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Eid-Ul-Fitr - A Celebration of Gratitude

Eid-Ul-Fitr - A Celebration of Gratitude


Let’s face it, when you live in a desi household, you only take a day off of school when you are in a dire emergency. Growing up, Eid always held a special place in my heart as it meant taking a day off of school without having to explain myself. Eid ul-Fitr, which translates to the "Festival of the Breaking of the Fast", marks an end to the holy month of Ramadan.Muslims around the world look forward to Eid preparations months in advance. They make sure to buy vibrant clothes that follow the latest fashion trends, with matching bangles, jewelry, and sandals. The night before Eid, also known as “Chand Raat”, streets in South Asian communities are usually bustling with last-minute shoppers as they are during Christmas Eve. During this time, people take strolls down these streets to get last minute accessories and decorate their hands with intricate henna patterns. They make sure to get some mango kulfi, samosas, and papri chaat along the way while hearing exuberant greetings of “Chand Raat Mubarak!”

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On Eid Morning, children and adults alike wake up super early and get dressed in their shiny and colorful outfits with matching jewelry, and go for Eid prayer. Personally, my favorite part is reuniting with acquaintances. The energy is amazing. Everyone gathers in one happy place and expresses their cheeriness through a unique three-hug embrace. After the Eid prayer, people come home to Eid presents, halwa puri breakfast, and an Eid staple dessert: ‘Sheer Khorma’. After feasting, they go house hopping to visit family and friends. Post-food-coma, a nap would be necessary before getting re-dressed in a second new outfit for an evening Eid dinner with extended family. It is such a pleasant feeling to catch up with relatives, old and young, and reunite during this special holiday. During dessert and chai, the kids receive Eid presents from the elders, and parents share stories from their own childhood and how they celebrated Eid in their home country. In some cases, these Eid celebrations extend on to the weekends as well. 

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Each community has its own unique way of celebrating Eid, some folks travel to their home countries to be with their families and others celebrate locally by hosting potluck lunches and dinners. There are many Eid festivals and celebrations that people around the U.S. participate in with merriment. Many mosques and Muslim communities hold Eid carnivals, halal food festivals, parades, workshops, and more. They make a point to reach out to be inclusive of Muslims new and old, as well as individuals of other faiths. 

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After a month of abstaining from basic human necessities, Eid-ul-fitr is a celebration that teaches people to be grateful for their blessings, and provides gratitude for the everyday convenience of life including a meal whenever you want it, water that comes out of a wall from your house, and the difficulties those that don't have this convenience face. It is a reminder that not everyone has the choice to eat, drink, and spend time with family whenever they wish. Eid-ul-fitr is a segway into being mindful of what Ramadan has taught people going forward in their lives: to forgive and forget, to eat moderately, and to continue to abstain from vices for a clean soul for the rest of the year. 

During this time, Muslims are also strongly encouraged to reach out to those who are less fortunate and continue to give to charity; Mosques hold clothing and toy drives to be donated to children and families on this holiday. Eid-ul-fitr is a time of much merriment as Muslims observe the end of Ramadan in high spirits, whilst also keeping the less fortunate in mind.

 

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Ramadan: Disconnect and Reconnect with your Mind, Body, Soul, and Community

Ramadan: Disconnect and Reconnect with your Mind, Body, Soul, and Community

Ever wonder why it is called “Ramadan”? The term Ramadan comes from the word “ramad” which means burning. According to Muslim scholars, this holy month was named Ramadan because fasting during it burns the sins of the practicing person, bringing her or him closer to God. During this month, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, abstaining from food, water, and sexual intercourse from sunup to sundown.

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Ramadan commemorates the month in which Muslims believe Muhammad received the initial revelations that today make up the Qur'an. It falls upon a different Gregorian date every year based on moon sightings. Ramadan is a time of spiritual cleansing for many Muslims, and it is encouraged to prepare in advance for it. Burying hatchets, reflecting upon the Qur’an, decluttering your home, giving to charity, abstaining from vices (such as smoking, drinking, and excessive caffeine consumption), stocking up on pantry items in bulk, eating moderately, and going on a social media detox are some of the things people do to prepare. To get young children into the Ramadan spirit, parents decorate their homes and plan a fun 30-day countdown calendar to encourage kids to do good deeds, and learn about the significance of the month.

Ramadan is a perfect time for families to bond over prayer and prepare meals to break bread during suhoor, the pre-dawn meal, and iftar, the meal eaten at sunset. This is also a great opportunity for people to give back to the community by donating to mosques, and assisting them in preparations for daily suhoor and iftar meals for the public. Mosques and universities hold annual interfaith iftars as they welcome people of other faiths to join Muslims in opening their fasts at sundown. If Ramadan falls in the summer months, the nights are shorter allowing friends and families to spend it together engaging in prayer and suhoor. There is also an increased sense of community and brotherhood during the month of Ramadan. Muslims from around the neighborhood congregate for “Taraweeh”, a nightly Ramadan prayer.

