About manu prasad

Posts by manu prasad:

Mentoring Startups @ Microsoft Ventures’ Accelerator Program

When I come to think of it, my sales/brand jobs have all been on startup mode, though the organisations themselves were quite established – Dishnet DSL in 2002, WorldSpace in 2003, MidDay Bangalore in 2006, Bangalore Mirror in 2007. Myntra was still a startup when I joined in 2011. I really can’t remember when I first became interested in startups – perhaps Bangalore’s culture of entrepreneurship affected me soon as a landed here – in 2003. But it really started manifesting itself only during my stint at The Times Group. Muziboo was probably among the first I actually interacted with (in 2008) and I still remember sending feedback to Deap for Burrp’s mobile site in 2009.

It was in 2010, when I started writing the startup column for Bangalore Mirror that I understood why I probably had such a fondness for startups - in them I see individuals who have in some way connected to their purpose in life. That gives them a passion and energy that is amazingly infectious. After the column’s run ended in 2013 (at 97 Bangalore based startups!) I had no official reason to associate with them any longer, though the connections I’d made early on – Zomato, for example – gave me an occasional opportunity to indulge my interest.

do-something-that-matters-2

(via)

All of this would explain my immense happiness when I was invited to be one of the mentors at the Accelerator Program of Microsoft Ventures last year. The Accelerator is part of a global establishment and helps entrepreneurs launch/scale their startup through a 4 month intense program that begins in January and July every year. At the accelerator, the entrepreneurs get access to quite a few things – a pool of mentors with expertise across various domains, (design, brand, technology, to name a few) office space to work from, and a ton of connections to help them gain funding and scaling opportunities. (FAQ) The other crucial factor they get, and I’ve seen it not getting the attention it deserves, is the Accelerator team itself. I have seen their diligence and their interactions, and they add an enormous amount of value in shaping ideas into executable plans.

I’ve now been part of the last two batches, mentoring a couple of startups in each batch – TommyJams and Tookitaki in the previous batch, and Imly and Voonik in the current. Respectively operating in the domains of entertainment, advertising, food and fashion, these four by themselves are enough to give you an idea of the diverse kind of startups that make up each batch. Though I’ve worked closely with these, I’ve also had multiple conversations with other startups and have been impressed by the sheer quality of ideas behind many of them, their willingness to learn and reinvent if necessary, and the tenacity with which they execute their plans.

My role may be that of a mentor, but I’ve learned quite a bit too. My learning has been in many forms – watching the startups in action, understanding at least a part of the intricacies of the domain they operate in, their approach to the challenges they solve, and most importantly, conversations with other mentors. Many of the mentors belong to the investor community and bring with them fantastic perspectives on a wide variety of things.

It has been an exciting experience for me thus far, and I’ve been planning to write about it for a while now. The immediate trigger came last week  in the form of an invite for the Demo Day of the current batch. I also learned that the Accelerator had started taking applications for the next batch. In my own selfish interest, I’d like to play a role in the life of some entrepreneur out there. If you think you are ‘D’ in the figure below, apply away!

tumblr_lo1pofU25f1qjg2hr

(via)

Disclosure: In case you’re wondering, mentors don’t get paid, not even to write this! :)

The Sins of the Father

Jeffrey Archer

The second part of The Clifton Chronicles. Harry’s plan to erase his past and start a different life in America has unfortunate side effects, as the last page of the first volume indicated. Emma, the mother of his son, meanwhile, refuses to believe that he is dead, and sets out to find him. Giles, after some hesitation, joins the army and fights the Germans in World War 2. The book also follows a few other characters from ‘Only Time Will Tell’ like Hugo Barrington, Maisie Clifton, and thanks to Emma’s trip to America, and Harry’s own adventures, introduces a few interesting new characters as well. The different-people narrative approach has been used effectively to zoom in/out in this book too.

