Sunday, November 29, 2009

Shantaram By Gregory David Roberts - Book Review (5/5)

The big tome was gifted to my wife by someone about 3 years back. I think it came in 2005 and I finally picked it up from the top shelf of my wall clinging shelf-mesh-cum-library last month. Its 900+ pages and I am not a big fan of such heavy books, being a lazy reader I often take few life-times to finish one but of all the gambles I have taken in picking fat books (including 'Zen and the art..') I have been always able to finish.

So I finished this a while back and waited for couple of weeks to settle my oozed-out wonder-stuck eyes, gives some rest to my often-excited lower left pump and sort of let-it-sink before I attempt to write a quick review. Often the initial excitement dies down to a more informed insight and time makes you better.

My overall rating for the book is 5/5, after a long time. The last one I guess was 'The Kite Runner'. Here's a short scoop

Its based on Robert's own life in Mumbai, an Australian fugitive who is on a run and finds Mumbai interesting enough to hang-on. Its not an auto-biography but its a fact based fiction , now that sounds like a lawyer-lingo. Well, the protagonist is the author himself and he goes through his life in Mumbai as an expat, as a slum-dweller, as a mafia and finally finding himself amid Mujahideens. The plot is brilliant and characters are juicy and full and David ensures that the narration is engaging, novel but at the same time full with thrill.

The book is a Philosophical fiction by someone who takes us into those areas where a bulk of us have no access viz. Jhoparpatthis (slums), Black Markets / Mafia, Jails, Drugs and what not. Its a great read for academic purposes since it deals with today's world and while it would have its own share of writer's creativity , the details around Arthur Road Jail, Durgs, Cold Turkey are something which doesn't look far from reality. And mind you, the book is not about the main character, Lindsay aka Lin Baba aka Lin Bhai but it gives equal justice to all the others and doesn't make it into a self soul-search saga. Too many things happen all the time and all the characters go through a lot of transformations, in the end it almost reads like a suspense thriller where you would want to know, what would happen now.

There is a plan to make a movie where Johnny Depp is going to play the lead role, directed by Mira. The latest plan for release is 2011. For more than few times, I felt like doing a movie playing Lin and after some deliberation with myself, I settled for Nazeer.

Here's the wiki link and there is also a official website here.

Shantaram is the 2nd of a quartret which David has planned but I dont think other 3 ever made it or made it so far.

The book is also greatly recommended for folks who are looking beyond thrilling-engaging-edgy reads, some of the lines are exceptional.

I know with 900+ pages, it may sound thick but read it for 'Character Building' and one which you would enjoy unlike the traditional 'Character Building' activities. If you read the book, I would be delighted to read your views about the book in the comments section. I am hoping that if you chose to read this after my recommendation, I didn't let you down.

I just finished 'Outliers' by Malcom Gladwell and that review should happen shortly.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

5 Steps to create a series of posts at Ghumakkar

Often, we are in a situation where we have visited a number of places as part of some long vacation and when it comes to writing a trvelogue at Ghumakkar, we do not want to write all of it in one single story. In fact the vacation may not be long and you may want to break your short vacation story in few parts. Breaking not only helps you to better focus on each location/place in the right detail but it also helps the reader since not everyone would want to do the same vacation with the same itinerary.

In all these cases, wont it be nice if a reader who reaches any of your stories through a 'Google Search' or while browsing the site, is presented with a small 'Table of Content' with links of the all the stories of that particular vacation.

Well, you can do this at Ghumakkar and here's a small tutorial to achieve this. At the end of this post, I would also give you some links where this is being used at Ghumakkar.

5 Steps to create a series of posts at Ghumakkar

1. Write first post and Save it. Once saved, Edit the post and go to the bottom of the page. You would find two boxes like this

In the left box, choose "New Series" , click 'Start' and input a name. Click Save at the top right to save this.

What you have just done is that you have created a new Series and attached your first story with the series. Lets say that you create a new series called "Delhi - Sangla - Kaza - Manali - Delhi"

2. Now go ahead and publish the post.

3. Assuming that you would want to write another post for the same series, write another post/story and after saving again go to bottom.

This time, instead of choosing 'New Series', pick the name which you have created last time. See the snapshot below. And select 'End'.

