Nov 9, 2009

Love Aaj Kal - Episode 1

Meenakshi was stunned. In their 5 years together, he had never put his arm around her with people around, or held her hand, or done anything that could be described as a 'public' display of affection - no matter how lenient you were with the definition of PDA. And now... Of all times - now?

'That's a first', she said after recovering her wits.
'This', she said turning her head to indicate his arm.
'Yeah, so? What's the big deal? We ARE still a couple.'
'You've never done this. It was always "log dekh rahe hain, lets behave ourselves"'
'What nonsense?! We used to sit like this at Elliot's beach all the bloody time'
'That used to be in the afternoon, on weekdays, in Chennai. We used to meet there only because no sane person would ever get on that scorching sand in that sweltering heat. With people around, you never even held my hand!'
'I'm sure I did. Don't exaggerate', he said, sounding a little defensive.
'Why, just last year you came to Delhi and we went to Nehru Place to buy something...'
'Graphics card. Nvidia Ge-Force fx 5200. Generation 5. It's not just some random comp part - it's a kick-ass graphics card. You know my comp was the only one in the hostel which had more than 100 fps for UT?'
'Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Geek-fest.' Pause. 'You ran from shop to shop, without even bothering where I was! When I complained about it, you held my hand like you were going to solder it, and let go in a few minutes saying it wasn't the right place for that sorta behavior.'
'It wasn't, seriously. Nehru Place - Computer parts market in Delhi - NOT a place you hold hands'. He made the idea sound completely ridiculous.
'And a DTC bus is a place where you put an arm around my shoulder?'
He paused.
'I don't care.'
'Yes, and that's a good thing', she thought, 'but too late...'


About time...

... to bring life back to this space, don't you think?

Coming soon.

Sep 26, 2009

More on Ferrari vs. Hamilton

Friend of mine said a few things on facebook, which I feel obliged to react to, but since facebook limits the length and format of comments, I'm continuing the discussion here.

"The deal is there is NO big deal about Hamilton. He benefits and loses just like the rest of them... He does not in any shape, form or spirit embody any kind of genius, excellence, or commitment. He is NOT in the league of a Schumacher or a Senna.

Which is why we don't make a big deal about Kimi or Massa. The TEAM is core and has always been since F1 started... We totally biased FERRARI fans take exception to the deification of a driver who is not exceptional unlike previous Ferrari alumni."

Let's take these points one at a time.

Ferrari have won 210 of 789 races - 27%. McLaren 163 of 662 - 25%.

Is that 2% difference really 'a gulf between the great and the ordinary'? Certainly not in my book. In terms of prestige and glamor, one name is definitely bigger than the other. That matters - I respect the Ferrari heritage, and if I could afford a sports car, I'd definitely prefer a Ferrari to most others.

But if that was all that mattered, Williams would have many more supporters today. When I watch sport, I'm interested in the skills, the commitment and - most of all - the achievements of the competitors. Winning matters - the MOST.

On these counts there isn't much separating the two - the facts speak for themselves. So, I don't much care for the 'team', or rather the 'brand' in this case, and I definitely do not agree with the notion that the team is the core in F1. Some others do. Good for them. No point arguing, since the interests are totally different, and one will never see, let alone accept, the other's point of view.

I would like to throw one question at them, though - if Schumacher and Montoya had traded places in the early-2000's, where would their loyalties lie? With Ferrari? Or with Schumacher? Think about it, honestly.

Now, I do experience a deep sense of anguish when credit is denied where it is due. One man holds the records for most wins, most podiums and most poles in his debut season. He outperformed a 2-time-world-champion (who, incidentally, had beaten the 'great' Michael Schumacher the previous year) in his debut season. He became the youngest ever F1 champion the next season. He has won races on street, and racing circuits. He has won - even dominated, sometimes - wet races, which are considered to be the greatest test of driver skill. He has consistently outperformed his team-mate in an identical car. He has pulled out some blinders in qualifying sessions. And he has beaten people on track - not just with a runaway quick machine, not just with pit strategy - but in genuine racing situations. All this within his first 3 seasons, at a young age, and not always the best car on the circuit.

Yet, he is described as completely ordinary. I fail to understand how or why. If the benchmark is 'exceptional Ferrari alumni' - they didn't win a single drivers title in 21 years between 1979 and 2000. The last among them - Michael Schumacher - couldn't get the better of Mika Hakkinen or Fernando Alonso a lot of the time. So just what was the big deal? What else does Lewis have to do? Get in a red car? Is that all that matters? In that case, wasn't Senna a great?

I hope someone has answers that make sense.

Jul 13, 2009

Red Bull

It's commonplace for people to visit Thailand, for a variety of reasons. One visitor in 1982 was Dietrich Mateschitz, a European toothpaste marketing chap. He found that a local potion called Krating Daeng - most likely found lying in the mini-bar in his room, it's purpose probably explained by the person at the hotel's reception desk - was very effective in curing his jet-lag. He decided to take it to Western consumers. Since a 100ml medicinal-looking bottle full of strange-and-very-sweet tasting syrup wasn't likely to find too many takers, he diluted the drink to 250ml, carbonated it, and put it in a smart-looking can.

Cut to Shanghai, 2009. A Formula 1 race has just ended. The well-known and very glamorous names of Ferrari, McLaren and Williams are conspicuous by their absence on the podium. At the top of the podium stands one of the most brilliant young talents of F1, tipped by many to be the rightful heir to Schumacher's throne. The camera focuses on him. On his jacket, you read 'Red Bull... Gives You Wings'.

I feel the story of the Red Bull brand MUST be made a case study in every B-School.

Coca-Cola was the undisputed leader in the soft drinks market some decades back. It's still the leading cola brand, but still a cola brand. Facing a significant threat by the way of a growing health-consciousness trend across the world.

Sony is a leading electronics brand, but no longer associated with ground-breaking innovations (think Walkman) - that position is now owned by Apple.

Xerox is a photocopy brand. Tommy Hilfiger is a fashion brand.
Honda and Toyota are efficient and reliable Japanese cars.

Red Bull... gives you wings. It's not just a brand. It's about energy, about endurance, about passion. It's the quickest car on an F1 circuit today. It's a brave new world of music - SoundClash. It's an adventure race from Salzburg to Monaco, featuring some of the world's top paragliders and endurance sports specialists. It's the Air Race World Championship. It's a Mediterranean food festival. It's a a 600 square meter creative hub for musicians, artists and photographers in the middle of the red-light district in the Dutch capital of Amsterdam. It's a way of life, and it's here to stay.