The pace, as usual, is perfect, and that’s a skill I always admire Archer for. He now reminds me of Sachin Tendulkar actually. :) Once upon a time, Sachin was known for his aggressive mauling of bowlers, but as he aged, he made changes to his technique. He was still a master, but in a different way. In another era, Archer was famous for those amazing twists in the tale/tail. But after a while, they became predictable. In the last few books, I’ve seen a distinct change in his style. The wit is still there, but more subtle, as are the twists. A different kind of story telling mastery, and I, for one, am enjoying it.

Archer has captured the WWII life in Britain very well. There are interesting references to real life events and people – for instance Harold Macmillan. The US/British differences are also touched upon in a very humorous way. All these are little nuggets which add flavours to the story.

There is an old world charm to the characters, it’s probably because of the time in which the story is set. But Archer does like it this way, as I’ve noticed in other books. They also have everything falling into place for them, ahem, but things aren’t so bad that I can’t ignore. They are clearly good or evil, and there are practically no gray shades. I am curious to see how Archer will carry this on in the later parts, specially when he has characters in the contemporary era. I wonder if he will retain this clear division, and if he does, how he will get us to relate to it. :)

I enjoyed the book, and massively crossed the self imposed limits of pages/day – that’s a testament to the hooking capability of Archer’s narrative.

O’Land Estate, Coonoor

The planning obsession has ensured that our vacations/home trips are meticulously planned, and much in advance. So the long Ugadi weekend would’ve ended up as just another long weekend, but for the wonderful disruption by B & N, who suggested that we take a mini break. After many Facebook chats and near misses, we finally zeroed in on O’land Estates. (all details are on the site – click on the individual rooms for prices)

Day 1: Though we’d heard much, we’d never actually met a 5 AM (departure) on a Saturday, so it took us an extra fifteen minutes to get fully acquainted, and get started. (route map) Though B tried his best to convince us on the merits of the thatte idli at Bidadi, we made very Amit-like (for a definition, check the text here) jokes based on the first word minus an h and finally landed up at the standard Kamat Lokaruchi. Masala dosa, idli, chow chow bath, vada and coffee later, we were on our way. Barring a tiny water purchase stop, we (I use the word loosely, B and N did all the driving!) then drove until Gundlupet before stopping at the unofficial restroom sponsor of all weekend getaways out of Bangalore – CCD. ( a pot can happen over coffee!) We entered the Bandipur National Park in a while, and after some standard deer and monkey spotting, also managed to get the elephants to pose!

36 hairpin curves later, we were in Ooty. After much googling and even 4sqing, we landed up at the Nahar Sidewalk cafe for lunch. I sensed something wrong in the menu and we soon discovered that – horror of horrors- it was all veg!  But we were too hungry and the pasta we ordered turned out to be quite decent. I also happened to earn a Herbivore badge on 4sq thanks to the checkin! We had Google to thank for the chocolates from King Star Bakery, which were consumed through the trip.

The trip thus far had been very pleasant and we were wondering if we’d beaten our road trip hex. And then began our road wrestling! The route from Ooty to O’Land is curvy in real life but pretty straightforward on the map. But a couple of wrong turns after Lovedale meant that it was near 4.30 by the time we reached O’Land! The only consolations were the beautiful vista including picturesque bungalows, and the ever dropping temperature. The road on Google Maps actually ended quite a long way before the estate gate (that was a first for me) but the locals were very helpful. O’Land was quite a land’s end and looked totally awesome. We enjoyed the view from the Estate House and the tea, thoughtfully provided by Aslam. Our rooms – Hornbill House – was a tiny walk away, and we were already floored by the unique design before we even inside!

collage1

Hornbill house is spread over two floors and shares a common living room. The ground floor has a sit out while the first floor has a bathtub with a view! (though the area was facing a drought, said a notice, and guests were requested not to use it) The view also includes a waterfall, but that was on a leave of absence, courtesy the same drought!