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Ramadan is a chance for Muslims to redeem themselves. Apart from redemption, Ramadan allows for improved mental clarity and concentration. We have all experienced a “food coma”, a state in which we feel extremely lethargic. In contrast, even with little food and water, Muslims find periods during their fast where they feel a brain fog lifted and mental concentration improved. Ramadan reveals the strength of the body and the power of the mind. Similar to other religions and traditions, fasting reveals to us that our appetite has less power over us than we think and that we are stronger than we realize. It illuminates the power we have over our urges.
 

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The first day of Ramadan is the hardest for most people; however, after a few days, the body gets accustomed to the new change. During Ramadan, for the pre-dawn meal (suhoor), health experts strongly recommend to drink plenty of water and eat wholesome foods that provide energy to last the long hours of summer. Foods such as yogurt lassi, fruit and date smoothies, chia seed pudding, greek yogurt with granola, oatmeal with bananas, and avocado toast are commonly recommended. For the post-dawn meal (Iftar), it is recommended to break your fast with dates and water, as dates provide a burst of natural sugar that your body needs, followed by grilled chicken or fish with vegetables, salads, and soup. During Ramadan, one should stay away from foods that are saturated with oil, artificial sugars, or salts; otherwise, it defeats the purpose of living a healthy lifestyle. Begin and end your fast on a nutritious note, and your body will thank you in the long run.

Ramadan is a chance for Muslims to cleanse the mind,  body, and soul. Some find it the perfect antidote to our fast-paced digital culture that can leave us mentally exhausted and disconnected with nature, personal relationships, and our inner selves.

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The Magnificent Seven Spices Needed for Indian Cooking

The Magnificent Seven Spices Needed for Indian Cooking

After getting married and moving to my own home, I had to learn all about the essential spices that are found in a desi kitchen. Before marriage, it never dawned upon me the significance of these spices that I grew up eating, nor did I bother to learn what each spice was as my mom handed me the spices needed as I followed recipes. Standing perplexed in my kitchen in Texas, instead of facetiming my mom, I decided to take matters into my own hands and self-learn. I was determined to start adulting and did my research on the essential spices needed for Indian cooking, before heading to the grocery store. I browsed through my bookmarked recipes that I created in the past, and came up with a list of spices commonly found in all of them.

 

Following are the few fundamental spices that will make your curries irresistible. You can put them in a masala dabba which can be easily found on Amazon or any Indian grocery store, or in clear jars with labels on them for easy access. Without further ado, I present to you “The Magnificent Seven”:

 

 1. Red Chili powder (Laal Mirch)

Chilli Powder

 

Consists of pure red ground chillies. One of the key ingredients that makes Indian cooking spicy, eliminating blandness which differentiates Indian cuisines from other cuisines.

 

 2. Turmeric powder (Haldi)
Turmeric

 

The main ingredient that gives indian dishes their distinct yellow color. It is known to have an abundance of health benefits.

 

 3. Coriander Powder (Dhaniya Powder)



Coriander Powder

 

It is an aromatic stimulant that brings out the flavorsome savor of Indian curries. It also acts as a thickener.

 

 4. Cumin seeds (Zeera)

Cumin Seed

 

Cumin is grown from seeds. Cumin seed is used as a spice for its distinctive and intense flavor and aroma. It can be used to add a smoky note to Indian dishes.

 

 5. Cumin powder (Zeera Powder)

 

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Cumin powder is derived from grinded cumin seeds. It’s flavor can be described as warm and earthy and plays well with others, especially with coriander powder.

 

 6. Garam masala (Ground Spices)



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This is a blend of whole spices such as coriander, cumin, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg that have been grinded and roasted. The words garam masala literally translate to “hot spices”.

 

 7. Cardamon (Elaichi)

Elaichis

 

There are two kinds of cardamom used in Indian cooking: green and black. Green cardamom tastes light and sweet. Black cardamom, on the other hand, is powerful and smoky.

 

The magnificent seven spices listed above can be used separately or together. You are guaranteed to find them in any Indian recipe. Some of the more popular appetizers and dishes include pakoras, samosas, daal, mixed sabzi, curry, biryani, etc. Now you can say goodbye to the ready made MSG filled masala packets, and say hello to a trend that is better for both your health and wallet.

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The Colors of Holi Run Across U.S Cities

The Colors of Holi Run Across U.S Cities

Holi announces the passing of winter and arrival of spring, radiating merriment. People meet each other with warm embraces, burying hatchets, and throwing away their worries. During Holi, every corner presents a colorful sight filled with singing, dancing, delicious foods and desserts, and quality time spent with friends and family. This Festival of Color in spring is nature’s way of singing “Holi Hai!”.

 

 

From grandparents missing the festivities back home, NRI’s introducing their young children to the festivities, or an American-Indian bringing their Non-Indian co-workers to a holi event, this is one holiday that is enjoyed by all age groups. Over the years, the Holi festival has been mainstreamed and has become a welcoming space for all faiths. This Festival of Colors is often attended and enjoyed by many, including Muslims, Sikh, Mormons, Catholics, and Jews.



