Monthly Archives: November 2008

Moti Mahal Delux

After being told by a lovely voice to contact Airtel customer care, since the numbers i dialled could not be found, we still reserved after having got through to the mobile number. Moti Mahal is in Lido Mall, on Old Madras Road, and serves Indian and Mughlai cusine. We realised after we got there, that a reservation really wasn’t necessary, since there were exactly 3 groups during the time we spent there. It perhaps has to do with the fact that they weren’t accepting any credit cards, except for Amex (only for the day). Before I really get stuck in a Sholay kind of scene (Jai and Mausi for Viru’s rishta with Basanti), let me proceed.

So, after checking our wallets’ cash component, and ensuring that we wouldn’t be washing vessels later, we started with a Moti Mahal Almond and Mushroom soup. It was quite spicy, thanls to the contribution from the open green chilly. Its served in glasses, not exactly the style I prefer. There were tiny slivers of almond, and we hoped that the mushroom was somehow built in. I think you should try some kababs, since there are lots of options, though all the non veg options are priced over Rs.295

For the main course, we ordered a ‘Murg Korma from Old Delhi’, a ‘Brain Masala’ and to go with it, an onion kulcha and a lal mirchi ka paratha.  The chicken curry was just about okay, though the quantity was more than sufficient. D says the tomato flavour that it had was a bit overboard (I wonder why i never have these gustatory perceptions :| ) The brain masala was quite good, and perhaps the redeeming factor, though at Rs.295, it happens to be the costliest brain I’ve had. (comic references to MY brain will not be tolerated..hmmph) They also give a small paratha as part of the brain dish. The Kulcha was big enough not to warrant a second one, and was quite good. The lal mirch paratha didn’t go overboard in spiciness.The dessert options are the regular North indian cuisine suspects, except for Mawa Chocolate, but we were too stuffed to try.

The ambience is not great, quite bare. I also thought that the two seater tables could be a bit bigger, especially since their roti containers are quite large. The service was quite pleasant, except for the part where we were asked whether we were ready for the main course, when we’d just started with the soup. All of the above and a mineral water cost us a rupee and fifty paise short of Rs.1000, that’s inclusive of a service charge of 10%.

Moti Mahal Delux, Lido Mall, 1/4 Swami Vivekanand Road, Near Trinity Circle, Ulsoor, Bangalore Ph: 080 42127112/3, 9741886985

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Once was Bombay

Pinki Virani

This is the best ‘Bombay’ book i’ve ever read. It shows us a view of Bombay through the images of characters that even non residents will identify as belonging to Bombay – the actor, the bhai, the encounter cop, the politician, and so on. Pinki Virani obviously feels for Bombay, and reflects the myriad range of a Bombayite’s emotions now – anger, frustration, cynicism all stemming from Bombay’s change from then to now
What’s wonderful about the book is that it stays true to the title and takes you on a journey in time – to how a place or a road came to be called so, and the societal changes that time has brought about there. It also has some incisive takes on the machinations that has transformed Bombay into what it is now.
Long before Mumbai there was Bombay, and i can identify a lot with the difference it makes to the people who have seen the change, even though i don’t live there. This book easily gets into my all time favourites.

Hail Whale

…and as the world watched with bated breath, Twitter said ‘no deal‘ to Facebook. The primary reasons cited were the worth of Facebook stock (which was a key component in the payment) and the fact that Twitter wanted a shot at building revenues. Now that the deal is off, Mashable has a take on who Facebook should actually be looking to acquire. Among the lot, my picks would be Imeem and Jaxtr.

Technically, Facebook also has a status updating mechanism built into its new design, but despite its massive popularity as a social network it hasn’t come close to the popularity that Twitter has managed to gain – a whopping 343% YOY as on Sep 2008. More than a billion tweets have been tweeted so far. The fun part is that both these popular entities have been struggling for revenues. So, what makes Twitter so popular? I think the one key factor is the simplicity. Although we’ve gone beyond the ‘what are you doing’ part, whatever has to be done has to be still within 140 characters. But there’s no limit to the number of characters you can find there. ;) One more factor is the amazing army of twitter based apps that seem to increase in leaps and bounds daily. While Facebook has apps that are (in general) what could be termed as frivolous, the majority of Twitter apps (there are exceptions)  either enhance the service or utilise the service to provide a new dimension altogether.

