Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Really Bad Day at Office.

I'm sitting at my desk staring at the computer screen. No work to do. No one from our office gang is in today. I've come to office to finish some paperwork with Finance which, as expected will only happen after 5 in the evening. There is not a single person in the adjoining 5 cubicles. Where the hell is everybody dammit? What am I doing here??
Winamp is running on shuffle mode since morning. I've even read all the user comments on rediff.
Bangladesh were giving me something to look forward to, but even they folded for 410 odd.

Okay, I shall drown my boredom in some random musings.
  • Saw Ghajini on friday. Good masala movie, although I felt that there wasn't enough of the intriguing short-term-memory-loss concept even though that was publicized as the USP of the film. I watched it in Urvashi theater with 2000 other people. The ambience was terrific. Aamir khan can take a bow for his versatility. Asin is like a breath of fresh air. Jiah khan has super potential, methinks.
  • Went to Mysore over the weekend. Me & the missus visited chamundi hills & the temple. Huuge crowd. Chaos. Screwed a couple of smartasses trying to jump the ticket queue. Sadistic pleasure :). One funny incident though: A marwari guy walked toward the small hanuman idol inside the temple, pointed toward the idol and asked the poojari "yeh kaun hain"? The poojari looked at him dumbfounded for 3 seconds, then just lost it totally and chased him out of the temple while yelling obscenities!!
  • Visited a friend and her cute li'l 3 month old baby girl. She'd dressed her up in a pink frock we'd gifted her when the baby was born. So sweet. Is it just me or are girl babies a little quieter & less destructive than boy babies?
  • The fact that I only have 2 more days to eat all the indian junk food is making me feel miserable.
  • Whatever happened to Anuradha Paudwal, that singer with a distinctly melodious voice? I'm listening to the title song of 'Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehte Hain' (I know), and she sounds so damn melodious. Good song that.
  • My office gang is disintegrating. And its making me sad. I'm leaving for the US, one quit the company, one moved to a different department and a different office.. all this at once. Dunno if life will be the same again once I return.
Okay, enough rambling. Its 3:30. Time to harass the finance guys once more.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Spiritual Conquest, Karnatic Style: Part 2

Dharmasthala was hot. Sweltering hot actually, which didn't make sense because it was December. Walking around barefoot didn't help either.
We headed straight to the temple and stood in the queue for 'darshana'. And thus began the most traumatic 2 hours of my life. The queue moved slower than traffic on Bannerghatta Road, but we were lucky to be surrounded by some very civilized, cultured people who kept us entertained throughout.  These people were also obviously high on personal hygiene. And their kids were a charm. Honest. Highlight of my trip: When one of those kids vomited in the middle of the queue.
The line moved through narrow metal-grilled chambers which made me feel like I was in prison waiting for my hindalium plate of food. After about 2 hours, we reached a point in the queue where there was a security guard who was letting in people in batches of  about 100. "At last", I thought "Here I come Manjunathaaa!". But to my horror, I realized that this was not an entrance to the temple, but to another long crowded prison-chamber which led into another chamber.
And that's when I lost it. I asked the security guard to open the gate and stormed out of the queue after giving my wife a 'don't even think about it' look. (She gave me a "Its Okay, we'll talk later" look which was heartening). I refreshed myself with a couple of cold lemonades, went back to the van and cooled my heels waiting for everyone to come back.
After about an hour or so, I got a phone call, from my wife, and I was ordered back to the temple to join them for the free lunch.
Lunch at Dharmasthala temple is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 
The whole thing gets over in less than 6 minutes. Whether you like it or not, whether you finish eating or not. Taste was okay, but it isn't a lot of fun when your trousers eat more than you do.

Moving on, we started towards 'Kaarkada', a small town near Udupi where we had planned to spend the night at a relative's place. Watched 'Mungaaru Male' on the way, which held up surprisingly well on second viewing. (I'd watched it at PVR last year, the only Kannada movie I have watched at a theater in the last 2 years. Just thought you'd like to know.) I realized that I can actually watch those songs any number of times without getting bored. 
After a great dinner, I slept really well that night.
Next morning, we took an early morning walk around the open fields and the countryside. It was charming and gave me some really nice photo-ops.

