Bling-Out Your Sangeet On A Budget (Spoiler Alert: Christmas Decorations are Involved!)

by Soni Satpathy-Singh 

Lush, colorful flowers. Vibrant tablescapes are full of majestic trinkets. Whimsical displays of candles and silky fabrics cascading the walls. Peacock feathers and marigolds abound. Numerous jeweled antique gold lanterns everywhere because, why not? This look is what I loved about so many of the sangeets I had attended. I wanted the same— until I heard how much money it would cost to decorate a small hall for my sangeet. I remember gawking at my decorator asking, “you want us to pay how much for draping some saris on the wall and looking like a peacock projectile vomited on my dance floor?”

sangeet

The truth is I wanted to have a blinged-out desi sangeet and it bugged me that I wanted that to be honest!  I wanted to be a minimalist, I did. But alas,  all those damn Pinterest boards started hijacking my senses.

And though I wanted the look, I didn’t want to shell out the money to bring to life all those Pinterest boards I had been pining after. Luckily, the DIY goddess in me awoke.

Funny how creativity creeps in when money is of consequence. I realized I could commit to a few DIY projects to bring the hall alive. I’m here to share some pointers with you, sisters!

[Read Related: How to Throw a Chaat Party]

Most of my suggestions rely on dollar store finds and a hell of a lot of patience, not to mention a steady hand at craftiness. Still, other suggestions are not necessarily cheap, but they will certainly be cheaper than hiring a decorator.

What you have to ask yourself is whether or not you have the time to do certain things yourself if you don’t want to spend an exorbitant amount of money on decor. Something has to give. Essentially, my internal debate was this: Do I budget time or money?

I ended up saving money but gave a week’s worth of time to make some decorations and put them up myself, which would have other otherwise cost $2,000 had I paid my wedding decorator to jazz up my sangeet venue as well. No joke. That’s a shit ton saved.

Luckily, I had my sister and friends assist, so perhaps another important question to ask yourself is this: Do you have friends and family who can help you?  You certainly do not want to be hanging your own decorations on YOUR sangeet night! Let’s say you have concluded you have both time and friends—great! Time to rock your sangeet!

Here’s another suggestion, one that really helped me envision what I wanted and how much I could actually make myself. I made a vision board of what I desired for the overall aesthetic of my space to look like.

[Read Related: How to Throw A Tea Party Like A Bawse]

Then, I hopped on Pinterest and looked up “DIY sangeet decorations.” This is a great start for getting into DIY mode! To get you inspired, I have shared what I did for my sangeet.

sangeet

1. Christmas Decorations

Christmas decorations were the number one money saver for buying accent pieces. I’m not kidding.

Look, I’m not suggesting you put a Christmas tree smack-dab in the middle of your hall. Sangeet tree anyone? Hell No.

However, after Christmas, until after the beginning of a new year, stores have mad sales on Christmas decorations. I have seen places like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s sell decorations with an 80 percent discount post-Christmas!

Christmas lights, particularly the fancy icicle string lights can be expensive in season, so bulk up on these. They will liven up your hall or home for sangeet celebrations.

sangeet

Looking for more of a Bollywood kitsch vibe? Get a bunch of opaque multi-colored lights and drape them around your room or, if you have a staging area, string them as a backdrop for pops of color and light.

sangeet

Or what about those colored branches that are sold during Christmas? These make for colorful and dramatic decorative pieces! You could go for solid gold for a blinged outlook. If you can’t find the colors you’re looking for you can always spray paint the branches to match your preference.

Christmas time also brings big ornaments and all things gold and red—traditional Indian wedding colors—which can be displayed in big vases or bowls as decorative pieces.

sangeet

You don’t have to go with traditional Indian wedding/Christmas colors. Nowadays, ornaments come in a plethora of color schemes so be creative!

I actually made my peacock theme come to life with strategically placing peacock ornaments (top down so you couldn’t tell it was an ornament!) in huge hurricane vases along with scattering other Christmas peacock decor across the room.

sangeet

2. Dollar/Discount Store

Dollar and discount stores can provide a treasure trove of items if you have the bandwidth and creativity to add the oomph factor to otherwise ordinary pieces.

Items you can purchase in bulk and decorate yourself include hurricane vases, mason jars, large picture frames, lanterns, and even unique pieces that metallic gold spray paint and/or good quality puff paint can really glam up.

You can easily find cheap, glass vases and trays to showcase the Christmas ornaments.

