or help – when I looked lost someone would come over! I even got given a cake by an old woman who I gave up my seat for on the train and talked to for her journey!

K: People’s eagerness to help. People would go out of their way to assist you if you were in trouble. For example you ask someone how to get somewhere, they don’t just direct you they’ll take you there personally.

R: How polite they were. The train conductor bows as he enters and exits the carriage. The shop assistants all loudly say arigato gozaimaaas as you leave the shop (even if you don’t buy anything).

The food – mochi (sort of like a donut but the dough is glutinous rice dough and the filling is traditionally red beans/sesame seeds. They do branch out into many many different flavours e.g. coffee, toffee, chocolate & peanut butter!  There was also Matcha flavoured everything (green tea) –  cosmetics, cakes, frappucino, mochi, bread. The restaurants also had plastic representations of the dishes so you would know what you were  getting before you ordered.

Mochi  (Photo Source:

(Photo Source:

I would describe the people as…

J: Friendly, polite and energetic.

K: helpful and polite with a bit of wackiness thrown in too.

R: Lovely, polite, helpful, charming, generally shorter than me!

Photo Source: tw.visit

Photo Source: tw.visit

I was surprised by…
J: The absolute efficiency of the Country. I was told that trains ran on time but I never expected it to be to this degree. This efficiency doesn’t just apply to public transport but with everything else. When I was making a bank account, they did it in less than an hour for me and made sure it was done before closing time and worked harder to get it done.

K: I was surprised by… how often people drink. Businessmen often go drinking every day after work with colleagues. To get involved in societies and groups a heavy deal of drinking is also required.

R: How much we loved the food and the amount of food that we had not heard of. Since my trip, Japanese food (other than Sushi) has become much more common over here – in London it is very easy to get a mochi fix . I’m still waiting for Starbucks to produce a matcha frappucino! EAT do a matcha milkshake but it’s not quite the same.

I was also surprised that it was only about 20 degrees at the beginning of September – it’s renowned for being 30+, humid and sweaty.

Photo Source:

Photo Source:

Something I miss about the country now:
J: The food. Without a doubt some of the tastiest stuff I’ve ever eaten in my life. It was no wonder I put on weight (over-eating). Will know to hold back next time! If you’re wondering it was food such as Ramen, Ton-katsu & Gyu-don.

K: The food. If someone could make me traditional ramen soup I would be very happy right now.

R:  I really wish I could wander out to buy some peanut butter mochi and a matcha frappucino with the shop assistants bidding me adieu (well, arigato gozaimas), boarding a train where standard class is better than a British 1st class and the conductor bowing to the carriage. Oh and how well behaved the children were – and so quiet!

Ton-Katsu  (Photo Source:

(Photo Source:

Any memorable/funny phrases of the language I picked up:
J:  A simple phrase I already knew before going to Japan, the word ‘Joshikai 女子会’. Means ‘Girls-only gathering‘. A thing where girls get together and drink/eat/do other things. Due to the ‘Joshi’ aspect and its similarity to my name, my American friend and I had a lot of laughs and attempted our own ‘Joshikai’. People did come surprisingly…

K: Wabisabi which means beauty in something traditionally Japanese.

R: arigatoooooo gozaiiiiimaaaaaaaasss; Moshi moshi (Hi)

Photo Source:

Photo Source:

Strange or memorable experience:
J: I went to a bar called ‘Kagaya’ in Tokyo. It’s described as the wackiest bar by most of the foreign bloggers who talk about Japan. This bar only serves one group at a time (for a period of a couple of hours) and the bartender goes all out to entertain by singing or dressing up in giant frog costumes. It was hilarious from start to end.

Kagaya (Photo Source:

Kagaya (Photo Source:

K: Being asked by people on the street if they can take a photo with you. Often shy in social occasions I was quite surprised that Japanese people would be so confident to take a photo with a complete stranger just because I looked a bit different to them.


Hiroshima – being the only white people visiting the peace park and getting looks from the Japanese and feeling an inner restlessness.

