The Bandstand Visuals

Its funny how much you can do with a sub-standard cellphone camera!

clouds n sunsetscene from one of those monsoon outings at Barista

Black n White Hues!

The man in  a cap is not himesh. Its the Coffee Day guy!

SubhraCan you make out Subhra in the background!  Life in black and white can make you lose so many sights!

Kazmi

Kazmi in a blissful state!

Noticed – there is a movie scheduled for release – 26th July at Barista (www.26thjuly.com)

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Brooding over coffee… a new idea

These days, it rains quite often. Both at Mumbai, and Delhi. When it rains, having a coffee at a Coffee Day or Barista seems far more interesting than having a coffee on a normal day. Especially, if your office happens to be 50 meters away from Bandstand, and the coffee comes with the picture perfect view of an ocean in turmoil, weather gods making everything a little more beautiful, and your spirits a delicate balance of serenity and thoughtfulness.

What do I think of while having a cuppa at the Barista, Bandstand one of these days – Was I like this when I was growing up? The answer is – NO! 

Back then, there were no Baristas. Back then, paying 45 bucks for a cup of coffee was not really possible for me. Back then, coffee was not the most important thing in my life. Back then, I did not need a break from the monotony of a daily life. And back then, having a conversation did not mean I had to take my mind off so many things. Back then, things were simpler! 

Question no.2 – What would be different if I were growing up today? Well, for starters, I grew up mostly in smaller towns – Raebareilly (UP), Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), Ranchi (Jharkhand, then Bihar). Most of these towns, today, do have something like a Barista where people can be seen hanging out. Where, spending 45 bucks once in a while is no big deal.

Next Question – Why am I saying all this? Because, my guess is that the phenomenon will spread out. And very soon, we will have the next generation of small towns and cities coming up with these coffee parlours.

And hence – Biz Idea – Small town coffeeshop – Coffee2 (Coffee for two! Coffee too!! We have a coffee place too!!!)

What’s my point? There used to be this sardarji’s outlet in Ranchi, called Frankies. That, as far as I can remember, was the only decent Burger place in Ranchi back in 1990s. And it used to do roaring business. Will that place become extinct if a McDs came into being. I don’t think so!  And hence, the case for making an early move into the smaller towns, building loyalty, and harvesting it. Start small, cater to the small and growing. Be the Air Deccan of coffee shops. AD was not meant to be for those who fly business class, or where the company foots the bill for travel. It was supposed to bring air-travel to the masses. And needless to say, they have been successful. They have ushered in the modern aviation era in India. And I see them comfortably placed for the next generation of evolution as well. Simply because they are present in most of the remote destinations.

That’s as much as I would write from my bizidea notebook, while I think of the numbers!  I am sure many would disagree!  But the disagreements are what would interest me more! For two reasons – 1. you can give me some food for thought! 2. As JRD said – Despite all the difficulties, all the frustrations, there is a joy in having done something as well as you could and better than others thought you could. Let me add an Einstein to it as well – If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it!

Theatre Review: Katha Collage – II

I had seen Katha Collage-I a couple of years back in Delhi, and goes without saying that I was mighty impressed with the play (directed by Naseeruddin Shah, and enacted by an ensemble cast of Naseer himself, Jameel Khan, and Naseer’s son, Imaad Shah).

Katha Collage-I was based on a set of three stories (two written by Premchand – Shatranj ke Khiladi and Bade Bhai Saheb, and one written by Kamta Prasad – Sankraman – about peculiarities of a an aging father, and his fetish with switching off lights).

With the same set of great expectations, I went to see Katha Collage-II (at Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai), expecting Naseer to weave his directorial magic there as well. This one, was a set of seven relatively smaller stories (adaptation of satirical articles written by Harishankar Parsai, who is known for his wit and humor in Hindi literature), pretty much carried out as one act plays. The star cast was recognizable, appropriate, but not the greatest. [Cast: Rakesh Chaturvedi, Arvind Pandey, Heeba Shah, Vishwajeet Pradhan, Ankur Vikal]

It’s a great play. But not in the same league as KC-I. However, the reason I am writing this post is not really to critique what I saw. I just want all the readers of this blog to definitely definitely watch KC-I as well as KC-II

The first story – Telephone (about the all pervasive telephone) is a disappointment. A little too loud, a little too vague, and the actors a little out of sorts. While the sarcasm is alive, not the impact.