Spray painting large cheap picture frames or getting a glue gun and gluing flowers onto them make for a fun décor scheme as well. You can hang these on the wall or even use them as DIY photo booth frames!

sangeet

You can also use smaller frames to decorate banquet tables or as center pieces for guest tables. Hop online and find images for Mughal wedding art or similar themes; print out colored copies and stick it to the frame. Scatter Indian bangles and electric tea light candles (which can also be bought in bulk at discount stores) around it and you just made yourself some classy and colorful decorations!

sangeet

Another trend is taking plain candles and piping mehendi designs on them which can make for eye-catching, decorative pieces. You can even make these as gifts for your guests!

sangeet

Mehendi patterns can be put on glass jars as well for that desi touch. For more inspiration and how-to instructions, check this Pinterest board for DIY Mehendi Candles.

3. Things From Home

I did a lot of sangeet decoration “shopping” from home. Prior to my wedding, I would tease my mom that our house looks like a holding cell for Chandni Chowk, with all the tapestries, sari-print pillows, and desi kitsch she displayed.

Well, you better believe come wedding time I took all those Ganesh murtis, peacock statues, marble figurines and what not and made my own display in the sangeet hall.

sangeet

I remember the decorator quoting prices for setting up displays and I thought why would I pay you money to display what my mom already has at home, and that I can get my cousins to display? The power of putting family to work to save some money should be duly noted.

Decorative pillows do wonders in making a room look festive. Rent these from Indian wedding planners, and it costs an arm and leg.

Use what you have at home or buy Indian pillow covers and stuff it with cheap throw pillows from the discount store, and the area in which the Mehendi will take place is suddenly elevated!

For more pillow talk check out this style blog.

sangeet

Finally, do not underrate the value of your beautiful saris, dupattas, and bangles. They are a goldmine for DIY decorations! With saris hung on the wall as the backdrop for a stage, dupattas draped around a room, or bangles creatively placed on tables, your hall will have a modern and stylish touch.

sangeet

Do not be afraid to pin up yards and yards of cloth for an instant room makeover. Put those Aunties to use and get to decorating!

If you are like me and come from a family of women, bangles are, and I reckon always will be in an abundance in our house. They sure came in handy when I needed creative ways to use what I already have for my sangeet decorations!

sangeet

For more ideas and inspiration for bangle art, visit Pinterest!

OK, and now, perhaps the biggest tip. Quit reading. This is the time to hit up stores for those Christmas sale items! Happy Holidays and all the best with your sangeet!

[All photo in this post are via Pinterest.]

By Brown Girl Magazine

Brown Girl Magazine was created by and for South Asian womxn who believe in the power of storytelling as a … Read more ›

Nancy Jay: Meet the Indo Caribbean Influencer Breaking the Mold

nancy jay
nancy jay

In an age where algorithms dictate viewership, Nancy Jay uses her love of dance to propel herself onto TikTok’s “for you” pages. Jay is an Indo Guyanese, Bronx native who began dancing at the age of three. As an influencer and content creator, she amassed a social media following of more than 500,000. Versed in many styles of dancing including Caribbean, Bollywood, urban and Latin, Jay can be spotted in soca music videos such as Linky First’s “Rock and Come in” and “Jeune Femme,” Adrian Dutchin’s “Roll” and by soca king Machel Montano’s “Mami Lo Tiene.”

nancy jay
Photo courtesy of Nancy Jay

[Read Related: HGTV’S Hema Persad on Having the Courage to Find Your Purpose]

Many content creators are typecast into the niche but Jay has defied this norm and proclaims she is more than just a dancer.

“I dance, travel, post lifestyle and beauty content. I’m an Indo Caribbean woman who enjoys being myself and promoting my culture. I like showing viewers it is okay to be who they are and embrace what they look like, despite what they see on social media. I did not plan on being a TikToker. As I started posting videos, the love and support I received from viewers was amazing. I have never experienced anything like that before on Instagram, where I started my content journey,” Jay said.

In conversation with Jay, the following answers have been condensed for concision and clarity. 

Why is it important for you to create content related to your Indo Caribbean roots?

Growing up, I never felt represented as an Indo Caribbean on television, in movies, social media or anywhere else. My goal as a content creator is to promote the Indo Caribbean culture through my content and be the representation the Indo Caribbean community needs.

Are there unspoken rules about being a content creator or an Indo Caribbean woman on the platform?

Being an Indo Caribbean woman on TikTok can be challenging when you are trying to find your identity and do not feel represented. 

Jay explains her frustration with the lack of Caribbean representation and acknowledgment from platforms, as well as her goals as a content creator in this video.

@iamnancyjay Anyone else feel this way? Or understand what I’m saying? R E P R E S E N T A T I O N ?? original sound – iamnancyjay

Do you ever experience a block, similar to writer’s block, when it comes to creating content? How do you overcome that?

