The Ringside View

My attempts at writing have always been stacked up in old diaries and scraps of yellowing paper.Time,neglect and phylum insecta however, always ensured that the gibberish i scrawled, never would see the prying gaze of an alien eye.Years later, i still scribble once in a while - this time in word documents stored in some obscure folder somewhere in the innards of my C drive.I am unearthing some of them and opening them up for the interested.To get what i call - The Ringside view.

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Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Nice place to be - addendum

Michelangelo, the great sculptor places his hammer and chisel down, steps away and scrutinizes. The form and expression is alright. The marble from father’s quarry lacks luster these days though. Wonder why, he thinks. It’s over chipped a little near the left hand, and it’ll need a chip or two near the shoulder blade, he made mental note. The unveiling happened at the king’s court the following day. When the silken sash slid off the marble structure, Michelangelo, waited for the prying eyes to scan and exclaim. Exclaimed they did. And in unison – ‘Too much detail missed I say’. And as we pane out of this frame, Michelangelo is seen sitting hand on chin, saying to himself - ‘What the fuck do I do now’.

It’s easier when you’re a blog writer though. When people post reading scream – ‘Ayyo, too much detail missed’, you just scream back and say – ‘Ok fine, I’ll add addendum’. ‘The essence of the city can never be captured in four odd paragraphs I try telling’. ‘Fine, add two more. Six should cover it’ comes reply.

And that ladies and gentlemen, is the inspiration for the addendum.


Chapter 5: How did I miss these out? Apologies and all that.

Let us put ourselves at the Bible Society end of Mark’s Road and turn the knob on our time machine a fifty years back. Biff!!! South Parade sans road dividers and raging traffic. Tree lined promenades and Lord Cubbon’s park a beckoning green in the distance. It’s fifty years back people and those were the days when traffic junctions were not yet named after leg spinners who with due assistance with Bangalore born umpires took ten wickets in an innings. And Koshy’s is still there; serving hot appams and creamy stew every Sunday morning. You roll back the knob and it’s still there. Another generation at the helm, but sill serving evergreen favorites like in the hey days. It’s quintessentially old Bangalore. And omitting it from a list of this kind would be sheer sacrilege.

Healthiest bar to go to on a Friday night (or Saturday afternoon or Sunday evening) – Sreeraj Lassi Bar. On a summer day, you have to be deft in your movements to tilt the table fan in your direction without the people in the arc noticing; but once that’s achieved, you’re pretty much ready to order. We always tried a Hayward’s 5000 ad simulation back in the college days.
‘One Fruit Salad with ice cream’, I would say.
‘One with double ice cream’, Suri would interject with mean looks and all. It’s not an appreciated stunt but on boring balmy afternoons when nothing happened one moment after another, it’s a harmless self amusement trick that’s worth attempting.

Best sweet tooth moment in a shopping avenue – Bhagatrams. A huge urn the size of a mini coracle and a 100 golden brown jamoons living swimmingly in cardamom laced, pistachio laden sugar syrup. Downing them should well be classified as a class one tier experience but what makes it even more blissful is the total lack of ambience in which you get to devour them. They recently upgraded the dim lit, oily walled, ‘shoulder push people buying khova and halwa’ kinda ambience to a more conservative sweet shop style. What a shame.

Best place to eat biriyani – Last day of exam in schooldays roughly translated to – Chicken biriyani at RR followed by ice cream at Lakeview. Little wonder then that I always scored least on the last paper. You were always in this godamn hurry to get those essay questions out of the way and head to the mecca of Andhra Biriyani. The restaurant however strangely closed down for a considerable period in between and the Nandhini’s and Nagarjuna’s filled in to take its place. [RR has reopened on Church Street in a new age avatar and the food is still mighty good. But that old charm is gone and had they called it by any other name, one really wouldn’t have noticed]


Chapter 6: Last Course.

75 paisa bun – ‘You are all convent educated Western block fellows maga. You are not aware of the simple joys of Vijaynagar’, Kams ranted. I sniggered and followed him. One storm drain jump later we were at a typical end of the street type Iyengar bakery. I peered at the glass showcase. The usual suspects were all there – desiccated coconut smeared honey cake, chocolate cake with cream made of pure dalda and cocoa powder, huge circular dil pasands, vegetable puffs, an array of savories in glass bottles et al. The smell of freshly baked bread wafted through as the bespectacled, white vest clad, threaded Iyengar looked our way. '75 paisa bun kodi sir’, Kams ordered. The man blinked then bent down and emerged with a golden brown beauty. In a jiffy it was cut into four quarters and served on a morning edition of Praja Vani. ‘Yeshtu’. Kami asked. ‘One tonty-five’. Change disbursed. ‘Adhe maga problemu’ Kams continued, gorging the 75 paisa bun which costed one twenty-five. Legend has it (or so Kams claimed) that this bakery was a local favourite for buns which costed 75 paisa. So despite inflation and all things financial, they decided to call it 75 paisa bun and charge it 1.25. Wonder how much the 75 paisa bun costs today?

