Other Articles by Modern Bhen

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Keep Calm and Trust in Taaruf

Keep Calm and Trust in Taaruf

By: Modern BhenDate: January 8th, 2015

These days, there are thousands of ways to date. You might  find your Modern Bhai  through friends, at a wedding, casual Facebook stalking, or through the relentless badgering of TNC aunties… but none of them are quite as complicated as the Taaruf experience.
Taaruf is an event  coordinated by the TNC (the Taiseer-un-Nikah committee dedicated to matching  single Bohris across the globe with one another) in various cities around the world. Oh, you haven’t been to a Taaruf yet? Let me break it down for you:

Pre-Taaruf Process

Your mother receives a call from Matchmaker Mehmoona Aunty  about an upcoming Taaruf, and your mother then calls you with an ultimatum. Go to Taaruf or watch her die unfulfilled and grandchildless. So you relent  and fill out  the application to this odd, exclusive matrimonial convention.  The application asks you basic questions such as your gender, your  country of origin, and your E-Jamaat number. Under the age category, the options available for females are: [15-18], [19-21], and [21-35].  They also ask you to check your interests from the following options for women:  

Once accepted to the Taaruf program, if you are a Modern Bhai, grab your topi and no further work required.  
For Modern Bhens, consider the Taaruf equivalent to a Bohri prom.  If you don’t wear a rida full time, you will be tasked with the challenge of expressing  your usual fashion sense using only your wrists, face, and possibly your ankles, depending on how progressive this Taaruf is. Word of caution; 3-D rida embellishments and  sequin explosions  don’t have quite the aphrodisiac effect that Bohri Aunty’s seem to think.

Taaruf – Three Day Flirt Fest

You’ve made it! You’ve arrived safely at the host city and you find yourself sharing a room with seven other young Bohri women from across the world at the home of a local Aunty who has graciously offered to host.

Most of the program takes place at the Masjid or a local tourist hot spot, and every candidate is given a name tag with a number and assigned to a counselor. The Taaruf is kicked off with a standard Thursday night darees. Between mataam and wasilas, the elders of the community impart their best dating advice to the nervous candidates. Here are a few paraphrased nuggets:
  • Please give us another reason to have more khushi darees’/jamans
  • Getting married is the ultimate Bohri rite of passage
  • Nikah ma Maula ni khushi che
  • You’ve peaked, stop being picky!
  • Successful matches made during this particular Taaruf ONLY will give couples the exclusive once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be married by Maula’s hand
  • Marriage will literally solve all of your social, financial, and spiritual problems
After the darees, candidates are grouped by age: the ideal 15-18 marriageable group, the slightly ripe 19-21 college group, and 21-35 seemingly hopeless group. (Anyone older than 35 is considered “expired,” and thus ineligible for Taaruf). Each group is then assigned various ice breakers that test not only for personality traits, but also allow others to discern where you fall in the jamaat pecking order. These ice breakers are an excellent way to scope out the meat (and the competition) for the weekend and warm up for the speed-dating event the next day. Proceed carefully Bhens, you don't want to show all your cards at once!

Speed Dating

This is the single most crucial activity of the entire weekend – come well rested and with your game face on, because you will be meeting EVERY type of male Taaruf goer today. Typical matches include:

The Serial Taaruf Goer 

This ain’t his first rodeo. He LOVES Taaruf, and has been to every single one since 2002. He’s familiar with the culinary skills and architectural inspiration of every Masjid from Toronto to Colombo.  While his actual intentions regarding matrimony are unclear, what IS clear is that he is already Facebook friends with 90% of the people there.

The Bhai with Serious Intentions

This bhai is here to play ball, and came equipped with his Tasmiyat paperwork, Safai chitti, and has Hawaij.org bookmarked on his phone so he can send immediate nikah arzi to Maula. Watch out, Modern Bhens! He’ll have himself and his parents on the next flight to your hometown to have you mou mitha’d and set a wedding date all before you can ask “Sorry, what did you say your name was?”

Mr. Too-Cool-to-be-there 

This guy makes it clear that he has plenty of cooler things to do, and is resentful that he is spending his valuable time at Taaruf. He checks his phone three times a minute, and spends the rest of his time giving you the judgmental stink eye for looking for love at Taaruf.

Mr. Friend-Zone 

While this bhai catches the eye of many Modern Bhen’s, the sparks just don’t fly. But haaaaa-aay, he’s got great fashion sense and accessorizes that topi/kurta like a boss (check out his #OOTD). His cattiness and witty observations may have you clutching your pardi in laughter, but unfortunately, you know this bhai can’t go anywhere but the friend-zone.

