Music for the soul

There are musical voices that truly melt your heart and Shreya Ghoshal’s does just that whenever I hear her. The strains of her voice have an ethereal quality that reflect the innocence of sound thrown in a ring of silence. Without knowing her name or her singing background, the first time her vocal chords drew my attention were for the film ‘Jism’ on the ‘Jadoo hi nasha hai’ track. It was only later when I hear the song ‘Munbe vaa’ from the movie Sillunu Oru Kaadhal that the beauty of that voice really hit home.

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‘Munbe vaa’ composed by A.R. Rahman and sung by Shreya Ghoshal is one of the most beautiful romantic compositions that reflect a perfect balance between singer and composer. I guess Lata Mangeshkar, musically directed by Salil Chowdhury, were the only ones who could achieve such perfect harmony. I am playing the song right now in office (obviously on my headphones). Pure bliss on a Friday afternoon.

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Mangalore in the news – then and now

Note: Only those familiar with Mangalore may get the ‘change’ that is taking place in our city.

Then

Now

A group of girls walk down Arya Samaj road. They pass by the Lewis pub on that road. Local aunty sees them and spreads the news in the neighbourhood. ‘Modern’ girls are ostracised. No more marriage alliances go their way.

Girls have a dinner at the Amnesia lounge, a pub on Balmatta Road. Aunty sees them and joins them. They all get attacked by goons there. Aunty calls her friends from neighbourhood and has a big demonstration against the pub attack.

Cycle thieves strike again. Two Hercules cycles, one BSA cycle and an Atlas cycle disappear from Kankanady market.

Scorpio, Honda City and two Karizma’s stolen from parking lot of Bharath Mall.

Udayavani headline – ‘Encounter at Kuppepadav’. A farmer going about his morning ablutions behind some bushes had an encounter with a leopard at his Kuppepadav fields. Defends himself with ‘katthi’ (sickle).

Todays Udayavani headline – ‘Encounter at Gurpura’. Police encounter results in a guy dead and two others on the run. Automatic weapons recovered.

Mysterious lights seen on Kadri hills. Locals believe that divine intervention is warning us of the times to come.

Mysterious lights seen near Bajpe. That’s just the late night Dubai flights landing at Bajpe airport.

Teacher raps student’s knuckles for playing the fool in class.

Student reveals all about his teacher playing the fool with him in class.

Yekkur Baba presented in district sessions court (We all run to see Mangalore’s answer to Arun Gawli after we polish off our tiffin boxes. The court was right next to our school)

Pramod Muthalik presented in Mangalore sessions court (School gates are closed for fear of a riot about to begin)

The Mogul Treat Restaurant, Mangalore

This is one restaurant that I will unabashedly campaign for. Accuse me of crass commercialism… go ahead, cause I need this restaurant to be in business if I have to keep getting my fair share of the world’s best biriyani.

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I have eaten biriyani in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi and Mumbai – eaten it in restaurants that matter and even those that don’t to the outside world. But never have I tasted such fine biriyani as that at The Mogul Treat in Mangalore.

The mutton biriyani is juicily cooked in fresh spices and the masala layers in the biriyani match the aroma and taste of the basmati rice. It is not too oily or greasy on the fingers. Besides the biriyani you have a whole lot of mughlai dishes. Sheekh kababs are pretty good too. But when you get to the restaurant make sure the mutton biriyani is on top of your menu. You can get a takeaway or sit in the cozy ambience of a simple but well decorated restaurant. Would suggest takeaway as the restaurant is small and tends to get full almost immediately.

Location

Millennium Towers

Highland

Mangalore – 575002

Pricing: Reasonable

The Mangalore-Udupi road trip

As I explained in my last mail, where I reviewed the Skoda Fabia, my friend and I had been to Udupi to get his grandmother backdsc007703 to Mangalore for the weekend. I tagged along to make sure Cronin didn’t get the jitters while navigating through the mining trucks and the Mangalore-Manipal buses. It had been nearly three years since I got back on this route and the new highway, NH 17, was smooth except in patches.

Nothing much has changed on either side of the highway. The dhabas remain and so do the age old shops with their soda bottles and coconuts lining the sides of their premises. The traffic was not that heavy as we moved away from Mangalore. There were a few of the usual suspects – mining trucks, ambassador taxis, milk vans, fish trucks and of course the buses.

