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Chaivory Tower

Chaivory Tower

By Chaivory Tower
Chaivory Tower is a podcast about public policy, urban planning, pop culture, and more. Hosted by Sidra and Zainab, drinking chai & reporting live from the ivory tower.
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Spilled Chai-vory Tower: An Interview with Sumeera

Chaivory Tower

Ramadan Reflections
Zainab and Sidra recorded this episode while fasting, so please excuse the delirium. In this episode, they reflect on spiritual renewal during Ramadan, Online Muslim traditions, and propose some more Whacky Ideas for a Better World. 
April 29, 2022
Chaos! At the Masjid
Sid and Z share stories about going to the masjid in Ramadan. It's not the holy month without a little bit of chaos in the mosque and honestly we wouldn't have it any other way.
April 28, 2022
Progress over Perfection
GirlBOSS?? No! Girl, BOX your congressperson! In this episode, Sid and Z talk about shedding the need for perfection, moving through burnout, and trying to find Avan Jogia on Hinge. No Sheryl Sandberg… but we’re leaning into just being curious, chaotic, and okay with making mistakes. We’re reflecting on our journey with this podcast and launching a brand new segment called “Wacky Ideas for a Better World” where Zainab talks about why we should be allowed to fight our representatives, and Sidra proposes a National Stipend for Birthday Spa Days.
March 28, 2022
Dev Dive: The Dev Patel Episode
This episode we're doing a deep dive into Dev Patel's career and why we love him. We talk Skins, Slumdog Millionaire, and more! Dev Patel please come on our podcast.
August 26, 2021
Sisterhood/Behnchara with Saleha
This episode, we talk to Saleha (@soleha.777) the creator of @behnchara a virtual gathering space for women to come together in community. We discuss South Asian sisterhood and creating avenues for holding space for one another and healing. You can learn more and sign up to participate in behnchara gatherings at
June 14, 2021
Minisode: Suez Canal for Dummies
Bonus Episode Alert!!! Tune into our new segment "chaivory tower breaking down the news", a possibly recurring series where we read news stories and discuss them without doing any research. Join us as we talk about the ship that was stuck in the Suez Canal and ask the stupidest possible questions about it so that you don't have to. Sidra tries to figure out maps, and Z tries to remember what she learned about in her middle eastern history class ten years ago. It's not drunk history, it's just dumb bitch history. The boat might be free but we're still stuck in the aftermath of the American education system so it's not our fault. Listen now wherever you get your podcasts!
March 30, 2021
Tinfoil Hats & WhatsApp Chats - Exploring Conspiracy Theories
We’re kicking off 2021 with Zainab telling Sidra about her favorite conspiracy theories. 2020 was a wild ride, and we’ve seen the rise of things that are stranger than fiction, so we looked into what makes people believe in conspiracy theories. From croissants, to #FreeBritney, to the royal family, join us as we try to find the truth about some of our favorite conspiracy theories from the internet, whatsapp groups, and the Islamic school rumor mill. 
March 11, 2021
The Brain Fog Diaries: Dealing with Burnout in 2020
Sidra and Zainab wrap up 2020 by talking about what the collective is feeling: burnout. Sidra shares some research about her most recent affliction. We talk about what burnout feels like, causes and systemic issues that spur burnout, and share some ideas on how to do less in 2021.  On this Episode: Symptoms of Burnout (1:29-6:10) Causes of Burnout (6:10-10:00) Of course it's the system (10:00-16:45) Burnout: pandemic edition (16:45-38:44) How to deal (38:44-end) References: The Ultimate Burnout Cure - Daily Om Brené with Emily and Amelia Nagoski on Burnout and How to Complete the Stress Cycle  Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski Ph.D. and Amelia Nagoski, D.M.A Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny by Kate Manne How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials by Malcolm Harris How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Petersen You can get in touch with us by emailing or DMing us on Instagram/Twitter
December 30, 2020
Dreaming of the Future We Deserve
We’re not Raven-Symoné but we have a vision for the future that’s better than whatever this shit is. We're taking a break from cynicism and despair to talk about hope and imagination! Also, we're sharing some resources on the upcoming election and talking about some candidates that inspire us. What are your visions for the future? Let us know! 
