Yearly Archives: 2012

Brothers at War

Alex Rutherford

‘Brothers at War’ is the second of the ‘Empire of the Moghul’ series and begins in 1530, right where the first one ended. Babur is dead, and despite naming Humayun successor to the wealth and the new empire he has founded, and asking him not to do anything against his half brothers, there is dissension among them. Humayun thwarts an early attempt by his brothers to grab the throne, but spares their lives and sends them away to rule far away regions.

Despite early successes, Humayun fails to hold the empire together, and his preoccupation with stars coupled with an opium addiction ensures that he loses the hard earned empire to Sher Shah. After losing several strongholds including Delhi and Lahore, Humayun becomes an emperor without a kingdom. In addition to scheming feudal lords and other relatives, he also has to deal with the treachery of his brothers yet again. In the meantime, he marries Hamida, thus alienating Hindal, (who also loved her) the only (half) brother who had allied with him.

Humayun wanders further away from Hindustan, fueled by a belief in his destiny – to rule the empire again. He finally gets help from the Shah of Persia, to whom he gifts the Koh-i-noor, but who also extracts a bigger price. From then begins Humayun’s journey back.

The books seems to be showing a pattern – starting with a prince who has just ascended the throne and ending with the heir in the same position. Humayun’s failures are a tad repetitive, and are not helped by the fact that many of his journeys share similarities with Babur’s experiences, but the pace is more or less maintained and there are reasonable twists to keep the reader engrossed. Except for a few characters and events, history has been not tampered with much. Humayun comes across as a courageous, intelligent and driven man who, though lost the empire to begin with, ensured that he rectified his mistakes. If you’re interested in history, this does infuse life to the characters familiar from textbooks. :)

Broadcast 2.0 then?

Facebook is planning a new video-ad product that will offer video advertisers the chance to target video ads to large numbers of Facebook users in their news feeds across devices. It is also becoming more public about its Publishing Garage, that aims to put into place a set of measurements to demonstrate how well campaigns are working. Twitter has partnered with Nielsen for the the “Nielsen Twitter TV Rating” – an industry standard metric for measuring the conversation that TV shows spur on Twitter.

The commonality I see is the shift from social to media, though to be fair, the Twitter-Nielsen partnership also talks of sentiment being measured in the future, in addition to tracking the volumes generated. I am using the term ‘social’ for two of the biggest platforms around now – FB and Twitter, but considering they have been the trendsetters, it is likely that the others will follow suit. Yes, there would be exceptions, I’m sure, but let me generalise a bit. While time will dictate whether this shift is smart or not, I’d think this shift is massively underplaying the true potential that social has thus displayed as a disruptive force. Social is now walking the measurement rules laid for a thoroughly different kind of media. (I liked this post at GigaOm because it throws light on, and questions why every social network is trying to turn into a broadcast platform) Doesn’t this put them on the same path of vulnerability that traditional media is facing now? Is this inevitable or is this sheer laziness and/or conforming? Also, from a user perspective, isn’t this a fundamentally different direction from the original premise/reason for existence of these platforms?

Meanwhile, it is interesting to note that this is happening at the same time as users (increasingly) are treating social as broadcast – from the shoot-from-the-hip opinions on everything to the careful posturing. Not so suddenly, it’s more about numbers than actual conversations. Now what does that remind me of? :) I don’t know how much of it is unconscious and how much of it is subtle nudging (read) by the networks and their features. But whatever the reasons, imagine a future where everyone behaves the way media behaves today – loud, pompous, full of themselves, ignorant to their own faults, violent towards any criticism, and generally abhorred. What happens then?

So in the current direction I see the networks (and users) taking, the future media mashup will show more characteristics of traditional broadcast platforms than the social traits displayed by the social networks in the early days. My concern in such a scenario is because of what Godin has stated in another context – “Media doesn’t just change what we focus on, it changes the culture it is part of.” That’s when I wish social/we would be more ridiculous.

until next time, growing pains

Posture child

I guess that’s the reason why Calvin & Hobbes is so utterly loved by so many folks. Profound, timeless, universal truths expressed in such a unique way!

