About manu prasad

Posts by manu prasad:

Harry’s

First published in Bangalore Mirror

When an iconic brand from Singapore lands up in your city, it’s only fair that you pay a visit at the earliest. I harried a few friends into doing exactly that on a lazy Sunday afternoon. From a single establishment at Boat Quay, Harry’s now has over thirty outlets across the globe, including one at our very own Indiranagar that started operations a month ago. This is right above Copper Chimney, (map) and yes, there’s valet parking. They haven’t really publicised it, so we weren’t surprised to find only a few other tables occupied. Harry’s, as a chain, bills itself as a sports bar but though the large flat televisions would corroborate that, it does seem more like something that just stepped out of an American sitcom – the one where friends catch up after a day’s work. Brick walls and comfortable seating, with a pool table in one corner, you get the picture. The props are probably standard at all the outlets, but they do make the entire ambience conversational – posters, coasters, napkins, all are an attempt at wit. My favourite was “High! How are you?” The music was a bit of a surprise and could be an educative experience for the kids who are the typical target audience at such outlets – ABBA, Boney M, The Whispers are not something they’d hear a lot. But I wouldn’t complain, especially because they played “That Thing You Do” when we were leaving! Now let’s stop pottering around and talk about the food and drinks!

collage1

The drinks menu gets both sides of a menu card (illustrated like a clipboard) just like its food counterpart and that’s an indication of the focus. They have several house specials from which we tried the Singapore Sling and Harry’s Old Fashioned. The cherry brandy pretty much overpowered the gin in the Sling, but it was a reasonably refreshing drink. The second drink (created at the original outlet) had Scotch in abundance though they went a bit overboard on the orange peels! But what we really liked were the ‘election specials’! (‘drink for change’) The mango and vodka based Kejrinator was fantastic, and the NaMo Thunder (orange vodka, lime and mint) matched it. We passed the RaGa snoozer though. I absolutely loved the creative play on the ingredients/descriptions in these- mango, orange, and RaGa being a mocktail ‘approved by mom’! An extra point only for that!

collage2

The complimentary bowl of peanuts indicated that they had a good insight into our salaries! The ‘Wasabi Paneer’ sounded interesting, but turned out to be Paneer with a wasabi dip. Except for that expectation blip, the dish was quite good – fresh cottage cheese that was made just the right side of crispy.  The Crispy Calamari, on the other hand, was a disappointment as it was fried a little too much. We then tried the BBQ Pickled Chicken and discovered a potential rival to the Tunday Kabab for the melt-in-your-mouth quotient! Thanks to this, and its zesty flavours, this was our favourite dish. The Fried Lollypops and Pattaya Fish Fingers are house specials, and you could give them a shot as well.

collage3

In the main course, the Caesar Salad was more mundane than magnificent, and this was despite the bacon! The Harry’s Jazz Burger was good on paper, with mutton patty and bacon among its ingredients, but the patty could have done with better cooking. Ironically, the next dish was Harry’s Double Cooked Noodles and we asked for the Mixed Meat Butter Curry version. While fish sauce in everything is probably common in the generic geography that Harry’s originates from, I hadn’t anticipated prawns in the dish. Over several experiences, I have discovered that they’re allergic to me and seek to escape. This time was no different; I will spare you the graphic details. A mention in the menu would have been nice! The Kasoori Paneer Khurchan, with well cooked cottage cheese, a flavourful gravy and served with a curious version of naan was a surprise winner in this round.

From the four dessert options available, we chose the Baked Vanilla Cheesecake and the Chocolate Mousse. The former, with the little lemon curd touch was easily the better dish. In addition to the taste itself, we didn’t like the plating of the latter much, because seeing a lot of empty space where chocolate could have been is not a pleasant feeling!

collage4

A meal for two would cost around Rs.1500 (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) – a couple of cocktails, a non veg starter, a main course dish and a dessert. The service staff is friendly and helpful. The ambiance and the pricing give it the potential to be a good hangout. However, in the crowded restaurant scene of Bangalore, consistently great food is a must for any Tom, Dick or Harry to survive!

