Category: What we’re reading…

30 things every woman should have and should know by the time she’s 30

By , July 27, 2012 6:05 am

I don’t know what it is about lists, but I’m forever making them and always tempted to read them. So around the time of my 28th birthday earlier this month, it seemed timely that I came across a list of things every woman should have and know before she turns 30.

Published originally by Glamour magazine in 1997, this year it was published in the form of essays wherein each of the original 30 items was expanded upon by different writers.

In the introductory chapter, Pamela Satran -the author of the original list- talks about how she almost missed her own surprise birthday party thinking turning 30 was no reason to celebrate, added to the fact that she was an exhausted new mother and grappling with grief following her own mother’s death.

However after her husband gave away the surprise and begged her to come to the restaurant where all her friends were waiting for her, she had a great time and realised that she was the same person she was at 9 or 15 or 28 or later will be at 39 or 44. But what she also realised was that there was a shift for her. She writes,

“for many of us there is a sense, whether it’s justified or absurd, that throughout your twenties you are becoming someone and something that, once you turn thirty, you simply are“.

Of course a list published by Glamour telling women 30 arbitrary things didn’t really promise to be thought provoking soul searching literature. But while some items on the list are just plain fluff such as “a purse, a suitcase and an umbrella you’re not ashamed to be seen carrying”, some do have underlying value to them.

For example, no. 8 on the list of things to have is “an email address, a voice mailbox, and a bank account- all of which nobody has access to but you”. This to me points to the importance of having privacy and being independent, both as an attitude but also financially. We women tend to share and give too much of ourselves in our relationships, so it is a good reminder that some things should be just for ourselves, even if it is reclaiming a day of the week or an hour in the day as ‘me time’.

To give another example, no. 3 on the list of things you should know states “how to quit a job, break up with a man, and confront a friend without ruining the friendship.” To me this underscores the importance of good communication rather than being literally about quitting jobs, breakups or confrontations.

My teens and early 20s were marked by numerous socially awkward encounters. I would beat myself up for days about something ridiculous I had said to someone (or at least what I considered to be mortifying). These awkward conversations would then shape those relationships for years to come and I would just not be able to get over them. As I’m getting older, my communication skills are getting better, but more importantly when I do make a faux pas or say something embarrassing, I am able to laugh at myself, sometimes even on the spot, and move on. In cases where I do dwell on something, the after effects don’t last forever.

When I bought the book, I was seduced by the idea that each of these arbitrary items on the list would be turned into something meaningful by people like Katie Couric, Bobbi Brown and Maya Angelou (and others whose names I didn’t recognise given my limited knowledge of American pop culture). At any rate these were all successful inspirational women who must have something to say that I could learn from. However, while there were snippets here and there that were touching, inspiring or funny, most of the writing was very superficial and rhetorical, only touching upon an idea or story rather than really delving into it. Sometimes even the transition from one thought or paragraph to another seemed abrupt, so that the essays seemed like they were synopses of larger pieces rather than being complete pieces in their own right.

Even Maya Angelou’s piece, which I was looking forward to, was no more than a reading list and a list of random objects to possess. These included things like “an elegant robe to wear when one has company staying over” and a silver tea serving set and a silver coffee serving set, which you would expect a 84 year old woman to come up with.

Personally I could live without these, especially given the next item on her list: “with all this silver, you should always have silver polish on hand. When a silver set is polished and shining, it tells a woman that she is worthy of the best because she is the best.” Ahem. I can imagine how having a really beautiful tea set (perhaps vintage china in a very delicate design) would make you feel very grownup and ladylike, for the moment I’m happy with my polka dotted and striped mugs. I do own one white tea pot to brew green tea in though. Perhaps that is enough of a concession to domesticated womanhood?

I will share with you Maya Angelou’s book list though, some of which I plan to read:

1. Sula by Toni Morrison
2. The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
3. Poetry by Edna St. Vincent Millay
4. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
5. The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou
6. The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni
7. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
8. The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan
9. The Woman Warrior: Memories of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston
10. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

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I dare to dream

By , May 26, 2012 9:24 am

It is ironic that when we are little we dream of all the things we would do or become when we grow up. And when we finally grow up, we stop dreaming.