I had never seen this one until recently. Why blame Instagram for filters? They existed long before anyway :) I thought this strip found great application in all kinds of posturing from time immemorial, and especially so now – in the social media context, when everyone is a publisher. Over a period of time, I wonder how fast we would forget who we really are (if ever we come to know it or knew it) It would probably be irrelevant in the real-time era. We would be the statuses and photos and everything else we like and share every minute. After all, I’m no longer the person who wrote it anyway, and who’s to say the non posturing self is the real deal?

until next time, impostor :)

Hunan

Thanks to Chinese stalwarts around, and home delivery doses of Delicacy, Hunan has always been ignored. But a casual glance at the menu on Zomato and the spotting of some Thai fare meant that it was quickly chosen for dinner.

Hunan is above Costa Coffee on 1st A Cross, the road that goes to Jyoti Nivas from 100 feet Road, Koramangala. (map) This is the area that has the maximum number of eating options per square km in Bangalore. Yes, not even Church Street can beat it. 2 wheeler parking is relatively simple, if you have a 4 wheeler, you should probably use the parking lot next to Empire unless you want to try your luck with basement parking.

2 flights of stairs (there is a lift I read about but didn’t bother to find – probably from the basement) leads you to a cosy, well utilised space that does have the mandatory dose of red and the television, but also plays soothing music and has 3 tables that give you a street view. Yay! Two were already taken, but we were just in time for the third. The place is neat, exudes a charm and generally gives a feeling of being well run.

We went in quite sure that we would start with the Tom Kha but got a googly in the form of a special menu that featured a Thai Chicken Coconut soup. It had all the usual suspects – galangal, lemon grass, chillies, and so we switched allegiance for the night. The addition was glass noodles. Fantastic soup, with rich coconut milk flavours. Slightly sweet, but a few chillies helped restore the balance. We didn’t miss the Tom Kha at all. Since we were satisfied with the Thai, we agreed to go ahead with the main course we had planned, but it was a combo dish – with rice – and we weren’t sure of the quantity. So we asked for a starter –  Chicken Red Dragon dumplings. Orange -red in colour, we got 10 momos with a good tomato-chilli sauce. The momos were excellent, mildly spicy and cooked really well.

 

For the main course, we ordered the Kang Pet Gai – Thai red curry chicken. (comes with steamed rice) I must say that given the culinary strangeness in that part of the world, the word ‘Pet’ is not very reassuring. ;) We also ordered a Roast Pork with Red and Green Chillies. The rice was sticky but that worked well with the curry. Again, the chicken curry was sweet, but we were saved by the spicy pork! All of this was exactly the right fit for our appetite, so we didn’t have space for desserts!

 

Quite a good experience, and we’ll be sure to drop in again, because the menu does have much more. All of the above cost us just over Rs.1400.

Hunan, 123, 1st Floor, 1st Main, JNC Road, 5th Block, Koramangala Ph: 9739130000

PS: Happened to notice that Adaa has shut down! :(

Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India

William Dalrymple

In his introduction to the book, William Dalrymple explains how he has tried to invert the travel writing style of the eighties, highlighting the subject and relegating the narrator and his journey to the shadows. And that’s how this book manages to be a set of nine mini-biographies that are linked by the book’s tagline – ‘In Search of the Sacred in Modern India’. Each ‘story’ not only manages to show the protagonist, his/her belief systems, trade/artform in the context of a region that’s rapidly changing the way it looks at religion, spirituality and the world in general, but also manages to trace its (artform/trade) evolution across the centuries of its existence, and the inividual’s outlook towards his own journey. In that sense, it is also my favourite kind of travel writing – across time.

From Kerala to Dharmasala and Tarapith to Sehwan, the characters flow, and though all of them are interesting in their own way, my favourites were the ‘The Singer of Epics’ – the story of a bhopa in Rajasthan, and “The Monk’s Tale”, the story of a Buddhist monk who takes up arms against the Chinese, is then forced to fight for the Bangladeshis against Pakistan and finally spends his last years in Dharmasala atoning for his acts by hand printing prayer flags.

The narrative and the prose make the book very accessible, and the only concern I had was whether the author had let romanticism affect the truth of the stories a tiny bit. A great read.

Servility or Clarity?

Trendwatching’s October brief – Servile Brands, reminded me of a favourite OTA which was generating some buzz recently for publicly firing its PR agency. (enough clues, but no names lest I should be accused of SEO bait :D ) ‘Servile’ is defined as “turning your brand into a lifestyle servant focused on catering to the needs, desires and whims of your customers, wherever and whenever they are.” It relates to brands having to evolve to factors such as (from the trend brief) on demand, time compression and consumers no longer revering brands.