collage2

We relaxed for a bit before heading over to the Estate House for dinner. The biryani would take a while, said Aslam, so we decided to have a simpler rice + vegetables + chicken meal, all the while admiring the quirky decor elements of the Estate House. The Bollywood lover in me had a feast! We also chatted with Sajan, the estate manager, who had himself just returned from Coorg. The night view from the Estate House was equally fantastic – lights from the isolated dwellings on the hills, and a starlit sky above.

collage3

Day 2: We just about made it in time for breakfast – Poori sabji, bread and eggs washed down with some excellent tea! There’s a little space below the courtyard level that offers a wonderful view, and that came to be our favourite eating spot. We asked Sajan for some outing options and he had two – a 40 km drive to Upper Bhavani or a 30 km drive to Coonoor. After much debate, we decided that we’d pursue the latter after lunch. We roamed around the plantation until lunch.

collage4

Lunch was the biryani we missed the previous night, and we set out to Coonoor at about 2.30. Thanks to Sajan’s precise directions, it took us just about 45 mins to get there. Splendid views all along the route. B, for some reason, got it into his head to see Wellington, a cantonment a little after Coonoor. What he specifically wanted to see was a golf course which apparently Tendulkar had visited. We never found it and B was the subject of much ridicule, though I later found that it does exist! We roamed around Coonoor hunting for a place to hang around and finally landed at the Gateway Hotel, a lovely property that has the Raj written all over it, including a hunting trophy from 1912. After a couple of beers, fish ‘n’chips and a fruit platter later, we decided to begin our journey back. Some fruit and plant shopping happened on the way. Dinner was standard fare and we watched Flight before a sound sleep!

Day 3: We decided to start our return trip immediately after breakfast – that turned out to be Rava Idli @ 9.30. :) Sajan was kind enough to have one of the workers get us the jackfruits we’d been eyeing since the time we’d arrived! :) He also gave us directions and even accompanied us for a bit. This time we didn’t get lost and made it to Ooty in just under an hour. There was much shopping to do – pickles, chocolates, spices – from Modern, which was also Sajan’s suggestion. Lunch was planned at Gundlupet, a slight detour from the Kanakpura route we’d decided to take. The Misty Rock hotel is exactly opposite the CCD we’d stopped at on Day 1, and its restaurant De Shell was our lunch stop. The unintentionally funny menu (check the image below) was the only solace while we waited and waited for our lunch to arrive. (Tip: order only meals or biryani if you’re in a hurry)

The Kanakpura route has small stretches of bad roads, and is relatively quite boring compared to the regular Mysore route. If you’re planning to take this route, prepare yourself for repeat stretches of farmland, hamlets, little towns and lakes that exist only on Google Maps. (blame the summer)

collage5

We reached in about 8.5 hours including the hour long lunch break – significantly better than Day 1. O’Land is a wonderful retreat from the concrete jungle, and the perspectives that nature provides when you allow it to, continue to amaze me.  And we owe B and N one for a fantastic mini break! :)

Bricklane Grill

Bricklane Grill has been a source of emotional attyachar from the time I went there for an office dinner in December 2012. (thanks, foursquare) Every time the restaurant pops up in a discussion, I get accusatory looks. “Tonight, we end this!”, said I, on a Saturday evening, when both D and I were sneezing in tandem. And that’s how we landed up at Bricklane Grill. (map)

We had reserved, and though only one table was occupied when we got there, (early – 7.30) by around 8.30, the entire section was full. For some reason, they were only serving drinks and appetisers in the alfresco area. Anyway,  it was a windy evening and we were already have sneezing fits, so we sat inside. The decor is functional yet classy, and the place has a very pleasant ambiance, with sufficient space between tables, and by the end of the evening there was a fair amount of buzz. Just right. I remember sitting upstairs (technically, the 6th floor) the first time I was there. That floor had a room almost similar to the one we were in, and a small terrace, where we had sat.

