The British Asian Blog

Life as it is @tbablog

Month: November, 2011

Are Public Libraries Dying or Thriving?

Are Public Libraries dying or thriving – By The British Asian Blog

There are moments in life when issues that you are most concerned about, that are occupying your thinking time suddenly come out into the open in the news, as if the news medium tapped into your mind and decided to publish your deep concerns for the wider community to see.  Such moment happened to me last Thursday and Friday.

While commuting into work, I picked up this thing you get for free in the railway station called ‘Metro’, which I make a point of never reading.  I don’t know what it was but my instinct took me to a news article which addressed an issue.  This was the exact same issue I had been debating silently in my mind for over a week.  You can find the same article here.

If you have time I do suggest you read the articles here and here, you will then understand my concern relating to Libraries.  The big question for me is “Are Public libraries in the UK dying or are they Thriving?”  Allow me to highlight some of my concerns, my views and opinion below:

Libraries have been a big part of my life and I’m sure going forward they will continue to be.  For me a library is a magical place, a place where knowledge of the world is contained for everyone to access.  It a place where you can break away from daily life distractions and open a new phase of life, possibilities and endless dreams and visions.  A library for me is the place which contributes to your character and shapes your personality of who you are and what you’re going to become.  I may write another blog post about how important libraries have been in my life.  But for the sake of my concerns I’ll limit what I write.

Discussion:

My opinion on this issue is that libraries are being used less by the public.  This is evident in at least in my own city, where once a thriving 8 floor central library has over the years shrunk to just 2.5 floors.  This I believe is linked to two main reasons:

1. People now have PC’s with Internet access in their homes, information is available at their finger tips and the information is almost endlessly available via the Internet.

2.  With the recent development of technology, we as people are using our handheld devices more and more for everything including reading.  Technology has therefore been developed to provide us with information digitally no matter where we are.  iPads, tablets, E-readers and Kindle devices have become a big hit with general public.

It’s common to see these e-readers or kindle devices more commonly while commuting to and from work; books will slowly fade away as people choose digital books over printed material.  The impact is obvious as less and less people will use their local library.

What makes matters even worse is the current economic situation, with the UK heading towards a double-dip recession funding for libraries is being cut on a massive scale, resulting in some small libraries closing, big ones having to reduce their operations and scale down on their facilities.  Does this mean Libraries are dying?

Although I believe libraries are not the same as they once were.  I am also optimistic that libraries will evolve and survive these turbulent times.

It can therefore be argued that precisely because the financial situation for everyone has changed for the worse by the current economic crisis that people and families have less money to spend.  People who once purchased a book online will now have a less expensive option in simply borrowing the book for free from their local library.

For this reason, Libraries are being used more and more, more so now than before the credit crisis.  Although its true people don’t take books out as often (if you compare to last 30 years or so) instead poorer families still rely on the library as their main source of information and resources:  PC, Internet Access, News papers, travelling guides are very popular.  What’s more is that libraries have evolved to accommodate community activities, hosting meetings and conferences, running charity events and become a hub for youth services.

The one real threat to books is ebooks.  There is always going to be a debate about piracy and security of ebooks but some public Libraries have embraced this form of reading material.  Evidence suggests some libraries have actually started to loan out ebooks to people with compatible devices.  For this they need to visit their library.  The loan time is the same as borrowing a book, and once your loan times expires the device deletes the ebook.

I’d like to read your thoughts on this matter.  To make people opinions count as statistics I have added a Poll below asking the question:  “Are Public libraries in the UK Dying or Thriving?”

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My Latest Reads

My Latest Reads, The British Asian Book Reivew

Few days ago, I completed my review for a Saraswati Park By Anjali Joseph.  Although this book a little long to read then my normal maximum one week per book dealing (due to a business holiday in between) it was still worth sharing my review.

This morning, I made my routine Saturday morning visit to my library and from the availble books I managed to pick a few for my latest reads.

