We are women with unique cultural backgrounds. We are defined by our differences yet brought together by our similarities. Our distinct cultures are mirrored in the bridal adornment on our neck and on our bodies. We are the Brides of South Asia. We are proud to celebrate the diversity of our own diaspora. We’re here to remind you that there’s more than one kind of brown girl–and we’re proud to know one another, to support one another and to celebrate one another.
For this concept shoot, we had nine past brides recreate their wedding looks. We wanted to showcase the diversity of what a South Asian bride looks like on their wedding day and show how South Asian weddings are unique from each other. We gave each bride an accessory that was related to their specific religious wedding traditions. They are rich in color, customs, and religion. These brides are breaking cultural norms and bringing South Asian culture into the modern era.
That being said, we also wanted to show that there is more to a South Asian Bride than the stereotypical stay-at-home wives. These nine women share goals of empowerment; they live it every day of their lives and have gone above and beyond to show and wear their true colours in society.
We asked our nine brides for their take on marriage and their cultures in terms of empowerment, and here is what they had to say.
1. Deepa – Hindu-Punjabi
My name is Deepa Persad! I am the daughter of Indian immigrants, was born and raised in Canada, educated in Toronto and the United Kingdom, am a pharmacist by trade, and I moonlight as a party animal/loving and devoted wife!
My journey to self-empowerment and the empowerment of others started when I moved on a whim to England for pharmacy school at the tender age of 25! I didn’t know a soul on the other side of the pond, but looking back, that’s what really helped me come into my own and allowed me to gain perspective on people, life and all that it has to offer! I made great friendships with women who lifted one another up and supported each other in all that we did!
Professionally, I’m a district pharmacist for one of Canada’s leading retailers. What that means is that I work out of multiple locations of the same chain in Southern Ontario. I wouldn’t be able to do my job so well if I wasn’t so confident in myself and in my ability to empower those around me. Constantly working with a new set of colleagues and patients has its challenges, but at the same time, it provides me with a toolkit that I can then pass onto others to in turn help them be confident in their work and health.
My husband definitely had a big part in making me the driven, fun and vivacious woman that I am today. We’ve been together for many years, and he has always supported me in my dreams. As I grew and changed both mentally and emotionally, rather than hold me back, he grew with me. He has always supported me in everything that I’ve done! Oh, and he ALWAYS tells me when there’s a dog nearby-BIG BONUS!
Although my husband and I are both Indian Hindus, we come from different cultures. My parents are from India, and his from Trinidad (gotta love that island vibe!). We definitely bring the best of both of our cultures into our home —I can’t get enough of soca music and he can’t get enough of my mattar paneer!!!
2. Priya – Hindu-Guyanese
My name is Priya Persaud. I was born in Guyana and immigrated to Canada when I was 13 years old. I graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in Molecular Biology and currently work as a Regulatory Affairs Manager for a pharmaceutical company. Everything that I’ve been able to achieve in my life thus far has been a direct result of the sacrifices made by my parents, especially my mother, who is the best woman I know.
The word woman encompasses many roles—daughter, sister, niece, cousin, aunt, friend (among many others!)—all of these which make up the core of who we are before becoming a bride and taking on another role: wife.
On becoming a bride:
It was simply magical. For me, there is no other word to describe it. The overwhelming amount of different emotions that I felt on the day of my wedding ceremony can never be replicated and will stay with me for the rest of my life.
On becoming a wife:
It is an adjustment. That’s the word I seem to use every time someone asks ‘how is married life?’ What makes the adjustment easier is having a husband who understands that even after marriage I am still someone’s daughter, sister, niece, cousin, aunt, and friend. I am lucky to have someone who helps me to simultaneously maintain my existing relationships and also build new ones…someone who understands that taking on a new role doesn’t mean you have to give up any of the others.
