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Penang Post! – Part 2

Continued from Part 1

The day dawned bright and sunny. Ok, maybe dawn is an exaggeration, and it’s usually so at 8.30. :D The buffet breakfast was at the Spice Market cafe, and the spread was just fantastic. I’d planned on a light breakfast since street food was a major part of the day’s agenda, but I really couldn’t help myself. Given that we were running a bit late, we skipped the original plan of taking Bus #101 and took a taxi to Georgetown, (40 MYR. They all claim to be metered, but ah, well. So ‘negotiate’ the rate before you start.) a UNESCO Heritage Site since 2008. Fort Cornwallis was where we asked to be dropped and the view from there reminded me a lot of Cochin.

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Someone at this fort had a cannon obsession. The damn things were everywhere, and the irony is that the fort has never engaged in battle! We took a leisurely stroll inside and then turned into Pengkalan Weld, to begin our street art discovery.

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You can do this street art exploration in many ways. You could just walk around and organically see the ones on your route, or research, figure out the ones you want to see and make a walking route. We did the latter. There are many resources available – a Google Map, an online brochure (doesn’t have the 101 Lost Kittens series) and the free guide that you can pick up at the airport is actually the most up-to-date one. Our first stops were Louis Gan’s “Two Children playing Basketball” and “Brother and Sister on a Swing”, both almost seemed alive!

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Penang Post! – Part 1

For long, Malaysia has had a transitory presence in our travel itineraries – a temporary and forced stop on our way to our vacation spots. We had actually planned a trip within India, but then I chanced upon Batu Ferringhi, Penang. That led us to Georgetown, its street art and street food, and plans were abruptly changed! Meru, for the first time, gave us a scare, but we were rescued by Taxi For Sure. After a quick caffeine dose at the airport, we were on our way to Kuala Lumpur, courtesy Air Asia.

Based on our earlier experiences, we had expected to land at that glorified bus stand called LCCT, but were pleasantly surprised when we alighted at KLIA2. In fact, we had an abundance of choice for breakfast and found it difficult to settle on one place. Across three floors we roamed, until Ringgits were spent at Alessio, which offered a great value-for-money breakfast. (at least by airport standards)

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A few hours later, another hour long Air Asia flight took us to Penang, the Pearl of the Orient. (that must be the most over used description ever!) The airport had quite a few useful free guides and they should be enough to plan the vacation even if you haven’t done so earlier! We took a cab from the airport pre paid booth to Batu Ferringhi. Our first impression of the place, during this trip, was that it was actually quite peaceful, despite the obvious urbanisation. Drivers followed road rules, there was minimal honking and not a lot of ambient noise at all. The driver got us to our destination in the promised 50 minutes for about 75MYR. The Shangri-La Rasa Sayang has a rather deceptive appearance. A lot of trees partially hide a clean, aesthetically designed yet minimalistic set of buildings. But once inside, you can actually feel the opulence. They were nice enough to let us check in a couple of hours earlier than standard, and a wonderfully refreshing welcome drink later, we were escorted to our room on the fourth floor, overlooking the pool, and the sea beyond.

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Brewsky

First published in Bangalore Mirror quite a while back! I delayed posting it here because I thought I’d be able to taste the brew soon. Last I heard, they still hadn’t solved the brew problem, and it’s almost a year now!

Usually when there’s talk of something brewing in south Bangalore, the reference is to coffee, and when names such as Giltasura or Kamacitra are brought up, you’d be pardoned for thinking that it’s about some new play at Rangashankara. That probably explains the open jaws, quickly followed by excitement, when I mentioned that a microbrewery had opened in JP Nagar. (map) Spread across two floors for now, it goes by the name of Brewsky, and though they ran out of brew samples by the time we visited – and that was a real pity, because they really sounded interesting on paper – there was no shortage of sky.

On one side, the bar stools lining the wall on the lower floor offer a wonderful view of South Bangalore’s skyline – one of the best I’ve seen. On the other side one can view the brewery itself, glowing blue at night, with graphics of the brew characters. The upper floor is alfresco and would be perfect for a brunch. Another floor is planned below soon, with space for live performances – we got a preview and the Viking helmet lampshades and ‘chandeliers’ made of beer bottles all pointed to a hangout with character. Watch out for a few interesting elements of a biker theme too! They plan to serve the full-fledged beer menu in about a month, for now you’ll have to make do with a standard alcohol menu. More

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.

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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.

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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