Monthly Archives: September 2013

Carnival de Goa

Published first in Bangalore Mirror.

Around the time when most of our friends were busy watching a blonde ‘Russian’ battle it out with zombies, we decided to get ourselves a little more authentic Goan experience…in Ulsoor, courtesy Carnival-De-Goa. It’s on Ulsoor Road, above The Grill House, and there’s valet parking. Bollywood did not take the decision kindly and sent a variety of obstacles – divine and natural – which did their best to play spoilsport. To begin with, we came to know that the day we landed up was a dry day in Ulsoor, courtesy a holy procession! Ironically, it rained so heavily on the ‘dry day’ that we had to choose the indoor seating option, though the verandah is quite appealing. The décor – yellow walls, paintings, caricatures, tiled tables, and the colourfully attired service staff with their hats, all screamed Goa, even as we got ready to experience a Goa without alcohol. Thankfully there was live music to lift our spirits! If you’re ok with some amount of Boyzone, MLTR, Backstreet Boys in your life, you’d enjoy it too. Speaking of lifts, the lift to the second floor gives a romantic twist to the restaurant’s Goan theme and does its best to convey that “three’s a crowd”, but don’t be put off by it. The way to paradise is fraught with trials, but if you soldier on, you will be rewarded for your efforts!

We hoped to drown our sorrow in what served as the closest substitute for alcohol – mocktails. The Ice & Fire, a chilly drink with lime chunks and lemonade, unwittingly set the tone for the dinner – spicily superb! The Kokum Cordial did try to match up, but its Tabasco sauce and chaat masala didn’t have the requisite punch! The “Goan Style Chicken Cutlets” was the first starter to arrive, and though a tad crumbly, the chicken mince and potato coated egg did their job wonderfully well. The Chilly Beef was the next to arrive, and completely lived up to its name. The meat was well cooked and the chilli was kind enough to allow a roasted masala flavour to make its presence felt. The Goan Sausage Chilly Fry was excellent as well, and in addition to the spice, also had a tang. Both the beef and the pork go very well with pav, so that’s something you might want to try out. A display tray with all sorts of aquatic life posing for us (and a board that actually had ‘Salman’ amidst aquatic life) finally convinced us to go for tiger prawns (with masala) and what a choice that turned out to be! Superbly cooked prawns with a spicy masala that had a variety of flavours in it, this was an excellent way to end the intro act!

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We began the main course with a Roast Beef with Goan Pav. The mini ‘burgers’ managed to give some respite to the flaming tongues and deliciously so. It’s probably a cardinal sin to try vegetarian fare in a meat carnival, but the Mushroom Xacuti did the veg section proud with its roasted spices and fresh coconut. Went quite well with the Goan rice. The Pork Vindaloo arrived next, with Sannas, and quickly made its way up the charts with its hot-sweet-sour burst of flavours and a strong vinegar presence. A lot of open mouthed admiration happened for this dish, some thanks due to its extreme spice levels as well. The Goan Style Chicken Curry was the last to arrive, and under normal circumstances would have been well appreciated, but it was a bit like Dravid batting in the era of Tendulkar!

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Bebinca was a given in desserts, but we also tried out the Alle Belle and a Caramel Custard. I’m not a Bebinca fan- actually hate it – but this was probably one of the best I’ve had. The Alle Belle, coconut filled pancakes, actually reminded us much of a Kerala dish! The Caramel Custard was excellent and etiquette was completely ignored as we attacked it.

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If, somewhere in Ulsoor, you come across a larger-than-life milestone that says Goa is 0 km away, treat it as a message from the heavens, and travel two floors upwards to experience Carnival-De-Goa. A well designed restaurant, with friendly and energetic staff, who are extremely confident about the food they serve, and superb food at great prices, (for about Rs.1250, you could share a mocktail, a couple of non veg starters, a couple of main course dishes and a dessert) it’s sure to give you an awesome taste of Goa.