Miyajima – renowned for the amount of deer that just walk about on the streets. We sat down to enjoy our bubble tea and work out where we were on the map. Some deer came and surrounded us and took a bite out of our map…and then another one…and another…. We leapt up and away from the map-consuming deer with the locals laughing at us!

Photo Source:

Photo Source:

A misconception people may have of the country:

J: The biggest is Sushi I’d say. If anything it’s eaten once a month. And it’s the only food people ask me about when I come back home. There appears to be a bit of a lack of knowledge about food in Japan.

K: That everyone eats sushi. There are people in Japan who don’t like raw fish too and there are many different types of food to suit different tastes.

R: Upon mentioning my adoration of Japan, people have commented about Japanese being ‘harsh’ but I experienced completely the opposite.

One thing the guide books don’t tell you:
J: I never read the guide books so I’m not sure on this one but one big thing is to mind your manners on public transport  – e.g. keep your phone on silent.

K: Trains can be awfully confusing so make sure you download a underground map before you go and make sure you avoid peak hours so you can dodge being pushed onto a train with the early commuters.

R: The guide books don’t adequately explain just how to use the underground, neither do they prepare you for the culture shock of everything being in symbols, and a foreign language, although it was amazing to experience.

Guide books also don’t tell you that Japanese books are vertical lines of symbols (in contrast to horizontal lines of words). They read these symbols from right to left, but will read the left page before the right, similarly books are shelved left to right. But, if it is written horizontally, it will be read left to right – a useless fact which I find intriguing.

Photo Source:

Tokyo Subway (Photo Source:

Other advice I would give to those planning a trip to:

J: Make sure you have enough time and money. Research well and look into all your options. That way you can get the most out of your trip. Definitely budget well and look for things that you can get beforehand (there is a train travel pass for those who travel to Japan- you just have to apply online).

K: Make sure you explore the modern and the traditional parts of Japan as they both have their perks.

R: You only need to spend a couple of days in Tokyo. Although there are lots of districts to explore, we actually found it was all quite similar and built up with illuminated buildings – tall modern buildings combined with Piccadilly Circus to the power 4.Instead, explore smaller cities and quieter areas for a ‘true Japan.’ I much preferred Kyoto to Tokyo. (Random fact: Kyo -to is To-kyo in reverse). Get a Japan rail pass (you can do this at the airport when you arrive in Japan).

Would you go back?
J: In a heartbeat.

K: Definitely.

R: Yes! I’ve also been told that the north of Japan is very beautiful and a bit different to southern Japan, so I would like to visit there.

Photo Source:

Photo Source:


If you liked this post, you may also like to read:

Destination: IndiaDestination: Vietnam and Destination: Bangladesh.


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Chai & Chats with: Malika Garrett

Malika Garrett's Contribution for The Akshaya Patra Foundation Fundraiser, signed by Malika & Deepak Chopra.

Malika Garrett’s Contribution for The Akshaya Patra Foundation Fundraiser, signed by Malika & Deepak Chopra.

Successful Non-resident Indian Bengali artist, Malika Garrett, emigrated to the USA to study art in college. Since then she has combined her business experience with her creative passion and helped raise thousands of dollars for charity. OWN Ambassador, Malika, talks to The Asian Destination about collaborating with Deepak Chopra and the Akshaya Patra Foundation. We also discover how Deepak, Mastin Kipp & Oprah Winfrey have helped change her life.

Available at

Available at

TAD: You grew up in Kolkata, West Bengal in India and went to study in America before becoming the successful artist that you are today. Tell us, when did your love for art start and did you always want to pursue it as a career?

M: My love for art started as far back as I can remember. We are a family of artists, I was always around art and was taught to appreciate it from a very early age. I always loved drawing. I was forever sketching on any paper I could find. My most treasured gifts were pencils, erasers, crayons and markers! I won the class Art prize every year in my school in Kolkata. My grandparents were my first patrons and fans. They encouraged me and even bought my art! I learned service and volunteering through my art; I sold it to my grandparents at age 4 and raised money for Mother Teresa! Since then I have always volunteered and given back.

