The legacy need

The last two books I read had only a faint connection. One was historical fiction and the other was a memoir. The first – “A Spoke in the wheel” by Amita Kanekar – is a take on Buddha and his teachings by a monk three hundred years after the Buddha’s death when his teachings have begun their journey into religion, the emperor Asoka being the key catalyst. The second – “City of Djinns” By William Dalrymple is his discovery of Delhi – past and present – in a year that he spent in the city in the early 90s. The connection, as you might have guessed, is historical narrative.

It is natural to think that there is a huge difference in a work of fiction and a more research and experience led memoir, but the point of the post is that with time, it is difficult to establish that. In the book on the Buddha, the monk chronicling his life and teachings is irritated by the supernatural abilities being attributed to him. But we do know that many people believe in it now and even consider him as one among the avatars of Vishnu. On a related note, William Dalrymple delivered a body blow to my notions of the Mahabharata era when his conversation with an archaeologist constituted a distinct possibility that the war was fought with sticks and stones and probably a bit of metal! (the proof being excavations around what is considered one of the earliest versions of Delhi – Indraprastha) I am a huge fan of Hindu mythology and it has fascinated me from as long as I can remember. I truly believed that they had happened in some form, but the archaeologist is clear that most descriptions in the epic would fall under ‘poetic license’!

It made me wonder if there would be any difference between the two books say, a hundred years from now. It is possible they might exchange roles. It is also possible that they both are treated as fiction, or as factual pieces of work. I think all scenarios are possible because at the time of chronicling something, we believe that its factuality would be transmitted across time. And yet, we could debate the Mahabharata’s historical authenticity and Buddha’s superpowers both ways! So think about it, the same thing could happen to the information we store now as well. Thanks to digitisation, more data is being created in this world than ever before and (arguably) every point made has a counterpoint. There are no objective annotations because even the original construction is a product of biases, interpretations, perspectives and so on.

That brings me to legacy, something a lot of us care about. From children to business empires to art to helping others, there are many avenues. However, I think that unless there is documentation, the chances of a legacy lasting beyond a few generations is questionable. For example, Dalrymple finds the last line of direct Mughal descendants and their knowledge of their ancestors is limited to a few generations before them. The futurist in me does fantasise about a global neural network and consciousness that connects all of humanity and has sufficient storage to instantly collect, catalog and annotate all ‘memories’  in as objective a state as possible for later generations to study them.

But meanwhile, even as I dissect my baggage of the past, I am now forced to consider my need for leaving a legacy – something behind that will represent me when I’m gone.  After all of the above, how relevant is that need? Isn’t it just a demand made by the ego, a story we create for ourselves? Something to continue the narrative of our lives? We do talk a lot about letting go of the baggage of the past, but isn’t legacy also a baggage? A baggage of our future? If we let go of that, how different would our thoughts and deeds be? Understanding that is probably the key to living in the moment. I could easily twist my favourite cricketer-gentleman’s words for this context- He’s not concerned about his legacy, he’s concerned about what actually makes him come alive in the first place, which is that love of life, the desire to live completely.

recite-15416-48543400-hiy6v5

until next time, present participant

First Draft: Witness To The Making Of Modern India

B.G. Verghese

BG Verghese’ “First Draft” is part memoir, part history and covers many decades in its wide sweep. From the description of the Times on the day of his birth (21/06/1927) until his assessment of the challenges facing the nation in 2010, the book is his perspective on the events he has witnessed and many a time, been part of. Sometimes it is tinged with nostalgia – his description of the Doon School for instance, and at other times, it is an objective view of the various decisions and circumstances that have shaped India.