4. Now suppose you want to add another story, simple repeat the 2nd step. What the software does in the background is that it would make the current 'End' as '2nd Last' and the latest one as 'Last'. It all works on the dates so the latest becomes the newest. 'Start' is the oldest in the series but in 'Table of Content' it appears first.

5. Nothing and enjoy your series of posts and send the link to your best friends. This is what a reader of your story would see if he finds any of your stories.

hope this is useful.If you have any questions please write a small comment below and I would promptly get back to you.

Till then, happy Ghumakkari and happy writing !!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Writing a Story at Ghumakkar

Time to summarize few things so that its more accessible and makes it easy for me to redirect new Ghumakkars here than writing again, lazy me.

How you can keep contributing.

1. Try to write the story at the site itself or in a notepad and not MS-Word. Microsoft puts a lot of formatting information in its documents which are not well understood by web browsers, so simple text works fine.

2. Pick all your pics and then resize them using any image editing program. A smaller pics makes the story load faster, especially on bandwidth challenged places in India. I use to resize my pics. A width of 550 pixels works great in current layout. It might look like a pain but all good works involve some pain.

3. Insert pics. Here's a short tutorial . Skip the part which talks about resizing since you have already done it using 2.

4. When done, after first para and a pic, click this [more] button.

When you click this button, it inserts a break-point in the story which ensures that the home page only shows a fraction of the story and one has to click on the title or on 'Click here to read full story" link. When someone does that then the real story page opens, e.g. and 'views' gets recorded. If you look at the left corner, you would see 'Recent Most Viewed' so if your story gets enough views, it reaches there hence any new visitor would have a greater chance to find your story and read further.

and finally, never ever hesitate to write to me for any and everything. If all of the above sound like a big hassle then just write your story, collect your pics and send both to me over e-mail and I would get it done.

Happy Ghumakkari and Happy writing.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

'Its Greek To Me' - Restaurant Review

I found myself at this joint last week and thought that I would write a small quick review. Right opposite 'Deer Park', this place is a food-cum-drink place in Safdarjang Enclave. Very well located if you are somewhere in South Delhi else its a bit of a distance to cover. Here's an interactive Google Map for directions.

View 'Its Greek to Me' in a larger map

Its a Greek-Roman style of frugal seating with clean, light wooden chairs and tables , a light music in the background and no rush anywhere at all. I was there on a Sunday Lunch and the fact that I didn't see many people makes it a good place, who needs the ever crowded Gulatis on a hot summer day. Its on two levels with an open kitchen. Its a good place for a group of 4-6 people who just want to enjoy a gulp over lots of conversations.

They have a very decent collection to wet your throat with the usual Beer to more sophisticated Wines. You can get a Wine by glass and thats really very practical. The food is Greek/Italian/Roman class with baked chicken etc. I do not understand much about food so I would skip this part but you do get a rich collection to choose from and it seemed and tasted good. You do not get North Indian or Mughlai cuisine.

I dont think there are any happy hours because I didn't see any obvious mention of it anywhere but I wont be surprised if they have special deals for weekedays.

Price wise it seemed right priced. Mocktails at Rs 100 a piece are a steal. A lunch for two where we ordered two mocktails, one starter (Roast and Toast Lamb), one main cuisine (Vasilikos) set us back by Rs 1100 and the potion was enough for two people. You replace a drink/cock-tail in place of mock-tail, and it wont go beyond Rs 1600 which is nice.

The staff is courteous, effective and they dont sell which is good.

All in all, a place worth trying. My next goal is to convince my boss to take us out there so that I can have my share of bubbly at someone else's pocket.

Hope this is useful.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Mera Yaar - Jogiraj Sikidaar

There was a time when I used to stay with friends , who were my colleagues in my previous company. Jogi, an old college friend, came back to Delhi and was with Zee. Since Zee was in Noida and we were in Noida, we had many evenings together.

He would steal an hour or two from his evening shift work, drop by, have a glass of beer and go back. Incidentally he would talk very little during that time because he would enter singing, sing-drink-sing, and exit singing.

Here's a MP3 of his work, old recording from some live concert. also he misses a note here/there because none of these were in a recording room. bad/no monitor at times, you almost sing on instinct. :-)

He is now in Dubai and i miss his songs.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tuborg Pint has a tin kind of opener

Most of the beer in India have non-twistable or non-screw caps which means that you need a bottle opener to open them. While this may sound perfectly logical and right way to do, you would find a lot of (esp of American origin) beer pints in America which can be just opened using hand by twisting the cap. You open them the way you open a half-a-litre Coke Pet Bottle.