After breakfast, which included homemade 'Tatte Idly' and Kesari Bhath, we headed out to see the temples at Saligrama and Anegudde. These 2 were by far the best & most peaceful of the lot. I actually enjoyed those visits.

(Saligrama Temple Premises)

On the way back from Anegudde, we stopped at a road side shop who is famous for making superb 'Mandakki Churmuri'. It is similar to 'Churmuri', but is made from a different type of rice flake. And they use Coconut Oil. All the ingredients come together like heaven and this is what you get.

Believe me, it tastes better than it looks!

So, after spending an astonishing 500 Rupees at that shop, we boarded the van for the jouney back home. We decided to take the Shimoga route thinking that it would be better for our stomachs, backs, etc. Bad Idea. It added an extra 2 hours to the journey.
The silver lining though was that we got to pass through 'Agumbe Ghats' which offered some fabulous views like this:

We stopped at Shimoga for Lunch (although eating at 5 PM is not necessarily called 'Lunch'). We went into a restaurant near the bus stand and waited for what seemed like an eternity before a waiter decided to stop by and place glasses of water in front of us. He disappeared quickly and we did not see him again. Losing patience, we asked the guy at the counter where the hell were all the waiters. He said "Neeru togond barakke hogavre" (Waiters have gone to fetch water).
With brains not working full time because of hunger, we obviously did not understand his response. We did not care either.
We told him that we've been waiting from over 20 mins and we need some service urgently.
For that, he pointed us to a notice signboard near his counter which read (and I kid you not):
"Urgent Service Not Provided". 
(I tried to take a photograph of that signboard, but the guy hid it away!)
In the meantime, my wife, who had gone to see if the bathrooms were usable, came back running, looking like she had just seen Himesh Reshammiya without his wig.
Taking cue, we quickly exited the restaurant and got onto the bus, food be damned. After a couple of hours, we stopped at Tarikere and ate Masale Doses which tasted surprisingly good.

The rest of the journey was spent watching 'Rock On', another movie which I did not get bored watching the second time. I think it has one of the most uplifting and well-crafted climaxes in recent memory.
So there I was, at the end of the trip, uplifted and jovial. I was thinking about the amount of brownie points I had scored by going on this trip and calculating if that would be enough to last another 2 years, when my wife asked me "Great trip alwa? We should do this again sometime, right?"
I nodded with a smile. But there was a part of me that was genuinely nodding & smiling.
I guess Indians are indeed strange.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Spiritual Conquest, Karnatic Style: Part 1

India is a unique country. Strange, but unique.
One one hand, young boys, as soon as they graduate to the exciting world of high-school, are made to sit so far away from girls in the classroom, you can't even make out if they've started wearing their elder sisters' perfumes yet. As much as a sideward glance towards those desks attract a 'yaako poli?' from lady teachers.
And on the other hand, at some of the the holiest of holy places, men are ordered to get half naked and encouraged to pile up in a queue with women where anything goes as long as you are chanting the holy lord's name.

Yes, I finally took the customary family trip to the famous temples in Karnataka and the thought above occurred to me when I was standing in a queue at 'Dharmasthala' wondering if the banian-clad gentleman behind me will ever ask his super-hygenic kids to stop bumping into my posterior every time the queue slowed down.

I'd avoided this trip for 2 solid years, but this time my wife pulled out all the stops ranging from threats of physical violence to the ever-reliable senti looks. And she used the 'brahmastra' in the end - 'If we go to the US again, we won't be able to do this for a long time' - for which I had no response. (See how I casually slipped in the fact that I'm going to the US again. Subtlety at its best I say)
My wife, for all her 21st-century-woman-of-style-and-substance image, is a pukka conservative brahmin girl at heart. So when I broke my arm into 2 pieces in February, she had promptly prayed to god and promised a visit from both of us to 'Anegudde Ganesha' in case I healed up well. (Known as 'harake' in Kannada)
Healed up I did, albeit with the help of a titanium rod to hold the bones together. So now I'm obligated to go wherever she decides to take me. In full enthu, she chalked up a plan with her parents, siblings and cousins which would make maximum use of our time. In short, it meant at least 5 temples in 5 different cities in little over 2 days. 