Harry’s, (Above Copper Chimney) Plot No: 2006, 100 feet Road, Indiranagar, HAL 2nd Stage, Ph: 080 41113500

The Art of Live In

I borrowed the title from a post I wrote nine years ago on live in relationships. We have come quite a way since then, but I am also seeing an evolution in this narrative. I call it the same narrative because fundamentally it challenges the institution of marriage as we know it. The way I see it, marriage was an evolutionary necessity – as a relatively structured process of procreation, and thereby organising society. The words below are from a work of fiction based on the life of the Buddha, it would seem that neither is it far from truth nor have things changed much.

Sid

So why is this institution primed for ‘disruption’ now?

Technology is one factor. The family unit made sense when younger members of the species had to be protected. As AI advances, maybe a family unit will not be necessary for safety or security. Technology also might play a hand in the physiological aspects, more on that in a bit. As I mentioned in an earlier post (Emotion As A Service) marriage is as much a transactional relationship as an emotional one. To paraphrase Scott Adams,  (fromthe internet has allowed us to have a barter economy of relationships….a virtual spouse comprised of a dozen separate relationships

The second factor – advances in medicine and increasing lifespans. Imagine living up to 150. The ‘life partner’ that you chose when you were a carefree 20 year old may not be the one you’d want to have fireside conversations with in your middle age – 95. Interests, outlook, worldview, personality etc change with time. Maybe you’d be living in different cities at different stages. 

Another factor I’d consider is depleting resources – these may be natural, (on a larger scale) and economic (on an individual scale) (any thing else you can think of?) These might force the species to rethink the institution, even though it seems hardwired into the brain by now. 

I can already see several paths diverging from this point. Robots as companions for the aged is a fast developing area, it could be used for young ones in future. In a physiological context,  though we might not be there yet, s3x with robots is a distinct possibility by 2025. There’s bound to be a learning curve, but hey! 

i130925bb

(via)

In a relationship context, The Atlantic had a long article on polyamory, including perspectives on how society sees them, and the challenges involved. I was actually more surprised when Bangalore Times carried an article on the subject on its front page recently. The point here is that it is getting mainstream attention, arguably the first step in societal acceptance of units that are radically different from the traditional family. Even children with DNA from three parents might soon overcome legal hurdles and become an accepted practice.  

With all these paths, and many more, the institution of marriage might become one of the many options available. Some communities might hold on to it – as a tradition. But as time progresses, both individuals and society will undergo not just transformations on the outside, but in mindset as well.  After all, isn’t evolution just a logical response to a creature’s living environment? If it is, once the evolutionary necessity has passed, even this tradition might just fade away.  

(The views expressed above are just the author’s attempts at intellectuality, and do not represent his actuality. He hopes he doesn’t have to sleep outside!) 

until next time, along came poly! 

Urban Shots : Bright Lights

Paritosh Uttam

29 stories by 21 authors, held together by the premise of urban India. Each story is only about 4-5 pages long, so the chances of boredom are fairly slim. But most of the stories do revisit well trodden paths, and do not really offer a refreshing take. The twists are fairly predictable except in a couple of cases. It really could’ve done with better editing – not just in terms of basic grammar and punctuation but also with the ordering and flow of stories.

My favourites were ‘The Bengal Tigress’ by Malathi Jaikumar, (for the tender nuances) Saurbh Katiyal’s ‘The Wall’ (mostly because of a setting I could relate to) Paisley Printed Memories by Sneh Thakur (for the superbly poignant portrayal of a terrible human affliction) and ‘Heaven and Hell’ by Shachi Kaul for its empathy and Rashmi Sahi’s ‘The Raincoat’ for a well written, meaningful tale.

Some stories attempted humour, others were more sober, some were poignant, and many were interesting, and all were indeed interesting to some degree. But what I hoped for and did not find were slices of life that would narrate the human condition that connects all of us. Dissing Chetan Bhagat’s brand of ‘Rs.95 + hint of love in the title’ does not count! :)

Urban Lights

We, the storytellers

The day after Robin Williams died, I had posted this on Facebook

This was a man whom (I thought) no one could have any ill feeling towards. He made so many people forget their worries, for at least a while, through his roles. When you saw him, you couldn’t but smile. How could such a man have any troubles? But somewhere inside him, a story was being told, one that would end his life. In a tangential way, I had related it to “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind” from the ‘One off a kind rating‘ post in which I had written of self perception, and compassion vs kindness.

