Monthly Archives: October 2012

Balance Wheel

Somewhere between the need to belong and the constraints of conformity lies that Utopian state. I am beginning to realise that this is applicable across all modes of social interaction, whether they be real or virtual.

It begins with people finding a common interest or ‘wavelength’ and sharing great vibes. School/college cliques, blogs and microblogs, workplaces, interest groups and so on.  Startups are fun places to work in the initial years because rules are made on the go, blogs and microblogs in their early days were sparsely populated and everyone was discovering their own voice and community norms.

I have always wondered what breaks the utopian state – time or an increase in the group size. These days I am beginning to be convinced that it is the latter. As each new member is added to the initial set, the needle begins to slowly shift from the erstwhile average. The addition of new members also changes the dynamics of the group and slowly the earlier common sense of belonging changes even as a new one is created. Some adapt, others refuse to conform and break away.

But what I have also realised recently is that there is a middle path – refusing to conform but refusing to go away either. It is a tightrope walk, and best done without baggage. And that’s the walk I am trying to learn, across my worlds.

until next time, walking schtick

Bow Barracks

The good news is that you don’t have to go as far as Kolkata. There is no bad news. A little away from our regular Indiranagar haunts is 2nd Main, near the BDA complex. The last time we were on this road (On Double Road, take a right just before you hit Old Madras Road when coming from the CMH Road direction) was years back, and that restaurant has been replaced by a safer Punjabi outlet. In fact, the road now sports several food options including Chettinad, Punjabi and a few others! The map as well as the menu can be found on Zomato. Parking for 2 wheelers is easy and there are lanes around for 4 wheelers in case you don’t find space in front of the restaurant. A brick building with a doorway that makes you feel as though you’re entering a home. :)

The interior too has a cosy feel to it with just the right amount of buzz. We chose the less crowded 1st floor and by the time we left, that too was fairly full, and people were being taken to the next floor. I think that’s where it ends, but can’t be sure. In addition to the splendid ambiance, watch out for the knickknacks. The clock, the old kind of switches, some wonderful photographs on the brick wall, all add to the personality of the place.

 

The menu has Anglo Indian, Continental as well as Indian sections, but we were clear in our intent. We were even reasonably sure of 3 out of 4 items we planned to have, but we still needed to decide the 4th. As we sat debating that, an amuse-bouche made its way to the table. A fig with vinaigrette. I popped it in without giving it much thought until the flavour explosion hit me – tangy and sweet at the same time, with a crunch that will definitely make you sit up and pay attention.

We started with the Pantheras – the beef version. The beef mince was superb, and the crumbed, deep fried crepes wrapped it up very well indeed. But what made us completely forget to add that lime twist was the sauce that came along with it. In terms of taste, it reminded us of a local favourite – sauce that came with the Delicacy momos – but this one was more suave! For the main course, we ordered the Khow Suey – Chicken, and in the battle between the Fish Moilu and the Chicken Ball Curry, the latter won. We also ordered Coconut Yellow rice to go with the curry. The Khow Suey is a favourite and they did complete justice to it – the Anglo Indian rendition doesn’t really vary from the original Burmese and the coconut milk, noodles, cumin, turmeric etc with the help of a twist of lime made up an excellent mix as always. The Chicken Ball curry also has coconut milk flavour in the background, but it’s only to add that little extra to the tomato base (consistency and taste) and to the chicken mince that is made into koftas. The Coconut Yellow rice – basmati – worked beautifully with the curry and for our Mallu palates, this overdose of coconut felt just divine! :))

 

We were almost full, but the bread pudding had already booked itself space, though it was more mind and spirit than body! Served with mild custard sauce, I felt it could’ve been slightly less watery. But thankfully, it didn’t take away much from the taste. An excellent meal in a perfect setting! The service was prompt, helpful and altogether smooth. The meal made us poorer by Rs.1276 (including a service charge) but it was thoroughly worth it. This one goes into our favourites, and with so many more dishes to try, we’ll raid again soon!

Bow Barracks, 618/1, 2nd Main, HAL 2nd Stage, Indiranagar. Ph: 42072555, 9739601015

Mean better than average?

BBH Labs offered some excellent perspective in a post titled ‘Mean Brands‘ a few days ago, which pointed out that when brands are asked to be more human online, we overlook the fact that humans are not nice online. Expanding on this, they showcased three scenarios – brand vs consumer, brand vs brand and brand vs organisation – with examples, and asked whether this was a good strategy to build stronger brand allegiance.