Carnival De Goa, IInd Floor, Kensington Point,  Ulsoor Road, Ph: 080 – 25580093, 7676767620

..the question remains

It has been more than a couple of years since I wrote on the subject of planning – the acceptance of destiny vs free will in The Uncertainty Principles and the balance between change and stasis in its follow up. In my mind, the debate continues to rage, with flash points on a regular basis, thanks to various life scenarios and the things I read. I also realised that the recent narrative posts (1,2) are also a different way of framing this debate. Like I wrote in the posts, some narratives are already chosen for us, and some we choose, but these are all our attempts to fulfill our sense of belonging. In other words, our endeavour to find the reason for our existence – our purpose. Does one find it by working towards something or by dealing with life on a real time basis?

A few days back, I read an article in HBR titled “It takes purpose to be a billionaire“, in which the author classifies ‘purpose’ into three buckets. Not that everyone’s idea of ‘purpose’ is to become a billionaire, but this is very clearly a planned path to achieve something that contributes to the sense of purpose. While the article does not mention it, the category I have always wondered about consists of people who have followed their passion – sports people, artists etc who have worked on a skill and honed it to near perfection. A very interesting perspective I read on that premise is the Scott Adams’ “Practice and Genes“, which takes a look at the theories on the subject and finally states that the critical element is luck. The most important skill involved in success is knowing how and when to switch to a game with better odds for you.

Which brings me back to purpose and how we find it, and my introspection. “Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes” ~ Carl Jung. (via) I thought about the ‘living in the moment’ perspective that finds a place in Buddhism texts and several other works of wisdom. At first, I thought it supported the destiny and real time approach, specially because it is difficult not to have baggage associated with the plans one makes. (literally and otherwise!) But then I realised that it was less to do with the planning aspect and more to do with how we deal with scenarios. Even if one works on a plan, how one deals with a setback to it is where the advice has value. In essence, that won’t help solve the debate.

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There are profound statements that support both ways of looking at it. I continue to rack my brains to find the path that will fit me, or make it. I think there is an element of subjectivity involved. That does not make the job easier, in fact, it probably makes it tougher. After all, “He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.” Lao Tzu

until next time, the clock ticks away in real time

Holmes Of The Raj

Vithal Rajan 

Similar to the other Holmes fan fiction I read earlier, (The Curious case of 221B –http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/…) this book is also set up on the premise of the author receiving hitherto forgotten papers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The setting is late 19th century India, a crucial arena where ‘The Great Game’ was being played out. Holmes and Watson get involved in 5 cases set in various parts of India – Madras, Hyderabad, Delhi, Bombay, Nainital to name a few, and then return 25 years later for a swansong adventure. What is interesting about the book is the way the author weaves in historical characters and events, and shows a different perspective to discoveries and personalities associated with them – Ronald Ross, Ramanujan, to name a couple. And it’s not just science, but literature (Kipling, his character Kim and another that would serve an inspiration for Mowgli; Rabindranath Tagore) and sports (Dhyan Chand). The same trend continues for political events too, with Motilal Nehru, Lala Lajpat Rai, Lord Ripon all featuring in various storylines.

What didn’t work for me was the narration and mystery moving away from the original Holmes adventures. Very often, the focus is on how Holmes and Watson had played crucial parts in actual historical events, and many a time, these seem a laboured fit. The book concentrates more on the cultural and political aspects of the colonial rule (with the Notes section providing enough evidence that the author has done a lot of homework) and tries to draw our attention to the kind of thinking and behaviour that laid the framework for everything that has happened since. Unfortunately, that means that Holmes and Watson are relegated to being props in a larger canvas. So, it would be good to set your expectations clearly before you start out. This is a commentary, and a very interesting one, on the socio-cultural ethos of the Raj. Regard Holmes and Watson as just another couple of characters, and you’ll do just fine.

Manufacturer, Market, Media

Sometime last year at Myntra, we were having a planning meeting and everyone was asked for their take on the future of (fashion) e-commerce in a 5 year time frame. I confessed that I had no idea, and asked the group whether they had heard of 3D printing. Since this was before the hype machine went into overdrive, none had. My perspective was that if I could print branded merchandise on my own, what would be the role of an intermediary? (interestingly, I read something on a similar note more recently)   I have no idea how mainstream this phenomenon will become, but 3D printers are already being sold online by Staples and Amazon. eBay also has an app that allows users to buy custom goods from three of the top 3D printing companies. (via)

There are multiple themes which we can explore from here – the augmented human, the collaborative economy and social commerce – to name a couple. But since these are fairly obvious and have at least been kickstarted on the blog, I thought of connecting this to my post from last week – the future of owned media – in which I explored the possibility of a media marketplace which is tapped by businesses to create, curate and possibly even market content that is relevant to them. The journalism that brands want subsidising the journalism that society needs. I hypothesised whether Bezos’ purchase of WaPo was a vague start to this, given Amazon’s presence in multiple domains.

