Budget Your Way to a New Home

Client: HSBC
As featured in: Huffington Post

saving for a houseIt’s payday. Time to splash out, you owe it to yourself after the week you’ve had eking out the last paycheque. If this sounds familiar, you’re nowhere near ready to become a homebuyer. It’s time for a new way of thinking.

The first rule of saving: every penny counts. If you look at it that way, the obvious solution is to spend only on essentials like bills and food, but no one can live that way. It’s human nature to want the little luxuries, but we also have the capacity for willpower. Continue reading “Budget Your Way to a New Home”

Why Everyone Should Read the Qur’an in Plain English

(This post was originally published in the Huffington Post)

I blame the moment I turned from an Allah-fearing little boy to an incurable heathen on a cockroach.

Like every kid in the Muslim world, I was raised to believe the Qur’an was uber-sacred. You did not so much as touch it without permission or performing the necessary ablutions. Mess with it in any shape or form and you are so going to hell.  Continue reading “Why Everyone Should Read the Qur’an in Plain English”

I Came Here an Immigrant – I’m an Expat Now! (Or, Why Foreigners Are Better Placed to Live the British Dream Than You)

(This article was originally published in the Huffington Post)

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There’s no such thing as the British Dream, of course. Once you’ve ruled the world only to lose the lot, there’s not really anywhere to go from there, is there? The humiliation has left liberal Brits politely mumbling apologies and the not so liberal to wail over how the country has gone to the dogs, neither ever really expecting to win anything.

Which means the British Dream belongs to the immigrant. The immigrant doesn’t moan about the weather, or worry that foreigners are ruining job prospects. Unlike the Grumpy Old Brit, the immigrant thinks Britain is really rather great as it goes.

I certainly did when I landed here as a bud-budding teenager in the 80s. I loved everything about this country. Continue reading “I Came Here an Immigrant – I’m an Expat Now! (Or, Why Foreigners Are Better Placed to Live the British Dream Than You)”

Why Do People Take Drugs?

(This post was originally published in the Huffington Post)

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So farewell Silk Road. To those of you who’ve only just heard about it since its shutdown, well, it clearly hasn’t been causing you any bother. Just a bunch of wasters who got to stay off the mean streets for a while and got some good shit on the net, like you do on Amazon and eBay, right down to the part where no one worried about paying any tax.

The debate about whether Silk Road was actually a rather good thing or pure evil has thrown up that age-old question: why the heck do you people take drugs? It’s illegal! It’s bad for you! It makes you rape grannies!

See the problem with talking about drugs is that people who don’t take it don’t get it, and those that do sound like imbeciles when they try to explain it. Well, I’m fairly comfortable with sounding like an imbecile, so here goes… Continue reading “Why Do People Take Drugs?”

Muslamic Reagans: Why the Boom in Bangladesh is About Money Not Bombs

(This article  was originally published in Huffington Post)

The gunmetal silver Lotus Roadster thunders into the car park of the 12th largest shopping centre in the world, the Bashundhara City Mall. The boys and girls smoking and flirting in the more commonplace GT-Rs and Toyotas nod in respect, in time to the new Prodigy album that comes screeching in its wake. It’s just the kind of thing to get everyone in the mood for Mad Max: Fury Roadshowing upstairs at the giant StarCineplex.

The young girl behind the wheel raises her Maui Jim shades and tuts impatiently. He’s not here. The boy with the Jonny Bravo Redux haircut beside her swipes his Droid Razr and is in the process of leaving a curt message when a longhaired biker rocks up next to them, flashing them his 24-carat gold studded smile.

The yaba he has for them is fresh from Myanmar, even if the scent of chicken bhuna in the tiffin box they’re concealed in makes the girl scrunch up her nose. The wild-eyed dealer and the beautiful young things in the Lotus may come from wholly different backgrounds, but they agree on a few fundamental issues. Money is good, the way Crystal Meth is portrayed in Breaking Bad isn’t quite like how they experience it, and that the long bearded man in the Islamic galabiyya dress in the corner creeps the hell out of them.  Continue reading “Muslamic Reagans: Why the Boom in Bangladesh is About Money Not Bombs”

The British Asian Inquisition, or How I Came to Accept I’m From India Even Though I’m Not

(This post was originally published in the Huffington Post)

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Every British Asian has played out a version of this conversation:

‘Where are you from?’

‘Brighton.’

‘No, before that.’

‘London.’

‘Um… I mean, originally.’