October 29, 2020
Indian Matchmaking & Desi Marriage Culture
Sidra & Zainab are joined by long-time friend & our number one fan Rabee (@rabeeonline) to talk about Indian Matchmaking and our experiences with Desi marriage culture (aka a discussion on why every Desi needs to go therapy). Unfortunately, it’s Sima Auntie’s world, and we’re just living in it but we try to imagine a different world where we can just vibe, because it doesn’t have to be this way!  You can get in touch with us by emailing, DMing us on Instagram or Twitter, or calling us at 818-949-8106! No rishtas please.
August 04, 2020
Rent? in THIS economy?!
The rent crisis resulting from the pandemic has brought forth various strategies from tenant activists and organizers: rent freezes, rent strikes, rent forgiveness, eviction moratorium: but what does it all mean?? In this episode, Sidra & Zainab give an overview of these terms and discuss what’s being done by way of legislation and direct action. As always, feel free to send your comments, thoughts, concerns, and praises to Follow on Twitter & Instagram @chaivorytower for more updates
May 13, 2020
We Love TV
In this episode famous TV critics Zainab and Sidra discuss what makes TV so appealing, the shows we love, and ~representation~ in television. Listen to us talk about all the shows we’re watching and let us know what you’re watching in between learning guitar, crocheting, baking things (send us some please), and Facetiming everyone you know. Bringing you the social distancing content you deserve!
April 24, 2020
Chaivory Thirst: Celebrity Crush Rankings ft. Will Ellis
In this episode we're joined by special guest/friend Will Ellis (again) to discuss the good, the bad, and the humiliating celebrity crushes we have. For those of you with 3+ brain cells still in function, we also discuss "hotness" as a concept and the systems that inform who we find attractive, with citations courtesy of Will and Sidra (3:45 to 8:20). Also, Zainab cries discussing Bad Bunny. 
April 23, 2020
Minisode: Student Organizing with Sydney & Nevena
In this guest episode, Sidra gets to interview her friends and former colleagues Sydney & Nevena, current graduate students at Harvard, about student organizing, the Harvard Graduate Student Union of Auto Workers Strike, and visions for freedom futures. Listen in for a conversation about why graduate student unions are so important in academic institutions, their advice for those considering grad school, and the visions of liberation that keep them going. This episode is so fun because Sidra, Nevena, and Sydney would have these conversations in magical moments to survive grad school, and felt like such a treat to think about this in company. 
February 12, 2020
Unionize Your Workplace (and your country @ Canada??)
This episode we talk labor unions and share some examples of worker organizing that inspire us. Also, as Meghan and Harry take a mental health break from their family (relatable) we try, in vain, to unpack the monarchy and figure out if Canada is technically still a British colony. What is a commonwealth? How can the wealth be common if it's all owned by one person?  Timestamps: Meghan and Harry honor the legacy of the late (Muslim) Princess Diana by saying fuck all y'all to the Royal Family (4:10). Sidra trying to explain  whether Canada is a British Colony and what is a commonwealth while Zainab has a mental breakdown (07:38). Unions, what led to their decline, and examples of worker organizing (13:00). The women we're crushing on this week (38:15).
January 20, 2020
Bon Appe-tea
In this guest episode Zainab sits down with friend of the podcast, Will Ellis, to discuss the online food sensation Bon Appetit. Listen to them talk about why they love BA so much, the magazine and the culinary industry's commodification of Lebanese/Levantine cuisine (08:40), their top five BA videos (24:00), and their BA test kitchen chef power rankings from best to most cursed (45:30). 
