Wanderers, All

Janhavi Acharekar

“Window Seat”, the author’s first work, ranks among my favourites, so I picked this up with much expectation. While it did not really bowl me over, it does have a few things working for it.
The story, or rather stories, is just as the title suggests – journeys. As Kinara’s dad tells her- “it’s about journeys. We’re all on the same one.” At one level, these journeys are physical – the one that Kinara undertakes, aided by a cryptic set of maps and notes from her Dad, who had traced the family’s journey from sixteenth century Goa to twenty first century Mumbai, or the ones that her ancestors Gajanan and Murli made from Khed to Bombay. It is also the journey of Murli, whose story , set in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, runs as the parallel narrative to Kinara’s own Goan backpacking trip. And finally, it is also the journey of Bombay – from Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s fierce oratory to the plague to the Quit India movement and the Bombay Docks explosion – as seen through the eyes of Murli, and other characters around him.

Float

First published in Bangalore Mirror

Take a deep breath and imagine this – a Moroccan themed rooftop lounge and restaurant serving Japanese and North Indian, located in the concrete abomination called Outer Ring Road. Whatever floats your boat, you might say, and Float is exactly what you now have in Kadubeesanahalli. (map, same building as Jashn) Truth be told, they have actually done quite a decent job with the ambiance. In addition to the standard tables and bar seating that offer a good view of the cityscape and probably the sunset as well, there are comfortable cabanas that amply justify the lounge tag. And if that weren’t enough, there are hookahs too, which seemed to be quite popular, judging by what we saw. But wait, there’s more. We were all in agreement that the dinner was just about average, but around the time we lef, there was a burst of affection for the place from the ladies in the group. Sounds fishy? It literally was, because the gamechanger was a mini fish spa located right in the middle of the restaurant, which was discovered only after our meal had ended. If you think this is surreal, let me share a quick note on the music. In the space of an hour and a half, I heard Guns N’ Roses, Coldplay and Backstreet Boys! The place might be named Float, but one way or another, it will leave you floored.

The menu makes you think, on multiple levels. Considering the place is fairly new, how could the menu get so dirty so fast? Beyond that distraction, the first drink we tried was the schizophrenic sounding Luv U Like A Women that added to this perception by being just a Cosmopolitan by another name. The group was unanimous that I needed a drink named “For Taller, Stronger, Sharper” – a warm combination of Brandy, Horlicks and honey. That wasn’t as bad as I had feared though it could have been mixed better. The second drink we tried from the Dawa Daaru section was what they called Sarkar’s Prescription. The description sounded like the Hot Toddy/Doctor’s Prescription available elsewhere – apple juice, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, honey and brandy. But trust things to go bad when the Sarkar gets involved! I was also punished later for giving the Scotch Float a chance – after all, what kind of person would ask for a drink that mixed whiskey and wine! One drink that worked relatively was Knock Out – a vodka, green chili, tabasco shot floating in beer. The mocktail we tried – Flying Kiwi – was colourful enough to be a kids drink, but was fine in terms of taste.

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A Kerala Holi Day!

This wasn’t really a planned holiday, but thanks to my AmEx card, we had a Taj voucher to use. That sum being reasonably insignificant in the Taj scheme of things, we wanted to limit the amount we spent for a ‘free voucher’, and that was how Kovalam was chosen as a destination. That, and a chance to see relatives we hadn’t met in over a decade! In line with our miserly approach to this trip, we decided to get there by train. Through some excellent inattention to detail, we ended up in a 2nd Class Sleeper and not the A/C ‘Garib Rath’. It had been a while since we made a summer train journey, and the lack of practice showed! Meanwhile, train journeys are an excellent discovery process – of towns one never knew existed – and this one was no exception. But to cut a long story short, Kerala in the morning was quite a welcome sight!

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The Girl on the Train

Paula Hawkins

It does have a lot going for it, and I now understand why it has been such a rage. Quite a fresh take on the amnesia thriller, the author makes it easy to connect with Rachel, with whom the story begins – she is the girl on the train. Through her eyes, we see the other characters. The build up in the initial pages – we know something is about to happen – is done really well, and while the multi -first person narrative is not new, the skill with which it has been wielded deserves a thumbs up. It is not just the shift in perspective and the fresh format, but the timing of it that makes the whole thing work. A lot of work seems to have gone into Rachel’s character and the gamut of emotions one feels for her is proof that it is a job well done! But..

In the end, I think it was the expectations that spoiled it for me a bit. That, and the length. The immediate comparison was with the other girl – Gone Girl. I’d totally loved its unpredictability. In this case, there just aren’t enough twists to warrant 300+ pages. Actually, the pace towards the end is fantastic – I read the last 100 pages in one go – but I felt that all of that could have been made more gripping.  More

Communiti

One of the best things about long weekends is the traffic, or rather the lack of it. Communiti had been hitting my Insta and FB feeds since it opened, and the long Republic Day weekend gave us the perfect excuse to make the long distance trip into town. It’s right next to Taj Gateway on Residency Road and very hard to miss! (map) We got there before 7 on a Saturday night and easily found a table in the al fresco section. If you get the right table, there’s a good view of the road to be had. The decor is typical gastro pub – quirky lighting fixtures, long benches, and so on. Their brewery will start only in March, we were told.

