Bollywood Flow on a Budget!

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is where I get my Indian clothes. To be frank, I don’t even know where more than half of them come from! While I’d love to travel to India, annually, to purchase a bunch of clothes it’s just not feasible. The first time I went to India was in 1998, for a cousin’s wedding. The second time was in 2008, also for another cousin’s wedding. Most recently I went in 2016, to shop for my own wedding. Following this pattern, the next time I go to India will probably be some time between 2024 and 2026. (Unless my awesome husband decides to treat me to a trip just to go shopping. *wink*wink*) Indian boutiques in the US significantly mark up their prices and there’s no way I’d pay three times as much for something mediocre and generic! While many people love online shopping for their ensembles, I just haven’t been happy with the products I’ve received – I don’t like cheap materials and there’s just no way of ensuring you’ll be receiving quality materials before you order. (You all know that the stiff net that often comes with Indian outfits is the WORST. It doesn’t pleat, it doesn’t sit pretty AND IT ITCHES!)

Obviously, the most recent of my Indian clothes were purchased when I went to do my own wedding shopping. I was there to hand select them. Before then, I’d find pictures of things I’d like and my younger, cooler, masis (maternal aunts) would use that as inspiration to find me the perfect outfits. Luckily for me, I’ve always trusted their judgement and they’ve never failed me. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of my masis. More importantly, nobody wants to spend lakhs on lakhs on lakhs for an outfit they’ll likely wear once. *Cue my wish list of Sabyasachi outfits* Regardless of my abundance of Indian clothes, I tend to repurpose and recreate a lot of items! This post is for the gals who can commiserate and want to learn how!

Learn the basics of sewing!
Sewing machines are fairly inexpensive and if you don’t want to splurge on one, a simple needle and thread work great! Even with my aunts bringing me tons of outfits, I’ve always altered things to better fit my needs. I’ve added fun borders to older blouses to spice them up/repurpose them to use with newer outfits and saris! If you don’t trust yourself to do a quick fix, you could always find a cheap tailor! 

This blouse used to be long-sleeved, I altered it to be sleeveless by myself!

Think outside the box!
The best outfits are the ones I’ve created myself! Invest in cheap crop tops – Forever 21, Zara, Asos (the list goes on and on) have tons of sales and I’ve often found the best Indian-inspired crop tops for less than 10 bucks! If you are able to shop in India, I bought a bunch of pre-stitched blouses in different colors for 400 rupees, each (That’s like 6 bucks USD, guys!). These tops paired with my moms old saris or a maxi skirt and matching dupatta (also repurposed from older outfits) tend to create the most trendy looks! The latest craze is Indo-Western outfits inspired by comfort and minimalism – this is super easy to recreate shopping at shops right here in the US!

This entire outfit cost me $36! Maxi skirt from a boutique in Surat: $30, pre-stitched blouse from a market in Surat: $6, dupatta repurposed from one of my mother-in-law’s older dresses: FREE!

I used that same $6 blouse to spice up this lehenga: the original blouse was blue and I wanted a contrasting blouse!

I paired this $10 gold-sequin crop top from Asos with one of my mom’s older saris to create a modern look!

This outfit was only $38! Maxi from boutique in Surat: $30, cream/gold crop top from Forever 21: $8, dupatta repurposed from one of my anarkalis: FREE!

Make your own trends!
When I went shopping for my wedding the boutiques kept showing me dresses with velvet accents/dupattas or dresses made entirely out of velvet – I get the appeal, it makes outfits look regal and who doesn’t want to look like a queen on their wedding day?! I, however, am not a fan of velvet (we can have a discussion on this later, if you’d like).  I still maintain that no outfit holds a candle to the elegance of a simple silk sari, others detest them and think they’re “motherly”. My point is, just because everyone seems to be wearing chiffon floor-length gowns doesn’t mean that’s what you have to wear. Wear what you like and have on hand, regardless of what’s in this season!
Spoiler alert: I still frequently rock silk saris. 😉

Old is gold! Love simple silk saris!

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow!

