Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Where is my Bangalore.....

Where is my city
The place that used to be
Where is my Bangalore
The valley of endless breeze
Has it turned to dust
Or can I still live my dream....


Asks a plaintive voice on radio every evening. It is an ad for a residential complex. The developers claim that their complex brings back the Bangalore of yore for you, with clear air, pristine lakes and green parks.

Each time the singer goes "Where is my Bangalore..." I get all teary-eyed and lumpy-throated and it's all I can do to keep my cab-mates from noticing me sniffling. And this happens every time I listen to the song. Actually I had no idea that the change in the city has affected me so much. It is this snippet of a song, this one line, that has shaken me up.

The popular image of Bangalore is now all glitzy and glamorous. The city that has made it's mark on the so-called software map, the city to which thousands of people head to for lucrative careers, the sleek glass buildings housing software companies, the glitzy malls and the flashy pubs and....... the pollution and the daily traffic snarls and crumbling infrastructure,

I have lived in Bangalore all my life, and thats a lot more than two decades. My Bangalore was cool, calm and quiet. The roads were so empty that my mom could, without any fear whatsoever, push my little sister along in her pram when she walked with me to school or to the nearby shops. The shady, tree-lined avenues with a thick green overhead canopy burst into flower in season. Flaming red Gulmohar, striking yellow Tabebuia, soothing lilac Jacaranda - all rubbed branches with each other and vied for centerstage. Come one shower, and these flowers descended delicately on the black tarred road, resulting in a beautiful multi-hued carpet. Cold mornings in winter, where we kids turned out in warm clothing and blew "smoke" out of our mouths and gulped down fresh, clean air by the lungfuls.Mist hung over the lakes. The lakes themselves were clean, pure, pristine, skirted with trees of various shades of green. The roads were clean, empty, more than wide for the existing vehicles. Travel was a pleasure (It used to take just under an hour to go from one end of the city to another.) All around were known, familiar faces, with no traces of surliness, Small-town hospitality was abundant. Crimes were few and far between.

Even now, if you go to one of the bylanes of an old locality like Malleshwaram or Jayanagar, stand under a tree on a silent morning and close your eyes, you can feel the old Bangalore. It is all around you, hovering in these streets, wondering where to go. The new Bangalore probably frightens it. But the old-timers do not allow the old one to disappear. They clutch it close to the heart with a fierce love. The same love that wells up in my heart when I hear "Where is my Bangalore"...

Monday, December 26, 2005

Go on-air, land a job.

Last friday, I was listening to Darius on Route 91 on FM on the way home from work. He had an interesting story to tell. The previous week, he had put on-air a certain guy who had requested a song. This guy told Darius that though he had good marketing skills, he was not able to land a job coz he was visually impaired. An executive, Mr.Sebastian(hope I got the name right) from Sobha Developers who was tuned in to the show, got in touch with Darius, contacted this guy, called him for an interview and gave him a job. Darius put both of them on air, and gave the guy a chance to thank Mr. Sebastian on air.

I felt good.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Yet another birthday....

I loved my birthdays. Which kid doesn't? I used to wait all year for it, envying other kids who celebrated their birthdays along the way. My birthday was always yet-to-come, since it was in December. Even if we discussed birthdays in January, my birthday was not one that had just-passed-by, it was a birthday that was very-far-off. So the entire year was spent just waiting!

The approach to the birthday was very special! The chill in the air. Preparations for the sweets and the birthday cake. A final trial fitting of my new birthday dress (mom did the dress- stitching most of the time). Selecting the lace and the buttons to go with my dress. Selecting which chocolates to buy and take to school. Being hyper-active the previous night, pushed to bed.

Then finally D-day. Jumping out of bed at mom's first alarm call. Wished by everybody and phone calls from uncles and aunts and grandparents. Dressing up in my new pretty dress with laces and frills and buttons shaped like bells...and going proudly to school with the box of chocolates. Oh, the attention from everybody, the fawning, just to get one extra chocolate! Restlessness at school. Then back home to find some surprise guest - usually an aunt with a gift. Again, the attention, the pampering. Then the birthday party in the evening. All the kids in the township, dressed in their best, colourfully wrapped gifts in their hands. Their eyes on the cake, my eyes on the gifts. The blowing of candles. The cutting of The Birthday Cake, a new theme each year, designed and baked magnificently by mom. Singing of the birthday song - Happy Birthday to you, Happy birthday to youuuuuu, Happy birthday dear Shruuuuuuu ....... that dies down into a whisper as the combined attention of the singers goes to the cake being cut, and the goodies being piled onto the plates. The paper plates with the cake, the sweets, the "mixture" and chips. The juice in glasses (If its Rasna, your birthday rocks). All devoured in seconds. The bold ones asking for second helpings. The shy ones eyeing the cake hopefully. Another round of eats. Mess on the floor. Then some music, singing and dancing, and party games. More mess on the floor. Then waiting for the kids to leave, so that I could pounce on the gifts and tear off the wrappers. [Actually I don't remember even a single gift - it was just the opening of the gifts which was the highlight of the day.] Then off to sleep, contented, a year older.