Second – Bechara Bhala Aadmi (Pitiable nice men) is about how people take benefits of simpletons by calling them nice over and over again! This one was good both in terms of performance as well as adaptation. However, the length could be shortened a bit.

As we move towards the intermission, the tempo, the ease and the quality of performance improves, and refreshingly.

Third – (Private College ka Ghoshna Patra) The story around a Private College’s manifesto has some very subtle humor around the quality of education and the ulterior motifs behind the sprouting good-for-nothing private educational institutions. Not that I am against private educational institutions per se, but don’t we have a plethora of them that talk more than they deliver. Gaurav Sabnis became a big name in the blogosphere when he attacked one of them (wink, wink!)

Fourth (last before interval), which was about the whole fuss around taking bath (Snan), is the pick of the lot. The funniest of the plays, it features some of the most funny moments of KC-II, especially the comments about the vitality and energy shown by some people while taking bath in winters being utilized for some higher motives and national benefit!

 

After the interval, the fifth act is around the insecurities people have about their wives being exposed to other men (Vo Zara Wife Hain Na!). Quite subtle and a good dig on the Indian men, who are always caught in the dilemma of women’s equality and their own insecurity, it’s a nicely done play where the protagonist is a blind man (I could see this highest form of pun getting lost on many– you need to close your eyes to see what the world really is!)

Sixth act – (Samay Pe Milne Wale) around the demerits of being on time is again a timeless piece on the importance many people attach to the timing of their actions.

The finale – Prem Prasang mein Father (the role of a quintessential Indian dad in a love story) is a hilarious take on the double edged sword that impressing your girlfriend’s father can become!

 

The biggest drawback of the play, as I see it, in the metro circuits is the pure hindi language used (Klisht Hindi Bhasha), which I am sure goes over the head of many, who would like to look and feel intellectual, but have adopted Hin-glish as their mother tongue. That probably explains why “Vagina Monologues” is a bigger better sell-out play than plays like “Katha Collage”, “Jinne Lahore Ni Vekhya”, “Anaamdas Ka Potha”, et al.

The best thing about the play is that its a great writer’s work directed by one of the best in the industry (Naseer’s other works such as Waiting for Godot, The Prophet, Ismat Aapa Ke Naam, etc. are all acclaimed plays). It surely belongs to the “cannot be missed” list of plays!

Book Review: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows

Finished off reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on Saturday itself. Had not pre-ordered it thinking I will borrow it from someone to read (well, I am not an avid HP fan!!). But then, having read the last six books, it was a big temptation to see Deathly Hallows looking at me from the windows of Crossword. Plus, the realization that I will be on a bus to Pune for the next 3-4 hours. Decision made. Target closed. Book picked up!

 

So, what do I think of the book? It’s a good read. But I would still rate it as a hyped book banking on the media revolution of modern times, and the fact that it’s the seventh book of a seven book series (hmph). And you can read on, I have no plans of spilling the much closely guarded secrets! [Its funny how the book leak has led to a set of blog articles around what does security mean in the modern world! – Link 1, Link 2]

 

What’s right with the book? It is similar to the previous six books in narration style. Simple for everyone to comprehend, lucid to keep flowing, too many sub-plots to keep you intrigued, does not get lost in details (unlike classical literature, where setting up the mood may take a few pages with all the descriptions of the woods, the color of the dog’s skin, falling leaves, etc.), continuity of characters and most importantly, a continuity of the story.

What’s wrong with the book? It gives you the feeling that JK got tired of writing this story at this point. She herself was saturated. So she decided to create the counter of Horcruxes, a concept conveniently introduced towards the fag end of the series – Hallows. So, the plots are being closed out one after the other. She didn’t want to get too bogged down in different characters, so there are deaths that just happen, without creating the same emotional trauma and action as was the case with the death of a Sirius Black or Dumbledore, or even the death of James and Lily Potter. Even the anguish felt for Neville Longbottom’s parents’ death by Cruciatus seemed better portrayed.