I have yet to experience a block. However, I do have days where I want to take a break and just relax instead of filming. As a content creator, it is important to take breaks and schedule days to just relax because being a full-time content creator is a 24/7 business. It can be draining and you may lose your sense of reality when you have the mindset that everything is content. I enjoy taking a day or half a day to cook, watch TV or go shopping with my partner without the worry of filming any of it.

How has your social media presence changed your daily life?

When I am in public, supporters approach me to express their love for my content and sometimes ask for a selfie. When I find people staring at me in public now, it’s most likely because they recognize me from social media and not because I look funny.

In May of 2021, I used my platform to reach out to brands and ask for their support in a project I named ‘Nancy Jay Gives Back.’ I put together care packages, using products donated by brands, and drove around the Bronx sharing them with people experiencing homelessness or those in need. Seeing the happiness on their faces upon receiving these bags was priceless. Additionally, I spread some extra joy through dance. I remember one lady telling me she’d never been to a club or party so I told her I’ve brought the party to her and we danced to her favorite genre of music right there on the street.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Nancy Jay (@iamnancyjay)

Jay plans on continuing this project as her social media presence has grown. 

How has your family reacted to your social presence?

My family has always been supportive of my talents and the path I have chosen. My first public dance performance was at the age of 12. I performed a fusion of Bollywood and chutney music at middle school events. When I got to high school, I participated in our talent show to a fusion of Bollywood, chutney, soca and top 40. I won the talent show three or four times. I also performed for fundraisers organized by mandirs in Queens, the Bronx, weddings, sweet sixteens and other social events. 

My family always came out to support me. They love seeing my content and always encourage me to film and create. My mom in particular tells everyone about my TikTok videos.

While enrolled at John Jay College, Jay founded the first West Indian student organization called “West Indies Massive.” She captained the dance team, taught dance classes and won the talent show multiple times while pursuing her Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice with a minor in law and police studies.

Any advice for creators who may not have the support of family?

Do not let this discourage you. If content creation is something you truly want to do, stay consistent and eventually your family will support you for doing what you love. Social media is still new to some and the idea of it being someone’s career or business is new as well. I say be patient. Also, talk to them about your social media goals, as perhaps they do not understand the full picture.

What is your dream partnership and why?

My dream partnership would involve acting. I’ve always wanted to be an actress, preferably a Bollywood actress because I know I would kill those dance numbers (haha!). Also, I would love to partner with Sandals Resorts and bring that Caribbean flavor they should be promoting.

Jay has collaborated with major brands like Samsung Mobile, Norwegian Cruise Line, AC Hotels, Disney Music Group, and Dunkin which is paramount for the Indo Caribbean community.

“I am the first Indo Caribbean woman to work with Norwegian Cruise Line as a content creator. Cruise travel is a huge part of my content journey. I love cruising and creating unique experiences and content. While cruising, I connected with the crew while most people typically do not. I treat everyone with respect,” Jay said 

@iamnancyjay It’s not a cruise unless I dance with the Norwegian Prima crew ??? Drip Too Hard (1er Gaou Mix) – Thejokestation0 • Following

“I started a fun series called ‘Cruise Dances with the Crew’ back in August of 2021. There’s a playlist on TikTok with all of the fun dances. Prior to my first video, I had not seen anyone dancing on cruise ships with the crew. I guess you could say I started that trend.”

Nancy intertwined this partnership with her content and further put herself on the map.

Another pivotal partnership for Jay occurred in March 2021 when Dunkin chose her as one of 10 from a nationwide competition to feature her signature drink on the local menu.

@iamnancyjay I love ordering “The Nancy Jay” @dunkin ?? #dunkin #coffee #icedcoffee #dunkinmenucontest #thenancyjay #BiggerIsBetter #EnvisionGreatness #viral #bx ? original sound – iamnancyjay

How has content creation changed in the past two years?

Within the past two years, my content and style has grown tremendously. My gear list has also grown tremendously. I’ve been a content creator full time for a little over a year now. I have had more time to focus on the presentation and editing of my content.

What else do you want your viewers to not know about you or your work?

I stay true to who I am. Supporters who I’ve met in person can attest that I am the same, in-person and online. I like to keep things relatable, fun and authentic. I am working with a lot of big brands. I try to incorporate dance in all my content to capture my passion, diversity and culture.

I started teaching Caribbean Dance Fitness classes and private dance lessons officially in 2016. Since Covid, I moved everything online. Not only have I helped many learn how to dance but I have also helped build their confidence through dance and expression.

