31 October 2006


the words are stuck
in my throat, my fingertips, my soul
but i need you to know, to understand
i need to share
so i will you to recognize
the thoughts clogging my pores
i will so hard that tears spill over

the warm trail on my face feels good
like a lance, a cleansing
but i am not so easily misled
no matter how many tears are spent
i will never feel clean, never feel new enough
that burden will always be there
it will always haunt me

i can play, pretend
i can submerge myself in ideas and images
surround myself with laughter and music
but when i go home
i will be alone with that weight
and it will stare me in the face
it will remind me that no matter how far i go,
at some time, i must return

there is no escape

19 October 2006

the politics of language

a guest speaker in my chinese foreign policy class yesterday pointed out a small, subtle and yet significant fact:
english language publications use the term ASEAN+1 or ASEAN+3,
while chinese language publicaions use the term 10+1 or 10+3

ASEAN+1 = ASEAN centric
10+3 = 13 states sitting around a table, which is how china would prefer to think of the grouping

how many nuances (and more) i must be missing by only reading material in one language..

12 October 2006

the point is...

as i read the 2006 man booker shorlist (the winner being kiran desai for the inheritance of loss; nice title) and filed away new names to check out at leisure; as echoes of birdsong by sebastian faulks-which i recently finished-still resonate; and while cloud atlas by david mitchell is promising to be an amazing read, i recall my sister-in-law's question of many months ago: what is the point of reading a novel? (or writing one for that matter.)

she asked this in all seriousness, while enrolled in a course that required her to write a number of book reviews. she didn't seem to enjoy reading any of the books, which made it rather difficult to review them. it wasn't that she disliked the books, but more that she was indifferent to them.

reading fiction, for me, is about experiencing different worlds, different perspectives. it is about making new friends, exploring new places, understanding new professions. and it is about appreciating the fantastic use of language to create all of the above. cloud atlas is a great example: its chapters (so far, at least) consist of narratives of different characters at different historical times. each narrative is so real; not just in historical authenticity, but also in personal characterization. i am, yet again, in awe. it is a wonderful feeling.

and this is true for not just literature, but other art, music, film. how many worlds there are then, to explore!

(an aside- i found cloud atlas randomly at the hku library, while picking up a tom robbins novel :)

06 October 2006

old friends

immanuel wallerstein, robert keohane, joseph nye, stephen krasner, susan strange, adam smith, friederich list, robert gilpin, david ricardo.

too bad mufaddal, noura and wafeya are not around (and dr salter too).

last night many of my classmates were complaining at the theoretical nature of the material covered. awww, theory is FUN. not very useful maybe, but still fun..

05 October 2006

a whole new library

i am pleasantly surprised by the hku library's stock of fiction. they even have a section called 'leisure reading'. i have so far found novels i have been wanting to read by tom robbins, douglas coupland and even sharon maas (and yes, they do indeed have more than one copy). for the past three years i have been surviving with what i can find in the public libraries (which is not a bad collection, but not great either) so i now feel like i am in heaven :p

my pleasant surprise must also be attributed to the auc's almost non existent collection of fiction. you can imagine my horror when i first realized my reading choice was limited to the classics, or a few titles such as 'australian love stories'. when i enquired about this poor choice, i was told that university libraries do not keep 'fiction', while literature is a different matter altogether. thankfully cairo had many cheap or secondhand bookstores!

i am still not sure whether most university libraries stock such a large collection of contemporary fiction (including romance and chick lit), but i am very glad that hku does. that i couldn't find the intuitionist or the years of rice and salt will not dampen my enthusiasm..

01 October 2006


i was sitting on my masalla at namaz tonight, sharing my munajat with a new mom. while reading, her eyes kept moving towards her baby daughter at the other end of the suf. literally every ten seconds, her gaze would slide away from the paper at hand, even while her voice strived to remain in accord with the rest of us. my reactions were multiple: amazement that she was managing to follow at all, relief that i had nothing (or no one) to thus occupy my attention, mild annoyance at her constant shifting gaze, bewilderment as to why anyone would choose to take such a burden upon themselves.

the last few days at markaz has seen a small explosion of children. they cry, scream and stumble over everyone's masallas (i am always terrified my specs will meet a dire fate), their mothers are constantly running after them or shushing them and they go extra nuts during dinner.

honestly, why??

this world has enough children. together with less than satisfactory parents. i don't want to join that group. i think i am too selfish; i value my time, privacy and energy too much to want to share. it is not that i dislike kids, or never wish that i too had a cute cuddly bundle. the new mom sitting next to me tonight, when her wandering daughter returned, and started playing with me, for the next few moments she was the cutest kid in the world, and all i wanted was to make her smile. but those are mere moments, whereas these kids are around for life.