Self Portrait

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Art work scrapped together to make one picture (sort of) based on a poem I penned down when a friend asked me to write about myself, which goes something like this:

‘Self Portrait’

Small eyes

Thick thighs

Loves fries

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Bombay

It’s only when that little shuttle of metal

Runs so fast, it runs out of ground,

And thrusts itself into the sky

That you feel something –

Stronger than gravity,

More ancient than lust –

Pull you back to this brimming pot of human flesh and iron will.

 

And you’d jump with no parachute.

 

Like a claw of light reaching out

Into the blackness of the sea,

This thin, oddly shaped strip of land glows on.

 

Forged by those devoured by passion,

And by those devoured by greed,

The city will make sure

That you beg for more,

Until you have nothing to beg for.

 

Where money moves faster than time,

And time costs more than money,

Neither spoils of war

Are offered to the weak.

 

Put your makeup on,

Hide your bruises now,

She is waiting.

 

Bombay.

A Day Out in Bangalore for Under Rs 750: What, When, Where

This is not a post about where you should go when you’re travelling in Bangalore. ‘Traveller’ is too serious a term for someone who landed in an alien city near New Year’s eve, on a work-related trip.

I wouldn’t even call myself a tourist. I’m not touring Bangalore. I’m just, well, walking around – admiring, exploring, SnapChating. So I guess, for the lack of a better word, I am a Walker.

If you are a Walker too, this post is for you.

If you plan to be a Walker in Bangalore during the first few days of the year, here are a few things you should know:

  1. Early mornings and early evenings are your best friends.
  2. So are light jackets.
  3. Wear your sneakers everywhere (d’uh)
  4. Bring a book. Always bring a book. The opportunity to read may strike at any time.

I wish I were in a position of authority to be able to tell you know that December-January is the ideal time to visit Bangalore, but I have never visited it during any other time of the year. However, what I can tell you is that December-January is absolutely perfect as it is.

Proof of its perfection? Here: I spotted a tree on the walk from my guesthouse to Ulsoor Lake – it looked like the winter wind had sucked all the moisture out of it, and blown away its leaves, and yet, clusters of fuschia flowers bloomed at the tips of its bare, thin branches.

Yes, I’m in love in Bangalore; and for good reason.

Transport and Food

Since I have the advantage of being put up at a guesthouse on Richmond Road, in Central Bangalore, I was able to walk to one of these locations within 40 minutes and take a cab that got me there in 10 minutes (without traffic) to the other two.snapchat-56280239323447530731

Even though Bangalore is infamous for its traffic, it is a beautifully pedestrian-friendly city. With the exception of one uneven, garbage-strewn footpath here and there, walking around Bangalore has been nothing but absolute bliss.

However, if you are staying outside of Central Bangalore and cannot walk to your destination, walking around the neighbourhood that each of these places falls in will be a rewarding experience in itself.

snapchat-1853901295083730651If you’re a Walker who doesn’t like the footwork too much, investing in a taxi is not only more comfortable than public transport but it is also more economical.

I took an Uber from my guesthouse to Lal Bagh, then another from Lal Bagh to Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, and then back to my guest house. The total cost of all my cab rides for the day has been exactly Rs 189.

Additional expenses included Rs 340 for food throughout the day, along with Rs 185 for pipping hot caramel coffee (a New Year’s celebration for one in a cup). Add to that Rs 20 for entry into Lal Baugh and Rs 15 for a ticket to Tipu’s Summer Palace. And that’s Bangalore under Rs 750!

Here’s how I did it, and how you can too:

Lal Bagh

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Commissioned by the founder of the Sultanate of Mysore, Haidar Ali, in the year 1760, Lal Bagh houses the largest collection of tropical plants in the Indian subcontinent. While the botanical garden was eventually completed by Haidar Ali’s son, Tipu Sultan, after Ali’s death, British colonisers went on to make several additions to the gardens.snapchat-12049653808570911131

Lal Bagh covered an area of 45 acres in 1874. It now covers over 240 acres. the
gardens once housed exotic animals like tigers and rhinoceros but today Lal Bagh is home to a 2000 year old fossil of a tree, an abandoned aquarium, a beautiful lake, majestic trees – some of which are over 100 years old – and about 4819238746 squirrels.

If you too are a morning person who likes taking long walks while enjoying weather that isn’t a constant 30 degrees Celsius, then Lal Bagh is where you should be headed. The gardens open at 6 AM, and charge an entry fee of Rs 20 per adult. I would recommend entering through the main gate and exiting through the Western Gate after having walked through the gardens.

