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Devdutt Pattanaik


When I reached page 250 (almost 5/6th of the book!) – at which point Sita is freed – I finally allowed myself the comparison that had been bubbling inside my head for a while. Jaya, an illustrated retelling of the Mahabharata by the same author, ranks among my top five books of all time. Thus far, this book had not really touched those levels. Rationalisation was easy – the Mahabharata is perhaps a more complex and interesting tale because of the sheer number of characters, the back stories, and the grey shades that permeate every character in it. There were many little nuggets I hadn’t known about earlier, and that made the reading more exciting. On a relative note, the Ramayana is more ‘linear’, and there are a limited number of layers that the author can add to situations or characters. I consoled myself with the fact that the narration was as spectacular as Jaya, and I had gained at least a couple of perspectives beyond my current understanding of the epic and its underlying philosophies. (Aham, and Aham Brahmasmi, for example) I did wonder though, why the author had to call it Sita – there wasn’t really a justification. More

Empathy & Monoculture

Thanks to Shefaly, I saw this excellent video on Aeon about “outrospection.” As opposed to discovering who we are and what we do in this world by looking inwards (introspection), “outrospection” is about discovering it through cognitive empathy – consciously looking to understand the perspectives of others, and going beyond the labels we might have made for them. The idea is that outrospection is the ask of the times we live in, and not introspection.

I quite disagree with that either-or view, and think both have their place in this era. They both work in tandem. For example, to let go of my prejudices, I’d have to understand why they exist in the first place and then proceed to change my perspective. Here outrospection follows introspection. Once I let go of my biases and listen more objectively, my worldview and my view of myself starts shifting again. In this case, introspection follows outrospection. As Lao Tzu says,

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First published in Bangalore Mirror

If you’re stuck between a 26 year old pub chain that’s iconic enough to go for an IPO (why is it so difficult to believe that Pecos filed for an IPO?!) and a microbrewery that’s arguably the town’s favourite you’d probably stick to the basics, make no fuss and figure out a unique proposition for yourself. (map, it’s above 3oh3 and yes, there’s valet parking) You’d also call yourself Barebones. (though I suspect the idea behind the name is more about a ‘come as you are’ attitude) A flight of stairs takes you to what’s primarily a balcony bar, with some amount of indoor seating. The first thing that hits you, or more precisely, your eardrums, is the music. We have much to talk about on that , so first, take a seat. You can choose between the outdoor space – dim lighting, a few high stools, and a reasonably good view of the road, and a cozy looking indoor area – well lit, some very interesting wall art, chalkboards that add a layer of meaning to the quirky sounding cocktails, and a bar that reassures you that you’re in the right place! So far, so good, but wait, there’s something clamouring for attention. Ah yes, the music. Under normal circumstances, this is the point where I’d whine about not being able to have a conversation thanks to the volume levels, but when the playlist starts churning out Sting, Counting Crows, Crash Test Dummies, Snow (Informer!) and so on, mixes it up randomly with the Bee Gees and Lou Bega, and in general takes me time travelling, it’s hard not to grin happily. But hey, let’s not get sidetracked by nostalgia when there’s food and drinks to talk about.

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The Age of Kali

William Dalrymple

I love doing this – reading a commentary long after the age has passed. It’s more than a decade and a half since the book was published and I’ve read four of the five books that the author has written since then. Both of these factors gave me quite a few perspectives on the book and the writing.

I see this book divided into two on multiple counts – first in terms of geography, second in terms of narrative style, and third in terms of being true to the ‘script’ of the book. More

The Man in the Mirror

In Ennu Ninte Moideen, (a Malayalam movie based on a true story) the Muslim-Hindu lead pair is forced to stay apart because their families refuse to give their blessing. Even as years pass, they continue to wait for each other, or rather, their families. A song in the film is used to track this passage of time and as it began playing, I envisioned a scene. Apparently so did D, and it played out exactly the way we imagined. During what seems like a routine look-in-the-mirror moment, Prithviraj (the protagonist) notices his first grey hair. (3:40 -3:55 in the video) A poignant few seconds follow as he fully grasps the significance of the moment.  More

Maya Firangi Indian Lounge

First published in Bangalore Mirror

Remember High on Thai? And then White Elephant? In a couple of years, this floor has seen three iterations. Given that the last version seemed to have lived up to its name – White Elephant – it will be interesting to see what the name Maya could do for the future of this establishment. The logo design is a bit of an illusion, one would have to know the place to find it. Once inside, there are two sections – one that houses the bar and is a closed seating space, and the other with an open kitchen and semi open seating. On a sultry Bangalore night, the latter is easily the better pick. The high seats offer a good view of the 100 feet Road, and together with contemporary pop remixes, set up a good mood very well, at least in the beginning. There was some unintentional entertainment thanks to a giant television screen that was playing Bollywood song sequences on mute. The steps for some reason matched the music perfectly! As the night progressed, so did the sound levels, until WhatsApp seemed a more viable conversation channel than speaking to each other! There was quite a college crowd in attendance, the DJ night might have had a lot to do with it.

