The day after I turned 18, I unlocked the world of online dating. Tinder found a home in my phone and right and left swipes became vocabulary for romance. Like almost everyone I know, my college lifestyle was centered around courtship. But I didn’t feel safest or most loved with the revolving door of men. Love has imparted itself onto me most in forms beyond romantic.
I spend an absurd amount of time indulging in South Asian centered books, music, movies and TV — all because it invokes a love of my birth land and ancestors. Farida Khanum’s “Dil Jalane Ki Baat Kartey Ho” will forever tug at my heartstrings, but go pick your favorite from my playlists — guaranteed to put you in your feels. Faiz Ahmed Faiz may be talking about revolution, but his poems read as though addressed to a secret lover. “Mismatched,” set in Jaipur, aka the Paris of my dreams, is a quirky, easy romantic watch with a great soundtrack based on the South Asian diasporia’s favorite book “When Dimple Met Rishi”.
2. My Body
My relationship with my body goes beyond what it looks like. My body has supported me through good and poor health, overwhelming life transitions, and though ever-changing, has never and will never leave my side. I love my body and it loves me back when I happy dance. Every Sunday, I’ll dance with Drasti Mody in her Bharatanatyam intensives, but also love frolicking around campus with mid-2000s Bollywood music blaring in my ears.
Especially female friendships. I can without a doubt say that I have the best friends who make me feel the most loved and valued for being authentically myself. But the most beautiful thing about friendship is that it can bloom unexpectedly and deeply sustain you. For a euphoric reminder of beautiful, fulfilling, unexpected friendship, check out “The Last Color,” a heart moving friendship between a widow and untouchable girl that literally changed the world and brought color.
They say sex is cool and stuff, but inciting revolution is even hotter. I can confirm. Spend this Valentine’s Day educating yourself on what’s happening in India with the farmer’s protest and mobilize, spread awareness and donate. Check out Kavita’s article “Farmers in India are Protesting and Here’s Why” for a breakdown of what’s happening and ways to support.
5. Parent Something
Most love centered relationships we have tend to be two-way streets. Both people love each other. My plants taught me how to practice one-sided love and the beauty of unabashedly devoting myself to something — regardless of reciprocity. I’m the proud mom of Stella-Noor, Jannah and Rooh. I wish them good morning every day and tell them about my day. It feels so good to know I can create love and give it without expectation.
Though a fleeting feeling, I’m enamored by butterflies. Tingling from excitement and the good that’s to come, butterflies are a big dose of love fit into a tiny moment of time. A unique love that’s highly connected to the physical.
7. Cherish The One Who Loves You Most
Sometimes, love feels conditional. Find the person who without fear loves you and expresses it to you. My grandma is the person who loves me most on this planet. She lives seas away from me, we’ve barely known each other and have barely spent much time with each other, but I love her and she loves me. What I wouldn’t give to see myself through the lens my grandma does me. She believes I can touch the stars and that I deserve so much love; it’s convinced me to not settle for anything less.
8. Romance Yourself
Honestly, I don’t know how people go without treating and taking care of themselves. From taking myself out on a date to buying myself the most elaborate presents to scheduling daily naps, I spoil myself. Your relationship with yourself is the longest relationship you’ll ever have. Time to invest and get to know yourself. Pictured at the top of this post: me on a date with myself eating my favorite meal while reading Salman Rushdie’s “Midnight Children”.
Relish that love doesn’t just exist in romantic forms. In fact, the other forms have filled my cup more, are everlasting and set me up to be a whole person with a whole life when I do enter a long-term romantic partnership.
And if you have a special someone this Valentine’s Day, still take yourself out on a date.
Wedding season is in full swing as the world resets from the coronavirus pandemic that halted mass events for years. Indo Caribbean weddings have rich diversity due to their varying religious and regional intricacies, but are generally large celebrations that require planning, coordination and preparation. Growing up, I was both excited and stunned at the busyness associated with streamlining a multi-day wedding celebration.
The vibrant diaspora of first-generation young adults and their families may look to vendors who can understand the nuances of Indo Caribbean weddings. Below are five Indo Caribbean vendors you need to know about this wedding season!
A self-taught mehndi artist for more than 16 years, Anil Deonarine was fascinated by the delicate, deeply stained details that adorned the hands of Indian actresses and classical dancers. His passion for art inspired him to watch YouTube tutorials and meticulously freestyle designs on his sister’s hands.
Soon after, he began practicing mehndi on himself and perfected his signature designs that drew inspiration from traditional Rajasthani textiles and Arabic floral patterns. Deonarine is also known for his speed, and can craft a flowing, freestyle design in 3-5 minutes without much pre-planning that is symbolic and personalized to the individual.