While Lal Bagh houses several impressive buildings – some abandoned, some functional – I learned the hard way that nothing compares to the serenity of spending a cool December morning amongst trees, watching jaybirds hop around and hide in the shade of the shrubbery from the kites that fly low in open, sunny skies.

This might not turn out to be the case for you, but winding up my two hour walk around Lal Bagh at the lake, near the Western Gate, was a more satisfying decision for me as opposed to stopping and looking at important landmarks housed within the gardens.

20161231_113545[1].jpg Find yourself one of those green wooden benches in the shade by the lake, enjoy a scoop of butterscotch in a chocolate bottomed cone on a pleasantly cool noon (bought from the ice cream wallah who sits by the gates), and enjoy reading until the heat starts to ruin your day. Said ruining is most likely to occur near 1 pm. Starting your walkabout at 8 am should be ideal

Extra Credit: I’ve discovered, due to gastronomical situations I would rather not discuss, that the Ladies’ Room at Lal Bagh is absolutely clean and well maintained.

Tipu  Sultan’s Summer Palace:

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At first glance, the monuments seems a tad… small. You see, when someone chooses to call a building a ‘palace’, one does go in with expectations of grandeur. However, it is important to remember that 1) the Ambanis hadn’t built Antillia yet in 1791 when Tipu finished constructing his Summer Palace, so obviously the second Sultan of Mysore had very little idea of what the cribs of the rich and famous really look like, and 2) Tipu’s Summer Palace is just one part of the once-sprawling, now-barely there Bangalore Fort.

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Initially a kuchcha mud structure, the construction of the Bangalore Fort began in 1537 under the leadership Kempe Gowda I, a powerful vassal of the Vijayanagara Empire who – for the initiated – is to Bangalore what Jebediah Springfield is to the town of Springfield. Gowda constructed the Fort in order to establish Bengaluru Pete, or Bangalore City, as his capital.

It was only in 1761, over 200 years after Kempe Gowda I constructed the original fort, that Tipu Sultan’s father, Haider Ali, replaced the mud with stone. It was within the compound of this Fort that Tipu began constructing his Summer Palace in 1784.

The palace is constructed of a rich, dark teak that blends beautifully with the gold that is paint used to decorate the the pillars and the linings of the arches. The walls and ceiling, once adorned with delicate floral patterns, are now faded and are beginning to chip from lack of care.

The Palace additionally houses perfectly manicured lawns, a signature of monuments overseen by Tipu Sultan, along with a Eastern and Western balconies on the upper floor of the Palace, from where Tipu held his durbar.

Though the Summer Palace isn’t in exceptional condition, if you’ve spent nights binge-reading history then a visit is a must. Add to that a dash of imagination and you have your own augmented reality tour, a la Pokemon Go, as you watch history come alive every time you recall a fact while walking the halls.

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But if you are not one to read up material from at least fifteen different sources before you actually visit the place, just hire a guide. Without history, without context Tipu’s magnificent Summer Palace would just be a boring old wooden building.

Even though the Palace is open between 10.30 am and 6,30 pm, I would recommend getting there as early as possible. I made the grave mistake of arriving close to noon, and ended up seeing more humans than history.

If you, fellow Walker, detest crowds with the same passion as I, then remember that noon is the time of Tourist Groups; and not just any Tourist Groups, the kind that take over any quiet public space and believe that historically significant architectural wonders were built by some of the most powerful personalities to ever live in order to serve as a background for their selfies.

While I don’t mean to sound preachy, I ask that you not lean on the railings of either the stairs or of the balconies (as the signs instruct).

You won’t need too much time to explore Tipu’s Summer Palace. Sixty to ninety minutes should be quite enough.

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Extra Credit: There’s a rather informative sign board in Braille at the entrance of the Palace. I know it isn’t much, but it’s a start, and I’m glad that we, as a country, finally got here.

 

Ulsoor Lake

Remember that travel cliche about the journey being more important than the destination? Turns out, that cliche just might be true. At least when you’re heading to Ulsoor Lake it really might.

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Commercial Street on New Year’s Ever

Arriving at Ulsoor just in time to stroll around the lake and watch its green-tinted waters as the winter sky turned grey with bright pink streak near the horizon, is the best reward to a rather exhausting walk from Richmond, through Commercial Street – exhausting, not because 3.1 km is too much of a distance to cover in 40 minutes, but because for one day in the year, it seemed as if all the cars on Commercial Street had turned into people and taken over the footpath.

When I had put my shoes on, to head to Ulsoor, it was more about beating the New Year traffic than exploration. But it was the best decision I had made all day.