You see, I am a brahmin guy in my 20s living in Bangalore, occasionally touring abroad. Which means:
a) I wear my 'janwaara' for strictly show & tell, i.e. showing elders when they ask me where it is and telling new acquaintances who I know are brahmins that I'm also one & not a shabby-joe even though I may appear like one.
b) My frequency of doing 'sandhyavandane' is at most once a year. (Mostly on 'Upakarma' day). And the frequency of doing 'parishanchane' before lunch depends on the number of weddings I attend where I'm seated next to/opposite of elderly people.
c) The only times I visit the Pooja Room in my house on non-festival days are when my wife or my mother ask my opinion on some new rangoli/light decoration they've tried.
d) I'm the one who controls the remote for the Music System during 'Ganesh Chaturti' pooja. (controls = fast forwards).

So, you can imagine my excitement as the day of the trip finally arrived. We had 12 people, including 2 kids packed in a minivan which seated exactly 12. Luggage was dumped behind and all around the last row. I was seated at, you guessed it, the last row. 
Once inside the van, we realised that it had a working TV & DVD player. Ahh.. Hope. 
We got 3 new hindi DVDs (A Wednesday, Dasvidaniya and Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye!) for company and started off towards the western ghats to our first destination: Kukke Subramanya.
Within the first 5 hours, we had finished off A Wednesday (which was really good) and Dasvidaniya (which was decent but a little too drawn out). 
And after a quick dinner break (read chitranna & mosranna made by MIL, which was superb by the way), all the great minds in the van decided to start the third movie as well. I know, we are all about the future. No one actually watched Oye Lucky! fully, but everyone kept saying 'bad movie'. I myself dozed out a few times and couldn't watch it fully. 

We finally reached the place by midnight and entered a lodge where we'd booked rooms. We were greeted by this:

"Before 10 barbeku saar", said the guy at the counter. After much haggling, he showed mercy and granted us two rooms on separate floors. "All men in one room and women in the other" announced my MIL. We followed. By 1 AM we had settled in our rooms.
I couldn't sleep at all. Must've been all those Hindi movies I watched at a stretch.
So I did the logical thing and ended up watching 'Main Hoon Na' on TV till about 2:30 in the morning. 

Next morning, I woke up last and delayed everyone else which was highly appreciated by my wife. My requests for 'tiffin' were duly ignored and we headed to the temple.

(On the top left corner, you can catch a glimpse of Kumara Parvata, one of the tallest peaks in the region and a popular trekking attraction)

The temple was nice, but the devotees, not so much. It was not like there were 500 people crammed inside, but the 50 that were there created enough chaos for me to almost say 'screw it' and leave. But I stayed and went through the motions. Inside the temple, all men are required to remove their shirts and vests. So you get to see some memorable sights. 
We were standing in a queue about to enter the main temple and suddenly the line which was moving at a leisurely pace started to look like an impromptu Sourav Ganguly press conference. For no apparent reason, people started pushing and shoving one another. I guess the lord is a little biased towards people who lean over the person in front of them to take a peek at him before entering the temple. Most of my time in this temple was spent covering my wife with my arms and my body the same way one protects his girlfriend on new year's night at Brigade Road.
After an hour of struggle around the different sections of the temple, we were finally out.
A quick breakfast and we were off to Dharmasthala, our second destination, but not before we picked up 2 more DVDs - Mungaaru Male and Rock On! for further entertainment purposes.

I clicked this on the way:

Not bad, eh. 
More to come in the next part, including an episode I'd like to call "My escape from Dharmasthala".

(to be continued...)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Counter Shots at Lavanya Bar

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this exotic concept (you unlucky souls) - please, allow me to explain:
Counter Shot (pronounced "counter shaat") is a popular socializing technique used by adult men across the length and breadth of this great country of ours. 
In the simplest form of this technique, one parks his vehicle in front of the No Parking signboard outside the wine shop on his way home from work, enters the shop, asks for a '60' of Rum/Whiskey, mixes it with water (and in some rare cases, soda), drinks it in one or maximum two gulps, hands over the money to the shopkeeper, returns to the vehicle, spits on the footpath after a long gargle, and gets on his way home.