How did some-guy manage to make all this out of a diluted, carbonated version of a cheap Thai syrup? It wasn't a fairytale. They first tried to market it the traditional way.
1. Free samples were offered to people. A terrible idea, considering the not-so-pleasant taste of Red Bull. And a small sample obviously won't relieve you of all physical and metal exhaustion - which was the whole point.
2. They advertised on TV. For one, this medium is expensive and too cluttered to be really effective in Red Bull's case. Secondly, even if some people became curious, TV doesn't lead to action immediately. And where'd they find the damn thing, anyway?

It was probably after all this, that someone realized the brand needed a strong, unique, appealing and holistic identity, supported by prominence on the shelves where their targets shopped. And since they were offering something unique and truly useful, they could charge 6-10 times what the drink originally cost in the land of it's origin. The rest, as they say, is history.

If this doesn't deserve to be a case study in a school of marketing, I don't know what does.

Jul 8, 2009

The goal...

... is set. It is the Lamborghini Gallardo.

This is what it looks like:

This is what it's about:

Engine: 5200 cc, V10
0-100 kmph: 3.7 sec
Top speed: 325 kmph

It costs upward of US$ 200,000.

Clearly, there are some barriers:

1. I'll NEVER be able to buy it if my salary is INR-denominated. It's gonna be a challenge even with mid-range USD, EURO or GBP salaries.

2. A car with top-speed of 325 kmph, and 0-100 kmph in 3.7s, DOES NOT belong on Indian roads where traffic moves at an average speed of 30kmph at best, and divine bovine interventions can bring it to a halt. Even on highways, the limit is usually no more 80 kmph, and if you try to exceed that, you will probably stare death in the face - and it'll look like a wayward truck being piloted by a drunk illiterate doofus.

Both points imply the need for a long stint in the West, a lot of luck, and some major 'crack machana' in life.

I WILL make this happen. Soon.

Jul 4, 2009

A case for activism

Every now and then I hear about some clash between a pair of communities, or some random groups of people with causes that conflict with each other. Violence is not uncommon in these incidents. And no matter how commonplace these clashes become, I canot help being enveloped by a feeling of absolute despondency and frustration every time I hear such news. In stead of getting used to it, and developing the regressive but patently Indian attitude of 'chalta hai' or 'we are like this only', my feelings about are only getting stronger (That should be a good thing, right?)

Today, I shall try and pen down the issues and maybe a few solutions (or at least ideal scenarios) as I see them...

We are the 'yes, we can' generation of India. Till less than two decades back, just about any product of high quality you got in this country used to be imported. High quality consumer services didn't even exist. People with government jobs used to be considered financially and professionally secure and successful, and had little ambition and small aspirations. For a high quality of life (measured in material terms here), people used to dream about migrating to the West. Or even the Gulf. Even south-east Asian cities held great appeal. Anyone who had been abroad was a virtual celebrity, and the places they described sounded like Disneyland.

Cut to 2009. Most of the young, educated middle-class people live in multistorey apartments in cities. They wear Levi's jeans, with Adidas shoes, and Swatches. They drive Korean, Japanese, European or American designed cars, and own Korean-designed electronics. They use the same cosmetics as the Westerners. They watch movies in multiplexes where tickets cost Rs 300. And many of them have been overseas at least once, or will do so sometime in the next couple of years. Even our cricket team now displays attitude, belief and aggression like never before!

Now, I'm used to hearing a common refrain at just about this point. "You are only talking about an elite minority. Most people still live in conditions much worse..."

I fully agree. The benefits of economic growth in the last 18 years have not reached every one in the country. So, shouldn't our TOP priority - as a nation - be to ensure that there is more economic growth, and more opportunities, encompassing more people? Makes sense, right?

But take a look around. What are the issues that the masses seem to care about, and the political leadership leverages? Is it growth & development? NO WAY! The 'burning' issues are religion, caste, community, language... In stead of moving together as a united nation, we seem more intent to oneupmanship. 'I want more reservation for my caste everywhere', 'They are disrespecting my religion', 'I want some special status for my language', 'These things are against Indian culture', 'Mumbai city belongs to Maharashtrians', 'No privatization of PSUs', 'These rules/laws are not in our interest and are only intended to fill the pockets of some people with authority' ... all extremely regressive and narrow-minded statements, but you can club nearly all that you hear under the above themes.

As a nation we have a large number of common challenges - terrorism, education, sanitation & healthcare, infrastructure, law enforcement, economic development, availability of public goods & services - are only a few of the really serious challenges in front of us, that affect every single citizen in this country. The need of the hour is for all of us to unite, and focus all our efforts in these directions. These issues can all be solved, and quite easily, but they never will be, until voters begin to demand the solutions from the administration, and the performance of politicans and admin authorities starts determining their fate. I have written about this earlier.

In stead, what I witness all around is an almost-total disregard and a lack of trust for other people, especially those who do not fall within narrow buckets of sub-identities like 'Maratha', 'Tamil' or 'Yadav'. We seem to be more concerned about 'preserving' our sub-identities and 'cultures', and even claiming special entitlements for them, at whatever cost, without any concern about the big picture of a nation...

London, Singapore and others have consciously worked towards becoming 'world cities' where anyone and everyone can feel at home. This is how they've encouraged capable people from around the world to come and live there, and drive the growth & development of these places - in economic as well as socio-cultural terms. We have Mumbai being claimed by Maharashtrians and Bangalore being claimed by Kannadigas, who seem to resent their fellow country-men as 'outsiders', inspite of all the diversity and development they bring to their adopted home-cities.

We have people who label wearing jeans and visiting a pub as being 'against Indian culture'. What is 'Indian culture'? Who defines it? And who has the right to hurt others in it's defense? In my humble opinion, it is not right to label some outdated and regressive socio-cultural standards as 'Indian culture', and impose it on everyone. Let people wear Jeans if they find them comfortable. Let people visit pubs if they seek to relax and be entertained there. Let every individual make choices that make them happy, as long as it doesn't hurt others. THIS is the hallmark of every 'developed' country. And Indian culture - if anything - has historically been one of tolerance, inclusion and respect. Since when did throwing acid at a woman wearing jeans become 'Indian culture'?

History shows that growth & development has rarely been a mass phenomenon. It has always been led by a few who questioned the status quo, had a vision of how things should be, worked towards that, and inspired others to follow their example. There is no dearth of people capable of doing this in our country today. They need to put their hands up and lead. Follow rules, vote for candidates with performance records, show respect for others and act in favor of the greater good - and most importantly - confront regressive mindsets and behaviours! DO NOT fall in the 'chalta hai' and 'we are like this only' traps.

'Corporate India' has a million amazing examples of what we can achieve if we aspire and act. 'Social India' needs the same medicine.