‘Lewisham hospital.’

‘Sorry. I mean your parents. Where are they from?’

Now here’s weird. You’re making small talk with a complete stranger; you expect to be asked what you do for a living, what team you support, what car you drive perhaps. But to lead with a question about where your mum and dad lived when they were little, and this before you even know each other’s name? What kind of freak does that? Continue reading “The British Asian Inquisition, or How I Came to Accept I’m From India Even Though I’m Not”

Passing the Al-Shabaab Test Brings Me No Peace

(This post was originally published in the Huffington Post)

‘La Ilaha IllAllah Muhammadur Rasulullah.’

These words form the basis of Islam, and any Muslim, good or bad, will treat it with the utmost of respect (even if the bad ones might fail to give you the exact literal translation): There is absolutely no deity worthy of worship other than Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.

I’m not here to argue the validity of this statement. Maybe it’s because I was raised and indoctrinated in Bangladesh, a Muslim country that’s pretty tame on the fundamentalist scale but still devout all over, that I give this kalimat its devotional dues. Or it could be that the time I’ve spent behind the peace pipe has left me thinking anyone can believe whatever the hell they want, as long as they don’t hurt me or bore me. Hell, maybe I’m just shit-scared some dickhead might take offence and put a fatwa on me. Whatever my motivation, these words are sacred to me. So much so, in fact, I pray these will be the last words I breathe in this life.

As recent events show, you don’t have to be a bit of an idiot child to completely misunderstand the Qur’an. Like millions of other Muslim children for whom Arabic isn’t their mother tongue, I learned to read and recite the Qur’an in Arabic. Translations are something you read when you’re older, if you want to, that is (and we wonder why there are so many cretins out there laying down lives in the name of a book they don’t have a clue about). Continue reading “Passing the Al-Shabaab Test Brings Me No Peace”

Madonna Wears a Burqa! Katy Perry Dresses Like a Geisha Girl! Pharrell Dons a Feather Headdress! So What?

(This post was originally published in the Huffington Post)

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If words could come to life, “appropriation” would arrive promptly on time, dressed in a grey suit, pushing a standard regulation pencil, telling everyone to stop doing that, it’s not appropriate.

It’s the ultimate party pooper, especially if it’s a costume party, and woe betide you come dressed in anything your lineage does not implicitly give you the cultural right to be seen in.

I couldn’t tell you exactly when the word left the domain of stuffy academia and infiltrated everyday speak, but I noticed it becoming increasingly commonplace around the time Katy Perry deigned to dress up as a Geisha on her tour. The Twitterati were up in arms: Katy Perry who she fink she is dissin’ on da japs lol #culturalappropriation.
Continue reading “Madonna Wears a Burqa! Katy Perry Dresses Like a Geisha Girl! Pharrell Dons a Feather Headdress! So What?”

A Little Internet Knowledge Can Be a Dangerous Thing

(This post was originally published in the Huffington Post)

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“Whenever I listen to her, underneath that softness, I get the feeling the emotional topography of her life is all jagged, do you know what I mean?”

This sentence, believe it or not, got me laid. I was online dating, the keyboard banter was smooth but by no means sure, when she mentioned she liked Shawn Colvin and that was my fairly instant response. From thereon, a date was inevitable. She’d just found someone who not only knew Shawn Colvin, I actually felt her.

Except up until that minute, I’d never heard of Shawn Colvin. A quick scan on the Internet had given me all I needed to show I was in the know, baby.

It makes a mockery of genuine passion. Worse, it makes us suspect everyone’s on the blag. Continue reading “A Little Internet Knowledge Can Be a Dangerous Thing”

Does It Matter Where You Come From? When Someone Offers You a DNA Test, It Suddenly Does…

(This article was originally published in the Huffington Post)

Like millions of others, I saw The DNA Journey video by Momondo and pondered the question it poses: ‘Would you dare to question who you really are?’

Now, if you’re British and white and someone asks you where you’re from, you’ll reply, ‘Britain’, and move on. For the rest of us, shaded olive all the way to black, it’s a struggle.

The question offends those who were born here, galled by the insinuation that dark cannot equate a true Brit, while immigrants who’ve done their level best to integrate feel it throws them back to square one. Even those of us without a chip on our shoulder about being judged by our roots find it peculiar that complete strangers say hello by asking where our parents lived when they were little. Continue reading “Does It Matter Where You Come From? When Someone Offers You a DNA Test, It Suddenly Does…”