Dec 28, 2006

Kanua - chateau by the Mediterranean

There are some places and people that totally surprise you. Places totally unanticipated that really gets one hooked... Or people who catch you by the neck and say "I exist" The Friday dinner at Kanua was one such otherworldy experience. A close friend had come down for a short visit. He was docked at Sarjapur Road which is like a trek to the moon from where I work and live in the notorious Blore traffic. After some time at his Sister's home, we started driving out of the city along Sarjapur road. The serendipity drive I thought would lead to the magical dhaba by the river. Suddenly my friend had a brainwave and thumped the mobile.

A right turn after the Fabmall in Sarjapur Road leads to a dirt track can give any rally freak an adrenalin rush . The road ends at a 3-storied building on the right with a vast expanse of grass in front of it. The dimly lit building has a slight gothic touch and the lovely Blore weather in December makes it chique. A wooden staircase that winds 2 floors leads to the hideaway.

I first had the notion entering into an old Goan home with the muted lighting and portuguese music. Then I imagined sitting in a chateau by the Mediterranean. The decor is definitely period with doors that open into two, large blocks of wood for railing and tiled roofing. The exquisite dining area is without walls and gives a sense of watching a play by nature on all three sides. There is small lounge area to cool off.

I started with an Iced tea. The menu is predominantly fish or atleast that is what my eyes could read. But there are ample doses of chicken and vegetables. If you have to absolutely tie it to a region, the Konkan which includes both the Mangalore and Goan streams suits best. A medium sized white pomphret was the first cold-blooded vertebrate on the table. I had long since stopped ordering food by their names. The fish was either baked or medium-fried with right amount of spice. There might have been a tinge of vinegar thrown in. The masala was not completely dried and tasted great. It sort of melted like chocolate in my mouth.

The main course was seer fish curry with rice. Kanua serves two varieties of rice - the standard Basmati type and boiled ( bee size according to a N Indian friend) predominant along the west coast. The gravy tasted like the coconut grated & fried variety, but it was not exactly the same though. There were some unrecognizable ingredients that made it quite unique with an appetizing aroma. Fish was fresh and the potions were enough for two.

Now for the wallet factor. Compared to other seafood places in B'lore like Harbour Market ( Mohanlal's) & Tiger Bay, the place is light on the pocket. The pricing is as honest as it can get for seafood out here. The chicken and vegetarian dishes were also decently priced. Kanua doesn't serve drinks. This was the only glitch in the otherwise superb experience. But diners can carry bottles which they serve out there. I would recommend this joint just for the ambience. The top-class food is an incentive. If you like the old-world charm like at Koshys, the place is for you. I would have shifted the weekend binge except for the variety and crowd at Koshys. It can also be ideal place for a heavy lunch with a siesta in a hammock.

Check this place. It is worth the trek.. ooops the drive.

Dec 14, 2006

Lesser Mortals

Woke up this morning thinking about conversations with a colleague generally about developmental and economic issues. Was reminded of how 2 neighboring states have a remarkably different way of dealing with certain tragedies that affect the poor. The first thing that hit me on today's newspaper was about the collapse of the scaffolding at a construction site in Infosys campus and resultant death of 5 migrant laborers. This was the exact same thing that I was thinking about 10 mins back. Such tragedies are commonplace as Banglore shapes into a technopolis.

2 weeks ago a storehouse collapsed at Biocon and killed 3. There has been atleast 7 such incidents since I starting counting them form 2005. Anywhere between 3-7 people are killed in each of these incidents. Near the place I used to stay at R.T. Nagar the scaffolding gave in on the day of concreting. 5 dead. At another site in MG road had the land give in when excavating for the basement. 3 dead.

The victims in most cases are migrant laborers from rural Karnataka or the BIMARU states . Political parties ignore them because they don't form a vote bank. The workers are never a part of any union. The media cold-shoulder them since such news don't appeal to their urban target. The TOI for example found it worthy of only a 2 column article in the second page. That is when they can waste reams and reams of paper on Shilpa Shetty's latest beau or on which girl appeared in what skimpy clothes at which all parties. The more socially obliged among them might have one follow-up article. Haven't heard about any NGO's who pursue such cases. And forget about anything coming up in the courts. Nobody seems to be bothered about those 5 hapless, poor souls who pay with their lives to create the pillars of 21st century India.

