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An ode to deshi winters

Other countries get snow and all the wonders that come along with the soft white stuff, but having a mild, temperate winter means we Bangladeshis get a very different kind of experience. We have our own ways of celebrating and staying warm; our own culture and heritage define a lot of what we do in these months.

The fashion

Dust off the kombol suitcases and bring down the woolen sweaters tucked away in the back of the closet. You can spend away on faux leather jackets and Kashmiri shawls, how more often than not, winter clothing is strictly a fashion statement rather than being absolute necessities. It just doesn’t get that cold. Bangladesh’s mild winters mean the thermal underwear that you’d typically need to not die in the barren, frozen wastes of Canada is not needed. There is plenty of room to mix and match your winter style. Winter—the best season in Bangladesh 4 Anything goes—from the traditional shawl wrapped over a suitably ethnic Panjabi, to hoodies emblazoned with the logos of your favorite English Premier League football team. Winter is a chance for already expressive Bangladeshis to show more of their style with each additional layer of clothing. The cold can still get to you (2018 saw the lowest temperatures in nearly 50 years), especially at night. It’s a good idea to cover up and take extra protection in the form of mufflers. 

The weddings

Summer weddings in Bangladesh are a terrible idea. Who wants to see the typical local aunty’s face-paint melting in the sweltering heat? How do you get around that? You shift the wedding plans to the end of the year and minimize the heat. Everyone has the same idea, and as a result, come December, you’re flooded with wedding invites and calls for holud dance rehearsals. It can get chaotic, but the serial wedding invites make winter a festive, happening time. Winter—the best season in Bangladesh 2 It’s also prime relationship forging time. The single and ready to mingle crowd emerges. Winter weddings are a fortuitously romantic time to pine after well-dressed people you’ll never meet again.  We almost relish the hundreds of hours of ridicule from friends and family as you repeatedly claim that that the good-looking boy/girl totally smiled at you when you looked at them.

The winter sports

The Bangladeshi version of the Winter Olympics consists of hundreds of hours of badminton and some more badminton. People all over Bangladesh take to the streets and the fields, draw up badminton courts and pull out tattered nets, racquets and corks to jump, run and keep their bodies warm. Winter—the best season in Bangladesh 3 Like everything else we Bengalis do, access to the court is determined through seniority and how well connected you are with the local boro bhais. If you’re just a young thug trying to make it big in the world of badassminton politics, you’ll probably be banished to a side court with no net and no lights. You’ll be lucky to get your hands on a racquet. Count your stars that you actually get to play some form of badminton each winter. Nonetheless, badminton is more of a community sport than anything else, and the strong sense of Bengali togetherness comes out in full force in winter.

The food

Does anything attain a special corner in Bengali hearts without some mention of food? Winter is no different. Winter means weddings. Weddings mean steaming plates of kacchi biriyani with a mouth-watering aloo on top. Winter—the best season in Bangladesh 1 If that doesn’t make your mouth water, how about the plethora of different kinds of pitha? Cooked in oil, dipped in pungent shutki or wrapped in a sickly sweet coating of heaven, these diverse delicacies are something to look forward to all year. The melting mouthful of gur conjures up images of a simpler time and fill you with an incredible warmth in the winter chill. 

The empathy

Winters in Bangladesh may be mild compared to much of the rest of the world, but it does induce a lot of suffering in the less fortunate. While charity is far from the best method of alleviating that, it does play its part in bringing together people. Winter—the best season in Bangladesh 5 Every blanket and donated clothing counts. It might just be the line between someone staying warm or suffering needlessly. So stack up and donate as much as you can, because that’s what we try to do—look out for one another.

5 strategies to surviving desi weddings when you’re single

Desi weddings are weird–the celebration of a happy marriage is also one of the biggest gatherings of mostly unknown people dishing out unnecessary criticism. It is a chance to pull out the once worn outfit or a competition to show off your (real or unreal) wealth. Nonetheless, from Holuds to Mehendi nights to Haldis to Biyes, we are there and need to be trying surviving desi weddings, because, well, free food.

Let’s admit the truth, being young and single is no easy task. The societal pressure to find someone and settle down is so immense that at times, even the most accomplished, talented, ambitious people cave into the pressure. And things are ten times harder when you are a girl, as from the moment you turn 20 (sometimes 18), the endless stream of aunties with 30-year-old sons start flooding into your home. Why are they trying to scout you, a 20-something year old who sometimes forgets to take a shower?  Surviving desi weddings become difficult for the young adults because the concept of “live, and let live” is completely foreign to many elders.

Is that the end of the road, then? Will you have to spend your life getting overpriced and subpar Kacchi from sultan’s dine? Or should you sacrifice all your hopes and dreams and just get married for the sake of Kacchi?

Lucky for you, here are a few strategies you can follow to make the best of the situation.

“Every time you see an auntie approaching you, square your shoulders, plaster a fake (or genuine) smile on your face, and nod to whatever they say until they find a new target. “

Condition yourself properly.

annoying aunty, desi

In martial arts, the process of conditioning your bones involves hitting them repeatedly until it doesn’t hurt anymore. Use that principle on yourself. Every time you see an auntie approaching you, square your shoulders, plaster a fake (or genuine) smile on your face, and nod to whatever they say until they find a new target. Doing this once week will train your mind to tune out everything that you don’t want to listen to, and you will be able to enjoy your food without letting the disruptions bother you.

Travel in packs.

squad, skwaad, squad goals

No matter how old you are, it will always be awkward to interrupt a group of people in conversation, making it another solid way to try surviving desi weddings. So whatever you do, do not stay alone at the event. Keep a trusted ally close, and start a conversation whenever someone starts walking towards you. In the worst case scenario, if you absolutely can’t find anyone to hang out with, then find a group of strangers in your age group and lurk near them, and pretend that you are a part of that group. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Try to blend into the background.

beige, dance

Colors are great. But if you’re going to be surviving desi weddings where you will face unpleasant questions every five seconds, it’s probably wiser to dress in matte beige, off-white and pale colors instead of bright red and yellow. Save those colors for a wedding where none of the murubbi know you. Just be bold and do you.

Take selfies.

selfie, sonal kapoor, desi weddings

Of course you should keep a document of how good you look in your white saree and pearl earrings. But selfies can serve a greater purpose. Use the camera to keep an eye out so no one can ambush you from behind. Also, pretend that the lighting sucks and move about. It is hard to hit a moving target, not to mention the fact that no one actually wants to talk to a plastic Barbie who just won’t stop taking photos.

Check the guys out.

hunk, cute guy, zoey deschanel

It is a universal truth that guys look a billion times better in their formals. So replace all your bitter memories of aunties with images of that hot hunk. Yes, they are very, very rare, but keeping your eyes and ears open won’t hurt much. And what better things do you have to do until the food is served?

These are just a few basic guidelines to surviving desi weddings. You can always come up with your own tricks. And if you do have better ideas, please let me know. I am running out of ways to escape.

Cheers.