Some dreams like becoming an ‘air hostess’ or ‘astronaut’ are considered foolish or unlikely and given up. Others are abandoned because we realize that we may not have what it takes to achieve them. For me one such dream was to become a writer. Not just any writer. An author of great fiction.

At age 10, I was a prolific letter writer, or correspondent shall I say. I regularly wrote to my grandparents, especially Daddy, my maternal grandfather. When my best friend moved from Abu Dhabi to Pakistani, I used to write her long detailed letters almost twice a week.

Around the same time, inspired by the newspaper the sisters in Little Women write together, I started a little book with my three sisters called *ahem* TAWZ (the first letter of each of our names)  to write original ‘articles’, poems, stories and also copied stuff that we liked, including gems such as ‘limericks’. We also shared comics or drawings. I was a bit of a dictator in getting my sisters to write in it and even at that age (my sisters all younger than me), we knew it was a bit lame. Predictably, it didn’t last long.

Well into my teens I wrote poetry. Most of it of the rhyming variety. Not all if it was bad. But it definitely wasn’t good. I stopped when I realized that.

At around 14, I attempted to write a book, but gave up when it started to become a Pakistani version of Sweet Valley High. I was dismayed and put writing fiction out of my mind forever. I told myself that if I could write at all, it would be non-fiction.

What has brought on this nostalgia?

Two things. A friend posted on Facebook about a Creative Writing Workshop that will take place in LUMS in August. The workshop is aimed at 18-26 year olds. I wish there were such workshops targeting younger writers because by that age, most of the kids who used to write, like me, may have already given up. I know as a kid, I would have given anything to attend such a workshop. Who knows, I may have continued to write poems and fiction.

The second thing that made me acknowledge this dream was a cute little book I recently read called Live What You Love and from which I shared an excerpt recently. The book is about a successful entrepreneurial American couple who started many different businesses together, their latest a gourmet restaurant in the Caribbean. While they had their ups and downs, they just continued to take an unusual path in life by working together and doing what they loved.

In the book, they ask the reader to acknowledge their dreams. And when I first read that, I was almost annoyed at them because I couldn’t think of any ‘dreams’. I asked in a huff, what dreams? I could think of goals, ambitions and plans, but not ‘dreams’.

So the last few days, I’ve been deliberately asking myself that question: what do I dream of? Or rather, what did I used to dream of? In answering it, I’ve started unearthing stuff like wanting to be a writer, travelling the world, being an astrophysicist and so on. For some past dreams, I may have missed the boat and they don’t hold that lustre any more. But others, like wanting to be a writer, still make me ache with longing. It is something I did not even share with others for fear they would ridicule me or worse that I may jinx it by admitting it.

I realize that I should not just rely on past dreams. I should come up with new ones. By writing this, I am dusting off the cobwebs and I dare to dream again.

‘Retrospective Perspective’- excerpt from Live What You Love

By , May 23, 2012 11:33 am

We’re all very, very busy. We have e-mails to answer, planes to catch , and we’re constantly reshuffling schedules to squeeze in new meetings, each more important, more urgent than the last. But every now and then, we get a signal: life should be more satisfying.

Have you ever found yourself counting up the days to the weekend– and it was only Monday?

You start searching for daily pleasures to reward yourself for just getting through another day: ice cream, shopping, or going out for dinner. Some people even believe that a two-week vacation once a year is enough to keep them feeling happy and fulfilled.

Is it right that we spend so much time planning our next escape?

When we were small, we blew out the candles on our birthday cake believing that all of our hopes and dreams would become real. And when Jiminy Cricket urged us to wish upon a star, we all tried it, at least once. So when exactly did you stop wishing? When did you start doing the things you had to do instead of the things you wanted to do?

When did your dreams get buried under the responsibilities of adulthood?