The Ulterior Motive Bhai 

This bhai ain’t got time for chit chat. He has his H-1B form in hand and opens with “do you have green card?” His eyes light up like a mumin looking at a plate of biryani in Ramadan when he realizes you’re a born and bred American, and follows up with “what salary do you earn?” He’s not just looking for a wife, he’s looking for a one-way ticket to the American Dream.

The After-Party Bhai 
Darees? Speed dating? Cubical meetings? This bhai is likely a no-show.  He is ONLY here to suffer through Taaruf so that he can get to the After Party. Pitbull plays in the background whenever this Bhai walks in the room, and if you want to see his true colors, look for him on the dance floor or shooting pool at the “secret” Taaruf After Party Exclusive.

Cubicle Meetings
After navigating the murky waters of this cast of characters, your counselor will ask you for your short list of Bhai's. Choose wisely, because you may be spending some sexy cubicle time with them. Yes, you heard correctly. You will be forced to sit in a curtained 4x4 cubicle for a full 3 minutes with Bhai's (some of your choosing, and some that may have chosen you, with or without your blessing)

While After-Party Bhai is rounding up the troops for the final Taaruf After Party, your TNC counselor's will be spending their night running a mysterious Bohri algorithm determining how to match each Bhai's and Bhen's selections, and the next day, you'll be presented with a schedule of cubicles.

Nothing quite compares to the suspense of demurely drawing back a curtain to find out which Bhai is waiting for you in the cubicle. Is it the Bhai you've been secretly noticing all weekend? Or is it the one hounding you with requests for your E-jamaat number? Regardless, Bhens, whether you're suffering through it or it's the highlight of your weekend, it's only 180 seconds.

Post Taaruf: Fast Forward Six Weeks 

At this point, you have either locked and scored on your Taaruf Experience - in which case, read Dating Rules, I'm Talking to this Guy for tips on dating in the Bohri world.

More likely, you’re juggling several Post-Taaruf Relationships. After your whirlwind weekend you’re probably inundated with communications from various Bhai's.

Post-Taaruf "Dating" is always a challenge. There's the Bhai that texts you frantically day and night, despite the fact that you really gave him no encouragement, and shows up unannounced with his family at your parent's house. There's the Bhai who you liked, but really doesn't make an effort to stay in touch. There's the Bhai who's interest in you was mutual, but your post Taaruf lives really just aren't conducive to each other. Just keep in mind... if the conversation reaches a point where you find yourselves discussing the weather on a daily basis, the relationship probably isn't worth pursuing any further.

And then... there are the fairy tales. You met at Taaruf. He complimented your rida. You liked the cut of his topi. He made you laugh, then he made you blush, and next thing you knew he was flying across the country just to see you.

Regardless of how your Taaruf story begins or ends, if you're a single Bhori, it's an experience worth having. Even if you don't meet the Bhai of your dreams, you'll meet people from all walks of life and friends you'll keep for years to come. The TNC puts in a lot of hard work, and they do have an astonishing success rate. It's worth the airfare.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Happy New Year!! -- Modern Bhen 2015 Calendar

To all my Fans & Readers,

I'd like to thank all of you for reading my blog, sharing it with your friends, and sending me your thoughts and comments. Writing Modern Bhen for the past year has been both a challenge and a delight, but I've loved every moment!

So for all my Modern Bhen's out there... ever had a bit of a crush on a dreamy dude, and wished.... if only he were a mumin!! Well, here is a little something to make your 2015 a little brighter: (click the following link)

Modern Bhen 2015 Calendar

Happy New Years!
Love Always, 
Modern Bhen

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Very Bhori Christmas

A Very Bohri Christmas By: Modern Bhen December 23, 2014

For Modern Bhens living in the Western world, Christmas can be a confusing time. As Muslims, we don't believe in Christmas in the religious sense, but it's difficult not to be infected by the holiday spirit. And let's be honest, Bohri's never pass up an opportunity to throw an elaborate feast.

We American Bohri's have developed our own winter holiday traditions... Assuming your family isn't holding you to your empty promise to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands, or you aren't being carted off to the Motherland by your parents in secret hope that you will meet a perfectly FOB-ulous companion (and be mou-mitha'd -- or better yet, nikahfied -- within the 2 weeks you're there).

Most Bohri Christmas celebrations are a hybrid imitation of a traditional Western Christmas, but are not without their own unique Bohri charm.

