Monthly Archives: April 2013

Chanakya’s Chant

Ashwin Sanghi

Ashwin Sanghi’s second book in the history-fiction genre after The Rozabal Line. The book follows two narratives, one 2300 years in the past – following the lives of Chanakya and his protege Chandragupta Maurya, drawing heavily from actual history, and the other, a modern day version of the same tale featuring fictional characters – Chandini Gupta and her mentor Pandit Gangasagar Mishra.

Despite the similarities in the overall plot, the difference in characters and situations ensured that I didn’t have a constant feeling of deja vu. The author also manages to bring in the machinations and possibilities in modern day politics – the nexus between politicians, businessmen, media, the creation of vote banks, alliances of convenience etc, and weaves in contemporary political events into the story, thus adding to the interest. Though slightly predictable, the storytelling is racy enough to constantly make you wonder what happens next. Unlike The Rozabal Line, this plot might be relatively familiar to Indian readers, but the flip side is that you won’t be easily confused despite the huge list of characters.

There are a couple of things that put me off in this book. One was the lack of nuance in the use of language in the two narratives. The words and expressions used in the ‘past’ narrative are contemporary in nature, and it was difficult to imagine a Chanakya use (for example) ‘bloody’ quite regularly. The other was the use of clichéd quotes and wordplay. To his credit, the author provides an exhaustive list of credits, but if you’ve heard them before, it is difficult to imagine its usage by the character. Many a time, they also seem very forced, seemingly creating elaborate but unnecessary conversations just so the quotes can be used by the character.

All things considered, it is a decent read, and like it or hate it, you’re not likely to be bored.

All ideas are equal, some more equal than others…

(via Threadless)

A conversation in office on an unrelated topic led me to ask this question on Twitter.

..and @atulkarmakar gave me his perspectives

 

 

Just like Atul mentioned, I had first considered whether it was because creative ideas were considered more personal  and a business idea/model an impersonal, corporate entity. But my starting point had been advertising, to which this does not really apply. Compare the reactions of Company A replicating Company B’s business model/idea versus them being ‘inspired’ by their advertising. In the case of advertising, both agencies might get paid and both clients might benefit. But in the case of a business, the second player could benefit from the mistakes (strategy/execution) of the pioneer and build a more successful business. That would be really unfair to the first guy whose business idea might have been a really creative solution to some need. And yet, it’s more likely that the aping of ads would spark a larger debate and the business cloning would be ignored. Am I missing something? Any perspectives you want to share?

until next time, game of clones

Bangalore Bistro

We’ve been fans of the Bangalore Bistro on Brigade Road since the first time we had a meal there. Back then, we’d heard that it used to be originally on Cunningham Road. And that’s where we found it this time – in a building opp Fortis/Fun Cinemas, on the top floor. You can find the menu and map on Zomato. There are parking spaces on and off Cunningham Road, so it shouldn’t be very difficult to find a spot.

The restaurant has indoor and alfresco options, and we chose the latter. A table that gave us a good view of Cunningham Road, so we didn’t miss the earlier Bistro. :) There is a sense of old world charm that the place used to exude and that has been kept intact. We decided on a ‘Chicken Vol en Vents’ for starters, and then learned that there were soups available, though they weren’t on the menu. We also asked for a Kit Kat Shake, which arrived first. This one was a little disappointing – lots of milk, and only some Kit Kat. Compared to the versions at The Chocolate Room or even Boca Grande, this was a really poor country cousin.

Thankfully, the Cream of Chicken soup made up for the disappointment – not very thick or creamy, but tasty nevertheless. The chicken starter – with smoked and creamy chicken on a crusty pastry – was also quite decent, though a tad bland.

For the main course, we asked for a Smokin’ Guns and a Honey Chilli Roast Chicken sizzler. The former was a baked dish and had chicken sausages and (pieces of ) a breast of chicken and a faint egg-like flavour. Quite liked it. The sizzler was hot, and it wasn’t just the temperature! The chilli was strong in this one, and though the honey put up a brave fight, it was no match, and even the flavoured rice with its mild tang could only do so much! Highly recommended if you can handle spice.

  

We really would’ve liked to try out the desserts, but were completely stuffed. The service was friendly and jovial, and quite prompt as well, despite a T20 match in progress. We gained a few pounds and felt lighter by just over Rs.1650, including a service charge. The new version managed to keep Bistro in our favourites list and was worth the journey across town. :)

Food for the soul

Thanks to Zomato, I got to spend some bak bak time with Mayur back in February. Along with Rocky, this guy gets to do the two things I’d rather do always – eat and travel. While it was a fun meet up, it was impossible to agree on the subject of meat. Most of the others around were fanatical carnivores – like myself (and I was wearing a tee with the message above) – so we traded insults with him for the first few minutes before the man silenced us with “food is like religion, and you should not piss on other people’s temples”.