For those who are not familiar with my style of reading, let me just explain that for the sake of this blog I mainly focus on reading novels based on British Asians or authors who are British Asian or Asian.  That said, I don’t limit my readings just to this category but do read on many other categories too.  But since my blog theme is mainly around British Asian I’d like to keep my readings limited to this.

Here are a list of books (not in) order:

1.  Londonstani – Gautam Malkani

2.  Something to Tell You – Hanif Kureishi

3.  Black Mamba Boy – Nadifa Mohamed

Londonstani - Gautam Malkani Something to Tell You - Hanif Kureishi Black Mamba Boy - Nadifa Mohamed

As and when I finish each book (I hope a week for each novel) I will share my review with you guys.  In the interim if you like to comment on these books, or have other books in mind that fit the bill and believe it will be a good read for me, then I’d like to hear about them too.

Saraswati Park By Anjali Joseph – Book Review

Author:  Anjali Joseph

Title:  Saraswati Park

Publisher:  Fourth Estate

Published:  3 March 2011

Pages:  300

 

Review by The British Asian Blog

I’ve never been to Mumbai in India, but the novelist Anjali Joseph made me feel as if I had been there during the time when Mohan is working as a letter writer, and there with Mohan’s nephew Ashish who is sent to live with his uncle and retake his final year at college.  The story forms around three main characters, Mohan and his nephew Ashish and a secondary character Lakshmi who remains slightly out of focus in this story as Mohan’s wife.

Mohan is the reason why I like this book so much, because his story forms the foundation on which the story is set on.  Not only does Mohan makes me see the things he sees, he makes me feel the things he feels but there is allot going on than just his regular daily routine, and Mohan gradually opens up and tells you about it.

Mohan’s job as a letter writer is a job which once flourished, and he explains how so many people use to sit outside the courts under this huge tree writing letters for other people and over the years he has seen his work colleagues fade away to only a handful.  His job use to be one of pride and being able to write letters fill in forms and simply write things for people who couldn’t.  But now he feels stuck between a job which no longer pride but only a necessity.

Mohan is joined by his Nephew, a teenager who is struggling to find his feet.  A character which is opposite to Mohan in many ways.  Both male characters share their struggles with you as a reader and because most of us have gone through similar feelings some point in our lifes – we can relate and feel for them.  Lakshmi on the other hand appears at first to be a women in control and like a robot stuck to her routine.  But just like the other two male characters she shares her concerns and issues gradually and you can help but feel for her.

Saraswati Park is filled with interesting characters and what makes this book so interesting is how the surroundings are explained.  You can simply picture yourself inside the scenes of this book.

Saraswati Park in its self is half a character in this book; it’s a place where all emotions are captured and a place which brings together the goods, the bads, the highs and the lows.

The author Anjali Joseph has done remarkably well with this debut novel, although the ending is somewhat disappointing in comparison to the start and middle of the story – but I guess this is a clever little move by the author to keep you engaged with the novel right till the last words.  I have formed my opinion of the author as someone with potential and I am keen to see what else is in the pipe line.

Overall, I would rate this novel 7.5 out of 10.

The British Asian Blog is now on twitter (@TBABlog)

The British Asian Blog is now on twitter @TBABlog

After much resistance, debate, sweet-talk, consideration The British Asian Blog has joined the Twitter Party.  I’m still getting my head around Twitter and so far so good.

You can now follow me @TBABlog

See you here and there.

Master Chef India – Simply Brilliant.

Master Chef India – Simply Brilliant – By The British Asian Blog

Cooking is a big part of my life, and it has been as far back as I can remember – even as a child just helping out the ladies at home.  Ever since my first days at University I have taken cooking very serious, serious enough to know that cooking requires having ‘good taste, creativity and good presentation skills’.

What makes it more exciting for me is being adventurous and experimental in cooking, something which gives me a thrill.

Over the last decade I have seen more and more cooking TV shows crop up, one after another and better than the last one.  From ‘Ready steady cook’ to ‘The F Word’ to ‘Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares’ I enjoyed them all.

Then one day – my heart melted when I first watched Master Chef aired in the UK.  The thrill of cooking with last minute given ingredients, limited by time, closely watched by two Chefs and to later get judged on cooking ability, taste, creativity and presentation skills was simply a king of all shows.