Now you sense than something needs to change, but you’re too busy to stop and think about what it is. You long for those forgotten times when each day’s accomplishments filled you with energy and enthusiasm.

When there were a million special days.

The first day of school, the night before your fifth birthday, summer vacation, your first kiss…all of these were momentous achievements that made you feel almost giddy inside.

But now you sometimes feel as if you’re stuck in a great big rut and, as the years go by, the rut keeps getting deeper and deeper. You sense loss, understanding that you were meant to do more.

Your dreams feel so far away and always seem to be just out of reach.

But they’re silly dreams, you tell yourself. Get real. After all, you have a job; you’re earning a living. You have responsibilities. You can’t go off chasing crazy dreams.

Besides, it’s scary to think about going out on a limb.

But the dreams just won’t go away and they keep popping up. If only dreams came with a guarantee. Then you’d be as secure as you are now. Your job is secure, right?

Wouldn’t it be awful to live your whole life and then say, “Wait! I need another chance. I just wanted to try this one thing.”

Remember how scared you were to take the training wheels off your bike? Or how much courage it took for that first kiss? Nothing stopped you then.

So what’s stopping you now?

- Excerpt from Live What You Love by Bob and Melinda Blanchard, emphasis mine

- Thank you Arsalan for gifting us this book! :)

Eat Pray Love

By , April 17, 2012 9:35 pm

Eat Pray Love is one of those books I’d been wanting to read for a while but just hadn’t got around to. A few days back I saw it on a friend’s bookshelf and asked if I could borrow it. It’s been a great read. It’s a woman’s journey of self discovery: to find happiness, pleasure and love in her life. Or as the book’s subtitle reads: ‘One Woman’s Search for Everything’.

Liz Gilbert seemingly has everything anyone could ask for: she is a successful writer, is married, has a beautiful house and great family and friends. But at age 31, she finds herself broke- financially and emotionally.  After a long-winded divorce and simultaneous love affair that ends in disaster, she’s left horribly heartbroken and depressed. To pick up the pieces of her life she decides to just leave everything behind and travel for a year to the three ‘I’s: Italy, India and Indonesia and spend four months in each of the places.

She travels to Italy because she has always wanted to learn the Italian language, not for any other reason but that she finds it beautiful. Her journey in Italy was my favourite part of the book. It is dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure, which in her case is in the form of lounging around in the sun near beautiful fountains and gardens, exploring the different cities in Italy at a leisurely pace (but mainly Rome where she is based), making friends, learning and practising Italian with new friends and strangers; and most importantly eating massive quantities of amazing food: fresh pasta and pizza, farm fresh vegetables, fish and meats and amazing gelato and pastries. She would just go to a restaurant based on recommendations and without even looking at the menu and ask the proprietor to bring her something great to eat and most of the time, she would be blown away by what was laid in front of her. Reading about her experience, I just wanted to visit Italy again and experience everything the way she did.

She had been introduced to a spiritual healer through her ex-boyfriend and had started meditation which brought her solace. So she decides to go to the Ashram of her guru in India and devote 4 months to spiritually cleanse her life. That part of the book was not an easy read and its not meant to be either I guess. She talks about her spiritual experiences, beliefs of the Yogic practice and her struggles with certain practices which were a reflection of her own ego or inner state. Having lately been struggling spiritually, I realize the importance of spirituality in one’s life to fill an internal void. I wish the book had inspired me enough to whip a prayer mat and start my own prayer/meditation, but unfortunately as I could hardly relate to some of her almost out-of-body experiences, this wasn’t the case. I agree that in such cases, having guidance and someone to talk to really helps.

Her last stop was in Bali, Indonesia where she had been a few years ago and had found the place the most beautiful she’d ever been to. She figures that after her indulgences in Italy and her abstinence in India, she will use her time in Bali to find balance in her life in beautiful surroundings. As the names alludes to, there she not only finds happiness but also love.

