Saturday, October 03, 2009

Top 10 Food places I miss in Mumbai

(Notes about the places I miss in Mumbai. Obviously there are many more, but these are my top 10, not just because of the food, but because of the memories and associations I have with some people.)

  1. Madras Cafe (King’s Circle) - Waiting with 10 others for breakfast at 650am... upma... idli-rasam... coffee... the ability to reach 150 per head even with their prices... favourite veggie place...
  2. Penne (Juhu) - All you can eat, all you can drink for 1200+taxes... Awesome cold-cuts and salads... thin-crust pizza... Getting really high on a Sunday afternoon...
  3. Toto’s (Bandra) - Where everybody knows your name... Dumb-charades... pork sausages... kheera gajar ka salad... Tapan bringing JD with coke with a slice of lime without me having to ask for it... Bhonpu’s drink... the same playlist... (including keema-pao too)
  4. Not Just Jazz (Marine Drive) - The live band... the next best thing – a live band setting up and jamming before they start at 10... a nice steak... Sangria...
  5. Hard Rock Cafe (Lower Parel) - Five-figure bills... Not having the same drink twice... Watching “One Night Stand” live...
  6. Mondegar (Colaba) - The light beer... Breakfast brunch... the Jukebox... Mario Miranda’s frescos...
  7. Just Around The Corner (Bandra) - The mountain salad buffet... healthy, filling, and there for you at midnight... freshly made sandwiches and burgers...
  8. Pot Pourri (Bandra) - Penne pasta with chicken in cheese sauce... the best back-up place when we run out of ideas... Ordering wine the first night they start serving it, and asking them to buy from outside when they ran out...
  9. Naturals (anywhere) - Sitafal, tender coconut, chickoo, mango... Beats the hell out of Gelato, doesn’t it?...
  10. Theobroma (Colaba) - Food of the Gods... white chocolate, vodka and green chilli mousse cake...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Happy Durga Puja - Finishing four years' quota in one

I am a Bengali. And for a Bengali, the festival to rule 'em all is undoubtedly Durga Puja. We can have different Pujas around the year, celebrate Id and Christmas in Calcutta with a vigour that would put other Indian cities to shame, and just strike once in a while if we feel that the Government holidays list is a bit (the word just comes to my lips and disappears, but for the lack of creativity) short. But nothing beats the atmosphere of Durga Puja in Calcutta. It is an experience. And my experience is made better because my neighbourhood Puja is Maddox Square, which is grand. Unfortunately, the last time I was there was 2004.

2005 and 06 were in Ahmedabad. Was enthusiastic enough to go pandal-hopping one year, and see only three (could have been four, am not sure), and also participated in getting a Puja organized on our campus for the first time.
2007 was a damp squib. I was in Malaysia.
Bombay ('08) turned out to be better. Managed to visit 5 different pandals, and also get drenched in the rain - a memory that I shall always cherish.

And now, it's Delhi's turn again. Last time was 6 years ago, in 2003, when I was in college.
Visited 13 pandals in all this year. Ok, I am staying in Kalkaji, so CR Park is near. One day I just walked around for an hour and was able to see 4 Puja pandals. CR Park itself has so many - Mela ground, Shiv Mandir, Pocket-40, E-Block...
Mela Ground is supposedly one of the best, but I didn't see what the big deal is. Really liked the idol at a pandal further down the road near a Gurudwara - supposedly a GK2 puja. J Block, CR Park was a bit creative with the interiors done up like a cave, with rock-cut statues. The lights were obviously a bit dull. Kali Mandir near Gole Market was ok. Saw the Aarati there one evening, but was disappointed because there were too many Dhaakis (drummers) blocking the view. The Aarati at Minto Road was good, with some girls also doing a Dhunuchi dance with the Dhaakis. The Kashmere Gate puja completed 100 years this year, and had an eco-friendly idol. It still looks just as I remember it from 6 years ago, and also from what I remember from my childhood. The most creative puja had to be the Matri Mandir puja at Safdarjung Enclave. It had an Egyptian theme with hieroglyphics painted on the walls. However, they had not messed around with the idol.