There are probably no villains in the story. But there is an institutional failure in letting such criminal negligence go unpunished. The building contractors are powerful enough to influence the civic authorities and the police. And even if charge sheeted the case would be so weak. The standard rebuttal by the contractors is that everything mandatory has been done. Don't know if the families of the dead are even compensated properly. In today's case the construction company Sobha Developers which is among the reputed here has announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 2,50,000 and that would be last. As an aside the CEO of Soba developers recently did a Thulabaram ( offering to the deity in ones weight) in Gold at Guruvayoor temple worth Rs 7 Crore.

The economic theory doing rounds lately is that India's population is the bouty that will propel it to the superpower league. Does it mean we have more lives to loose than others and we don't care. Does it mean that the rich can subsidize their lifestyles at the cost of the poor. The affluent and middle-class need to really think if violence like one after Rajkumar's death or the most recent Dalit angst in Maharastra are emotional outbursts of the marginilised majority.

I wish Infosys which has set global standards in giving back to the society make an example of this case. The least they could do is to ensure that the families are compensated and children's future protected. The best would be to pursue this case and bring the culprits to book. But that might be too much of a price to pay. The middle-ground could be to create some frameworks so that such accidents don't repeat.

Nov 29, 2006

Eulogy to Sari

I am outraged. I am hurt. I am helpless No it is not the politics, Nor is it the performance of the Indian Cricket team. It is much more existential than that. It is the slow death of that uniquely Indian attire. The six yards of cloth, that adorned Indian women for centuries. Usage of Sari is very much on the decline across India, more so in the cities. Onslaught of salwar-kames, jeans, gagra-cholis and assorted clothing have replaced Sari form its preeminent position till the 80's.

This is not a debate about western cultural influences in the post-liberalized India. Neither is it a middle-aged man's case to ogle over the female anatomy. Before casting any such aspirations, let me tell you. There isn’t anything in this whole wide world that can give women the grace and beauty of that long strip of unstitched cloth. There is something angelic and out-worldly about a lady draped in a Sari. That is probably why Indian iconographers painted our Goddesses in a sari, except in some recent overtures of M. F. Hussein who had to pay with his blood for that. And who can forget Indira Gandhi, the iron lady who ruled India for a long time. A lot of Indira's persona had to do with her saris. The crispy white ones during the election campaigns and colorful organza prints when at the world stage. She could carry immaculately amongst the likes of Khrushchev and Kennedy with that drapery. Apparently Mrs. Gandhi and her friend Pupul Jayakar were patrons of good weavers from the Hindi heart land, just like Jaya Jaitley and Brinda Karat in recent times, who make the normally boring evening news so adorable.

Now for some random statistics. In a poll taken in one of Banglore's upmarket malls ( absolutely abhor them), I could only see 1 out of 50 women in the 20-50 age group who wore a Sari. These numbers might be skewed since age itself is morphable by modern technologies like face lifting and silica. But you get the drift. And now with these other dresses every maiden looks like they are churned out form an assembly line . Each one looking like the other. The same denim/khaki trousers, the same black tops. Even the hairstyles look similar. It is not only Banglore's landscape that has that has changed. The girlscape too has been distorted. A friend who came back to Banglore (B2B) after 10 years got absolutely bored after a roundtrip across Brigade road and some malls. And this is not just B'lore alone. India metros are slowly becoming populated with replicas. That is why occasional trips to Kerala where the grass is green and sareefull is such a relief. Hope it stays that way. Atleast there is a place to retire.

There are can be lot of arguments against a Sari. The most common being that it cant be a daily wear. Ladies ...............My Grandmother who retired as a Headmistress wore sari to work for all of her, 30 year career. You could try it once a week to bring some fresh air to that clustered rate maze at office. If you can wiggle into that choking lycra top every other day, sari is a cakewalk. And for the revealing bit less said the better. I mean.. look at any PYT on the road and you can see the subtle placement to hide less and show more. And since when did Indian Women hide into a cocoon. We are the land of Kamasutra and Natya Shastra where the navel of the Supreme Being is considered to be the source of life and creativity. The sari atleast can give you flexibility based on your mood. Drape around when you want to appear demure. Casually throw it when you want are on assault mode and project oomph. I am sure it can leave your prey speechless.