Once upon a time, I used to be very judgmental of people who chose suicide, but I realised over time that people are different. Some have the strength to deal with things, others don’t. But I still wonder about one facet of this decision. Barring the ones who end their life simply because they feel they have nothing/no one left worth living for, do people take this decision because they can’t live with something they have done/not done, or they are afraid of how people would judge them for this? In both cases, the common factor is the perception people have about themselves, and how it would change.

That makes me think – how much of this self perception is built based on cues from others? I think this is very relevant in the era of social platforms, because these cues could come from a variety of people. Arguably, Facebook is already affecting our thinking and behaviour, in a warped version of the Hawthorne Effect. (a phenomenon whereby workers improve or modify an aspect of their behavior in response to the fact of change in their environment, rather than in response to the nature of the change itself. ) That’s probably why we largely see only happy stories on Facebook – because people know they’re being watched, and judged. How soon before this becomes the guiding principle in lives, their only cue for creating self perception? It can be argued that this was happening even before social platforms, but I think there is a difference in scale. If entire generations are spending more time on social platforms, their behaviour offline would probably soon start reflecting that. To stretch it, their sense of identity would be built online before being taken offline.

When you connect this to the fact that the internet is also home to the kind of taunting and trolling that can radically alter one’s perception of the self, and one’s feeling of self worth, I see a problem. In the aftermath of Robin Williams’ death, the collective trolling power of the internet forced his daughter off several social platforms, at least for a while. Paul Carr wrote about a generation – born before the 90s – that should count itself lucky to remember a time before such acts became the norm. I think the power each one of us has to influence the stories others tell themselves is massively magnified now, if only we could use that to be less judgmental and more compassionate. Maybe that will also affect the stories we tell ourselves.

Clipboard1

 

The Boozy Griffin

First published in Bangalore Mirror

One would have to wonder at the intelligence in adding alcohol to a mythical creature with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion, but hey, it does make for a fun, quirky name – The Boozy Griffin, and it sits right below a joint named after a pirate ship! (map) Yes, there is valet parking. Welcome to Koramangala, where we have seen it all! Once inside, the plush black sofas, high bar stools, the relatively dim lighting, and the red telephone booth all manage to convey a British pub theme. The smoking section, with its faux fireplace and posters starring Charlie Chaplin, Mr.Bean, Sienna Miller and so on, probably do this theme even more justice considering that the larger non-smoking section features First Blood and Scarface! It’s tough to get the right balance of relaxing and vibrant in terms of ambiance, but this place manages it. There are multiple TV screens placed so that most tables get a clear view, but for some reason they were showing WWE for a while before remembering their British theme and switching to EPL. By the end of the night, there were shouting matches at practically every table, thanks to the really loud music, which had switched from classics earlier in the evening to current hits and remixes of old favourites, all the while increasing in volume as well! So much for the sound, now let’s talk about the bite.

For a pub, the beer menu is pretty disappointing with just about three options! They do try to make up with a cocktail selection and an otherwise exhaustive bar menu, though we found a couple of missing items there as well. The menu gets a neat British touch with an entire set of James Bond themed cocktails. I tried the ‘From Russia with Love’ from this and though it was potent and delivered on the ingredients – especially the vodka and the chilli – it was loved about as much as Russia is these days! The mocktail we tried – Pear Mojito – was closer to being virgin than pear. The gin based Foxtail, a light drink guaranteed to keep you at ‘that level’ was the best we had. The other gin based cocktail – Tom Collins – also disappointed. It was the Caipiroska (4 for the price of 3) that saved the day.

