Bangalore

City Zen

Sometime back, in a post, I quoted Paul Theroux “My own feeling is that city dwellers invent the cities they dwell in. The great cities are just too big to be comprehended as a whole, so they are invisible, or imaginary, existing mainly in the mind.” 

The other day, during a cleaning exercise, I came upon an ‘old’ Bangalore map we had taped together from printouts. (I remember the site had separate maps for north, south, east and west :) ) Back in 2003 and thereabouts, this used to be our reference when we had to travel to places unknown. Unknown at that point included Malleswaram, Cantonment, Jayanagar and such. :)  The city that we had created in our mind included Koramangala, Indiranagar and MG Road. Yes, just about that much. :) But the outdoor media selection that my brand job entailed ensured that I soon became familiar with many parts of Bangalore. In an earlier job, my office was at VV Puram and those not familiar with the place would say that it was far. Actually, my travel time from Koramangala was quite less.

A few weeks back, we decided to check out Haralur Road as part of the Realty Check endeavour. Despite the advanced features of Google Maps, and its time estimates, we thought it would take a while to get there from Koramangala. Not only did it turn to be near, we got back much earlier than expected. I’m sure the area will be unrecognisable 5 years down the line. Just like say, HSR has evolved. :)

As Bangalore creates its own little self sustaining bubbles, it’s not just the city that will be created in the mind, it’s probably the distances too.

until next time, cityscape

Neti, Neti Not This, Not This

Anjum Hasan

Before anything else, the summary on the back of the book does not really do justice to what the book is about. That’s just a perspective. Though indeed, it is about Sophie, a girl from Shillong who came to Bangalore to work with a book publishing company and ended up in a US-based company that outsources the subtitling of DVDs and her increasing sense of being out-of-place in the growing metropolis, I thought it did dwell a lot on what the idea of home is to a person, and how time and situations change the idea and affect this relationship.

The other facet of the book is how the author uses Sophie’s Shillong origin to portray just how different the North East is from the rest of the country. So this becomes a layer that goes beyond the stereotyped small to big town transition angst.

The paradox, however is that Sophie is someone many people can identify with – someone who contemplates what this entire game of living is all about. And it is through these eyes that the author zips through the age old debates of culture/modernisation, young/old, east/west etc, the cliches of the modern Indian metro – malls, new age spiritual gurus, midnight parties in high rise apartments, work relationships, pubs, the influx of quick money, changing lifestyles and so on – the drama in the daily grind. The disenchantment with her new and old ‘homes’ is something I could completely relate to.

Anjum Hasan is a prose artist. While I’ve not been to Shillong, the way she has captured Bangalore makes me feel that when I land up in Shillong, I’ll get a sense of deja vu. When you add to this some superb wit, and a penchant for subtlety, you get a book that’s quite easily worth a read.

I read in a few reviews that Sophie’s character is from Hasan’s earlier work “Lunatic In My head”. Couple that with the fact that she has opted for quite an unconventional ending, and I begin to hope that there is another book in the making, in which Sophie gets out of her disillusionment. That’ll be a journey worth waiting for.

EastforEaster: Day 7 – Tiger Cave, Airports and back

Click here for Part 1 , Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6

We wondered why the cab was picking us up at 8. The airport was less than an hour away and we only had to visit one place on the way. The flight was only just past noon and we only had to check in an hour in advance. We were told by the folks at Harvest House that Tiger Cave was not very far off, but it took a couple of hours to explore. We wondered why.

We ceased to wonder after the driver cheerfully informed us that Tiger Cave involved a climb. He was all smiles probably because his job ended at leaving us at the bottom of the hill. Of course, it would be a wonder if we didn’t have to climb, after the experiences so far. Meanwhile, there were a few other things to see before we started the climb. We saw a Ganesha idol here too.

And now for the climb, which I had been putting off. It involved not 100, not 200, but 1237 steps. I was sure that there was a better way to keep my head in the clouds, but we started out nevertheless. To be honest, the climb itself was quite tiring but manageable, though our legs hurt for days after. The problem was with the design at about 400 steps – they suddenly became steep and narrow, but more tragically, I could see on both sides the height we were at, and climbing, and that meant I became jittery. So yes, we stopped, which turned out to be a good thing, because D’s legs gave out when we were near the bottom!

