Saturday, December 30, 2006

10 Books in 2006

In Paris, I managed to spend a few hours at Shakespeare & Co. It was as higgedly piggedly and quirky as I imagined it would be, oozing with books on every crevice. You have to take a creaking, narrow wooden stairs to get upstairs for the library and where so many bibliophiles, homeless and waywards have sheltered over the years. The walls bear the signature and pictures of the many famous persons who have been there.

Now, for my annual book audit.

I didn't read many non-work related stuff this year but here are my best reads, more non-fiction though. None of these books are new 2006 editions by any chance but these are the ones that I picked up. Some really old books, some which was one last years hit list, some which I always wanted to read and finally managed to. Here are the memorable ones that I particularly enjoyed:


No Logo by Naomi Klein. I finally get hold of this and she doesn't disappoint. We are assaulted by logos- Nike, McDonalds, Tesco, Shell. The corporate hegemony sneaks into our lives and affects us in much more sinister ways than we think says Klein. Not without flaws but at many levels, compelling.

Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen. Poverty is not so much a matter of low income as deprivation of human capabilities says Sen. Deep exploration of liberal economics with real, stark examples. Although I don't always agree with him, it is a remarkable book because Sen takes developmental economics out of theoretical quagmire and places it within communities and asks searing questions.

The Silent Takeover by Noreena Hertz. If you want to read one book about how corporations are perversely changing the world, this is it. How many of us vote? Not many argues Hertz. But we are all consumers driven by multinationals that have taken over the world. Scary but true.

Capitalism and Slavery by Eric Williams was a former Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago and wrote this book depicting the profits made through the slave trade. What made slavery end in Britain was not so much awareness of human rights but a matter of cutting losses. You know the fancy Lloyds building in the City? That's built on slave sweat.

Bali, Jawa in my Dreams by Christine Jorges. A travel book with humour and pathos.

Toast by Nigel Slater. I remember buying this in Heathrow out of desperation as the book in hand (I can't remember what now) was driving me insane. Bittersweet memories of growing up angst and the food that accompanied over the years. Absolutely delish. I heart Nigel Slater.


Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. Weird, quirky philosophy spanning analysis of Adolf Eichmann, talking cats to raining mackerals. Vintage Murakami.

What the Body Remembers. I absolutely had to read it, after the glowing recommendation of Ms 30in2005. Partition seen from a woman's perspective, from a Sikh viewpoint and a human face. Shauna Singh is a delicate writer and I will look forward to her other books.

On Beauty by Zadie Smith. The best book I read this year. There are some comic loose ends that are a tad too perfect but overall, its such a nuanced book deserving many superlatives. With Gramscian undertones, philosophical tug-of-war and mostly, dysfunctional families.

The Sea by John Banville. Written in a languid, immaculate style. Heart rending.

Book related resolution: Read more fiction and make an attempt at reading more books from the banned books list.

Now, have to contemplate and do some emotional audit.
Happy New Year everybody. See you in 2007!!!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Joyeux Noel!

M and I decided on a whim to spend Christmas in Paris. It was a bit of mayhem the night before when our flight was cancelled due to the fog that was sweeping the South East the few days before. As soon as I find out at 7 pm on the 21st, I call British Airways (our original flight was on the 22nd morning from Heathrow) and after some deliberation, we re-book to fly from Bristol at 8:20 the next day, the only other flight available in the morning from Bristol.

This however meant that we had to leave the house latest 4:30am in order to make it. Driving in the intense fog was a bit of a nightmare on some parts but we arrive on time and after checking in, ITV Bristol interviews me.

I'm serious. I, who ranted away about our transportation woes to everyone in sight was delighted that I could now do it on regional TV. After hearing my spiel for a few minutes, the ITV guy asks me, 'so why are you going away for Christmas?'. Duh. I realise that I am on the wrong track-the focus of the program was on why people are changing the tradition of spending Christmas with family and friends and going away on holiday instead. I mumble something about the stress of entertaining and cooking and go catch my flight.

In Paris, we trawled a few Christmas markets while sipping hot chocolate, feasted on fine sculptures and paintings, joined the crowds admiring the delightful window decor at La Fayette and Printemps, salivated at the gourmet markets, ate at Montemarte. This apart, we spent a lot of time doing nothing at all, sipping coffee, nibbling on the most gorgeous pastries and reading our books while the world passed by.

It doesn't change the fact that we freezed our asses out walking around.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

10 Things I learnt in 2006

1. I underestimate myself, my powers, my capabilities, my intuition. I CAN'T is all I think sometimes. What if I make a fool of myself I ask? What if everyone laughs? So what, I now say. I owe it to myself to try, explore and simply, enjoy.

2. Letting Go. Letting go of dreams is not cowardly. It is important to realize that some dreams will be buried and I can't do anything about it. I can't be 24 again ever. But I am not going to waste the 30s wishing for the choices of 24.

3. Resilience is good but sometimes, calling for help is not a bad idea. I don't have to be strong or perfect all the time. It's okay to call a friend, it's okay that the house is a mess, it's okay that the attempt at fish curry didn't turn out that great. It's okay.

4. Breathing helps. Before taking stage, before losing temper, before saying words that can't be taken back.

5. I actually like football. Maybe just during World Cup. But there's so much drama and passion involved which I never knew. How else will a French Algerian kid who grew up in a council block (gorgeous one nevertheless) become a world recognized hero?

6. Time may not actually heal every wound. But I can lick them and snarl my way through when need be. That's the bitch in me.

7. I have fallen in love. With London. A surprise turn always makes me stumble into a new perspective, a half-smile, a charming little bookshop. We took sometime to warm to each other but this one's a keeper.

8. Sometimes it's a matter of KISS Keep it Simple Stupid. I've spent way too much of my life psycho analysing, reanalysing and then some more. But when I just stop and take one moment at a time, things often fall into place like a drawn curtain. Everything has a grand scheme to fulfil, only it's not my business to worry about that.

9. Compromise. I can live with a right wing Ayn Rand disciple and respect that (most of the time at least, hush my communitarian heart).

10. Amazon One Click is is going to leave me in financial ruin. It usually attacks me on late nights, when I am seized by a bout of self pity that I work so hard, etc, etc. I browse, pick and click. A few weeks later, a brown package appears and spreads a pang of guilt as it is shelved among all its other One-Click cousins. Increasing the pile of to-be-read-books.

What did you learn?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I'm Back

Been dipping in and out of projects, papers and coutries these past few weeks. I've just recovered from exhausting Geneva trip. Lausanne, 40 mins outside Geneva, where the conference was being held was a quaint little town with cobbled paths and winding alleys. With postcard picture perfect snow-capped mountains as well as a shimmering lake.

Only, I didn't get to see any of it, huddled as I was for two days in grey conference building and social events that followed.

European's don't believe in tea and for two days, they served strong espresso. This is catastrophe for a tea drinker like myself and I was nursing a bad headache at the end of the day, from all that coffee. Was I glad to be back in England, land of tea and soggy sarnies.

On the last day, we went to a traditional Swiss chalet and ate cheese fondue, downed with a fair amount of Schnapps. This was quite lovely as it warmed my heart on a freezing cold December evening. Some smart aleck decided we go bar hopping afterwards not realising how exhausted all of us were. By 1:30 am, Doro and I decided to walk back to the hotel as I had an early flight to catch.

(I'm not sure if this qualifies as a post-but it's an update, ensuring you guys that I haven't abandoned the blog. In fact, I am making a resolution to update more frequently in the new year).