 

 

Over the last few decades, the Indian population in the U.S. has grown drastically in metropolitan cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, San Jose, and D.C. When it comes to Hindu holidays like Diwali, Lohri, or Holi, Indian associations and festival organizers plan colorful, fun-filled events of Indian street food, singing, and choreographed dancing.

 

Upcoming Holi Celebrations Across the U.S.

 

The Sri Radha Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah has a two-day festival planned at the end of March where over fifty thousand people are expected to attend, with the majority being non-Hindu participants. Similarly in Texas, the Houston Holi festival will be celebrated with a live Bollywood concert, all day color play, Bollywood and Indian folk dance performances, carnival rides for children, and a foam party. In California, the LA Holi celebration planned for March welcomes spring with a scheduled color throw countdown, yoga lessons, and a live music festival. It is described by some as the “World’s Happiest Transformational Event.”

 

These upcoming Holi celebrations also incorporate Holi rituals including the burning of wood or lighting of a bonfire called Holika. This is followed by the actual play of colors where people wear white outfits, and take delight in spraying colored water on each other or throwing handfuls of holi color on one another.

 

Food Served During Holi:

 

 

As always, the foodie in me is wondering what delicacies will be served during this colorful festival. The must have beverages include, thandai, made with saffron, almonds, sugar, milk and a variety of herbs, and lassi, a yogurt based drink. Some savory snacks include papri chaat, dahi vaada, and kachori. Papri chaat is made with crispy dough wafers served with chickpeas and boiled potatoes, tamarind chutney and yogurt. Dahi Vaada is prepared by soaking fitters made from lentil, chickpea flour, or potato immersed in yogurt (dahi), topped with cilantro, chili powder, crushed black pepper, chaat masala, cumin, green chilis, or boondi. And lastly, kachoris are lentil-filled pooris or dumplings served with tamarind chutney. To top it off, desserts for the Holi festival include, Gujiya or stuffed dumplings, Malpua- a sweet crepe prepared with a batter of coconut, crushed banana, flour, milk, and cardamom, served with a sugar syrup- and Kesari Malai Peda. Kesari Malai Peda are balls made with cream (malai) or thickened milk, saffron, and cardamom.


Extraordinarily different, a feast of foods, sounds, and colors, there’s nothing quite like India, and there is no better way to experience Indian culture in the United States than to celebrate the Holi festival with the locals. That said, don’t pass up this opportunity of participating in one of the world’s most vibrant festivals and singing  “Holi Hai!” no matter where you are.

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Care for My Hair

Care for My Hair

Do you ever look back at an old picture and miss your luscious locks? New Year’s resolutions have everyone focusing on self care. This year, in addition to healthy eating and going to the gym, my new mantra is “care for my hair”. Much of last year was spent traveling which took a big toll on my healthy hair. I didn’t realize it, but climate change and water can have a drastic effect on your locks. From consulting my hair stylist for hair remedies to ordering high-end hair products from Amazon, I have yet to find a solution. One of main goals of this year, is to nurture my hair back to the way it used to be before. 

Growing up, my mom would give me a head massage with natural oils every other day to stimulate my scalp which helped strengthen my hair follicles. After much research, I decided to go back to the basics and revert to the DIY methods of using those oils to treat my hair. Following are the natural hair oils I have tried in the last month to restore those luscious locks.

Castor Oil + Organic Coconut Oil

Castor Oil Coconut Oil

The ultimate combination to bringing your hair back to life!

• Heat up equal parts of castor oil and organic coconut oil. Work with small sections of your scalp and massage the oil into your hair for 10-15 minutes. Leave the oil in hair overnight for the best results and then wash with your normal hair routine. Use twice a week for the best results.

• This is a highly recommended blend for hair loss due to its antibacterial and antifungal properties.

• Also beneficial in preventing and treating dandruff.

• Castor oil is thick in consistency and is useful in nourishing the scalp, while Coconut oil is thinner in consistency and useful for keeping the scalp moisturized.

Mustard Oil

Mustard Oil 

If you have dry and brittle hair, mustard oil is the solution!

• Take a measurable amount of mustard oil depending on your hair length and massage it into your scalp in small sections. You may choose to heat the mustard oil before application if you want. Leave the oil overnight for best results and wash with your normal hair routine. Use twice a week for the best results.

• Stimulates hair growth by increasing blood circulation in the scalp.

• Has antibacterial and antifungal properties that prevent hair loss.

• Contains fatty acids to help condition and hydrate the hair.

Almond Oil

Almond Oil 

If you have a hard time giving up hair tools every morning,
then almond oil is your call!

• Take a measurable amount of almond oil depending on your hair length and massage it into your scalp in small sections. Leave oil in hair overnight for the best results and then wash with your normal hair routine. Use twice a week for the best results.

• Softens the hair and makes it super shiny. 

• Nut oils, such as this, improve hair resilience. This is good for people who style their hair a lot using heat and friction, such as with a straightener or curling iron.

• Anyone who has a severe nut allergy should not use almond oil for their hair as it could trigger a serious reaction.

 

 

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