On my favorite thing about West Indian culture:
Family! The importance of family is especially apparent during a West Indian Hindu wedding. With events spanning the course of a week, it takes a village to help you through it. Our families traveled from near and far, many taking time off of work to come and help us with the preparations. During the wedding ceremony itself, various family members (parents, siblings, aunts, uncles) play vital and significant roles. A wedding is truly not only about the union of two people but rather the union of two families. This sets the tone for the marriage and it’s something I wish to emulate as I build my own family.
3. Reeta – Hindu-Gujarati
My name is Reeta Lad-Aklu and I had the privilege of having Susan and Beyoutiful Beginnings coordinate my wedding. I currently work for EY Law as a Senior Immigration Support Specialist.
On September 16, 2018, dreams became reality when I married the love of my life and best friend Robin. We had been dating for 12 years before we got married, and while it wasn’t an easy journey to the mandap, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
The best thing about being married is always having my best friend, cheerleader and partner and in-crime around 24/7. He is the most supportive person I know. He’s the person that picks me up when I’m at my weakest, who cheers me on when I think I can’t go any further and the person who loves me even if I fail. There is no better feeling then always having your number 1 fan rooting for you in every aspect in your life.
Growing up in a Gujarati home, religion and family were very important parts of our lives. All festivals and occasions were celebrated together with family and friends. I’m proud to say this part of my culture is now a part of our marriage. Although we come from two different backgrounds and two different upbringings, we have now incorporated each others’ traditions to create our own.
It began with our wedding ceremony where each ritual was selected that had significance to us both. It’s magical to see something new being created through our love for each other. It blessed us with such beautiful memories that I will cherish for many years to come.
4. Arane – Hindu-Tamil
My name is Arane Kothari and I was born and raised in Canada. I come from a family where education is paramount. My parents motivated and supported me in my studies, making sacrifices to ensure that my sister and I had all career doors open to us. I got my Master of Mathematics in Biostatistics from the University of Waterloo, in a highly male-dominated field. My education was the launching pad that propelled me into my career as a Biostatistical Team Lead for a research organization where I work as a consultant for pharmaceutical companies and manage various aspects of clinical trials.
In my role, I am responsible for planning the statistical analyses of the data collected during clinical trials, and to help determine if drugs are safe and efficacious. In addition, I help prepare the analysis reports submitted to government authorities for eventual approval and marketing of drugs. Being female and a visible minority a generation ago would have proved a disadvantage in the workplace. Even though women are yet to achieve equality, I am proud to be part of a generation of women who are working hard to continue to turn the tide.
I love that my husband and I are a team in every aspect of our relationship, whether it’s raising our three-month-old baby, managing our daily life, handling finances and tackling inevitable hiccups which arise. Being a team helps bring us closer together, it opens the lines of communication, and lightens the workload for each of us.
I absolutely love many genres of South Asian music—classical Carnatic and Hindustani, bhajans as well as film songs. I grew up learning and performing music and I continue to do so. My husband also comes from a family that is passionate about music. Depending on our mood, you may find us listening to Kendrick Lamar or to raag hamsadhwani. We also hope to share our love for South Asian music with our son and you will often find me singing him Tamil lullabies to get him to bed in the middle of the night!
5. Amena – Muslim-Pakistani
My name is Amena Mohammad. I was born and raised in Canada to Pakistani immigrants. I am a CPA/CA by profession, and work at Ernst & Young as a Senior Manager in Risk Advisory.
My husband and I met when we worked together and then became friends for several years. He constantly told me to strive for success, often discussing career topics and the direction I should take. He is the one who gave me enough drive to pursue my CPA/CA. That friendship eventually turned to dating for a few months, and now we have been married for five years. What I love most about him is that he doesn’t label me as a ‘wife.’ Rather, he encourages me to explore all aspects of womanhood, from my mind, to my soul, to my career and all my relationships.
With all the pressures that come with womanhood, first to be a good daughter, to be educated, to then get married, and then have children—he has always supported my decisions on when I am ready for any of those milestones. While some may not be in our control, he has also protected me from those pressures as well.
