2021- the year that was…

It’s that time of the year again! A time when we look back at the year and draw up a mental balance sheet of sorts — to see what went well for us and what didn’t. Since acronyms are the thing these days,- my 2021 can be summarised into the 3 Rs- Recuperation, Running and Reading.

In my reckoning, coming out of the horror show of the pandemic, relatively unscathed, would count for the biggest plus. It was a lesson in gratitude that few other events could’ve taught! Gratitude to life, privileges I enjoy and the friends and family who showered us with good wishes and great food all through our tryst with covid. Gratitude is truly underrated !

At such a time counting professional wins seems almost trivial (you could also say they didn’t account for much!) So what do I count among my wins:

Dusting off and making a fresh start: Covid set me back big time in something I truly enjoy- running. But slowly and surely I’m getting back- from struggling to run 5k after covid, to running 10k a week was a big win. Thanks are due to my running friends who were ready to scale down targets at any time in the interest of “habit formation” and the neighbourhood dosa joint(Aarogya Aahara, HSR layout) which made sure that the reward at the end of the run every Saturday, 6:30 a.m was worth the effort! So, I’m going to make sure the two viz- running and dosa, move in tandem in the coming year.

Reading slow, reading wide : “What’s your reading challenge”- asked my good reads app. Having been through the 52 books in 52 weeks and more in the last few years, I wanted to look beyond the number game. It’s great to have that number when you want to amp up your reading levels- but I took the Goodhart’s law seriously for this one — ” When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” So this year, I read more non fiction- something that my 20 something self would’ve scoffed at! I finally practiced the art of overcoming the sunk cost fallacy, when I learnt to abandon book(s) I didn’t enjoy within the first 30 pages of reading them.

This is also the season when everyone is giving their top 10 reads. Without getting into the number game, here is how I felt about some of the books:

Barack Obama in his A Promised land kept me company on my walks. What made Obama’s book special for me, was that I experimented with the medium. I’m not one for “listening to books”. But Obama’s baritone made me want to seek out those solitary runs to be with the audiobook ! I didn’t go back to that medium after that, but like they say, it was good while it lasted.

Josy Joseph, M Rajasekhar and Suchitra Vijayan through their books The Silent Coup Despite the State and Midnight’s Borders respectively kept me awake with worry while Ghazala Wahab’s Born a Muslim gave me new perspectives on Islam, something that I was most ill informed about. I delved a bit into gender studies engaging with Dr. Alice Evans’ work. Caroline Perez’s Invisible Women and Sonia Faleiro’s The Good Girls threw further light on the unequal world we inhabit.

In the fiction world, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun opened up possibilities of what the world could be through artificial friends, while Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain drove home yet again, our vulnerabilities as humans in a heart wrenching way. Anees Salim’s The Odd book of Baby Names was pure delight and I rounded off the year with the always enjoyable Amor Towles’ The Lincoln Highway. And then there were the comfort reads — The Greatest Bengali Stories ever told, Arunava Sinha’s masterful translation of Kabuliwaala and other stories that brought forth the beauty of Bengali literature. Side note: Bengali literature and Malayalam cinema are my best discoveries of the year.

There were a ton of other books that helped with education and entertainment in equal measure (Aakar Patel’s The Price of the Modi years and Matt Haig’s The Midnight library to mention some more). But all in all, like always, the world of books proved to be my gateway drug to the world and life at large!

What’s next- I’m not one for resolutions or targets — but 2022 will be about expressing gratitude, trying new stuff altogether (a Himalayan trek maybe), reading new genres from lesser read about geographies (Latin America for sure) and enjoying the journey! What were your 3Rs or any other letters from the alphabet for that matter? What are your plans? Care to share?

P.s: I may just give Cixin Liu’s Three Body Problem another try ;-)

P.s : If you have read till here and still want to know about all that I read— https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2021/72163637

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Suman Joshi

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