So – my girl Chaz and I have started a podcast called Spilling My Chai! There are so many incredible podcasts out there, and initially I was worried ours would get lost in the digital sea of online voices – but we decided to go for it anyway. Why, you ask? Because we really wanted to create a safe space where we could express brutal honesty without shame or fear.
“Berlin is more a part of the world than a city. ”
—Jean Paul, Writer, 1800
Arriving in Berlin in the midst of the winter solstice I shouldn’t have been taken aback by the chill in the air, the whiteness of the sky, snow falling on my face – but it was claustrophobic, looming above my head, closing in on me. The whole week I was there, I never saw the sun. Thankfully, the magic of the Christmas Market lights meant that even in its gloomy winter state, the city sparkled.
Happy New Year my loves.
Some people talk about the dawn of a New Year as if it is going to fix something, as though the tide that is the New Year will wash over us and we’ll finally start swimming in the right direction, we’ll be cleansed, we’ll have a new start and more importantly, we’ll know what to do with it.
I was recently invited to the BBC to take part in The Big Debate on BBC Asian Network and yes, I almost wet myself in a fit of nerves but yes, it was also an experience I thought worth sharing.
I am a British Pakistani born in London. Both my mother and father were born in Lahore, Pakistan. I can’t speak my mother tongue and I know little to nothing about my ethnic culture – what can I say? They didn’t bring it with them when they came. As I got older I became curious about who I was, what my parents grandparents were like, how they survived partition, what led them here and who is running through my veins.
How are you? No, seriously, are you good?
Can I start this post by sharing something I read recently?
1. Relax your brows
2. Let your tongue fall from the roof of your mouth
3. Unclench your jaw
4. Let your shoulders fall away from your ears
Don’t you feel more relaxed? I am.
Anyway, I realise I have neglected my blog AGAIN. How is time moving so fast? I swear, I blink and a month has passed. I’ll have grey hairs by the time I stop binging every series available on Netflix.
So, while it feels like no time at all since I last updated this blog, it’s actually been months – but I’ve still been writing. You know me (unless it’s your first time here – in which case, run while you can) if I’m not writing, I feel absolutely useless. So please, allow me to catch you up on my latest ramblings.
Dear, sweet summertime of 2018 is reaching its end (having said that, it’s August and is already looking miserable as f*ck, so maybe it’s already ended). Anyway, I still remember the start of summer so clearly – it marked the start of Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims where we abstain from all the things we usually take for granted from sunrise to sunset. It’s a real test of mental strength and is a great detoxing process of the body, cleansing everything from your blood to your mind. And no, you can’t even drink water in those hours.
This year I really struggled to get through it – I was having a hard time with my mental health and I beat myself up about it alot. So I wrote about battling depression during Ramadan and why ultimately, the best thing you can do is be kind to yourself.
Speaking of Gal-Dem, I wrote something else for them which was scary to write, but one of the things I am most proud to have written, because microaggressions are real and I was sick of being made to feel I was mad. The reality is, being a WoC in England can be tough. You become highly attuned to the energy of those around you for the sake of self-preservation. I wrote about how I am made to feel on public transport sometimes, and I was so touched at the response I got. So many women empathised. If you have read it, thank you. If you haven’t, you can read it here.
I don’t know if you knew this, but I used to wear a hijab. I loved it for how it made me feel, but I didn’t feel ready to represent Islam in such a public way, so I felt like the most respectful thing was to take it off while I discovered who I was and got certain (admittedly haram) things out of my system… I wrote about it for MuslimGirl, an awesome website based in the US.
Let’s talk about hair, bay-bee. How is yours? Mine is coarse, frizzy and dry, thanks to my bleaching the living hell out of it. Everytime I go to hairdressers on the high street I feel like they don’t understand how to style or cut my hair… unless I pay an extortionate amount to see the highest qualified person. Whether you’re from Syria or Sri Lanka there’s a chance you might have experienced the same thing – which begs the question – why do we not have any swanky salons dedicated to our hair type (that I know of)?
I know a lot of LGBTQ people. Some of them are happily married, some of them are single in Soho living their best lives, some of them are still coming to terms with who they are, and some of them have spent their life trying to deny who they are. It’s a tough job trying to accommodate your faith, family and culture with your sexual identity. I wrote a piece of fiction based on all the love, passion and painful stories I have heard over the years, covering the conflict in something that should be so easy – love.
I think I’ve left you with enough of my ramblings! Until next time, baby girl.
Love, Maz x
“You can’t understand Punjabi?!” Rishma* said, mouth open in a grin stuck on pause that evolved into rolling laughter of disbelief. “No,” I smiled, clenching my fists that lulled by my sides to prevent them from instinctively floating up and punching her in the jaw.