Not to mention, he does stand-up comedy on the side, so he constantly makes me laugh through life’s ups and downs!
In recent years, my culture and religion has been misrepresented and misunderstood. Growing up in Canada, my parents worked very hard to ensure that I was aware of my Pakistani roots. They continuously stressed to be a good human being, to be open and most importantly, kind hearted. It is a beautiful, and vibrant culture, full of spirit, depth and heart. While the world sees us as different, I only see the similarities between ours and our sister-cultures—all represented by these beautiful women.
One specific example, before I got married I believed I would only marry the man, but my mother would say ‘you’re marrying the family.’ Family is very important to me, and so when I did get married, I saw how my husband treated my family as his own, and how automatically I began to love and care for his, as my own. Parents are a large part of my life, and respecting, caring for and supporting parents, both ways, is very important to both of us. It starts as a very delicate relationship in the beginning because it is so new, but with constant care, affection, disagreements, and laughter, it can grow into the strongest of bonds.
6. Nadia – Christian-Guyanese
I am a Facilities Coordinator, I manage a portfolio of buildings occupied by various Ministries of Ontario. My day-to-day duties ensure that the building and its components are running at all times and that maintenance issues are resolved as quickly as possible.
What do I like most about being married to my partner? It’s just better! It’s hard to put into words specifically what I love about being married to my husband—there is just so much! Our relationship was great before marriage, but it became even more meaningful after. It became more than someone that you talk too, or spend time with. Once we got married, we became teammates and partners with like-minded goals and aspirations for our future together. I love the comfort that I have, knowing he is always there to support me in any/everything and the fact that we are so much more in sync with one another. Sometimes he takes the words right out of my mouth or does exactly what I was thinking in my mind! As we have an interfaith marriage I appreciate and love how respectful we are to one another’s cultural beliefs and practices. He is open to mine, and I am to his. We openly educate one another and celebrate both religions in our home and lives.
7. Faria – Muslim-Bengali
I’m Faria Quazi-Soares! I work as a Product Specialist at Shopify. I help product teams with context as they are in the explore, develop and build phase. I coordinate with cross-functional teams to provide product engineering, development, management, customer and sales solutions. Once they launch, I provide communication and documentation to internal staff. Afterwards, I conduct research to see how the product fared.
What I love most about my partner is how thoughtful and understanding he is. Being in a multicultural and multifaith relationship is hard, but my partner makes it feel effortless. His ability to understand the importance of my culture is remarkable. With him, I’ve never felt like I have given up a part of my heritage if anything I feel he adds more rang [color] to it. Our wedding day was so special because we found ways to weave our cultures, Bengali and Portuguese, together. I love creating this new space for our family to grow, where we share and celebrate each other’s culture.
What I love most about my culture is my language. The Bangladesh Liberation War was a dark time in our history but also the most inspiring. Many Bengali citizens fought for our right to preserve our language, Bangla. Without their strength and courage, a piece of my heritage would have been erased forever.
In my marriage, my husband and I actively learn one another’s language. We use many phrases and words in our everyday communication. I love that language holds a great importance in our home. As Nelson Mandela once said, ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’
8. Ruchika Bindra Anand – Sikh-Punjabi
My name is Ruchika Bindra Anand and I started off my media career after winning Miss Photogenic in 2013 at the Miss India Canada pageant. Shortly after winning, I was given an amazing opportunity to be the host of the first millennial talk show #NoFilter on Rogers TV. During the two seasons of the show, I encouraged young millennials to talk about real issues and think beyond the boundaries of race, culture and societal pressures. From there on, I have been blessed with hosting opportunities within the community (TIFF, Anokhi Media, Toronto General & Western Foundation Diwali Gala, etc). I am currently working in Media Sales for the Canadian Public Broadcaster, CBC.