Anyone for forming an 'urban activist' group?

Jun 23, 2009

The Dream Trip - My English Summer Holiday, 2009

  • Night out by the Thames with a couple of good friends, Turkish doner kebab and a lotta lager.
  • Peeing by the roadside in London.
  • Visiting a gentleman's club. Witnessing my friend getting rid of oncoming babe by saying 'Honey, I'm not your type' (clear gay implications!)
  • Watching and T20 World Cup India game live at Trent Bridge.
  • Traveling on the day's last train to London with Sunil Gavaskar.
  • Standing on the Lords' balcony. Sitting in the 'spaceship' media center.
  • Visiting the War Cabinet rooms (underground shelter) of Winston Churchill.
  • Traveling on a Thames cruise boat. Returning on the same boat to the same point after an hour.
  • Sitting by the Thames, close to Westminster Abbey, sipping beer and watching old couples walk around for an entire hour.
  • Getting directions from hot blondes.
  • Taking a picture of another hot blonde with her friend, and then having her take one of me.
  • Eating roast chicken, half a rack of spare ribs, with fries and Stella Artois at Garfunkel's restaurant at Leicester Square.
  • Surviving a whole week on just sandwiches for the most part.
  • Watching a West End play. Horror, not musical. At a theatre that dates back to the 16th century.
  • Walking tour of Sir William 'Braveheart' Wallace's trial and hanging venue, the supposed residence of Jack the Ripper, and Sweeney Todd's supposed barber-shop and the nearby human meat pie shop at Fleet Street.
  • Viewing the crown jewels including the Cullinan and the Kohinoor.
  • Guided tour of Shakespeare's Globe theater and the nearby Rose theater.
  • Buying good clothes in London for less than they'd cost in India.
  • 'London Bridge & London Tombs Experience'
  • Watching the whole Silverstone F1 British GP weekend live.
  • Maxing out the daily spends on Oyster each day for 6 successive days.
  • Traveling in a London black cab.
  • Living in a 'hole in the wall'. Sharing it with the host. Smoking out the little window. Leaving behind a huge pile of empty Carling Lager cans.
  • Having strawberries and cream for breakfast one morning.
  • Traveling on the Airbus A380.
  • Going a whole week with more than 5km of walking each day and less than 5 hours of sleep each night.
  • Getting through it all purely on adrenaline.
  • Being completely happy.
Been there.
Done that.

Jun 7, 2009

PS3 Rocks!

I am quite a gadget person. Not quite a gadget freak who'd know the firmware version of his cellphone OS, but I own quite a few and take a keen interest in buying anything really useful. I usually buy the best and latest models, before they become mainstream, and don't mind paying a premium for the 'edge'. I also perform a lot of research before selecting models, and generally make an effort to 'match' all my devices to perform at their best, together. As an example, I assembled my current (and previous) desktop PC myself, after selecting each component (processor, motherboard, RAM, HDD etc.) carefully through web-research and buying them from different places.

Still, gaming consoles is a class of devices that left me quite cold. I mean - till last week - I had never ever played a game on a Playstation (any version) or an Xbox, even though I could have, on many occasions such as being at a party where the host had one. Even on the comp, I'd not really played games other than 'Age of Empires 2'.

This context is important for you to understand just how good a PS3 is - I've had mine for just a week now and am totally loving it. I consider it one of my best, and most 'value-for-money' gadget purchases EVER.

For starters, yes it is an awesome gaming station. I've only got one title so far - MotorStorm - which I quite enjoy and spend a good 40-50 min with, everyday. But, well, it is still just a 'video game'.

I ended up buying this system mainly coz I needed a device to play High-Def (1080p) video, which I've started recording with my new Canon HF 10 Full-HD camcorder. DVD players don't offer half the 'quality' of HD video (they support input upto 576p resolution, vs. 1080p Full-HD). You need a Blu-Ray/AVCHD device if you really want your money's worth from your big Full-HD TV.

Now, Blu-ray players - in India - are prohibitively expensive. The one model currently available from Sony is about INR 30k! There are just a few other models available from other manufacturers, but nearly all are more expensive than the PS3, which I got for 20k (new, legit model with warranty and all).

This post is all about what the PS3 offers as a media center (in addition, of course, to being a kick-ass gaming system).

1. A BD drive (reads Blu-ray, DVD and CD discs). The BD format is way superior to DVD, and should be available soon thru Bigflix and suchlike. Plain, standalone BD drives for comps currently cost about 10k.

2. 2 USB ports in front - for your pen drives, portable HDDs, etc. I think this is very close to a USB port on a comp, in the sense that it supports many kinds of devices (perhaps even the iPod), unlike the USB ports on most TVs and DVD players which only support a few devices and a few formats.

3. Support for DivX, Xvid, MTS and AVCHD formats. Which means it'll play just about ANY video file, at upto 1080p resolution! Some formats like MKV aren't directly supported, but it takes 2 minutes to convert a MKV file to a PS3-compatible format using mkv2vob.

4. My favorite feature - which I discovered today - is the ability to connect to a media server (which you can host on your comp!). I downloaded and installed a freeware called TVersity, which basically allows one to share all the picture, audio and video files from their comp on their home LAN. What this means is - if you have a WiFi router at home, you can use the PS3 to play ANYTHING straight off your comp hard drive (using a WiFi connection) on your big HDTV and your Music System. No discs. No USB. No bullshit. Direct WiFi connection to the comp. (If you don't have a WiFi router - get one! Or, you can use a standard Ethernet LAN cable.)

You can also create your own media library and playlists on your comp, and read them off the PS3. I have just shared all my hard drives. This is just so awesome - and so mind-bogglingly convenient - I haven't stopped smiling since afternoon.

You can also set TVersity up to stream web content (such as youtube videos) to your PS3. But I haven't messed around with this feature, yet.

5. With a 3 GHz processor, 80gb hard disk, USB ports, Ethernet (LAN) port, WiFi, and an in-built web browser, the PS3 is as good as a mid-range desktop PC for light users! To prove the point, Sony also offer wireless (Bluetooth) keyboards for the PS3. Some scientists have put together 'clusters of PS3 systems' to form supercomputers. Seriously.
You can also browse and download (directly to the PS3 hard-disk) games, videos, and other content using the free Playstation Network (access is free, though you need an internet connection. Titles need to be paid for, using a credit card, like any other online purchase). Unfortunately, the PSN isn't available in India as yet.

I've heard some opinions slightly favoring the Xbox 360 over the PS3 as a gaming console. But I'm sure any comparison of the two that took versatility into account - would probably find PS3 the winner. And PS3's already kicked the Wii's lame a$$ by simply adding motion-sensing capability to their USB-chargeable wireless controller, the Dualshock 3.