From national milestones like the first elections (described so we get an idea of the herculean task it was in an era that didn’t have the communication infrastructure we see now) and the construction of the steel plants and dams and IITs,IIMs we see around now, to humanity’s collective achievements such as Neil Armstrong on the moon (even as a villager adamantly states that it is just impossible) we get a first hand view of things we now acknowledge as history and landmarks. Relationships with the US, USSR as well as neighbouring countries and the wars fought with the latter, including an analysis of the things we did right/wrong all appear, mostly in chronological order. Also adding texture to the narrative are anecdotes of Prime Ministers, most significantly Indira Gandhi. The formation of AIR and Doordarshan, nuclear tests, the political battles within the Congress, formation of other parties, JP’s work, the rise of Naxalism, Operation Bluestar, Sanjay Gandhi’s bizarre schemes, the Emergency, the death of Mrs.Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi’s baby steps into politics and the paradigm shifts he kickstarted, communal riots, the formation of LTTE, the Bhopal tragedy, VP Singh and Mandal and Bofors, BJP and Ramjanmabhoomi, the chronic Kashmir issue all gives one a feel of time travel.

There is massive ground covered – nuclear policy, social-economics, geo-political relationships, the functioning of media houses etc in addition to his views on public service broadcasting, policies for the North East, industrialisation, water and so on. As an editor and someone who has worked with the government, and as part of external agencies, fact finding committees and so on, the author is well placed to deliver an incisive view of history as it was being made and with the advantage of hindsight. (now) Barring a meagre few pats on the back and digressions, he does provide a decent and objective look. It is quite a humbling feeling to ‘watch’ as generations of politicians and institutions almost flash by and one finds some pattern in the fuzziness seen around – the reason for the way we are, as a country. It is also heartening to see that patriotism aside, the author feels that we are on an ascendant. Despite some patches that are specific in nature (towards the last 100 pages) and tend to be discourses, this is a great read for anyone interested in modern history.

Clipboard02

The Change Imperative

Ever since I first wrote about institutional realignment, I have been more conscious of it and its implications on our lives. To a certain extent, even paranoid, because of the pace of change. Ray Kurzweil is hard at work to make himself immortal, and believes we should get really close by the 2030s. He has been right before on many things of this nature. Moore’s law, digitisation and everything related are also getting us really close to the singularity. I am reasonably convinced that I will see both in my lifetime. If you live to be 200 and have robots smarter than you around, what does that do to education, money, marriage, work and pretty much everything that constitutes life? On the flip side, natural resources are running out, and I can see the complications already. It’s not a good sight, or experience!

I am finding it impossible to wrap my head around what all of  this would mean to our concept of life. In the meanwhile, I do know that everything is changing at breakneck speed, and in order to survive, we need to be cognizant of things that can impact our lives – as individuals, and as organisations.  I have deliberately avoided the word ‘disruption’ because it gives me a sense of suddenness and it is a furiously debated topic these days. Rather, to quote John Green (said in another context) I think we’re in the first state of “Slowly, and then all at once”.  This, is my take on ‘Change’.

(Thanks Nikhil for helping on a couple of alphabets and Amit for Unsplash, the source of many images used)

 

The Local

Originally appeared in Bangalore Mirror.

If, in Koramangala, Jimi doesn’t give you enough of a high, perhaps you should try a stairway to heaven, led by messaging on a steep flight of stairs. Subtext apart, there’s a new watering hole in this part of town, or rather, a ‘terrace drinkery’, that goes by the name of ‘The Local’. (map) The logo sets the tone quite clearly – it is inspired by a bottle cap. If that doesn’t bring a smile to your face, perhaps the messaging on the stairs will. It’s too long to recount in entirety, but the message is that this is a place that celebrates the ordinary, and all the kinds that make up a great hangout. The talk is easily backed up by the relaxed ambiance. Quirky is going mainstream, but The Local’s décor is certainly a candidate for tastefulness. An assortment of seating options – indoors and al fresco, featuring a motley group of chairs, stone benches, and surprisingly, greenery in the heart of Koramangala! Add to this, beer served in ceramic mugs, the little blackboard menus, offers like Tap Tuesdays and Tequila Thursdays, it’s easy to imagine an evening spent lazing around. And then there’s the music! We started the evening with classics – As Time Goes by, Uptown Girl and so on, quickly moved on to New York City Speed and such, and ended the night with everything kids listen to these days!