The book is a great read and thoroughly entertaining even if it is essentially one woman’s self- obsessed ruminations. But that’s where the writer is so gifted: she sustains your interest through her journey of self-discovery for nearly 350 pages. Parts of the book are witty, parts are heartbreaking but most of it is so beautifully written. Her honesty about her failings and her ability to analyze her own life and come out on the other side victorious is absolutely inspiring. She makes you want to throw caution to the wind, pack your bags and leave on your own journey to places where you’ve always wanted to go to and do the things you’ve been storing in the recesses of your mind.

ps. Next stop: I have to watch the film!

The Sense of an Ending

By , March 20, 2012 10:31 pm
I really liked the jacket cover

I just finished reading ‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes which is last year’s Man Booker Prize winner. Don’t remember the last time I read a book which was such a page turner or went so fast. ‘Readability’ may not be such a bad criteria for judging books after all!

Last year’s Man Booker Prize raised a lot of controversy when the judges selected ‘readability’ as their main criterion. One of the reasons for this was in the past a lot of the books that had won the award had been bought by people, but not many had been able to finish them. In other words, they were literary masterpieces and critically acclaimed, but not very ‘readable’. Even I had been critical of this criterion sharing concerns that it shouldn’t be the overriding principle. But now I thank the judges. As a mother with a young baby, it was fun to be able to finish a book in two days.

The Sense of an Ending is a simple story of an old man who is looking back on his life. The narrative is light but at the same time has some very beautiful and thought provoking insights into time and memory and how we think of our lives. The protagonist is an ‘average’ guy but now in old age discovers some extraordinary truths about his life and the impact it has had on those who were once close to him. The novel almost becomes a suspense thriller as you try to discover what really happened.

While being a simple narrative, the book still leaves a lot open to individual interpretation of events and characters and I found that interesting. It didn’t spell everything out for you and didn’t end in a predictive way. In fact the end almost left you feeling a bit disappointed. You wanted more of the story. The book itself just gives you ‘the sense of an ending’ without really telling you what the end is.

An interesting quick read. I highly recommend it.

Desperate in Dubai

By , November 23, 2011 12:35 pm

I just finished reading Desperate in Dubai by an author who goes by the pen name Ameera al Hakawati. The book was first written as a blog (which I never saw but was apparently very popular in Dubai). The book was a bit trashy but throughly entertaining. TimeOut India’s description of it as “Dubai’s answer to Desperate Housewives” is an apt description.

The story revolves around the lives of four women in Dubai. Lady Luxe, a young local Emirati girl belonging to one of the most elite families in Dubai. However, despite her privileged life, she is unhappy and leading a double existence. Donning an expensive wig and blue contact lenses she indulges in Dubai’s nightlife and men, exploring every possible avenue forbidden to her by her culture and religion. She is living in constant fear of being discovered and the disastrous consequences that would surely ensue. She is reminded of cousins who simply “disappeared” having dishonoured their families, yet she can’t give up her “freedom” which makes her feel in control of her own life.

Next we meet her friend Leila, a thirty-something Lebanese bombshell who pretends to be in her twenties. Having lost her naivete years ago and left with a broken heart, her one mission in life is to marry a rich man. A decade, countless men and heartbreaks later, she is still single and getting more desperate to prove to her family that her decision all those years ago to defy them and move to Dubai was not in vain.

Nadia is a British of mixed Moroccan and Algerian descent who marries a convert Daniel in London and moves to Dubai with her husband. However, soon after he starts cheating on her and she is left a shell of her previous self with her life falling apart in a strange land with no friends or family. However once she is able to snap out of her self-pity, it is replaced with a desire for revenge and we know that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Wracked by loneliness and heartache, Nadia connects with her sister’s old friend from London, Sugar, who has also recently moved to Dubai. Haunted by demons from her past, she is desperately trying to build a new life for herself. She meets a handsome, intelligent and caring man who rekindles love and hope in her heart, but her past is not letting her move into her present.