Meanwhile, I would think that being ‘servile’ is scalable and useful only to a certain extent, even if an organisation is supremely wired to be the jargon word that is on an upward swing in the hype cycle – social business. In fact, I’d argue that a business can be social only if it has a clear understanding of what it stands for in terms of what its business is and how it conducts it, who its consumers are and therefore what needs it wants to satisfy. (the order of the last 2 can be switched as well) I also instinctively think that brands which can communicate this clarity across its various interactions will pull the kind of consumers it wants to have.

‘Servile’ implies that brands place the consumer’s needs above its own. I’m really not sure of this. Social or not, brands are in business. I doubt if bending over backward on every service request that every consumer has is a viable strategy. The reason why I remembered the aforementioned OTA is because of their reaction to an incident I wrote about in ‘Mean Brands‘.

The current version of social – pandering to every consumer – is arguably swinging to this extreme. Hopefully, brands will soon learn that there is a middle path and that is the most viable one. The brands who reach there faster will be able to weather the storms ahead better, because they would have a compass. The compass is their clarity of purpose. Scaling it across the organisation is the challenge, and the fun. :)

until next time, all clear?

In Principle

Stannis Baratheon is probably the least charismatic among the contenders in the Game of Thrones, but I have liked him for his stubborn, unwavering sense of duty and justice – even in those situations when a compromise might have helped him meet his objectives. Even his claim for the throne is not borne by desire, but by his belief that he is the rightful heir. I am on Part 2 of Book 3, so I have no idea how this is all going to pan out, or whether his character will change later, but for now I can relate to it, though in my daily existence, I’m not able to shake off the pragmatist in me many a time.

That is also why I loved this Gaping Void poster, and identified with it immediately.

As I’d written in the 1000th post in another context, perhaps the joy is in doing something because it is the right thing to do.

until next time, first principles :)

The Egg Factory – JP Nagar

It’d been a while since we went the eggstra mile for a meal. Since we had liked the St.Marks Road version quite a bit, it was an easy decision to make. The landmark, when you’re on Outer Ring Road (from Bannerghatta Road towards Kanakpura Road) is Mast Kalandar on your side of the road. Opposite that is an HPCL Petrol Pump. The Egg Factory is right next to Mast Kalandar. Sounds easy, we missed it! Had to call for directions, oh the shame for a guy! :| There is a parking lot adjacent to it too.

We took one of the seats outside, not really facing the road – those were taken – but good enough for us. There was a notice on the door that said that they were short of staff and we should be patient in case there were minor delays. The menu continues to be the awesome instruction-manual style, though many items seem to have been added. Zomato has a menu, but it seems incomplete. We started with a Morning Burst, though it was just past noon. Being Sunday, I’m sure timings can be relaxed. :D Though there was a promise of orange, it was all Banana, but we didn’t really mind. The range of dishes on the menu ensured that there was a lot of debate before ordering.

In the end, we asked for 3 items and had a fourth in mind in case we had any appetite left, after allocating space for a chocolate dessert we had spied. The Akoorie (Classic Parsi Scramble) arrived first, and was a pretty picture with Amul butter and Kissan packaging adding more colour. It was the right amount of ‘gooey’ for me, and just the exact amount of spice too! We accepted the Amul help, but didn’t need Kissan at all! The Huevos Supremo arrived even before we could finish this. This stuffed omelette with garlic bread combination had a superb tang to it and some chilies, and the brown sauce (baked beans in it too?) complemented it very well. The last to arrive was the Eggs & Mushroom Ragout Penne – the sauce was thick and creamy, a bit thicker than I’d have liked it, and quite bland. A dash of pepper helped. The 4 Chilli Omelette was what we had in mind, but we were too stuffed and the Choco-sin had to be consumed! That cylindrical awesomeness of mousse, cream and a crunchy, biscuit-y base turned out to be a great finish to a splendid meal.

 

 

The bill came to just less than Rs.600 and was totally worth it! That delay they were talking about in the notice never really happened. The dishes arrived really fast! There are so many things to try here that we’ll definitely be back. I liked this outlet more than the St.Marks Road one mostly because the outdoor seating gave it an extra relaxed feel that specially works a charm on lazy Sundays.

The Egg Factory, 288, Ground Floor, 15th Cross, 18th Main, Opposite HP Petrol Pump, 5th Phase, JP Nagar. Ph: 40124848