When the drinks menu occupies as much space as the food on the menu, it does seem like a good start. It gets better when you figure that they actually do have the stuff. There’s no end to the number of pubs which have Hoegaarden and Asahi on the menu, and on the menu only! However, their in-house specials are nothing out of the ordinary. We asked for a Strawberry Margarita and it arrived in the form of a Strawberry Martini! Someone at the bar was definitely having a few *hic* cups. They did offer to replace it though, after we pointed it out. The starters took a long while to arrive. The Veg platter which had Paneer Tikka, mushrooms, cauliflower and Basil Haryali Kababs. The last was an easy winner, since the tikka was only average, the mushrooms rather insipid and the cauliflower suffered from a mustard overdose.

 collage

The good news had been that the Chilli Beef had arrived first, the bad news was that it forgot to cook itself! That was unfortunate because the flavours were really good. The Portuguese Patra in name and appearance was similar to the Parsi Patra ni Machchi, but this one had a chicken version too. Wrapped in banana leaves, this was easily our favourite starter and was well complemented by the peanut based dip.

The main course options consisted of burgers, sandwiches, pizzas, pasta and a few steaks. We began with the Meat Lovers Pizza, which was a chicken, pork and cheese extravaganza. They did play their parts well, but the pizza itself was burnt. The BELT was our favourite mains dish, the acronym (and the dish) being made up of bacon, egg, lettuce and tomato. Despite the ingredients, the sandwich was light, with subtle flavours. The Penne Alfredo (we had the veg version) was only average though the cream sauce promised much. The Italian Stuffed Bell Peppers sounded quite interesting – bell peppers stuffed with cheesy rice, served with baked apple and red wine sauce. It looked quite the belle too, red and green bell peppers looking pretty in the company of the apple. But looks proved deceptive, the dish wasn’t great, the barely cooked rice being the chief culprit! We were in the mood for desserts, but they didn’t exist!

collage1

For about Rs.1800, you could share a couple of drinks, two non veg starters, and a main course dish. (Inclusive of taxes and service charge) The Local makes no pretence to being a fine dining destination, and bills itself as a ‘my kind of place, come as you are’ hangout. The décor, music and the general buzz manages to do that quite well, but it has a long way to go in terms of the quality of food served. If the general idea is only to lounge around in Koramangala with beer and sides, and in a relaxed atmosphere, you won’t be disappointed. But if the expectation is more than casual ‘drinkery’, then the terrace might fall short.

The Local, 467, 80ft Road, 6th block, Koramangala, Ph: 2550 5119

One off a kind rating

(‘off’ is intentional. Thanks)

A while back, in ‘The Currency of Relationships‘, I’d written this - But there is no standard currency in relationships, and my lesson from this experience is to not to take for granted that my approach is the one that works for people at the receiving end. I should spend some time first in understanding expectations, and then meeting them. Recently, a little incident on Facebook reminded me of this. But first, a step back.

Don’t laugh, but I think of myself as a kind person. This is a recent phenomenon, and one that finds a parallel in my struggles with being judgmental, though I have had more success on that front. Together, a reasonable (and sarcastic) wit, a tendency to see things from a skewed perspective and more often than not, the propensity to see humour in the worst of (others’) circumstances, have made being kind a very difficult task.  I rib people all the while, and am probably the poster guy for “People who don’t know me think I’m quiet, people who do wish I was.” It is very rarely that my intent is to hurt, I try to be mindful of all my words and actions, and that is what has probably created my own perception of the self as a kind one.

kindnessAs with all perceptions, this one too built on itself. Maybe that is why I was quite surprised when a share on Facebook (the message being the same as what you see on the left – via)  - something I believe in and try to practice – elicited one response that I was in no place to ‘preach’ this. It made me think about my self perception, and reminded me of currencies. I also gained a few perspectives – common, yet usually forgotten. (Thanks N)