For instance, while the rest of North America shops for Christmas gifts, mumineen across the country take advantage of holiday deals to stock up on mithishitabi gifts for later in the year. When else can you find packs of 24 mini nailpolishes for only $10.99? And if you have a wedding coming up in your family, you'll be shopping for Christmas lights and wreaths to decorate the shaadi-ghar with, and gifts for the in-laws.

Christmas baking, on the other hand, is a little more complicated. You peruse your local grocery store in pursuit of halal marshmallows and a subtle substitution for lard, thinking of ways to incorporate the pehli raat pomegranates your mom gave you into this year’s cookies. And as you shop, you try to sing along to the Christmas carols playing in the background, but realize you don't actually know the words… and they sound suspiciously like marasiyas.

Being the social butterflies most Modern Bhens are, you may be invited to an Ugly Rida party, or better yet, a Rida-decorating party (think about it: they ARE, after all, kind of tree-shaped).

Finally, the big Christmas Day party. Your family Christmas party includes all 75 members of your close family, and doesn’t specify a time -- just "After Maghrib" -- allowing invitees to stroll in guilt-free any time within a 3 hour window. Coordinating a Secret Santa with 75 participants is a feat on par with doing upri on Ashura. And you know more than one bhai/bhen will be receiving a masila and tasbeeh.

The uncle's disappear to the basement on arrival, where they sneak sips of something stronger than holiday spirit; aunties congregate in the kitchen, gossiping and bickering over the best ways to reheat the naan; and the children and teens head upstairs to fight over the TV and play with their cell phones This leaves you, as a 20-something year old, sitting next to the Christmas tree (decorated with dupattas)  nestled between a picture of Maula and a replica of the Kaaba doors, wondering which group you should be joining.

The traditional Bohri holiday meal isn't served until well after 10pm, and entails a potluck featuring a tandoori turkey, a masala pot roast, garlic naan, green chutney potatoes... and of course, no Bohri feast is complete without a nice greasy tapela of biryani. While you eat, you're entertained by your Uncle's annual rant about the holidays being nothing more than a marketing ploy, and in fact, Christmas in itself being a scam. But it's hard to take him seriously while he's sporting a reindeer headband on top of his topi...

At the end of the night, full to the brim with tandoori turkey, chai and ras malai, you head home smelling vaguely of biryani, carrying leftover samosas and the new jori you received from your Secret Santa (actually, it’s no secret; it had to be your Phuphi who just came back from India); you smile at the evidence of another perfect Bohri Christmas.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Pehli Raat Struggle: Thaal, Maal and Halawaal
By: Modern Bhen
October 22, 2014

The tradition of the Bohra New Years Eve feast holds steadfastly to the one thing held dearest to a mumeen’s heart and the soul of Bohra culture: Bohra cuisine & the Thaal.

Throwing caution to the wind, along with our be kharaas/be mithaas rule -- Pehli Raat is a chance to give free reign to our gluttonous ways, unencumbered by the usual surroundings of a Bohra feast, such as weddings, darees, shitabis. On this night, and this night alone, we can shed the pretense and admit it. We’re just here for the food.

There is a vague cultural significance to this holiday that’s been explained a few different ways. Some believe the Thaal should be adorned with as many dishes as possible to signify the hopeful prosperity of the upcoming year. Fish, chicken, beef, lamb, samosas, fruits, nuts, soji, halwa, kebabs and daal chawal are just the beginning of a standard Pehli Raat meal.

All great stuff so far, but besides the nostalgic fuzziness this holiday inspires, Pehli Raat can also be a pretty stressful event. The advent of modern social media has kicked the Bohra competitive spirit into high gear this time of year. Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Viber and Whatsapp are inundated with #PRM, #DMY, and pictures of three-tiered thaal monstrosities covered with succulent, savory and sweet dishes. (Everyone that’s anyone has at least two-tiers and 53 dishes). The Pehli Raat Struggle is real.

The standard Pehli Raat meal involves anywhere from 21 to 153 dishes. Have you ever had to prepare a 153-course meal?!?
… or better yet…. Eat a 153-course meal?!?

Here are a few simple tricks to physically and mentally prepare yourself for the big day.

Dish Count

If you’re hosting Pehli Raat, your first task should be delegation. Ask each of your family members to bring a couple of items. (Start by assigning the fish and the dal chawaal, as those are the most essential dishes, and best handled by the tried and true culinary skills of your mom or grandmother.)

