Purpose Purporting

Purpose. I remember bringing this up earlier in ‘Coincide‘ and mentioning that different life stages manage to give us short term purposes which leave little time for this line of questioning – a larger purpose of life itself.  Like I told a friend recently, as though we took a life API and churned out all these fancy apps that now distract us from the purpose. What happens when you take those out of life? And when I say ‘those’, I also mean the alternate rat race that we convince ourselves is not one.

Turn out the light
And what are you left with?
Open up my hands
And find out they’re empty.
Press my face to the ground
I’ve gotta find a reason.
Just scratching around
For something to believe in:
Something to believe in.

I’ve wondered, even if one loves the work one does, does that become a purpose in itself? Is it really possible to be a karmayogi. Is that what makes a Tendulkar or a Yesudas? A larger sense of purpose? Doing the thing that they were meant to do? But even if that were so, what motivates them,  for a karmayogi should not feel any attachment towards the fruit of his actions. Indifference and detachment. There’s obviously a difference, yet to realise it fully.

I have also wondered, actually worried, if its the lack of a larger purpose that drives one to (try to) leave a legacy? Creating something that will perhaps outlive us, in whatever scale ? Does the potential future of a creation give a sense of purpose to the present?

On twitter, @Bhuto asked me whether anyone had asked me if my handle meant “hand in the crypt” (manus being Latin for hand). No one had, the handle actually came into being because I couldn’t get the original spelling as an ICQ handle. :)   I answered that I’d always thought of a grimmer version – of this being an online crypt. I think I’ve mentioned this here earlier. So years down the line if someone discovers this, the lifestream will perhaps convey a life.

You talk too much.
Maybe that’s your way
Of breaking up the silence
That fills you up.
But it doesn’t sound the same
When no one’s really listening

If you think that’s weird, there’s actually a site that has the same idea – 1000 Memories. Or how about a wireless headstone that will share its owner’s story with future generations? :) Or there’s also the Howard Stark version (when he speaks to his son) ” What is, and always will be, my greatest creation, is you, Tony.” Yep, that’s quite a popular way too. :D

For those who follow Malayalam movies, as is his wont these days, Mohanlal has already given the answers to ‘purpose’, in Aaram Thampuran, though the question was put differently. :)

But it is somehow difficult to even consider that life, in whatever way it is lived, is its own purpose.

You’re spending all your time
Collecting and discovering
It’s not enough.

until next time, multipurpose lives?

(Lyrics: Something to believe in, Aqualung)

2 States: The Story of My Marriage

Chetan Bhagat

When Khanna & Iyer met Ek Duje ke Liye. Chetan Bhagat’s works have never been literary classics, relying more on a racy story, wit, and an interesting enough plot. Sadly, this one works only the first count.

The plot is an oft repeated one – the love story of a Punjabi guy and a Chennai girl, who meet each other at IIM, and whose parents are opposed to their relationship. I found the depiction of the stereotypes obnoxious, and I’m neither Punjabi nor Tamilian. Making sure that there are digs aimed at both sides and having a disclaimer at the start that you only take digs at your own, doesn’t change the godawful way of depicting the ways of life of two communities. It definitely isn’t a substitute for wit. If the idea was to change the North-South relationship’s status quo, really sorry, but it only strengthens the stereotypes, and adds a few ones too. Sample this

“They sounded like long wails, as if someone was being slowly strangled” on Carnatic Music.

I finished the book, because I hate leaving books halfway, and thanks to a perverse wish to see the new depths being explored. I was extremely disappointed with the book, more so because I have always defended the author, and asked why books always have to be literary masterpieces, and can’t be just good entertainers. Chetan Bhagat had so far ensured that his books were entertainers, perhaps this one would deliver too, if you can say goodbye to your sensibilities and sensitivity for 267 pages.