Since then, I have been blown away by Master Chef India and as Guardian put it in October 2010 “The ingredients are: a Bollywood star, months of auditions around India, thousands of candidates, one of the biggest potential audiences in the world, satellite TV, and lots and lots of cash. Welcome to MasterChef India”.  This show (currently running its second season) is simply breath taking and hearth throbbing.  I have never seen anything like it and I don’t believe anything can beat it (so far).

The current season ‘Master Chef India 2’ is hosted and judged by world renowned Indian Chef Vikas Khanna, and last year it was hosted by Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar – known to be a man who can cook as well as act.

I find that Master Chef India in comparison to Master Chef UK to be more thrilling, more adventurous and more demanding from its contestants.  It simply blows you away by the pressures put on the contestants and despite at times the contestants appearing to fall flat on their faces through exhaustion they somehow and from somewhere manage to find that energy to produce food of high standard.

What makes Master Chef India more exciting to watch is the constant bluntness of the judges who simply speak their minds and their stubborn attitudes, adding the fear of being shredded apart by the judges once their food is tasted.

I strongly suggest everyone to watch this show, if not for cooking reasons then at least for its entertainment.  You won’t be disappointed.

Smoking in Cars – Poll results thus far

Recently, I wrote a blog post titled ‘Should smoking in cars be banned?‘.  I also added a Poll to this blog post – which I think was a good move to understand how people thought and felt around this topic.

It’s been three days since the post was published, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share the results for this Poll thus far with you.  I don’t have any immediate plans to close the Poll from people wanting to vote and when I do decide to close the Poll I will once again publish the results.

The results thus far:

50% of people voted for ‘Smoking should be banned altogether’

16% of people voted for ‘Smoking in cars should be banned’

16% of people voted for ‘Smoking ban in public places is far enough’

0% voted for ‘Smoking in cars should NOT be banned’.

As I mentioned earlier, the Poll has only been running for three days, but a sizeable amount of people have voted for which I am proud of, and I intend to keep this Poll running for a little longer.

Poll ratings can change any time but so far the Poll suggests clearly that smoking is a big issue and majority of people want smoking to be banned altogether.  Again I am not suggesting smoking should be banned but from the Poll you can see the majority of people wanting a more wider ban.

A serious question must be asked at this point, which is if other intoxications just as harmful but have caused less deaths (per year) are banned in this country (the UK) then why hasn’t cigarettes been banned?

Should smoking in cars be banned? I say YES

Should smoking in cars be banned? by The British Asian Blog

I’d like to share with you my opinion on whether or not smoking in cars should be banned.

On my daily commute back from work, I happen to bump into a friend who I hadn’t seen for months.  During our conversation on the train to our destination we quickly came onto the topic of smoking in vehicles.  This friend of mine is a GP and a well respected one too.

Disclaimer:  Before I continue on this topic note that I do not smoke, never have done and never will. Same goes for alcohol and other intoxications other than prescribed medicine.  So anything I say here is simply my opinion and my view(s) on this matter.

Earlier we both were aware of the fact that smoking in vehicles was highlighted in the media – where medical and healthcare professionals called for smoking to be banned in cars.  So we had a quick discussion and since my friend is a GP who takes such matters very seriously – we both acknowledged the fact that smoking in cars should be totally outlawed and banned – much the same way as smoking was banned in public places.

We disagreed however on how this ban should come into force.  His opinion on this matter was on the basis of how the government had already done most of the work by providing solid evidence that smoking is bad for your health and as well as highlighting the risks involved to the smoker including evidence that smoking is more dangerous to people and environments around them.  He further explained that since smoking was banned in public places the mindset of smokers had already been moulded thus imposing a straight overnight ban (so to speak) on smoking in vehicles while travelling would not be too much of an issue for all concerned, other than short term anger and frustration by smokers.