Despite what a lot of J K Rowling comments may have you believe, Harry, Ron and Hermione don’t seem to have grown up as human beings/wizards. While Hermione does showcase a new set of curses and spells acquired over the summer, all the wizards are seen to be using pretty much the same set of things. I mean – If Voldemort is that powerful, he should use something beyond avada kedavra – which sounds like a poor version of Indian madari’s Abra ka dabra. It reminds me of Naruto, where the only seeming growth in Naruto’s powers after 2 years (Naruto Shippuden) is that his Rasengan (Ball of Chakra) is more controlled and bigger.

The worst thing – There is a chapter which is called “19 years later” which is a desperate attempt from JKR to close the series, once and for all. Full of clichés and expected puns, the last chapter is as pathetic as it can get.

 There are several untied parts, including the immensely grown powers of Voldemort, as against Harry, who doesnt seem to be growing any more powerful, even though the pretext is that it should have happened. Something like the growth of Neo fuelling the growth of Agent Smith in The Matrix.  Again, an analysis would reveal things about the story, which I don’t want to do!

Net net, I picked the book because I just couldn’t resist the temptation. If you can resist the temptation, then borrow it from someone who has already bought the book. It’s a good read, but not worth 900 bucks or so. I can praise and nit-pick a lot more, but that would give away significant chunks of the story.  

Endnote – Chandrakanta Santati (written by Devki Nandan Khatri) was written as a set of six books. Including Chandrakanta, that would become 7 books!  While Nirja Guleri did destroy the worth of the book to a great extent (through mindless histrionics and pathetic adaptation), I still think it’s one of the greatest serial books ever written. It’s a pity that Hindi literature does not have the same reader base in India as English literature.

Air Deccan Chronicles!

Air Deccan – a flight that is often very heatedly debated by all common people like me, you and the dog named boo. Every time I visualize the experience of taking an AD flight, its chaos on the left, chaos on the right, and more often than not, a mayhem in the center.

Air Deccan – Couple of Weeks Back

For the umpteenth time, I swore that I would not take an Air Deccan flight and for the umpteenth time, I took another AD flight. Funny, the initials match. AD giving a hard time to AD.

It starts off with their website, which in times not so far in the distant past, would crash the moment they announced discounted fares. I know of zealous people waking up at 5 in the morning and trying to log on to the AD website (Another coincidence – my previous blogger site had the word – zealots). And yours truly has also been guilty of this. Maybe not 5 in the morning, but definitely 2 in the night. Logging on to the site is like penetrating the defences of Rahul Dravid at the peak of his career. Its as fatal as trusting a depleted Newcastle team to win the EPL. You can hope, but you can not hope to see your coming true.

The second stage – After a lot of typing and clicking you reach the stage of authorizing payments. There is a significant chance that something will go wrong here. The payment would not get authenticated, or maybe, worse still, the payment will get lost somewhere in transit. The bank would have paid, AD would have gotten the payment, but they would not have realized that they have got the payment. You don’t have a ticket. Bank is happy. You are using your credit card. AD is happy. They have the money. They have an extra seat in their flight. (Not that they need a reason to overbook on their flights, I hear). Show me a better example of a greater social good at your expense.

Stage 3 – the traveling experience. You enter the airport. Shoddy baggage screening counters. Security checks that can be violated through at least ten different chains in a check-in baggage that are left just like that, between the time you get your baggage screened and leave it at the check-in counter. Counters – unmanaged. The processing time for each traveler is too high. Some people tell me that even that is by design. God forbid, if you ever run into a problem, there are chances that by the time you get to meet the manager and get your problem resolved, the flight would already have taken off.

You are finally issued a frail thin boarding pass which does not have a seat number.

Now comes the counter from where boarding passes are screened and flight boarding is announced. The moment a flight’s departure is announced, you can see all AD travelers scampering for being first in the queue. Reminds me of the rush in a national food scheme. In the end, everyone gets a decent enough seat. But the old economy culture of putting a rumal (handkerchief) from the window of a bus and then claiming that the seat is yours just because you put your rumal or gamcha (towel) there, is a sight to behold. Funny anecdote – in the first few flights of AD, couple of sophisticated people ambling into the craft at the end did not get any seats and had to sit on stools/chairs for the duration of the flight holding on to the aisle seats to avoid toppling over.

And finally, at the luggage belt, AD usually has luggage from 3-4 flights coming on the same belt, causing a huge commotion, and yet again, longer wait times.