The brand your brand could be like

The world seems to have loved the Old Spice guy horsing around. Even though the campaign had been around for a while, (via Surekha) the last couple of weeks took it to a completely different level, with the Old Spice guy (actor Isaiah Mustafa) sending unique video responses to people who had blogged/tweeted/written to him  – not just celebrities like Kevin Rose, Alyssa Milano, Mrs and Mr Demi More, Ellen DeGeneres etc but regular people too. He even made a marriage proposal on behalf of one @Jsbeals. You can see all his work at the channel here. Mashable has some statistics, which are quite amazing, and yet unsurprising – 180+ videos, 22500 comments, and more than 6 million views, when I last saw it. But more than the stats, it is the amount of interest that it has generated. The Google CFO mentioned it during an earnings call, and closer home, my eminent blogger friends – Bhat and Karthik have been gushing about it, understandably so. The Old Spice Guy even managed to charm 4chan, (this one is the 3rd most viewed in the series) and that I don’t think has a precedent! Meanwhile, after some really hard work (the making of), he has now wrapped up with one final video, thanking the internet.

There are many lessons from what is quite obviously a case study – an idea, its amazing execution, the co ordination between creative, social media and tech to get near real time responses done, the confidence/bravery/trust of P&G to allow this team the liberty to make the responses with minimal supervision and as Karthik wrote, the importance of creating some really kick a$$ content. And thus the point of the post – an example of brands being media.

When one way distribution platforms dominated, things were relatively simple – print ads, billboards, radio spots, TVCs, and even internet banners. But then came the tools of self publishing, the acknowledged game changer, with several possibilities.

It meant that brands, not unlike us common people, could create their own channels using multiple tools and services available. Some brands used it just as they would use the channels of an earlier era, and pushed until no one was interested.

When they were done with understanding that questioning the veracity of the content appearing online wouldn’t get them anywhere, some brands figured that the only difference that had been made was that a new breed of influencers and opinion makers/breakers/changers had been created. So, they formed alliances, sometimes transparent and sometimes not so. The thick line is now represented by multiple shades of grey. But that just seems to be the way the world in general works now, the Cisco-CNBC case, for example.

And then there were brands that went deeper and figured out that creating things that would spawn positive content would be a better idea, even if it meant that they had to rework everything. It could mean that they came out with a great product/service which created or mobilised legions of fanboys/girls. They could involve their consumers by asking for ideas. Or they could take on a cause honestly and contributed to the larger society. Not every brand has a CEO who sets a gold standard (here’s an excellent example of Anand Mahindra’s Twitter magic), but it definitely can create an environment that will make ambassadors of employees. It could create such great content or offer so much reward that  others generated excellent content for them (users created an Old Spice voicemail message) , or at least link to them. And if these aren’t possible, a brand could at least ensure that you offered a little value to consumers on the platforms they preferred. And these are by no means the master set.

When brands and their fan boys and girls become media in themselves, it raises many challenges too. What happens when a brand goofs up on a product and makes its vocal supporters seem like losers?  (you got that signal, I hope) How much of ownership can the brand take for the fans and how will their action or inaction affect those common consumers who are watching it all? What happens when there’s random malice that uses your brand name? (the recent Coke Facebook scam) Even for the star of the moment – Old Spice, what do they do, when a celebrity retorts in the same vein, and asks them to donate to a cause, that’s creating erm, waves all over the world. I, for one, am waiting for a response.

But despite all that, I believe that the opportunities make the challenges worthwhile. The work is definitely different – doing an eyewash research, releasing an ad, and adopting vague measurement techniques like reach won’t really cut it. With technology that discovers newer and newer contexts for consumers to express themselves, and their intent, brands have to learn to react, if not be proactive, in real time. So, since the web has successfully bottomed the costs of distribution, it is perhaps time that brands started investing the savings into creating good content, finding their way on platforms and with the people using the platforms.

until next time, content. is. marketing. too.

PS. next post, in a fortnight :)

Alibaba

The name conjures up the vision of a medieval Arabic story, and its indeed a restaurant that (also) serves Arabic cuisine. And just like the treasure, it makes itself very hard to find. Since we knew the rough location, we asked around until we reached there. Here’s a map for you. When coming from Coles road on Mosque road, take a left at the junction where Mosque Road meets MM Road (immediately after Empire Hotel). Then, Alibaba is at the corner of the first road to the left, on the first floor. The Charminar Kabab Centre opposite it is easier to notice. Parking is not much of a problem.