What I love about being married to my partner Sahej is that I have a best friend to share all my moments with. We had a beautiful bond before marriage but it has become even more precious since we tied the knot. You learn to care for your partner in so many different ways as you grow from each experience that you face together. We share with each other all our joys, fears, goals and dreams. Having a loving and supportive partner is the most encouraging and empowering feeling for any spouse. You feel like you can conquer the world with the right person by your side. Prepare for World Domination!
I am so honored to be chosen to represent the Sikh Bride for this empowering campaign. The Sikh tradition is so beautiful and it’s deeply rooted in equality which makes it so fitting for this campaign’s message and theme. The culture promotes breaking gender stereotypes as no role or responsibility is segregated by gender. Sikhism promotes marriage as a partnership of equals and this is something that my husband and I love about our marriage. We share the roles across different aspects and it allows for us to walk alongside each other as partners rather than one following the other. He still hogs the Netflix account, but hey no one’s perfect.
9. Nazish – Ismaili
My name is Nazish Laasi and I am a Senior Fraud Analyst at CIBC. I have been married now for almost four months and the best part about being married is knowing that I have a partner FOREVER. The idea that we will be there for each other through thick and thin is an amazing feeling. I have known my husband for almost eight years now, and I am still amazed by how much I am learning about him on a daily basis. I am truly just excited to continue getting to know him every day.
We got married on November 17, 2018, and we had an interfaith wedding. We brought together not only two sets of families but also two sets of cultures and traditions. It was very important to both of us to make sure that we showcased all the important wedding traditions from our respective families. On Day 1 we had our Sangeet/Pithi ceremony where both of our families and friends came together to eat, dance and bless us with love.
On Day 2, we decided to have two wedding ceremonies. Our first one being in the Catholic Church and the second in the Ismaili Jamat Khana. The merging of these two traditions was important to us and our families as a symbolization of two unique cultures and religions coming together.
We wanted our wedding to be a day of celebration for all of our closest families and friends that had gathered to shower us with love. However, we did not want to miss the opportunity to showcase our love to each other and our love for music and food—from our Midnight station (McDonald’s) to our Main Course (Butter Chicken) to a continuous playlist of Drake. Our guests could feel the essence of everything my husband and I love!
Overall, the one thing we were sure of leading up to our wedding was that we wanted to respect our cultural and traditions but we also wanted to have fun and enjoy the company of all of our guests. Our wedding weekend was one of the most memorable moments of our lives and we were lucky enough to bind both of our religions and cultures into one.
The results are in — the Pantone Color for 2023 is here — and it looks like Viva Magenta will be ruling runways, the streets, and (even) your wardrobes.
Viva Magenta is a deep shade of red, and Pantone describes it:
Brave and fearless.
It’s meant to be celebratory, and joyous, and encourage experimentation. If you were thinking of toning it down a notch with your wardrobe in 2023, it’s time to think again. It can really be your time to shine in something bright and colorful!
Aprajit Toor, Arpita Mehta, and Rahul Khanna break it down for you — what to wear, how to pair, and everything in between. Their takes on the Pantone Color for 2023 are simple but they’ll help you make a bold statement anywhere you go!
Take a look at what they have to say.
Rahul Khanna of Rohit Gandhi + Rahul Khanna:
Viva Magenta is a color that suits all skin tones. It’s a color for all occasions; women and men can both wear this color with [the] right styling. Cocktail saris, jumpsuits, and reception gowns are some great options for women whereas, for men, the color has started picking up a lot lately. Men have started experimenting with their looks and we as designers have more options for men as well. Recently, we made a custom-made silk velvet fit for Ranveer Singh in the same color. Apart from your everyday clothing, Viva Magenta is also going to be the ruling shade for the upcoming wedding season.
The best way to do Viva Magenta in your everyday wardrobe is to go top to bottom in [it]. Be it in co-ord sets or a kaftan or any comfortable outfit. It’s such a bold & beautiful color that it looks the best when it’s self on self rather than teaming it up or breaking it with another color.