Lastly, I love traveling and encouraging others to live their best life.

Jay is more than a dancer; she is unapologetically herself. She maximizes opportunities and is building a brand that highlights her Indo Caribbean roots – a culture often not highlighted in mainstream media. 

You can stay updated on Jay and the community she’s created by following her on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.

Featured image courtesy: Nancy Jay

By Ashley Ramcharan

Ashley Ramcharan is Indo-Guyanese and the assistant editor for the Indo-Caribbean team here at Brown Girl Magazine. She developed a … Read more ›

‘The Eid Party’ – A Short Story

In honor of women’s history month and Ramadan, we are publishing this short story by award-winning author Adiba Jaigirdar. We had the pleasure of interviewing and connecting with Adiba in the midst of the pandemic, and she has remained a supporter and a friend of the literary vertical and Brown Girl Magazine. This short story by Adiba encapsulates the spirit of friendship and community in a time of celebration. Adiba’s next book ‘Do and Donuts of Love’ will be out on June 6, 2023. 

 

[Read Related: Author Interview: Adiba Jaigirdar of ‘The Henna Wars’]

 

It’s not Ammu yelling my name over and over that wakes me up on Eid morning, it’s the sweet aroma of payesh, floating up from the kitchen, through the floorboards, and making my mouth water.

It only takes me a few minutes to roll out of bed and down the stairs, peering at the massive dish of payesh right in the middle of the kitchen table. It’s what I’ve been looking forward to for all of Ramadan — Ammu’s famous payesh recipe.

“Safa, don’t you dare touch that,” Ammu calls from where she’s standing, by the stove, making a fresh batch of porotas for our Eid breakfast.

“But it’s been so long since…” I start to plead, but Ammu cuts me off.

“Get dressed, get ready, and after Eid prayer, we can have some payesh,” she says, though her voice has already lost some of its fervour. When I glance at Ammu, she has that familiar look of nostalgia. Unfortunately, I know exactly what she’s remembering.  “If only it was the payesh that your Nanu used to make…” she says softly.

I heave a sigh, and say, “okay, I’m going to get dressed,” before slipping out of the kitchen as fast as I can. In our house, you can’t really talk about payesh without Ammu’s long-winded story. It always starts with how she wishes we had the ‘real’ payesh recipe that our family — the Jahangirs — have been known for around Bangladesh, since the Mughal era. It’s the recipe that’s been passed down for generations in our family. That is until, after our Nanu unexpectedly passed away two years ago, the recipe seemed to disappear.

This is where Ammu’s long-winded story ends: her bitterness that her older sister has the recipe but refuses to share it with Ammu.

Now, we can only have Ammu’s payesh. Even though she has spent the past two years trying to recreate our family recipe, she insists that there’s something missing. A key ingredient that made our Mughal-descended recipe famous around all of Bangladesh. So, Ammu’s payesh comes with a bitter footnote — a strange kind of loss that people outside of our family would probably never understand.

Back in my room, I shut the door and take a deep breath. Because today isn’t just any ordinary Eid. Today is the day that I reunite my family.

But Ammu doesn’t know that yet.

I fling open my wardrobe and pull out the dress that I had bought online weeks ago. It’s a long violet kameez with floral stitching running down its length. Silver embroidery lines the cuffs of the sleeves, and the ends of the dress; making it sparkle when it catches the light. It’s perfect.

Better yet, it’s part of a matching set.

My phone pings just at that moment. As if, my partner in crime can read my mind.

“Ready for today?” Marwa’s text reads.

My hands hover over the keyboard for a moment. And even though my heart is beating a little too fast in my chest, I type back “totally ready,” and put the phone back on my bedside table. I’m hoping that acting like I’m totally confident in our plan will actually make our plan 100% successful. But truthfully, I’m not sure how Ammu will react once everything is in motion. And I’m not sure if I’m a good enough liar to convince her.

But if all goes to plan, by the end of this Eid day, Ammu’s payesh story is going to get a lot shorter. And Marwa and I won’t have to hide our friendship any longer.

With that thought in mind, I change into my Eid dress.

#

“I don’t understand this Eid party business,” Ammu complains during the drive from the mosque to the community center, where the bi-annual Bangladeshi Eid party always takes place. “In Bangladesh, there aren’t any Eid parties. It’s just visiting your family and friends; not this ‘party purty’ with virtual strangers.”