Recently I found something which I have not seen so far here so thought that I would write a small blog. Well, I found a pint which has a cap which can be pulled off. The beer is called, Tuborg and for the pint (dont know about the full regular bottle) you do not a bottle opener. You simply pull it, the way you open a Coke or a Beer Tin, and it pops out. Happy.

Let me click some pics and show you, how it looks.

Here I am. The first two are the ones when its bottled.

And here's when its gone.

hope you like this information and by the way, I was saving the caps to shoot them some day and write this blog, the ones where the cap is intact are getting chilled for the evening.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

'Most Watched' User Generated Video

I bumped into this last week and I thought I would share this with you. A cute funny video of two kids.

There is lot of talk about this video on the internet. UGC (User Generated Content) was the backbone of Web 2.0 (with podcasting, blogging, review and commenting, rating and what not) and a video with millions of views probably validates that.

Watch it since its cute. Very cute.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Go Slow ....

This was sent to me by Abhijit ( and I thought that this makes so much of a good reading that one should simply spread it. I do not know how much of this I have personally been able to do. Thanks Abhijit for the gracious permission.


It's been 18 years since I joined Volvo, a Swedish company. Working for them has proven to be an interesting experience. Any project here takes 2 years to be finalized, even if the idea is simple and brilliant. It's a rule.

Globalize processes have caused in us (all over the world) a general sense of searching for immediate results. Therefore, we have come to posses a need to see immediate results. This contrasts greatly with the slow movements of the Swedish. They, on the other hand, debate, debate, debate, hold x quantity of meetings and work with a slowdown scheme. At the end, this always yields better results.

Said in another words:
1. Sweden is about the size of San Pablo, a state in Brazil.
2. Sweden has 2 million inhabitants.
3. Stockholm, has 500,000 people.
4. Volvo, Escania, Ericsson, Electrolux, Nokia are some of its renowned companies. Volvo supplies the NASA.

The first time I was in Sweden, one of my colleagues picked me up at the hotel every morning. It was September, bit cold and snowy. We would arrive early at the company and he would park far away from the entrance (2000 employees drive their car to work). The first day, I didn't say anything, either the second or third. One morning I asked, "Do you have a fixed parking space? I've noticed we park far from the entrance even when there are no other cars in the lot." To which he replied, "Since we're here early we'll have time to walk, and whoever gets in late will be late and need a place closer to the door. Don't you think? Imagine my face.

Nowadays, there's a movement in Europe name Slow Food. This movement establishes that people should eat and drink slowly, with enough time to taste their food, spend time with the family, friends, without rushing.. Slow Food is against its counterpart: the spirit of Fast Food and what it stands for as a lifestyle. Slow Food is the basis for a bigger movement called Slow Europe, as mentioned by Business Week.

Basically, the movement questions the sense of "hurry" and "craziness" generated by globalization, fueled by the desire of "having in quantity" (life status) versus "having with quality", "life quality" or the "quality of being". French people, even though they work 35 hours per week, are more productive than Americans or British. Germans have established 28.8 hour workweeks and have seen their productivity been driven up by 20%. This slow attitude has brought forth the US's attention, pupils of the fast and the "do it now!".

This no-rush attitude doesn't represent doing less or having a lower productivity. It means working and doing things with greater quality, productivity, perfection, with attention to detail and less stress. It means reestablishing family values, friends, free and leisure time. Taking the "now", present and concrete, versus the "global", undefined and anonymous. It means taking humans' essential values, the simplicity of living.

It stands for a less coercive work environment, more happy, lighter and more productive where humans enjoy doing what they know best how to do. It's time to stop and think on how companies need to develop serious quality with no-rush that will increase productivity and the quality of products and services, without losing the essence of spirit.

In the movie, Scent of a Woman, there's a scene where Al Pacino asks a girl to dance and she replies, "I can't, my boyfriend will be here any minute now". To which Al responds, "A life is lived in an instant". Then they dance to a tango.

Many of us live our lives running behind time, but we only reach it when we die of a heart attack or in a car accident rushing to be on time. Others are so anxious of living the future that they forget to live the present, which is the only time that truly exists. We all have equal time throughout the world. No one has more or less. The difference lies in how each one of us does with our time. We need to live each moment. As John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans"..