Still only hitting 147 dishes? Beef up your plate count by visiting your nearest produce market and grabbing a variety of fruit -- you only need one of each, and you can count each as a separate dish.  

Another great source of last minute dishes to add to the count: your freezer.  Those leftover kebabs and samosas from Ramadhan will come in handy now.

Marathon of Gluttony
You can’t consume a meal of such epic proportions without some preparation. Here are some thoughts on ensuring you get the most out of your Pehli Raat meal:
  • Train your tummy: Contrary to popular belief, starvation is not the key! You need to train your stomach for the big event by keeping your meals short and sweet for a day or two preceding the event.
  • Exercise: The day of, make sure you get some exercise, whether it’s a sweaty cardio session at the gym, or a short walk around the block. At the very least, do a few laps up and down the stairs carrying a thaal (also a great way to retrieve your thaals from the basement), or a couple of repetitions of bicep curls with a naryal in each hand.
  • Attire: Dress for the occasion. If you’re not wearing a rida to the big event, loose clothing is your friend -- and I cannot stress the importance of an elastic naara enough on this auspicious night.
  • One-Bite Rule: When you finally sit down to the big meal, pace yourself -- slow and steady wins the race. No matter how appealing that first lamb shank looks, you still have 152 dishes to go, so one boti and move along.

After the sumptuous meal has been consumed, and you’re reminiscing with your family about your favorite dishes of the night and avoiding questions about who’s kebabs were better -- (your chaachi or your phuphi’s) -- you may also want to consider getting some fresh air.  This will not only aid your digestion, it will also rid your hair and clothes of the Eau De Biryani.

Now that you’re fully prepared for tomorrow’s marathon --

Pehli Raat Mubarak!
Time to loosen those naara’s, my friends, ‘tis the season to Eat, Drink (lassi), and Be Merry!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dating Rules, I'm talking to this guy...

Dating Rules, I’m talking to this guy...

By: Modern Bhen
October 20, 2014

In the Bohra world, dating can be complicated, to say the least. While marriage is one of the central tenets of our culture (see Modern Bhen’s Guide to Bhori Weddings: A Three Month Journey from Excitement to Exhaustion), finding your Modern Bhai counterpart can be extremely challenging… and due to the persistent idiosyncrasies of our culture, it can also be extremely confusing…
In the Bhori world, nothing is more taboo than the word “dating” …except maybe the word “boyfriend.” Don’t get me wrong; we do technically date… we just don’t call it that. Similarly, much of the lingo surrounding dating in the Bhori world has evolved accordingly, but it can cause confusion in the outside world.

Relationship Progression in the non-Bhori world
In the regular world, relationships generally progress along these lines:
Boy and Girl meet - the details may vary, but their chance meeting was clearly a fateful occurrence.
Boy asks Girl out - He is hopelessly drawn to her by inexplicable magnetism. (and vice-versa).  
Boy and Girl date - Kissing   is on the table in this stage.
They meet each other’s Parents - Meeting families and friends cements their relationship
Boy Proposes/Girl Accepts - Boy meticulously plans a romantic leap of faith and proposes to the girl he wants to be with for the rest of his life… (or, let’s be honest, the foreseeable future?)
If you’re Bhori, this progression follows a different course altogether:
TNC Aunty brokers a match between Boy and Girl - Let’s all just admit it, most of us have experienced some variation of this.
Boy emails / Gchats / Facebooks / texts Girl - Awkward conversation ensues. Both parties modify their respective social media/biodata pages to reflect the most favorable version of themselves.
Boy and Girl “talk” via non-committal medium of communication - Relationship has progressed to real-time dialogue. Feels like interviewing for a job but a more rigorous background check.
Boy musters up courage to meet Girl - At some point, in-person evaluation is necessary for progress.
Parental meeting - The real test - hopefully both mothers agree on whether its karmo or kalamro. If so, expect your baat pakki done before maghrib. Kissing is probably still not on the table.