I saw a couple of interesting posts on how Twitter could develop further. The first, an article on Business Week, took examples of other microblogging services, and the second, on TechCrunchIT, wtites about how Twitter can become the single post office of the variety of services that we use on the net – the aggregator + conversation model that seems to be working well for Friendfeed.

Meanwhile, after some consideration on the deal, I think I might have liked to see my facebook updates automatically sent to twitter, and the comments on them shown on FB too. I’d have liked to see the follow function used on Facebook, so that I can have some level of filtration before being friends. In fact Twitter already does that for me already, a kind of filtration, a sort of checking the person out for shared interests, wavelength etc before adding on FB. After all, Twitter is ‘permission based stalking‘, and fast paced tweet streaming of many to many. Facebook would complement that perfectly by being there for one to one interactions.

Twitter is a trust economy, where one person judges another’s credibility and expertise over a period of time through his tweets. And this one to one relationship then replicates itself over and over. The wisdom of crowds makes it easy for a bluff to be called. This is the basis of twitter’s community. Yesterday’s Twitterstream of Mumbai’s events made me realise a few things. Rather, it reaffirmed a couple of notions, and made me question my faith on twitterati, much to my grief. It reaffirmed that while Twitter is great for breaking news, it is extremely difficult to filter out the ‘noise’ and get ready information. It reaffirmed that traditional media, especially television channels, have a powerful tool in twitter, but they need to step out of broadcasting and develop a unique mechanism for twitterverse. Lastly it reaffirmed that inspite of the fail wails when the fail whale appears,  Twitter is loved and respected as a news source enormously. The uncomfortable part, I realised that a ‘dark side’ beckons even on twitter, tweople are people after all (duh), and are not incorruptible when it comes to using a situation (however tragic it might be) to divert some attention to themselves.

until next time, any system that humans create is fallible ?

PS. a round of applause for @vinu & @dina some priceless work on a dark, crazy night…and day!!

PPS. A few interesting Twitter based services I’ve come across recently. In addition to this amazing laundry list, there’s TweetBeep, TweetScribe ( mechanisms similar to Google Alerts), Tweader (that threads Twitter conversations), TwitteRel, JustTweetIt (find users with similar interests), Twitrratr (a grading system that helps the + and – tweets on a person, topic etc, though the system is very simplistic), TwitWall (to share videos, mp3, photos etc), Splitweet (handle multiple twitter accounts and brand monitorizing) Tweeple Twak (in addition to the Qwitter and CityTweets type of data, it tells you how your followers have expanded over time and geography). In fact, as this post shows, you can pretty much link everything using Twitter. In fact, Twitter could even become your virtual personal assistant. :)

The Moment

The moment went off without a thought. It was only when his wife reminded him that he realized the specialness of the moment. It wasn’t much, but the last time it happened was eighteen years back, in eighth standard. The next day, he chewed over the nostalgic moment a bit before he opened his lunchbox.

until next time, do you remember your favourite school lunch box? :)

News..yes. Papers?

Rupert Murdoch recently stated that the doomsayers predicting the end of the newspaper industry are off the mark. According to him, online readers also need news form a source that they can trust, and that’s what newspapers have always been doing. He agreed though, that newspapers would have to change from the ‘one size fits all’ approach to cater to readers’ demands. He mentioned his plans for WSJ, to offer three tiers of online content: free news, a subscriber-level service, and a third “premium service” of reader-customizable “high-end financial news and analysis.”

The newspaper, or a very close electronic cousin, will always be around. It may not be thrown on your front doorstep the way it is today.

On the whole, I tend to agree with him. However, I also feel that newspapers would be missing the point,  if they see this as just a change of platform. Its a mindset change, not just in terms of news delivery, but also in the way they approach business. After all, even the biggest names, like NYT , Gannett (publisher of USA Today) , are not in the pink of financial health.