As a member of the Indo Caribbean, Latino and LGBTQ communities, mehndi was a therapeutic means of growth for Deonarine at the intersection of his identities. With his mother’s aid, he began introducing mehndi to those that celebrate Quinceneras, Noche Buena (Christmas Eve Dinners) and Three Kings’ Day. Within the greater South Asian community, Deonarine frequently applied mehndi on family and friends for weddings/events and participated in cultural events such as holidays.
He initially faced some negative reactions from members of the South Asian community as a male artist, such as being chastised that mehndi is only for women, called slurs and told to stick to traditionally manly activities. However, Deonarine instead focused on bettering his skills, advocating and supporting other male artists, and soon built a loyal and excited clientele that fully supported and accepted him. It is his dream to design mehndi at a queer wedding to further defy stereotypes and champion mehndi’s inclusivity for all, irrespective of race, sexual orientation, religion or gender.
Offering soy candles and natural soaps, Diana Sookram’s products have been used as bridal shower and wedding favors and gifts in bridesmaid, bachelorette and groomsmen boxes.
Sookram began creating natural products in 2016 after her daughter developed respiratory issues from store-bought candles. She fell in love with the creation process and soon began taking small-batch orders from family, friends and co-workers. Now, she is expanding her business through summer networking socials and prepping for mass orders during wedding season by stocking up on top-selling supplies such as small candle jars, lids and soap packaging.
Sookram’s products can be color and scent customized to match the theme of any occasion. Popular scents during wedding season include beach linen, honeysuckle jasmine, lavender and chamomile and honeysuckle rose. Whether a couple envisions a beachy, garden or opulent wedding, Sookram is able to create complementary colors and scents.
She admits the hard work that goes into promoting a small business and jumps at the opportunity, particularly within the Indo Caribbean community, to network and collaborate.
Fresh flowers are a staple in weddings and plentiful throughout the Caribbean. In some Indo Caribbean weddings, couples exchange garlands of fresh flowers, called malas, to signify their consent and joy in choosing one another as partners. This fundamental ritual dates back to ancient times and is deeply symbolic, as malas also adorn the statues of gods and goddesses in Indo Caribbean temples.
Since the age of seven, Mallika Balgobin sat alongside aunties and uncles in temple and watched them handcraft malas. She was inspired to learn the techniques and in 2018, established her business, Vibrant Garlands, to make and sell malas for special occasions.
Balgobin finds the preservation and teaching of traditional craft vital to her Indo Caribbean heritage, as she is able to make malas for some of the community’s biggest events such as weddings, religious ceremonies, holidays and funerals.
Her recent 2023 trip to South India aided her in learning new techniques and she was encouraged by how the tiniest, simplest flower is arranged to symbolize auspiciousness and beauty. For weddings, Balgobin loves stringing white carnations, red roses, baby’s breath and pink lilies to evoke feelings of unity and love. Balgobin works with couples to customize fresh flowers. She provides fresh flowers or suggests couples buy the flowers of choice prior to customization.
The pulsating and electrifying rhythms of live tassa are a grand component of Indo Caribbean weddings. Since 2017, G Star Tassa Group has brought unique beats and energetic vibes to Indo Caribbean special occasions. While derived from Indian traditional drumming, tassa is a distinct musical experience particular to the Caribbean. It is generally associated with the splendor of wedding festivities due to the excited ambiance it produces. When arriving at a wedding where tassa is performing, the music is loud and center, indicating that a celebration is taking place.
Watching, listening and dancing to tassa is a multisensory experience that heightens the audience.
For the members of G Star, playing tassa is a means of, “expressing culture, rather than representing it. When we play, we like to believe we are invoking emotions from every person who can hear it. Our culture embodies happiness, togetherness and love, all of which can be found in the sweet sound of Tassa.”
Photography and videography offer couples some of the strongest mementos to relive their special day. Nicholas Mangal at DvS Photography brings high energy and professionalism to capture the right angles, looks and moments of a wedding. Located in both New York and Florida, Mangal prides himself as one of the only individuals in the Indo Caribbean community who shoots and edits both photography and videography in specially curated, all-inclusive packages for couples. With an emphasis on portraits, he personally caters to each couple and involves them after the shoot in the editing and final stages of his products.
Mangal understands the complexity that can accompany an Indo Caribbean wedding, but believes that this, “forces me to think outside of the box and create new perspectives, ensuring that I try different styles.”
He loves to document the aesthetics of Indo Caribbean weddings, from the rich embroideries of the outfits to colorful decor.
Ultimately, he aims to highlight the timeline of wedding rituals by capturing people in motion and interacting with the crowd to create lifelong memories that the couple can cherish forever. For Mangal, photography/cinematography is a deeply subjective form of art that can be used to capture the unique beauty and experience of Indo Caribbean weddings.
These vendors bring an important cultural and niche aspect to the Indo Caribbean wedding industry. Their products and brands are tailored to the community. As a 2023 bride, I am excited to see the diversity of vendors available to help guide and support those getting ready to begin their new journey of married life.
To inquire about services, please visit the vendors’ social media pages.