Viva Magenta is a very powerful and empowering color that descends from the red family. It is an animated red that encourages experimentation and self-expression without restraint; an electrifying shade [that] challenges boundaries. One can easily incorporate this color by picking a statement footwear, bag, or jewelry in Viva Magenta which can be paired with neutral or monotone colored outfits.
And there you have it — three ways you can easily take a vibrant hue and turn it into something you can wear every day. Take cues from these top designers on how to wear the Pantone Color of the year and get started! We’d love to see how you style Viva Magenta!
While growing up, the only complaint I had when wearing desi clothes was that the embroidery on the fabric would always end up scratching my skin. As beautiful and intricate the details were, putting on an embellished blouse meant wearing an inner or a comfortable t-shirt underneath. Fortunately now, many South Asian brands are changing the game; focusing not only on the quality and intricacy of the embroidery, but also on comfort and wearability of the blouse itself. One such small business is Khushey.
Khushey is a one-stop shop for “buttery soft” performance blouses that don’t compromise on comfort for fashion and pair just as well with any of your mom’s saris as they do with your newest lehenga. In an interview withBrown Girl Magazine, founder Neha Seelam talks more about what inspired her to launch Khushey and what the brand has to offer.
Why did you want to start a brand that specializes in South Asian/Indo-Western blouses specifically?
I wanted to specialize in blouses because blouses are really the only part of Indo-Western clothing that I found a specific ‘problem’ with — one I thought I could solve. I absolutely love everything else about our clothing — with the variety of patterns/styles/cuts available, I feel that you can easily find the perfect piece out there.
But the part of South Asian clothing that my friends and I found to be a perpetual challenge was the blouse. They’re usually gorgeous, but by the end of the day you can’t wait to take them off. Also, it’s so hard to find a fit that looks seamless and beautiful — usually the chest, underarm or sleeve just wouldn’t fit the way you want it to with the heavy material and traditional tailoring.
I wanted to start off with basic colors but in shiny/formal-looking material that I could mix and match with all the different colors and styles of South Asian clothes that I already have in my wardrobe. The goal is that the blouses can be used multiple times with different outfits, are ideal for long nights of partying, and feel great against the skin.
What’s the story behind the brand’s name, Khushey?
The English word “cushy,” which means comfortable, actually originates from the Hindi word ‘khushi’ (happiness). I thought that the origin story was very sweet and resonated with the idea of comfort and happiness I had for my label. That’s how I chose the word Khushey — slightly adjusting the spelling so I could snag the right URL!
What is your number one priority when it comes to your blouses?
Formal wear that’s actually comfortable! I would love for women to be in the moment at their celebrations, and not feel constrained, itchy, or uncomfortable in their blouse.
South Asian women! Customers, from recent graduates all the way to stylish moms, have loved the product — especially moms since they typically value comfort and movability if they have to chase down kids at events!
How do you think Khushey allows South Asian women to embrace their love for South Asian fashion?
Over the last decade, I’ve seen women repurposing crop tops from Zara and H&M as sari blouses, and while I think that’s awesome and creative, I wanted to create an option for South Asian women where every detail was oriented around recreating the perfect sari/lehenga blouse. The shine is intended to be appropriate for formal wear, the cuts were inspired by some of my favorite blouses from when I was younger that wouldn’t have bra straps showing from underneath and were versatile for saris or lehengas, and the embroidery is intended to add a desi flair.
You’ve mentioned sustainability on your website. How are your blouses sustainable?
I plan to donate five percent of profits every year to a sustainable organization. Once I get enough interest from the public, I would like to fund new product lines that use eco-friendly materials that were prohibitively expensive for me to launch with. But I am eager to incorporate recycled spandex/nylon and metal into my pieces once I can afford to!
What sort of designs do you plan on incorporating into your label in the future?
