Saturday, July 16, 2011

Battered and Bruised

There’s a lot to be said about that “new car smell”. Just the words itself conjure up images of a sleek dashboard filled with shiny gadgets and gizmos; the upholstery, smooth and cool to the touch, free of any snags and rents; the door handles, gleaming to the touch, not a sticky fingerprint anywhere in sight. 
And although one cannot deny the appeal of objects shiny and new, there are some things whose appearance and appeal – I find – vastly improve with age. Books are at the top of that list.

It’s not just penny pinching that drives me repeatedly to the bosom of the second hand bookstore. Call it silly, but I actually enjoy reading a book more if it is an old battered copy rather than a pristine version from the shelves of a big soul-destroying chain store. To me, the old copy indicates readership; the many hands and hearts before me that have lapped up the words and lost themselves in the storyline. I am not a fan of notes scribbled in the margins, as I feel that one should be allowed to explore the story without outside influence or prejudice. I do however love picking up books that have a personal message or dedication on the front page; it makes me feel connected with the previous owner. Which is also why when I receive a book as a gift, I always ask the gifter to add in a wee personal message so that I will always have an association of the book with that person.

Some of the books I own are so battered that they are literally in need of medical aid as they are falling apart. When that happens, I hand them over to my mum who has been head nurse in charge of book care since I was a wee one. She has somehow managed to staunch the bleeding of the worst tears and has managed to rebuild most of badly cracked spines. Where book restoration is concerned, she is the Guru.

And, no matter how much the large chain stores will beckon, I will not be easily swayed. Clearly, I am not the only one. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011


There have been bomb blasts in my home city of Mumbai. Again.

Two years ago, we all watched in horror and disbelief as gunmen took over various points in the city taking people hostage for several days. The reports that come through on the TV seemed more like a video game than a real life situation. Before that, there was train bombings. Several of them over a few years. Before that, there were riots, burnings, looting, mass killings and more bomb blasts.

Each time, both local and international media sprung into action. Around the world, expats frantically punched in telephone numbers trying to get in touch with loved ones. We watched the news reports and read every article about the event. There was much discussion, lamenting, anger.

This time, nothing.

My dad texted me with the news. I went onto the BBC website and read the report, then read it again later in the day when there were more details. There was a sense of apathy as I read. Like I've heard all of this before and been through the motions. It wasn't much talked about when I got him and in fact we spent more time discussing the fall out from the phone hacking scandal in the UK.

There was a point where I felt a twinge of guilt. Was I supposed to be sadder? And it wasn't just me I realised. Mumbai, and by extension India as a whole seemed to have shrugged off the incident and moved on. Did that mean people were carelessly indifferent? And, does indifference necessarily have to be a bad thing? The cowards behind attacks like these are looking to cause chaos and fear. But, they are also looking to milk the aftermath of the media attention for their own cause. Taking their cues from the Hollywood A-listers, they know that the more people talk about them the more power they have to cause fear.

What would happen if no one paid any attention? I wonder.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

How to Build a New County

So map makers all over the world woke up to the reality of an Africa redefined. They're going to have to tear up old prints and draw new borders to accommodate the world's newest country South Sudan. The news was full of the hope and possibility for this new nation; the chance to establish stability in a region that has been plagued by civil war and conflict.

The news was full of the unfolding events and every station had all sorts of analysts and media pundits putting their own spin on the situation while I just wondered how soon it would take Lonely Planet to come up with a South Sudan version.

One news segment in particular caught my attention. The analyst was talking about the very practical aspects of "setting up a new country". She mentioned things like deciding on colours for a flag, choosing a national anthem, deciding on a currency and so on. Laughing, she mentioned that sometimes a simple thing like applying for an international dialing code could sometimes slow down the entire process.

I found just a wee bit reassuring to know that us tiny folk aren't the only people getting jerked around by the phone companies!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...