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10 Observations from working with Millennials

The dynamics of ‘work’ have been changing for a while now, so much that when I think about writing on the subject, my thinking almost seems outdated! Not surprising, GigaOm’s post from a year ago – How the great generational shift is causing transformation in the very nature of employment – shows as many as six generations active in the workforce these days! Each of them with different world views, attitudes, priorities and approaches to work. But given that I’m trading one demographic number for another in a couple of days, I thought it an appropriate time to share a few observations based on my recent experiences. Since I had written earlier on the challenges faced by my generation in The Future of Work and The Entrepreneur & the Professional, this post focuses on a younger workforce. Millennials, if you are into labels.

The first two points set the context. I mention these two because I think they have a direct link to the worldview, attitudes and behaviours of the emerging workforce towards work, and their life in general. They serve as the backdrop for me to observe the 15+ people I have managed in the last 4-5 years. More

Stumbling on Happiness

Daniel Gilbert
The title is quite misleading – this is by no means a self help book! It will not tell you how to become happy. In fact, I’d say that Daniel Gilbert truly appreciates the uncertainty and ambiguity that is happiness, its subjective uniqueness in each human’s mind, and therefore, even when he gives us his perspective on how one can predict the chances of one’s happiness, he underplays it!
I found the book to be a systematic deconstruction of happiness which takes it into realms such as cognitive science, psychology, behavioural economics and even philosophy to a certain extent. Right from the explanation of the literal ‘blind spot’ in our optical mechanism, the ‘deal’ between the eye and the mind, and then using this blind spot as a metaphor for the lacunae in our perception and imagination, it is a fascinating step-by-step analysis of how we perceive happiness, with studies and examples to back it all up. He is also able to point out why our own predictions of happiness regularly go wrong, even on events which are repeats of our own earlier experience!
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The brand protocol

I have spent a few posts thinking about this concept – the ‘why’ in Scarcity Thinking in Marketing and Feels & Fields in Marketing and some of the ‘what’ in Brand with a world view. Essentially, the idea is that as customer attention becomes increasingly more scarce, brands will have to think beyond ‘fracking’ and the efficiency driven marketing approach (with all the seemingly contextually relevant data they offer) for a sustainable advantage.

I have to confess that it doesn’t seem that way now. In Pipeline to Platform Organisations, Neil Perkin makes the point that this  (pipelines to platforms) is one of the most significant shifts in internet era business economics. And the argument is indeed right, proven by the fact that Facebook, Google, Amazon, Uber, Airbnb and even Apple to a lesser extent are all great examples of platform companies. In fact, the article he has linked to states that in 2013, 14 of the top 30 global brands were platform companies. They have been built to scale, which they have achieved to a large extent by building fairly insurmountable ‘moats’, hugely powered by network effects. And there lies my problem because they are now well on their way to becoming platform monopolies (euphemistically called ecosystems) – the new intermediaries on the very web that was supposed to help level the playing field. Arguably, it’s becoming increasingly clear that a fight against them based on efficiency/network effects is either doomed from the start, or becomes unsustainable. More

The Teal Door Cafe

First published in Bangalore Mirror

“Cafe with a soul” is how The Teal Door Cafe describes itself, and it does live up to that on at least a couple of levels. The building it occupies is 25 years old and absolutely looks the part as it majestically stands out from the more standard ‘inhabitants’ of a small but busy road at one end of Indiranagar. This was Bow Barracks (for those who have been in Bangalore for a while). (map, you’ll have to make do with street parking) And while great food in itself is a good cause, the cafe does its bit for society too by employing underprivileged women. The highlight of the place, though, is its decor. Across four floors, there are alfresco as well as indoor seating options and several elements have been added to the wonderful red brick interiors to lend it an easygoing charm. The furniture for instance is far from constant – benches to sofas to bar stools to large cushions – but somehow they all seem to fit well together. The soft lighting gives the space an elegant yet cosy air, and if you start paying attention to the details, you’d notice that many of the things you see around are recycled. We sat on the first floor, enjoying the soft breeze from a large open window and it took the grill – made from the parts of an automobile – to remind us that we were here for a meal!

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The bang & the buck

A decade ago, while working with a newspaper group where our small team managed three brands, we had an interesting situation. One of the brands, a vernacular broadsheet, was at an advanced stage in its lifecycle where it had to be made relevant and exciting for a newer set of readers who were native to the region. Another brand, an English compact daily (we didn’t like to be called a tabloid!), was an absolute newbie aimed at what could broadly be called an ‘immigrant’ audience. This was made interesting because research showed that the ‘triggers’ for the two sets of readers were quite at odds with each other. To elaborate, but without nuances, the positioning of the vernacular brand would be around showcasing pride in local language and culture, laced with jingoism, and that of the English brand would be around a cosmopolitan outlook. Holding both these diametrically different ideologies and doing justice to both was quite an exciting experience.

That nostalgia bout was triggered because I’m increasingly seeing this friction between different parts of the population escalate. A certain angst that seems to flare up on various seemingly unconnected issues. So here’s a thought. I am not really a Javed Akhtar fan, and a lot of people dissed him when he connected the Bangalore New Year molestation incident to social segregation and economic divide, but I strongly believe that many of the horrors we witness today – from terrorism to road rage – have economic disparity at its heart. I had written about this in the context of our convenience attitude towards injustice during the Nirbhaya incident. To note, this is not a right-wrong commentary, because I also strongly believe that moral objectivity is an oxymoron. More