Before we get to that, a few varied ‘heritage media’ (print) trends. On one hand, we have publications like Christian Science Monitor and PC Magazine and many others switching to a primarily online only presence. On the other hand, the NYT opened up a couple of APIs, releases an AIR based news reader, the Guardian buys PaidContent, and offers full text RSS feeds, the Financial Times’ new site design resembles a blog, and some magazines are even rolling out Instant Messaging functionality. Over to India, Live Mint and Business Standard have recently launched podcasting (via WATBlog), India Today added Cosmopolitan to their existing list of digital properties and Business Standard has launched a branded Instant Messenger – BS Buddy (via Medianama). In essence, newspapers and magazines seem to be looking a bit more seriously at making the transformation from real to virtual.

So this is a good question to ask – what’s the next step for news? To start with, they could take a good look at this list of 10 things that every Newspaper/Magazine site must do. This itself would be completely against a few things that they’d consider sacred – most notably, link sharing and responding to comments. Broadly, I’d imagine it to be a two pronged approach

  • figure out how to deliver their content on digital platforms, and that might even lead to changes in the kind of content they gather, and the way they gather it.
  • figure out a business model that can leverage the content they have – subscription/ advertising/ both.

First the content aspect. A lot of publications have been experimenting with citizen journalism. They’d do well to check out tools like CoverItLive. Instead of randomly adding a ‘blog’ section to the website, make it work. Get enthusiastic journalists to blog. Get regular bloggers to do guest columns on specific topics of their interest. Promote them and the content they add to the site. This would help them being aggregators who also serve niche interest communities. What is equally important is to bring about a systemic approach to making journalists regard their story as just a start, and getting them to take ownership of making it a conversation. There are advantages in it for them – new story ideas as well as a better understanding of their readers. Yes, Twitter can help in the conversations too. These changes in news gathering techniques might very well change the quantity and quality of newsroom staff. This makes a great case study.

The business aspect. I read a a very insightful article on how the entry of print publications into the digital medium will change the balance of power and wealth in the link economy. This process has already started. But before that, I think they have to see themselves as news sources, rather than just the newspaper on the web. This would influence how and where they position their ads, and would help them deliver better value to advertisers, as well as readers. While on this subject, I think online ad networks that include newspapers (with various editions and publications) along with independent blog/ blog networks that complement/add on to their content, might make sense. I remember NYT making a sort of conglomerate in association with 3 other newspapers, sometime back. There are other business models too. For example, there are community funded reporting services like Spot.us. (via RWW) Do check out this link for a very radical approach.

Though readership of dailies (with very few exceptions) continue to drop, I don’t think newspapers are in their death throes in India. But should they wait for that? A good brand takes some time to build. There’s a reason why more people in India visit Rediff and Yahoo and even the web 18 properties than Indiatimes/ Times of India group properties. I’m hoping to see something like Instablogs join the big league soon. Brand loyalty in the real world need not translate into brand loyalty in the virtual world, especially when you’re dealing with a (by now) commodity called news. And as newspapers would know from their real experiences, once readers are used to a certain way of consuming content, it’s difficult for a competitor to sneak in. It would pay well to learn from mistakes – of those aborad who might have waited too long to transform. After all, what doesn’t kill you doesn’t necessarily have to make you stronger. And I’m not sure if newspapers would like to be part of the thin end of the long tail of news consumption, with pure play web entities occupying the head.

until next time, save paper, save the environment :)

Password…protected?

I sometimes end up passively watching ‘Moment of Truth’ – passively because it plays in the background while I’m surfing on the web. In the beginning I used to have a healthy disrespect for not just those who indulged in spilling out details of their life (mostly of the skeletal variety found in cupboards) but those whose voyeuristic inclinations made them watch it intensely.