collage1

From the food menu, the interestingly named Son In law Eggs arrived first, and the Thai combination of fried boiled egg and tamarind soya sauce was just fantastic. The Cottage Cheese & Tellicherry Pepper Fry was spicily awesome if you’re fine with curry leaves. The Beer Batter Fried Calamari was a dip in the high standards thus far, an actual dip would have helped! The Chilli Beef Fry wasn’t available, and that proved to be a blessing in disguise because its replacement – sautéed Stir Fried Chilli Pork in soy chilly sauce turned out to be one of the best dishes we had.

collage2

The main course has burgers, a few steaks, some pasta and some old school pub grub to be had! Unfortunately none of the beef dishes were available! The Chicken Espetada in Peri Peri arrived first. Served with butter pilaf, and on skewers, with onions, this had superbly spicy and perfectly cooked chicken. But the Angel Hair pasta with its Walnut & Thyme infused cream sauce was the clear winner. A wonderfully nuanced, flavourful dish! The Crispy Chicken Butty (nothing posterior about it, as the coaster explains, it’s just lingo for a buttered sandwich) wasn’t a bummer either, and the mildly spicy dish was well liked. The Deviled Kidneys on Toast (stir fried lamb kidneys) was not bad, and is quite obviously for those who enjoy these body parts.

There are only four dessert options, and three were unavailable! Let’s just say that the Sticky Toffee pudding is not worth saving stomach space for!

collage3

A meal for two would cost around Rs.1450 (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) – a couple of cocktails, a non veg starter, a main course dish and a dessert. The service is friendly, but occasionally tardy.  With a well-crafted ambiance, (barring the sound assault – carry cotton!)  some interesting food, and reasonable pricing, the Boozy Griffin has a lot going for it to hold its own even in the competitive grub landscape of Koramangala. But on the flip side, the unavailability of a lot of menu items could make the griffin seem woozy.

The Boozy Griffin, #105, 1A Cross Road, Near JNC Road, 5th Block Koramangala, Ph: 08064050000

P.S. It’s open till 1 AM on Fridays and Staurdays

The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

Pico Iyer

One of my favourite authors writing about a human being who has intrigued me from the time I read Siddhartha. It didn’t disappoint at all!

What is it like to live, practice, preach a faith while facing oppression from one of the most powerful countries in the world? Even as Tibet becomes more of a Chinese province day by day – the Potala Palace is treated as just another tourist attraction and the streets of Lhasa are filled with entertainment and shopping options – and several Tibetans question the wisdom of his approach, he is respected across the globe as a spiritual leader for the universal truths he espouses.

And yet, he underplays the role of religion, and stresses his own humanity while creating a future for Tibetans that is less dependent on him. He has brought Tibet to the world – a culture that was as hidden as a treasure and also gave the world a brand of Buddhism that is universal in appeal. Pico puts Tibet well in the context of a world that has moved from too little info about itself to too much in a few years.

Pico also writes well about how even with all the respect, people probably see his images and messages through the ‘keyhole of their own priorities’. He once mentions an instance when the Dalai Lama cried- he was asked ‘what is the quickest, cheapest, easiest way to attain enlightenment’.

While much of the book deals with His Holiness’ thoughts and perspectives, there are also mentions of his family, his early days including the time he was forced to flee from Tibet, and quite a few pages devoted to Dharmasala. Dharamsala – where foreigners come seeking wisdom, antiquity and mysticism from every Tibetan they see, and some Tibetans play the part to understand and probably even reach the lands of ‘abundance and freedom’. Pico Iyer writes about the confusion faced by young Tibetans – on whether to stay on in Dharmasala or go back to Tibet to either change or be changed. Dharmasala – also the place to which Tibetans flock, braving persecution by the Chinese, just for a glimpse of their leader and their belief that at some point in time, he will solve their problems.
In addition to all of this, the wonderful quotes, the additional sources of information on the subject, and various perspectives all offer us some thoughts on ‘joyful participation in a world of sorrows’.

Clipboard02

It’s about time

Time

There’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a while now – is time a man made construct or not? Days, seasons, years and cosmic events would happen even if we never tracked them, but our lives are defined by the time frame we live in – from a personal as well as socio-economic and technological standpoint. I recently got a perspective I thought I should share. I also found this overlapping with the devices we have used to track time. Hence these thoughts.