One of the service staff introduced himself and began offering recommendations from the menu. When he heard about our nasal troubles, he offered to make us a toddy based hot drink. Good touch, but though I asked for one and said we would order another if we liked it, we got two, and D didn’t even like it! :( Should’ve sent one back! We also ordered a Cream of Mushroom  soup and a Bheja na Cutlets to begin with. A complimentary plate of bruschetta arrived on the table. Not spectacular, but not bad either.  The soup was not bad, though uni-dimensional in terms of flavour. The cutlets were really good – mutton brain with a crumbed and deep fried egg batter coating. As for the drink, it couldn’t hold a candle to the LTO. (at Like That Only)

collage1

We waited to see what appetite we had left before ordering the main course – Patra ni Machi and a Bricklane Mixed Grill. The mixed grill had beef of two kinds, chicken, and pork. The Merlot beef was my favourite, followed by the Jack Daniels pork. The garlic chicken was not bad though the Peppercorn beef was a bit of a disappointment. But in general, well cooked and succulent meat. The fish dish, came wrapped in banana leaf, as it’s supposed to be, with a mint and cilantro chutney. D found it too bland, though the dressing on the plate could actually change that! The best part was that we still had space for dessert – so we could have that South Indian Coffee Brule (sic) that we had been eyeing. That turned out to be excellent, with the filter coffee flavour coming through beautifully. It was served with an almond biscotti, whose texture added much to the dish.

collage2

The service was quite good, except for the drink fiasco. The bill came to just over Rs.3050, including charges and taxes, Rs.1000 of which was thanks to the two drinks! But we enjoyed the meal and the ambiance, so wouldn’t really complain much.

Bricklane Grill, 5th Floor, Escape Hotel & Spa, 770, 100 Feet Road, HAL 2nd Stage, Indiranagar Ph: 080 42415505

An Internet of Things narrative

Towards the end of last year, I’d written a post on the ‘social product‘. Its premise was that given social’s conversion to media, the opportunity for fulfilling social’s initial promise would fall on ‘product’ – using data, network effects, and relationships to connect consumers along a shared purpose. In the last few weeks, I have seen rapid acceleration happening on this front. I can see at least two narratives working in tandem, and I’m sure that at some point they will begin to augment each other really well. In this excellent post on technologies that are shaping the future of design, sensors occupy the top slot, and they are at the basis of both the narratives – one on humans, and one on things. The official classification, roughly, translates into Wearables and Internet Of Things respectively for the scope of discussions here.

This post is about the second. So, what is the Internet of things? The wiki definition is simple, but effective –  ”The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to uniquely identifiable objects and their virtual representations in an Internet-like structure.” The best primer I have come across would be this infographic, which has everything from a quick technology explanation, applications and challenges to market size, statistics, and interesting use cases. For a really solid perspective, look no further than this deck titled ‘The Internet of Everything‘.

How does it affect us? For now, it is about convenience. If you’re familiar with Android launchers, imagine an IoT version – it’s almost there, using iBeacon! There’s more - Piper, which works as an IFTTT for your home, the smart fridge that can order groceries from the online store, the smart TV that can learn preferences and help us discover content, the washing machine that can help order detergent, the egg tray that will let you know about the number of eggs it holds and their ‘state’, the automated coffee machine, Philips’ connected retail lighting system, Pixie Scientific’s Smart Diapers, the GE a/c that learns your preferences, the smart bulb that doubles up as a bluetooth speaker, (!) and so on. Some of the products are really useful and solve a need, while some others are more fads and probably not adding the value that reflects the potential of IoT. But that’s just the learning curve in progress, as the market starts separating needs and wants.

All of this also means that consumption patterns will begin to change, as more purchases become automated, and more importantly data-driven. In my post on the driving forces of 2014, I had brought up technology as the biggest disruption that marketing has seen. This is most definitely one of the manifestations.