Congratulations for reading till the end of this message. There are many who will have stopped in the middle so as not to waste time in this globalized world.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

'Tasveer - 8 X 10' - Movie Review

It was a free lunch and I happily grabbed it, since wifey was out and Pihu (my , I am 3, going on 4, kid) was at Nana's place. I am a big fan of Nagesh and would love to pay for my lunch anyday for Iqbaal, Dor, HB so the decision was made so much easier.

The movie is mostly shot in Canada and that's refreshing. Watching the greens, sparkling water bays, upmarket houses and what not. 'Precept' which produced the movie along with T-Series is not a great name to reckon but they did spend some money by shooting in Canada.

The plot is around Akki who can look beyond a photograph and can go back in time when the pic was shot. He is usually seen going back by a minute since by then he gets unconscious and is usually taken to a hospital after such a act. The film moves very well in the first half, tight editing, no-fuss dialogues, good locations, clean camera work and no distraction (Sorry, Akki doesn't bare. Ayesha looks beautiful and thats about it).

So far a good movie but come 2nd half and it falls apart. Let me give you the plot.

Akki's dad is murdered (a oil baron) and he makes his wife as the sole winner of the fortune. He has some friends and they were all there on the boat from where he fell and everyone thought that it was a case of accident. Come Javed Jaffery (He is Super, he acts as a HYDi, super) , a dismissed cop who claims that the dad was murdered and that starts Akki's journeys into past life.

Actually before the accident happened, a group photo was clicked by Sharmila (Akki's mom) and with that photograph he now goes behind the scene (1 minute past) and tries to figure out. I wont give you the complete story but once the truth is out, the film still goes for another 20 minutes. It reminded me the grueling last sequences of movies like Dar (KKKK....) and Bhoot where director/script-writer just got carried away.

No great music to write about. Javed shines brilliantly. Ayesha does well and Akki was pretty good.

My high point in the whole movie was to find old TV stalwarts on big screen after a long time viz. Benjamin Gilani, Anant Mahadevan and Girish Karnad.

Not recommended.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa' Lil Champs audtion at Delhi and me

It was in far north of Delhi, as far as Rohini sector 3 at 'Mother Divine School' and from Indirapuram, Ghaziabad where I stay, I had to first go to Paschim Vihar to drop my 3.5 year old daughter and 19 year old niece in the safe custody of my in-laws (Joke time - Outlaws are Wanted) but if that is what, that be it and it took me close to 2 hours to do all of this.

Driving through the Darya Ganj, Jawahar Lal Nehru Marg ,watching the tonga-wallahs and leaving NDLS before you take the Paharganj flyover and meandering through ladder neon signs of hotels is a good fun on a Sunday since the market is closed. Rohtak road has still a lot of character left which is so difficult to find in new-age super-shiny-surfaces with routine signs and all that.

It is never hard to find what you are looking for in Delhi as long as you do not shy asking around. As we entered 'Mother Divine School' in Sector 3, Rohini, we took a good sweeping look and were pleasantly surprised to see a real large number of kids looking fwd to be next sensation.

There are kids who have come from as far as Jhansi for their pie of fortune, some kids really sounded well but were rejected and a couple was taken just to get some entertainment factor in the initial rounds.

We moved towards the registration kiosks and after the usual pleasantries, were ushered in an 'Audition Room'. I was there for about an hour or may be 45 minutes.

While sitting there, there was more than one instance when you have 3 cm dia goose bumps and you say, Voila but then judges have a different opinion. Later when I was a part of a bigger conversation with few people around, including Ashish Golwalkar (apparently the boss of the program from 'content' side and my motivation to be there, old friend) I realized that there are kids who would memorize few songs so well that you do not know whether its the play of a good gala-n-sur or just plain mugging. So while someone may sound super to you for few songs, they may not make the cut.

Then there was a single lady who wanted to make her kid do well and tell her husband that she can bring up a kid better, can't blame the mother entirely but not sure whether the 8 year old kid understood all of this.

Here's a video of a promising chap called 'Ankit'. He started with a Sufi and did very well. Later he took out a 4 times folded notebook sheet where he has written the 'scale' information of the songs he has prepared :).

The food was at Metro Walk, Pind Balluchi. @ 135 a mojito it sounded like a steal but it tasted more like Shikanji, a detailed review on that later.

