London

“All you vertically challenged people, you will have to work a lot harder.”

And the award for the most politically incorrect statement heard today goes to this military workout instructor who was unleashing hell at Greenwich park this morning! I can think of a number of ways to spend a Saturday morning but having the dickens insulted out of me when I am rolling around in mud doing a military crawl is probably not one amongst them.

Or perhaps, I am just being unkind. Perhaps, the man just had an epiphany – a dystopian future where the amount of work a person is required to do is inversely proportional to how far the tip of his head is from ground level. Quite like that idea actually. Provided of course, I don’t land in some Scandinavian country – that probably wouldn’t go down too well.

Clarence Darrow

As a general rule, I am not much of a gusher. At times though, I am reduced to a quivering blubber of awe-struck mess.

Mr Darrow

There is little I can say about Kevin Spacey as Clarence Darrow which has not been said before – a performance for the ages, cementing Spacey’s reputation as being one of the finest of all time, a one-man tour de force and all. When the Mayan, P and I entered Old Vic last summer we did so with more than a hint of trepidation. There is an inherent problem with having great expectations of anything – like that poor Pip, you are more than likely to have them all dashed to pieces! However, when we exited the theatre a couple of hours later we were unanimous on a few points: (a) our expectations were not only met, but also given a sound bollocking for having had any doubts in the first place; (b) this was the most reasonably priced show in the world – we would have gladly paid four or five times of what we paid; and (c) (this is where a far-away, wistful gleam came into our eyes), deep into the unseen future, we could tell folks we were there, we saw Kevin Spacey give the performance of a lifetime.

Spacey returns as Darrow to Old Vic this spring (http://www.oldvictheatre.com/whats-on/2015/clarence-darrow-2/). If you are in London and did not manage to catch the play last summer, I would recommend snapping up tickets as soon as they come on sale. And even if you are not, I would recommend you to consider traveling here and doing the above 🙂

P.S. Aah, you scoff and say you have seen Spacey as Francis Underwood and surely nothing can top that. To which I would say, Spacey as the renegade, weather-beaten Darrow could chew up the Machievallian Underwood and spit him out before breakfast!

The best restaurant in Britain?

Gymkhana

A few months back, The Guardian ran an article on this Mayfair joint called Gymkhana, which somehow was interesting and infuriating in equal measure. For starters (no pun intended), the place supposedly served food family-style, the food itself being of a peculiarly gutsy variety. Firstly, the restaurant in question has as strong a Colonial hangover as any I have ever seen. Muted lighting, oak panels, stuffed animals, state-of-art daguerrotypes and dapper waiters (whose sartorial styles were at least a few notches above mine). Hardly my idea of a family-style dinner (but perhaps I am just being a pleb). Secondly, food ‘cannot’ be gutsy. A chef can be gutsy, say, if he serves up tripe (of the figurative variety), a customer can be gutsy if he partakes a course which plainly appears to be tripe, the whole tripe and nothing but the tripe. However, the tripe in itself cannot ever be gutsy, much in the same way as a murgh malai can never be morose or a seekh kabab of a studious temperament (or I can never be a food critic)! However, as usual, I digress. Coming back to Gymkhana, I just have have two words of advice if you are in London: go there. I have been to a fair number of Indian restaurants this neck of the woods, from Lahore Kebab House to Punjab to Dishoom. Gymkhana stands alone – I have frankly never had better Indian food outside of India (not even in good old Dubai). If you do go there, I would highly recommend its Muntjac Biryani and Ajwani Salmon Tikka. If you are veggie, fret not – it does a mean dal and paneer as well. My personal favourite though is the humble raita. With a sprig of mint, a few pomegranate seeds, a sprinkle of black salt, and curd beaten to just the right consistency, ’tis the stuff to compose culinary sonnets in the honour of! Also, if you one of those true-blue food aficionados / ranking fanatics / show-offs, these chaps were awarded a Michelin star, I think this October. For all that jazz though, the restaurant is quite reasonably priced – it has a brilliant early-evening four-course selection priced at around 25 quid and the quantity is almost enough for two reasonably-sized appetites! Best restaurant in Britain? At least amongst the ones I have been to. Tick.

Shanghai Postcard 1

The Oriental Pearl Tower is, easily, the most striking structure in the Pudong skyline.

Err, The Skyline

Some buildings are meant to be useful. Some others are meant to look good. Some though are meant to look like friggin’ spaceships liable to take off without a moment’s notice.