Clipboard02

What can brands do? For starters, get interested. Think about the tangible benefits that can be offered to consumers. What are the kind of data patterns that devices (or products) can surface to help the consumer make better consumption decisions? What kind of contexts can be relevant? Instead of force feeding advertising on traditional channels and fracking social platforms, can communication to consumers be made seamless using data, contexts and easy processes? While ‘device’ brands might have an initial advantage, ‘product’ brands need not be left behind at all. As the washing machine post (linked earlier) suggests, a Unilever or P&G might subsidise a machine, because it’s pre-sold with 500 washes worth of their detergent. It could even be real time, with SDK, API systems telling a partner brand to push a contextually relevant communication to a consumer. As things start storing and communicating data, privacy will be a major factor that decides whom consumers will share what with. Unlike media, trust cannot be ‘fracked’, it needs to be earned over a time frame.

Where does it go from here? A common language/protocol/registry is a good start, as is a white label platform – both are trying to connect an assortment of devices and gadgets. While there is value in data at an individual level (more on that in the next narrative) one of the critical factors in the success of this phenomenon is the devices talking to each other – humans acting as middle men to pass on data may not be a smart way ahead!  Digital Tonto has an excellent nuanced perspective that differentiates IoT from the web of things. (WoT sounds cooler!) The difference is in connection and interoperability.

collage

Equally important is this phenomenon’s ability to solve human needs. (Internet of Caring Things)

Collaborative consumption is fast becoming a consumer reality. As always, brands (generalising) are bound to be a few years behind, but the hope is that the web of things will force them to start collaborative creation and distribution and more importantly, focus on consumer needs.

until next time, #WoTever

P.S. In a corruption of Scott Adams’  idea, I think #WoT is paving the way for robot domination. ;)

P.P.S. If the subject interests you, check out my Internet of Things Pinterest board.

Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River

Alice Albinia 

I am showing signs of travelogue addiction, and this is the kind of book that creates it! It’s not just the content of the book, which is marvelous and makes for a treasure trove of information, but the sheer tenacity and guts the author displays, that has made me a fan. Spanning four countries, this book is the story of the river Indus, from its source to its destination, though not in a linear way. What it succeeds in doing, like the best travelogues do, is to also allow us to travel through time, in this case, even to the time before man existed. From Hindu mythology to the Harappa civilisation to Partition and the Kargil conflict and China’s occupation of Tibet, the book is not just the story, but the history of a subcontinent (at least a part of it) and the civilisations that rose and fell.

The preface gives us an idea of the expanse of the river through its various names, given across lands and by everyone from Greek soldiers to Sufi saints.

There are nuggets everywhere right from the beginning – the comparison of the arrangements of the Quran and the Rig Veda, the integrity shown by a citizen in the early days of Pakistan’s formation, a modern day citizen blaming Jinnah for the country’s authoritarian culture, a nation’s search for identity, and the vision of its founder, who was only human. The first chapter ‘Ramzan in Karachi’ is a book in itself, and this can be said of all the chapters! ‘Conquering the classic river’ is a slice of the Company’s India exploits, ‘Ethiopia’s first fruit’ shows the amazing ‘presence’ of Africa in the subcontinent’s history and present, and the facets of their absorption into the mainstream. ‘River Saints’ is about Sufism and its modern day remnants who are not beyond politics, religious conflicts and feudalism.