(A note to readers residing in the West - I guess web connectivity through a TV/AV device isn't such a big deal for you, but we are a whole generation behind in India and don't even have HDTV transmission available yet.)

The PS3 is truly a gem of an all-purpose home entertainment system! Do get one if you can. It's definitely worth more than the 20k price tag, even if you aren't much of a gamer.

Apr 3, 2009

Frag the friggin FIA

First, they demoted Trulli to 12th, which was unfair. Then, they changed their mind and disqualified Lewis. Do these people have any accountability? They regularly impose harsh penalties on drivers and teams (with the exception of Ferrari) just because they can. WTF?!

Let's understand what happened in Melbourne. Trulli went off-track. Lewis overtook him, and this was legitimate. But McLaren weren't sure the FIA would agree. So they instructed Lewis to let Trulli past. Lewis disagreed. In the ensuing confusion, Trulli passed (or was allowed to pass) Lewis again. The way I see it, BOTH Trulli and Lewis were unsure who was supposed to take 3rd and who was to take 4th. Race Control, who were contacted by McLaren, were 'too busy' to clarify. Seriously?! When the safety car had been out for several laps, and everyone was peacefully following it, what could POSSIBLY have kept them 'too busy' to consider what was happening with positions 3 and 4? Also, they had access to all radio communication logs during, as well as after, the race. They also had access to speed trap recordings, to check if Lewis had indeed slowed down and deliberately let Trulli past. What is the point recording all this data, if decisions are to be based on interviews with parties who are directly and significantly affected by those decisions?

Here's the transcript that decided the issue finally:

Team: Lewis, you need to allow the Toyota through. Allow the Toyota through now.


LH: He's slowed right down in front of me.

Team: OK, Lewis. Stay ahead for the time being. Stay ahead. We will get back to you. We are talking to Charlie.

LH: I let him past already.

Team: OK, Lewis. That's fine. That's fine. Hold position. Hold position.

LH: Tell Charlie I already overtook him. I just let him past.

Team: I understand Lewis. We are checking.

I don't know what you will make of it, but all I see is evidence that a driver and a team were completely confused, and seeking a clarification from Race Control (Charlie). And Race Control had this transcript all along. I do not see damning evidence of Lewis and/or McLaren cheating.

If I was one of the stewards, I'd see this as a couple of guys making genuine mistakes (Trulli and Lewis) and BOTH trying their best to avoid breaking any of my rules. I would use my judgment to decide who ought to be classified 3rd, and who ought to have been 4th. I would NOT punish either driver, and would own up to my responsibility for sorting out the situation. In stead, FIA decided that at least one of the poor guys was not going to get any points for the race. Simply because they can...

Mar 22, 2009

The long-overdue Gandhi vs. Hitler post

I had resolved to put down my views on this a long, long time back - even before I started blogging here. It's time to deliver.

I should warn you - the ideas in this post are going to be rather radical, and anything BUT politically correct. You may feel outraged. If you aren't sure you can handle that in a mature manner, don't read it.

Based on all that I've read/seen/heard/understood, my own sense of right-and-wrong, and the logic that works in my head, here's what I have to say.

MK Gandhi was, for lack of a better word, a loser. His great, and in my opinion his only, achievement was to unify most of our population using religion. India, as we know it today, was never really a nation ruled by a single ruler, before the British. We had our own regional/linguistic/cultural sub-identities, that actually exist even today. The British united us as an administrative unit, and Gandhi united most of us as a people.

My first problem - is with the manner and philosophy with which he achieved this. India wasn't, isn't, and will probably never be a Hindu state. Religion is, in my opinion, one of the greatest destructive forces ever invented by man. Nearly all religion is based on faith, with no evidence available to prove the existence of 'God'. Even if there is such a force, there is no definite knowledge of it's form. There is no justification for the rules that the followers of a faith are forced to live by. Some faiths prohibit eating any meat, some prohibit only pork or beef, while others allow everything. Can anyone prove their way is 'right'? Secondly, no single faith can claim to be followed by an absolute majority of the world's population. Are all the people of any one faith much better off than all others, in this world? And I won't even bother questioning the concept of afterlife - that's blind faith in its worst form. Yet, people are ready to die, and to kill, in the name of religion. Wars are being fought. Landmarks being destroyed in a mindless way. All this - for what rational reason?

Gandhi based his work on the concept of Bhakti - total devotion to god and a lifestyle of self-denial. These regressive, counter-productive principles somehow appeared noble to a people who had been exploited over centuries and had come to expect no better. He basically told people to accept that their lives weren't meant to be happier, and take pride in their decision to waste their lives. Since no rational grounds could support such a philosophy, religion and faith were called into play. People were encouraged to derive happiness from 'being on moral high ground' in their own heads, and not through material comforts or real achievements that the rest of the world would admire. He gave them a sense of purpose, but no real purpose.

This has caused a lot of damage in the long-term. For one, we had partition - an inevitable fallout of Gandhi's basic Hindu philosophy. I know people will say there were a million other factors that led to partition. But in my opinion, the fundamental reason was Gandhi's choice of religion and Bhakti to unite the country. Obviously, it left many people out. What followed was inevitable.

The other terrible legacy is socialism. In the Gandhian system, productivity and ambition were equated with greed and deplored. Sacrifice and simplicity were extolled as righteous virtues. Bhakti means basic existence, with absolute insignificance of this life being the ultimate goal. There is no room for pursuit of economic development, as priorities are spiritual. As an example, take Satyagraha - fast unto death. It basically relies on sympathy of other people to get things done. You aren't directly doing anything, yourself, to achieve the changes you want to see in the world. You are prepared to just throw away everything you have - your own life, which ostensibly has no great value. But since someone else may not have the stomach to witness your senseless death, your objective might be achieved. What a pathetic method.

Unfortunately, these philosophies shaped the policies of the Indian state post-independence. Profit was a dirty word. Ambition and aspirations were throttled, since they went against the principle of simple living and nirvana. Competition was discouraged. The result - the shameful 'Hindu rate of growth', while our south-east Asian neighbours galloped ahead. History has proven something that seems so obvious now - happiness for all can only be achieved through creation of more wealth, and not by state distribution of limited wealth among the weak. Gandhi would rather have you not bothering with wealth at all, and wasting your life with Bhakti.

My second major problem is with the principles of non-violence and turning the other cheek. I just don't get it. Nature designed us to compete and ensure the survival of the fittest. That's how the world improves and moves forward. How can we, and why should we, turn away from that?

