Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus

Douglas Rushkoff

At the beginning of the third chapter, the author asks us to imagine a world where there is only one operating system. In such a world, it would be difficult to imagine another OS, or even think of the OS as something that need not be the way it is. That, in a nutshell, is what money has become. “Central currency is the transactional tool that has overwhelmed business itself; money is the tail wagging the economy’s dog” because “money makes money faster than people or companies can create value”. The proof of it is in the abstractions that have come up in history – the stock exchange was an abstraction of commerce, and the derivatives market its further abstraction. The author notes how fitting it was when in 2013, a derivatives exchange had enough ‘value’ to buy the NYSE, its own creator of sorts!

My introductory paragraph, and the title itself might give you the idea that this is some kind of a call for a bloody revolution against capitalism and technology. But it isn’t. The title is based on an incident in 2013 and in fact, the author notes how Google, using its buses, is actually doing its bit to protect the environment. He proceeds to ask “since when has doing the right thing become the wrong thing?” The buses, he argues, are soft targets, and the real culprit is a program that promotes growth above all else. So if the book is a call for revolution, it is against the concept of growth for growth’s sake, because such growth is the enemy of prosperity.  More

The Sense of an Ending

Julian Barnes

“You are allowed a long moment of pause, time enough to ask the question : what else have I done wrong?” That is the disturbing thought I was left with on the penultimate page of the book. But it wasn’t always that way, you know.
Tony Webster is the narrator of his own life’s story. In the first part, which is about one third of the book, he sets up the context and the characters. There is a deceiving flippancy and brevity about this section of the book, and Tony does seem very capable of being true and objective about his own life. It’s only towards the end of it that one got even a whiff of a suspicion that something different lay ahead.

In the second section, the ‘peacable’ life that Tony desired (or did he?) is his. Even as he celebrates the ordinariness, we do get the other side by his own admission – “I had wanted life not to bother me too much, and succeeded – and how pitiful that was” and “We thought we were being mature when we were only being safe.” But it is when he gets the bequest from someone he met 40 yeas ago, and exactly once, that the story really unravels into a “what is really happening here?” mode. More

Shizusan Shophouse & Bar

The plan originally was to go Irish House or Social, but as we entered Phoenix Market City, we noticed a new signage. A quick Zomato search showed me a menu that was very, very appealing! So, after business as usual at the mall, we headed over to Shizusan on the food court floor. At 7 PM, we had no problem finding a table. We contemplated sitting outside, but the one seat that offered a good view of the mall was already taken, so we decided the well lit, very pretty indoors was the better place to be. The seating is largely functional, though the chairs do exhibit a sense of aesthetics. The greenery on the ceiling is unfortunately unreal, but thankfully doesn’t really take away from the effect.  There’s some very elegant art at one corner that brings out the cuisine theme, and the only sore thumb in this entire set up are the table tops, which reminded me of very old restaurants. I refuse to believe there is anything related to the theme at work here!

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Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir

On a relative scale, we probably are in the most abundant era of civilisation. And yet, we struggle to manage with less than what we need. Sometimes it’s money, in other cases time or health, and then there are emotional needs like love and affection. But there’s a common thread that connects all of these – the scarcity mindset. A feeling of having less than what one needs. And scarcity, as the authors repeat many a time in the first few sections captures the mind.

This framing suddenly brings up patterns that are common across vegetable sellers in India and the authors of this book, two sets of people vastly separated by geography and lifestyles. It then allows the formation of concepts and constructs – bandwidth, focusing and tunneling, choking, slack are a few examples – that offers explanations on how scarcity is created, how it forms its own vicious cycles, and how far reaching its consequences are. Complicated as the subject may seem (and it is!) the fantastic use of examples (tests, experiments and real life scenarios) explains things in a way that the reader can easily grasp. More


Sometime back, we were super happy to see gastronomic progress happening in a building near the BMTC Depot in Whitefield. (map) Galito’s and Cold Stone Creamery were quick to start reperations, and we now regularly make up excuses to visit the latter! Bloomsbury’s looked very promising but had been holding out, until we began seeing lights inside around April. Side note – I think the same folks are behind all three, because it can’t be a coincidence that outside of Bangalore, all of them operate only in Kerala’s tourism hot spot – Lulu Mall. Though all three seem to be international franchises, I’m guessing that like most good things in life, these ones too have some Kerala connection. 😀

Bloomsbury’s proposition is a boutique cafe and artisan bakery, but let’s just say that from a menu perspective, you will have enough to choose from. In fact, that is quite a problem because you’ll find it difficult to preserve appetite for desserts. But we’ll come to that in a bit, because the decor is worth a shout out. Spread over two floors, the brick walls with chalkboard and illustrations, the cute teapot lights, the plant holder bulbs,  graffiti and the plush seating, all lend a lively yet cozy feel to the place. The staff do their best to make you comfortable too. For instance, when we asked to sit upstairs, we were told that it wasn’t open yet. Later, one of the other service staff let another party sit upstairs, followed by my cold glares. That last item was caught and they were nice enough to let us take a little tour upstairs, and move our food there if we wanted to. But we liked the area downstairs better.