After that the conversation quickly moved to life philosophy. I (along with at least one other person) was curious to know how he kept himself interested in the food + travel routine. Wouldn’t it get monotonous? We talked of retaining child-like levels of curiosity and wonder, an openness to experiences, of starting the day asking what newness can be done today and realised that as we grow older, we look for reasons not to do things, as opposed to the reverse.

After taking my trip with a food quote, (and underlining his instant wit) he went off to talk to other folks, and the rest of discussed how this also translates to how we interact with other people. Earlier, we used to trust others until they gave us a reason not to, and these days, it’s exactly the reverse. I wondered if this is probably related to the ‘openness to experiences’ we had talked of earlier.  More

Anthony and Cleopatra

Colleen McCullough

The seventh book of the Masters of Rome series. I have read the first three, but unfortunately skipped the three before this (just couldn’t find them at my regular places!) but the book thankfully works stand alone too.

This book marks the transition of Rome from a republic to an empire with the principal character, despite the book title, being Octavian, heir to Caesar’s name and fortune, over the other hopeful Mark Antony.

The book spans the period from 41-27 BC, beginning with the aftermath of the Battle of Philippi and the formation of the second triumvirate with Antony, Octavian and Lepidus. The uneasy alliance between Mark Antony and Octavian is short-lived as both long to be the sole power in Rome. More

Work from….

(image courtesy: Dilbert)

Sometime back, Marissa Mayer [disclosure: I’m a giggles fan 😉 ] created quite a flutter with her decision to get Yahoos to stop their work-from-home arrangements. This seems a performance linked decision and across the web, you will find various perspectives on it. This mix of perspectives continue on the employee side as well. Working-from-home brings its own set of pros and cons, and one can debate it from both sides.

As with most everything, there can hardly be a single solution that fits all, and there are various subjective elements on the employee and employer sides that need to be considered. This is especially so in the social era, when corporations will be compelled to align business objectives with a purpose that consumers and employees can identify with, and work cohesively towards.  More

Soul Kadhi

First published in Bangalore Mirror.

A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe.” Thus goes the quote, and it should apply to any dish. But with the advantage of hindsight, I think we should have started with the Murgh Hussaini Shorba or at least tried the Kadhi Pakora later – the former for chicken soup’s bestselling association with the soul, and the latter for the restaurant’s name. They probably contained the soul connection that we missed in our entire meal. In fact, such was the standard of the fare that, several times during the meal, an (almost) homonym flashed through my mind – kadi. It means ‘bite’ in Tamil and Malayalam and also has a genre of jokes named after it. The next few paragraphs should provide ample explanation of why this thought crossed my mind!

Soul Kadhi is housed in the same building as ‘Under the Mango Tree‘. (link has a location map)  It’s a small lane but you should find a place to park without much difficulty. Valet parking exists too. The decor is friendly enough, and those winnows on the ceiling are a nice touch. The music was all 90s Bollywood evoking bouts of nostalgia. Just loud enough to be heard clearly, but subtle enough to allow conversation.

Though there were soups in the menu, and some chaats as well, the starters sounded more promising and provided more options. So we began with the Banarasi Seekh Kabab. Soul – holy city – auspicious start, you know. Though presented well, they turned out to be like cutlets in taste, and some parts were burnt as well. The overall crumbliness didn’t help either. The Tangari Kabab had a marinade that wasn’t really bad, but its interiors hadn’t been introduced to the masala. In fact the interiors didn’t seem to have been introduced to cooking in general. The Murgh Gilafi Seekh was particularly bland and the mint chutney didn’t seem interested enough to save it either. By this time, we were ready for a fight, and the Pind Baluchi Tikka proved a worthy opponent. It put up a solid battle against our collective ravaging canines and proved to be a tough opponent! Despite its faults, the Mahi Tikka Ajvaini stayed true to its origins. The fish was salty enough for us to believe that sea water had actually seeped into its very soul. More

Friendship grants

In Rediff’s review of Kai Po Che, there’s a line that goes “Quoting from Bollywood, impromptu excursions and taking each other for granted without guilt is the prerogative of buddy-dom,…” That’s probably arguable, but if it is right, I now understand why my buddy count has been low since inception.

The first – excursions – I think, can be handled. That’s despite my obsession with planning. :) The second is a completely different story though. I hate taking people for granted and if I end up doing it and realising it later, I get guilt pangs even after apologising. It probably comes from the premise that I hate being taken for granted and thus the “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” gets applied. More