With any Durga Puja comes its share of junk food. But didn't have a lot. Tried galauti kababs with roomali rotis at a stall at Mela Ground, and some Shawarma at Minto Road. The kababs were dry and the shawarma was a bit too spicy.

Definitely an enjoyable Puja with family around every day, pandals to go to, good food (at home). But miss getting wet in the rain in Bombay.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Bombay place in Delhi

I recently shifted to Delhi after spending two amazing years in Bombay. I really love the city and the amazing variety of food that it has to offer. There is a good mix of street-food, pubs and restaurants, and most of the ones I'd frequent were places with good music.

There are some places that do not have music, and I am ok with that. Maybe the music does not complement the food; maybe the target clientèle would enjoy a nice quiet meal. That is absolutely fine with me.
What I do not like is Brian Silas playing in the background, or some light 80s pop, just as some ambient music. What I also do not like is a place like the Sports Bar at Phoenix Mills, Bombay, that has a DJ who is so musically challenged that he will churn out the worst remixes ever. He will slow down a nice peppy number to the speed of a lullaby, and a nice ballad will be accompanied with a galloping beat.

Having stayed in Delhi before, I know that there are not many places that serve a mean cocktail, decent food and have good music. The fear apart from remixes, techno-crap etc. is that the fall-back for the DJ is bhangra.
The only place that I really liked earlier was Turquoise Cottage at the Adhchini crossing, but that has closed down.

Cafe Morrison at SouthEx is a nice place. The day I went there wasn't a media night, so it wasn't packed (no free booze = no crowd). The music was pretty good - mostly contemporary rock -, and the food was good too. My test for any such place is to have the Long Island Iced Tea. If you can't make this, you had better shut shop soon. Morrison didn't disappoint at least.

But the place that has now become my favourite is Bennigan's. I have been to this place in the M-block Market at GK-II for the last two Fridays, and I have been in Delhi for only 15 days. Friday is an open-mic night, and anyone can go up and sing. Fortunately, the first time I was there, whoever went up was terrific. And someone sang a CCR song. And anyplace that I hear Creedence Clearwater Revival is a place I am definitely visiting again.
Unfortunately, the next time, a girl decided that she could sing, and after not having her way with us with Sajana (she made Shibani Kashyap sound good!) and Zombie, she thought of entertaining us with Kehna Hi Kya (OST Bombay, Singer-Chitra, Music- AR Rahman)!!! FM. Moral - Never ever sing a Rahman song unless you are classically trained! Still there was a saving grace - the guy accompanying her on the guitar was a very good vocalist and his interventions were, well, divine.
Didn't sample the food the first time and just had a Corona - so no comments. But the second time had some chicken snacks, wings, mozzarella sticks etc. which were alright. The potato skins with cheese should have had bacon in it (I am not sure whether they were told not to put bacon - my Sister-in-law does not eat pork). Had a cocktail - Lynchburg Lemonade - that I have never tried before, but it was quite nice. The Mojito left a lot to be desired though - the glass was wrong, the mint wasn't muddled properly, and there was a layer of sugar granules at the bottom of the glass.

Would I go to Bennigan's again? - Yes.
What will I order next time? - A steak and a Long Island.
When will I go again? - Probably the coming Friday.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

26 - The new age for a mid-life crisis

Random thoughts not precipitated by me turning 26 – that was last January!

First thought that crossed my mind then – this is more of a landmark than turning 25; I am in a different survey-age-bracket now! You know these surveys about random things like “do you suffer from mid-life crisis”... where we have to tick empty slots against Sex, Age, Income... there is an option 26-35, and I realised that now I have to tick this empty slot. Not 18-25 anymore. I am now part of a new demographic!