But now, it has also made me wonder about the almost cyclical nature of transparency. Wasn’t there a state when everyone knew everything about everyone else? Or, rather, one protoplasmic entity with a single consciousness? And then it evolved slowly until everyone had secrets. And now we have people willing to reveal their secrets for money. Of course, it doesn’t take us back to the original level, but still…

In a comparable context, sometime back, there was also an interesting discussion on twitter, on privacy issues on the web, and people getting to know passwords. Like i said there, I’d classify these password hunters into basically two types – one for whom your identity is just another information source – banking passwords, credit card details etc, this guy wouldn’t be interested in  say, your clandestine relationships; two would be the guy who knows you personally and would like to really like to find something personal about you via your virtual life.

Do we fear the second kind more than the first kind? Because he will break the persona that we have built over the years, in front of others, show them what we are beneath the veneer, and more importantly force us to face ourselves? Isn’t that the reason we are so jittery about privacy. It can’t be just the fear that he might use our accounts for something bad. When I look at it objectively, personal accounts (mail, blogging, social networks etc) are just data- data that we might choose not to share, what we call personal data. But what exactly do we mean by personal? Isn’t it just something, that if told to someone else would shame us to some extent? Isn’t that what we are trying to protect? Or am I missing something? What really is privacy?

I really wonder if these privacy issues will somehow (in the long run) force us to have characters that are more spotless, a sort of utopian existence, when people are so transparent to each other, that there will be no reason or room for secrets? I think it’s possible, you?

until next time, translucent lives

Bigg Loss?

At the beginning of this season of Bigg Boss – Bigg Boss 2, I had wondered how many brands would involve themselves in the reality show. I was hoping that they’d not stick to obvious brand placement and make themselves a part of the story. I noted about eight brand plugs, though there might be more, since my viewing waned towards the end. I had some uncomfortable introspective moments when I caught myself watching four guys in a reality show. Now, its difficult to figure out whether brands got a good value out of these associations, since we don’t know the kind of financials involved. So, I’ll restrict myself to my takeouts as a viewer.

  • Airtel – Airtel gave away tees for the Delhi Half Marathon, a very clear case of ‘Here, wear’, but salvaged a bit by making a task out of it – all the inmates asked to run (combined) a distance of 21 kms without stopping. I think there was a charity link too. 175 comments generated here for the episode, I didn’t see Airtel there. Airtel also had its ringtone as the wake up tune on many days. But the one that worked best for me was the scroller that happened whenever two inmates who were sulking with each other started talking to each other. It read ‘Barriers break when people talk’. Of course, when Sambhavna and Payal were involved, it usually led to more fights, but I wouldn’t take it against Airtel.
  • Fevicryl – I remember Fevicryl only from one episode, but it left a mark. As a task, the inhabitants of the house were asked to make gifts for their fellow inmates, using some basic items and Fevicryl. The interesting part was how the inmates made stories out of the various things they made for each other. A few of them still remain with me like fevicryl decorated diyas being given to “light up someone’s world”, and a very ethnic design made to ‘remind someone about India’ always. The offering of Fevicryl was weaved into the narrative of the show, and it resulted in some good conversations. Impressive stuff, Fevicryl.
  • Dettol – sigh, ‘what can you do with dettol’ was the question asked as part of the task. How imaginative! The task fizzled out even before it started. The ‘babies’ track was boring as it is, using Dettol to wash the nappies was a force fit.
  • Vanish – Hey, someone actually came up with the idea that I’d proposed for Tide, starring Rakhi Sawant. The task was to wash clothes with vanish, and Monica mentioned the dirt removing capacity of Vanish. Actually, they should’ve got Payal and Sambhavna to do this, they washed the maximum dirty linen in public. Not bad, not great.
  • Kinetic Pleasure – With a generous sprinkling of ‘Why should boys have all the fun’, this task had the girls riding the vehicle around inside the house. Impossible to miss, but depends on how much was paid. If visibility was the agenda, consider it achieved.
  • Max New York – I’d already mentioned their good use of the ‘Shandaar Budget’ board. Since everyone ends up wanting more budget, the line ‘Karo zyaada ka iraada’ fits well there. There was also a task, based on the line, in which the inmates had to give a speech on how they were best suited to win, and what they’d do with the prize money. In fact, I noticed that later, when the inmates discussed their plans (after they got outside) they invariably mentoned the line too. One of the better usage in the show. Good work, i thought.
  • Mainland China – A few days before Diwali, they sent dinner for the housemates. It was a pity that one of the inmates (forget who) complained about the food. Ouch!!
  • Chevrolet – Chevrolet gave away an Aveo U-Va car for the ‘Bade Dilwala’ of the house. Turned out to be Rahul Mahajan. Since this was given away only in the end, but was discussed on every eviction day, they did get some good visibility. The product connect (Saif’s Chevrolet ad focuses on the interior space) was decent.