Having lived in Abu Dhabi (Dubai’s more boring sister state) for a number of years and visited Dubai numerous times (most recently last year), the book seemed very familiar. I could relate to the cultural references, understand the mindsets described and got excited because I could imagine the scenes described whether it was references to Jumeirah Beach Resort (JBR), Burj al Arab or the numerous malls dotting the city. The other location which almost all characters shared was London and there too the descriptions seemed familiar and I could imagine the characters’ lives whether it was walking through Hyde Park, getting on crowded tubes or living on a council housing estate.

With dramatic  twists and turns, sometimes humourous and sometimes horrifying, the lives of all the ‘desperates’ get woven together and the plot moves forward at a fast pace. At times shocking, other times cliched and sometimes over-the-top, Desperate in Dubai is nevertheless a page turner and an entertaining read.

What we’re reading…

By , October 20, 2011 9:18 pm

imran-khan-jacket After a long time, Asim and I are reading a book together. The last one was Three Cups of Tea. This time, each of us has got a copy of Imran Khan’s new book ‘Pakistan: A Personal History’. Asim is reading his on the Kindle while I’m content with my hardcover.

I’m not going to go into a review at this stage (halfway at the moment), but the reading process is exciting. Not that its thrilling or something we don’t know, but it’s given us a topic for lively discussions. Asim and I have always had our differences of opinion about Imran Khan and especially the PTI. The book is giving us insight into the background of the party and Imran Khan’s stance on certain issues (most of which he has already shared on numerous other forums).

A book review will follow shortly. We might consider a joint one, given our thoughts aren’t too divergent.

ps. Asim has been making fun of me for taking notes on every chapter!

A Fine Balance

By , May 16, 2011 9:18 am

I just finished reading A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. It’s one of those books where you think “oh wow, could anything else possibly go wrong?” and just when you think that, an absolutely crazy-gruesome-morbid-horrible thing happens to the characters! The last such book I read was A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. The difference though was that Hosseini’s book was horribly depressing, while A Fine Balance somehow leaves you entertained. That’s where I think the skill of the writer comes in. Either that or I’ve developed a morbid sense of humour and a very thick skin over the years.

Set in India over a few decades (mostly the 70s), the book looks at the lives of four characters. Two Parsees: Dina Dalal, a widow struggling to be financially independent by supplying garments to an export textile company; and Manek Kohlah, a young college student who comes to live with her as a paying guest. The other main characters are the uncle and nephew duo Ishvar and Om. They are tailors who come to work for Dina. They belong to a lower caste Chamaar family who dare to tempt fate by trying to change their family’s destiny by switching their profession: from leatherwork considered ‘polluting’ to the more respectable clothes tailoring.

The book chronicles how the lives of these four individuals get intertwined and then torn apart in the shadow of caste violence, poverty, political instability and complex family relationships.

Mistry is a gifted writer and A Fine Balance is an ‘enjoyable’ read even though it drags at points and all the tragedy somehow becomes comic after a while as you start expecting it rather than being shocked by it.

The Inheritance of Loss

By , January 31, 2011 1:07 am

I just read The Inheritance of Loss and really enjoyed it. Wanted to read it for a while, but was put off by a bad review from a friend who said it was overrated and depressing. I finally picked up my dust-gathering copy last week when a friend highly recommended it.

The Review

The novel is set in the 1980s in a town called Kalimpong in the foothills of the Himalayas near the India-Nepal border. The political backdrop of the book is an insurgency led by socially and economically disenfranchised Nepali immigrants. In fact, immigration is a big theme in the book (both immigration in India and from India to the US). Desai also explores themes of globalization, multicultralism and nationalism, class inequality and racism through the novel’s various characters. However, what really comes across as the one strand running through every story, as can be gleaned from the title, is a sense of longing and loss.

Sai, a sixteen year old orphan who lives in Kalimpong with her embittered grandfather, falls in love with her young Nepali tutor Gyan. It’s a short-lived romance as political chaos takes over their lives. Sai is an immature and self-obsessed girl who has lived an isolated and sheltered life with a very small circle of adults and no real friends her age. Personally, I found her really annoying and couldn’t empathize with her.

