Cough Syrup Surrealism

Tharun James Jimani

I’m not sure I really ‘got’ this book. The obvious story line is not really complex – Charlie, a Mallu boy in Chennai, whose dad expects him to become an IAS officer just like him, gets sucked into a world of drugs, music and sex, every fifth page. He also has an identity crisis, and like Peter Pan, refuses to grow up, despite quite a lot of self flagellation and advice from his parents and friends. A nineties kid who refuses to acknowledge, let alone accommodate the noughties, his relationships are anything but simple.

Mao (a figment of Charlie’s imagination) might get irritated, but I wondered if this was the only level this book was operating at. The narrative (and this is not necessarily criticism) is very Charlie-like. I always had this feeling that there was subtext I was completely missing out on. On many occasions, I plodded through text – the Charlie analogy I’d use is that it’s a bit like smiling at pop culture references you haven’t really got. Charlie’s thoughts – for example, mixtapes and body parts – would make for a great conversation when stoned. I wondered quite a few times whether that condition was a prerequisite to reading the book! I’m not even sure if the author meant for this to work that way, but when we have a title that has cough syrup and surrealism, that thought is bound to cross your mind. More

A new kind of privilege

A couple of weeks ago, we visited a newly opened eatery in Bangalore. Something about the crowd made me observe it more. It seemed like this was a set completely different from the kinds I usually see during restaurant visits. It took me a little while to understand why I felt so, and when I did, I remembered the nuance I had discovered only a year ago.

In the restaurants/pubs I visit, I usually see people like me. The ones who, irrespective of career highs they might have scaled, have to go at it daily with the business of life. They are curious for new experiences and/or are eager to climb a rung or two, and see such places through these frames. In both cases, they are ‘visitors’. But there is a different crowd I saw here –  a set of people whose body language – a certain kind of composed languor, and the way they behaved with each  other, reflected a sense of belonging. I consider them privileged. More

Aroi

This post is about Aroi in Kadugodi, Whitefield. For the Aroy in JP Nagar, see Aroy

I’ve always wanted to do that Wiki kind of redirection! 😀 Once upon a time Aroi used to be called Mekong and had outlets in Sarjapur Road and Park Square Mall in Whitefield. The latter has now been closed, and shifted to Shigehalli. (map) No, it’s not as bad as it sounds, and is only 15-20 minutes from Whitefield.

One evening, D was particularly in the mood for Thai food, and we knew from prior searches that the options in our neighbourhood were very limited. We had almost decided to make a trip to Indiranagar when I found, buried inside Zomato, the Aroi listing. It seemed relatively new, and since we had liked Mekong quite a bit, we decided to try our luck.  More

Knew you, again

Jon Westenberg wrote on a subject I too have been mulling over recently – It’s Sad When Someone You Know Becomes Someone You Knew – on people who have become footnotes in one’s life. I could relate to it, though I do think that many relationships have a context-based shelf life. I have written about this before – way back in 2007.

My recent thoughts on the subject, however, are on a couple of tangents. It’s about how people change across time, and the way we react to it. I’ve noticed that I tend to ‘freeze’ people at the last set of close interactions we’ve had, and be very surprised to realise they’ve changed. Silly but true! In some cases, it seems I have expected them to remain as-is even after a couple of decades, and get annoyed because I find it really hard to relate to their current version! [posts in 2008, 2009 (3rd para)] In other cases, I come across a person’s published work, or opinion, and ‘refuse’ (in my mind) to accept the excellent thought/nuanced perspective because I find it to be incompatible with my view of the person I had known! Someone I know had become someone I knew. More

Hawaii

This is my third attempt at this book – I bought it in 2008! In the first attempt, the geological history of Hawaii in the first 15 pages put me to sleep and in the second, the journey of the first settlers of Hawaii from Bora Bora just became too much of a plod work. This time I was determined to complete it, and I am glad I did – the book is magnificent!

We use the word saga a bit loosely, but this one truly deserves that description. From the geological explanations of the formation of Hawaii to the Congressional politics of the 20th century, Michener does what he does best! More

Work, Parenting & the Monoculture

Sunday morning gave me a fantastic read, via  multiple shares on my timeline – “Why do we work so hard?“, in which Ryan Avent traces the evolution of work (hours) from the time after the second world war, and wonders why a trend was reversed and we started working more hours. She considers her own as well as her father’s experiences, and explores whether it is the treadmill effect, the satisfaction of work, or a combination of both. She sums up one of her answers thus –

It is a cognitive and emotional relief to immerse oneself in something all-consuming while other difficulties float by. The complexities of intellectual puzzles are nothing to those of emotional ones. Work is a wonderful refuge.