Los Angeles (laws·an·juh·leez) – translating to ‘The Angels’ in Spanish
New York might be the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, but Los Angeles is the place where you’ll see them come to fruition. My travel buddy and I booked this trip last minute – like, two weeks before we flew out – which means we had to work extra hard to stay on a budget and still live the high life. Here’s how we did…
Salt Air, Venice: Oysters, Hawaiian prawns, black cod, charred octopus… if you want a rich, smoky, delightful taste of the sea in an intimate candlelit setting, this is it.
Bubba Gump, various locations: A California-born staple for seafood, Bubba Gump might not have the most sophisticated menu – but with shrimp of every variety, an extensive drinks list that come with light up glasses and a fun décor, it’s a must do.
iHop, various locations: My American friends sneered when I said I liked iHop – again, maybe not the ‘coolest’ restaurant in town, but it was really fun, absolutely delicious and well priced. Plus, kids are guaranteed to love it.
The Butcher’s Daughter, Venice: A plant-based restaurant and an Instagram enthusiast’s playground, this ‘vegetable slaughterhouse’ offers wholesome guilt-free bites in an airy plant-adorned space.
The Halal Guys, various locations: The choice is simple – meat sandwiches or platters. It is essentially a glorified kebab house, but was damn tasty. I went for the platter, which included rice, a mix of chicken and beef gyro meat, bread and salad. As far as Halal offerings go, the Halal Guys won’t let you down.
Clutch Restaurant, Venice: This was my favourite place – lobster tails, shrimp and grits to die for, jalapeno and cheddar biscuits that melted in my mouth, ceviche… I really would kill for it right now. Go, go and go again.
Salt and Straw, various locations: The ultimate ice cream haven. Expect queues out of the door, and remember it will be worth it. I tried honey lavender flavour, which was like nothing I’d ever had before. Oh and I tried gooey chocolate brownie. And did I mention it all came in a waffle cone? Excuse me, let me just wipe the drool of my chin.
WHAT TO DO
Universal Studios: I’m not really into theme parks, but this was incredible. Venture into an actual replica of the Hogwarts castle for a Harry Potter ride, visit Krustyland and be sure to do their amazing studio tour where you’ll watch stunts happen live and visit iconic sets, such as where Psycho was filmed!
Griffith Observatory: Views. Views for days. Coined as Southern California’s gateway to the cosmos, everything you’d want to know about astronomy is here.
Griffith Park: You’ll find the hiking trail to the Hollywood sign, which will take you about 90 minutes each way. There is also a zoo and botanical garden here.
Abbot Kinney Boulevard: Named the coolest neighbourhood in America, this is the place for quirky shopping and eateries.
Getty Museum: The Getty houses work by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and I really don’t know that much about art but come on.
Hollywood Walk of Fame: Ya gotta do it! We parked in the Hollywood and Highland shopping center, which is free for the first two hours and gives you quick access.
California Science Center: Free entry, pay for parking, see some cool planet stuffs.
Things I didn’t do, but I hear you should: Disneyland (Anaheim), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Natural History Museum, shopping and celeb hunting at Rodeo Drive and Beverley Hills.
We hit three beaches in our time in LA – Malibu, Santa Monica, and Venice.
Venice is stunning and full of character – a double whammy, the beach serves as a personal sunbathing paradise and a place to people watch, surf, skateboard, and shop.
Santa Monica should be seen for its pier, where you can take a picture with the iconic Route 66 sign (the route ends there!) and check out the rides. The least picturesque of the three, but the most kid-friendly.
Malibu was quiet, peaceful and romantic. Go for a dreamy afternoon with your partner (or alone – team #SingleLadies here) and soak in some sun as you lay on the white sands.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotels were crazy expensive by the time we were looking to book – you’re likely to find an awesome Airbnb for the price of an average hotel. We stayed in two Airbnb apartments – one Downtown with our own balcony surrounded by palm trees, a rooftop pool, large living room, breakfast bar and separate bedroom, for £100 a night.
Our second home was far more humble, but it was a 10 minute walk from Venice beach and had an even more humbling price of £57 a night, so we were okay with that.
The first time I went to LA I didn’t have a car, and I survived just fine. That being said, you’re better off with one – it gives you more flexibility, more freedom, and you’ll be able to see more. We got a decent ride for £150 for the entire week with Alamo, booking via NetFlights.
And that’s it, folks! I cut so much from this post as it would have been ridiculously long – so if you have any questions, or any tips for me next time I go (oh yes, I will be back) drop ’em in the comments!
I am not a flower in bloom
When he told her he was coming to the city but not to see her, she was angry
Not because she’d miss the way he would have smiled when he spotted her from a mile away