Raika Mother & Child available at

Raika Mother & Child available at

TAD: Did you ever think you would be an artist?

M: No, I did not ever think I would be an artist. I was leaning towards being a business woman in the corporate world, travelling or saying, ‘Order! Order!’ and being a judge! It’s funny how I ended up being a business woman and an artist. I pursued Art in college but fell into Sales while I was working in advertising at the New York Times.

TAD: What do you miss about India/Kolkata and how important is it to you to maintain a level of Indian culture/tradition in your life?

M:I miss Kolkata and India immensely- I am always going to be Indian and Bengali first. I will never forget where I came from. I owe much of my success and the making of who I am to my childhood in Kolkata. Kolkata has shaped me and made me who I am today. It is very important for me to maintain a high level of ‘Indian-ness’ as I am married to an American and have 2 children whom I want to be a part of their mother’s culture. I am always afraid they will never know their mother’s home or know what it means to be Indian. My husband and I have since birth tried to teach my children about both cultures and encourage them to explore and ask a lot of questions.

Available at

TAD: Being a non-resident Indian, sometimes integrating a mixture of traditions and cultures can be a challenge, how do you deal with it?

M: I never really found it to be a challenge, in fact quite the opposite for me, since I was exposed to the world of travel from a very early age. My multiracial children however, epitomize the synthesis of two parent philosophies in a flowing, yin-yang self. They have always known Mum to be Indian and Dad to be American. Their combination of heritage makes them world citizens. In my mind, it makes them wiser too and a lot more tolerant, curious and appreciative of diversity.

TAD: Are there any typically Bengali things you miss now that you are settled in America?

M: Yes the FOOD! Daal (lentils) Bhat, (rice) LUCHI (oily, fried flat bread) and Aludom (an Indian take on mashed potato)! I also miss the Bengali traditions: Durga Puja & Bhai Phota.



TAD: Would we be right in assuming the inspiration behind most of your art is your time spent living and visiting India?

M:YES! Very much so! My work is mostly about the people of India – their stories , their images of strength, simplicity and courage. My work is about many from India who struggle, yet despite their challenges, are happy people. That is what I try to portray through my work: that despite their challenges their lives maintain a sense of simplicity and beauty in the midst of harsh circumstances. They don’t let their situation get in the way- they make the most of it and go on with life. They have inspired me to survive, despite the many odds I have faced as well.

'Beautiful Bishnoi Women in their colourful saris and jewellery from head to toe. On the forehead they wear a "Borla" or "Rakhri", the nose ring is almost mandatory, and of which the Bishnois sport the most beautiful' - Available at

‘Beautiful Bishnoi Women in their colourful saris and jewellery from head to toe. On the forehead they wear a “Borla” or “Rakhri”, the nose ring is almost mandatory, and of which the Bishnois sport the most beautiful’ – Available at

TAD: Art can be quite subjective, how do you handle criticism and negative comments?

M: I smile and take in everything they say. Each of us is entitled to our own opinion. In many cases they have shown me things in my art work I haven’t seen myself. Every opportunity is a learning opportunity for me – good or bad.

There are no failures. Just experiences and your reactions to them.” ~Tom Krause

Artwork available at

Artwork available at

TAD: You are one of several OWN ambassadors. For those that are unaware, please could share what it means to be an OWN ambassador?

M: The role of an OWN Ambassador is to support OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network), and have a vision “To Live Your Best life. As an OWN Ambassador you can participate either via Facebook, or Twitter. We participate via Twitter Parties, Tweet Ups, Book Club/Tweet Club. You get to interact with like-minded fellow ambassadors. It’s a positive support system that lifts you up. We are a community of like- minded people having informative conversations everyday and spreading joy and love.



TAD: How did you become involved with Oprah and the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN)?

M: I met the group on Twitter because of our mutual love of OWN and my conversations with their producers about my personal story. If you would like to become an OWN Ambassador, follow @ownambassadors on Twitter, “Like” us on Facebook, insert #OWNAmbassador in your profile under the Bio section, and on Twitter, use #OWNAmbassadors as the hashtag. It’s that easy! As Oprah mentioned to us and the world, we are the ‘Carriers Of Light’.