Maya, meanwhile, has a suffix too – Firangi Indian Lounge. I brought that up during dinner and we tried to find the logic. Largely, the menu offers the answer. Though it starts off with an Indian and Oriental mix, the firangi representation happens in the form of pasta, pizza and sliders. There are also at least a few dishes on the menu that could be tagged as fusion. More

Algorithms, the institution of the future!

Tom Goodwin’s precise summing up of the shifting business environment is now legend – Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening. 

Institutional realignment is now on an accelerated path. In this superb, nuanced post titled ‘Uber and AirBnB make the rules now – but to whose benefit?“, Vili Lehdonvirta brings up very interesting perspectives. (To paraphrase)

– If buyers switch to a new market, sometimes sellers have no choice but to follow, irrespective of whether it brings them gains or losses (eg. if there is very little business outside of Uber to be had)

– Even if everyone participates with interests intact, the collective effects on society may not always be positive (eg. AirBnB rooms causing nuisance to neighbours)

– These conflicting interests are usually reconciled by political institutions, but they face the challenge of siding with incumbents or upstarts.

And towards the end of the article, this very important thought – these new platforms appear to provide access to those who have been denied it by the institutions and processes thus far, but is it that simple? In this context, the new jobs being created are quite different from the typical ‘job’ description. That brings me to a key institution – the traditional workplace.


A Thousand Splendid Suns

Khaled Hosseini

The author’s second book and also the second book of his that I am reading – that would be nothing out of the ordinary except that I read the third book first and I’m yet to read The Kite Runner, which often gets compared to this book. I think this has given me a different perspective – to summarise that quickly, I found ‘And the mountains echoed’ a better book and I can easily see the author’s growth both in terms of overall plot as well as narrative style.

This novel is primarily centred around 3 characters (four, if one has to stretch) and using a now-familiar narrative style, we are introduced to their different worlds quite seamlessly. Mariam, an illegitimate child, is forced out of her relatively peaceful life in Herat after the death of her mother. It’s difficult to understand what affected her more deeply – the change in perspective about her father, or her being married off to her father’s acquaintance and sent to Kabul. Mariam’s marital life quickly deteriorates, as does the ‘character’ of her husband Rasheed, and one cannot but feel for the isolation and helplessness of this woman who is abused physically and mentally without respite by a husband who preaches one set of moral standards while hiding stash of porn in his drawers. More

Acts on Purpose

A day last week began very badly. My cab driver, despite instructions to stick to his own half of the road, didn’t do so, and bumped into a two wheeler. To be precise, our car hit the ankle of the lady who was riding pillion. It obviously hurt her, she was sobbing. The driver was absolutely unapologetic and when I got down to check on her and apologise, he asked me to get back in! The traffic was piling up and the clock was ticking for a meeting I had at 11. I got in, and have felt miserable since then.

It also has to do with the fact that a decade back, we (or D, rather) were at the receiving end of exactly this. That night, it was the kindness of a family in Koramangala that helped us get some semblance of control over the situation. Their connection with the event was just that it happened in front of their house. The driver of the car which hit us (his family was with him) gave us the slip on the way to the hospital. Meanwhile, with D’s leg in a cast, it was a harrowing month for both of us. All of this was playing in my head, and I felt feel very guilty for not cancelling the ride and doing what I could to help. More

Boondock Bistro

This place caught our eye right at the time Whitefield became a serious contender for ‘home’. The name does have a self deprecating charm. So when the plan for a Mallu movie at Inox, Forum Value Mall was made, Boondock Bistro (map) was an easy choice for dinner. The restaurant is on the third floor and on your way up, the scrawl marks on the lift walls offer some entertainment. :)

The place somehow conveys an easygoing, unpretentious nature and one immediately feels comfortable. Loved the music posters – the Bob Dylan concert one was my favourite. There are also a couple of fun little Bangalore caricatures. In essence, a great place to lounge around. I think it would do even more better if there was alcohol. The music was superb, until they reached a point where MLTR tracks started playing in a loop. More

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