Chinese on a budget – Little Chef, Church Street. (No longer there). It was officially what you called – Garage food. You could go in big groups and sit on discarded Ambassador seats and order anything from Chicken lollipop to Egg Hakka Noodles. However one fine day we go to Little Chef and our familiar cashier from Sanman Darshini is at the helm. He beams a hundred watt smile and says –‘Banni sir banni.Evaga navve sir managementu’. We were like –‘Oh super’. But when the Schezwan fried rice had Tomato bath flavours and the Hakka noodles tasted vaguely like the Shavige bath back at Sanman, we decided we may as well save the travel and have the originals.

The end.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Nice place to be (....contd)

Chapter 1: Massalle!!!!

Best place to go for a jog - Its Sunday. And second week of January is too early to break your New Year resolution. It’s cold. But jog you must. Take the effort. The landscaped parks nearer home are no good. Go for the mother of all oxygen bars – Lal Bagh. It’s my vote for the best place to go for a jog.

Now to the crux of it. Best place for breakfast after jog - Your New Year resolution only talked about exercising. There was no asterisked reference to not eating good rich food with dollops of ghee after rigorous workout. You go by the old clichéd rule of ‘energy can neither be created nor destroyed’. The best place for breakfast after jog – Mavalli Tiffin Room.

Best place for longest wait to eat Masala Dosa – Mavalli Tiffin Room again.

Best place to brag I had Masala Dosa at – lo and behold Mavalli Tiffin Room.

You invariably finish your fast track exercising model (100 meters jog and 300 meters walk) in pretty quick time. Time now to exercise food pipe, digestive system and other internal muscles. They also need exercise you see. It’s seven in the morning. You reach MTR and you get the shock of your life. Half of south Bangalore are waiting hand on belly, grinning ear to ear for their Khara bath and filter coffee to arrive. Two hours is too much waiting time you decide and this is when the next place comes in handy.

Best place to have Masala Dosa in old world style – Its small, non descript and pretty much looks like an R K Laxman cartoon rip off. Sepia toned pictures of great men from bygone eras grace the oily walls (all eating Masala Dosas of course). ‘Right hand only’, you remind Paps. Dosa arrives, divine and golden brown. Ladles of lentil based chutney pours down like a waterfall. ‘Sambhar idhiya’, Paps asks. Sacrilege. No one’s asked that in a hundred years at Vidhyarthi Bhavan. Waiter glares. If looks could kill, he’s freakin ash. You continue eating like you disowned him a long time back. Vidhyarthi Bhavan, Basavangudi – the best place to eat masala dosa under SM Krishna photographs and all that.

Chapter 2: Tea, Coffee and other liquids.

Best place to go have cutlet and order no coffee – Indian Coffee House. You’ll get the stares and get asked ‘What else sir?’ a hundred times. Ponder for a while and then ask – ‘One glass water please. Amele bill kotbidi’. Never ask for coffee. The expression on the waiter’s face - priceless.

Best place to have lemon tea – Mecca, Johnson Market. You tell the man at the counter – ‘Do lemon tea aur do kajjur’. He in turn may look at his apprentice and say – ‘Kya re karra so; Kajjur’, but don’t ya bother, that’s the adjective version of it.

Best place to drink fancy tea and eat momos – Infintea, Cunningham Road. The tea usually comes with Bunsen burner, sand clocks and all apparatus complicated. Most drinks come with a glass or pot option. So its best advised you go for the glass while you coax whoever goes with you to go for pot. At least you’ll have entertainment at close quarters.

Best place to have coffee and feel higher up in the value chain – Barista, The Leela. Too many people are faking this now, so you are forewarned.

Best coffee place that is no longer there – Café Beanstalk, Houdin Road. How at all they closed it, I do not know.

Best beer hole to go to after bad performances at common admission tests – Pub World, Residency Road.

Best pub to go to and flash loyalty card – Pecos, off Brigade Road. It’s also the best place to go to, if your friends are human embodiments of oil tankers and you love popcorn – free with every pitcher.

Best pub to go to, if you’re not a beer guzzler – Mojo’s. Excellent egg chilly.