One is that my words and actions have effects that I might be completely unaware of. This is not a new understanding. In fact, for a while – a couple of years ago probably- when I became aware that my words could hurt, I willfully restrained myself from saying a lot of things I came up with! I realised that it might get laughs and LOLs but I might hurt someone too. (even if that may not have been my intent) But then I realised I was just being miserable and at least with friends, I let go, thinking that I didn’t have to prove the lack of malice. The fact that I was ribbed back by many only reinforced this. My credo since then has been based on “how would I feel if I were at the receiving end?”  But maybe that is a flawed approach. After all, what gives me the right to say when a person should feel hurt and when not. I plan to be a little more careful, and if you’re a friend and reading this, give me a heads up when you think I’m going overboard. :)

The second perspective was that it is probably my ego that wants others to perceive me as kind. If I trust the objectivity of my own moral compass, I wouldn’t need a reinforcement. I should also maybe realise that I can’t have the laughs and the label.

The third perspective came from looking at kindness itself. You might say it’s semantics but I noticed that there is a difference between kindness and compassion. Arguably, compassion is about how you feel, and kindness is about what you do. I can instinctively see that on a relative scale, I am more compassionate than kind. No, this is not me asking for a new label. Both deal with empathy and understanding, but maybe compassion is only the first step to kindness.

Meanwhile, my new ‘social’ plaything ‘Secret‘ is a good reminder. Its prompt when I have to comment on a post is ‘Say something kind’. Sometimes I can, and at other times, I keep quiet. :)

until next time, a different kind

Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata

Devdutt Pattanaik 

I consider myself more well-versed with the Mahabharata than the average person, because of my interest in Hindu mythology and the amount of reading I’ve done on the subject. But I’m really glad I read this, not just because of the small details I learned about (I counted 6 things I hadn’t known about – Sahadeva’s precognition gained by eating Pandu’s flesh, Draupadi cursing dogs to copulate in public for stealing Yudhishtira’s slippers, Vibhishana being present at Draupadi’s swayamwar, a couple of stories on why Krishna stepped in to protect Draupadi when Dusshasana tried to disrobe her, why Shakuni did his best to ensure the destruction of the Kuru clan, Draupadi’s regret over Karna and at least a couple more interesting tidbits) but because of the wonderful lessons it provides. The author also mentions several variations of the tale, regional renditions and folk variations adding layers to the original story. Even as one feels the familiarity thanks to the places (which still exist) mentioned and can identify with the experiences and tribulations of the mortal characters, there is also an awe created by the elements of divinity.

The excellent illustrations and the simple yet elegant and evocative storytelling took me back to a time when I first started hearing these stories – childhood. So vivid is the prose that one can easily create visualisations of the events. The explanation of events are done on many planes – rational, metaphysical, spiritual, bringing a lot of clarity to the complex tale. The concepts of dharma and justice are explained beautifully and even as the Pandavas grow their perspective during their exile and their pride, anger etc get tempered before and after the war, there is tremendous learning for the reader too. It is easy to understand why this is indeed considered the greatest story ever told, and continues to be relevant through ages. The original tale is epic, and so is this narration. Very highly recommended.

Jaya

A response to Facebook’s shrinking organic reach

Facebook’s plummeting organic reach has prompted several questions on whether it makes sense to continue investing in a presence on the platform. The short answer is still yes, and while I have never been a fan of Like acquisition, the platform continues to offer several avenues to help brands meet business outcomes. But marketers must learn from this episode, understand that Facebook and most other social platforms are fundamentally leased media and not owned, and be more cognizant of the landscape inside and outside Facebook in order to address business objectives better.