We were an oppressed people, but we were large in number. Civil disobedience and non-cooperation made it difficult for the British to administer us, but we could have made it a lot tougher by taking up arms. Sure, the British had great military resources, and may have exterminated our people in great numbers. But, there would've been a cost - financial as well as human - for the British in this case, and that would've got us our independence a lot more swiftly.

Let's face it - we got our independence for two reasons. One, WW2 depleted British resources and will to administer a large, non-cooperative colony. Two, the wide public opinion turned against imperialism. Both could have been expedited if we had taken the Bhagat Singh approach rather than Gandhi's. Metaphorically, the British grew tired of slapping us on one cheek after another. If we had fought back rather than turning the other cheek, this could have happened earlier. And the total cumulative damage suffered by India may well have been lower. If WW2 hadn't occured, I'm not sure just how long it would have taken for us to achieve Independence the Gandhian way. If ever. The legacy - we are still a 'soft' state.

This is why I have little respect for Gandhi. And I'm willing to debate...


If the above piece didn't outrage you enough - take this. I have a lot of respect for Adolf Hitler. Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't consider him a role model for myself, nor would I condone the crimes he committed against humanity. But I do believe history has been very harsh on him, since he ended up on the losing side. He did some things right, and deserves some credit for those.

I was assigned a research project for a course during my time at IIT, Madras - 'Anti-semitism in pre-WW2  Germany', and at that time I had to look up 'semitism' in the dictionary. Most of this piece is based on what I learnt and understood during my study for that project, and even later.

Let's try and imagine ourselves in Germany during Hitler's rise. The nation had been blamed for WW1, and dealt very severe terms in the Treaty of Versailles. Their pride was hurt, and their economy shattered. A large part of the population was unemployed, while inflation skyrocketed. In this scenario, the Jews' power and affluence was conspicuous. I don't remember the stats very well, but it was something like - 10% of the population (Jews) owned/controlled 75% of the nation's wealth and resources. And they've never been known for benevolence or endearing behavior anyway. In fact, when the Nazi party came to power and started treating Jews badly - long before taking any hard, organized action, mind you - Jewish business leaders and bureaucrats around the world called for boycott of German exports. This further crippled the German economy. There was a widespread sense of resentment against the Jews, and coupled with a collapsing economy, what happened next was inevitable. Hitler just happened to be the man in charge. You and I may not like what happened, but there were reasons it did, and Hitler did an exceptionally effective and efficient job.

Just as Gandhi used religion to unite a nation opressed, Hitler used race. While Gandhi's methods were passive on one extreme, Hitler's were aggressive on the other extreme. Had Hitler won the war, history would have been written in a very different tone, and what is now termed 'crimes against humanity', may have been termed 'revolution' (in a positive sense).

Think about this. Gandhi needed decades, and favorable external circumstances, to achieve a fractured independence for India. Hitler needed just a decade to turn around a crippled country into a European empire. The achievement is awe-inspiring. The Axis powers lost the war mainly due to two mistakes:
1. Hitler's decision to advance the attack on the Soviet Union by a few months, so that the battle happened in the winter. The Reds, though inferior militarily, were in much better shape to deal with the climate and the terrain, and Hitler refused to back down in spite of early setbacks. If all his power and early successes hadn't fogged his judgment, Hitler would've, in all likelihood, conquered all of Europe.
2. Japan not 'finishing the job' at Pearl Harbor. They had the element of surprise, and caused substantial damage without facing any real resistance. If they had completed the attack as planned, and aimed to defeat the US in war, rather than merely discouraging their entry (the Japs only hit active battleships, and not the fuel storage, workshops or submarine facilities), WW2 may well have had an entirely different outcome.

For a moment, leave aside the concentration camps and the holocaust. Just consider what Hitler managed as the leader of his people - turning around an economy on crutches, restoration of national pride, and almost a conquest of the entire world. Sure, the man had his flaws. Sure, he did many deplorable things. But does he deserve no respect for what he managed to do as the leader of his people? 

As the new season begins...

... there's no better way to build anticipation, than to watch the Brazilian GP video put up by folks here

(Note: The video linked above, and the rest of this post are only for serious F1 fans. Others shouldn't waste their time - you just won't get it.)
It might take some time to load, but you MUST watch this video as it is absolutely brilliant. It's more dramatic than most movies you'll see. In fact, some scenes - such as the one with a crew-member interrupting the Massa family celebrations, and proceeding to smash a glass pane - are so dramatic, they almost seem like they were scripted and staged! That's also the second reason to watch the video - it contains some behind-the-scenes footage you probably haven't seen before. 

I remember the total confusion prevailing in my TV-room when Lewis crossed the line and the TV listed him at a championship-clinching 5th position. All of us, including the commentator, thought he was running 6th. I couldn't believe my eyes - it seemed like my prayers had been answered and a miracle had indeed occured (damn, I knew I should've wished for that Beverly Hills mansion rather than a title for Lewis). All the Ferrari fans around me (they were ALL Ferrari fans) didn't want to believe their eyes either, and immediately started crying foul. But in this video you can see that the McLaren camp - including a very visible Ms. Scherzinger - knew exactly what was happening during that final lap, long before the rest of the world realized it.

Another awesome piece of work is the soundtrack of the video. It starts with a song that goes 'No one's gonna take me alive... you and I must fight to survive...' as Lewis and Felipe are shwon shaking hands. The track changes suitably as Massa Sr. is informed about Lewis's hustle, and ends very appropriately, if somewhat cheesily, with Ms. Scherzinger's 'When I grow up...'

Not that the video is really necessary to build anticipation. This may be one of the most exciting seasons ever. There are at least 4 serious championship contenders - Lewis, Kimi, Massa, Alonso - 3 of whom have won it in the recent past - and 1 who lost by a mere whisker. With a host of new regulations coming in, we'll have to wait and see just how competitive each of these guys is, this time around. Anything is possible. 

And there are several serious jokers in the pack: 
 - Vettel, who seems destined to win a title sometime, probably not too far into the future
 - Kubica, who was a contender till very late last season
 - Button, a highly rated driver who may finally have a good enough car, to realize his potential
These 3 are capable of competing at the very top, if they have cars good enough. The last pre-season test suggested Brawn had their noses ahead of everyone else - Massa went so far as to say that he wasn't in a position to challenge for pole, if Brawn could sustain the pace they had shown. Ross Brawn is no stranger to successful campaigns, and he even has Barrichello in one of the cars. The signs are ominous, but till the checkered flag is waved in less than a week from now, we don't know anything for sure.

I will continue rooting for Lewis, even though McLaren's performance in the last test suggests that he'll only be an also-ran through the early races at least. Doesn't matter. For me, he's still tha man. A true 'supporter' doesn't just revel in glory when it is achieved, he stands by his team/player through tough times as well. I plan to do just that.