Form: For a while, the mobile phone was the watch, but wearables (my attempt at a primer) is the new entrant. I already see a little crossroad in wearables – the smartwatch/accessories like Glass, and the activity tracker, both connected to the mobile device. The former, in addition to being a chronograph, is aiming to be a personal assistant of sorts by aping many functions that a mobile phone does – GPS, messages and notifications, and contextually relevant information. (I liked this post on Google Now and Android Wear) The activity tracker, on the other hand, focuses more on fitness and health. What connects them is the battle for the wrist. Between Android and Apple, I’m hoping they combine both the above streams quickly. I’m also hoping that both will get better at moving from data to actionable insights.

Function: To bring the focus back to time, the form factor increasingly makes me think of time as an app. In this era, our control on time is negligible –  I can decide how I spend my day, (application of time) but I cannot really control my life span –  therefore we are bound to think of increasing its efficiency. I’d expect the device  to notify me on the best way to use my time – roughly speaking the bottom two levels (and a portion of the third) of my favourite framework – Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. But as we gain on immortality, we might have so much data on ourselves and the collective consciousness (related post) that it will offer more value in the top two levels – relevance and value to others (esteem) and self actualisation. The simple guiding thought is that isn’t time one of the only things that stops us from self actualisation, the other being economics?

Future: From a function perspective, I think the ambiguity on time (as a construct or not) exists because we can control it only partially. As we control it more and more our need to control it becomes lesser (increasing lifespans is one reason) it will automatically become a construct/’application’. (Very roughly, think of fire – before we learned to ‘create’ it, it might have been an enigma, but the moment we did, it was more an application.) Then, the decisions we make will probably be influenced less by time. Time will have to find a new way to be contextually relevant. Therefore, from a form factor perspective, I expect to see devices which provide us contextual applications of time wherever they are located eg. say bearables (implants, micro-devices attached to skin etc) that tell you it’s time for a heart checkup through an interface that’s probably an app on a portable device. It’s only a matter of time.

Even further on, the philosophical question to ask is that if one had an infinite supply of time, would one still measure it?

until next time, watch this space

Mekong

We’d seen Mekong during our trips to Kanua, and one Saturday evening, when we were in the mood for Oriental fare, we decided to drop in. Mekong is exactly opposite the Kaikondrahalli Lake (map) and on the top floor of a building that also houses various other food joints and even a gym. There is a fairly large shared parking lot, so you shouldn’t have any difficulty on that front.

Just as you get out of the lift, there’s a Thai tuk tuk to welcome you, complete with flashing lights! We got there by 7.30 without a reservation and just managed to get a table facing the lake. This section was already beginning to get crowded, though there is an indoor seating option as well. The decor is functional but there are some lovely lanterns and knickknacks to add some character to the place. This continues in the menu – shaped like a travel suitcase with the usual sticker graphics to boot. All the table mats have a different Did-You-Know food byte. All of this gives the place quite some charm.

collage1

The drinks menu had quite a few interesting cocktails and we chose the Tom Yam Siam and the Thai Bomb. The first was obviously inspired by the soup but had vodka and rum with lemongrass, lychee juice and ground chilli. This was quite a spicy drink with all the flavours well represented. Loved it. The second drink was milder and simpler – white rum with green chilli. When there’s Tom Kha on the menu, (a little incomplete version) we have to have it! The soup was a little thinner than we liked it but had fresh coconut milk, but lots of chicken and mushrooms. We then tried the Stir Fried Chilli Pork. Though it featured a lot of red chillies, they turned out to be quite harmless. The pork was really well cooked and with peanuts for texture, the dish was scrumptious!

collage2

For mains, we debated a bit because the menu had Khow Suey, but finally chose Lamb Rendang, Phuket Fish and Thai Fried Rice. The lamb could have been cooked better, but the gravy was quite tasty. The fish gravy was a little salty but otherwise fine. The fried rice was billed as spicy but was only mildly so. There were quite a few dessert options, but we were reasonably stuffed and asked for just a Rubies with coconut milk. We were hopeful of tasting something like the awesome Cendol we’d had in Bali. But not only was this delayed quite a bit, the drink itself was extremely meh – with gigantic ‘rubies’ and powder based coconut milk! :( Turned out to be quite a disappointing end to the meal.

collage3

The bill was a little over Rs.2600. Not really pricey, because we’d tried out quite a few things. Despite the just passable mains and bad dessert, we loved the place for the ambiance – the lake view and superb music – and superb service. We’ll most definitely drop by again.