IMG_8278“Reema? Have a seat I’ll be right with you.” I made my way to the waiting area and sat nervously fidgeting with my phone and fingers. I felt my stomach tensing up into a million knots and thought I should find the nearest exit, you know, just in case. My nerves were getting the best of me and I thought I might pee myself as a result of the tsunami of anxiety that I was engulfed in. She had said she’d only be a minute but she was running late and it was taking her much longer than expected. This was not a good sign. I was alone in my thoughts and this gave me time to reconsider.

I looked up at my husband, my heart racing, and I knew he saw the fear in my eyes. He returned a sympathetic gaze, offered his hand and asked, “You want to quit?” I felt a huge lump in my throat and a tinge of regret as I shook my head in denial of what my insides were so obviously feeling. “Good,” he replied, “I wasn’t going to let you.” He smiled at me reassuringly, in a way that told me it was all going to be alright.

The next words I remember hearing were, “Reema? Have a seat. So what are we doing today?” After that, I remember explaining that I wanted to donate my hair. I wasn’t sure whether I had enough, but the minimum was 8 inches. My hairstylist assured me that I had plenty and that I could probably donate over a foot, if I wanted to. I bit the bullet and told her to go for it. As the first ponytail was snipped, I felt myself slowly easing into a smile. By the last, and fifth, ponytail, I was smiling from ear to ear, my tension had disappeared and I had never been so sure of anything in my life.

Fighting cancer is hell and I know this because I’ve seen what it’s capable of up close. If I was this afraid of cutting my hair, imagine what it’d be like sitting in a waiting room awaiting a therapy that could potentially save your life? Especially when you’re tired, your body hurts and you really just don’t feel like fighting anymore… There was no way I was going to turn around and I definitely was not going to be afraid. I was going to donate my hair and I was going to do it with a smile on my face.

I’ve donated to various charities throughout the years but this time I wanted to do more than write a check. I had grown out my hair for my wedding and promised myself that at the end of it I was going to donate my most prized possession to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. Pantene Beautiful Lengths aims to, “make it possible for women everywhere to share their hair with women who’ve lost theirs.” I know most women don’t feel as strongly as I do about hair so this may all seem a bit dramatic. However, I also believe that most women don’t think that much about their hair because they’ve always had it. Imagine waking up tomorrow and not having any hair! It’d be a huge shock and your confidence would definitely take a hit, whether male or female. I wanted to make a difference in something that a lot of women battling cancer face and I feel like I truly have. I already plan on growing my hair out again for the sake of donation!

I challenge all of you reading this to donate your hair at least once. I mean it, stop what you’re doing and go put it on your bucket list! Especially if you’re a brown girl like me. (Indian hair is highly desirable for wigs because it blends with most other hair seamlessly.) It’s just hair, it’ll grow back and you’ll be doing a great thing! Even if you don’t want to donate your hair for an altruistic cause, there are many benefits to having shorter hair – my head feels POUNDS lighter, I save lots of money on styling products, and with the help of an amazing stylist I’ve learned how to avoid heat products and still roll out of bed looking like a rock star! If nothing else, you’ll gain an extra 20 minutes of sleep in the morning and I’m all about that! 😉
If you’d like more information about donating your hair check out Pantene Beautiful Lengths

Engagement

My DIY engagement 🙂

Makeup – Me
Photography – Purva Productions
Decorations – Desai Fam., Inc. (AKA me and my sis-in-law + mother-in-law)

“Numbers Don’t Lie – Check the Score Board”

…or do they?

20140313-141454.jpg

A big part of beauty is… wait for it… body image. I often get comments ranging from, “You need to gain weight!” to “OMG you look great, what’s your secret?!” I’ve had a good friend call me “Ana” as a joke. It used to really bother me but I think with time I’ve learned to accept who I am and the way my body is. Things like that don’t get to me, anymore. (Skinny shaming is just as bad as calling people out for being overweight) I won’t lie to you and say that I work out all the time or that I eat super clean, because I don’t. I also won’t lie and say that I do absolutely nothing and attribute the way I look to genetics, though I’m sure they’re partly the reason I am the way I am. I’ve always been a thin girl, for as long as I can remember. You can look back at pictures of me from when I was a child and my arms and legs are twiggy, they still are for the most part. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a small girl. That being said, I’ve also always been a very active girl.