I was just making a comment about how things haven’t changed around the highway when Cronin stops the car just after Padubidri and tells me to look at the right, somewhere in the distance. I got down from the car and turned my head to look past the palm trees and the dried up fields that were just in front of me. In the distance I could just about make out a huge reactor-like building and an even longer tower next to it.dsc007743

‘That’s the Nagarjuna power plant that’s just coming up’, Cronin said. The company had been provided land to set up a thermal power plant. I had read somewhere about it being a fly ash plant and that the entire region would be covered in ash from the huge chimneys, once the plant was operational. For me, the huge thermal structures always looked like some concrete monsters. I had only seen this on TV and to see it live over here was a bit unnerving.

Unnerving, because the scenery around me was the typical South Canara fields and coconut trees with tiled roof picture perfect scenes. To have this traditional visual spectacle shaken up with the anomaly of a thermal plant was not pretty. People have vouched for the plant saying it would solve all our power problems in this region. At the same time many families who relied on agriculture in this region were displaced by the plant and the people of Padubidri and surrounding villages were fighting to have the plant removed. As I saw the solid structures in the distance I knew that fight would be in vain.

Progress at the cost of environment is always a ghastly sight but to see it up close made me slightly despondent. In a few years this area would be a fly ash wasteland. I could almost picture an apocalyptic landscape here. I am not much of an environmentalist, but I do not completely turn a blind eye to what happens around me. I can only imagine how the Arundhati Roys and Medha Patkars would feel about this – another round of shrill screams and sound bytes I guess.

We got back on the road and made it past the green nurseries that dotted the highway. As dsc007816we approached the village of Pangla, known for its jasmine flowers, we came across our second (or was it third) accident. Now, the Mangalore-Udupi highway is known to be one of the most dangerous highways in the state with accidents lurking around virtually any corner. The Pangla corner features a bridge built at an awkward curve. A 16-wheeler lay smashed in the middle of the highway just after the curve with its front totally mangled. A lone cop manned the traffic at this point. I snapped a picture of the accident which perhaps had taken place early in the morning.

The rest of the ride and the return was uneventful. Thoroughly enjoyed this ride and plans are afoot to make it to Goa the next time.

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Skoda Fabia – Watch out for the space

Last Saturday, I got a chance to go back to Udupi after a gap of nearly five years. I had last been there for my convocation in Manipal. The purpose of the journey this time – Be the co-transporter for Cronin in order to make sure he drove his new Skoda Fabia safely to and from Udupi while bringing his granny down for the weekend.

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We set off from Mangalore with me at the wheel. The first thing that strikes you when you get into the drivers seat and turn the ignition are the various features that light up on the dash board. Though it may appear a bit confusing at first (especially for someone who is used to driving a Maruti Suzuki around), the panel gives you a broad view on various security features that are in place – some features may seem a bit too much for Indian vehicles (like the door open alarm etc.). Another important factor that strikes you is the spaciousness of the car. The driver’s seats and the back seats have enough of leg space to comfortably stretch your legs. The boot space is quite big for this small car and can easily take in a couple of big bags.

A slight disadvantage for a new driver is the fact that the seats are sunk in a bit too low and you will not be able to see the bonnet especially when you need to judge the traffic around you in the city. Though this may appear to be a drawback, the fact is this cars turning radius is quite good and that takes away half the tension of not being able to check out whether you are scraping someone’s bumper.

Interiors
Interiors

From outside the cars diesel engine is a bit too loud, somewhat like the Indica’s. Once inside with the windows up and the air-conditioning on I felt quite at ease with the silence and it hardly took me a couple of kilometers to get a complete hang of the car. One important factor – all Skoda cars are knocked down versions made completely in Europe and assembled in India. So you will find a few European features in there. I kept pushing the lever to the right of the steering wheel in order to show the indicator. It only resulted in getting the wipers up and running. The indicator lever is to the left of the steering unlike other Indian vehicles. I found this to be the only European anomaly.

The air-conditioning cools at a pleasant level and the car produces enough power to even challenge the Manipal buses (those from Mangalore will know what monsters these buses can be). Keeping in mind that this was a new car, I made sure the speedometer never went above the 100 mark, but the Fabia is a real temptress. The last time I was on the Mangalore-Udupi highway, the national highway project was well under way and along with the mining trucks made our journey hell. Now that most of the project is completed and the roads are getting set, it was great to drive on this highway (despite of a few bottlenecks at Surathkal).