Mar 2, 2009

Youtube Gems

Youtube rocks!

Ok, so you probably knew that. But I'm posting this coz I found a few old gems this weekend, songs and videos I'd thought I'd never see/hear again. Kripya checkout kariye:

1. 'Maar daala' by Nirmal Pandey. Nirmal Pandey sings, and behaves like - well - Nirmal Pandey. He surely realized he couldn't pull off anything romantic or serious, and he deserves credit for that. Highlight: the video stars a little-known model named Reema Lamba, who'd later become famous as Mallika Sherawat. In the video, she had to choose between Nirmal and Rahul Dev - two of the ugliest mofos alive. Poor girl.

2. 'Hawa hawa' by Hassan Jahangir. Check out the wannabe rock-star - complete with long hair, sunglasses and tight white pants, performing for an audience of some 40 aunties under a tent (looks like a village wedding shamiana). Truth be told - I still like the song.

3. 'Sawan mein lag gayee aag (original)' by Mika Singh. Who woulda thunk this idiotic-looking younger brother of Daler Mehndi, who whined with a nasal twang - long before Himes made 'nasal' the new 'cool' - would go on to achieve stardom through hits like 'Mauja hi mauja' and 'ae Ganpat'. His debut video is super-awesome. He carries a guitar, but you don't hear any guitar-track in the song. And do check out all the actors' expressions when the babe is introduced to the bad guy. Oscar-worthy I say!

5. 'Farebi' by Biddu. Biddu has done some great work, particularly with Nazia Hassan. But WTF was he thinking when he chose to debut in India as a pro-artiste with this trash? The lyrics are the antithesis of subtlety. And Biddu makes a complete a$$ of himself with the heavily-accented intro (he hisses 'dosss', trying to say 'dost'). Sad.

6. 'Sanam mere sanam' from Hum. I still remember - the local video library had made 20 copies of this movie when it released, and I still couldn't get one for a whole week. Check out the 'romantic' song featuring Govinda and Shilpa Shirodkar. The 80's and early 90's are such an embarassment today.

7. 'Bolo tara ra ra' by Daler Mehndi. Screw all the travel agency contrversies. If you don't think Mehndi is a vocal genius, please listen again to the title track of 'Rang de basanti' right NOW. He started with the hyper-linked video. Before he settled on the banded turban and sherwani, he experimented with bandanas, gold-chains and v-necked shirts!

8. 'Nari narein' by Hisham Abbas. OK, we have the cute Cadbury-ad girl (now TV star, I think). We have the Taj Mahal. And Arabic guy. Why did 'desert rose' work and not this, I wonder :)

9. 'It's my life' by Dr Alban. You didn't - sometime in your childhood - dance to this and think it was the coolest thing to do? Liar, liar - pants on fire.

10. 'Oova oova' by Anaida. Literally translated 'My heart says oova oova, my body tumbles oova oova...' U-hh... WHAT?! This woman had multiple successful albums.

11. 'Deewane to deewane hain' by Shweta Shetty. Ok, I've been seeking an answer to this for more than a decade now. Abbe bhainge bhi ho, koi bhi is saali ke deewane kaise ho sakte hain?

12. 'Nigodi kaisi jawani hai' by Ila Arun. Funny today, but absolutely scandalous when it released.

13. 'Tu' by Sanjay Maroo. No one even noticed this, even when there were less than a dozen cable TV channels. But I have to confess - I loved it. The guy sang, composed music and even played the drums himself. The video's fairly slick for the times. Talent, I say. Unlucky chap.

14. 'Dreamcatcher' by Mehnaz. Mehnaz was one of the few real talents, lost in the age of 'Indipop' amidst the crowd of no-gooders like Tania - whose only claim to fame was - she was bangin Kishen Kumar. Kishen Kumar, people? Younger brother of Gulshan Kumar, the T-Series emperor... don't try to remember a face, you never saw it. He was all eyebrows.

Finally, this is unrelated, but chakitout

Contributions welcome in the comments section :)

Feb 26, 2009

Rants of an uncertain manager

My manager at P&G once said, "We all spend 9 hours, 5 days a week, in office. That is most of the time we are awake. We deserve to be happy during this time. As do all of our technicians" (the audience comprised of managers, and all techs reported to us). While my relationship with him turned very sour, very soon, this statement got etched in my head.

As a manager, I believe I have some responsibilities to my people. These include:
  • Providing a cheerful environment. Pressure at work is inevitable, but it should be minimized as far as possible.
  • Providing opportunities, and guidance, for them to learn and grow as much as they can, as quickly as possible.
  • Being reasonable and transparent. I realize I have some 'power' over them, but I try to never abuse it, and always ensure they understand and agree with my decisions - even when the decisions might appear tough.
  • Appreciating and rewarding good work and good behavior - with salaries, bonuses, promotions, position within the team - whatever means are at my disposal.
I always assure my people that their concern should only be to perform well, within the boundaries defined for their roles, meeting and exceeding expetatations that have been shared with them, and NOT worrying about things they can not control. I've always told them that it is my job to provide them the opportunities to perform, and that I would take care of their growth aspirations as long as they delivered results.

Till a short while back, I felt invincible professionally. The past week or two have been a humbling experience. For the first time, I was faced with problems to which there were no clear-cut solutions. Basically, our business doesn't look like its going to grow much in the next year, given the glum economic scenario, and we have people whose capabilities, experience and aspirations have grown - and will continue to grow. Clearly, some people are not going to get the opportunities they deserve, and are going to suffer for no fault of their own. I (and a few peers) have the unenviable task of allocating the pain.

We had a tough time working out a plan, that we thought would minimize the damage. What had been a few hours exercise in past years, took weeks this time. We knew there would be problems, but we thought we could manage them. Till we heard the first reaction from one of the people affected.

The reason I'm feeling very guilty right now - is that I am currently responsible for the person we got the first reaction from. This person has not only been a great performer in every way, they have been unconditionally devoted to their job, while we have pretty much made of mess of their role/job over the last year. Even if tough decisions need to be taken, this is one of the few people who definitely deserve better. We realized that. But, in the midst of all the chaos we were dealing with, we just failed to pay enough attention. I had made some promises to this person, but forgotten about it when faced with a big problem. After the reaction, I think we've fixed most of their problem, but I shouldn't have let them down in the first place. And I'm not the only one who should feel guilty about this.

While this problem may be solved for now, I know there are going to be others - and in some of those cases, I know solutions will not be possible. It's going to be a very tough few weeks ahead, and I'm sure I haven't yet realized just how tough they will be.