In my teens, I was too big(humph) for parties. Birthdays still consisted of a new dress [Bought, not stitched - mom cannot stitch in that latest style, you knowww]....Then lots of phone calls and a postbox full of birthday cards, and letters written on pretty stationery. Some gifts [and now the contents of the gift wrapper was more important than the wrapper. Still the wrapper and the card were carefully folded and kept in a file]. Again some surprise visitors, and a "treat" by me for my friends at the latest hang-out. Then a sumptuous feast full of my favourite dishes cooked lovingly by mom. Detailed pennings in my diary about each card, each gift and who wished me and how. Then off to bed, again, contented.

When I moved out of home, birthdays started at midnight. Surprise parties. Cake and other unmentionables on my face and hair. Birthday bumps. Music and dancing. Cellphone ringing constantly. Wake up groggy, find the inbox full of mails and e-cards. Read and reply and copy-paste "Thank you!". More phone calls. Calls from people you speak to only twice in a year - on your birthday and on his/her birthday. Then back to work. Towards afternoon, missing parents. Missing sister's bear-hug. Talking to them on the phone ends in tears. Accompanying that mood, some more thoughts. I am more than two decades old. What have I done with my life? Slowly slipping into an abyss. But evening comes before it gets too bad. Back to partying. Have a blast and come back home totally exhausted, collapse in bed.

I stopped waiting for birthdays a long time back. But a birthday is still special. It is still that day you get sweet surprises, when someone long-forgotten calls you, and a friendship is renewed. It is still that day when everybody remembers you and reaches out in some way or the other. I don't buy new clothes any longer, I don't expect gifts any longer. In fact I am not sure if I really want another birthday to approach, considering that it's taking me menacingly close to thirty. But still, its an important day. Coz I am glad to be born. ;)

A swooping owl...

Is one of the breathtaking snaps among the winners of National Wildlife's 35th annual photo contest. Don't miss it!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Weighty issues!

This post on India Uncut got me thinking on a slightly different note.

Airlines have a weight limit for baggage. This is, obviously, to reduce load on the aircraft. Now, say I weigh 60 kg (ah, there, you know now!), and my baggage weighs 10 kg. The total load on the aircraft due to me is 70 kg. Now if you weigh 80 kg (Relax, its just an example!) and your baggage weighs 10 kg, you cause the aircraft to be heavier by 90 kg! And that is gross injustice to me!

So to make up for it, they should have a weight limit which is [passenger weight + baggage weight]. For example, say the total limit is 100 kg. Then I can carry 40 kg of baggage and you can carry 20 kg. How's that? :)

[100 kg is just an example! Coz I have no idea what you could do if you weigh a 110 kg!:)]

Bengaluru for sale!

For three lakhs of rupees.

That's the price for which the Mughals sold Bengaluru to Chikkadevaraya Wodeyar - back in the 16th century. Can you beat that? :)

Oh by the way I read this in a book "Bangalore through the Centuries" by M.Fazlul Hasan. It seems to be really interesting. I just started, and found this snippet. In fact there are loads of other interesting facts in the book. I will make up a list and put it up once I finish the book. Watch this space.

[Clarification - Bangalore has not yet officially become Bengaluru. I am just referring to it as that, coz I am talking about the 16th century :)]

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A short affair with Hyderabadi cuisine

Ok let me be frank. The object of this whole write up on Hyderabad was just to write about the food. Everyone knows I am a food freak, but still to keep up appearances, I wrote about the actual Hyderabad trip first. Anyway having got that off my back, let me plunge into the details :)

This trip was a gastronomical delight. I will not say anything further. Just check this out.