Rather than going for my standard long form text, I thought I’d play it differently and take the help of my favourite pop culture phenomena in the process. The disclaimer is that this is meant to be a primer on how to tackle this issue rather than a comprehensive silver bullet.

until next time, Like? ;)

The Island

No, not a fancy one, just the one on 80ft Road, Indiranagar. It’s been around for a while, but we never managed to get there. (map) It shares the building with Oye Amritsar, and the ‘dangerous’ design of walking paths with Banana Beach, Koramangala. But despite that, we liked the decor – the space is well utilised, and full of non-intrusive spaces for different sized groups, thanks to multiple sections. The music goes around in loops but doesn’t really do any damage. On a Saturday night, it was a mixed crowd of PYTs and grown ups like us. ;) We had reserved in advance, and that might be a good idea for you as well.

The menu has much to offer and is what you’d call ‘lounge cuisine’ – Mediterranean, Continental, American, and a smattering of Oriental and Mexican. We asked for a couple of martinis – Chocolate, and Pineapple Coconut, and though the ingredients in both were standard favourites, and they were generous with the alcohol, they just didn’t work. The appetiser – Spicy Cilantro Chili Chicken was much better fare, and in addition to the moderately spicy chicken, it also had this amazing dip – mint was definitely in it, and a fruit – we’re still not sure if it was passion fruit or pear or..

collage1

We had ordered a Filipino soup (Chicken) which they had to be reminded about! When we finally got it, we pointed out that we had ordered a by-two. It seemed we were apparently the first at The Island to order a soup in that form, because the person who brought the soup asked us what it was! Good start to the trolling! The soup itself was not bad, more like a stew than a soup – thick, thanks to the barley. We had to debate quite a bit for the main course, and finally decided on a pizza over several other contestants. The Chicken Cravers with chicken sausages, spicy chicken salami, roast chicken, and Mozzarella among other things, was quite tasty and filling! That meant that we had to skip the second dish we’d wanted, and go straight to desserts. I signaled to the troll for the menu and he brought me the bill! :| Thankfully, the Chocolate Extravaganza was exactly that, and we were pleasantly surprised at the sheer size of it! Lots and lots of spongy, moist chocolate to end the meal on a high!

collage2

The bill came to slightly over Rs.2200, and most of it was courtesy the alcohol. The service   is not the best I’ve seen, but food is decent and the place has a soothing ambiance, so we’ll probably drop in a second time.

The Island,  Plot No.3, 80 Feet Road, Off 2nd Main Rd, Beside FCML Shop, Near Columbia Asia Hospital, 1st Stage, Indira Nagar Ph: 41261114

A Greek odyssey – Days 8,9

Continued from Day 123456, 7

Day 8 – Athens

We were brought back to our standard vacation practice with a thud – the half day city trip began at 7.30! Breakfast was a rush (in any case, just about the level of our previous stay) and we were delayed by 5 minutes! After a round of collecting people from various hotels and then changing buses, the tour began in right earnest. The first visit was to the Panathenaic Stadium, which apparently has its legacy linked to that of the full marathon. The story goes that a soldier ran non-stop from Marathon to Athens to convey the Greek victory over the Persians. He collapsed and died soon as he delivered the ‘we have won’ message. This distance is what makes up a full marathon now – just over 42 km (!) – and it was included when the modern Olympics began in 1896.

We saw many more interesting things around Athens – accompanied by a bilingual commentary (English and French) by our guide – the temple to Zeus with its Hadrian’s arch, (and the magnificent columns) a statue of Lord Byron who died in Greece, Heinrich Schliemann’s house which is now a numismatic museum, the Parliament which was once a palace, and the change of guard that happens there. Apparently the best looking soldiers are chosen for this job and it’s a matter of privilege to them to chosen as a guard here. We also saw the constitution square, the oldest university, an ancient library, an academy for philosophers, the first parliament building (now a museum) Some interesting anecdotes as well – apparently they found Roman baths while they were digging for the Athens Metro project! Most of these were seen from outside, and we finally landed at the new National Archaeological Museum near the Acropolis. Apparently, acropolis is a common noun of sorts used to denote any citadel/fortified area built on a higher ground.