“Yes, Ammu, I know,” I groan, glancing out the window and trying not to roll my eyes. I know that will lead to an entire lecture about not being respectful to my parents. “If you made up with Khala then we could…”

Ammu cuts me off by glancing back at me with a stone-cold glare that I’m pretty sure has the ability to kill. It’s the same glare she sends my way every time I even mention that she has a sister. That I have a khala. That these people exist and live in the same city as us. That we could be celebrating together, but the years-long feud between our families has kept us apart.

“No more talking,” Ammu declares, staring straight ahead. She’s clutching the dish of payesh to her chest now as if it’s her lifeline. Considering how much she has sacrificed for her payesh, I guess it kind of is her lifeline.

But, as I glance out the window at the rush of trees and cars and buildings zooming by, I can’t help but think about what our Eid celebrations used to be like. And wonder how Ammu is so okay with letting all of that slip through her fingers.

The buzz of my phone distracts me from my thoughts.

“We’re here!” The text from Marwa reads.

“We’re five mins away,” I text back quickly, before glancing at Ammu. She has her lips pursed — obviously still annoyed that I dared to bring up Khala on a day as special as this. My heart beats a little faster at the thought of what she’ll say when she spots Khala at the party. She hasn’t come to one of these parties in the two years since their fall out, and it’s thanks to Marwa’s spectacular lies that she’s there now. Not knowing exactly what’s waiting for her.

I can tell the party is already in full bloom as soon as we pull into the parking lot. There are barely any spaces left. And the inside of the community centre is like a burst of colour. Whoever decorated the place for our Eid party did a marvelous job. There are multicoloured balloons and streamers hung up around the room. A giant banner on one wall reads ‘EID MUBARAK!’ and the other side of the room is filled up with kids’ drawings from the annual Eid art competition.

“Too many balloons,” is Ammu’s only observation as she shoves one of them aside in order to place her payesh on the large table, in the middle of the room. It’s already filled with different dishes — but I know everyone’s dying for Ammu’s payesh specifically.

I heave a sigh and glance around the party. Through the throngs of people hugging and cheering and laughing, it’s not easy to spot two people. But I do. In one corner, closed off from everyone else, stand Marwa and her mom. Khala doesn’t look happy at all, though she’s wearing an expensive-looking sari and a full face of makeup. And Marwa is looking around impatiently. She’s wearing a salwar kameez that matches mine perfectly — except instead of violet and silver, her outfit is blue and gold, perfectly complementing her bronze skin.

When Ammu’s back is turned, I wave to Marwa. Her face breaks out into a grin as soon as she sees me. She waves back, before motioning to her phone. My own phone vibrates with a text.

Marwa: “Meet me by the bathrooms in two minutes.”

“Ammu, I…have to pee,” I say.

“You couldn’t have gone before we came here?” Ammu says with a sigh. “Okay, go.” She waves me off. But just as I’m leaving, I notice that she’s already trying to push her bowl of payesh on our Bangladeshi neighbours. Not that the payesh needs much pushing. It may not be the recipe descended from the Mughals — but it’s still pretty damn good.

“You’re late!” Marwa says as soon as I’m in her earshot. She pulls me to the little corner just by the bathrooms — almost completely out of sight.

“Ammu wanted to talk to way too many people after the Eid prayers,” I say. “I tried to stop her, but you know what she’s like.”

“Stubborn,” Marwa mumbles under her breath. We both know all too well about that. “Did she bring the payesh?”

“Would it be an Eid party without it?”

She smiles, even though I can tell her heart’s not quite in it. Just like me, she’s nervous about the plan. About how both our mothers will react — after declaring each other enemies years ago and refusing to even be in the same room together. All because of a dessert recipe.

“What if this doesn’t work?” Marwa asks the question that we’re both thinking about. After all, convincing both of our moms to bring their payesh to the same Eid party so that people can taste them both and show our mothers how it doesn’t matter who has the family recipe or not, seems like a good idea — in concept. In execution, it has way too many chances of falling apart. There are so many factors that Marwa and I just can’t control.

But after months and months of trying to come up with some way to get our moms to reconcile, this was all we came up with. Once upon a time, our moms were so close that they named their two daughters — born within months of each other — after the two hills in Mecca. For years, we grew up side-by-side, like sisters more than cousins. Until our parents decided they would ruin all that. Over a dessert that non-Bengalis think is as simple as rice pudding.

“It has to work,” I say, with more conviction than I’m feeling. Marwa nods in agreement.

“Was she suspicious?” I ask.

“Not even a little bit. Once I convinced her that Khala had gone back to Bangladesh to celebrate Eid and that she had the chance to showcase her payesh recipe, it was easy. She wanted to get here early to scope out the best spot for her payesh,” Marwa says, rolling her eyes, but I smile. Because that’s exactly the kind of thing Ammu would do too. The two of them are so alike — and that’s exactly why this feud has kept up for so long.