Now, as with most buildings of such type, there is no dearth of notable notables willing to grace such places with their august presences. The Oriental Pearl Tower is no different. There are signature panels of all the eminences, grise or otherwise, who have deemed it fit to visit the place. India, if I remember correctly, was represented my Messrs. Somnath Chatterjee and A.B. Vajpayee. SC’s panel was fine; ABV’s though, was slightly more interesting:

Signature(s) Panel

Seriously guys, Shreyas, Jaydeep and Ashvin, well well done! Must be an incredible feeling, really, to know that of all the panels in the place, the only one which has been defaced belongs to our country. And hey, we live in democracy, who is to say that you fellas are any less important than Vajpayee!

Nits.

On a completely unrelated note, total time spent at the UKBA queue at Heathrow this time was 97 minutes! I counted!! Swear that had I been made of less sterner stuff, I might have actually considered hot-footing it back to DXB on the next Emirates flight. Fortunately, composed as I am of a high-density titanium alloy, the thought briefly crossed my mind, took one look at what it was up against, and then ran screaming for its dear life!

Eeks, Ooks and Eegregs

Finds it just a wee bit ironic how some people can catch a Prius back home after having decimated a goodly rainforest (or two) in the course of a day’s work.

Vile’s not a word I use in vain. Dr. Pepper, though. Is. Vile. Perhaps not quite in the same category as lizards and brinjals, but pretty darned close nonetheless. Not to mention that it probably has the stupidest ad I have ever seen.Which, given the general quality of ads in this part of the world, is saying something!

Thought I always knew what would be the first novel I’d read this side of the Indian Ocean. As it turned out, ’twas the fourth. Good stuff though. Good, good stuff!

Pachelbel’s Canon is Cult. As for that matter, is the video below 🙂

Shall. See. Inception.  And perhaps, The Concert as well.

Of Churches and Burritos

Haven’t blogged in like, ages.

Somehow, I don’t think I have a taste for burritos. Calamari though, is an entirely different matter.

Had gone down to Greenwich yesterday. Which, in my considered opinion, is one of the loveliest areas in/around London. I also kinda figured out why the Lightning-Man is so reluctant to leave that place 🙂

Got my tennis racket re-stringed. Had busted it while playing against the Architect. There happens to be this shop in the upper reaches of London called Gefen Sports. Just off Queen’s Park. Which deals almost exclusively in racket sports. And the chaps who man the store are exceedingly nice and watch IPL on TV. All of which is much good 🙂 Not too mention the fact that I think I got a pretty good deal with my strings as well.

Had recently gone for the evening service at All Souls, Langham Place with the Jacobean. ‘Twas beautiful. For a moment, I thought I was back in school (doosrawala).

Had out first NUJS London Reunion thingie about a week back. Some enterprising sorts even made it out down from Oxford to attend this gig. Some non-enterprising sorts didn’t even make it down from London 🙂 Which was kinda sad. For Maida has this amazing dish called Chicken Tai Pai. And, that, is just friggin’ awesome.

Had gone gallivanting in Camden when Yellow Bags had come down to London. Its essentially like a bigger, more psychedelic version of Portobello market. With lots of tattoo artists. And some dirt-cheap basement-rate bargains. Not bad at all.  

Go. See. I Am Love. Or lo sono l’amore. This is probably as European a movie as they come. Lush colours, ridiculously awesome cinematography, cult camera angles, the works essentially. But then, that is precisely what has been the bane of European Cinema for so long. These auteurs tend to get so carried away by the brilliance of their art and technique that they forget that there is somebody else who would be watching their product. Pithily put, form often trumps substance 🙂 And even here, while walking out of Cineworld, I heard at least a few people go on about how they couldn’t make head or tail of this flick. In this case however, I’d beg to differ. And Tilda Swinton is amazing.

I have a new favourite piece in classical music now. Concerto for Two Violins in A Minor by Vivaldi. Watched it being performed by the Belmont Ensemble at St Martin-in-the-Fields last night. Much, much good. Dunno if you will find this on Youtube, but probably worth a shot.

What I know, you should find on Youtube, is another track this piece reminded me of; Building a Family by Mark Isham. Come to think of it, I don’t think its that similar. Or perhaps, at all similar. But then, you really don’t have any control over the stuff yer reminded of, do you. And especially, when the ‘stuff’ in question is as unquestionably sublime as this!    

Go on, don’t be shy, google it. You can thank me afterwards 🙂

A worm, eaten as a delicacy

After much deliberation and heartburn, I have finally decided to activate the WordPress app for Facebook [Yeah, I know, ultra-cheap publicity gimmick] Turns out there are a surprising number of people, who want to stay in touch with a git like me and kinda remain in the loop as to the various antics I might be upto. Which might be a bit redundant actually, considering that my life, as I had cause to remark recently, “is nothing but work and laundry”. 