I’ve thought of so many designs that I can build on. Starting with colors; I’d like to have all of the major colors available in my basic sleeveless blouse and then create a more modest version of that blouse with a variety of basic colors as well.
I’d also love to expand the patterns and embroidery options on the blouses. I hope to create seasonal collections that enable me to tap into the vast array of style/color inspirations that South Asian wear includes.
Khushey promises to offer comfort and style, all packaged into one performance blouse that you can reuse with a variety of desi outfits. Like Neha said, ditch your Zara crop top for a design that actually complements your desi look. Make sure to keep your eyes out for her latest designs!
For the Singh family, Chandan Fashion has always been bigger than simply a bridal showroom. Located in the heart of Gerrard Street, a bustling Little India in Toronto, the bright blue and pink building can be spotted from a distance. Over the years, Chandan has garnered attention from customers from all over North America, even as far as California and Virginia.
For Chandan and Roop, who work alongside “Mom and Dad,” Chandan Fashion is a family business and a way to showcase the beauty of South Asian culture while playing a helping hand in allowing every bride and groom to feel special on their big day. Chandan is their legacy and one they hope to be able to showcase the beauty and intricacies of throwing that “big Indian wedding” on their new CBC show, “BollyWed.”
“BollyWed” follows this tight-knit family through the joys and difficulties of running a multigenerational business. Throughout the variety of clients, discussions of new generation business practices versus old generation, many lehengas, and plenty of laughs, this is one whirlwind journey through the marriage industry.
Brown Girl had the opportunity to interview Chandan and Roop Singh, who were incredibly down-to-earth and a joy to speak to. Here is the interview down below!
What was the inspiration for opening Chandan?
Chandan: My mom and dad started the vision back in 1984 — they started the business. I have a store in India that was started by my grandfather which my father worked in as well, so it is kind of multi-generational of being within this industry of clothing and fashion. My father had a dream of starting what his father did in India, in Canada. While visiting friends in Toronto, my father knew that the Gerrard Indian Bazaar was the right place for them to start, it was the largest Indian market in the Northern America area. He rented a space for two years a couple of doors down from where Chandan originated and then in 1986 we had the opportunity to purchase the corner unit and grow it from one floor to two, to now a four-floor showroom.
Roop: And it should be noted that 1986 is also the year that Chandan was born, hence the name of the store. Chandan Fashion.
Many cities have their own versions of Little India. What was it like growing up/operating in Gerrard Street East? What do you think makes Gerrard Street unique?
Roop: It is funny you say that because even now when we have people traveling to Toronto, checking out Gerrard Street is on their itinerary. So we get a lot of clientele that are visiting from out of town whether it be visiting for the day or weekend. Some of them will sometimes get a hotel nearby for about a week and do their entire wedding family shopping with us.
Chandan has literally grown up in Gerrard Street, but I grew up in Toronto as well. I spent a good chunk of my own childhood in Little India on Gerrard Street. Growing up in the 90s, it was the only Indian bazaar in the greater Toronto area, so anyone who wanted to meet members of their community, have really good South Asian food, shop for upcoming events, or celebrate Diwali or Holi, this is where [they’d] go. This is where my mom would take me on the weekends and I remember popping into Chandan Fashion when my mom needed an outfit. In that way, our childhoods are connected over Little India and I feel like a lot of first-generation kids will sympathize with me, when we wanted to feel a little bit at home, that is where we would go.
How did you get the “BollyWed” opportunity on CBC? What is it like working with your family? What roles do you all play in the business? How do we get to see this in the show?
Roop: It has been quite a journey. It wasn’t necessarily such a drastic transition because already the family was very close-knit in the sense that they are working day in and day out. We do our social media together and our buying together, go to fashion shows. So naturally things we were already doing as a family were just translated to the TV. That is what I love the most about the show, it is just an authentic following of what we do on a daily basis as a family and as a business. It has been a great experience and something that we are super grateful for. It was actually seven years in the making and I’ll let Chandan tell you how “BollyWed” came to be.