In this context I have to also commend in.com for the exclusive online tieup. While some of the efforts were decent, there is still a reluctance on the part of brands to refrain from one way communication of their message. Tang (in the first season) was just there, the story and the communication happened organically. I would have liked to see brands weave themselves into the context and have their communication as a result as opposed to the start point.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if all the brands were happy to just ride on the popularity and viewership of Bigg Boss, and just have themselves seen in the show. So, what did you think of the product placements?

until next time, karo zyaada ka iraada? ;)

PS. If you can remember any more brand placements, please let me know via the comments section.

Kolkata

No, this is not the one with the Oh, on St.Marks Road (that’s Calcutta anyway), this is closer to home – Koramangala. Very near to the place where i first stayed in Bangalore, in ST Bed. Okay, so when you’re coming from the Indiranagar side, take a left at the Sony World junction (from the National Games Village side keep coming straight). At the next signal (after Identiti, and opp Silsila, the junction which used to have the Maharaja restaurant) take a left, and then, another left. You’ll see Kolkata on the right. Yes, finally something right. It’s actually not very difficult to find. Parking shouldn’t be too difficult for 4 wheelers, it certainly isn’t for two wheelers.

The place is very well done, with a lot of ethnic Bengali stuff on display – handicrafts, art etc. The person who runs the place said she had done it up herself. It’s very good, for the most part, and keeps the ambience in line with the name of the place. The staff are extremely courteous and the place emanates a very homely feeling. Since we planned to reach there early, we didn’t reserve, but the crowd picked up as we were leaving. So you’d do well to reserve if you plan to go after 8.30.

So, we decided to skip the soup and start with some fried fish. The start was a bit disappointing since the fish was nothing special. Not that it was bad, but it was the kind of stuff we regularly have outside. The Bengali options in starters didn’t appeal to us (mostly because of my personal dislike for some vegetables) and the one we did decide on first was not available.

So, with some apprehension, we approached the main course. At first we thought that we’d have some chicken and fish with luchis. But the person in charge of our table, really took charge, after we started placing the order. To him, our order must have seemed  a gross insult to the way Bengali food must be  consumed, in terms of combinations. So, to begin with, he brought us luchis (one plate – 4 numbers) with Kosha Murgi ” a dry chicken preparation cooked in select spices’. Though the menu says dry, its actually a thick gravy, which goes extremely well with the luchis. Next up, we had ghee rice with Macher Jhol (which is the regular bengali fish curry). An awesome combination as the items complemented each other perfectly. My problem with Bengali food has always been the mustard oil flavor, but thankfully I didn’t feel it, at least in the dishes we had. Must be said, everything we’d ordered was served piping hot. The quantities are absolute value-for-money and such that you can try out many things. And now comes the best part of the dinner – dessert!! While I’m not an expert on bengali desserts, and haven’t gone more than the regular (usually KC Das and tin cans) rasgullas, mishti doi, and rasmalai, I’d still say that the desserts at this place were sublime. I ordered mishti doi and it was different from the stuff I regularly have, and different in a very nice way. But the Ras Malai that D ordered went beyond that. It’s a must have. As the owner rightly said, the effect it had on D was quite evident from the broad grin on her face.

All of the above cost us just less than Rs.700. The place is definitely worth your visit, and you really must try the desserts. My only suggestion to the owners would be to knock off the North Indian part of the menu, it didn’t make much sense to me to have that in a restaurant called Kolkata.

Kolkata, 965, 4th Cross, ST Bed, Koramangala , Bangalore. Ph: 42555999

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