We got there late, well after 8, and were worried that we wouldn’t find a place. But the place started filling up only around 9. Its dimly lit, but the decor has a certain charm that deserves a special mention. There are red curtains,  lots of dark wood – right from the main door, sheeshas, and Moroccan lamps. I read somewhere that the seating capacity is exactly 40, and that some of the furniture  pieces are actually renovated bits and pieces from Navayathi furniture, including window frames, wooden chests and sewing machines! The seating is quite comfortable, but try not to take the stools without a backrest. Or maybe I was just wondering what exactly I was sitting on ;)

CIMG1250Alibaba serves Bhatkali, Arabian and Persian cuisines. The link to the menu is right here. But that really doesn’t do justice to the extremely unique menu ‘card’. Its a bit like holding history in your hands, literally. Click on it, and read it, before you start reading the actual menu. It will tell you about Bhatkal, the Navayaths, their culture, their dialect and the evolution of their cuisine. Its not as though as i require a special reason to like food, but I’ve always liked the idea of giving a historical and cultural context to the food quite fascinating.

What it also does, is add to the desire of trying out as many samples as is possible from the different cuisines that makes up the fusion. With limited numbers – two to be precise, that is quite a difficult task. But try we did.

CIMG1251We chose the Joo soup, “Chicken cubes, carrot, oats, garnished with parsley”, from the Persian cuisine. Little did we know that it was an old acquaintance. I not-so-fondly remembered the ‘sambar’ from Sufi – Soup-e-Jo! We also missed the chicken cubes. Not really a great start, but we’d traveled quite a bit to get here and refused to be easily let down.

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Next up was the Alibaba Special kebab “Chef’s special grilled chunks of boneless chicken and lamb”. That took quite a while and after a lot of fidgeting, we were told that it would be delayed. We were worried whether this was turning into a Arabian-Persian tragedy, but thankfully we got the chicken skewer in a couple of minutes. Very succulent stuff, but we were left to wonder whether the lamb had met with some alternate unfortunate fate. But just as we were about to enquire, the lamb skewer arrived. The vegetables in this were a bit burnt, but really, who cared, because the lamb was fine. Actually very good. Usually, this is served together, but apparently the lamb takes a while longer than the chicken to be convinced, so be prepared to wait a bit if you’re ordering this. The dish is a bit on the bland side, but tasty enough to give a try. If you’re a larger group, it might be a good idea to order other kababs too while you’re waiting for it, ones that will require less time. The service is very helpful and will help you with the choices.

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We decided to start the main course with Bhatkali cuisine – the Sharwa Maas, “Chicken/Mutton pieces cooked with authentic green chilli masala”. We chose the chicken version after a longish debate on whether to go for the Sharwa Maas or the Laun Miriya Maas (the red chilli version). Glad that we did. If you like spicy food, this dish is a must have. Its really tasty and while the green chilli masala does make a solid presence, it actually goes well beyond that and makes an excellent combination with the Gawa Poli, “Traditional Bhatkally Roti prepared with Wheat”. Actually the khubus too, which we’d ordered just to check it out.

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Up next was the Dajaj Machboos, “Middle Eastern Spiced Chicken served with Basmati Rice”. We asked for a half plate, but the guy who took our order told us that it would be too much and suggested two small portions. It turned out strange because the two ‘portions’ cost us more than the half plate (?!) But that doesn’t take away from the awesome rice. The masala was good too, and not really greasy, just like the rice, but it preferred the rice’ company over the chicken. Well, so long as we’re having it all together. D quite liked the tomato chutney provided with the dish, but i still hadn’t gotten over the earlier chicken dish. I think it’ll go with anything, it was that good!!!!

CIMG1265I was quite stuffed, but the desserts section did a mind-over-matter trick and I ordered a Shaufa Pana Pudding, “An exotic Bhatkali Pudding flavoured with Dil leaf Syrup”. The greenish color did scare me a little, but that vanished as soon as i tasted it. Excellent pudding with a very unique flavour, almost like a subtle mouth freshener. Must try.

CIMG1264Meanwhile D ordered a Saudi Champagne, which is a mocktail made mostly of apple soda, but with a twist of lime. It also has tiny apple bits floating on top. from the little I was allowed to have, great stuff.

