Welcome to the Ex-Official Blog of Writer, Presenter & Crafts Expert Momtaz Begum-Hossain which stopped being active on 31st August 2016.

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Monday, 27 January 2014

Highlights: Asiana Bridal Show & Catwalk 2014

It's that time of the year again when I get to blog about the Asiana Bridal Show (which took place yesterday). For the initiated it's an annual wedding show aimed at Asian couples and features four catwalk shows during the day featuring the glitziest, most sparkling outfits you'll possibly ever see.
I fell in LOVE with the catwalk as soon as I saw it! I have a thing about lights and the colour red but this combination designed by decor company Maz of Leicester hit the spot and set the theme for a Moulin Rouge-Bollywood-Dhoom 3- Ram Leela inspired extravaganza.
The gorgeous hair for the show was styled by Aamir Naveed who also did my mop, while the make-up was provided by Ambreen and her make-up team. They also had their own catwalk segment, pictured above. Despite the fact I am happy with my current cropped hairdo, it did give me a pang of jealously about having long hair. Still, I've not ruled out having extensions one day! 
I arrived at 8.30am when catwalk rehearsals were underway...
...as was hair and make-up. My first task was to track down, with the help of fellow lifesaver Amna, breakfast for the models. (Yes they do eat crossaints and most amazingly they even eat fried toast...and fruit and healthy stuff like boiled eggs or course!)
Then I got mic-ed up and set to work! My task was to present the official Asiana Bridal Show video, a role I also took up last year. (Was rather sweet that so many members of the public stopped me to say hi as they recognised me, bless them!)
My crew was from Kat Films and together we got through 40 interviews over 4 floors...all whilst wearing heels. OUCH!
It involved stopping by some of the major exhibition stands including make-up artist Ambreen who was demonstrating her skills on some of her previous real life brides.
Like this one. In the photo behind is the bride on her wedding day and here she was again several months later, having the chance to wear her wedding outfit and get her make-up done again!
The catwalks shows were chockablock - and inevitably the entire audience were snapping away throughout!
In true Asiana style, it wasn't just fashion on the runway but some rather chic entertainment too like a hot male fire eater...
...and even hotter models carrying a gorgeous floral canopy. I saw it afterwards back stage, it was made by Flower Escent and it smelt divine as well as looked lovely. 
They also created stunning floral umbrellas too which aren't really captured well on my camera, if I can find a better photo from someone else I'll share later.
Being with a film crew also gave me special access backstage where I was amidst the crazy world of stying, last minute touch-ups and rail upon rail of gorgeous clothes. 
Anisha Vasani, pictured next to me, the Editor of Asiana Wedding Magazine was the Creative Director of the show. She styles incredible fashion shoots, one day I'm going to blog about some of my fave as they really are works of art; her vision for the catwalk was just as mind-blowing. It's great being able to work with such inspiring colleagues. 
The full catwalk line up was:

Kyles Collection
Frontier Raas
Frontier Bazaar
Khushboos's By Chand
Sona's Couture
Bibi London
Ziggi Studio
Stuush Studio
RDC London
Amir Naveed and Ambreen MakeUp Artiste

When the official photos are up on Asiana.TV I'll share the links. In the meantime here's a peek at what happened in a short video by Implausible Blog. Enjoy!
p.s my GORGEOUS dress is from Jones & Jones my fave dress designers!

Friday, 17 January 2014

The Poush Mela in West Bengal

At any given point somewhere in India there is a Mela going on; as I discovered on my recent travels. It's no exaggeration that there was a community celebration going on every single day of my trip from energy companies sponsoring live concerts to religious devotional marquees erected in town centres to kite flying and illustration festivals in parks. In West Bengal, the biggest event of the year is the Durga Puju where the state celebrates a five day holiday. The second biggest celebration (although Christmas in Kolkata is a close tie) is the Poush Mela, held in the region's cultural centre Shantiniketan (which is a three hour train ride away from Kolkata.) It too takes place over Christmas (24th-26th December) and sees thousands of families turn up in their finery to enjoy the following:
Essentials like gifts, clothes and toys can to be picked up at bargain prices, including posters of your favourite celebs.
Poush Mela is known for attracting Bauls; wondering, travelling musicians who entertain visitors with their impromptu folk songs. Once one begins to sing, crowds gather round and it turns into a frenzy of live performances, where you can slip between sets or join in with by showing your appreciation in the form of hand claps. There are also various stages and marquees set up where you can take a seat and get hypnotised by poets and speakers.
Performers are everywhere, as are costume clad folk ready to pose for snaps and take your cash (kids especially), but this particular man was happy just scowling at my camera.
Dining, naturally, is big business with catering set up inside tents serving everything from curried crabs to deep fried sweet corn. But if you're more into snacks, street treats are aplenty. My fave, the stall endorsed by Bolly star Sunny Deol.
It's possible to observe and shop for all manner of handicrafts, but not just during the Mela. Shantiniketan is home to hundreds of cottage industries from basketry to illustration - but more on those to come in future blog posts. 
You can't have a Mela without a few games. Here's one I didn't see anyone win, which sounds ludicrous as it looks easy but actually was ridiculously difficult. The aim was to  throw a small metal hoop so that it landed directly over a packet of biscuits that you get to keep. Sadly I did not take a packet home with me.
By day the traditional fairground looked rather quaint...
... yet by night it had come alive with lights as magnificent as the Blackpool illuminations
The Mela itself was HUGE taking over hectares of land almost becoming its own mini town for three days and nights. Family friendly, cow friendly and filled with colour, it was a great place to spend a day, but it's repetitive nature meant you wouldn't want to spend all three days here, especially when the surrounding area is so interesting. Best to combine it with a trip to visiting the local sights which include a prestigious university campus set up by the legendary Bengali poet Tagore.  
The one thing I'll never forget about Poush Mela was the aisle of bargain stalls where everything cost 10 rupees; the equivalent of 10p. The quality of the products was what you'd find in your local Pound shop but the amusing part was the loudness of the stalls with audio blaring out like a London cockney market stall exclaiming 'dosh taka, dosh taka, dosh taka', and with accompanying voiceovers of a couple discussing the benefits of the rock bottom prices. It was constant, loud and hypnotising and reminded me of the annoying nature of slot machines. Inside each stall sat a shopkeeper, whose ears I can only hope, were filled with plugs. 
Wondering around the Mela was of course thirsty work and thankfully there was fresh sugar cane juice being squeezed all over the site.
Despite its size and brief mention in guidebooks I didn't see a single Western tourist at the Mela, but I did get to experience a real sense of community spirit and happiness. There were all ages at the festival from elderly folk through to kids and all of them were mesmerised by the love and laughter in the air.

The Poush Mela takes places every December in West Bengal, India

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Starting the new year on a high

I've just returned from the biggest and most exciting expedition of my life. I took a few weeks off to go travelling; visiting India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Every day was a highlight from riding vintage trams in Kolkata, going for afternoon tea in Darjeeling, embarking on a sunrise boat trip in Pokhara and meeting rickshaw artists in Dhaka.

I have so many tales to share over the coming weeks on my blog and I'm working on a travelogue where Ill be sharing my travel diaries.

In the mean time above is the photo that sums up how I feel about my holiday and how I feel about the coming year. 

I always like to mark the New Year by doing something out of the ordinary.

For January 1st 2014 I decided to take a private jet flight through The Himalayas. It symbolises taking a leap of faith, seeing the world from a new perspective, discovering a new found confidence and reminding myself that I can be whoever I want to be.