‘Up the Khyber’ is about the exploits of Mahmud of Ghazni, the sexual preferences in the frontier province, and the beginning of the author’s more difficult challenges as she zigs and zags through Taliban and smuggler territory. ‘Buddha on the Silk Road’ is an awesome chapter on the meeting of 3 great religions – Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism and how they influence each other in the area, down to the destruction of the ancient Bamiyan statues more recently. In ‘Alexander at the outer ocean’, the author stubbornly walks, despite very serious hardships, the route that the Sikunder-e-azam took. ‘Indra’s Beverage’ takes us back to Rig Veda times, the Aryans and ancient Stonehenge like relics that survive to this day, along with the Kalash tribe, which follows a religion that goes back beyond Hinduism. Some areas, as the vivid prose describes them, seem to exist the same way they did in Rig Vedic times. The incredibly advanced Harappa civilisation is showcased in ‘Alluvial Cities’, though the reason for their fall is still contested. Kashmir’s archaeological treasures are the focus in ‘Huntress of the lithic’ and it’s interesting to see how the same ‘painting’ has been reinterpreted across time by various people to suit their needs. In the final chapter, the author captures the startling contrast of man’s attempts to conquer nature and at the other end of the scale, his ever decreasing ability to live in harmony. This chapter is also a testament to her commitment to the book, and the mentions of Kailash and the possibilities of Meru were extremely interesting to someone like me, who is interested in Hindu mythology. The book’s final words, which makes us wonder how long the river which spawned civilisations will be around, is a melancholic gaze into the future.

At 300 odd pages, every page of this book is packed, and there is no respite. But it’s completely worth it!

I won’t be the judge of that!

A few days ago, S wrote to me that she was going through my old posts and was delighted to find lower caps for ‘i’ , font change for each blog and heavy and careless use of ellipses after every three sentences. The background is that in my professional life I am a stickler for error-free content. Even until a few months ago, I’d have been irritated at myself for this and despite the painful process, would have gone ahead and corrected each post! In fact, as I told her, I had even considered this once. I occasionally refer to my own posts when I’m writing new ones and once, sometime last year, I happened to read one from 2008, with all of the things that S mentioned and more! That’s probably one of the first times that I implemented something I’d been wanting to for quite a while – stop being judgmental and to be comfortable with myself – past and present.

There’s a back story to that as well. My judgmental nature had been on an ascendant for quite a while, and coupled with a temper and wit/sarcasm, I realised that I was hurting people. As is my wont, I analysed a bit and figured that at the base of it was the fact that I was extremely unforgiving of myself. Since I drove myself to those levels, I took a higher ground and berated others when they didn’t live by those standards, across various life situations. I also understood that the work had to begin internally before I could manifest it to/on others. It wasn’t easy to forgive myself in the beginning, but I got the hang of it gradually.

KR

(The Kite Runner)

This was, and continues to be, a bit tricky. How does one maintain objectivity when being kind on oneself? When does it slide into laziness? The way I deal with it is to try and understand the relative importance of an incident in the larger scheme of things. Carrying it forward to other people was a much easier task, especially when I paused for a moment and made myself understand that behind every behaviour there is a story. The challenge here is to make sure others don’t take advantage of the new found benevolence! If you’ve gotten thus far, you’d be able to handle it.

During a recent offsite, my current boss said I was one of the most unflappable people he knew. Huge compliment, and one I totally cherished, not only because of my history in this context and therefore my progress, but also because I actually think he is one of the most composed people I’ve come across! This also allows me to bring up a related subject – praising others. One of the side effects of being harsh on myself was that I became stingy with praise. I think it was Surekha who first pointed this out to me. In Em and the Big Hoom, I saw some lovely words, and have tried to live by them.

EATBH

Anything else makes you less.” That’s probably a judgment right there, but we’ll let it pass. These days, I try to praise – not for the sake of it, but by being a little more open to it. I also try not to judge. Even if I do, I keep it to myself, and make it as transient as possible. In the era of Twitter, this does become quite challenging! It is still a work in progress, and most likely will remain that way always, but I like to think that I have gained some ground. The mantra these days is

quote-Wayne-Dyer-when-you-judge-another-you-do-not-42355

until next time, judge dread!

The Tao Terraces

The Tao Terraces has been on my radar ever since this one once commented that they serve a good Khow Suey. On the Diwali weekend, (yes, I know!) we decided to get out of our regular gastroturf i.e. Koramangala/Indiranagar and head to 1 MG, (map) which to me is the new UB City in terms of #posh. The experience at Blimey wasn’t really fantastic, and since then I tend to look at the entire mall with suspicion. But go there we did.