“Even if this doesn’t work,” I say slowly after a moment. “We’re not going back to being friends in secret.” It’s been too many months of secret phone conversations and text messages. Too many days where I’ve lied to Ammu about meeting a friend from school, just so I can see my cousin. When before, it was sleepovers every week and seeing each other every day. A friendship that seemed boundless.

“We’re old enough to fight them back on it,” Marwa says, not sounding convinced at all. Bangladeshis don’t talk back to their parents…but ours are being ridiculous. They have been for too long now.

So, I gave a determined nod, and the two of us step away from our corner, and back to the main room in the community centre. Where all hell broke loose.

In the middle of the room stand our two mothers — both wearing their new Eid sarees that are now in disarray. They’re in the middle of a screaming match, either unaware — or uncaring — that everybody in the room, around them, is watching them with wide eyes. This is definitely going to be the gossip topic of the year, doing the rounds on all the ‘Auntie/Uncle’ WhatsApp and Facebook groups.

“Ammu!” Marwa calls rushing up to her mom, while I make my way over to mine. “Stop! Everybody’s watching!”

“You told me that she wasn’t going to be here. You lied!” Khala says, sending such a powerful glare toward Ammu that I’m surprised she doesn’t wither away.

“Yes,” Marwa says, even though I’m shaking my head at her vigorously. “Safa and I planned to bring you both here, so you could see how ridiculous you’re being. Right, Safa?”

Everybody’s staring at me now. Except for Ammu, who has taken all the power of Khala’s glare and turned it towards me.

I shift uncomfortably from foot to foot for a second before slowly nodding my head. “Yes…Marwa and I planned it. You both brought your payesh, you can see how it doesn’t matter. People are going to love both of them. They’re…”

“You brought payesh?” Ammu’s voice is a whisper, but somehow it seems to envelop the whole room.

“Of course, I brought my payesh,” Khala says, propping her chin up defiantly.

Ammu turns to the table where all the snacks and desserts brought in by various people are laid out. There’s a bowl of chotpoti, plates of shingara and shomucha, boxes of roshogolla and kalojam. But right on the edge is a dish filled with payesh that is definitely not ours.

“Ammu, no…” but I’m too late. Before I know it, Ammu is striding towards the payesh faster than she’s ever walked before. She grabs hold of the dish, and it’s almost like the entire room is collectively holding its breath.

She glances over at Khala, but there’s no wicked grin on her lips, no evil glint in her eyes. She almost looks…sad.

“You should have given me the recipe,” she says, her voice so low it’s a surprise we hear her. “I deserved it as much as you did.”

Khala frowns, stepping a little closer to Ammu. “I should have given it to you?” she asks. “You’re the one who kept it from me.”

“What are you talking about?” Ammu asks. “Ma told me that she gave you the recipe years ago. And after she passed, I asked you for it. You said you wouldn’t give it to me.”

“I said I couldn’t give it to you!” Khala cries. “Because you were rubbing it in my face. You were the one Ma gave it to. She told me so.”

“Ma said…”

“Wait!” I exclaimed, stepping forward. Normally, I would never raise my voice like that to Ammu, but this definitely doesn’t count as a normal situation. “You mean neither of you ever had the recipe?”

“She did!” Ammu and Khala say at the same time.

“Nanu lied to you both!” Marwa chimes in.

“Why would she lie?” Ammu asks.

“Why would I lie?” Khala asks. “And why would I keep the recipe from you?”

Marwa and I exchange a glance. All of these years, our moms had been fighting a feud that they shouldn’t have been. But Ammu is right. What reason would my grandmother have for lying to them both? For pitting them against each other?

“Do you think Nanu lost it?” Marwa asks. “Or…maybe that the payesh recipe descended from the Mughals is just a story.”

“It’s not just a story,” Ammu protests, shaking her head stubbornly. “The Jahangirs are descended from the Mughals.”

“But did the Mughals make payesh, or even eat payesh?” I ask.

“I don’t remember seeing any payesh in Jodha Akbar,” says Marwa, like a Bollywood movie is the best factual reference for our family history.

“If you never had the payesh recipe…what is this?” Ammu asks, glancing down at the bowl she’s holding.

“It’s my own payesh recipe…I made it in memory of the one that Ma made.”

“I made mine in memory of the one that Ma made too,” Ammu says softly. “But…I don’t understand.” She shakes her head, glancing down at the ground like that will have all her answers. “Why did Ma lie to us? Why would she lie to us?”