Sai’s grandfather Jemubhai Patel, ‘the judge’, was a much more complex and interesting character who simultaneously invoked feelings of sympathy and revulsion. Desai mentioned in an interview that the judge’s story was influenced by her own grandfather who, like Jemubhai, also joined the Indian Civil Service at the time of the British Raj (but was not such a horrible person as the judge in the book). Belonging to a village in Gujarat, by virtue of his brilliance, family sacrifices and a very rich father-in-law, Jemubhai managed to go to Cambridge in the 1930s when very few Indians got that privilege. His experience in racist colonial England and a desire to fit in with the ‘goras’ leaves him with such a strong sense of shame and an inferiority complex that for the rest of his life he takes it out on every non-westernized Indian around him, especially his young wife. To become accepted and gain respect from his English peers and superiors, he becomes a recluse; renounces his roots and even his own family to lead a secular and modern life. He has an illustrious career in the ICS, but in the present when the orphan Sai comes to live with him, he is surviving on a small pension in Kalimpong with only a loyal cook to serve him and his beloved dog Mutt, the sole living being he ever loves.

The book’s narrative takes you between Kalimpong and Manhattan where the cook’s son Biju is living as an illegal immigrant and keeps flitting between various cheap restaurants as a waiter. He’s barely making ends meet, lives in squalid rat-infested basements with other illegal immigrants and generally feels uprooted. Biju’s strongest desire is for him to make something of himself to please his father who has sacrificed a lot to get him to America. However, unable to compromise his principles and give up his identity, he’s never really able to live the American dream. In an interview, Desai remarked about the ‘myth’ of the American dream, “some people do seem to live the American dream, but you wonder whether if some people are living it because others are not”.

Yes, the stories are overall quite sad and perhaps even tragic, but for some reason you’re not left depressed reading them. Despite the book’s heavy and political themes, it still doesn’t seem overbearing and has a lightness of touch. While describing scenes of revolution, violent protests and torture, Desai also mentions people’s mundane preoccupations, especially of the small westernized group through whose eyes the narrative unfolds. They are worried about their broccoli patches, celebrate Christmas and make trips to the Gymkhana library to get their English books while others are protesting and curfews are being imposed. Especially, Lola and Noni, two anglicized middle-aged sisters who home tutored Sai, bring comedy and levity to the book in the midst of chaos. They are Indians who in some ways don’t really belong to India: they speak English and love everything English, from books and food to their Marks and Spencer undergarments. Their self-obsessed view of the world in some ways seems ridiculous and is reviled by the lower class Nepalis who think of them as confused and out-of-touch with reality.

Behind The Scenes: Kiran Desai

I’m usually really interested to find out more about an author and the writing process of a book after I’ve read it. While we all know Kiran is Anita Desai’s daughter, I had no idea she was Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk’s partner. In interviews, Desai is very eloquent and has a very humble and soft-spoken tone, but her accent intrigues me. It is neither Indian nor American (where she has lived for almost 20 years). Perhaps she has resisted picking up an American accent as she resisted getting an American citizenship.

I found a very interesting interview in which Kiran Desai gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse of her novel which took almost 8 years to write! We always look at books as finished products and as readers the books to us are what they are and couldn’t have been any other way. But when you hear an author talk about how they wrote their book, you realize that the book could have ended up as many other things. The characters could have behaved in different ways and the ending could have been different (Desai admits that the original ending she wrote was much more tragic and melodramatic than the one she finally opted for).

Desai also talks about the writing process as never being linear or planned. In response to John Mullan’s obsevation that the book has very short chapters and each chapter is further divided into lots of sections, Desai says it wasn’t deliberate. In fact it evolved as a literary necessity perhaps because she wrote in so many different directions and on so many different themes that she was left with over 1500 pages of text! And then it was a matter of re-reading everything and finding a common narrative in the midst of a collage of stories and characters. She admits that she never really had a “plot” for the book and just wanted the novel to explore various stories through different places, time periods and characters.