 

A lot of this changed in my most recent experience with AD, this morning.

 

Air Deccan – Yesterday.

It was quite an intriguing thing. Air Deccan has started issuing seat numbers… Finally! And the dude on the counter was talking pleasantly. For a change! And the flight was a far more pleasant experience. There will still be a few of those who want to run and be the first one to get their boarding card checked (the flight won’t leave any sooner dude!), get on the bus (ditto), get down from the bus (more ditto), run to the stairs for getting on the flight (whats more than more? ditto), and repeat the drill the other way to reach the luggage belt (hmph!). Reminds of the line from Katha Collage – II, where the protagonist pehelwan mentions that the nation might have benefited a little more if these people were to invest their adrenalin rushes on something more productive!
How I love it when their luggage comes last! (some sadistic pleasure!!)

Anyway – a lot of other pleasant things about this Air Deccan flight (I am just trying to correct myself, because I don’t let go of any opportunity to do Air Deccan bashing either). It left 5 minutes before time. They had mentioned flight time as 5:45AM, boarding time as 5:25AM (all the flights have that). But having had all the passengers come on time, they decided to let the flight take air sooner. We reached Mumbai about 10 minutes before time. And on a pleasant morning in Mumbai, I was home by 8AM. Nice!

If only they are able to maintain this experience consistently.

 

A Thoughtful Musing – The womb of humanity carries not the foundation of tomorrow, but also the ruins of the past. Its either the conformation to the ruins or a rebellion against the disaster that shapes the future, much against what many would have you believe- individual brilliance

GMail Bug! Buggers!!

Noticed a very interesting bug in GMAIL.

Lets say my email id is amitdas@gmail.com

Now the bug – If I send a mail to amitdas@gmail.com, it reaches me… if I send it to amit.das@gmail.com it reaches me, if I send it to amitd.as@gmail.com or ami.tdas@gmail.com it still reaches me!

Hmm… problem with that?  Well.. I don’t own amit.das@gmail.com, or amitd.as@gmail.com, for instance. So, my guess is that whoever owns that particular id would be receiving my mails. And I say that there have been a few mails that I end up being the unintended receipient of! Poor kid! Thats 1.7GB worth of mails in his mailbox! And a lot of crap that I am sure he doesn’t want to use! For me, it could be compromising my personal information! Woooo! I am scared!!

Anyways – the next thing I do is try and check if other email ids (a.mitdas etc) are available. Thankfully, they are not!  It could mean that I am worrying unnecessarily. amitdas being taken my imply amit.das is also taken. BUT, it could also mean that someone figured it out before me, and is misusing this bug! or securing himself! Eitherways, the truth is out there!

Here is the response from Google Team, when I reported the bug (look at the list of most relevant questions in response to the reported bug! hmph!) –

Re: [#138335018] Bug with email ids (amit.das is the same as amitdas)   

Function VBGetSwfVer(i) on error resume next Dim swControl, swVersion swVersion = 0 set swControl = CreateObject(“ShockwaveFlash.ShockwaveFlash.” + CStr(i)) if (IsObject(swControl)) then swVersion = swControl.GetVariable(“$version”) end if VBGetSwfVer = swVersion End Functionfunction FlashRequest() {} function Player_DoFSCommand() {}

   
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Featured Institution : Mann Deshi Udyogini – B-School for Poor Women

Came across this TOI Story in the morning about a B-school aimed at empowering women.

Our B-school, the Mann Deshi Udyogini (MDU), was launched in December 2006 with a Rs 7 lakh grant from HSBC. It is located at Vaduj near Satara. “

“Our courses on confidence building and financial literacy; bag-making, a two-hour biweekly session on spoken English (Rs 10 per session) and basic computer skills are immensely popular.”

This is a sign of where the rural India wants to go.

Our biggest challenge is how to meet the huge demand for such courses in rural areas. Also, our curriculum and training has to be innovative, low-cost and graphics-driven as most of the women are semi-literate. Another of our challenges is to involve the men so that they cooperate with their women, don’t feel left out and insecure.

I urge all you smart guys out there to think of ways you can help them.

Some other links to read about them are – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

They are based in Satara, Maharasthra.. Here is their website

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