Quit my job, went back home... while working, would shave regularly; but at home, I let my beard grow... guess what? My first white hair! ...and my mom thought it was something stuck to my beard. A friend of mine (who’s in the same bracket but 30 plus) had something a li’l more interesting to comment – “when you have your first white hair down there, that’s when you have a mid-life crisis!”

Went to Delhi... met one of my favourite teachers after 13 years... he was my Housemaster at boarding school, and his wife taught me Geography. Had a drink with him (Ballantines) and then, dinner... sounds good... but I also met his 10-year old son... played trump cards (does anyone remember trump cards? He had football stars’ cards and he doesn’t like Kaka... why?... Kaka does not win much in trump cards... does he watch football?... NO!)... well, everything is going fine till my brain goes a bit nuts and tells me he’s 10... How old were you when you first met your Housemaster? 10... (I don’t like where this is going)... How old was your Housemaster then? 27... How old are you now? 26, will be 27 next Jan... (why would my head f*** around with my head?)... a very chickie OMG later, “I am old enough to be that kid’s housemaster!”

(Disclaimer: I am not suffering from any sort of mid-life crisis)... Yes, that’s what they all say.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I feel small

I feel small

When I am unable to walk a few miles

When I see an animal with claws and fangs

When I can’t see the edge of the ocean

When I see the snow-capped mountains rising above me

I feel big

When I am able to travel hundreds of miles

When I see the animal with claws and fangs caged, and not able to hurt me

When I know there is no edge to the ocean

When I climb the mountains and see the valley below me

I feel small

When I travel in comfort, yet children walk miles in the sun to fetch water

When I see the animal caged

When though the ocean does not disturb me, and then I look up at the sky

When I see the valley and the mountains shredded and mutilated by me

(I never write anything that even resembles some form of poetry, but was thinking about how small physically I felt while taking the Bandra-Worli SeaLink one day as I saw the waves crashing. Another thing I am not comfortable with this piece is the punctuation - there are no full stops!)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thoughts on a train

Why does the train always speed up when they are serving tea?
Never been able to decide whether I should wait for soup to arrive before I smother the breadsticks with butter and gobble them up.
What's up with the veggie soup? What happened to good ol' tomato?
Why have they stopped serving dahi in the mitti ka kulhad? Has Mamati-di got something to do with the removal of anything that could be remotely linked to a Lalu legacy?
They have also discontinued Non-veg continental! Noooo...
But the dal was not oily and very tasty.
Why do people sleep so early?
Bed-time music is the Rajdhani Snorchestra!
It's pitch dark outside.
Wonder where we have stopped now... Feel like having some tea in a mitti ka kulhad...

(thoughts while travelling from Mumbai to Delhi on the Rajdhani Express yesterday around 1045pm)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Twenty Questions

So what's happening on the job front?
Nothing much.
Aren't you in the management trainee program?
Yes, I am.
You've been here for a long time now?
A little more than a year now.
What happened to your rotations then?
I don't know. I just stuck around.
Is the program over now?
So what happens now?
Either we continue with our current roles, or we apply to other available roles.
You have been here for a long time. So, your boss wants you to continue?
So, are you?
So, to what other roles are you applying?
Err... (long flabbergasted pause)... eh?
I am not applying to any other department.
Why? Nothing interesting?
No, there are some good profiles.
So, why are you not applying?
I don't want to.
So, you are sticking around in your present role?
No. (Didn't I just answer that a few questions back?)
So, what are you doing then?
Nothing much.
(lightbulb flickers on top of head) Are you...?
You are leaving?
...for good?
Wow! Why, don't you like it here?
No, I like it, but just don't want to continue right now.
So, where are you going?
Err... (long flabbergasted pause)... eh?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Zoozoos and Doodoos

