30 April 2012


i haven’t blogged about books lately, so here are the last four books i read: 

the wedding officer by anthony capella 
a wonderful, light read. history, romance and food, all in one scrumptious mix. set in italy during wwII, it describes the growing relationship between a british officer tasked with preventing soldiers from marrying italian brides, and an italian woman who cooks for him. i will definitely check out capella for further light reads! 

hullabaloo in the guava orchard by kiran desai 
another light read, more of a novella than a novel. it was refreshing as a satire of indian society, a nice change from my usual choice of genre, but nothing i would necessarily recommend unless satire and magical realism is your thing. there is no comparison to ‘inheritance of loss’. 

calcutta exile by bunny suraiya 
i reviewed this book for another blog, check it out here.

the reluctant fundamentalist by mohsin hamid 
i no longer recall why, but when this novel first made its debut, i decided i would avoid reading it. i do remember the title putting me off, and i’m sure i had a glib conversation with someone about it, and after that it never made its way to my reading list again. until it was recently gifted to me, in my book drought phase. so i read it, and was pleasantly surprised. the novel is in fact highly engaging and intelligent, and not what you may expect from its title. the only aspect to annoy me slightly was that the entire novel consists of a monologue. but even that is undertaken with great skill by the author. his other books are definitely on my to read list! 

some quotes:

“I was, in four and a half years, never an American; I was immediately a New Yorker.” 

“I resolved to look about me with an ex-janissary’s gaze.. Seen in this fashion I was struck by how traditional your empire appeared. Armed sentries manned the check post at which I sought entry; being of a suspect race I was quarantined and subjected to additional inspection; once admitted I hired a charioteer who belonged to a serf class lacking the requisite permissions to abide legally and forced therefore to accept work at lower pay; I myself was a form of indentured servant whose right to remain was dependent upon the continued benevolence of my employer.” 

“As a society, you were unwilling to reflect upon the shared pain that united you with those who attacked you. You retreated into myths of your own difference, assumptions of your own superiority. And you acted out these beliefs on the stage of the world, so that the entire planet was rocked by the repercussions of your tantrums..” 

“..it is not always possible to restore one’s boundaries after they have been blurred and made permeable by a relationship: try as we might, we cannot reconstitute ourselves as the autonomous beings we previously imagined ourselves to be. Something of us is now outside, and something of the outside is now within us.”

09 April 2012

identities and types

a comment on a friend’s photo, about not thinking of her and her uni friends as being ‘family type people’ at that time (she is now married with two daughters), got me thinking. i’ve only known this friend since she was married with an 8-month daughter who i babysat as she attended her grad classes. her life before that is largely unknown to me, except for brief glimpses through conversation. to me, she will always be that cool grad student mom, who carried her daughter around in a carrier as comfortably as other students wore their backpacks. she was the smart japanese student who was now navigating life in cairo, living amidst her husband’s large egyptian family.

of course, what i knew of her was so limited. our conversations generally focused on our immediate surroundings: auc, the day care her daughter was at, cairo, her daughter, kids, our few common friends, and sometimes we would talk of japan and hk. she rarely talked much about her marriage, her dreams, her future plans.

we all must carry so many identities, perceptions and dreams within us, with them merging and separating as we grow and embrace new experiences, new challenges. i know that as a teenager, i was SURE that i would be married with kids by the time i was 30, but this was somehow separated from my wanting to be a writer and travelling the world. the latter was where my energies were focused, what was ‘real’, while the former was just.. something that would happen while i went about my ‘real’ life.

today, being married and 30, i can say that there is nothing more real than this. i foresee this to be the case for the next few years, as our family grows. perhaps later, my identity and role will evolve yet again..

her comment reminded me of another comment, made by another friend, a few years ago. she said that before she got married, before she had her daughter, she was largely oblivious to kids. any kid sitting next to her would get practically no response from her. now this was from someone who i saw as good with kids, who spent a considerable amount of time with her young nephew and niece, regularly babysitting them when their parents were out of town. she was naturally friendly with other kids at the mosque; she could make them laugh, have a conversation with them. none of these were skills i possessed.

i like kids. but i am not naturally comfortable with them. it takes me time to build up a rapport with them, which is why i am good only with my nieces and nephew.

her comment made me feel better. if her skills and comfort had been developed, mine could too. i assume (and hope) that this development will increase several fold when i have my own kids!

in other words, 'type' can always change..

04 April 2012

smart connections

i finally joined the world of smartphones, and it feels great. being able to chat with friends and family overseas, for free, while i’m lying in bed, or taking a tea break, or when i come across something funny/interesting/sad, is awesome. being able to call them for free, without the encumbrance of headphones and both parties sitting at their computers, is equally awesome.

i last felt this way when i eventually signed up to facebook some years ago. today, i still enjoy facebook for the glimpse it gives me to my close, and not-so-close friends’ lives--their thoughts, their links, their pictures, their updates. it is a superficial interaction, but it is still one that i am happy to have. it is better than no glimpse at all.

i’ve come across so many people saying that they wish they were less connected, less addicted to the emails-messages-blogs etc that their phones bring to them instantly. i don’t foresee feeling this way, since i am quite particular with my phone usage. (it helps that i am online most of the day anyways, working on my laptop, so i can keep my phone for what/when my laptop does not allow.)

mel has a great (if slightly lengthy) post on the validation we get from being connected, check it out. as well as on the difference in perspective between today’s children and those of us who grew up without the internet.

despite working from home for just over a year, i have only recently begun to take part in skype conference calls with colleagues in hk. while there is some awkwardness due to time delays and not always hearing those further from the mic, (as well as fervent wishing that i too were there, in that room, dressed up, with my notebook and mug of coffee), i am realizing that the benefits outweigh the discomfort. it allows me to articulate, to interact, to feel validated, to feel part of a team again. oh yes, far more important than any slight awkwardness.