Breakfast at Minerva Coffee House, Somajiguda Circle : I had something called MLA Pesarattu. Pesarattu is a dosa which is made of Green gram(Moong dal). It is very nutritious and tasty. This MLA pesarattu is a variation. The pesarattu is folded like a Masala dosa, and instead of the potato curry in the middle, there is Uppittu! (Upma). It is a strange combination, but it is deadly! And along with it, the spicy chutneys and chutney-powder.. mmmmm ..... And in this place, the standard coconut chutney and sambar were so good, that after I finished the pesarattu, I took a spoon and ate the chutney and sambar just like that, which I never do! I topped this off with fantastic coffee.

Irani chai: Very different. Liked it? I think so :)

The wedding spread: There was chaat, Italian, Chinese, Thai, North Indian, South Indian, icecreams and Paan. Everything was very tasty, but the chaat deserves a mention. There was pani puri, bhelpuri, alu tikki with channa, and ... here it comes... Tava Sweet. Now this was totally new to me!

This guy has this hot sizzling tava. He puts a little of petha, rasagollas, badam barfi, sweet vermicelli, khova(mewa), then some more miscellaneous sweets, then adds some nuts, and then heats it all with rabdi/badam milk. Then he serves it sizzling hot in a cup. I went totally nuts over it. I lost count of how much I ate. Like one of the guys was saying, next time after Diwali, take all the leftover sweets, mash them up, heat them on the tava, pour some badam milk and eat. :)

Hotel Paradise, Secunderabad:
Lunch the next day. Biryani at Paradise Persis, Secunderabad. Now before you ask, I am a vegetarian, and I KNOW that the specialty is non-veg biryani, and since I do NOT eat non-veg, please do not say "Oh you don't know what you are missing!" :)Anyway I ate this really yummy Alu Biryani and Egg Biryani. It was so different... the "biryani" I am familiar with is all spice and oil and it totally coats your tongue and leaves you panting. But this was so good... delicately flavoured... a treat to the palate. I found only recipes of meat biryanis on the web... can anybody please guide me to a good veg biryani recipe?

Now comes the piece de resistance -Khubani ka Meetha . This is a sweet dish made of stewed apricots - a Hyderabadi special. If my tummy was not bursting with biryani, I would have finished off all the Khubani ka meetha in the restaurant. Each spoonful took me to paradise (pun not intended). I can still taste it.... The luscious pulp of the fruit, the exotic fragrance... sigh!

Also worth a mention is Venkateshwara coffee house in Lakdikapul, near the hotel where we stayed. It makes some delicious breakfast. And the most wonderful Badam Milk ever.

One of the guys was going on and on about all the other places we did not visit and all the other stuff we did not taste. I have only one thing to say to Hyderabad - I'll be Back.

Impressions of Hyderabad

The weekend saw me in Hyderabad. The last time I had been there was as a seven-month old baby. Though I have been to various places in AP, Hyderabad never had the good fortune to see me (I mean, err.. the other way round) :)

Hyderabad: I liked the city. Due to the Bangalore-Hyderabad rivalry, I had unconsciously developed a sort of antagonistic attitude towards the city. Actually there is no reason for it! :) From what I saw of it, its a clean, well-planned city. The roads are wide, and the number of cars on the road is phenomenally lesser than Bangalore. I think that's the only thing that saves the city from having traffic jams. Coz lane discipline is practically nil. I was on the roads quite a bit, and most of the drivers seemed entirely devoid of road sense.

I had at the back of mind this post , which says that there are very few local language boards in Hyderabad, as compared to Bangalore. I agree with the writer entirely. And I think I hit upon the reason too. In Bangalore, you need to have boards in only two languages - English and Kannada. In Hyderabad, if you have a board, you need to have it in at least three languages - English, Telugu and Urdu. And sometimes, Hindi too. I have seen a few boards which cram all these languages into a tiny space. It looks very cluttered. I dont know what will happen if they have boards in only 2 languages out of the three, but I tend to think that it might hurt some sensitivities. So they play it safe and have only huge English boards :) As I said, this is my theory - I am open to corrections!

Salar Jung museum - If you are even slightly inclined to hitory/art, Salar Jung museum is a must-see. Galleries upon galleries of exquisite paintings, sculpture and memorabilia - it needs at least two days to do full justice to it. And if you can, please do visit it on a weekday. Unfortunately I just skipped in and out like a true tourist, but we really had no time. And the crowds were getting too much to bear.

The highlight according to me is the heart-stopping sculpture of "Veiled Rebecca" by the Italian sculptor G.B. Benzoni. If the sculpture was not encased in glass, I swear I would have gone and touched it to see whether there really was a veil or it is just the sculptor's mastery of the art. [Now you know why it is glass-enclosed :)] You can see a picture of it here. There is also a very interesting double statue of Mephistopheles and Margaretta, which you can see in the same page.