Khala’s eyebrows scrunch up like she’s deep in thought. But for just a moment. “Do you remember when we were kids?” she asked slowly. “And our Nanu used to make the payesh, before Ma ever did?”

“I remember,” Ammu says with a nod.

“When I used to think of Nanu, I used to think of the smell of cinnamon,” Khala says. “Because…”

“That’s what her payesh used to smell like,” Ammu finishes off, glancing up to meet Khala’s eyes. “But Ma never put cinnamon in her recipe.”

I’m not sure what transpires between them in that moment, but it’s like all the years of enmity that didn’t need to exist vanishes just like that.

“So there was no payesh recipe?” Marwa asks, glancing between our two moms, looking a little distraught. I can’t blame her. To think that we’ve built our entire family identity around this and our pride for this famous payesh recipe that goes back generations.

“Maybe once upon a time,” Khala says. “But…I don’t know when it got lost. Maybe it was our Nanu who lost the original recipe.”

“Or…maybe it was Ma,” Ammu says. “And that’s why she lied to us.”

“I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure,” Khala says.

“But…now we have these two payesh recipes,” Ammu glances down at the dish still in her hands. But instead of looking sad or even angry, she looks happy. Happier than I’d seen her in a long time. “Do you want to trade our recipes?”

“Yes!” Khala exclaims excitedly.

And I watch as Ammu and Khala saunter off arm-in-arm to celebrate Eid, catch up on their lost years and — most importantly — trade their payesh recipes.

“I can’t believe our plan worked!” Marwa says, coming up to me with a glint in her eyes.

“Our plan didn’t work,” I point out. “Our plan didn’t even start before Ammu and Khala started going at each other’s throats.”

“Yeah, but…they would have never had that conversation if we hadn’t tricked them into the same room, right?” Marwa shrugs her shoulder.

“I guess. I think we can take credit for this. We’ve earned it.” It definitely feels like our victory watching Ammu and Khala talk and laughs, as if those two years of separation never even existed.

Marwa grins and loops her arms through mine. “Shall we try some of the famous non-Mughal payesh?” she asks.

“We should, especially now that we have two recipes in the family.” And as we wander off to fill up on the tastiest dessert in the world, I think about how Ammu’s payesh story is definitely going to be a lot longer next year.

Artwork by Aisha Shahid

By Adiba Jaigirdar

Adiba Jaigirdar is an award-winning author. Some of her titles include The Henna Wars, A Million to One and The … Read more ›

‘About the Author’ – A Short Story

In celebration of Kirthana Ramisetthi’s second novel “Advika and the Hollywood Wives,” BGM literary editor Nimarta Narang is publishing this short story by the acclaimed author. This piece chronicles the evolution of a writer’s life through their ever-changing author’s bio. In the details, from the change in last name to the new address, we observe how Gigi grows into Genevieve and the life events that make her into the writer she becomes. 

“My Picnic,” published in the Oakwood Elementary Storytime Scrapbook

Gigi Maguire loves strawberries, “Smurfs,” and being a first grader. Her favorite word is ‘hooray.’ This is her first short story. 

“Sunshine Day,” published in Oakwood Elementary KidTale

Gigi Maguire is a fifth grader in Ms. Troll’s class. She loves writing stories more than anything in the whole world, except for peanut butter. 

“What Rhymes with Witch?,” published in BeezKneez.com

Gigi Maguire is a high school junior living in the Bay Area. Her favorite writers are Sylvia Plath and J.K. Rowling. If she can’t attend Hogwarts, she’ll settle for Sarah Lawrence or NYU.

“On Her 21st Birthday,” published in LitEnds

Gigi Laurene Maguire is a writer and recent graduate from Sarah Lawrence College. Her favorite writers are Sylvia Plath, Alice Munro, and Mahatma Gandhi. She is making her big move to New York City in the fall.

“Valentine’s Day in a Can,” published in Writerly

Gigi Laurene Maguire is a freelance writer who loves the written word, Ireland in springtime, and “La Vie En Rose.” She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

“Unspoken Ballads of Literal Heartbreak,” published in Weau Dunque Review

Gigi Laurene Maguire is an assistant editor at ScienceLife.com. Her work has appeared in Writerly and is forthcoming in Pancake House and Schooner’s Weekly. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey. 

“The Mistress of Self-Loathing,” published in Story Day 

Gigi L. Maguire is the editor-in-chief of Small Business Weekly. Her work has appeared Writerly, Story Day, Pancake House, and Schooner’s Weekly. She’s currently working on a novel about witches. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, with her tabby cat Sabrina. 