Chandan: It started out in 2014. I was at a wedding show and I was approached by the executive producer, Prajeeth and we shot a shizzle. He had an idea of a wedding show with a family narrative and I had been watching ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ extensively. I knew that there was this really interesting market and this fascination with South Asian outfits and bridalwear given that it was so colorful and the beadwork was so ornate. There was a lot more interesting subject matter, especially if we tie that into a seven-day-long wedding and you tie that into multiple events and families. That is more prevalent in South Asian culture: what the mother-in-law thinks, what the mother thinks. But five to six years went by and we got 22 rejections over that period by almost every network imaginable. I was always excited that we were getting rejected because I knew that eventually, we would get a yes. Eventually at the end of 2021, around the end of the COVID era, the production company reached out asking if we were still interested in the show. I said it was never a question of ‘if,’ it was a question of ‘when.’ From the get-go, I knew that this show would be picked up, I knew it would be a success. In March 2022 we got greenlit. We had this amazing journey of seven months of continuous filming. It has been an amazing journey to be able to represent South Asians on television in a way that has not been done before. I like lighthearted programming and I am glad that we were able to influence the show because of our lives and make it a lighthearted family show that people can watch. But we still get to have important discussions.
Roop: I love that Chandan mentioned this. We get to showcase a lot of pivotal subjects in today’s society. For example, we made sure that inclusivity was showcased across all 10 episodes and that is something that I give credit to our directors and producers, they did a wonderful job showcasing how inclusive not just us as a business, but as a brand and as a family we are. These are values that have been instilled in us, that when somebody crosses your threshold and comes into your store, it doesn’t matter what their background is, their color, or their orientation, that is irrelevant. It is something that we don’t factor in, we just consider that this is the patron, the client. There is no judgment — not in our store, not in our family. And I love that we were able to share that on a big screen for everyone to see. That was one reason why it was so important to do this, but the other reason has a lot to do with Chandan and his childhood.
Chandan: So for me, I was born and raised in Toronto. I went to a very small school where I was the only South Asian for a long time in that school. I was the only Punjabi kid, the only kid with a turban, and eventually the only one with a beard, so I noticeably stood out compared to all my peers. My father with his best intentions sent me to a really small school, a private school, that he could not afford to pay for. Where at times the check would bounce every month, but he had a very strong belief that if he provided me a quality education [so] I would keep something really dear to him —keeping the belief in religion — I wouldn’t cut my hair, I wouldn’t cut my beard, I wouldn’t conform to society. He wanted to give me the best chance to succeed as is, [but] the unfortunate truth was I was bullied, I was picked on. I wouldn’t tell him, but people would grab my jurra, my turban, and my hair. And as a kid I would just let it go because you do not want to go home and tattle to your parents, but also because I knew how sensitive of a topic it was to my dad. And I think that my experience would have been different if people didn’t ask me every month, ‘How long is your hair? What do you keep under that?’ All these questions made me feel really uncomfortable, but the other kids also asked because they had never seen anyone like me. If I had grown up with a show like this, I would not have felt so alone, such a strong desire to belong. This is one of the reasons I really believed in the show, I really wanted to have representation. Even if there is just one other kid who watches this show and grows up in a suburb where there aren’t many South Asian kids; if he is able to turn the TV on and see my dad with such a thick accent — English isn’t his first language — but he still owns it so confidently. Or they see a guy like me with a turban and a beard and see that frankly he still has such a hot wife.
Roop: But beyond that, this gentleman with a turban and thick accent, they are such normal people. They love takeout, they like to play tennis, and they could be your neighbor. Other than their outward appearance, they are very much like you, very similar.
Your support in styling Priyanka for their drag performance was inspiring and refreshing to see. How do you change your styles/designs to foster inclusivity?
Roop: I think that goes back to what I was saying about how Mom and Dad have fostered this universal approach to our clientele. We do not look beyond their needs. I think it is also important to note that some people had thought that we had Priyanka come onto the show to make it more interesting, but their relationship with the store spans over the past five to seven years.