Greece42

The museum tour took over an hour across all three levels, and though the guide did her job – making sure we heard as much of history and mythology (familiar names like Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, Apollo…) as possible during the time – it proved a bit tedious. But to be noted that the Greeks have done a great job into preserve and restore their history and culture.  I loved the glass floors at several places which allowed us to see the excavations in situ. Apparently a lot of the missing ‘pieces’ in the relics are being showcased in Britain, and despite several pleas, they are refusing to return it! The tickets bought by the guide could be used across four monuments in the next four days. Alas, we had just a day more! The museum has a cafe, well explained exhibits and even archaeologists on call to explain! Photography is not allowed on 2 out of 3 levels, so we didn’t really shoot a lot.

Greece43

We then walked up the winding path to the Acropolis. The buildings are so majestic, and the top of the acropolis gives a spectacular 360 degree view of Athens. We spent quite a while there, and then walked down to Plaka – the old market area.

20140523_124946a

20140523_123625a

Greece44

Greece45

There are guys all over the place saying shukriya (!) and trying to sell stuff to you! Our plan was to lunch at Plaka, but thanks to hunger pangs and a slew of restaurants on a lane we reached, we decided to ignore the restaurants in our list, and just eat! Kotili appealed the most and we set about the task eagerly. We ordered what they called a ‘small platter’, penne, and a carafe of the house wine. Everything turned out to be excellent. The small platter seemed huge and does have a lot of meat, but it’s also a good packaging job over a mound of fries! Their service though is the differentiator – the most jovial and entertaining I have experienced! They also gave us complimentary Mastika and a little plate of dessert! Shot and sweet!

Greece47

Somewhere during the meal, I turned around and saw that we were very near the Monastiraki station! That meant we were on a lane parallel to the flea market! Greece is not having the best of economic times, and some of this was evident in the downtown area – entire shopping complexes closed, for instance. But this area had quite a bit of buzz happening. We did a little bit of shopping, though judging by the prices it should have been called a fleece market! Now that we had figured out the area and the possibilities, we decided to get back to the hotel to rest a bit. Caught this outside the window and were careful with the curtains!

Greece46

We did have quite a few dinner options planned, but the lunch hadn’t been digested yet! So we decided to head back to Monastiraki for a yogurt dinner. We found Yogolicious opposite Kotili, and they had the DIY concept of yogurt, with six yogurt variations and tons of topping options! D chose plain with fruit toppings, while I chose chocolate with all the choco-toppings I could find! The pricing is by weight and we ended up paying 10 euros. We then walked around a bit, listened to a concert happening at the square and then caught the train back to the hotel. Since we wanted to see the Acropolis view at night, we dropped in at the Titania’s own rooftop hotel, and over Mythos beer and Coke Zero, watched the  glorious structure all lit up!

Greece48

Day 9 – Athens – Dubai – Bangalore

:( was easily the mood since it was time to go back! We were scheduled to be picked up from the hotel only after 1, so we lazed around, ate the standard breakfast (they didn’t have hot chocolate the second day!) and decided to lunch nearby. We walked around a bit and decided on the Meet Me cafe near the metro station. D chose a club sandwich and a Freddoccino, and I had a Choco Venessia and a Caesar salad. all good, except I liked D’s drink more. We went back to the hotel and packed. A lot of sighs were heard!

Greece49

The pick up van arrived right on time and we had a few Japanese for company as we made our way to the airport – about 45 minutes away. The tour operator’s representative was there to wave goodbye! I watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Rush in the first flight to Dubai, and absolutely loved both! We were at a different terminal in Dubai airport and whiled away our time reading and a coffee at the Nestle outlet. I slept all the way in the second flight. The 4.15 PM (Athens) journey ended at 9.05 AM (Bangalore) and also ended the Odyssey.