It’s interesting that Bezos had invested in MakerBot, probably the original poster boy of 3D printer manufacturing, (via) but thinks the digitisation of physical goods is a while away. It becomes even more interesting when WaPo publishes a story on the business case for 3D printing in the context of e-com players’ need to minimise delivery time. The long tail would explode even more! The article also mentions how “Amazon’s giant fulfillment centers could be another place where just-in-time manufacturing and delivery come together.

What role does media play in this? IMO, we’re increasingly moving towards interest based communities and our consumption of media is influenced by this. With Kindle, WaPo and several other components in the mix, Amazon could indeed be well placed to aggregate the long tail of not just creators and consumers of physical goods, but information (media) as well.

until next time, the Amazon of news

Blimey

Blimey had been making quite a few appearances on Facebook and outside and that meant that we chose a lazy Sunday afternoon to drop in. For those not yet aware, Blimey is an Irish Gastro Pub on the 5th floor of 1, MG. (map) The mall has parking at rates that would make you go ‘Blimey’ in a not-so-positive way. It also has these strange escalators that allow you to see alternate floors (2,4) like stations where the train doesn’t stop! Thankfully, Blimey is on the 5th floor along with a few other restaurants, and can be reached without a step-by-step instruction guide. :)

It’s spread over 2 floors, including a rooftop (I’m told) but we were fascinated enough by the view from the lower floor to not even explore further. The place has quite a funky ambiance – musical instruments hung from the roof, trunks and posters, coaster-text, bar games, and of course, a fantastic view of Ulsoor Lake and surroundings!

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We decided to start with an Irish Dublin, and an 1886, and from the food menu, a Sausage Four Ways. The Irish Dublin was the relatively better drink, with its banana flavour. The 1886 was spicy enough, but it didn’t really work for me. My biggest problem was with the glasses which seemed to have a default fish flavour! (smell) The sausages were the meal’s saving grace, and in a rare show of unity, the combined German, Irish and English forces gave us something to really cheer about. This one is highly recommended! For the main course, I asked for a Chicken Crock Pot, and D took a Shrimp & Scallop Pasta. The pasta arrived first and though it wasn’t really bad, the marinara sauce had a very feeble presence and the shrimp wasn’t as cooked as D would’ve liked. The chicken came with a complimentary bread basket and a superb gravy. But it was actually made for two, I’m sure, and after a while, I found it too tiresome to finish! That also meant that we had to skip dessert. :(

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The service was quite prompt and cheerful. The bill came to more than Rs.2600 and I checked to see if we were also sponsoring some Irish cause! We weren’t, and I felt it was quite a lot, despite the location!

Blimey, The New Irish Gastro Pub, 5th Floor, 1 MG Road. Ph: 08022086777, 9886587930

The narratives that we drive

It probably started with the ‘narrative’ post, but a few things I read later made me wonder about our choices of narratives and where this could be leading to. Some narratives happen to us depending on our circumstances – time, geography etc, and some we choose of our own volition, or so it seems. Continuing from the earlier post, I think it’d be safe to say that with a more connected world, our ability to choose narratives has been heightened. Abundance of creation, and consumption. I think this was the related fantastic little piece of content that triggered this entire line of thought. It has some thoughts on material consumption, and though delivered differently, it has some profound insights as well.

Partly thanks to that abundance, the noise around us has also increased, and has found better ways of being amplified. To quote Clay Shirky,

It is our misfortune, as a historical generation, to live through the largest expansion in expressive capability in human history, a misfortune because abundance breaks more things than scarcity.

In fact, one could argue that compulsive consumption (material, and otherwise) is one of the reasons for our ‘emptying out‘. (do read) As I was writing this, I had a sense of deja vu, and some searching pointed me to this, written 3 years back, in which I tried to figure out whether there was a middle path between a self that was driven by others’ perceptions and one that was driven by a moral compass dictated by few external stimuli. In that post, I had quoted from Paul Graham’s ‘addiction’ post,“we will increasingly be defined by what we say no to” I think that still holds true.