Chandan: Twenty years. Priyanka and their family have been shopping at the store for the past 20 years since they were kids. When Priyanka started exploring the world of drag, they came and said they needed a costume that they would be designing. It also wasn’t even any of my peers or me that made that connection with Priyanka, it was actually my dad, the older generation. He said, ‘Don’t worry beta.’ He actually corrected himself and said, ‘Beti, we will be there for you.’ And he got them a really nice sari and lehenga which they converted into a costume that won the first season.
Roop: And Priyanka put their own spin on it and created something amazing. Only because we were the designers of those pieces could we tell that that is a piece from our lehenga. They did such a fabulous job with it.
Chandan: I think we sometimes think of the older generation, like our parents, as being more conservative, but I think that it is a one-sided narrative. Not all of the older generation is as conservative as we think. And my dad just took it as a paying customer is a paying customer. It doesn’t matter what their orientation or beliefs are, and that just naturally unfolded into the story that we are sharing. He did not treat it as a big deal.
For our readers currently planning their weddings, do you have any pieces of advice on how to balance all the heavy details of wedding planning without losing sight of why they are doing it for?
Roop: One thing for the bride and groom is not to lose sight of themselves in all of this. I’ve been there and done that. You plan this extravagant seven-day affair, you have all these people flying out to your wedding, and you feel this really heavy responsibility to make sure that all these guests are taking time out of their lives to celebrate your union. And like myself — and I am guilty of this, which is why I want to tell my fellow brides — [you] tend to make it less about [yourself] and more about everyone else who is attending. And yes, of course, everyone is important and I owe them respect for joining us. But remember what you want in the heart of heart, if you want a small wedding, go for a small wedding. If you want a big wedding, go for a big wedding. If you want the seven-tiered cake, go for it, if you just want cupcakes, go for that. At the end of the day don’t forget what makes you happy. Don’t lose sight of it, just be authentic to yourself.
Chandan: Oftentimes in the wedding industry, people are really looked down upon. Like, ‘Oh my gosh, you are spending so much for this wedding!’ Or, ‘You are obsessing over these details!’ If it is important to you, it is okay. I would not let judgment get in the way of doing what you want whether it be a small intimate 20-person wedding or a having a 1000-person wedding. This is your moment. The biggest thing I hear is, ‘Oh, it is only for an hour.’ But, if you have a photographer, nothing is for an hour. It is for a lifetime. Those moments last a lifetime. If it is something that you hold near and dear to you, you will cherish it. I wish people would stay true to themselves.
Roop: Yeah, agreed. Be mindful of what sparks joy in you and let that be your compass. The most important piece of advice though: At every function please request that your caterer create a to-go container of the meal at the event for you and your partner to enjoy after because often, and it is so sad to hear this, the bride and groom will eat last at their own event or not at all. And you spend all these months planning [an] extravagant menu and then you don’t even get to eat your own wedding cake. Hah! That happened to us!
Do you have any future plans that you feel excited about sharing with Chandan?
Chandan: Yeah! I would say concrete plans are in the pipeline. In the first episode of ‘BollyWed’ [you] see that we come to the realization that there is just not enough space and we would love to expand into another space.
Roop: And this is where you get a lot of the new generation, old generation beliefs. Because mom and dad believe that the family should stay very close-knit and together to run the one location. And Chandan has the belief that [the] true success of a business is when it is scalable, and has multiple locations nationally, globally even. In Episode 10 you get a conclusion, but we will let the readers watch it for themselves!
You can now watch the inaugural season of CBC’s “BollyWed” on CBC TV every Thursday at 8 p.m. EST or stream it for free on CBC Gem! And that’s not all from the Chandan Fashion team! They’ll soon be featured in an Instagram LIVE chat with Brown Girl Magazine, so stay tuned!