I was reminded of something I had tweeted earlier this year when Cleartrip was at the receiving end of some good old fashioned twitter outrage when putting an abrasive and stupid (non) customer in his place. I was convinced after going through the preceding tweets that Cleartrip had tried their hand at explanation before getting exasperated and reacting with sarcasm, just like a human. It was bold, but more importantly it also showed character and conviction.

Even as brands are trying to be human, humans are becoming (or are trying to become) brands. When they do get an audience, an increased sense of self-importance is inevitable. Most of the time, objectivity is minimal and the thrill of shaming/trolling a brand is too tempting. So perhaps a level playing field is only fair. Of course, it is always more fun when the knockout punch is delivered with a solid punchline. Richard Neill’s comedic rant and Bodyform’s hilarious response is an example. A few more here. (via @sunnysurya)

until next time, brands mean business!

Jaya Indeed

I didn’t attach much significance to the words on the jacket – High above the sky stands Swarga, paradise, abode of the gods. Still above is Vaikuntha, heaven, abode of God. The doorkeepers of Vaikuntha are the twins, Jaya and Vijaya, both whose names mean ‘victory’. One keeps you in Swarga; the other raises you into Vaikuntha. In Vaikuntha there is bliss forever, in Swarga there is pleasure for only as long as you deserve. What is the difference between Jaya and Vijaya? Solve this puzzle and you will solve the mystery of the Mahabharata. But it was only after I finished ‘Jaya’ (by Devdutt Pattanaik) that I realised this was what the complex and layered epic was all about. While swarga is considered an afterlife phenomenon, the dichotomy above is significant for life as well.

(spoiler)

Vijaya is material victory, where there is a loser. Jaya is spiritual victory, where there are no losers. The tale ends when Yudhishtira attains Jaya, not when the Pandavas achieve Vijaya over the Kauravas. That is the significance. Jaya is victory over the self. Only when there is undiluted compassion for everyone including our worst enemies, is ego truly conquered.

Janamejaya, probably on behalf of all of us who would like to attain Jaya, asks what insight eluded his forefathers, and Astika replies “That conflict comes from rage, rage comes from fear, fear comes from lack of faith.” He does not expand much. I’d have to assume that here, the faith is in the self, the true self that is intrinsically connected to the larger consciousness. Thanks to material advances, Vijaya itself is a moving target and difficult to achieve. With all the distractions, Jaya is even tougher. Thus very few would even attempt it, and thus the entire concept of dharma spiraling downwards across yugas is very logical.

The book provides many examples in humility. For me, the new things I learned and the increased awareness of the epic and its layers was a lesson in humility in itself. Even more humbling is the concept of Jaya.

until next time, #epic #win

The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto

Pico Iyer

In the autumn of 1987, Pico Iyer begins his journey into Japan, one that would last a full cycle of seasons. Depending on the prism you choose to see it through, the book could be many things.

It could be a travelogue, though quite different from any I have read yet, and yet one that not only dispels any ‘second-hand’ notions (eg. the Japanese’ take on Kurosawa was surprising) but also captures the nuances of a place unknown to me, in a very sensitive manner.

It could be the journey and yearning of one human being to understand and experience a culture alien to him/her. Him, from the perspective of Pico in Japan, whose original wonder and positive bias changes into a more pragmatic view as time passes, and her, from the perspective of Sanchiko, a vivacious Japanese lady with a husband and two children, whose heartfelt desire it is to escape the confines and constraints of her culture and upbringing.

It could be a glimpse into the world of Zen – its monasteries and about living in the moment, without the baggage of the past or the future.

It could be a relationship between cultures – not just east and west, as shown between the author and Sanchiko or other nuances captured through various other characters, but also within Japan itself – the free spirited Sanchiko versus her friends and family who are against this freedom she desires and wants her to just make the best of her marriage and the duties it entails.

Or it could be an elegant love story, with Japanese poetry and beautiful descriptions of nature, and in the way of Japanese, one with a poignant ending, just like the story which seems to be the inspiration for the title.

A wonderful read, and an armchair journey that has given me much to think about.

Transmedia and popular culture

Last week, I chanced upon Coldplay’s latest comic-video. It’s apparently a prequel to a six-part comic which can be pre-ordered at the Coldplay Store. There’s also a live concert happening soon. I thought there was real potential here for some transmedia work – they already have a music video, comics and live concerts – with Facebook, Twitter and other digital properties it could have been a great mix.

But what I was really wondering about is how pop culture can be used by brands for building transmedia narratives. Comic books, music bands, television programming etc, and user generated content on social media can be a potent mix. When I have thought about transmedia (and written about it) it has always been with the brand as a driver. But what if the lead is taken by a pop culture phenomenon and the brand, understanding a commonality, tag on. In-movie promotions are probably a crude example I can think of.