What are ads supposed to do? For me, they are just entertainment. I don't think they can actually sell the product; they can just create awareness about the product or the brand or the company.
Lately, the ads have been quite bad. The auto companies have completely lost it, the DTH providers' ads trying to cover the lack of content with star power, skin creams, hair colour... someone please get some sense in these people!
Hero Honda's Desh ki Dhadkan campaign has a Bollywood-ish song (not a short jingle) that tries to link to some patriotic feeling ala Hamara Bajaj, and fails miserably - but do they really think this will sell more bikes?
The DTH providers are even worse. The new TataSky again shows Aamir's talent as an actor, but fails to impress otherwise. Thoda aur wish karo - I wish that I never have to see SRK say that again - will I get this wish if I buy from them? But SunDirect takes the cake! Plagiarism is a serious issue in most forums, but to have such a blatant show on television is not on. Even if it was the same agency (I don't know this), taking the same concept and repeating it for another client within a space of months - what were they thinking? Clearly they were not!

IPL-2 takes advertising to another domain. Monetizing cricket is great, but the in-your-face advertising gets too much at times.
A six is no longer called that - it is a "DLF Maximum". When someone gets out, the commentator does not simply say "he's out", he says "it's a Citi moment of success". The only thing I have to say to this again - what were they thinking? Especially Citi - do they really need to remind the audience every ten minutes about themselves? Are they so down and out that they think nobody remembers them as a success anymore?
Today one commentator chose an "opportune moment" to remind us of all the sponsors. This "opportune moment" was after 11 overs and 1 ball. This after an innocuous single was taken. Why was that moment "opportune"? Can anyone please explain this?

The few ads that I do like - the Nokia ad featuring Priyanka Chopra - yes, I like PriChops, but the ad is quite well-shot.
But the best campaign right now has to be the Vodafone series. O&M had pulled off another stunner with the Zoozoos. But I still can't believe that the Zoozooz are actors with costumes. Still looks animated to me, and I think that's quite amazing!

Just wish there are more Zoozoos and lesser Doodoos in Indian advertising - will DishTV grant me at least this?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Scared shitless or shit scared?

I am scared.
Scared of what?
That's what I've been trying to figure out. Lots of things. Very confusing.
So what are you doing about it?
Trying to drum up some courage.
Courage for what?
Courage to tell someone something; courage to not tell someone something. Courage to take that step towards possible greatness, and more importantly, courage not to take the step back.
Isn't that just about everything? Too generic?
It makes sense to me. I need it for different things in my life right now, and there are so many things going on, so this has to cover a lot.
If you are afraid of something now, how will get over it?
I will not think about the future, not worry about possible outcomes, not assess probabilities.
Isn't that dangerous? Just taking a decision without thinking about what may happen?
I never said that I am not going to have some sort of a decision tree, not know what the outcomes may be. I just won't worry about them, won't analyze everything again and again.
So how will you make any decision?
I will just take them. Go by my gut.
What if things don't go according to plan?
That's the beauty of this - there is no plan.
What if you fail?
I won't.
So will you take that step?
Are you scared?

Monday, April 20, 2009

It is the journey that matters, not the destination.

Always wanted to write a travelogue of sorts whenever I've been on some trip, and have had a few memorable ones in the last few years - Vizag (going inside a submarine and having lunch on a destroyer was awesome!), Kumbalgarh (can still taste the tomatoes and the excellent Rajasthani dinner), an impromptu visit to Panchgani (the TAT was the best) and of course, the North-East trip that covered everything from Rhinos to tribal villages and playing in the snow.
A few of my friends had made this plan for a Goa trip last weekend and though the trip fizzled out, we did end up going somewhere. Wrote something finally late at night, not because I had nothing better to do, but because I just wanted to write something fun and something not pertaining to food or movies or books. So here goes...