Sounds Dull? Cheap?
Heh! You could not be more wrong, my friend.
I was like you, pretending to be sophisticated, pretending to despise these places. But somewhere inside my shirt, my heart wanted to give them a 'shot'. So I went to two of the more alcohol appreciating buddies of mine at work and asked them to help me experience this bliss I'd heard so much about. They gladly obliged. (Their exact words were "Wokay maams, tell us when").

After referring to the latest 'panchaanga' to figure out when the raahu kaala ends, we decided that yesterday evening was the most auspicious time. The Place? Hmm.. this was tricky, since we'd all seen our share of dingy spots while commuting, but in the end the choice was unanimous. It was 'Lavanya Bar and Restaurant' in Audugodi.
a) This is one place we'd see every other day while coming to or going from office, and the fascination for it was just too much.
b) It was an enigmatic place. For the untrained eye it looked too classy to be a Counter Shot place. On close observation though, one could see the 'fast food' counter outside the bar sold 'chikan manchuri' whose spelling kinda gave away its classiness.
c) Look at the Name man!!

So, with some potato chips to appetize ourselves, we boarded an Auto and started our journey, during which my buddies gave me some valuable tips I'd never heard before, such as:
a) Never take a girl along for Counter Shots.
b) Don't drink it all in one gulp. ('you dont have that capacity yet magaa')
c) 'Let us order for you this time. There are a lot of fakes in circulation. You'll get conned.'

We finally reached the place. Before entering, we took one look at each other: Formal Shirt & Pant - Check, Formal Shoes - Check, Laptop Backpacks - Check, and finally, Company ID Card - Check.
Yes, we were all set indeed.
We entered the shop, struggled through the elite crowd to reach the counter and asked for the nostalgic favorite of many - 'Old Monk'. Much to our dissappointment, he said 'we dont stock Old Monk sir'. So we went for plan B - Smirnoff. Nobody looked up from their drink, people were just going about their business. Its not like properly dressed folks never come to places like this. Most of the IT hotshots buy their liquor in these shops and then drink at their classy parties or at their homes.

It was when we said 'parcel alla, ille guru' (to drink here only, not for parcel) that people suddenly looked up, starting from the guy behind the counter, who had a half-stunned expression on his face for about 5 seconds. We took the drinks, stood by the counter and started drinking.. slowly.
In about 5 minutes, we realised that this place is a little too classy than we imagined. There were tables around where he served omelets and we heard some guy speaking English inside the shop. (English??)
Our fears were vindicated when we asked for 'touchings'. (which is a piece of pickle kept on a small coaster for you to lick with your fingers in between your sips. And by the way, the licks are not exclusive to you alone). The guy said they don't keep touchings, but he'll give 'mixture' for 2 rupees. We took them anyway.
We mustered up the courage to order an omelet from the kitchen which looked like it was last cleaned for diwali.  It was surprisingly good, although we suspected the oil used might be from 'Kannada Rajyotsava' days.
We tried to strike some interesting conversations with a couple of strangers, but they just minded their business. We asked the waiter (read: underage kid) to turn on the music, but he said they turn it on only for 'special ocassions'.
After 20 minutes, we gave up and walked out. We weren't really drunk. Not even properly buzzed to be honest. Just to keep the evening's spirit going, we smoked a 'King' outside for 5 minutes while we bitched about office politics.

Thus ended an interesting but uneventful evening at Lavanya Bar. By the end of it, we vowed to make the next one a more memorable affair. We've selected 'Famous Bar' near Woody's Jayanagar for it.
And when its over, you can be rest assured that you'll hear about it.
I know you're trembling with anticipation, dear reader. 

Monday, December 15, 2008

We've Won! We've Won!!

What a match! What a win!!
Sachin, I bow to thee. I shall go ahead and eat my words now.

Take a bow Yuvi and Gambhir, nerves of steel you guys have.

But hats off to Virendar Sehwag. The man who set it all up. Incredible guy! One man destruction army. No team will ever declare with confidence against India!

