Saturday, July 12, 2014

A journey in photographs - V

Part 1  |  Part 2  |  Part 3  |  Part 4

You know what this means, correct? I have run out of ideas to write, and will hence fall back on interesting photographs I have acquired from various sources. Of course, I have clicked most of them myself, but then, there have been other sources as well.

Here we go, then.

***


Exhibit 1: This was clicked near IIT Delhi. Some people may recognise it. Unfortunately, it would probably take a Bengali to appreciate this. Kathi would lose its charm in translation.


Exhibit 2: A place I worked at during my Gurgaon stint had a lot of restrictions under a lot of categories regarding websites. I liked this one the best.



Exhibit 3: Clicked at Sealdah Station, no less. I'm sure there are a lot of literate emus lurking around what is generally accepted as the the busiest station in the world.




Exhibit 4: This was clicked at Gurgaon as well. I apologise for the lack of clarity in the photograph, but I can hardly 
be blamed if I could not remain still while clicking this one.



Exhibit 5: Also at Gurgaon. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!



Exhibit 6: Sometimes the shop-owners need to be a bit careful when it comes to transliteration. This one was clicked at Andheri by Shubham Nag.



Exhibit 7: Self-explanatory. I cannot recall whether I had clicked (if yes, then the location) or acquired (if yes, then from whom or where) this one.



Exhibit 8: I love meat. I cannot help loving meat. However, referring to lamb as "may may" is somewhat derogatory. Or maybe it's just me. Clicked at a Vashi restaurant.



Exhibit 9: This is probably the only shoe shop in the world that endorses the missionary style, or any coital posture. Near Shatadeep Complex, Gariahat.



Exhibit 10: I had certainly not clicked this, for had I clicked this I would have remembered the place. This was sent to me by someone. Will someone own up?



Exhibit 11: Near Deshapriya Park. I am completely clueless regarding what this utterly innocuous shop had done to have earned this name.



Exhibit 12: Somewhere in Kolkata, possibly in Golf Green, possibly not. Question: would you brave yourself and have consulted a dental surgeon of this name?



Exhibit 13: At Woodlands Hospital. If you are in a hurry, then may I suggest the staircase.



Exhibit 14: I do not recall where; and I could never realise why.



Exhibit 15: At Gariahat Spencer's. This is why you need precise directions and should not compromise on arrows.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Francesco's

It was a sad, rainy day. I had been at Lower Parel — the most glamorous of all Parels in the world — after an important-sounding seminar that I had to attend. It was a ten-minute walk to the nearby Phoenix Mills.

For the uninitiated, Phoenix Mills is a mall that used to be a mill and came to be called a mill instead of a mall. Confused? I cannot help you if you are. I did not name it, and it does not really seem that I will get to name a mall at any point in my life.

But this is not a post about Phoenix Mill. It is about Francesco’s, an unassuming pizzeria located almost outside, but actually inside, the mall, or mill, or whatever.

The rain had just stopped, and the Sun had peeped out. Francesco’s had the magic words written outside: FREE WI-FI. I did what any famished, internet-deprived, sensible man in his mid-30s would do. I stepped inside.


It took me two hours to get out despite the rain had stopped; I had an umbrella, so I need not have waited. It was just that the food was scrumptious: all of it; and I surpassed myself by making my way through a complete five-course dinner (which does not include coffee).

I usually rate eateries based on food, waiting time, quality of service, and price; to cut things short, Francesco’s scores high on all counts, along with free wireless. They do not only make you leave happy: they pamper you.

Let me get started, though: I asked for a double-shot espresso; it turned out to be cheaper than its CCD counterpart, was about a gazillion times tastier, and came accompanied by cookies and savouries.

I asked them for a recommendation. Pear and Argula Ambrosia salad, they said. I was a bit circumspect, simply because it was vegetarian, but then, the Francesco’s knows the art of combining succulent pieces pear, crunchy walnuts, and tara mira leaves with a mild tinge of pepper to create magic. It was perhaps the best salad I have tasted in Mumbai.

I got curious. I asked them more about the restaurant. Francesco’s had apparently been around for a mere two months, they said. They did not do the usual FIFA World Cup promos like every other restaurant in the city. They simply backed their biggest strength: FOOD.

While we were having this conversation they conjured another chef’s special: Beet Ravioli in Brown Butter, Hazelnut, and Parmesan. The rest was fine, and I usually swear by ravioli, but beet? They assured me.

Yes, beet. Francesco’s beet ravioli is red, soft, generously dipped in olive oil, and, in a word, delicious. All etiquette was forgotten, and all five pieces vanished into my mouth before I could realise. Mind you, everything I had till then was vegetarian, and they had already won me over.

Francesco’s, too, was a fusion food outlet. There was a difference, though: the chef did not want to combine Italian with Indian; he simply added a mild, very mild flavour of Indian spices; it was so subtle that the Italian authenticity was perfectly retained, and yet you were left smiling, since your taste buds had reminded you of a familiar taste from your childhood days. The art lay in the proportions, and Francesco’s had executed it to perfection.

Thus satisfied (and still hungry) I waited for Whole Wheat Peri Peri Chicken Pizza to arrive.

***

The first Francesco’s had opened in Shenoy Mansion, Kemps Corner by Mikhel Rajani. They had used drone delivery (the first in India to do so). They had used UAVs for the purpose, taking the notorious South Mumbai traffic by surprise. You can check it on YouTube.


The pizza arrived and vanished in no time. There was mozzarella and lime mayonnaise on it, and the pizza base was perfect as far as thickness (thinness is perhaps a better word), there was the mildest touch of coriander, and I immediately ordered for Fettuccine and Porcini Mushrooms (another vegetarian entree, do note).