The trip (all inclusive) cost us about Rs. 3.75 lakhs – 1.23L for the international flights, 28k  for the 2 flights within Greece, 18k for the Visa which was quite a breeze, (though the paperwork kills!) 1.35 for the custom package from Fantasy Tours, (includes hotels, some of which we specifically asked for, boat tickets, airport/ferry transfers and a half day Athens city tour. Everything was handled very smoothly)  and the remaining for meals, (a Gyros can be had for as cheap as 2 euros, a meal at a good restaurant is between 20-40 euros) buses, entry tickets, and of course, shopping! You can save costs on many things – cheaper accommodation, lesser wine :D , more Gyros, boats vs flights within Greece are some I can think of. Also, most people like to do at least 2-3 countries in Europe at a time, and it does have its benefits, you might want to look at that option. But we have our own quirks and absolutely had a great time, enjoyed every bit. Not at all bad for a first visit to Europe. When you visit, say hellos to Hellas for us! :)

until next time, waiting for the next wanderlust!

P.S. If you don’t plan to use data at all, store Google offline maps on your mobile before you set out :)

A Greek odyssey – Day 7

Continued from Day 12345, 6

This had to be the laziest day of the vacation! We had very few plans. We woke up very late, just in time for breakfast, and then went back to the room to snooze, enjoy the view, and later get ready before our check out time at 12. Our boat to Athens was only at 2.15, and we left from the hotel at 1.15. Our (same) super friendly driver dropped us back to the new port, well in time for the boat.

greece40

This was promised to be a looong ride – over 5.5 hours. We stowed our luggage on the ground floor as before and proceeded to our seats. This time there was no confusion because not only was the boat much larger, the crowd was also thin. So we ignored our designated seats and sat on ones we liked. Lunch was in the boat itself – a burger and a Caesar Salad washed down with Amstel beer. The boat passed Tinos (D was thrilled to see a town straight out of the book she was reading – And the Mountains Echoed) and Syros (significantly more folks got in at both these places, but we managed to keep our seat!) before we finally managed to get a glimpse of Athens, which seemed to spread over a very large area!

greece41

A well-dressed white haired driver, picked us up and insisted on lifting some luggage despite my reluctance. The yellow taxi dropped us at the Titania in downtown Athens in about half an hour. I wondered if the shops on the street were an indication of Athenians’ chief preoccupation! The Titania is one of those old hotels which just got itself a renovation. Free wifi only for an hour in the lobby area. Hmmph! The room was functional and clean, with a view of the street below, no balcony though.

It was already close to 9PM! We decided to freshen up and go to Gostijo in Monastiraki – one of the restaurants in our list. The lady at the reception was quite helpful, and told us exactly how to reach the metro station ( a couple of minutes away) and what direction to take (to Piraeus) to reach Monastiraki, which was the next station! The streets were filled with graffiti, and so were the metro coaches (outside) The navigation at the stations is a little difficult until you figure out that you have to ignore the ‘To’ and just focus on ‘Exit’. :) Monastiraki is famous for the flea market – right next to the station – but that closes pretty early- most shops were shut when we reached. The square offers a view of the Acropolis up on the hill at night. Majestic and pretty at the same time.

greece39

We didn’t forget our habits, and got lost a bit, despite maps, before we finally found Gostijo. We weren’t really impressed with the menu outside (which refused to open to the kosher section!) and the persuasive skills of the owner of Oineas (same lane) landed us there. It wasn’t on our list, but turned out to be a fabulous little place. His collection of vintage ads is absolutely impressive. Take a look at the video. The lady who took our order convinced us to try Tsipouro along with the Farfalle and Risotto we ordered. What a thing that turned out to be – Ouzo at least has the anise flavour, this one is pure spirit! The food was splendid though, and that includes a fantastic dessert of layered chocolate. This was the first restaurant to give me a Trip Advisor card (asking for a review)

greece38

Now that we knew the streets, getting back to the station was a breeze, and we caught the train in the Kifisia direction, but we managed to keep our reputation intact by losing our way at the other end, and circling the hotel area for about ten minutes before we found our way back!