My day is made! :)

(Picture courtesy: Getty Images)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Average Jodi

Yea.. it was just an average movie. More on that later. 

First, a few er.. 'interesting' events of last night.

Event 1: It was an 8:30 show. And we were late. For no apparent reason to be honest. We were home before 7 and just lazing around. Actually, me and my wife have an immaculate record of being late to almost every movie we go to. Its ingrained into our systems. Yep, we're the ones you curse for blocking your screen for 30 full seconds as we get to our seats.
Anyway, hoping to be the cursers instead of cursees this time, we skip our planned 'churmuri' and head to Inox Jayanagar, a full 15 mins before scheduled time.

Event 2: We're at the theater at 8:25 sharp. I'm standing in a line holding up my cellphone where I have the SMS confirmation of the booking. But the 2 guys at the counter are not noticing me. One Uncle ahead of me is leisurely enquiring for tickets for some crap movie, that too for a monday nite show. Valuable minutes are being lost... Ahh, finally, Uncle moves away disgruntled for not getting his favored back row middle seats. I swoop in and place my cellphone inside the little hole at the counter before the over-enthusiastic chap behind me could cut me off. Highly impressed with myself, I turn towards my wife with the 'Didya see what I did there baby' smirk. But she's looking elsewhere. Husbands never get their due I say.

Event 3: With great speed, we bypass popcorn counters and head directly to the hall. We could hear the 'Ghajini' trailer as we were about to enter. I let out a 'yess' and handed my tickets to the usher. "Seats K8 and K9", I said. He looked at them and said "Oh.. first row saar!" and handed the tickets back to me with a smile which I'm sure meant 'Loser'.
First Row.. damn. I am seriously pissed off with You know what first row means right?
a) Neck Pain
b) Your neighbor can easily figure out which part of the heroine's anatomy you're looking at.
We're settling into our seats and I see a guy from my college sitting in the very next seat. He was with a girl too. We said our 'Hi's and exchanged a "we're on the first row" laughter.

Event 4: So the movie is running. Anushka (the film's heroine) is wearing tights and streching around. Gooood. Right at that moment my wife pokes me and says "Did you see that? She has flab too!" I'm like "whaa..?" without turning my head. 5 seconds later I find myself clutching my bicep due to the after effects of a 'onashunti' (sharp pinch). Yup, I wasn't looking at any flab. And she saw it.
5 mins later, she pokes me again and points me to that elusive flab in Anushka's body. (honestly, I had no idea what she was talking about. The babe looked 10/10 to me. But hey, that's just me).
I turn to her and give a smile. But alas, that innocent smile was mistaken for my 'look who's talking' smirk. 'onashunti' no 2.
(Honey, if you're reading this, I do not think you're fat. That's crazy talk. Who says you're fat? What are they smoking? Ummmwaaah.)

Event 5: Actually, it was an ongoing event throughout the film. There were these bunch of hindi speaking guys sitting behind us. One of them was an apparent target for the rest. So, for every emotional scene on screen, they harassed this guy with lines like "arrey yaar, tu please rona shuru mat kar de" or "control yaar". The best one was when the heroine appeared in tights "dekh, teri behen mast lag rahi he". It was juvenile, but hillarious. A throwback to the glorious days of yore for me atleast. And frankly, it was more entertaining than what was happening on screen at times.

Oh, the movie. Right. (spoilers ahead) (you see, this film's story was 'guarded' so secretly that I'm compelled to put a disclaimer)
Shahrukh is this nerd who marries this girl Anushka under trying circumstances. But she can't get herself to love him. So he transforms into a dude and feels her up. She falls for him, but is torn between her husband and her lover which leads to some seriously corny situations and a very predictable and tame ending.

It wasn't all bad though. The film started with a lot of promise. The opening credits were refreshingly realistic. The first 30 mins of the film were genuinely interesting.  And there are bits and pieces of magic, mainly conjured up by SRK. 
Actually, Its a mixed bag for Shahrukh. On one hand, he absolutely nails it as the nerd simpleton. Some fantastic acting there. You feel for him and root for him. But he overdoes it as the dude "Raj". The girl Anushka makes an impression too. She looks good in tights, better in salwars and has a great smile. Surprisingly for a debutante, she manages to hold her own in dramatic scenes. A brilliant actor like Vinay Pathak is wasted.
(By the way, did I just mention 'tights' like 5 times already? Believe me, I'm not 'tight' while writing this.)