All of the above cost us, including a 5% service charge, just over Rs.900. The service is quite good, and helpful, despite a few communication lapses. This place is a must visit, for a distinctly unique cuisine, decor and value-for-money fare that won’t cost you a treasure. ;)

Alibaba, #69, 1st Floor, MM Road, Frazer Town Ph:40917163

PS. This week, the blog takes a break :)

Menu and Photos at Zomato

A different kind of social

Despite a healthy skepticism for all things Google attempts with social, Wave and Buzz not having helped very much, I was quite excited after I saw the presentation below by Google’s Paul Adams. (the link which I had shared last week) It meant that Google Me was worth keeping a watch on. No, not the movie, the service.

[Read Mahendra's excellent key takeaways+thoughts post if you need a quick snapshot without having to read 216 pages.]

I was quite impressed with the scope of the presentation – from looking at people’s motivations behind their ‘social’ actions to the insights that have been gleaned. I must admit that i was a bit surprised that Google, or at least its employees took social this seriously. Good to know that Facebook and Zuckerberg’s stated aim of 1 billion users in the near future is finally pushing Google to do something other than killing of services (Jaiku, Dodgeball…) or making a mockery of itself in front of its competitors with half baked products. And that they’re doing research too. My first thought, after I finished reading the document was

Clipboard02

Its ironic that Google faces a ‘What Would Google Do’ on itself. The good news is that there is enough scope for developing a network for context based social relationships and transactions. Like I said in my last post, the tools available still don’t allow me the freedom to aggregate and disaggregate connections and content at will in different contexts. It is possible to build a social network around many contexts – enterprise/professional use, location, family, interests and so on. I even saw an interesting app built for ‘proximity based networking’ – it syncs your existing networks – Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace with location and thereby does a twist on location based networking, with seemingly good privacy controls.

The bad news is that Mark Zuckerberg won’t take too kindly to encroachments in his space. As if ‘friends’ weren’t universal enough (at least inside the FB universe – including Connect), ‘Like’ is even more universal, and Facebook’s recent play is aimed at pipping Google’s (relative) ability to deliver the most relevant content to the user. It doesn’t help that social doesn’t seem to be what Google’s comfortable with.

But assuming Google Me is a social platform of some sort, what I’m wondering is that how many users would use Facebook lesser for a service which allows context to be brought into the picture. There’s something really simple about the ‘sharing’ on Facebook. For a service that used to be labeled ‘complex’ in the Orkut era, it has come far. Users have adapted. Also, how difficult is it for Facebook, which already has a massive userbase to introduce features that allow a user to create sub identities to splice and dice friends (already has lists) and content and choose what to use outside the network? It already has filters to control the kind of information I want to see on my newsfeed, these can be improved too.

The other thing is how/where Google would build this – a separate service/ something around or integrated with iGoogle/Buzz (brrr)/Chrome (browser or OS)/ Search itself ? A lot of the design would be based on this. And how can it balance the simplicity of Facebook sharing with the more complex needs of context and privacy?

A larger perspective is that we’re nowhere close to the end game as far as our (probably seamless in the future) network of digital and real activities go. Its having a larger impact than what we sometimes credit it for. In fact, we are only discovering how the web is changing our behaviour and even perhaps motivations. A few of us have yet to decide whether we want to sync our multiple online identities. And that means that though Facebook is probably the most accepted solution now, its by no means the perfect one, even for our current understanding. Facebook, Google and the ones we haven’t even heard about are all Work In Progress, but boy, what interesting work it is! No monopoly, lots of chance and multiple community chests :)

until next time, google yourself :)

Storied

The best thing about buying second hand books is that they might contain stories. No, I haven’t completely lost it, I meant additional stories. Messages, notes on the side, bookmarks from previous owners – they’re all stories. Stories that give you a tiny glimpse of the person who wrote it, or the person it was meant for. The last one I saw – in Pico Iyer’s ‘Abandon’, was very interesting. It said

Dearest A****,

Though this seems, and is the last day at C-72, I promise that its the first day and a nev be start to the best days of our life together.