December 04, 2019
Spilled Chai-vory Tower: An Interview with Sumeera
In this guest episode we have an amazing conversation with Sumeera who is a DJ, writer/poet, and curator of Spilled Chai, an online magazine that celebrates the hyphenated identity, and explores nuance and narrative. We talk creativity, grad school, cliches in Desi art, and what inspires us.  Content warning: discussion of physical and emotional abuse from 23:50 to 30:25. Find more of Sumeera's work at or on Instagram (@spilledchai). Cover photo of Sumeera taken by Simrah Farrukh. Find more of Simrah's work at and on Instagram (@simrahfarrukh)
November 18, 2019
Climate Nihilism
Sidra and Zainab talk climate nihilism (what even is that), how war is a misnomer, and the Islamic impact on Brazilian funk (sort of, not really). MC Magrinho’s management team, please get in touch with us. Topics in this episode: Zainab, against Sidra’s and the whole world’s wishes, plays a Brazilian song she heard that samples the Quran? (mild blasphemy from 1:16 to 1:30) Jamila Jamil had a tone-deaf tweet and we talk the Bush presidency unpack the idea that “we’re at war” (3:00) #MyAlwaysExperience highlights women’s experience with substandard quality pads from Always in Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and other African and Asian countries. Climate Nihilism - We discuss what climate nihilism is and how it turns out that there are reasons to be hopeful (15:00) - Do we actually have 12 years until the planet dissolves into oblivion? Sidra read the IPCC report  as a fun Halloween exercise and unpacks the “12 year deadline” (24:00) - Zainab talks utilities & clean energy in relation to PG&E blackouts. Discussion on 'Climate Resilience' (33:00) WCW - Nabela Noor is a Bangladeshi baddie who we’re crushing on (40:00) In this episode we reference Apocalypse Forever? (2010) by Erik Swyngedouw. Also of note is Enemies of the State?, a report on targeted killings of environmental activists around the world. You can read the IPCC report and summaries here. Learn more at
October 31, 2019
Minisode 1 - Who We Are
Welcome to Chaivory Tower, as told by Sidra & Zainab. 
October 20, 2019
Throw Your Phone Away
We’re back and we’re done with grad school! We’re talking about surveillance capitalism and the data being collected on us all the time. If you still have a Facebook profile by the end of this episode we will stage an intervention at your house with all your friends and family. 1:40 - Intro, reflections on graduating (Z skipped graduation it’s fine), Desi daughter struggles 10:55- Puerto Ricans ousted their corrupt Governor!!! 15:15- Pakistani model Zara Abid in blackface and the burning trash fires of colorism and anti-Blackness 21: 45- Mark Zuckerberg retire bitch, also everyone please stop using facebook!! 28:11- Surveillance capitalism, our data is the product and companies are making money off of literally every human interaction 36:20- Lyft and Uber selling rider data and screwing over everyone and all public transit 45:00- WCW the USWNT and why we should stop paying all men
June 01, 2019
New Year, Same Us
This week we're talking about how we’re back on our same shit in the new year. From You on Netflix to the government shutdown, Sidra and Zainab are back at it!!! It’s AQUARIUS SZN and Sidra made a flyer for her own birthday party (0:30 - 1:30) We are burned out by the millennial burnout article (1:45 - 4:00) You on Netflix is a shit show you MUST watch (basically all spoilers) (4:16 - 17:14) Government shutdown and Sidra yelling about the Space Force (17:19 - 28:21) Zainab educates us all about the LA Teachers Strike (28:27 - 32:11) Grad school reflections; we have grown a lot and still soliciting sponsorships from literally anyone (32:15 - 52:50) POLICY WATCH (52:53 - 57:04) WCW - (57:09 - end)
April 06, 2019
Grad School, It's Our Funeral! Plus, South Asian Activism ft. Barnali Ghosh & Anirvan Chatterjee