It was creamy; very creamy; and very mushroomy; and the pasta was very, very soft. I was surprised by the amount I could eat: in fact, I could not remember having so much food in one go since I have arrived in the city that never sleeps.

“Dessert?” they asked. To my surprise I asked for the menu. It seemed to be a fairytale place where your appetite increases as you eat more.

So Francesco’s Signature Red Velvet Waffle arrived with a generous portion of whipped cream, and duly disappeared. I have no idea how they could make the humble waffle so delightful, but they somehow managed to. Here is a picture.
  

It is a pity that it took me this long to come up with the review. Weekend is over, but if you go anywhere towards Town next weekend (or on any other day), do make it a point to drop in. They will serve you with a smile, and the hungrier you are, the better.

You do not need to have a fat wallet, either. Do visit. You will thank me.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Farewell, friend

The story starts with a Turkish man who had the near-unpronounceable-to-lesser-mortals surname of Büyükkökten. Like almost all Bengalis and a handful of Turkish, he wanted to study Computer Science. Like a handful of Bengalis and a handful of Turkish, he also did an MS and PhD in Computer Science as well.

Büyükkökten launched a curious concept called Club Nexus at an age of 26 to interact with his college friends at Stanford. He later went on to introduce inCircle — a concept similar to Club Nexus — but for the alumni of his college.

He took up a job in Google, and devoted 20% of his time to develop an improved version of Club Nexus. He came up with a product — the first major one of its kind. Google decided to name it after Büyükkökten’s first name: Orkut.

***

Orkut was still a new concept in the summer of 2004. Like GMail (which arrived on the fray much later), Orkut was an invitation-based concept; I was fortunate to get an invitation in Orkut’s earlier days, and suddenly looked at the world with new eyes.

Gone were the a/s/l days: you can now see the people you were interacting with. See their pictures (though some, for whatever reason, came disguised as Namitha). Know their likes and dislikes. Read their About Me’s. Send scraps to them. Connect with old friends. Join communities with like-minded people.

The world opened up for me: till then I was confined to the realm of Yahoo! Groups to communicate with like-minded people, whether cricket or Bollywood or literature. Orkut took things a step further: the people you talked to were real. Friends came closer. Strangers became friends. And they became fans and wrote Testimonials.

There have been few concepts as ego-boosting as Orkut fans: everyone, everyone on Orkut could be classified into two categories:
-          People who kept a sharp eye on the number of fans they had, maintaining a tab on the count, and reacting strongly to any alteration, and
-          People who did the same, but lied about it.

Testimonials, of course, were another issue. Being a fan, just like capturing a selfie, meant a simple click. Testimonials actually needed serious, often well-thought, efforts, and once I approved them, my promise of not showing off went through the window: I gloated over them, and can hardly be blamed for that. Who would not show off if one received the likes of these (from a person I had met on Orkut)?

What did I tell you? Testimonials are for showing off!
What about scraps, then? In the initial days you had to keep your scrapbook open and hit the F5 button, and go to the user’s page to respond to the scraps; then they used scrap threads, where all responses to scraps came under the initial scrap; and then, finally, they allowed notifications for scraps. What fun!

This, unfortunately, is what my current scrapbook looks like:

Does this not make you sad?
 You could also put up pictures. The count was restricted to 12, which meant that you had to keep rotating them if you wanted to add to them. They later added the restriction on the count of pictures, and, surprise, surprise, allowed your friends to comment on them, and even delivered notifications for such comments!

Then, there were the communities. You could join them. You could create them. You could have fun, discuss serious bits of information, get involved in topics you were genuinely interested in (something you could not do with the man sitting in the cubicle next to you), wonder who the people behind fake profiles were.

Those were the days: we bad-mouthed people who used SMS language or leet; we used to add “in the toilet” after Today’s Fortune and had a hearty laugh; we added YouTube videos at will; we got to know of birthdays a fortnight in advance; we could even update our status, which remained till we changed them. And finally, they incorporated Google Talk in Orkut. All was well.

Then came Zuckerberg’s ogre, and spread its tentacles to cast an iron-grip on poor Orkut. Google never tried to evolve as Facebook took rapid strides. As for us, we decided to shift, ever so slowly, as the Facebook juggernaut gradually took over. The shift became complete when Dorsey, Williams, Stone, and Glass launched another one in 2006.

Google took drastic steps: it introduced Likes; it even created a parallel (which is growing surprisingly powerful with every passing day) network called Google+; but nobody cared for poor Orkut. We never revisited the accounts we were once so proud of. We shifted to Likes and Shares and Comments.

I had smiled when this image had appeared on my timeline in 2010. I cannot recall whether I had shared this. But I had felt a hollow somewhere deep. I had paid a visit to my Orkut account, got bored, and had left.

Source: The internet
I came back only on June 29, when Google announced it was closing down Orkut.

They are taking away the first social networking site of my life, but I have Facebook.

They are taking away the site that had given me some of my closest friends, but I still remain close to most of them and am connected to them via Facebook and Google+.

They are taking away the communities, but I still have Facebook groups.

I can post my blogposts on Google+ and get +1’d. I can take stupid quizzes and post results on Facebook and get comments. I can make snarky comments on Twitter and wait for them to get re-tweeted and favourited.

Neither of them, unfortunately, come with Orkut’s innocence. Facebook seems to be walking on vitrified tiles in comfortable slippers; Orkut was like jumping on puddles, splashing mud all over. The greatest attraction of Orkut was the fact that it was mysterious, it was naive, it was difficult to get around with, it came with ridiculously weak features.

Facebook is comfortable and easy; it kept on experimenting and evolving; it also grew with the smart-phone evolution; which is why I will forget about Orkut in a couple of days and pay my occasional visits to the all-conquering f-button.

It is just that it does not come with Testimonials. I have 30 of these. How many do you have?

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