In this era of abundance, what narratives should we choose to be part of? How can one be objective, is one even right by being objective? An excellent post whose advice I hope to implement more is this. I really couldn’t disagree with any of the 30 things mentioned, it just seemed intuitively right. But I think this would serve as an excellent first lesson..

(via)

until next time, an open and shut existence

The Indian Clerk

David Leavitt 

The Indian Clerk is a historic novel based on real events and real characters, but mixes actual history with a bit of fiction. It begins with a lecture given by the great British mathematician GH Hardy in Harvard in 1936, quickly zooming back to 1913 when Hardy was working on the Riemann hypothesis. He receives a letter from Ramanujan, a clerk in the Madras Post Office, who seems to have come close to a solution to the problem.

Soon Ramanujan arrives in England, and the genius of the ‘Hindoo calculator’is quickly acknowledged. The narrative is then shown through different perspectives – Hardy’s, Alice Neville’s and though Ramanujan plays a key role, it also brings into focus the various other events, people and even attitudes in the timeframe that Ramanujan lived in England – World War I, the collaboration between Hardy and Littlewood, Bertrand Russell’s antiwar activities, the Apostles’ meetings and so on. It is interesting to note that though his genius is acknowledged, both Alice and Hardy have conflicting views on how Ramanujan can be given the perfect conditions to flourish and both have sexual undertones in their relationship with him.

The thing that didn’t work for the book was that in the middle, it meandered away from the central theme – Ramanujan and his mathematics – into the politics of the era. Where it does work wonderfully is in bringing out the person in Ramanujan – a normal person with his own set of problems, desires, insecurities and even a capacity to feel insulted at what some would consider the pettiest of things. It is quite heart rending to see a man trying to cope with conditions completely alien to him, separated from a wife from whom he craves attention (if only through letters) even as he understands that it is a better stage for him to shine. It is difficult not to feel for the man. What it also does is show mathematics in a new light “…mathematics had tantalized us with a pattern, only to snatch it away. Really, it was rather like dealing with God”

So if you don’t have some kind of natural aversion to mathematics and don’t mind wading through the politics of the time, this is quite a good read, especially towards the end, when the focus is on the person within the greatest mathematician of his time.

The Future of Owned Media?

Tech Crunch had a rather funny take on why Bezos bought the Washington Post, but the more thought provoking piece was on the Post itself. (via @nixxin) Its premise was that the predictive analytics perfected by Amazon could be used to provide Post subscribers with personalized news feeds based on where they live and what they have read before. People browsing The Post’s Web site or tablet app could be served ads tailored to their past purchases, and then could buy products with a single click. Ironically, the last paragraph actually ends up validating the TC post. :)

It reminded of an earlier post of mine, in which I had wondered about the future of media in a social era, and though I did not use the words, asked whether a ‘marketplace’ kind of model for news creators and curators was possible. To be honest, I was still skeptical whether a business model could be worked out on this line of thought. But the entire WaPo purchase by Bezos, the subsequent discussions on the web, and this fantastic article at Forbes that brings out the radical shifts in management required for a firm to thrive in ‘the creative economy’, set me out on a new direction.

Media and advertising, like I mentioned in the earlier post, have had an intertwined life. What if media cannot now exist as a business on its own – the primary reason being that the value it provides -news -is being disrupted by technological innovations including self publishing tools? Does it mean that  its role now has to be seen within the context of a larger business? We’re already well into the paid-earned-owned media cycle, and while paid is arguably on a decline, earned is now increasingly being controlled by the platforms. (FB’s Edgerank, for example) Does it not make sense for a firm to make relevant news part of its product offering, or part of a sales process? Of course, the dynamics would work different from a merchandise marketplace, but if news is a commodity, can’t its vendors be on a marketplace? Media corporations might not be able to sustain a business model with high overhead costs, but journalists could build a reputation and thrive, and the marketplace would decide their price!