Ergo, or perhaps, yet, FB app it is.

Go, see The Blind Side if you haven’t caugh it yet. Highly, highly recommended. Great performances, brilliant background score and an OST which I plan on getting my hands on soon. And of course, Sandra Bullock in an Oscar-winning role. Also, I don’t know why, but Big Mike reminded me so much of Forest Whitaker. Mind you though, the Travolta-starring Phenomenon-wala Whitaker, and not that McAvoy-starring psychotic despot-wala version.

Can’t say so much about Shutter Island though. The one thing which I can say, is that this must be one of those ultra-rare instances, where a cinematic adaptation turns out to be so much better than the original product. Decidedly so; Lehane’s novel was err, umm, slightly iffy to put it mildly. And just by the way, either there was something wrong with the Cineworld I had gone to, or the editing was so bloody chopped off , that a sous-sushi-chef might very well have been at the helm of affairs.

Sous-sushi-chef, aah, always wanted to use that in a sentence somewhere. Well, always, as in, since the moment I thought it up, which was roughly 30 secs back. Much, much good 🙂   

Had been playing tennis with The Architect yesterday. Which was good. I busted my tennis strings though, which wasn’t all that good. Re-stringing probably costs a bomb here. Either that, or it might be time to go Lillywhites ahoy!

Had gone to Foyles recently. As should you. As should any one else. As should the whole world. For a bookshop with a wikipedia entry like this can be no ordinary bookshop. Also went generally rummaging around in the vicinity of Tottenham Court Road, and discovered quite a few places which ain’t too bad themselves either. Next stop, perhaps next week, is this cult bookshop opposite Old Vic off Waterloo.

I thought I always knew what would be the first book I’d get out of India. I didn’t get that book.  

Had possibly, what might pass for our first NUJS batch outing here in London a few days back. The Power Couple were hosting it. Snag and Ms. Steinbeck were fashionably late. The One with ‘Em Stevie Wonder jokes, spent something like two-and-a half hours trying to figure out the way to the Power Couple’s pad. She did arrive eventually though. I though, would have been dot on time. Well, would have been, if the Tea-Boy hadn’t kept me waiting for something like half an hour at the Bank DLR. I would have probably pummelled him in other circumstances, but thankfully (for him) had a Peter Carey for company, and was feeling generally charitable towards the world around me.

But, as usual, I digress. Coming back to the batch thingie. Good, good fun. Scintillating conversation, topics ranging from Govinda flicks to abstract art, from theorizing on why people get divorced in UK, to attempting to decode that cipher called Lady Gaga; some cheap digs, some more; thoda sa PC (woh doosra wala, and that too only towards the beginning, mind you); some decidedly foot-in-the-mouth moments; a phone call to you-know-who in re you-know-what (heh), and ofcourse, glasses upon glasses of absolutely stud mango lassi. And lest I forget, a honourable note of mention goes to Mr PC who makes these friggin awesome gobi ke parathe. I believe Ms. PC doesn’t cook 🙂

You should check this link out. Was sent across to me by the Mayan. The man, for all his faults, does do something useful once in a while.

A coberra is apparently, a worm, eaten as a delicacy. So saith the novel, I am currently reading. Reminds me of the time, when I had gone along with the Robot and the Skulker to the Chinese Breakfast place at Poddar Court, and where the Skulker, in a spirit of reassurance and calm, had told a nice, middled-aged lady harbouring suspicions about our abilities to imbibe certain non-tradtional meatforms, “Hum Sab Kucch Khata Hai” 🙂

FIP, Whither Art Thou??

Kinda miss the chap’s blog. The answer to that question though, is writing a book. Or rather, that statement should be in the past tense; the book’s already been written. The Gamechangers, if yer so interested. And which, in keeping with the abiding tradition of publication sleight of hand, has its release perfectly timed to cash in on all the IPL hoopla. And which should also mean a hefty bonus or two for the editors in question. Don’t think I’d want to read the book though. 

Ancient Hindu tradition has it that there are four phases to human life; Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and SanyasaI though, am of the sincere opinion that the sages and the powers-that-used-to-be missed out on enunciating a fifth, and possibly, the most important phase of ’em all; Laundry. There is a school of thought which posits that other religions like Jainism and Buddhism evolved primarily as a reaction to such lax identificatory paradigms as prevalent in Hinduism. The true trailblazers in this respect were/are ofcourse, the Digambar Jains.