There were 8 to start-off with on their way to the Rio of India (or Cancun if you prefer), but a mess-up with the railway booking left the Fellowship with all their bags and nowhere to go. A few of them tried very hard, but Goa was a no-Go.
The Fellowship then deposited their luggage at Marinlinia and moved on to have a bite at Bade Miyan (there were some who were hungry) and a beer at Mondy’s (there were some who were thirsty). Their thirst not quenched, they went to the house of another fellow traveler who had ditched this Fellowship earlier. Between sips of wine and schnapps, the group tried to keep their spirits high. While an unsuccessful attempt at truth and dare failed to elicit a good response about vegetable preferences from some, others failed to appreciate the truly great card game that for no rhyme or reason is called Literature.
After a long night, the Fellowship bid adieu to their fallen comrade, and departed for Marinlinia. Two of the group returned to their home in the White Village, not to rejoin in the journey that had not yet started. And so now there were 6.
While Langda Tyagi, She-who-has-too-many-names and The Rabbit were enthusiastic about leaving immediately, after another extremely long round of deliberations (there were more to come), everyone returned to Marinlinia.
The next morning started with more discussions, and though no one was sure where they were going, the gang of six that remained got going in a Tavera driven by the Son of the Wind-God.
The journey through Mumbai was tedious and long, and the car trudged along waiting to hit the highway. Instead of going towards Punea, the gang took the turn towards Alibaug. On the way, they stopped for a bite. And there they received the sermon of the holy Mansh Baba of what to eat to lead a good life on the road, and how fast moving foods make fast moving Fellowships.
Finally, the car arrived at the thing that does not matter. A recovering Langda Tyagi and a reluctant The Mermaid stayed back on the sidewalk, while the rest of the gang took to the beach. The tide was out, the water was shallow, and what started out as a nice walk led to revival of the dinosaurs. Actually only one. After a massive water fight, She-who-has-too-many-names decided to transform the holy Mansh Baba into one of her ancestors – the Stegosaurus.
The sun was retiring for the night, and the Fellowship tired from their journey also looked for shelter. They ended up going to the Hotel Radisson and to a nice duplex suite that allowed the managers in them to have a top-view and also simultaneously experience what the vassals below feel. Food followed a lot of wine, and then while playing an really exciting game of Top5, everyone got bored and dozed off. The AC kept groaning throughout the night, and the power went off just for a while, enough to give a view of starry ceiling of this wonderous room. The Mermaid conveniently did what all good Indians do – go to someone else’s place and rid them of their home. The Rabbit being the homeless one, migrated a level up for the rest of the night.
The next morning everyone woke up and Tharki, for once he was awake, discovered how fun it is to see a mermaid out of water, or was it water on the mermaid? While getting ready for the road, discussions of the fair Katrina dominated. Fortunately, this could not have had much of a debate - she really is very beautiful. A quick breakfast and the Fellowship was back to what mattered – the journey, just to remind those who have not been paying attention.
There were a few things about the Fellowship that must be mentioned. Tharki kept sleeping, The Rabbit kept reading, She-who-has-too-many-names kept telling Tharki not to sleep and The Rabbit not to read, Langda Tyagi kept dreaming lucidly (yes, you are also reading this in your dream), and I’m not sure what the Stegosaurus and the Mermaid were really doing.
Kashidir passed on the way, and though the thing that mattered was really nice and beautiful, Murudor was a bit murky with oil-slicked sands and a long wait in the hot sun to visit a fort in the middle of the water.
The Fellowship returned to Kashidir, and this time the Mermaid took to the water, understandably very reluctantly because she had left her fins and tail at home. This time she definitely looked like a fish out of water. The Fellowship lost a lot to the Sea-God – She-who-has-too-many-names lost her cap, Stegosaurus his spectacles, and The Rabbit saw his lipguard float away. The only thing that kept coming back was a stick that everyone tried throwing away.
After thrashing around in the water, everyone was so hungry that the shack soon ran out Maggi, eggs, bread, chips, and whatever they had except money. Lounging around now trying to soak up the sun instead of just being soaked, the group talked, slept and ate for some time. Then they decided to hit the road again and move towards Punea.
On the way to Punea, there was a short stop for Samosas and Chai, but unfortunately everyone had to see the unholy sight of S&S Co. (Stegosaurus and Tharki) relieving themselves not keeping their hands where everyone else could see them. (Thank God for that!)
Though the group had been soaking wet almost the entire weekend, Punea turned out to be a bit of a dampener. By the time they reached Hard Rock, the party was over. No one was stoned enough to pay the crazy entry at Stone Grill. Tangerine had lesser people and looked less alive than a graveyard. So everyone went to the Meridien to eat.
After coming back to the Dinosaurs’ Lair, the gang decided to call it a night. Some were so tired that they slept where they were sitting. Oh, it was just Tharki! And this time he wasn't just sleeping. She-who-has-too-many-names discovered her cinematographic talents and captured the candid moments on camera. (For the dirty minds reading this, Tharki was just snoring.)
The next morning, the group hurried up as one of them had some prior engagement. Breakfast at German Bakery was a very healthy and wholesome one consisting of juice, eggs, porridge and strawberries & cream. At this point Stegosaurus bid farewell and returned to his lair. And now there were Five.
After buying Osho chappals, the Fellowship was on their way back to Mumbai. The journey back was uneventful. The Mermaid was now getting impatient; the others unable to fathom her impatience and eventual departure. And now there were Four!
The plan was to make most of the remaining day- watch a movie, catch a play, anything to make the great weekend continue, but Langda Tyagi after being the (enthu) One turned to the Dark Side (just became plain lazy). After much of The Rabbit’s nautanki that could not move Langda Tyagi (who was now looking very comfortable in his LangdaTyagi-asana), all it took for him to jump up was an invitation to Gloria Jeans, which was his favourite destination and the last of their journey.
No, they did not meet Katrina and The Rabbit did not get to do “Have you met Langda Tyagi?”
And so the journey of the Fellowship ended, with the wish that next time there are more fun-karenge opportunities, more GDs, more Genda Phool, and even if they are still unable to reach Goa, the Fellowship reunite for another journey.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Luck by Chance - OK concept - not that great. Hrithik Roshan was hilarious, especially in the scene in front of the mirror. Rishi Kapoor was also very good in his role as the producer. But the best scene for me was Isha Sharvani seducing Farhan in the hotel. Just one word to describe the scene - WOW!