Topics in this episode: This week we're talking about South Asian activism with the brilliant and inspiring co-curators of the South Asian Radical History Walking Tour, Barnali Ghosh and Anirvan Chatterjee. Also, Zainab learns a new white idiom. 1.  Congrats Mrs. and Mr. Priyanka Chopra (Beginning two minutes) 2.  Noah Centineo from To All The Boys I Loved Before is Zainab's spicy white fave with hot privilege (2:00- 5:39) 3.  Some thoughts on Crazy Rich Asians (5:40 to 11:23 spoilers at 7:09-7:20) 4.  Lana Del Rey and her big Zionist energy and bizarre tweet (she canceled her Israel show after we recorded, shout out to BDS activists) (11:24- 15:17) 5.  Sidra teaches Zainab the meaning of the idiom "it's your funeral" and changes her life (15:18- 17:49) 6.  Trevor Noah called Imran Khan the Pakistani Trump honestly Trevor please calm down (17:50- 21:15) 7.  JFK put exactly 20 seconds of thought into his Harvard application essay, Zainab and Sidra effectively ruin their presidential campaigns before they even begin (21:15 - 24:40) 8.  Interview with Barnali Ghosh and Anirvan Chatterjee, a dynamic Desi duo that run the Berkeley Radical South Asian History Walking Tourand do amazing work! Hear them talk more about their work, and if you're in the Bay Area check out the walking tour asap! (25:20 - 58:00) 9.  WCW- Gemma Chan we love you (58:05- end) Resources/Organizations mentioned by Barnali and Anirvan South Asian Radical History Walking Tour in the Bay Area, curated by Anirvan and Barnali. Black Desi Secret History - compiled by Anirvan. Anirvan can be found on Twitter here. SAADA- South Asian American Digital Archive History of Punjabi Mexicans in the Bay Area Also see- Bancroft Archives Collection Bengali Harlem BASS- Bay Area Solidarity Summer, an annual summer political action camp for South Asian youth (ages 18-24). Also, check out East Coast Solidarity Summer DRUM - Desis Rising Up and Moving, NYC based grassroots organization to build power among South Asian communities in NYC Adhikaar- a New York based social-justice organization focused on serving the Nepali Community Ghadar Party - A party formed to overthrow the British Empire by a group of Indian Revolutionaries in San Francisco in 1913
February 16, 2019
Topics in this episode: Environmental racism and the cost of clean air (1:00) Zainab is shocked that people continue to work in her office even though there's a wasps nest in the women's bathroom (2:00) Lebron James built an institution that is changing the game and your tax money is paying for all kinds of shady shit and we would happily pay taxes to support building capacity in the future generation! (8:45) Sondos al Qattan (instagram beauty blogger) has some terrible takes on new Kuwaiti law for the rights of domestic workers - we're mad about it. (9:39) Partition (12:25) Sidra got sucked into a research black hole about the history and spatial politics of Partition The British made a hot mess of everything (no one is surprised) - there is no such thing as peaceful colonization or decolonization and millions of people died Zainab talks about intergenerational trauma because of Partition and shares personal family history around the topic (20:15) Low key Pakistani identity is fake but that's fine. Also- the oppressed will mimic the oppressor (25:40) We can't talk about Kashmir because both Sidra and Zainab are on the brink of tears! This is too much! (30:13) The impact of Partition on women (trigger warning- rape, sexual assault) (30:53) WCW: Unfortunately we can't vote our way out of capitalism, and electoral politics are whatevs but we're still celebrating Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ilhan Omar in Congress. Also Fatima Farheen Mirza - author of A Place for Us (35:20) Resources on Partition: Community, State and Gender On Women's Agency during Partition- Urvashi Butalia (trigger warning: rape, suicide) The 1947 Partition Archive
February 09, 2019
Mental Health in Desi Communities