That also meant that we got to the airport a bit in advance, but Air Asia welcomed us warmly and proved that missing the excess kgs in the earlier flight baggage was an anomaly. 500 bahts later, we were in the aircraft and just over an hour later, in Suvarnabhumi. With the aid of the airport map, we scouted the 3rd and 4th levels for lunch and despite the deluge of Japanese options, settled for a Thai lunch on the 3rd level. On hindsight, might not have been a bad idea to check in and lunch on the 4th Level. 2 hours flew past while we gawked at uber expensive brands spread across what seemed like a few kilometres (must have been the tired legs!) and underwent body scans. Finally, we heard the familiar Kingfisher call for Kolkata. We were assured of reaching there with only the pilot ahead of us as we drew 1A and 1B. :|

Reading a newspaper after a week was a strange experience, and it didn’t help that it was Kolkata Times! But the gossip in the flight rag distracted us even more! Swalpahaar was served, and we watched “Khelein hum jee jaan se” starring Shaky Bachchan and an earnest D-Pad. It was probably because I had drunk a Pepsi after a long time, but I started wondering whether Sid (Mallya kind) would ever wake up and ask D-Pad “Will UB my wife”. Bwahahaha. Ok, sorry.

We landed at Kolkata and immediately felt the brunt of Kolkata’s bureaucratic personnel. For some strange reason, the KF staff insisted that “all passengers proceeding to Bangalore via Hyderabad” had to stick together and move to the other terminal under guidance. Maybe the fuss was because the signs were only in English. Gah. I saw the Coffee Day we had sat in, during our Sikkim trip. We got back into the same flight, D discovered a peanut she had dropped earlier. :) All the airport waits meant that I finished reading one book and I distracted myself from starting a new book with old Sarabhai vs Sarabhai episodes.

After a brief halt in Hyderabad, where I earned the JetSetter badge on 4sq, and a KF staff invasion meant that there were more airport personnel than passengers, we finally reached Bangalore close to 11 pm and discovered a new phenomenon – waiting lines for cabs. :O And as the tee goes, ‘Aap Qatar main hain’ but thankfully, for a cab that would take us home.

More pics on Facebook

Update 2.010

So, the Twitter bio now has an addition “Columnist”. Readers of my other blog, and the restaurant reviews I post there, would know that I’ve been doing reviews for Bangalore Mirror for a while now. The other column I’m responsible for is also up and running well now, judging by the feedback I’ve received. This one is titled ‘Ideas @ work’, and in it, we feature Bangalore based startups. The column appears every Monday, usually on Page 4. I’ve been updating them on the new space on the right column- ‘In print’, but in case you haven’t noticed, the ones that have been featured so far are Oye Happy, LifeMojo, MobStac, Revu, Recruiterbox and The India Market. Big thanks to Kiran, Praveen (an old chronicler in this area), Kesava and Amit, who have helped me with thoughts and leads. :)

I’ve always been interested in start ups, on many levels – because many of them work in spheres that are new, relatively unexplored and are exciting, because many a time they see the same things but view it differently and thus creating something that’s valued, and also because at a larger level, they are following their heart and being part of something that matters.

Its been a very interesting experience so far and finding and talking to people who have an idea they’re passionate about, and willing to work hard on it, has done a lot for my own thinking as well. We’re also going to dedicate about one column a month for social entrepreneurship ventures.

So, in case you come across an interesting Bangalore based startup, feel free to ping me at manu(dot)prasad @ gmail (dot) com.

until next time, upstart ;)

Shashi Tharoor, a real account… of the Bangalore Tweetup

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And that would explain why, when I saw the invite for a tweet up, it was an easy exception to make to my otherwise steadfast stance against tweet ups and reserve a place to meet the Minister of Status. :D

That’s in spite of generally having some harmless fun at his expense on a regular basis – from his non-accommodating stance on the 5 star stay to the now famous gaai-rights issue (actually wrote a couple of solidarity tweets on the latter to make up for the others)

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He even featured in the Andaman travelogue. The good part – popularity in Andaman, and erm, the bad part. So that roughly explains my attitude towards the politician and twitterer.

The seeming flippancy in that attitude  perhaps belies the enormous amount of admiration and respect I have for the author. The Great Indian Novel is probably my all time favourite work, simply because its satire and humour work on multiple levels. The more layers you can unravel through lateral thought and associations made, the more gems you can find. As my About page would indicate, I love wordplay, jest like that. TGIN, in my book, is THE benchmark, not just for wordplay and humour, but for the sheer imagination and brilliance that connected two seemingly disconnected streams almost seamlessly.

These days, I see around me, in the real world, politicians who can talk drivel for hours, boring the audience to premature death. I also see, in virtual world, authors and celebrities struggling with the expectations raised by their audience on real-time platforms – the result often being repeats of old jokes, terrible wordplay,  banality, and a general discomfort stemming from the heightened interaction.

The tweet up. There was a palpable energy in the place, and the place almost exploded when the organisers announced that the much anticipated message had come from upstairs, and they were ready to start… serving coffee and biscuits. We came back after getting our coffee, and waited inside the audi for Mr.Tharoor, disappointed at not being allowed to bring our coffee in, but then in he came, in black and white, and made our woe seem insignificant, with his coughing. Hmm, I couldn’t be sure, but the front row possibly had coffees. (#9). And so I sat, flanked by two other Mallus – Nikhil, and Balu (who’d made it a point to arrive after Shashi Tharoor, just so we understood who was more busy ;) ) wondering how a favourite, whose work I worshiped, would fare.