In talking about why it took her so long to write the book she said, “Well, for one thing, I was very happy writing. And I knew it would end as soon as I finished the book. And the book, I think, was also the one stable thing in my life; I took it with me everywhere. I was living all over the place and traveling, so it felt like home, and didn’t want to let go of that blanket in a way. It’s kind of disconcerting to be done with it. But, more importantly, it took me a long while to get to an honest place, a place from which I could write this book. I think immigration is a great con game: you tell yourself lies, you reinvent yourself in many different ways, and to undo all of that took quite a while.”

If the ending seems a bit abrupt, it was intentional for one reason that Desai wanted to leave the story open-ended and not give it a definitive finish, but also partially because she was finally forced to finish the book after 8 years when she had run out of money and everyone around her had given up on the book, except her mother. It must have been a triumphant ‘in-your-face’ moment for her when she won the Man Booker Prize in 2006! I hope we don’t have to wait another 8 years for her next book.

New job: Week 2

By , June 25, 2010 11:57 pm

It’s been two weeks since I started work at Oxfam as a campaigner on their Conflict & Humanitarian campaign.

We are currently focusing on two priority countries: Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Joining the team made me realize how little I know, or care, about some countries such as the Congo. Also, it’s easy to forget and then move on to the next disaster or emergency. When I was narrating to Asim the horrors of the violence and human rights abuses happening in the DRC, known as the ‘rape capital of the world’, he was shocked and asked me why we didn’t hear about it more often. That’s a good question. I guess it’s because we’re only concerned about things that either directly affect us or relate to some part of our identity or those that are super politicised. Of course it’s not possible to know or care about every country out there, but being in international development and concerned about such issues, I feel I should know something about everything!

The only downside of the job is that I’m commuting on average 2.5 hours each way. That’s 5 hours of journey time a day! Some days I’ve been so exhausted that I come home and hit the bed and then it’s hard to even get up and eat dinner. But the actual commute itself, apart from when the tube gets delayed, is not too bad. I take a book along with me or nap on the way back. Thanks to my commute, I finally finished my thick copy of the White Mughals. Now I’m reading Orhan Pamuk’s ‘Istanbul: Memories of a city’. I love Turkey. It’s an unconditional irrational love founded on nothing more than that as a kid I was told my name was Turkish. That’s it. And that makes it on top of my list of places to see in the world.

Sorry I digress :) Coming back to work…

These two weeks passed by in a blur. I feel like I’ve been there for ages. I was super busy but I didn’t feel overwhelmed. That’s a good sign right? But in other ways, I also feel terribly new. I realize I’ve got a lot to learn to feel confident about what I’m doing. My first boss in Pakistan, this amazing woman who I was totally intimidated by, had once said to me that I seemed like I was in a hurry to get somewhere very fast. I needed to learn to walk first before I ran. I see that about myself now. I want to learn everything right away. I want to be able to come up with great world-changing projects overnight. I want to be able to sit in meetings with all the ‘big guys’ and not feel stupid or intimidated. I want to be able to say amazing insightful things that people would listen to. Basically, I want to be amazing. Lol. I know I know, by saying all that, I admit what an ambitious little kid I am :D

The people on my team are great and the whole place is incredibly friendly. I love the atmosphere. It’s got such a great buzz about it. I remember talking to a friend some time back when I told him having visited Oxfam House for a meeting (I was doing an internship in London for Oxfam before this job), I fell in love with the place. I can’t describe what I felt but it was almost like a longing to want to be a part of something like that. An organisation that I respected; a workplace that was nice and friendly and where I would enjoy working. Oh yeah and did I mention, the food is great! Yes I have my priorities very clearly defined: buzz, people, respect and food.

Walking in to work or sitting down for lunch or when I have a moment to reflect (sometimes in the prayer room), I look around me and can’t believe I’m where I wanted to be. If in a few months from now I start whining about work or lose my starry-eyed optimism, please smack me.

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