Welcome to the Chaivory Tower summer season - we are on break from grad school and digging into issues around south asian culture in the US and abroad! Topics in this episode: Since we're having a break down nearly every episode, we thought we'd bring on a guest to talk about mental health! Zainab made a playlist of sad desi songs to cry to and you can listen to them on iTunes or Spotify (2:00) Discussion on stigma on mental health, South Asian status anxiety, and capitalism (5:00) Sidra doesn't know how to relax and Zainab hosts a live, public intervention (10:27) Interview with Simeen Shaikh, a practicing psychotherapist and friend of Chaivory Tower who talks to us a little about mental health in Desi communities (13:26) WCW: Ash Sarkar, a literal communist, goes off on Piers Morgan and Samirah shuts down Jesse Lee Peterson interviewing women at Amber Rose's slutwalk. (25:36) Some resources on mental health: I Am Shakti- a Desi led organization working to normalize discussions of mental health and support those with affected 24 Hour Crisis Line, Alameda County - Bay Area: 1-800-309-2131 National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255 South Asian Network provides low-cost counseling in the LA Area Center for Muslim Mental Health and Islamic Psychology (Los Angeles)
February 02, 2019
Keep Families Together
We're wrapping up Season 1! We finally finished our first year of grad school and have lots of content planned for the summer. In the meantime, we're talking the World Cup, bullet trains, and Princess Diana. We'll also be talking about the policy of separating families at the border and how people are fighting back to Abolish ICE. Topics in this episode: What we learned our first year: multivariate regressions and other stuff. Statistics show everything is trash. (Beginning to 6:00) World Cup Updates- People can appreciate soccer as a sport AND appreciate that soccer players are also the hottest of any athletes this is the hill we (Zainab) will die on!!!! (6:00- 9:18) Wajahat Ali, please shut up!!! Tan France, please keep talking!!! (9:19 - 14:40) American SKAM is actually good and kept the Muslim character we love (14:41 - 15:59) SUPER LATE commentary on the Royal Wedding just to say that Pakistanis love Princess Diana forever (16:00- 18:30) RIP Anthony Bourdain (18:35 - 20:50) Keep Families Together- what's happening and what people are doing about it #AbolishICE (21:00 - 33:55) WCW: Fatima Ali of Top Chef (34:00- end) Some Resources on Immigration: 1.  Here's How You Can Fight Family Separation at the Border 2.  Border Militarization Policies- National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights 3.  Trump's Executive Order Does Not End Family Detention- Black Alliance for Just Immigration
January 11, 2019
No Cop Academy
Topics in this episode: Intro - grad school updates/our lifelong commitment to not having our shit together (0:00- 5:43) Zainab has an on-air breakdown after learning sim is short for simulation (5:45) RIP Sridevi and Asma Jahangir two legends (10:57) Kim K wore a sari on Vogue India and Desi men lost their minds (13:00) Sana Safinaz please fuck off forever with your racist advertisements (16:00) Sana Safinaz Faces Backlash for Racist Campaign Getty Images mixed up Kelly Marie Tran and Mirai Nigasu because there's sooooo many Asians (21:35) Quick Dev Patel thirst session/discussion on beauty standards (23:00) MO SALAH-LA-LA-LA THIS IS NOW A MOHAMED SALAH FAN PODCAST WE LOVE YOU OUR MUSLIM SOCCER ICON MASHALLAH (27:20) No Cop Academy Campaign in Chicago. Discussion on Rahm Emanuel's policies on shutting down schools and expanding police in Chicago (32:19) WCW (we have so many crushes this week): Hajra Khan, Marielle Franco, Claudia Rankine, Guneez and Hannah (47:55) Links to things we referenced in this episode: Mo Salah fans chant about how they're going to become Muslim We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie No Cop Academy Donate to No Cop Academy Behind Sale of Closed Schools, A Legacy of Segregation The Laquan McDonald Email Dump Shows Rahm Emanuel's Administration in Crisis Mode No Cop Academy in Chicago: Black Students Hold Hours-Long Sit-In at City Hall Marielle Franco's Legacy and the Fight for Rio's, and Brazil's, Future Claudia Rankine
December 01, 2018