Yours

S*******

30/Aug/03

I thought there was an amazing sense of romance in that little note. A story from almost seven years back. I wonder why A sold the book. Did they break up? Maybe she didn’t like this genre? Maybe they shifted, and there was no way to carry this. It was an empty page, A could’ve torn it off, she didn’t. Maybe she didn’t have time, maybe she didn’t care.  Maybe she didn’t remember. Maybe, God forbid, something happened, and S didn’t want any memories? Maybe  she returned it to S after they split, and he sold it. Maybe S never gave it to A, and instead sold it because some memory was too painful? Now you see the possibilities? But, to quote from the book itself “We are no greater than the height of our perceptions”.

I’d only started on the book, but it had already given me a thought. “The death of the author is a way of talking about the death of God. The world itself becomes a poem whose author disappeared long ago.” So the poet dies, the poem remains, the artist dies, the art remains, the author dies, the book remains, God dies, his creation remains, to be interpreted and shaped by us, the ones who see and experience it, limited by the ‘height of their perception’. Maybe the creation was never completed? Like the stories that remain in the head, never to be told. Like the pages that fill the waste baskets. Like the blog’s draft folder? :)

Meanwhile, on the next page of the book, there is a signature now, dated 10/04/10. He thinks he won’t sell any of his books.. ever. But then, stories have a way of twisting themselves in time. :)

until next time, home pages :)

Butter Chicken in Ludhiana: Travels in Small Town India

Pankaj Mishra

If one were to go by the title, Pankaj Mishra is hardly the person who can be trusted to write about the “national bird of khalistan”, after all he’s a complete vegetarian, but then this book is about ‘travels in small town India’. From Kanyakumari and Kottayam to Ambala and Murshidabad and Gaya to Mandi and Udaipur and many many more small towns across the length and breadth of India, this is quite a wonderful account of a transforming India..and Indians.(set in 1995)

While there is an unmistakable cynicism that runs through many accounts, it does not really take away much from the conversations with a wide array of people – their fears, their hopes and aspirations, and how they cope with the changes around them. Television viewing habits, consumerism, big dreams, all figure as a framework for the author to show the ‘progress’ that Indians seem to be making as far as lifestyles go. ‘Progress’, because the author doesn’t seem to be entirely pleased with these changes, and the effects on existing ways of life, but since we also see them through the eyes of the people the author meets, the book manages to retain some objectivity.

While some would say there is an aimlessness to the travels, I’d say that despite the differences in locales and attitudes, there is a common thread that runs through the book – of humans, their reactions to change, and how in many ways, a lot of things remain unchanged, despite what the superficial would indicate.

The book worked for me in many ways – I could find glimpses of ‘The Romantics’ (a later work of fiction from the same author, which happens to be a favourite) as his travels take him to Banaras. It also brought about some nostalgia, as it is set in the early 90s, and the changes that the author talks about are something that anyone in the their teens (or even older) during that time, can identify with. These, and the wry humour – especially the part where he’s mistaken for a potential groom by Mr.Sharma in Ambala – that surfaces occasionally, took it many notches above a general travel book..

Influence Cycles

The term ‘influencer’ is a recurring one in social media. Mahendra had a tongue-in-click post last week on the subject, and Surekha and I ended up taking it on a tangent, and it reminded me once again of the way ‘influence’ is changing, for all parties concerned – influenced, influencer, the object that links them and the medium that connects them.

It was relatively easy when the medium was one way – mass media. The number of influencers were limited and there was really no way to locate or measure the individuals who made up the long tail of influencers. Or at least few were interested in doing it. The web disrupted it. The influenced found an abundance of content, the influencer saw his power being diminished by millions of publishers. The object (including the service provider/brand/organisation/group etc) figured out that it wasn’t at the mercy of limited influencers, but discovered a huge list which had its own quirks, but had the power to influence a multitude. Yes, known stuff, just summing up for context.