I am not positive... But I have made my noise. If you want to give the Sari an unceremonious death let it be. But generations to come would curse you for destroying a piece of art that could make a beauty of every lass.

Nov 27, 2006

Belle de Jour

Crevises that cry out loud
Cannot hear
Nor fathom
Restless as in a mouse trap
Double lives threaten to meet
To create a cloud
For the soul to find its space
Picture perfect postcards
Shread into a thousand pieces
Reality is a myth
Created by our fantacy
Belle de Jour
The spirits mystery

Inspired by the movie Belle de Jour ( beautiful by day ) by Luis Bunuel

Nov 23, 2006

Opera Mini - Mobile Browser

For those who think the Internet started and ended with Internet Explorer, the Opera Mini will be a revelation. This mobile browser could be the next killer application that let us see and touch the world from an appliance that has become our alter ego. Why would one carry a laptop when you can browse and email in sheersana from a mobile phone.

Skeptics might ask why reduce the form factor and strain the eyes. Opera Mini doesn't take much to get used to . Most of the browser functionalities like history, bookmarks etc remain the same. And when your mobile device is becoming the camera, radio, media player and anything that you could imagine why use a bulky device to check and reply to that important business email. This is miniaturization at its best.

Opera's Small-Screen Rendering™ technology uses a 'proxy' web server that takes requests and optimizes the results for a specific mobile device. Most of the processing is done by these proxy servers who get the web page that is requested and pygmies it into size that renders on your device quickly. Connection can be through a WAP access point or GPRS depending on your service provider.

To install Mini go to The server detects the make of the device and downloads the appropriate version. At 110 KB it makes only a small footprint on the memory and installs quickly. Opera Mini is written in Java and works in most mobile phones. So you really don't need a smart phone to access the world wide web.

The user interface is pretty intuitive and simple. The menu button on the left opens common functions like address, bookmarks and tools. Bookmarks itself can be accessed by shortcut keys that can be set by the user. That makes checking your email just 2 clicks away. The font size can be adjusted based on your eye sight. Home page can be customized to get quickly into the most visited sites. One could google in from the home page or know everything about anything on that monster of a Wikipedia. The Opera servers pre-process the content into single column, eliminating the need for horizontal scrolling. Not every web page looks perfect with this verticalisation, but that is a small price to pay. The Opera Mini 3.0 which is in beta now lets photo upload and compatibility with your favorite RSS feeds.

What is in it for you and me other than checking emails and messaging. Every killer software is worth only its applications. In 2 days I found 2 applications for it. One to get a read reviews of the movie that plays at night on the cable. Now I don't sit watching some crapy Ninja Turtles on HBO, hoping that the next scene would turn it around. Another to look at the meanings of bombastic words that a friend uses without context. I have listed dictionary on my home page and I know the meaning before he finishes the next sentence. I have not told him yet about Opera Mini. But then that is another day.

Nov 22, 2006


Saw an interview of Sethu ( famous Malayalam literary figure who recently won the Vayalar award) in which he describes the premise of one of his novels that did't get too much attention. Apparently in a Tamil Nadu village there was an unusual number of deaths among people working in a particular company when they turn 59. The company itself heralded modernity in a once idyllic village with all the assorted cacophony it brings. It seems the sons kill their father when he turns 59 so that he gets the father's job. The mother and other female members remain passive if not active accomplices in the crime. It has become a sort de rigueur in the village that nobody in the community or the police raises an eyebrow against it. And the twist of it is that fathers start to suicide when they near 59 so that they can save their son's of the horrendous crime. In Indian tradition Father is equivalent to God and he doesn't want his son to be stained by such a big crime. Sethu's story goes on to describe how an idealistic personnel officer fights against it but the crux of the novel is not fictional.

Was really disturbed by this. It portrays the depths to which we can go. Even some animal species who eat their offspring's pale before such barbarity. In some senses it is an indicator of the despair in our villages and rural hinterland. It is hard to imagine the mental landscape of the father and son as they near the d-day. Don't know if we can ever rationalize this.