The WaPo purchase is probably just another kind of vertical integration. Much like an e-com company India would build its own logistics or payment gateway and then even white label it, the far-sighted Bezos might have just taken the first step in evolving owned media in a scale and direction no one has ever thought of before. Journalism has mostly been subsidised by commerce – I’d say this is just another evolutionary necessity.

until next time, to each his own media..

Fenny’s

This review first appeared in Bangalore Mirror.

Fenny’s is almost opposite Raheja Arcade in Koramangala, on the third floor of the building next to Food World. They have valet parking, and those with a more modest and lesser set of wheels can park in one of the many side lanes and walk it up. The map and menu are at Zomato.

The word ‘Fenny’ (though usually spelt feni) can mean different things to different people depending on what happened after they consumed it, but there would definitely be a Goa connection. So it is a bit funny that a restaurant named Fenny’s does not serve Goan food. But the owners clarified that the name symbolised a connection in spirit to Goa, further emphasised by a tagline “Happiness Everyday”. This was my third visit here, and I can confirm that the lift is most definitely a slice of Goa. It moves at its own pace, rocks, (though more in an effort to mimic waves) is mostly crowded, and starts and stops exactly when it wants to. But much like Goa, the niggles take a backseat as soon as you enter the place. The menu is a mix of Mediterranean and European, and is backed superbly by an ambiance and décor that’s probably one of the best around, and manages to easily transport you way out of Koramangala.

We began with the Basil Bell Pepper Soup – the tomato overshadowed the bell pepper, but we enjoyed it courtesy the spicy flavour and a dash of tang. The Crispy Ola Breads with Fenny’s signature dip turned out to be four standard and largely unimpressive dips including salsa, Baba Ghanoush, and Hummus. The Peri Peri Mushroom was easily a better veg starter – grilled mushrooms with a vegetable stuffing and mildly spicy Peri Peri sauce. The Devil Beef Chunks had tender meat with a spicy sauce that also had chilli flakes in it. We also found this sauce’s cousin in Fenny’s Paprika Chicken, but it was spicier, fairer in complexion, and tastier as well. From the drinks section, we tried the ‘Dom’my Gun, which was unfortunately dominated by a guava flavour that mercilessly gunned down any taste of the vodka or the Fenny’s Special Mix that might have existed. You are more likely to have a better chance of success with ‘Vicky Donor’ -the other cocktail we tried – with its good mix of lime juice, vodka and spicy green chilli. But the winner proved to be the mocktail – the creamy Strawberry Delight, which also had pineapple, orange and cinnamon playing support.

In the main course, the Fiery Hot Vegetable Pizza arrived first, and despite the double adjective, needed some assistance from chilli flakes to make it truly worthy of its name. But that didn’t take away from its awesomeness – crisp onion, bell pepper, chilli and mozzarella cheese proved to be a great combination. The Supreme Chicken with Mushroom Sauce gave us a sense of déjà vu – except for the abundance of mushroom, it was a near replica of the sauce in the starters. The rice that came with it was boiled a little more than it should have, and the dish was soon neglected. Another dose of déjà vu – though a milder one – appeared in the form of the Fish Grand Milano. But though it was reminiscent of the soup, its spicy, creamy nature soon stopped comparisons.

We didn’t have much of a choice in desserts – the only options were a Chocolate Mousse, a Brownie and a Sticky Toffee Cake with Butterscotch sauce. The last one screamed for attention and got it! Richly deserved, I must add. It was moist, with an excellent texture and the rich butterscotch sauce complemented it beautifully. If it wasn’t closing time, I think we might have ordered one more!

Fenny’s has managed to create a fantastic setting in the middle of Koramangala. The food is quite good, though in some cases, the portions are arguably small. They also have an interesting bar menu; all of this explains the increasing buzz about, and in the place. You’re better off reserving a place, especially on weekends.The music was a little louder than we’d have liked but is not really a conversation stopper. The service was prompt and helpful. The person who took our orders was really good, and the only spoilsport was another member of the staff who almost dropped our main course all over us and didn’t even bother to apologise! With a cuisine that’s not very common in this part of Bangalore, and an amazing ambiance, it’s probably only the lift that holds it back from reaching greater heights! (As you might have guessed, I did get stuck in it!)

Fenny’s, 3rd Floor, 115, 7th Block, Koramangala, Opp Raheja Arcade, Ph: 080 65658000