I remember touching upon ‘social influencer relationship management’ (yes, there is actually a term for it) late last year, and the importance of trust. Influence, for me, has been a difficult thing to wrap my head around. There are so many factors erm, influencing it – time (specific and relative), context, trust (and objectivity) and the fast changing content platforms- each of which seems to add yet another layer. The complex structure has been well illustrated well in the chart below

Influencer

via ( a post similar to Mahendra’s, but more serious in tone :) )

At least in the medium term, I think its only going to get more complex, primarily because the platforms are only evolving – Quora, the service I mentioned in the comment to Mahendra’s post, for example, can help in establishing context specific expertise and therefore trust. Facebook, when its QnA service starts, will try to establish it within a known network. Twitter has already tried it too, but I agree with Surekha. I’ve noticed that with web platforms, after a certain scale is reached, the culture starts resembling that of mass (media) and the ‘influencers’ as well as ‘influenced’ begin a relationship that’s familiar from a mass media era. What also complicates is that the ‘object’ of the relationship sometimes discovers that it too has a voice or can hire a ‘voice’ and attempt influence. This is one of the ways it is trying to adapt to new platforms. But while there might be flaws in each approach, I do feel the direction is right.

At this point in time, as a user, I’m still evolving in terms of the platforms I use to establish networks of trust. The tools available still don’t allow me the freedom to aggregate and disaggregate at will in different contexts. That’s probably something brands can identify with too, thanks to the plethora of platforms and influencers across networks. Its perhaps the difficult transition state when brands have to manage traditional communication outlets, new media barons, their own content management systems that need to evolve, and a long tail full of influencers. More importantly, brand processes (like advertising, PR etc) had evolved in a mass media milieu and a struggle to adapt to the disruptions brought around by a two way communication mechanism is what we see around now. We’ll keep that for another post, and quickly jump to an aspect that intrigues me from the four influence factors I mentioned earlier- that of time.

Long back, I wondered how we could juxtapose product and consumer life cycles. Let me address it in this context. Different consumers will ‘reach’ the product/service at different points in its lifecycle. There is a ‘time divide’ that separates the different sets of users. The motivations of this set would differ and therefore , its influencers will also be different, as will their motivations. Brands (using it as a blanket term, includes services too) these days are constantly in the hunt for early influencers, which is why I found this article, which discusses why gadget manufacturers should target late adopters, very interesting. This could apply to platforms as well. I wonder how this thought can affect when and how brands try to influence on new media platforms. Does it make sense to wait till platforms evolve to an extent where they can work better for the brands or is technology moving way too fast and lifecycles of all concerned behaviours becoming too small to wait?

Meanwhile, what if the millions who have never used Facebook are influenced by the movie? ;)

until next time, in flux

Bonus Read: I plan to riff on this soon, but in this context, you could check out pages 147-173 of this amazing document. (via Pluggd.in)

Watermark

Sometime back, while trying recollect the name of a Chinese restaurant in Koramangala which existed circa 2003, I got stuck. Despite different mashups of the various terms used typically for Chinese restaurant names, nothing sounded right. It was a small mom-and-pop joint and since the net didn’t then feature all the resources it has now, I was well and truly stumped. It was quite disappointing since we’d had many a meal there. It didn’t help that I have this ‘thing’ about remembering such places, events and people. I feel as though I have betrayed them in some way. Yes, weird, thank you. :p  The book, for once, couldn’t help either. I finally got the answer by checking with a friend who’d been in Koramangala long enough. Once I got the name, I even managed to get an image on the net – Szechuan Garden. :)

A few days later, I watched Pakal Nakshatrangal, a movie about a script writer – director played by Mohanlal. The narrative is from the perspective of his son, an author, who writes his father’s biography, and in the process tries to solve the mystery of his death. The movie begins with the demolition of ‘Daffodils’, the cultural hub of the previous era’s intellectuals and the scene of Mohanlal’s many exploits. There is a sequence in which a television newsreader reports this and we can see different people viewing it from different places reminiscing about their experiences there. A group of people connected by a place.

A place or an event in that place – that means something to a set of people – something only they share. And when they cease to exist, the memory disappears. Its as though whatever they shared never existed. A bit like the Garden State quote that I often end up using “Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people who miss the same imaginary place.”

It reminded me of another Malayalam movie I’d seen a while back. Kerala Cafe, an anthology of ten short movies, with the place – Kerala Cafe, a coffee shop in a railway station, serving as the connection. But more than that entire movie, I remembered my favourite – Island Express, written and directed by Shankar Ramakrishnan. (Part 1, 2, seems unedited, and has incomplete subtitle help!!) [Spoiler] The story is about several people who were in some way affected by the Perumon tragedy in 1988, and their meeting at the fateful place a couple of decades later. Its narrated by Leon, who  lost a lot himself, but makes a photo-book of it after seven years of efforts. I realise that Leon’s phrase, that remained with me long after the movie, is what this thought is all about.