Nov 20, 2006

Pulee and the art of motorcar driving

A piece written before the blog. Thought of publishing since there hasn't been any momentum for some time

Of late I had the pleasure of being on the roads with Pulee. For the uninitiated Pulee( tiger ) is the recent avatar of a close buddy, and henceforth will be referred so. One moment he can be a Pulee giving funda on the intricacies of air flow in the carburetor and the next he would go ga-ga over the correlation between the mood of the artist and predominance of blue color in the frame. The long and short of it is that he can be a Pulee- in engines, mobiles, photography and all assorted techie stuff. He says that his biwi is also a Pulee and that they going to name their home "Pulee bhavanam" . But the biwi has not claimed to be a pulee and does not show any traces of puleness except when putting down the pulitharam of Mr. Puli.

This note is warranted in the context of the mail on driving experience forwarded by Pulee. Pulee feels that the entire road is his playground. The hapless drivers and who ply the highways are the villains. Pulee has many times expressed his intention to shoot the drivers point blank for such grave omissions as not giving him way when he honks repeatedly, not to mention the swearing at every lorry that he overtakes. Pulee would then give lectures of his psycho-game while overtaking where he would drive into the opposite vehicle and get the hapless oldie into submission while I would almost pee in my pants. ah before I forget another of his antics is to corner a truck out of the road if it fails to give way after repeated honking - begging, threatening and swearing. Pulee is conceptualizing a new protocol where one could express 4 letter words through the horn. 2 small for F***.1 long 1 short for AH etc.

Agreed that the Indian roads are in perpetual chaos and mayhem and the drivers need to be whipped on their butts. But where else could one enjoy such unobstructed freedom. One could shout, drive on either side of the road and do whatever nonsense that one could think of. Pulee himself narrated how a friend of his was screwed by the truck drivers when he tried to be smart in a US highway. They radioed all the nearby trucks and gave this fellow a run through the maze they set. Thank God our drivers are not that tech savy. otherwise pulee and me would never have made it home.

The final straw was when after the nth tuning of his work horse ( Maruthi 1000) pulee took to testing the performance. 3 guys on a motorcycle(as they often do , I have tried 4 once) decided to try their luck when they saw our man powering to 100. There was a nano second of braking, turning and shouting. The car stopped with a slight scratch on the front bumper and the alloy wheels. It was so fast that I didn't even get to feel the goose bumps that one normally gets in such situations. Thanks to our parents prayer's we escaped the ordeal at the police station and courts for killing 3 people.

Oct 10, 2006

Cricket's Dharma

It is midnight, as I crash into bed
Awash with a day that started in a fright
And ended with a verse so bright
Slowly slipping into a trance

A screeching noise by my window
Switched off the fan to see if it mellows
Closed the pane and locked the doors
But that cry is far from gone.

It was a cricket on its mating call
Shouting out load in that elaborate ritual
It has only nights in fall
To procreate in a symphony of life

Inviting the beauty with a trill
Moving briskly in its courtship drill
But that is all it takes for a fly
To spank its eggs and let him die

In that climax full of glory
Lay the seeds of misery
One man's primordial ecstasy
Is another's license to nullify

The croon with gay abandon
Like Dylan to his mate
Sounded very much like a bait
For the fly to shove him out of sight

Everything has its cosmic karma
In those moments before yama *
Splashed with a lot of kama
The cricket did his dharma
Attaining nirvana

* Yama: God of death
Animal Comminication Project

Oct 9, 2006

I am what I am not

The clouds reek with a reckless frenzy
This is but a life that shows no mercy
We are just pawns in this endless game
Crawling and dribbling without shame

Wouldn't it be nice to have a script
So that we all know the drift
Vagaries of existence makes one ponder
The one beyond just knows to murder

There is a moment, that breaks the pace
Of all that is built in a couple of years
Frozen like statue, numb ears
I am what I am not in that time and space

Moving in anachronous mode
Unwinding all that came about
There is nothing to stop the tide
Destruction is all that is there behind the hide

Pain remains memories linger
Getting hit many times over
Move on you might learn to cope
Why me why we