Music is decent. 'Haule Haule' (and its wonderful harmonium prelude) is beautiful. 'Dance pe Chance' has a pretty ordinary tune, but Sunidhi and the dhols take it to another level.
(And Kajol makes a guest song appearance, for all of you who care. I definitely did. Its Kajol, man!!)

You know what the best part of the film is? The end credits.
No its not the age old sarcasm. The end credits are so simple and funny, they bring a smile on your face. So, if you do decide to watch 'Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi', cringe through the last hour and stick around till the end. 

(Image Courtesy:

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Rejoice, my fellow Indians. Pakistan has finally taken 'firm' action against terrorism by doing this.
During a coffee break, one of my collegues saw this and remarked

"Oh, looks like he'll be working from home today."

Monday, December 08, 2008

Dose & Idly

One of the true pleasures of living in Bangalore is the wide & varied availability of high class vegetarian food, which by extension maps to Dose and Idly.
You see, Being a pukka Kannada Brahmin, outside food was largely limited to dose and idly for a large part of my childhood. (and it was limited further due to my mother's insistence of eating only at places where they don't use excess garlic.. "adeshtu bellulli haakidano haaladovnu").
I guess that's why my first question at any new restaurant is usually "special dose yenenide?"

Having had my (and a few others') share of Doses (not "Dosas", you NRIs), I think the time is right for some information sharings, for the benefit of other dose eating public.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, here's a list of my favorite dose & idly joints of Bangalore.

Any dose is incomplete without the perfect chutney (or with excess garlic!), so that is one very important criterion.

1. SLV, near Ragigudda temple, Jayanagar: Has improved seriously in the last 2 years.. enough to beat others in the list actually. And they make the best Onion Dose.
2. CTR, Malleshwaram: Superb Benne Masale. Mangalooru Goli Bajji is another speciality.
3. Janatha Hotel, Malleshwaram: Unique chowltry style experience. Great Masale Dose.
4. Vidyarthi Bhavana, Gandhi Bazaar: Another Unique experience. Probably the softest dose of all.
5. Ganesh Darshan, Jayanagar 4th Block: Terrific Dose-Chutney combo.

Hon'ble Mentions:
** Halli Thindi: Basavangudi: Makes one-of-a-kind Ragi Dose and Bread Dose.
** Woody's, Jayanagar: Used to make superb Rave Masale and Mysore Masale Dose. Quality has definitely deteriorated of late.
** Kamath Lokaruchi, Bangalore-Mysore Highway: The best place to stop en route to Mysore. Very good doses.

Idly Vade:
With Idly too, Chutney and Sambaar are key. Keeping that in mind...

1. Veena Stores, Malleshwaram: Hands down, the best Idly & Vade in town.
2. SLV near Ragigudda temple: The Best Idly-Vade-Sambaar-Chutney combo in town.
3. Adigas, Jayanagar 4th Block: Good Idly. But the Rave Idly is just heavenly.
4. Janatha Hotel, Malleshwaram: God, what Vades! Super I say.
5. Udupi Krishna Bhavan, Koramangala: Used to serve superb idlis for lunch! (Haven't heard of it in more than 2 years though)

Hon'ble Mentions:
** An Unnamed shop on 'Food Street' in VV Puram: Super soft idlis. In fact, the whole street is awesome!
** Halli Thindi, Basavangudi: Great Idlis with unique chutney.

(Even though this is a Bangalore Only post, being a Mysorean I feel compelled to mention Mylari Restuarant in Kuvempunagar in Mysore. They make the best Dose and Coconut Chutney in this world! Do check it out.)

I'm hungry now. No, its not psychology.. I'm actually hungry. Okay, fine, don't believe it. 
I think I'll convince my wife for a little dose excursion tonight.
(actually, she doesn't need a whole lot of convincing. *wink*)

(If I've missed out on any good places or if you disagree with my choices, feel free to drop in a word below)