Please, if you are within a 5 km radius of Ulsoor Lake, do take the extra effort to walk. I know it seems like a daunting task but Bangalore’s friendly streets with their colourful stalls, graffiti-ed walls and quaint little cafes, and happy little flowers popping up from the most unexpected blocks of concrete will make your day.

Located in one of the oldest neighbourhoods of Bangalore, Ulsoor Lake was originally named Halasuru after the orchard of ‘Halasina Hannu’ or jackfruit, which stood near the water body.

Although Ulsoor Lake was built by Kempe Gowda I’s successor Kempe Gowda II, Sir Lewin Bentham Bowring further worked on the structure and the present form of the lake is his creation.

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Spread over an expanse of 123.6 acres, Ulsoor has several islands and is one of the largest lakes  in Bangalore. Although I did spot steps leading down to the lake, a boathouse and two marooned motorboats, I’m not sure if boating still takes place at Ulsoor.20161231_1818401

There is a metal fence around the lake, which doesn’t really leave much room for sitting on the banks. There are, however, comfortable benches placed around the circumference of the lake.

(Side Note: It was lovely to see young people, not just here but also in Lal Baugh, sitting together without facing the ire of self appointed guardians of sanskaar. Bangalore, this is really commendable.)

After a day out wandering the city, a visit to Ulsoor is the perfect way to end a mini-adventure. I would recommend that you get there by 5 pm. If you arrive later than that, you run the risk of missing the sunset. It gets dark faster in winter and mosquitoes around the water body can be quite an annoyance.

Ulsoor Lake is best enjoyed with a friend or a book (or both)!

Extra Credit: Once the sun goes down and the mosquitoes come out, head to the Costa Coffee across the street from the main gate. They make a delicious, filling caramel coffee and have the comfortable sofas you’ll need after all that walking.

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I hope you love Bangalore as much as I did. Let me know about your experiences in the comments section below.

 

Unboxing India: Snapdeal Gives ‘Cash on Delivery’ a Whole New Meaning

If you’ve kept up with the either the news or the WhatsApp group you have with your extended family, you know by now that Snapdeal will be delivering cash to your doorstep.

You can request Rs 2000 in cash per booking and swipe your card on a PoS machine, which the delivery person will bring with them – all this for the price of a single rupee.

In such a time of crisis for the Indian middle class, AKA Real India™, this is a great patriotic gesture by the company.

Perhaps the only move more patriotic than this would be if every time you opened Snapdeal’s website, the National Anthem started playing.

However, while I do appreciate the gesture, I am slightly offended.

For too long intellectuals and responsible providers of factual information, AKA Twitter trolls (on both sides), have accused me of being an anti-national Sanghi who is also a sickularistic communal misogynistic manhating feminazi.

The demonetization drive was the only way for me to redeem myself and prove my patriotism by standing in long queues  instead of indulging in leisurely activities such relaxing in a meeting with clients or chilling with my girls in the 6 pm Virar Fast.

Also, I cannot help but wonder:

When I cannot withdraw more than a certain limit – and I write ‘a certain limit’ in order to stay on the factually correct side of things, in case the rules change again before this post goes up – how is it that a company can dispense cash at will?

Moreover, how the hell are they going to get so many people to stand in line at banks and ATMs? They must have a very dedicated legion at their disposal.

This dedicated legion could have been out on their bikes delivery clothes and stuffed toys for Christmas but no, they were not ones to shy away from serving the people – a kind of selfless service we only observe in our dear leaders.

Can you imagine the amount of selflessness it takes to build a Rs 3,600 crore statue in the middle of the sea instead of developing that prime property as weekend homes for South Bombayites

Although, to be fair, a lot of South Bombayites might not even be able to afford a kholi in Kalina post-demonetization. Or at least I fervently hope so. If I have to follow the rules and remain poor (OK, middle class) then why should I be the only one?

Therefore, I extend my most sincere congratulations to Snapdeal’s CEO, Kunal Bahl.

He has effectively identified a problem faced by the masses, and used the human and financial resources at his disposal to solve it.

I’d say this sounds a lot like what a Prime Minister would do, but then again I don’t buy into that conspiracy theory of private corporations dictating public policy, because if that were true why would a private corporation go against the official government stand of ‘go cashless’ and bring me cash at my doorstep (for a cost)?

I cannot fathom why people would allege such things. The government and private corporations have almost nothing in common. At least with private corporations, the process is a democratic one throughout.

Unlike with my government, I can always cancel my order, get assistance directly from a customer care executive and get refunded if they fail to deliver without having to wait five years.

The only time Snapdeal surprises me with new rules in the middle of the night is when they’re about to have a sale. 

Speaking of which, are we getting any discounts on cash this New Year? Because I would totally unbox India.