While Bhori relationships might progress to formal commitment much quicker than those in the Western world, despite taking the more convoluted route, there’s nothing quick -- or simple -- about a Bhori “engagement.”
Rishta/Baat Pakki - As mentioned above,this generally happens when the parents are introduced, and if all goes well, it’s confirmed you’re getting married!
Naani Saakar/Mou Mitha - But wait, the Baat Pakki happened so spontaneously, there was no time for the necessary pomp & circumstance. Find yourself a nice jori, because your Modern Bhai is coming with his family, your mom is breaking out her special occasion miniature gold-rimmed sherbaat glasses, and his mom is bringing you new digs for Lailatul Qadr.
Tasmiyat  - Formal permission for your relationship is granted, which leads to...
Khushi Jamaan - Friends, family, distant relatives, acquaintances, and random strangers are invited to celebrate your union and impending nuptials in full Bhori form: majlis, matam and an 11-course meal.
Engagement Party - Of course, no engagement is complete without an Engagement reception, just a teaser for the upcoming wedding.
After an exhausting few months of “getting engaged,” you suddenly realize that your Modern Bhai never actually proposed. But then, seriously, after all of the above, what’s the point?

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Resurgence of the Roti

The Resurgence of the Roti
By: Modern Bhen
July 27, 2014

Many of you may have noticed the recent community-wide focus on the conservative values in which our traditions are entrenched. “Home Sciences” is receiving more attention as of late, and at the forefront of this is the Resurgence of The Roti.

This inspired me to take a closer look at this age old staple in our successively creative Bhori cuisine, ponder its seeming agelessness, simplicity, and… Okay fine, my Mom angrily waved a chakri at me and made me make Roti for our upcoming family dinner.

I’ve watched the women in my family make rotis for years. It seems simple enough. #ChallengeAccepted

10:00am - After a quick google search, I dig around for the basic ingredients required to make roti: durum wheat atta, salt, warm water.

10:07am - Water, check. Salt, check. Turns out, I do not own any variety of flour.

10:24am - Have located durum wheat atta at local urban grocery store.
They only carry a 5.5lb bag --  for $17.20

10:53am - Finally, with all ingredients on hand, I pour some atta into a bowl, add salt and water and begin kneading. Am treated to a an oddly satisfying squelching sensation, and realize kneading dough is hard work. Definitely don’t need to work out today.
2014-07-26 20.20.04.jpg

DISASTER! Have inadvertently added too much water; dough has turned into a sopping mess.


11:40am - Alternating rigorously between adding more wet and dry ingredients, have finally created a somewhat accurate looking dough. Let sit for an hour, as per recipe, but the confidence gained by resolving the sopping mess is somewhat broken when I return to find it looking exactly the same. Should I wait longer? The clock is ticking though, so I trudge on.

1:47pm - Ready to roll out dough but realize I don’t own a rolling pin as it’s never been necessary to date. Hunt for other cylindrical objects, and find the following items:
2014-07-26 20.39.21.jpg

3:09pm - Rolling out round, even rotis is harder than one might think. (Possibly exacerbated by makeshift use of soda can as a rolling pin). I consider coming clean and admitting that despite my post-graduate education and various other qualifications... roti just isn't my forte.

4:07pm - Rotis are fried and buttered. The final product of my labor are hard frisbee-like disks with jagged, uneven edges. I am considering admitting defeat when the phone rings.

2014-07-26 20.55.11.jpg

4:11pm: FaceTime call from Mom.

“Beta, Don't be late today, ok? Matchmaker Mehmoona Aunty is coming tonight too, she'll be watching.”
“....Er... Okay." -- (#@%#)
“Did you make the rotis? How did they turn out?”
“This isn’t going to be like the chai incident again, is it beta?”
“Umm… it… er…” I make a game-time decision. “They turned out great, Mom. I'll see you in a bit!”

4:20pm - I get my mother off the phone and run outside and hail a cab.

4:37pm - I ask the cabbie to wait while I run into my local Indo-Pak grocery store and head straight for the freezer.
2014-07-26 22.28.30.jpg

5:02pm - I return to my apartment and frantically rip open the packages while simultaneously firing up my frying pan for the second time today. They must look just perfectly imperfect.

5:23pm - Twenty minutes later, I have stunning “homemade” rotis, packed and ready for dinner.

2014-07-26 22.20.45.jpg

5.5 lbs of Golden Temple’s Durum atta $17.20
Cab fare to and from Indo-Pak store $21.00
Two packets of ready-made roti $5.98
Opportunity costs $201.92
(calculated based on current earning potential and wasted precious weekend hours)
Pulling a fast one on my Mom and Matchmaker Mehmoona Aunty…

“Beta, these are excellent! Can you make them for dinner next week as well? Let me go show Matchmaker Mehmoona Aunty.....”

I make a mental note to buy my Mom a Rotimatic for Eid and smile beatifically.


*Note: No rotis were harmed in the making of this blog, and for more information regarding the Rotimatic, please visit https://rotimatic.com/