The clock gallery deserves a special mention - more than the clocks in it, the gallery itself is like an old ballroom. Its magnificent.

The Clock is an old grandfather clock with a window which has the dial. At the side, a blacksmith figure pounds the seconds on his anvil, and every hour, a bearded man comes out of a little door and beats out the hours on a gong. They actually have a quadrangle where they have placed this clock. They have made seating arrangements in the quadrangle and have placed CC TV on either side of the clock, to enable everybody to see the chiming of the hours. Noon attracts the maximum visitors, of course. You should have seen the crowd that assembled to watch it. It as interesting indeed. But I have already seen the French Calendar clock at Jaganmohan Palace, Mysore, where a band of toy soldiers
come out of a door in the clock and march around the dial the number of times as the hour of the day. It is much more fascinating. So, considering the build-up, the actual clock was kind of an anti-climax for me.

Charminar - In my head, the symbol of Hyderabad. If you overlook the dirty wet steps and pan-stained walls on the way up [make sure you do not touch the walls with your hands, though the steps are steep], the view from the top is worth it. But on the whole, Charminar is very badly maintained, unfortunately. It kind of took away the magic for me. Near Charminar is a beautiful mosque with tombs of the Nizams. Around Charminar are the Bazaars and jewellery shops. No, I did not buy anything!

Hussain Sagar Lake: Another Hyderabad landmark. The Buddha statue in the middle of the lake is huge and very beautiful - 17 m tall and 320 tonnes heavy! The lake is expectedly dirty from up close, but looks very beautiful when seen from a distance.

The wedding: This was what we had gone to Hyderabad for, by the way :) Sandesh's colleague's wedding. Before the wedding began, the bride and the groom sat at opposite ends of the hall, surrounded by their friends and family. The bride's folks have to convince the groom to move closer to the girl, and the groom's side has to convince the bride to come closer to the guy. So basically this is a whole drama where both the bride and groom cite their ego and refuse to come closer to each other. Wonder what started off this custom in the first place :) Anyway, for us, most of whom were unfamiliar with this ritual, it was a good source of merriment!

Yes, I know, I missed out a lot of places, I SHOULD have gone there, I OUGHT to have done that, but there was very less time :( More in the next trip. Meanwhile check out my affair with Hyderabadi cuisine in the next post!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Unhealthy glow?

Last evening, after the usual commute back from office, smoke in my lungs and dust in my hair, I walked into the Health and Glow outlet to buy a moisturizer. I looked around for it but did not find it. A salesgirl was hovering hopefully at the edge of my vision, so I turned to her and asked for what I wanted. She confirmed that it was out of stock. I thanked her and turned to go. She stopped me and said, "Just a second ma'am, why don't you try this shampoo? It does wonders for unruly hair like yours."

I stopped in my tracks and looked at her incredulously. How dare she, a perfect stranger, comment on my hair? Also, if I needed to be perfectly groomed after being in traffic for hours, I would have to carry a personal beautician with me. Oblivious to my expression, she continued, "Also, ma'am, your skin is dry and patchy." She almost prodded two areas on my face with her index finger. "This new cream will set it all right".

That did it.

As a rule I am very polite to salespeople, no matter how annoying they are [Just put yourself in their shoes for a minute, and you will know why]. But this was the limit. Not only was she giving me unsolicited advice, she was finding faults with my looks.

The irony was that the salesgirl herself had extremely bad skin. Compared to hers, mine could be called flawless. I almost blurted out, "Then why don't you use it yourself?". But as I told you, I try very hard to be polite. Even then, I could not resist telling her, "Nobody asked you", then I walked out of the shop.

I am still terribly irritated. Is it just me? Am I over-reacting? Are the salespeople taught by the companies to promote their products by pointing out customers' physical shortcomings right on their faces?

I have a healthy opinion of my appearance, and so I did not get influenced by the salesgirl's comments. But are there people out there who immediately feel that they are not good-looking enough, and are they lured to buy these products? Advertisements do make you feel that you are not beautiful enough. But this approach is a direct hit below the belt. Is it supposed to be a good marketing strategy? Does it work?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Woo-hoo!

I was out of town for the weekend, and when I get back, I see this! I have never won a slogan contest before - in fact, I haven't even sent in any entry to any slogan contest.... I always thought I was pathetic at creative slogans! ;) Anyway this one made my day! Now I have to look out for some good book at Amazon to redeem my $10 gift voucher. Shouldn't be too difficult... but do you have any suggestions?
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