Something about it gave me a sense of deja vu. I realised that this has also been my hypothesis about parenting! Back to that in a bit. Meanwhile, she ends the article with

..precisely why what I’m doing appeals to me. They are asking about a job. I am thinking about identity, community, purpose – the things that provide meaning and motivation. I am talking about my life.

It reminded me of a short conversation with S recently, where we agreed about how (many) people follow up their introductory “Hi, I am XYZ” with their designation and/or place of work, irrespective of the meeting context.  More

The Riverside Bar & Kitchen

First published in Bangalore Mirror (That headline! It wasn’t me)

The name Riverside, in Whitefield, might bring to mind visions of a frothy water body that’s infamous in the area, but thankfully the restaurant’s ambiance does a great job of helping us tide over it. The canoe near the entrance, the superb lighting, and a very enticing bar are some of the highlights of a décor job well done. Unfortunately the section upstairs wasn’t open for service, but our outdoor seating – with the bar on one side, and more standard liquid (water) flowing on the other – was quite pleasant. The other element worth a mention is the music. It was quite the ‘mixtape’ of 80s and 90s. From Lionel Richie to MLTR and “Nothing’s gonna change my love for you” to “How Bizarre”, it was quite a trip.

In keeping with the name, the menu does have a lot of focus on aquatic food. Add to this multiple cuisines – Coastal, North Indian, Chinese and Continental – and you have a menu that travels really far, and across a lot of pages. The predictable problem with that though, is the unavailability of dishes. The good news is that, thanks to the elaborate menu, there’s still quite a lot of choice.

collage1 More

Convenience & Choices

It’s difficult to accuse Mashable of being thought provoking, but I have to admit that “After Harper Lee, will there be another literary recluse?” made me think. The article also brings up JD Salinger. Both the concerned books are personal favourites. Bill Watterson immediately comes to mind in this context of people who did not care for an encore. I can relate more to him because it seems more recent. I discovered the works of Harper Lee and Salinger decades after they became the classics they are.

It is indeed tough to imagine creators of this era shying away from the public eye. In fact, I’d be surprised if they didn’t do exactly the opposite. Most of the world would consider that silly! After all, if one is pragmatic, it is easy to see that most art is business. And even if the business is niche, the select target audience needs to hear of it. Even in the cases that it isn’t a business, they are a method of self expression, and in the era of social media, sharing that point of view and starting a debate on it is easy and cheap. Just to clarify, this is not about being  judgmental about it, after all these are choices. More

City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi

William Dalrymple

After finishing the book, I was surprised that it was only 339 pages, there is so much in it, and unsurprisingly so. The author mentions in the prologue that depending on whom you ask, the number of Delhis that have existed before the current one is anywhere between 7 and 21, and it is to his credit that he has probably brought out many, many of them. Not in the way of the structured and stratified thirty feet wall that represents 3000 years of continuous occupation to which Professor Lal points and says “The whole history of Delhi is there”, but through different journeys.

There is clearly a preference for the ‘Twilight period’ – between the Mughal decline and the British ascendancy, but there are quite a few pages spent on the Mughal golden age, Tughlaq and other pre-Mughal Delhi rulers, right up till the Mahabharata’s Indraprastha and before, and the post Independence era. It must be mentioned that despite the seriousness with which the author has approached the content, his wit shines through! More

A shift in the world order

20121201_FBD000 (1)

(via)

It has been a while since I wrote about nation states, or notion states as I call them. Now is not really a good time to bring this up in India, but hey, it’s a free country. Oh, wait! Therefore, let’s talk about Apple vs the FBI on where digital security ends and national security begins. (via The GuardianWashington-Silicon Valley shadowboxing as the publication puts it, and Apple has the support of Google, Facebook and Twitter. [If this were happening in India, by now Tim Cook would have probably been lynched by a mob, and charged for sedition – now a very loose word that can be applied to even things such as sneezing while watching the Republic Day parade on TV]

This battle is interesting as it is because it will set a precedent for an individual’s privacy rights, and is being fought between the world’s most valuable corporation and the world’s biggest (one might even say only) superpower. On one side, we have and entity whose decisions affect billions of lives around the world, and on the other, a country marked by boundaries but influencing policies that affect an equal number. Phenomenally intriguing and layered as this is, I actually find it riveting because I see a couple of my favourite narratives coming to a boil. More