I don't know if I blogged about this, but I have been feeling for a while - that India's young working adults have been growing too fast. In my company, that is definitely the case. In good times, we may feel all smug and unstoppable. But now we are about to find out just how tough things can be for managers with no grey hair...

Feb 22, 2009

25 things...

So, I got 'tagged' by both Daddy-san and his wife on this one. It's doing the rounds on Facebook, and the rules force you to write 25 random things about yourself (that's a lot, even for me!), and to tag 25 (unfortunate) people who then have to do the same thing. It's damn annoying. I didn't have the patience to fully read others' notes, let alone writing one such note myself. But I've decided to test my patience, so here goes. (I'll try and make this interesting, but don't blame me if I fail).

1. I like to think I'm a very open person. So, I don't believe I have 25 things to tell people, that they wouldn't already know.
2. I love long, intellectual discussions and arguments with friends. Back in IIT, I used to spend entire nights on the hostel roof with some 4 friends - arguing over god's existence and suchlike.
3. I'm a very 'here and now' person when it comes to relationships. I don't keep in touch with people. I think this is a defense mechanism I developed during my childhood, as a result of dad's frequent transfers.
4. When I meet people after a gap as long as 10 years, I'd still behave as if we'd been meeting regularly till the day before. I don't take cognizance of the long period we'd have been out of touch, and that surprises some people.
5. In recent years, most people have viewed me as the 'wild, beer-guzzling, party-going bachelor'. It's a mirage. I've been doing that for lack of options. It's not who I am, nor who I want to be. They'll see soon.
6. I had like a dozen crushes in school, beginning in class 4. I don't think I ever spoke to any of them, but I still remember each one in vivid detail - including their birthdays. Yes, I am that guy.
7. I had a steady girlfriend from 2000-2005. I'm still not sure if letting her go was the right decision.
8. I avoided smoking all through college years, and started drinking booze only at B-school.
9. I quit my job at P&G with no offers in hand. I sat at home for 3 months, thinking through my career options and goals. My parents didn't know this. It was a tough time, and I don't think I could ever do that again.
10. Having said that, I must also say it helped a helluva lot. If people are confused or dissatisfied with their careers, I'd encourage them to take a complete break and think everything through.
11. I want to make CEO by age 35. I know it can't be a company like GE that early, and I wouldn't be satisified if it was a tiny setup (where I could basically use any designation I wanted). WNS R&A sounds like a reasonable target ;)
12. I hated 'the Fountainhead' when I first read it. But warmed to Ayn Rand's philosophy over the years. I've read nearly all her works, and consider Howard Roark my role model.
13. I am a closet nerd. I spend most of my time online, and a lot of my free time on Wikipedia. And I have a Universal Remote Control for 5 devices (TV, DVD ...) at home, and I've actually programmed some routines into it. And yes, I assemble my desktops myself - using specific parts purchased from different shops. 
14. I used to love comp programming. I know C,  C++, Java and VB quite well. I created computer games (using C++) in class 10. Between class 12 and college, I wrote a program that simulated the on-field behaviour of 21 football players (the user controls one player). In college, my gf liked playing snake on her cell-phone so I created a comp version in 1 day. I called it happy-train - coz the 'snake' was replaced by a chain of Yahoo Messenger smileys, and the smileys get happier as the chain becomes longer. (If anyone's interested, I can email it to you)
15. When I finished college, the IT bust happened, and being a programmer wasn't an appealing career choice. So I had to give up programming, and went to IIM,L instead.
16. Contrary to what most people believe, I love to travel. It's just that when they suggest places like Gokarna - I feel 'been there, done that'. Suggest an overseas trip and you'll see just how much I really like to travel.
17. Speaking of travel, I have serious plans of going to Bora Bora for my 5th or 10th wedding anniversary (as soon as I have enuf moolah) 
18. I want to have a baby-boy someday. I intend to name him Yash, send him to Doon School, and wish to see him grow up to be a celeb of some sort.
19. I am a perfectionist, and I strongly suspect I suffer from OCD
20. Few things enthuse me, and I convey an impression of being lazy and indifferent to most things. Thank god for that - coz when I do get excited, or take a liking to something, the OCD kicks in. 
21. I was brought up in an unusual environment - I had a lot of exposure to different kinds of people, many places and all sorts of activities - and a lot of freedom to explore. But there were also strict no-no's. As a result, I can handle just about any situation thrown at me, and would usually be very diplomatic.
22. I get annoyed by PETA and animal-lovers. People are dying of starvation and disease in 3rd world countries. In India, we have female foeticide, child labor, naxalism, farmer suicides... I just don't understand how animals' problems can take precedence over any of those, and I see such people as snobs/hypocrites with their priorities seriously f***ed up.
23. I also feel enraged when people cut queues, drive recklessly, evade tax, or chatter in cinema halls. Each of us owes some basic courtesies to other people - but in India most people don't get it. This may be the single strongest reason for me to leave this country someday.
24. I love music, and listen to it all the time. I still don't understand just what my preferences are and why, but some songs just 'connect' at a deep level.
25. I really believe the 'IIT-IIM' label defines me for people I don't know personally, and I don't mind that at all. That label, and IQ of 135, are a big deal.

Phew! That wasn't easy. But I managed :)

Feb 17, 2009

Another foodie post

The last post got me thinking - why haven't I ever blogged about restaurants and food?! So, after devoting one post to Yellow Chilli, I'm writing another one. This is a list of some of my favorite restaurants, and in most cases - favorite dishes there, too.

(This is not a ranking, just writing about them as I remember)

1. Stuffed crabs @ Britto's, Goa. Twice I went to Britto's. Twice we ordered the sea food platter. Twice the only item repeated - multiple times - was the stuffed crab. Eating whole crabs can be quite a chore, but one you don't have to bother with at Britto's. They scoop out the meat, cook it, and serve it in open shells with a layer of cheese on top. Heavenly!

2. Poutine @ Mocha, everywhere. Add: shredded chicken, cottage cheese, pineapple & corn. Ok, this isn't a spectacular dish, but I love it anyway. It's simple, it's tasty, and it fills your stomach without emptying your pocket. And Mocha's always a nice place to visit. Even if you order a terrible dish, the ambience, milk-shakes and hookah esnure you have a great time.

3. Bombay duck fry (starter)Surmai masala and steamed rice (main) @ Mahesh Lunch Home, Mumbai. Mahesh's is the best Indian sea-food restaurant I've been to, and I think I've tried all the famous ones outside of the 5-star hotels. Good food, awesome sea-food aroma (?) all around, and some kick-ass cocktails to go with it. Try their LIIT - it's one of the best. The dishes I've listed are my standard order there. They probably have better stuff - but this is so good I never thought of trying anything else. BTW - did you know the so-called Bombay duck is actually a fish, and found only near Mumbai? I didn't, and I was educated by the Queen of Snobs about this. Well, the food was good anyway.