Crawford’s sells this small pack of custard creams for 59p. Absolutely love ’em. For one particular reasons. Back at law school, we used to have this entire array of shacks outside our side gate. And they basically used to sell only two, no, make it three, things of note; Dim-wala Maggi (mentioned in passing here), Kismis Bars (which are bloody brilliant, and which I’ll probably blog about, along with Pudina Chips and Phantom Cigs sometime later), and finally Parle-G creams priced at some 5 bucks a packet.

These creams, if memory serves me correctly, used to come in flavours like orange, pineapple and elaichi. And used to be bloody awesome. Many must there have been days when I used to wake up a min or so before the classes begun and had to rush pell-mell into the acad block, or for that matter, those days when there used to be something shady for breakfast (which to be fair, happened only on those glorious occasions we used to be served uttapam. And a brief digression here: Imagine. Imagine, waking up, for the first time in weeks nay, months, in time for breakfast. And then Imagine, being served, but with what, Uttapam @#&%). ‘Twas then, that these Parle-G creams used to come into their own. And by God, they were a lifesaver. I might not get Parle-G in London. But, Crawford’s ain’t too bad either.

Was watching Two and a Half Men yesterday. To be honest, its a bit like Two and a Three-Quarters now. Ultra-weird.

And now a word about food. And related follies. Had fried squid yesterday. At this place called Tai Won Mein in Greenwich. Snag’s b’day celebrations. The Soccer-Man and Ms. Steinbeck were there as well. Bloody, bloody awesome. The rest of their fare was strictly middling though. That being said, for the monies paid, the portions were humongous. Which was much, much good 🙂 There is this pub off Shaftesbury Avenue called Freud, which the Soccer-Man considers possibly the last word on pubs with “Character”. It is this dark, dingy, sub-terranean hangout, you know, and to be fair to the man, the place probably has as much character as it is possible for anything embedded in the bowels of earth to have 🙂

Laundry Day

Yesterday was Laundry Day. As also Dryer Day. Which was all much good. Apart from the fact ofcourse that most of my ganjees came out in a peculiar shade of muted blue 🙂 Which I would say was moderately good.

Today was Ironing Day. Which was strictly so-so. I have come to the conclusion that I am far better at ironing solids than I am at stripes. Which probably boils down to the basic fact that greater the contrast, the more easier is it to spot wrinkles, or as in my case, an entire truckload of ’em.

And on which note I’d also say that our current Hon’ble HRD Head Honcho has his priorities all skewed up. The chap should forget about abolishing exams and concentrate more on introducing some core subjects at school-level. Like say, ironing and cooking. And thereby preclude the possibility of having disgruntled chaps (like me) cursing themselves for not having taken up Home Science at High School.     

I had actually forgotten over the last few days/months why I liked TT so much. Rediscovered a wee bit of that feeling last night.

London might be many things. And many things it might be not. But what it most definitely is, is the world capital of static electricity. I kid thee not. On an average, I probably receive some three to four mild-to-moderate level shocks per day. Mildly entertaining. Moderately disconcerting.

I Eat, Therefore I Am.

I had some grub from the Land of Carib today. Something called (and quite aptly so) Jerk Chicken! And, which, in case you are wondering, was pretty darned pathetic. So, the basic philosophy as appurtenant to that particular delicatessen would appear to be: You Eat, therefore You Are. A Jerk, of course.

To be fair though, the only reason why I tried that stuff out was because it was called Jerk Chicken. Which would kinda vitiate the a posteriori part of the above paragraph. And thereby render, members of my tribe, and all those attracted by snappy appellations, as A Priori Jerks.

Played tennis recently. In sub-zero temperatures. And in rain. Much, much good 🙂 Took the first quarter of an hour just to warm up my limbs though. Not to mention the fact, that no matter how hard I hit the ball, the blasted thing never seemed to carry. Later, while chatting up with this cricket-maniac South African tennis coach (who incidentally, I almost managed to persuade to relocate to Mumbai), I was told that at current prevalent temperatures in the City by the Thames, tennis balls suffer from something called the Dead-Rubber Syndrome. Which Ain’t Good. Neither is rain for that matter. And twits playing in such weather should be confined to straitjackets at the earliest available opportunity. To quote him, “Yer crazy, man”.

Reminded me a bit of playing with the Foul-Mouthed One at BTA though. Think Monsoons. Thinks puddles the size of swimming pools. And two maniacs sliding all over the place like a bloody show of Icecapades. Strangely enough, if my memory serves me correctly, the reaction back then (from the Admin-guy, I think) was pretty much the same. Almost verbatim stuff 🙂

I am not sure whether I’m a big fan of open-book exams. I am a big fan (ok, make it moderately big) of Cinnabon. Especially their Carrot Cake, which I haven’t yet tried, but which looks oh-so-bloody-scrumptious.