We chose the seating on the ground floor, by the little pool, partly because we’d read that they only served a limited menu in the lounge on the second floor. (though when we asked whether this was true, the service staff said this was only true for the starters, and anything in the main course could be ordered upstairs as well) The seating is comfortable, and this section is dimly lit with a lot of Buddhist/South East Asian decor elements. The music is generic lounge and the overall effect is quite soothing.

On a whim, we skipped the Dim Sum and appetisers and asked for the Spicy Tuna Maki roll, but since that wasn’t available, decided to go for the Nigiri Sushi. (salmon) On a relative scale, we’re sushi n00bs, (both of us have always felt some kind of a strange revulsion!) and didn’t really have a benchmark to compare against. I experimented with the Wasabi paste and soy sauce and found my preferred combination in the third and final attempt. I liked the texture of the fish and the overall dish and am emboldened enough to keep experimenting. We’d also asked for the Laska Lemak Malaya (Chicken) soup. Spicy, tangy, with tofu and chicken, this was probably the best dish of the day. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

For the main course, we predictably asked for the “khau-swe” and since both of us were reasonably hungry also ordered a Wok Tossed Smoked pork and Jasmine Rice to go with it. The Burmese dish was reasonably good, though a tad too heavy for my liking. Also, the coconut flavour seemed to have come from a packet. The pork dish was quite salty with a standard smoked smell that even the jasmine rice couldn’t neutralise.

We would’ve loved to try out the Kafir Lime Tiramisu and the Wasabi Ice Cream but we were too stuffed! In all, except for the soup, it was an average meal that cost us a bit over Rs.2400. The service was reasonably prompt, though they always had an ‘are you sure’ expression on their faces.

collage1

The Tao Terraces, 5th Floor, 1 MG Mall Ph: 9986988444

A new medium

I haven’t taken you outside of the blog in a while, but here goes.

LinkedIn recently opened up its publishing platform, and since it’s a contextually relevant platform to publish my ‘work’ posts, I was immediately interested. Thanks to Gautam, I discovered this link, applied, and soon got publishing rights. It was a harder task to write something though! I have finally managed something that is a differently framed version of concepts that I have written on the blog already. Do take a look here.

The Fiction Collection 2 (Penguin)

This book was a little ‘Inception’ of time travel. It’s been 6.5 years since it was published and commemorates 20 years of Penguin in India. It consists of excerpts from the many works the publishing house has brought out, many of them from several years back. There were a few from books I had already read, a few by authors whose other works I was familiar with, and then there were authors and works I had never even heard of – and that’s why reading this was a wonderful experience – like rediscovering a few old friends and making new ones. :)

In a few of them, I did miss the larger context, but those were a rare few. There are a few translated works too, and I was surprised by the justice they seemed to do to the original work – ‘after the hanging’ by OV Vijayan being a perfect example. The other interesting part was reading a different rendition of something I had read earlier – Indu Sundaresan’s ‘the twentieth wife’ on Mehrunnisa and Salim (the early part of which I could associate thanks to Alex Rutherford’s “Empire of the Moghul”) or Khushwant Singh’s ‘delhi’ (‘nihal singh’ is set during the first war of independence and some of the events I remember from William Dalrymple’s “The Last Mughal”)

My other favourites included works that gave a glimpse of places as they once were – Bombay in Eunice de Souza’s “dangerlok”, (a wonderful piece of work) Delhi in Navtej Sarna’s “We weren’t lovers like that” and more tragic ones like Punjab in Neel Kamal Puri’s ‘death toll’ and Kerala in Jaishree Misra’s ‘from ancient promises’.

The best part is that with more than 50 different works, you are practically guaranteed to find many glimpses that you’d like and might make you want to explore the canvas further. It also took me to a different era of story telling – before IITs, IIMs, call centres, urban angst with corporate backgrounds and cliched marital ‘crises’, packaged mythology and such. For all of these reasons, a must read.