4. Pacific Islander, off Soi Bang La, Patong, Phuket, Thailand. This is a true hidden gem. Soi Bang La is a commercial street in Phuket - with in-your-face sleazy establishments on one side, and clean establishments - restaurants, tailors, tour operators etc. on the other side. And, no - I didn't mean that they're on two opposite ends of the road, I mean sides - facing each other. The contrast is stark, almost surreal.

Now, on the 'clean' side, there are many little restaurants - each of them indistinguishable from not just one another, but any restaurant near a beach in a touristy town. They're all full of loud, jovial, pot-bellied white men drinkin their beer and watching football on TV. One such restaurant is Pacific Islander. They serve the best Thai food I've ever had. Even the hotels and popular restaurants I visited (in Thailand) weren't anywhere near as good. And they serve some pretty darn good Continental fare as well. Between two of us, we had prawns in green curry, liver and kidney pie, cheesecake and fried green tea ice cream. Every single thing was mind-blowing.

If you ever visit Phuket, do check out this place. But let me warn you - the amount of chilli n spice will blow ur brains (This comes from a guy who regularly devours andhra chilli chicken, kohlapuri curries and chettinad cuisine - so take it seriously)

5. Shammi kebab, chicken masala and mughlai parathas @ Dastarkhwan, near hotel Gemini Continental, Lucknow. You must have heard about Lakhnavi kebab, and probably the name of Tunde Miyan in old city. If you wanna see pictures of a chef with Dilip Kumar, Mohammad Azharuddin, Shah Rukh Khan etc. - go to Tunde's shop. If you wanna have good, friggin lakhnavi kebab, go to Dastarkhwan. Dastarkhwan is also much easier to reach, but keep in mind that you won't be dining with the upper-class there. And like all genuine Muslim restaurants, the food is sinfully greasy and spicy.
Sidenote: Lucknow is famous for its kebabs, but in my not-so-humble opinion, you also get the best chaat there. That's right - the best 'chaat' - not in Delhi, definitely not in Mumbai, but in Lucknow. Just go to any decent looking shop.

6. Karim's, Nizamuddin, New Delhi. The owners claim that Karimuddin was a chef to the Mughal royalty, and the stuff they serve you is made using genuine mughal-court recipes. To drive the point home, they do not have 'Mughlai Chicken' on the menu. In stead, they have Akbari murg, Shahjahani murg... ostensibly prepared just the way each of the kings liked it. I find the legend hard to believe - coz the dishes at their Jama Masjid branch taste nothing like dishes of the same names at Nizamuddin, so at least one version is not genuine.
But if you go to Delhi and are non-vegetarian, DO NOT LEAVE TILL YOU'VE HAD AT LEAST ONE MEAL AT KARIM, NIZAMUDDIN. Then, you can happily tick 'good mughlai food' off your 'things to taste before I die' list.

7. The Dome, 64th floor, State Towers, Bangkok, Thailand. Not the best food. But you can feel like a king sipping your drink in the open, atop 64 storeys of concrete - looking down upon the rest of the world. And a Johnnie Gold there costs just 300 THB! Add some good Sushi for THB 500 :)

Random sidenote: To understand the concept of 'sister' or 'twin' cities, visit London and Singapore. Both are business/financial centers. Both have amazing demographic mixes. Both have public transport systems considered among the best in the world. Both have depressing climate, and erratic showers. And in both - I couldn't find a single remarkable eating joint or dish in a whole week!

Well, these are all that came to mind tonight. I might update this list with more entries later, but these are certainly the most memorable!

How about naming some of your favorites in the comments? If I've missed them, I'll make it a point to follow your recommendations :)

Feb 14, 2009

Yellow Chilli

I eat out a lot. Lunch has been at a restaurant almost everyday for the past 3 years, and even before that, I wasn't a fan of mess food in college. And I've visited restaurants in most cities of India, and tried a variety of stuff abroad as well. While I've enjoyed all of that, I don't remember ever blogging about a restaurant. So, when I say Sanjeev Kapoor's Yellow Chilli is exceptionally good, you'd better believe me!

Most restaurants use some standard tricks to prepare their food faster, and also give their food an appealing taste - they use an excess of oil, often use baking soda to soften meat etc., and are generous with their use of spices. The downside is - most of their dishes end up tasting similar, and these trick-ingredients drown out the real flavors and aroma of the meat or vegetables used. And, of course, you often get the chef's version of a dish - which may be nothing like the traditional version of the dish as prepared in the region of it's origion. The best examples of this are Butter Chicken Masala and Mutton Roghan Josh - the versions I've had in Punjab, UP and South India taste nothing like each other. And, of course, the sambhar you get in North Indian restaurants is a joke.

Yellow Chilli stands out for the autheticity of dishes served there. Each dish is prepared with care, using fine ingredients, and by devoting all the time necessary. And everything tastes the way it ideally should. It's pretty close to home cooked food, except Mom might sometimes get the quantity of salt wrong, or the mutton available in your neighborhood store on a particular Sunday morning may not be very lean and tender. At Yellow Chilli, the food will be perfect.

It's been a month since I had my only meal there, but I still remember everything in vivid detail. We ordered a Nalli ka Roghan Josh, a Rarha Chicken and a Methi Malai Chaman. The mutton was excellent, with a mildly spiced gravy, and you could taste the 'red meat' flavor in every morsel. The Rarha Chicken has a perfectly Punjabi onion-tomato flavor. The Paneer was rich and soft, with a bitter-sweet taste (the combination of fenugreek and fresh cream). No two dishes tasted alike. There was no 'oil to be drained' layer on top. And the typical restaurant-ish taste simply wasn't there. Rarely have I been so pleasantly surprised by what a restaurant had to offer.

On second thought, I realized that I should have expected this. Sanjeev Kapoor is the guy who's been teaching people how to cook, on TV, for many years now. As he had leant his name to this restaurant, they had to get everything perfectly right. Otherwise, he'd lose his credibility.

I have heard some others' opinions about Yellow Chilli, and not all are favorable. Oh well, you just can't please everyone. I guess if you totally want to get a 'restaurant' feel when you eat out, this may not be the place for you. But, if 'authentic' is your thing, you simply have to try out Yellow Chilli.

Now, I'm hungry :)

Jan 4, 2009


... Hypermetropia. It was good (well, early on, at least - some posts in the first month were really funny, covered a variety of subjects, and were written in different styles)

It's been dead for a while. I wanna give it another shot. Any volunteers to help?