As time passes, and life moves on, some of us are left holding the memories of these places, sometimes by choice, sometimes because we have no other choice, and sometimes by chance. But there’s no doubt about the transience of it all. Its after all, a matter of time. Perhaps the entire idea of a lifestream – the things I share here, and everywhere else is all about the phrase that Leon uses – ‘a memory with a watermark’.

until next time, memories without shelf-lives

Aroy

No, we aren’t talking about a Bong here. I read somewhere that it means tasty/delicious, in Thai. The direction of thought is roughly right though. East. Aroy is a restaurant in JP Nagar that serves Thai cuisine, along with some Burmese too. Here’s a map to get you there. (a couple of zooms should get you there safely) Its in the same building as Crossword, on the third floor. Parking is not a problem, though you’ll need to go quite a bit – until the next junction – for a U turn when coming from Bannerghatta Road.

We reached there by about 7.30, and already found a few tables occupied. If you’re planning to get there later, it might be a good idea to reserve. Aroy managed to charm us straight away with its wonderful rooftop ambiance. There are indoor seating options too, but with a slight breeze, lightly swaying trees and the distant lights of south Bangalore’s apartment complexes, we decided to sit outside, under a cloudy sky.

CIMG1229Ok, before I go overboard, here’s the menu. They serve liquor and from the descriptions, some amazing cocktails and mocktails too. But we already had way too many choices in the food menu, and were wondering what we’d miss out on. So we asked for a Tom Kha soup, and a Pandan Chicken to start with. While we waited we were served a complimentary Amuse Bouche – a fried rice cake, which turned out to be as good as it looked.

CIMG1231The Tom Kha (chicken) soup arrived soon after. An amazing coconut cream soup flavoured with galangal and loaded with chunks of chicken and mushrooms. Though the coconut cream flavour was strong, there seemed to be a few others too that demanded attention – lemon grass most prominently, with a hint of tanginess. The soup, though slightly thinner than a regular cream soup, uses the coconut cream extremely well and is probably the best soup we’ve had in a long time.

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This was followed by the Pandan Chicken, which was quite unique in terms of presentation. Unraveling the screw pine leaf is not as tough as it looks. The grilled chicken, which probably comes off as a bit dry, is complemented well by the sweet soy sauce.

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For the main course, we wanted to try out a stir fried dish as well as a clay pot curry, but we were told that the latter would go well with plain rice. So we ditched that thought and asked for a ‘Ong Noh Khaw swte’, from neighbouring Myanmar, something I remembered from ‘Gangtalk‘ and before that, ‘Panda House’, which used to exist in Transit, Forum long back. Its a meal in itself and consists of crisp and soft noodles, a chicken broth and a range of accompaniments. In terms of quantity, though, it actually turned out to be a meal in itself for both of us, and an absolutely delicious one.

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The chicken broth is also coconut cream based with generous chunks of chicken. By the time we finished the bowls we were quite stuffed and wondered what we’d do with the rest of the stuff we ordered.

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In keeping up with our tradition of Saturday night gluttony, we’d also ordered a Pahd Keemao, which is another excellent choice, especially if you’re into spicy stuff. Rice noodles, flavoured with red chillies and basil. We could manage only about two spoonfuls each and asked for the remaining portion to be packed. The noodles goes very well with the Chicken Cashew Nuts and Bell Pepper. Though its description also includes roasted chilli paste, its actually a hot and sweet dish.

Though I did want to try the chocolate mousse, there was absolutely no way I could manage it. A worthy bait, and thus, a second visit is a given. Meanwhile, the service is worth a mention too. Extremely helpful, attentive and yet in a non intrusive fashion. Mission sanuk easily accomplished. :)

All of the above cost us about Rs.1300. I’d recommend that you visit with a larger group so that you can try out many things. With awesome food, excellent service and  a wonderful ambiance, including some very good music, Aroy is a must visit, and its worth going to JP Nagar solely for this purpose.

Aroy, 74, 15th Main, 3rd Phase JP Nagar Ph: 40939311

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