Pakistan is not Palestine
In this bonus episode we talk to Amal, a real-life Palestinian and friend of Chaivory Tower. We're unpacking what's up with Desis (and other non Palestinian Muslims) co-opting the Palestinian narrative. Desis, take a seat and pass the mic on this one. A crowd sourced list of actual Palestinian experts/media organizations to reach out to when you need someone to talk about Palestine! What is the Boycott Divestment Sanction Movement? On Normalization and why we can't "dialogue" with Zionists: "How Students are Resisting Efforts to Normalize Israeli Apartheid" "American Muslims Must Not Become Tools of Israeli Propaganda" "Boycott Israel's 'Muslim Leadership Initiative' Palestinian Civil Society Urges"
November 30, 2018
Private Property Rules Everything Around Me
#TIMESUP at the Golden Globes and let's just let Oprah chill (2:00) Temporary Protected Status for El Salvador is being removed and why you should pay attention (4:15) PPREAM - the commodification of cities, Amazon HQ2, why do cities sell out (9:00) Zainab freaks out about how much Jeff Bezos is worth and we talk about the Black Mirror dystopia that is our future WCW: Kelly Marie Tran, the first Asian American woman to be on Star Wars, who went to Zainab's high school! (25:00) Links: Radiolab: Brown Box - an inside look at an Amazon shipping center Amazon chooses 20 finalists for HQ2  This interview lol "what will cities do to get Amazon" See yourself in Frisco, Texas
September 20, 2018
2017 - The Low Bar is Now in Hell
Grad school updates - everything is on fire but at least we made friends (0:51) Existential crises - Zainab asks what good is incremental change in an empire that is crumbling and Sidra wonders if planning is even a legitimate profession (16:10) Current events - FCC and tax plan bullshit (28:29) Worst takes of 2017 - George W. Bush is still evil and the FBI is not going to save you (33:17) Women of Color Wednesday - Divas of Karachi (44:51)
August 31, 2018
Spooky Jinn Stories
This episode Zainab and Amal talk about how many times you have to say "jinn" to get possessed. Sidra staunchly believes if you talk about jinn, they sit around and listen, and has opted out. AKA the only person in a horror movie to survive.
August 30, 2018
Kifah in Karachi
Desi intellectual fuckboys and how they will be Zainab's downfall (2:10) Amir Khan and Faryal Makhdhoom (part 2): They should have just talked to each other (4:03) Sidra's first day of grad school and story about walking past MALIA OBAMA (6:43) Hurricane Harvey: Orgs to donate to that are NOT the Red Cross (11:37) Pakistani Independence Day and our uneasiness with nationalism (15:13) Kifah Interview: Suki Se (20:44) WCW: Tiffany Haddish (42:32)
September 01, 2017
Pakistan: You'll Figure It Out
Neymar transferred to PSG and Zainab is really emotional about it (0:45) Amir Khan's and Faryal Makhdhoom's messy Twitter fight (4:55) Zainab's observations on Pakistan (6:55) Nawaz Sharif is not my type (12:51) Climate change and the U.S. Invasion of Afghanistan (19:06) Will The Flower Slip Through the Asphalt: Writers Respond to Climate Change (Sidra discussed Rafia Zakaria's chapter, check out Rafia Zakaria's Twitter @rafiazakaria to keep updated with her work) Women of Color Wednesday: Resham Khan (25:08) Follow Resham Khan on Twitter: @reshkay_ and her blog: Resham.Online to keep updated with her recovery People Who Carry Out Acid Attacks Face Life Sentences (in the UK)
August 24, 2017
A Nuanced Self
The Big Sick is a mess (5:44) The Big Sick's treatment of Brown women: The Big Sick & Brown Romance by Tanzila Ahmed; The Only Muslims Hollywood Likes are the 'Secular' Ones  by Tasbeeh Herwees Mississippi Masala is way better AND HAS DENZEL WASHINGTON IN IT (14:10) Skam is amazing and Norway is in 3017 (16:17) I’m a Muslim Girl and This Is Why the New Season of 'Skam' Is So Important to Me by Naureen Nashid Glow on Netflix (19:30) GLOW Women of Color Wednesday: Fatima Asghar & Sam Bailey (24:02) Brown Girls- a webseries by Fatima Asghar and Sam Bailey
August 05, 2017