About manu prasad

Posts by manu prasad:

From The Ruins of Empire

Pankaj Mishra

The mid-late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century was a period dominated by Europe and later, America, and much of humanity’s narrative in that period has, as always, been written by the victor. The victors also did much to enforce their way of life and thinking on to their subject audience, which, seeing its own set of institutions crumbling against this onslaught, began admiring and aping their masters, or at least silently suffering.

What Pankaj Mishra does in this book, is give us a perspective shift – a view from the ‘first-generation’ thinkers of the time. Though their approaches and line of thinking were different, courtesy the varied milieu they lived in, their narratives had a couple of commonalities – an aversion for the West, and a recognition that they needed to build an indigenous renaissance to break the shackles and rise again. More

Happiness and compassion

Though I’d explored the idea of inculcating a sense of compassion in others in this post a fortnight back, I still think our own compassion needs to serve as a solid base. Not being judgmental is one way, but it’s not easy to practice. So I took a step back and wondered if compassion was a result and not a behaviour. The first behavioural direction I could think of was happiness. In myself, I have seen a correlation if not a causation. I am more compassionate when I’m happier. So I decided to explore this a bit. More

Bierre Republic

First published in Bangalore Mirror

Church Street has been getting quite a high these days – Social, Tapwater, and Bierre Republic. Pavilion Mall, where Bierre Republic is located, seems like a sandwich with nothing in between – the ground and top floors are active but the two floors in between looked unoccupied.  There’s no valet parking but they have space in the basement. The huge signage outside serves as a beacon of hope as you trudge past two floors of desolation and alien-looking faux vegetation to finally land up, ironically, near a man in a sailor suit! You could choose to be boring and take the lift too. Another small flight of stairs gets you to the dining area with many parts to it – alfresco with a few enclosed portions, a smoking section, a smaller lounge area, and even an ‘upper deck’. The furniture is almost all wood, except for the plush sofas in the smoking section and some other elements, and that includes the décor consisting of ‘barrels’! It was edging towards tackiness, but the beer posters manage to pull it back a bit. The alfresco section is the perfect place to be in typical Bangalore weather and offers a superb view of the Public Utility building. A live band was in the house, and except for a massacre of The Cranberries’ “Zombie”, which almost provoked us to violence for the sake of silence, they were quite good! Meanwhile, as the evening progressed, the service began reflecting the ‘ship’ theme – they were totally at sea, and were finding it difficult to manage the orders, despite the valiant efforts of their active crew, whom we felt sorry for. More

Dongri To Dubai: Six Decades of The Mumbai Mafia

S. Hussain Zaidi 

As a chronicle of the Mumbai mafia, this book does complete justice to the job. While the ‘hero’ remains the big D, the author traces the history of Bombay’s underworld from the 1950’s until Operation Neptune Spear – Bin Laden’s death – and its repercussions on Dawood.

The book begins with an interview with Dawood Ibrahim in 1997, the last published one, and one that is credited to the author himself, spends a chapter that serves as a synopsis of the don’s life thus far and then quickly zooms back to the 50s and 60s focusing on the birth of Mumbai’s underworld. The triumvirate of Haji Mastan, Karim Lala, and Varadarajan Mudaliar feature prominently in the next few chapters, which are dedicated to the intricacies of gold and electronics smuggling, bootlegging, minor extortion, the prostitution trade, dispute settling and other activities that filled the coffers of Mastan and his allies. Mastan’s search for ‘legitimacy’ and associations with Bollywood and politics are also highlighted, as is the beginning of the underworld’s nexus with the cops and politicians. More

The people we are….with

After I shared the “We, the storytellers” post on Twitter, Surekha sparked off this interesting discussion on how we could persuade others to be less judgmental and more compassionate. I really didn’t have a fix-it-all answer and felt that it was more important that we simply practice this ourselves. That, however, did not stop me from thinking about it.

The next day, my reading list had this post, which touched upon things that get people to change their behaviour. I remembered this William James quote used in the post from something I had seen a while back at Brain Pickings.

Clipboard01

More

The Fort Kochi Connection

We’d been eyeing The Fort Kochi connection for a while now, especially since the ads started appearing in the Malayalam daily, and the only reason we’d been delaying the inevitable trip was that we thought it would be a revamped version of its earlier avatar – Oyster Bay. But on the day we were planning to watch Bangalore Days in PVR, its location gave it an advantage and we succumbed finally.

The layout has been modified only slightly, if at all, but the menu seemed different. A few good Cochin photographs have been added too. The ‘connection’, thanks to Kochi being a major trading port, allows it to have a smattering of all kinds of cuisines – Chinese, Portugese, Dutch, and of course, British. But like all well brought up Malayalis, we first checked out what was available in beef. We also completely ignored everything but the Kerala cuisines – Malabar, Kochi and Syrian Christian. After much debate, the Achayan Pothularth (who makes these spellings man?!) was ordered. It sounds Sith, and is dark, but did an amazing job nevertheless – spicy, well cooked meat. They had a special Kallu Shop menu going, but unfortunately what we wanted from it was not available. We also tried the Karimeen Pollichathu, and while its masala was decent – spicy and a good texture, we have had better, and on healthier fish.

collage1

More

India In Slow Motion

 Mark Tully, Gillian Wright

A book written a decade back, and yet, it is still relevant because as the cliche goes ‘the more things change, the more they remain the same’. India has changed in many ways, and yet remains the same in many other ways, and that’s exactly the theme of this book too. Mark Tully and Gillian Wright have tried to study the various forces that keep India ticking at its unique speed – forces that accelerate and forces that pull it back. Through 10 unique scenarios they have attempted to not just unravel the fundamentals, but even taken a shot at the nuances that define the ‘Indian experience’.

The book begins on a day that has left an indelible mark on modern India’s psyche and society – 6th December 1992 – the Babri Masjid demolition. The first chapter is about the rise of Hindutva, the role of the BJP, VHP, RSS etc and perspectives of the common people who reside in Ayodhya and the nuances in their approach to religion and gods. The second chapter shifts the premise to carpet making, child labour, and the machinations of organisations, including NGOs to achieve the moral high ground even at the cost of truth. More

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