My opinion on this matter differed greatly, as I am a firm believer in understanding both sides of the story.  Let’s not ignore the fact that sales of cigarettes are a boost to the UK economy and provide a sizeable income – hence why the government needed to be cautions on how they tackle this issue.  In my opinion this issue needs to be tackled over a reasonable time frame allowing segments of this law to be introduced in parts and expanding over a period of few years.  This has two main benefits: 1 – introducing laws in piecemeal has less of an impact on the people affected then to hit them hard in one go, 2 – it will allow for segments of the law to be put through a trail period where the results can be monitored, leading to a solid foundation or backbone in justifying an outright band eventually to be placed.

Admittedly there are other benefits of implementing a law in segments, the details of which I won’t bore you with.  However, I see this as a change in habit(s) than a attack on smokers.

On the flip side, it is believed that people have the option to either travel with or avoid travelling with a smoker – which is a valid point too, but similar arguments were given when a ban on smoking in public places was coming into force and now years later it has been widely accepted.

I’d be interested to know what your opinion on this matter is, please share your views with me and everyone else.  I’d also like you to participate in the poll below:

Fuel Prices fiasco

An e-petition signed by 110,000 people (including me) was debated in the house of commons today.  I have been following this news all day today in the hope that some good and in the interest of the general public may well be the result.  I am afraid to say I am more disappointed now than I was before.

I’m left totally confused and baffled with the outcome of this debate.  Robert Halfon said the government must show it is one “that cuts taxes for millions of British people and not just for millionaires”.  The government approved it BUT without a vote meaning it’s not binding on ministers.  I then beg the question “why was it even debated if the outcome was going to be nothing?”

Families, commuters, small and medium size businesses who depend on their vehicles daily are struggling to survive as it is.  To make matters worse an extra 3p a litre fuel duty is expected in January 2012 – resulting an extra £1.50 to fill an average car.  It’s a credit crunch, the economy has shrunk and there is no sign of economic growth and with the closure of so many public and private sector unemployment is at record level yet we are expected to pay more at the pumps.  Is it me or has the government lost the plot all together.

See the breakdown and cost of petrol and diesel below:

There is talk for ministers to consider whether the UK tax rates are economically competitive, the impact they are having on economic growth and unemployment and to device a “fair fuel stabiliser” mechanism for the future – as we all well know that before anything is really done about this (if anything at all) the UK business, families and all others who depend on their vehicles would be at the brink of collapse.

Overall – the day started positively but ended disastrously for both the UK economy and  millions of British people, I was expecting the government and ministers to really help us out here and to really understand our situation(s).  But unfortunately like everything else we have been left to fight for ourselves and ahead lies more trouble and turbulent times.

I guess it’s now time to downgrade and exchange my Range Rover for a Nissan Micra.

 

2017 World Athletics Championships to be held in United Kingdom

I did have my doubts whether the United Kingdom could take on rich Doha, but it seems United Kingdom pulled it off.  London was selected ahead of Doha by 16-10 vote.

The decision for London to host these Championships came after failed 2001 and 2015 bids, and its believed 2012 Olympic stadium will be used.

Overall, this good news is expected to boost UK economy and as well as attract much needed investment to the decreasing sports culture in this country.  It’s time Britain produced more athletes and this success no doubt will give more encouragement to the younger generation.

Friday Funnies – Part 4

Friday Funnies by The British Asian Blogger

Disclaimer: Not intended to offend anyone but if they do then tuff – that’s just life.

Previous Friday Funnies Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Friday Funnies Number One:

What are the three fastest means of communication?
1) Television
2) Telephone
3) Telawoman

Friday Funnies Number Two:

A man inserted an advertisement in the classifieds section with the heading “Wife Wanted.” – The next day he received a hundred letters saying “You can have mine.”

Friday Funnies Number Three:

What do you say to a woman with 2 black eyes?
Nothing, she’s been told twice already.

Friday Funnies Number Four:

How many men does it take to open a beer?
None. It should be opened when she brings it

Friday Funnies Number Five:

If your dog is barking at the back door and your wife is yelling at the front door, who do you let in first?
The dog, of course. He’ll shut up once you let him in.

You have any Friday Funnies to share?

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