Chapter 3: Taking the woman out

Most clichéd place to take your woman out for dinner – Ebony, MG Road. She takes menu in hand and orders Mutton Dhansak for you. Why? Because her cousin told her it’s good. (You don’t like the way Dhansak sounds and you don’t really like mutton). Food arrives and even before you put the first spoonful into your mouth you know that Dhansak is not for you. Thanks for ruining my dinner btw. You make mental note, that this relationship if it continues this way, is heading the Dhansak route.

Ok, but still; why is it clichéd, you ask? I don’t know. The last time someone mentioned taking their wife out for dinner, I instantly barked out – Ebony. And the reply was – Ya, there only. So I decide to mark it clichéd. Period.

So then, best place to take woman out for dinner and still not compromise on Ebony view – Papparazi, Manipal Centre. It’s the old Pinch of Jazz, and I reckon they still do play the Jazz on weekends. Great décor. Good food. And super views of Cubbon Road decked up like a golden pendant (I wanted to call it queen’s necklace, but then if some Mumbai folks read it, they’ll laugh).

Best place for eating Black Forest Crepes in candlelight – Casa Picola, Residency Road. Despite the candlelight and all that there is no way you can give her undivided attention until justice is done to the crepes. Might be a good idea to keep her informed.

Best place to have ice cream – Corner House, Airlines Hotel. It’s never complete till you manage to get onto the swing in the attached kid’s park. We call it the contemplation machine and can be a good conversation spinner when combined with French apple cake with two dollops of Vanilla ice cream. If there are kids playing on the swing, don’t think, just throw them out.

Best place to have ice cream on a budget – Cool Joint, Jayanagar. Your elusive search for that ultimate combination of quality and (more importantly) quantity should end right here. It does not come easy though. Minor injuries and tomato soup on your T shirt should pretty much be expected as you jostle your way though the human wave, ice cream in hand.


Chapter 4: This, that and other things

Best place to listen to music – Java City, Church Street. CG by now is probably rolling on the floor and laughing. OK, agreed they do go out of sync at times. Agreed, the acoustics at JC is bad and all that. Agreed they do play pop. But it’s still a nice place for everyday music. Play on Lester, we’ll be there.

Best place to eat Rolls – Fanoos, Johnson Market. It’s like the Woodstock of roll eating. Land up anytime after sundown and you’ll get to know what I mean.

Best place to go have lunch when you don’t have anywhere else to go – Hotel Empire. Location not important. Look around, you might find one close to where you are. Or drop them a note and they’ll open one pretty shortly.

It’s also the only oasis serving food for all folks, drunk and lost at 2 in the night. It’s very often left over food I hear, but if you’re drunk that bad, chances are you would never realize anyways.

Best parking lot to chill out in – Hotel Airlines, Lavelle Road. It’s almost the place where we have our college get together these days. It works out cheap and the avoidable characters will not turn up telling – “You’re meeting at a parking lotaa?”

Best place to go for a breakfast buffet – Sunny side up, Ebony. Tailor made for Sundays. Provided you can wake up that is. But conversations of this nature post breakfast are not uncommon.

You: “I had breakfast at Ebony today”
Dad: “Where is that?”
You: “Barton Centre. 13th floor”
Dad: “What did you have?”
You: “You can have whatever you want. It’s a buffet. Idly, vada……”
Dad: “How much?”
You: “125 rupees inclusive of tax”
Dad: “What? 125 rupees for idly vada. You ……..” (rest of the conversation is predictably unprintable)

Best place to go watch a play – Alliance Francise, Vasant Nagar. It’s got a French Riviera atmosphere that is unrivalled. (Aside) Being a mongrel at the Alliance is a reincarnation option for many I know. Me included. Reason: you get petted and cuddled by all the good looking girls studying French at the institute. It’s almost as though, if you’re good looking and super hot, you’ve got to cuddle the mongrel.

Best….wait a minute. It’s got to end somewhere isn’t it? And since there is no logical end in sight, I may as well end here.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nice place to be.

Bangalore was an idyllic city to grow up in – it was quiet. It was pleasant. It was all that a young kid of 5 would ever want. Ok. Agreed it was not on the waterfront like the ancestral home where we went during summer vacations. And there were no mango trees with drooping branches full of honey sweet treasures. There were not even elegant coconut trees to peer out of from the bedroom window. But yet, it was a nice place to be.

Middle school happened and then high school. You cribbed about the fact that yours was not a metro city. Why can’t they just give us DD2. Dad brought home a new TV and it had 12 channels. That DD1 would come on all 12 was another matter. It’s a time when your horizons expanded. When what sent your pulse racing was not visits to Cubbon Park but the arterial roads that lead to it; with all the nice cinemas and pretty girls. Bangalore was still a nice place to be.