Picked a carton of KF pints, Picked the dropped ones from P Vihar, picked a mutton-keema potion from Anand Restaurant (from the bylanes of CP), picked the weekly quota of Classic Verve and Regular for the clan and polished it with a saada paan (At Rs 6, its the best you can get) from Bengali Sweets, I was home before it was too dark and in time to not miss our cook.

So far so good.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

'Aahar India - 2009' - A quick run

On a Sunday afternoon, if you have nothing else to do then probably you pick up anything. Its not that bad and probably I am glamorizing it more, as all times. Today's HT edition had this little government kind of b/w advt which said that 'Aahar - 2009' (Aahar means food) is on at Pragati Maidan. So we decided to check it out. It came out to be pretty nice and I thought I would write a small note with few pics which I shot.

As per (Southern United States Trade Association), AAHAR, a premier exhibition for food, food processing, hotel and restaurant equipment and supplies, has been recognized as one of the leading events of its kind in Asia. SUSTA invites southern U.S. suppliers to participate in a trade mission to exhibit at AAHAR and meet with important industry players at the show. Pre-arranged one-on-one meetings, a guided tour of major retailers/food service organizations, and a market briefing are included in the mission, as well as free shipping for up to 100 lbs of product samples.....

Pragati Maidan is this vast unlimited exapanse of exhibition ground which has large (rather huge) halls and a good number of them, a cinema hall, few open-air theatres, few good large big restaurants and n number of food kiosks, fountains, lawns and what not. No wonder that during 'IITF' (India International Trade Fair), this place is easily able to manage a 1L+ crowd every day.

So after having our share of parking wows, we went it. The exhibition is spread in Halls 7-11 and in Hall 18. Hall 7-11 is more aimed for serious, professional folks. We could see machines which would sharpen knifes, pasteurize eggs, make cofee, juicers which could give gallons of juice and what not. Look at this pic, the machine was called 'Fire Coffee' maker or something like that.

Apart from equipment makers, there were folks like Sula Wine, probably they just bought space for good-recall factor since big names from hospitality sector must be visiting.

There were a lot of kiosks who were just displaying a specialized stuff, though a lot of them were showcasing fine and eye-catching crockery stuff. These were not for sale but to get leads or to invite potential buyers for a discussions.

Eager to say something

Polka Dots

We also noticed few cake-makers kind of kiosks, where they were making cakes right there using a mix of machine-n-man. Check this pic, its a cream-flower, notice the yellow lines (kinda stamen/pollen heads)


Hall 7-10 are in continuation so you do not need to step out. We kept going. Apart from food folks, there were folks who give furniture, mattresses, other hospitality related stuff as well but mostly it was about food.


There was this interesting thing. Check it out.

Then we moved out of 7-10 and headed towards Hall no - 18 which was more popular among touristy types like us since it had ice-cream places, masalas, frozen foods and with some of them allowing you to have a taste as well.

Perils of a Digi-cam. This I shot while on the way, its the place which has food-kiosks. During bigger fairs, this place is full to brim but today we could pass through it.

As we entered, my little one was very excited to see these large sized fruits (of course, fake).

There were many stalls who were giving you a little cheese or a tea-spoon-scoop of ice-cream or chips and so on. Of course, good enough reason for 'gelato ice-cream' to gather a good crowd. We had our bit as well.

Hall 18 was spread over two levels. We looked around, did a bit of shopping, bought some frozen stuff and came out. It was close to 6 when we were out but Delhi Summer has started to set in so days are getting long. The light was pretty good to take a shot at our tri-color.

Thanks for reading this far. Its time to have a couple of KF pints.

Monday, February 02, 2009

How to put 'More' Tag in a Word Press Powered Blog Post

Unlike Blogspot, Wordpress gives you a nifty way to show a excerpt of you story on the home page. This is very useful when you would want to show multiple stories on the home page, trying to accommodate as many above the fold.

Here's a quick primer on how to do this.

There are two modes in the edtior viz. Visual and 'HTML Code'.

If you are in visual code, then click this button, look at illustration, to insert a 'break point'. This would ensure that wherever multiple stories are displayed, only the part which is before break-point would be shown.

Same thing can be achieved by clicking [more] button if you are in 'HTML Code'.

Hope this is useful for fellow bloggers.