Monthly Archives: October 2017

Ivory Throne: Chronicles of the House of Travancore

Manu S Pillai

Absolutely fantastic, and the strange thing is, if you had asked me when I was even at about page 400 (out of 555) I probably would have used milder adjectives. I also wouldn’t have thought (at that point) that I was likely to change my opinion later because knowing the direction, I didn’t think the last 100 or so pages would even be interesting to me. But while they’re not really the focus of the book, and more an inevitable ending, it (to me) is what delivered the texture that mattered most.

But let’s begin at the beginning. The focus of the book is definitely Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, who was the Regent of Travancore from 1924-31, but the author spends the first section of the book in setting the context. The canvas is vaster than Travancore itself and everything from the fall of the Zamorin and the entry of Europeans to the evolution of the intricacies that decide the ruler of the land and the prevalent socio cultural setting sets the stage for the reign of the Senior Maharani.  More

Pablo’s Gastrobar

That, I thought, was the best way to celebrate the release of Narcos Season 3. And that’s when we landed there, on a rainy Bangalore night, after having passed it a few times on our way back from Phoenix Market City. Pablo’s is right next to Biergarten. (map)

After slushing our way in, thanks to the rain, we realised that the interior resembled that of the swimming pool next door! To be fair, it was heavily raining, and I think the high, tiled roof was under heavy pressure from the evening on. Anyway, it was easy to find a dry place since there were only a few tables occupied. The place is relatively huge, and the seating is actually just benches and bright chairs. The ubiquitous giant screen also exists.

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Gem in the Lotus

Abraham Eraly

History is not usually kind on its readers, and changing that is probably the biggest advantage this book has to offer. The author makes history accessible through a largely simple narrative and writing style. While he has taught history, I don’t think he is a historian. Thus it isn’t based on what one might call ‘original research’ but more an aggregation of sources. Indeed, the book cites a large number of sources for the information it gives.

The ‘seeding’ begins long before humans arrived on the scene, when plate tectonics created the land mass that is now called the Indian subcontinent. The geological results – the Himalayas that act as a barrier, the fertility of the land etc – have had huge implications on how the civilisation in this part of the world has evolved.

The book moves on to the Indus Valley civilisation, the influx of the Aryans and the Rig Vedic times, the later Vedic times, and in the process, touching upon quite a few popular misconceptions. This entire shift is obviously significant from a civilisational and cultural point of view, but it is also interesting to see the theatre of action shift from the Indus to the Ganga. The societal and cultural milieu is also explained well, using the texts of the time – the Vedas and Upanishads. More

Oota

That local food in a rustic setting thought? Kill it. Oota is in the same building as Windmills Craftworks (map) and run by the same folks, so while the cuisine is definitely what the name suggests – Karnataka – the setting is absolutely fine dining. The clincher is when they explain the non existence of cutlery with “should be eaten with hand for the complete experience” and let you know that if you do feel uncomfortable with that, they could get you cutlery. In fact, I did see a person at a table nearby wrestling with a Maddur Vade armed with a fork. Sigh.

The ambiance is absolutely classy, with lots of rich wood finish, bright cushions, show lamps hanging from the ceiling interspersed with actual lights, and an annapakshi vessel on the table.

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Home Outgrown

On our way to the airport, for what would be one of our shortest trips to Kerala, I told D that I didn’t see myself making this journey a decade from now. At least not framed in the way we do it these days – a trip home. I was wrong – it happened way sooner than a decade.

It wasn’t a comment made lightly – after all, to borrow a phrase, I was referring to a city which had all the places that made up a couple of decades of my life.

What does one go home for? The obvious answer is easy – to spend time with people who matter in one’s life. To note – even that changes during one’s lifetime. But if I have to dig a bit deeper, Rana Dasgupta’s words make sense – when one becomes homesick, it is not a place that one seeks, but oneself, back in time. And when one does that, the props matter. The places, the faces, all reminders of different phases. When they no longer exist, the place is no longer a cure for homesickness. More

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