After several years documenting the rise of China, award-winning Indian journalist Pallavi Aiyar moved to Brussels, the headquarters of the European Union, to discover a Europe plagued by a financial crisis, and unsure of its place in a world where new Asian challengers are eroding its old and comfortable certainties. With a lively mix of memoir, reportage and analysis, Aiyar takes the reader on a romp across the continent, meeting workaholic Indian diamond merchants in Antwerp, upstart Chinese wine barons in Bordeaux, Sikh farmhands in the Italian countryside, and Indian engineers running offshore energy turbines in Belgium.
In the Europe of today everything is in flux, as she discovers through conversations with Muslim immigrants struggling to define their identities, the austere bosses of Germany's world-beating companies, and bewildered Eurocrats struggling to keep the European Union from splitting apart. Examining the diverse challenges the continent faces today--among them, bloated welfare states, the accommodation of Islam, the European ambitions of Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs, and ancient intra-cultural fissures -- New Old World offers a panoramic look at Europe's first-world crisis from a unique Asian perspective.
Chinese Whiskers by Pallavi Aiyar is a charming fable set against the landscape of contemporary Beijing, seen through the eyes of two cats.
Soyabean is a middle class cat looked after by a grandmother who embodies traditional Chinese morality. Tofu is born to a stray cat mother in a backyard dustbin. They are brought together when they are adopted by foreigners, who live in a traditional style courtyard house in Beijing's traditional hutong neighborhoods. Then Soyabean is offered a job as a model for a new brand of cat food while at the same time a mysterious virus is sickening people across the city. Cats are blamed for it and are being rounded up, and Soyabean and Tofu's idyllic lives as pampered pets come to an abrupt end.
Interweaving real episodes in recent Chinese history such as the Olympic Games, the SARS virus, and tainted pet-food scandals with a richly imagined world, this heartwarming story of cats and humans does what W. Bruce Cameron's A Dog's Purpose did for canines. It will make you laugh and tear up, while showing the battles fought between the corruption of modern living and the ideals of traditional life.