Image Source: Malika Garrett

Image Source: Malika Garrett

TAD: You have worked and come into contact with a variety of prominent people including Oprah, Deepak Chopra and Mastin Kipp. These individuals, amongst many others, are known to all be committed to ‘living their best life’. What have you learnt from working with them that you could share with us?

M: Each one has taught me so many lessons that resonate with me but one that screams out is what Oprah has said over and over again- ‘Life happens not to me, but for me’!– She has really changed my life.

Also Dr. Chopra’s teaching that ‘Holding on to resentment is like holding your breath’– has made me look at forgiveness in a whole new light.

I try to remember every day:

‘We all can receive atonement through service’

‘We are all spiritual beings having a human experience’

‘Vulnerability is the Birthplace of Creativity and Change’– Brene Brown

Mastin Kipp & Malika Image Source: Malika Garrett

Mastin Kipp & Malika (Image Source: Malika Garrett)

I have also learnt not to hold myself hostage for my past and that it’s ok to be vulnerable.

As Maya Angelou said to Oprah

“ When you know better you do better!’

I am SO grateful for all of these wonderful folks you mention and others who have helped me enhance my spirit and not drain my power. Each day they have given me a new breath of life!

Deepak & Malika at The Akshaya Patra Foundation Fundraiser. Image Source: Malika Garrett

Deepak & Malika at The Akshaya Patra Foundation Fundraiser (Image Source: Malika Garrett)

TAD: You have recently been involved in a Akshaya Patra (AP) fundraiser – congratulations on its success! Could you tell us a bit about the charity and the event?

M:They are an amazing organization and I am proud and honoured to be a part of them.

Please check out their website and get involved- everyone can make a difference- it only takes $15 to feed one child for one year a hot meal served in school everyday! Founded in 2000, the Akshaya Patra Foundation’s mission is that “no child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger” and its next goal is to feed five million children daily by 2020. Currently they are feeding 1 million children every day. The foundation is a strategic intervention in education aimed at breaking the vicious and perpetual cycle of poverty.

Image Source:

Akshaya Patra Foundation (Image Source:

TAD: How did you come to be involved in it?

M: My journey with AP started a few months back, in December, while I was in conversation with Dr. Chopra. He happened to mention that he was coming to Atlanta. He invited me to get involved with Akshaya Patra and I was thrilled. I had nothing to give but my creativity. I offered to do a collaborative painting with him for their fundraiser in Atlanta. The event was last week and was a massive success. The event raised over $400 K and my painting brought in $50K. Because of our collective efforts 26,000 children will be fed a hot meal in India. How cool is that?

Mandanganj Women and Child at

Mandanganj Women and Child at

TAD: This is not the first fundraiser your art has featured in, you also joined forces with Robin Raina in ‘India on Canvas’ where artwork was also auctioned for charity in order to help under-privileged children in India.

As mentioned, the volunteer and service bug bit me at a very early age in Kolkata. I was always wanting to help to give whatever I had to whoever I saw needed something. In addition to raising money for Mother Teresa’s missionaries for charity, I taught classes to the children of the household help. Robin Raina and I partnered together for ‘India on Canvas’ and then with Shashi Tharoor in 2008 for the same charity.

TAD: So, what’s next for you? Will we be seeing more of your art being exhibited soon or featuring in another worthwhile fundraising event soon?

M: No immediate plans- but that can change tomorrow! I am always excited about new collaborations and ventures.There are some smaller ones in the works but none I can name yet.

TAD: How does one get their hands on a Malika Garrett piece? Are they available for shipping?

M: My art work is on my website at you can also ‘like’ me on and follow me on twitter @MalikaGhosh

Malika’s blog:

and check out:

If you liked this post, you may also like:

Chai & Chats with: Roshni Chugani and Chai & Chats with: Pavan Ahluwalia

Destination: India and Destination: Bangladesh from Destination: Travel

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

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