DevD - Loved it! Thought it was 20 minutes too long (but I think that about every Hindi movie), but everything else was great. The best of the Deols is doing really well with his unconventional roles and I really want to see his next movie. What I like best about the movie - the music. It is one delightfully long awesome music video!

Revolutionary Road - Absolutely brilliant. Don't know why Kate Winslet didn't get the Oscar for this one. Didn't go to the movie knowing much about it, and thought that the first half was a bit slow. Didn't really expect much from the second half, but it just blew my mind away. Lovely end to the movie with the estate agent's husband lowering the volume of his hearing aid.
My favourite scene was towards the end - the last breakfast. Felt really uneasy, and thought that if I were in Leo's place, I would have been shitting in my pants!

Seen a few movies, but nothing that makes me want to write about them. Didn't watch quite a few of the new releases, including Slumdog Millionaire, but didn't miss any.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

A good start

2008 wasn't that great a year, but 2009 is off to a good start. One month down and life, though could have been better, isn't that bad.
Money-wise I have been a bit lucky, but I guess discounts (Big Retail is not doing so well) shouldn't count much.
Have been able to catch up with some good friends and enjoyed some long conversations after a long time.
At work, my role has changed, but the previous work continues. Plus a few more clients have been added to my portfolio. So, work is about 2.5 times of what it was in 2008, and some of it is terribly frustrating. But now I get to make some money for the bank directly (yes, even in this market!). Making money really feels good, but if more would come to me, it would feel so much better!
Bought corduroys for the first time (and as usual thought about the Emirates ad).
Tried out 2 new places already - Candies and Thai Baan - reviews in a later post hopefully.
Went to Theobroma and had Vodka Chilly Mousse Cake - again after a long time!

And I have also been able to write one blog post in January! (almost deleted this and that would have made a more interesting post!)