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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Oh book club, where art thou?

A little while ago I decided I wanted to join a book club.

No I am not a blue cardigan wearing bespectacled member of the 80 plus age group. I am a regular-ish young girl and I like reading and then talking about books I’ve read in a semi-intelligent way involving food and lots of drinks. I had this image of myself surrounded by young trendy urbanites in a darkened pub with dog-eared copies of our books around us with splashes of martini rosso upon them, saying things like ‘This book marks the zeitgeist of today without being too conformist’. Failing that it would at least mean that when I finish a book and go ‘huh?’ I’d have other people to ‘huh’ with too.

So I set about trying to find a book club. Like pretty much everything these days, whether it’s dates, shoes or part-owning a farm animal, I thought this would be easily achieved through the internet. It appears I was wrong. After googling ‘Book club North London’ to no avail, I tried ‘Book clubs London’ or ‘how to join a book club’ and I found lots of suggestions of how to form one but no real existing ones.

Finally I found one with a list of book clubs in London – aha, I had hit the jackpot I thought. After skimming through the options – ‘Afro-carribean under 40 book club’, ‘Young, gay and Jewish book club’, ‘Lives under the Brent Cross bypass next to the kebab shop and outside the post box book club’, I found one I thought would be fairly welcoming to me. I banged off a suitably witty and bookish, affable email expressing my interest to join said book club and asking when the next meeting would be. Two weeks later. No reply.

Hmm, I thought. This book club lark is harder than I thought. So I moved on to option number two, which had sounded like the book club equivalent of Club Med – 18-31 book club, discuss books and then cop off with the fittie next to you afterwards. Could be kinda fun? One email to them – one email back from them saying they were full. Full?? Since when have book clubs become the equivalent of Movida? It’s a book club for crying out loud, I thought they’d be gnawing my arm off with delight that I’ve deigned them with my presence and haven’t yet integrated into the Kindle-clutching android masses. But no – apparently book clubs are harder to get into than Juilliard.

In desperation I tried one more and received a mass, generic reply that they clearly send to all prospective book club suitors saying their next meeting was in three months time and they’d add me to the waiting list.

I give up. There’s gotta be an easier way to do this. I’d set one up in my area but as I’m currently residing in a sleepy commuter town I probably would need to give up my rose-tinted vision of enlightening chats about Sartre’s sub texts and settle for dissecting the latest Catherine Cookson over some digestives. Then again maybe that’s the kind of presumptions and snobbery that has led to iron-fenced book clubs where members thumb their noses and make new would-be members go through bum-paddlings and periodic electric shocks while having to recite the first chapter of Dickens ‘Little Dorrit’ .

If anyone has a book club that I can join, can I please, please join? I promise I’ll be good, make cakes and not put forward Kerry Katona’s autobiography as a suggestion (Katie Price’s is clearly better). Otherwise I’ll have to just set one up myself and invite all my fellow rejects from the exclusive School of Book Clubs. 

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Happy International Women’s Day

What is it about women’s relationship with women? Men just don’t have it. The way women are with women has always seemed more organic, infused in the blood and probably yes, more maternal or sisterly. There were times when I was with a man and aching to be with my female friends instead. While, to be fair, that was more of a reflection on the quality of the man that I was with, it also showed who I was myself more with.

Why don’t they have an International Men’s Day? ‘Because every day is international men’s day’ would be the standard answer but also because think of what the celebrations would involve. Now you know I am never one to generalise but I’m imagining troops of chunky legged, flushed men holding their drinks to the sky and giving each other hearty hugs with furtive gropes for some. So boys, let’s look at the women instead and – for a change – not through the gaze of a camera or the hazy pages of a magazine but what’s here and now.

We can look at all the inspiring women they are, and it’s great that there are so many – some of whom were listed in The Guardian today. But in doing that it’s easy to forget ourselves. The women who are political activists, controversial pop stars or CEOs of large companies are, without a doubt, to be congratulated for what they’re doing for other people. But we are all on an equal plane with them. While we are doing the dishes, working hard, managing our money, going on through painful times, we need to remember that.

When you think of an inspiring woman, it is so tempting to think  ‘I COULD be one of them if I worked hard/met the right people/was more dedicated’. It’s easy to forget the alarmingly real truth. That is the beauty of it. You are now. It’s done, it just is.

Travelling in India for the last few months, there were times when it was tough to be a woman. Particularly when I was travelling alone, as Indian women don’t tend to do that.  I got quizzical stares and sometimes malevolent ones. Once, when I was with another British Indian friend, we had to block our hotel door with furniture as we were the only women in the whole hotel and had been getting weird phone calls and glares.

It was clear that while women in the cities there enjoy the modernity we do of  sipping lattes and chatting to boyfriends on their mobile phones, there were still deep-seated ideas of how a woman should behave that are the foundation and won’t shake. Then again, that’s not unique to India.

At the end of my trip I had to be a lot stronger, and strangely I think that would have been very different if I had been a western women visiting India. As a Non Resident Indian (NRI) woman in India, I had to face my own inner critic about things I had been ignorant about and learn so much about how things would be for me if I had grown up in my native country – the good and the bad.

I suppose for me, my identity has always been spliced – British or Indian. The two combine in a twisted DNA helix of who I am and yet they are separate. Whether that gives me a stronger solidarity in my identity as a woman, I don’t know but it is something I am happily proud to be a woman today.

So today is about all of us and celebrating not just our achievements but, so much more importantly, who we are and who we have become.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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