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Dhaba by Claridges

We had spotted the place during our visit to Sly Granny, and liked the look of it, so at the very next opportunity – which happened to be our anniversary – we decided to drop in. (map) It was also the first day of my new job, so it turned out to be a double celebration. At 7 PM on a Monday we had the place all to ourselves, at least for a while. In fact, I think we disturbed their prep meeting! We really liked what they have done with the decor – it’s bright and has classic Dhaba signs and messages, some of the seating is inspired by classic vehicle interiors, the music is absolute Bollywood, and even the loo continues the Dhaba messaging. The thing though, is that it is all done classily – Dhaba fine dining all the way.

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Nasi and Mee (Whitefield)

Our visits to the black box VR mall have been predominantly for the happy hours at Irish House. On one such visit, we were super thrilled to see a Nasi and Mee ‘coming soon’ sign right next door. We’d been really happy with its Koramangala version. But for the longest while, the sign was all there was, and we had given up! On the 1st of April, we decided that it was as good a day as any to check if we’d continue to get fooled. But voila, it was open, with the familiar Edison lamps (though every restaurant now sees it as the passport to coolth!) no-nonsense seating, and those shutters that remind me of a place from long, long ago.

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Since we were early, we easily found a seat, especially since we chose to sit in the alfresco section. I don’t think they’ve publicised the place much, since it wasn’t really fully occupied even when we left around 9. A far cry from the Koramangala version, which would’ve had a crowd waiting outside for a table!  More

Sapiens : A Brief History of Humankind

Yuval Noah Harari

“Just six million years ago, a single female ape had two daughters. One became the ancestor of all chimpanzees, the other is our own grandmother.” That appears on page 5, and somehow it convinced me that I was going to enjoy this book. Actually, even before that, the framing of the massive exercise of universe creation, and evolution, neatly into physics, then chemistry, and biology is itself a fantastic beginning. This elegance in framing, which extends to the analogies used as well, played a huge role in me recommending this book to pretty much everyone I met, even while I was still reading it.

To continue, after biology, which is the study of organisms, we come to the study of something developed by humans – culture, and that study is history. From as many as six other human species that existed until 100,000 years ago, we were the chosen ones. How did that happen, and how did we get here, that is what the book explores. More

The Shadow Lines

Amitav Ghosh

“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff.” ~ Steven Moffat. This probably best describes the narrative structure of the book – it moves forward and backward in time, sometimes seeking parallels, and sometimes closure, it would seem.

Many books in one, that’s a way to describe this work. It is Tridib’s life and relationships, seen through the eyes of the narrator. It is the narrator’s own story – in Calcutta where he grew up, in Delhi where he studied and then in London. It is his view of the world he lives in, the people who inhabit it and his changing relationships with them. It is also the relationships within the Datta Chaudhari family and with their friends – the Prices. But across these, I could see at least a couple of common threads. One, the aspect that gives the book its title (I assume). Places, events and people have lines connecting, and sometimes disconnecting them, but these lines exist only in some perspectives. Hence, shadow lines. In this book, I felt the focus is largely on places – the boundaries between nations are lines, and the connection between Calcutta and Khulna seems much stronger than between Kolkata and Srinagar though the latter pair exist in the same country. The second aspect that offers a connection is the end of the story, it is something that brings closure of sorts to all the three narratives I mentioned earlier. More

Flying Spaghetti Monster

First published in Bangalore Mirror

In a world where zealots prescribe diets instead of deities, the Flying Spaghetti Monster appears in the skyline as a beacon of hope. For those unfamiliar with the subject, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the deity of the “Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster” or “Pastafarianism”, a legally recognised religion in at least three countries, in addition to being an internet phenomenon! 100 feet Road, Indiranagar, (map) has now been blessed by its presence, (rather, a restaurant inspired by it) and if there’s a deity that can reduce the traffic on that road (which happened the day we visited) it must indeed be a powerful one. This was manifested once again during our dinner – we had the place to ourselves when we got in, but by the time we left, the faithful had filled up every seat available. This, on a Friday night, without the influence of alcohol! Glory be to FSM!

The ambiance is in keeping with the soberness that a faith requires – no fancy use of colours, just wood, well placed lighting, and comfortable seating that allows one to reflect on the menu, take a note of the insatiable desires of one’s appetite, and humbly appeal to a higher power to satisfy those cravings. The menu however, revealed the playful nature of the deity – “substitute bacon with bacon. ha!” (Pasta D:33), even as it strengthened one’s faith – “Vegetables are interesting, but lack a sense of purpose when unaccompanied by a good cut of meat”. By now, all we wanted to do was partake!

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