The typical way brands handle it is by trying to push their messaging, and in the process destroy the pop culture phenomenon’s attraction. But if they find partners who have a connection, spend some thought on it, and help in advancing the narrative without forcing it in a selfish direction, they might actually get a completely different audience to become interested. A step further is in taking the help of the audience themselves to forward the narrative.

In many posts, I have mentioned that organisations need to find their purpose and then  nurture employees who can identify with it. Perhaps the above is an inorganic way of doing the same on the consumer side.

until next time,  to be continued ;)

Travel Gems

Paul Theroux’s “The Tao of Travel” was a goldmine of perspectives on the subject. While I did write a review on GoodReads, I really didn’t stuff it with quotes as I would have liked. :) But since this is more of a chronicle, I can afford the liberty here.

“You go away for a long time and return a different person – you never come all the way back.” Paul Theroux

“Travel is flight and pursuit in equal parts.” Paul Theroux

“I think I spend more time thinking about what I don’t want to take with me: assumptions, iPods, cameras, plans, friends, (in most cases) laptops…… expectations.” Pico Iyer

“Unfortunately, the sort of individual who is programmed to ignore personal distress and keep pushing for the top is frequently programmed to disregard signs of grave and imminent danger as well. This forms the nub of a dilemma that every Everest climber eventually coms up against: in order to succeed you must be exceedingly driven, but if you’re too driven you’re likely to die.” Jon Krakauer

“My own feeling is that city dwellers invent the cities they dwell in. The great cities are just too big to be comprehended as a whole, so they are invisible, or imaginary, existing mainly in the mind.” Paul Theroux

“Travel is one of the saddest pleasures of life.” Madame de Staël

“I tend to think that happiness is a particular time in a particular place..” Paul Theroux

“It sometimes seems to me that if there is a fundamental quest in travel, it is the search for the unexpected.” Paul Theroux

until next time, wanderlust

Zheng

Despite being in the ‘right’ place – close to our regular haunts – we’ve always ignored Zheng, and I still haven’t figured out why. It’s been around for a couple of years at least, and is part of the BluPetal Hotel, (map) which also has Sultans of Spice on the first floor. I often recommend the latter because we’ve been there quite a few times and have never been disappointed. But Zheng, despite its promise of Mongolian, was always classified in my mind as a Chinese alternative and with options like China Pearl around, it always lost out. Until…

I checked in on Foursquare and the tip shown to me was that I shouldn’t be disheartened at finding the restaurant empty. That’s exactly how it turned out to be and the situation only changed towards the end of our meal when another group walked in. I wonder if it’s because people don’t know about the place or they know something I don’t! There is something tranquil about the ambiance, and is reinforced by the music played. Red dominates, as it does in China and in restaurants which offer its cuisine.

The menu is fairly elaborate and when it’s only two of us, choices are difficult to make. The Chicken Ginger Coconut Broth lost out to momos -the Chicken Pepper Suimai – and the Mongolian Lamb. The flower shaped momos were quite different in terms of flavour and fragrance from the ones we usually have and is definitely worth a shot. But the Mongolian Lamb easily won the battle of the starters – succulent shredded lamb in a spicy sauce. Highly recommended.

 

The only time we’ve tried a Mongolian Barbecue was at HongKong Hustle, and that was a long time back. So we didn’t think twice before ignoring the Chinese dishes, though it was ironic that we had to ask the person who took our order to get us the Barbecue menu, since he only bought us the liquor and the main food menus. Maybe no one asks for it? I had a nagging feeling while we ordered a Thai Chilli pot and a Dragon’s Breath Bowl. As we watched the chef prepare it, I understood why! We usually only order one rice/noodles, and this time we had ordered two. And they were massive portions!

The Dragon’s Breath Bowl, which I had ordered, with chicken and hakka noodles, came first. Mildly spicy dragon sauce with shiitake mushrooms, pak choi, peppers and green onions. By the time we had a few spoons each, the Thai Chilli pot arrived. D had asked for Udon noodles and chicken with the pak choi, green onions, pad thai sauce, bird’s eye chili etc. This was more subtle than the Dragon’s Breath, but we immensely enjoyed both. So much, that it also became the next day’s lunch. (thanks to the quantity!)

 

We had no space for desserts, and neither the Juice Junction mango juice nor the Gelato ice creams could tempt us as we walked to pick up the Activa. The service was friendly and prompt, though they could’ve warned us about the quantity. All of the above, including service charges and taxes cost us just over Rs.1650. For the quantity and the quality, I thought it was just fine, and will definitely drop in again.

Zheng, Jyoti Nivas College Rd, Koramangala Industrial Layout, Koramangala. Ph: 4343 1888