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As you can see, he was favouring the right, and the centre, until a lady seated behind me forced him to answer a question from our side. I wondered aloud if he always ignored the left thus, but though my neighbours heard it, sadly he didn’t. I’d have loved a repartee. I noted that we had similar workplace issues, as Twitter was banned in the MEA too. Meanwhile, our friend Nikhil, (who claims he was) one of the voters who elected Mr.Tharoor to the parliament, had a political googly question for him. But he managed to answer it satisfactorily too.

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He talked about occasions when he was asked to explain Twitter to his colleagues, and the advice to him to stop tweeting if he valued his political career. But as he said, he doesn’t like being told he can’t do something. He explained his twitter habits – following, answering questions on Twitter, and the balance he has to maintain while sharing with the world a minister’s life. He was asked about his writing plans, to which he answered that the current job keeps him too busy to write, and not just to write, but to create that space in the mind, which can be populated with people and instances that have nothing in common with his daily life. So for now, The Great Indian Novelist is reduced to the limitations of a git (great indian twitterer) ;) – 140 char.

And thus, thankfully, he didn’t disappoint, and i sat, listening in rapt admiration, as the man displayed his ease with the language, bringing a smile and making us LOL, with witty answers to even the most banal of questions. Yes, there were quite a few of those too. But thankfully there were the opposite kind too, which got him to talk about the working of his ministry, and future plans. I could throw in erudite, polished, confident and similar adjectives as descriptions for him, but a master craftsman is usually beyond adjectives. (as anyone who saw that jaw-dropping 175 would vouch for)

Though he had arrived a bit earlier than announced at the venue (the twitvite said 3, when the actual time was 3.30, but the reason for that is easy to guess, so I wouldn’t complain), we still had only an hour, and it passed very quickly.  But it was undoubtedly, fun!! So, finally everyone posed for photos,

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and somewhere in between I accomplished the other thing I’d come for. :) :)

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until next time, end of gushy Tharoor post ;)

(HUGE) UPDATE

ST RTs !!

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A bridge across time

As I sat in the cafe, I occasionally turned around to watch the Metro construction. Vehicles and pedestrians jostled for space on the ever declining width of MG Road. Just before I got into the cafe, I was part of the crowd – most of which was cursing the mess that the construction was creating, not just then, but in many people’s daily routines, thanks to the regular traffic blocks and detours required.

Detours. I had had a conversation with a friend a couple of days back on how, if I had the perspectives I had now, 5 years back, I might have done things differently then. I might have re-prioritised – things that I wanted to do, goals I set for myself, person I wanted to be,and so on. I said that blessed are those who can turn back, take a look and say that they wouldn’t have done things differently. I honestly can’t. Specific regrets I may not have, but a different set of perspectives, I wouldn’t have minded.

The friend maintains that whatever path one takes, it would be impossible not to have some regret or the other. I can’t say I disagree. But i do maintain that it is possible to minimise. Does that mean that I am not happy now? Of course I am. But to paraphrase the tee that I keep mentioning says, it ain’t about the destination, its about the journey. The possibility of regret minimisation comes from a belief that if you are doing what you are meant to do, then everything else would fall into place. A faith.

Faith. The book that I finished later that day had a theme that mixed faith, quantum physics and parallel universes. It had people with different levels of abilities regarding the different universes. One could sense it, one could travel through it, observing, without being able to alter anything, one could transfer objects through it without knowing where they went, and finally one who could travel through it and control it far better than all the above. It talks about every day being a momentous day when we make choices, which creates ripples across other people’s lives (like a butterfly effect on human destinies). It talks about destiny giving you a chance to set it right again. It takes the analogy of an oak tree for a human life. Too many right choices and you’ll have a trunk with a few branches, risks never taken, adventures never had, a life less lived. Too many wrong choices and you’ll have a gnarled tree, fruits never enjoyed, an existence too scarred, a life too consumed to be enjoyed.

We would like a balance. The friend has made peace with the self on this matter. I need to work on it a bit more, and ensure that I don’t read this post years a few years later and say Oops, I did it again.

Maybe years later, a new generation would thank the decision maker for the metro. Or perhaps they would curse it for being built for a lesser capacity than it should have been. Time, and context, that would form the perspective. Perhaps its too much to wish for the perspective and the destination before the time has been traveled through, step by step, baggage by baggage.

until next time, step up :)

Drivel

He was humbled by the wisdom of those visionaries – the town planners of the city he lived in. Every time he rode on Bangalore’s roads, he marveled at how they’d managed to forecast the city’s traffic snarls so precisely, and then ensured that the locations were named appropriately – Koramangala 1st Block, Jayanagar 4th Block…

until next time, block aid!!