I gained no weight during fall semester of my freshman year in college. However, spring semester my gynecologist suggested that I get on birth control to remedy my irregular periods and iron deficiency. She said I’d feel great after I started taking them. She was wrong. I know there’s no causal link between birth control and weight gain but after I took these pills I suddenly gained my “freshman 15” and then some. My face broke out in the worst cystic acne you could imagine; I had never suffered acne a day in my life, I was mortified. In high school I was semi-active, I played sports and I was on a regular diet (meaning I didn’t eat at random hours of the day; I packed a lunch, occasionally bought food from the cafeteria, and had a home cooked meal for dinner most nights) so I maintained my “twiggy” body. However, college was a different story. I lived a pretty sedentary lifestyle, my parents had bought me a meal plan because I was living in a dorm and I had no kitchen. I lived off of junk food. I’m not using that as an excuse, I know, there are plenty of salad bars and healthy options at college campuses nationwide. However, dieting was just something I never had to worry about before and as a result I ate what I wanted, whenever I wanted. One day, out of curiosity I did something unthinkable: I woke up early, walked over to our university’s track and decided to run before class. I couldn’t even run a mile. I was so ashamed of myself.

That summer, I worked out a lot, I made healthier choices when it came to food, I educated myself on nutrition, I found a face regimen that worked for me. I was determined, not to be twiggy again, but to just feel like myself. Even if I weighed whatever I weighed, I wanted to be able to run a mile. As a result, I ended up more toned than I’d ever been in my life. I don’t think my skin will ever be the way it was before I broke out, but it was clear again. I didn’t care what I weighed, I finally felt healthy again. At that point in my life, I wasn’t really dieting. I ate everything I wanted BUT I ate in moderation AND I cooked everything myself. I allowed myself to go out to eat once a week, I stopped frequenting the fast food places I held so dear.

Since then, I’ve found a happy medium. I’m probably at my lowest weight but I’m definitely not at my healthiest, which is why I think the number on your scale can be deceiving. I don’t have strict rules about when and what to eat. I still eat everything in moderation and try to work out as often as I can. (Lately, I’ve gotten a bit lazy but I’m slowly getting back into the habit!) The important thing I’m trying to convey is the message of “I“. The things I did were for myself. I had no ulterior motive to getting fit. I just wanted to feel like the strongest, healthiest me possible. So, if you’re also motivated to start living a healthier lifestyle here are a few things that worked for me:

1) Don’t rely on fad diets/cleanses – They’re temporary, aim for a lifestyle change. Instead of reaching for a shake every time you get hungry try eating raw fruits and veggies, a handful of almonds or even some string cheese in between regular healthy meals.

2) Set realistic goals for yourself – Don’t aim to run a marathon if you can’t run a mile. It’s going to set you back and be really discouraging. Start small, work your way up.

3) Be intrinsically motivated – Someone telling you that you need to gain/lose weight isn’t going to help you. Until you want to see a difference in your health, you won’t. Do things because YOU want to and you’ll be more motivated to do them.

4) Learn to make your favorite foods at home – I never denied myself anything I craved. I just learned to make it myself using fresh ingredients in a healthier way. This also helped to monitor what went into my food and how much of it I was using. Learn to make swaps – love burgers? Try making a lean turkey burger or chicken burger instead of your traditional beef burgers. Most importantly sneak in veggies wherever and whenever you can. That way you’re eating more good than bad but you’re still satisfying your craving.

5) Do something that makes you sweat, once a day – I’m the kind of person who needs change. I can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. You don’t have to be drenched in sweat, I just mean that you should engage in an activity that gets your heart pumping… Dance, do yoga, run, go for a bike ride, lift weights… Whatever it is, just do something physical and keep things interesting!

MOST IMPORTANTLY

6) Learn to love your body – When I gained all that weight, I didn’t have that Beyonce booty I longed for. Even after countless squats, lunges and protein shakes… No Beyonce booty. (Hey, a girl can dream.) That’s not a big deal for me, I love tons of other stuff about my body! I might not be the curviest girl but I love my flat tummy. As corny as it sounds, think positively. Find the things you WOULDN’T change about yourself and emphasize those.

*Disclaimer* I’m not a nutritionist, nor am I a certified physical trainer.