“The Distance in Your Eyes,” published in The Canton Review

Gigi L. Maguire is a freelance writer and digital marketing specialist. Her work has appeared in Writerly, Story Day, and is forthcoming in Idaho Centennial. She’s working on a novel and a short story collection. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

“Auspicious,” published in BookWorks 

Genevieve L. Maguire’s work appears or will appear in The Canton Review, Mark’s End, Bishop Quarterly, and Idaho Centennial. A second runner-up for the Imelda Granteaux Award for Fiction, she is writing a novel and a memoir. Genevieve lives in Brooklyn. 

“Meditate, Mediate,” published in Ripcord

Genevieve L. Maguire’s fiction appears or will appear in BookWorks, The Canton Review, Berkeley Standard, and elsewhere. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, she is an MFA candidate at New York University. She lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend and their two cats.

“Chaat & Chew,” published in The Carnegie Review

Genevieve L. Maguire’s fiction appears in Ploughshares, Ripcord, The Cambridge Review, and elsewhere. She received her master’s in creative writing from New York University. Her short story “Meditate, Mediate” has been optioned by Academy Award nominee Janet De La Mer’s production company, Femme! Productions. She lives in Brooklyn with her fiancé, their three cats, and a non-singing canary.

“Urdhva Hastasana Under a Banyan Tree” published in The Paris Review

Genevieve Maguire-Mehta’s fiction has been hailed as “breathtakingly lyrical” by Margaret Atwood. She is the recipient of the Whiting Prize for Short Fiction and an Ivy Fellow. Her fiction has appeared in The Carnegie Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. She lives with her husband Manoj in Park Slope, Brooklyn. 

“Reaching New (Jackson) Heights,” performed by Lana Del Rey on NPR’s “Shorts” series

Genevieve Maguire-Mehta’s fiction has been hailed as “effervescent” by Alice Munro and “breathtakingly lyrical” by Margaret Atwood. She is the recipient of the Whiting Prize for Short Fiction and an Ivy Fellow. Her work appears or has appeared in The Paris Review, Elle, The Carnegie Review, and elsewhere. She lives with her husband in Park Slope, Brooklyn with their feisty menagerie of animals.

“The Bhagavad Gina,” published in The New Yorker

Genevieve Maguire-Mehta is the recipient of the Whiting Prize of Short Fiction and is a McClennen Arts Colony scholar. Her work appears or has appeared in The Paris Review, Elle, and elsewhere. She is currently working on a novel. She lives with her husband and daughter in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

“When Two Becomes None,” published in American Quarterly 

Genevieve Maguire’s writing has received dozens of accolades, most recently the Luciana Vowel Prize for Female Fiction. Praised by Alice Munro as “effervescent,” her work has appeared in more than twenty publications, including The New Yorker, and The Paris Review. She lives with her daughter Priyanka in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

“The Day We Learned Desire is a Winding Path,” published by Capricorn Rising Press

Genevieve Maguire is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in more than thirty publications, including The New Yorker and The Paris Review. She lives with her daughter in a 100-year-old farmhouse in Woodstock, New York. “The Day We Learned Desire is a Winding Path” is her first novel. Visit her website at genevievemagauthor.com.

“Hairy Arms and Coconut Oil,” published in MotherReader

Genevieve Maguire Dunblatt is a novelist, homeopath, and part-time yoga instructor. She has seen her critically-acclaimed short stories published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. She lives with her husband Benji and daughter Priyanka in Jacksonville, Florida.  

“Priya Pinker’s Mother Gets a Life,” published by Capricorn Rising Press

Genevieve M. Dunblatt is the author of two novels, including “The Day We Learned Desire is a Winding Path.” An aura reader, faith healer, and yoga instructor, she has seen her critically-acclaimed short stories published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. She lives with her husband in Jacksonville, Florida. Visit genevieveauthormag.com to learn more about her writing, and genevieveauthormag.com/hearthappy for her wellness services. 

“Comma, Coma,” published in Read-A-Day Journal

Genevieve Maguire is the author of “The Day We Learned Desire is a Winding Path” and “Priya Pinker’s Mother Gets a Life.” She has seen her critically-acclaimed short stories published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. Alice Munro has called her writing “effervescent.” She lives in Jacksonville, Florida.  

“Next Stop New York,” published in The Lunar Reader

Genevieve Maguire is the author of “The Day We Learned Desire is a Winding Path” and “Priya Pinker’s Mother Gets a Life.” She lives in New Jersey.  

Avatar photo
By Kirthana Ramisetti

Kirthana Ramisetti is the author of Dava Shastri’s Last Day, a Good Morning America Book Club selection which is in … Read more ›