You amble into college and there’s an option now for everything. There’s an option to wear what you want, an option to attend classes or not. There’s even an option to crawl out of class, but of course after your roll call is called. The PYT in the neighboring class is super hot. Her dad owns a firm in Kormangala somewhere they said. Computers and all that. Unnoticed, the city grew; throwing opportunities for hundreds like father of the PYT. The fact that he’s a millionaire now is a matter inconsequential. What of course is consequential was that Bangalore was still a nice place to be.

High rises happened and then even higher rises happened. More glass, more concrete and more carbon fumes. At traffic intersections, you look at your friend sitting pillion and say ‘Fucked isn’t it’. ‘Mighty well’, he replies. 64 sittings in examination halls and you get a graduate cap, a scroll and a job to boot. Not ironically, its computers and all that. You sit sipping Latte with friends and discuss the death of the old world charm. But its coffee table banter all said and done. The city after all is yours. It’s metamorphosed alright but the spirit is the same. Will be the same. And you know that when you turn that corner, there is that school which you walked to as a kid, or the hotel where dad took you for that golden brown dosa. This is where we come to the crux of what I actually wanted to discuss – my personal Bangalore favourites. The best place to take your woman out (on a budget or otherwise) to the best place to have filter coffee. Join me for all this and more, in a blog coming shortly. (Yippee!!!! And this is where we stop for a commercial break and ads for Complan and Maggi 2 minute noodles would come streaming in).

And btw, Bangalore is still a nice place to be :)


Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Jacket

When I came to England last July, the sun was shining so brightly, that with Bob Marley playing on my mp3 player, it seemed more Jamaica then Blighty. It was the hottest summer in years they told me and I smiled disdainfully at the thought of all those people who advised me Eastern Stores on Commercial Street for woolen jackets, thermal undies and what not before my Heathrow bound flight took off. ‘You didn’t buy thermal wearaa. You’re fucked I tell you’, one oracle had told me. Just like some other mentioned – ‘What? I can’t believe you’re not taking ginger garlic paste. What the fuck are you taking then man?’ But unmindful of all the oracle speak, I skipped the much advised ‘Eastern Stores pilgrimage of the west bound traveler’ and landed at Heathrow with potentially the lowest MTR packets per luggage count among all Indian travelers.

And when I was greeted with a blistering sun, my decision immediately seemed justified. It was summer people and the traditional men’s wear this time of the year was 1 Bench army shorts and nothing else. Women on the other hand still averaged 2 garments, but they made up by ensuring those two pieces of whatever, was so small that you’d wonder if they were picked up from the kids below 5 sections in Debenhams.

But a few months down the line, the sun shut shop earlier and the Gulf Stream (I might be wrong here but that’s what they told me) brought with it a chill which made you seem like you just opened the sliding door in the frozen food section. I quickly got into a blue V neck jumper and turned up in office like a grim reminder of an impending winter. Dan was sitting there in his regular short sleeved thin white polo. ‘You not well’, he asked me when I turned in. ‘No. I am ok. Just getting a bit cold isn’t it’, I replied. He ignored my reply and continued; tugging his T shirt as though to let some air in ‘The weather has all gone naked hasn’t it. Global warming and all that shit’. I nodded.

However, when he turned up in a sweatshirt a few weeks later ,it sure was a sign that the Gulf Stream or whatever was now fuckin business talking. I took cue and immediately went and bought a brown corduroy jacket to keep me warm through the cold winter days (and nights).

“Nice jacket macha”, Lucky remarked when he met me at the gym that evening. Thanks, I nodded. I had had my few moments of doubt after the billing was made. Those moments of self questioning. ‘Is it nice?’. But with every good review, the points accrued and the 'it is good' quotient became firmer.

The next day at the gym, I met Lucky and he was wearing the same brown corduroy jacket. “I bought one too”, he smiled. “But why did you buy the same colour? Same design?” I pleaded. “So what? Ineeke cardioaa”, he asked making little of it and stepping onto the treadmill.

So we walked all through last winter, like German Gestapo on a crime beat, brown corduroy jacket clad and all that. I abashed. Lucky unabashed. And when somebody smiled and remarked “Nice jackets”, the paranoid me searched for any hidden sarcasm. Why did he say jackets (plural) and why did he give a cocky smile?


The seasons have rolled over one complete cycle. Lucky has left; leaving his brown jacket behind. Mine is strung up on a hangar for a long time now. But there was a chill in the air yesterday and I pondered if I should wear it after all. But you know what; it would be strange being the only one in the brown corduroy jacket. And not being like a German crime beat officer on his rounds. I let it lie there on the hangar. A new one shall be bought.

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