Mekong, 51, Kaikondrahalli Village, Sarjapur Road Ph: 8884122000/22200

Artificial Morality

It wasn’t my intention, but the title did make me think of the morality we impose on ourselves, and that perhaps has some amount of implication on the subject of this post too. The post is about this – we seemed to have moved from debating artificial intelligence to the arguably more complex area of morality in robots!  When I first read about robots and ethical choices, (did they mean moral?) my reaction was this


It’s probably a good time to discuss this, since a robot has recently become a Board member in a VC firm as well. Ah, well, in the Foundation series, R. Daneel Olivaw pretty much influenced the mental state of others and controlled the universe. That seems to be one direction where we are headed. The Verge article mentions funding for an in-depth survey to analyze what people think about when they make a moral choice. The researchers will then attempt to simulate that reasoning in a robot. They plan to start with studying moral development in infants.

Thanks to this article, I learned that there were different kinds of morality - operational morality, functional morality, and full moral agency. This is all fascinating stuff and my mind was racing in multiple directions. For one, did morality develop because living in groups was more advantageous from a survival perspective and to live in groups, there had to be some rules that governed this coexistence? Did this ethics then evolve into an acceptable moral framework? These may or may not be in line with our individual instincts. Does that explain why each of us have a different moral code? If that is so, can we ever develop a uniform code for robots? To be noted that ethics are a tad more objective than morals, so they might be relatively more easier to ‘code’.

I also began to think if the augmented human would serve as the bridge between humans and AI and as he develops, will find ways to transfer moral intelligence to AI. Or maybe it would just be logic. Alternately if, as per this awesome post on what increasing AI in our midst would mean, if we do start focusing on human endeavours beyond functional (and driven by money alone) maybe our moral quotient will also evolve and become a homogeneous concept.

In Michener’s Hawaii, one man of science and spirituality discusses dinosaurs with a man of spirituality. I shared this on Instagram, wondering if humanity will be talked about in this manner.

Hawaii

The changes could be the ones we’re causing nature to make and ‘huge’ could be our gluttonous consumption of resources. In the context of robotics and morality, I immediately thought of Asimov’s Zeroth Law “A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.“ What would happen when one set of humans begin to do something that might harm humanity? What would a robot do?

The answers, are evolving. It’s a good time to be human, and to be able to experience wonder.

until next time, moral science

P.S. On a  related note – Bicentennial Man – RIP Robin Williams :’(

Overwinter

Ratika Kapur

‘Mature’ is probably the first word I’d associate with the book. True, it does fall under the general existential angst category, but I felt that it does go beyond the stereotype – in the characters, the way they are handled, and the way situations flow. The story spans only a few months, though the narrative does go back in time to provide contexts and many events unfolding in the story do have a connection with the past.

I felt that the only truly complex person in the book was Ketaki, the protagonist. I could pretty much relate to everyone else very easily, but her way of dealing with situations and people was the little unpredictability that made the book ‘different’. ‘Overwinter’ means spending winter or waiting for it to pass, and that is pretty much what Ketaki seems to be doing. The novel starts with a rather dysfunctional scene involving her and her uncle, but that’s not really a good indication of the story.

Ratika Kapur shows tremendous skill in narrating day to day events (a trip from Delhi to Gurgaon, for instance) such that they completely step out of the mundane. This is also true of her excellent descriptions of human emotions. There is a sense of reality in the book – for instance, the conversations around the Nano or T20 cricket or Nadal vs Tsonga – that happens between characters. It’s as though I stepped into a living room and happened to hear these conversations.

The other word I’d associate with the book is ‘intelligent’. The prose is assured, the narrative measured, and though you may not get a sense of closure that books often give you, this is a wonderful read.

Clipboard05