On the highway to Udupi
On the highway to Udupi

The gear change is smooth and another new feature (at least for me) was the reverse gear on the shift. What you got to do is press the gear down and move it to the first gear position and the reverse function is on. Press the gear down and you are back to first gear. Pretty neat I thought. At high speeds the Fabia holds it own in control and power. No buffeting like a Maruti Swift or Wagon R, this is one mean highway mama who can ride it to hell. The only problem I had was that with the AC on the car took time to pick up speed from a lower gear to a higher gear. There was an obvious delay in picking speed especially when I got into a high gear as I was trying to pick up speed while overtaking. For someone used to pressing the accelerator to the floor this could be a big issue. But for the family man driving his kids to school, it’s your perfect hatchback.

All said and done the car is one neat model that looks good, feels good and executes its functions in the prim, proper way and with the German engineering excellence brought by Volkswagen into the Czech Skoda fold. It comes with a standard CD player music system with decent sound and airbags and interior adjustable mirrors. The price may be a bit high (approx. Rs. 7.5 lakhs) for the hatchback but I feel its money well spent for the quality you get. The diesel engine gives you a mileage ofaround 16-18 kms/litre. Good by the cars standards (keeping in mind the engine power). I have noticed Skoda making its mark in India without shouting out loud from the rooftops unlike other brands. Its performance speaks for itself and the Fabia model is no different. Good pick Mr. Almeida (that’s Cronin’s dad by the way).

All aboard the vomit comet

I have been travelling between Bangalore and Mangalore the last couple of weeks and the trips have been little more than memorable for all the wrong reasons. Last night was my latest trip on this KSRTC Volvo bus as I came down to Mangalore for the Republic day weekend.

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Last week sequence was as follows…

Couple with kid gets on bus in Bangalore. Get into the seats right behind us (Cronin was with me). Man opens tiffin box and stuffs the baby with god knows what. I get this uneasy feeling that something is gonna happen behind as bus bumps along Bangalore’s roads. Pass on this feeling to Cronin. Hardly a minute goes by since this statement is made than the baby retches and pukes all over the couple. Cronin grits teeth and says, ‘You spoke too early dude’. The closed bus with the air conditioning circulating begins to smell and we are the most affected. Go through the night with the rotting, stale air hitting our nostrils. End result – no sleep and puke all over our bags that were placed under our seats. Weekend spent with a splitting sleep deprived headache and washing my carry bag nearly 5 times. Still think I smell something there.

Last night…

Get on bus at Majestic bus stand, Bangalore. No couple or baby behind me. In the middle of the night as I just settle into a deep sleep, someone roughly brushes past me. Open eyes and see man rushing to conductor’s cabin. He grabs a black plastic bag from conductor and we hear a roar followed by a whoosh. Rest of the night filled with bad dreams and a lingering pungent odour. Situation compounded by lady in front who wakes up and then decides that she may also want to go over the falls. Fortunately, sense and self-control prevails. Reach Mangalore clean, tidy but psychologically scarred again. No breakfast in the morning…

Alternative modes of transport being considered now…

Am I a loner?

A random Skype call last weekend with a relative who randomly calls whenever she feels its time to call in a favour ended in me introspecting a bit on a personal characteristic. It so happened that this aunt of mine had come across my old classmate at the bank and somewhere in the conversation my name happened to crop up (don’t ask me how… well, actually there
was some Facebook connection to it). My classmate went on to tell my aunt how I remained aloof from all the get-togethers that my class organized from
time-to-time. I was a stuck-up Mangalore boy who rushed home every weekend leaving broken hearts to party in sorrow. That’s nothing new, people within the family have not veered too far from this very notion.

By the way, this friend was talking about my college days in Manipal. In reality, I doubt anyone really missed me save for a couple (?) of close friends. My main intention of rushing home every weekend was to make sure
my laundry got done at home and not at the neighborhood dhobi ghat which looked like it would be a good substitute for the vat of acid where the Joker fell in and gave us that photo op grin. Also, I rushed home to play the demo version of ‘Medal of honor’ and make sure I made it past the first stage. I admit, I am a self serving dude. I need my things to get done first and then take a look at what others have in mind. Partying after a week of classes and just smelly clothes in hand was the last thing on my mind when I left Manipal over the weekends.

This trend extended when I came to Bangalore to begin my career. Weekends are sacred to me. Weekends are when I make sure that my cable operator is worth every penny I pay him each month. Star Movies, HBO, World Movies, Sony PIX, take up most of my weekend. If the friend is worth it I squeeze in some time for him/her too. So coming back to my loner question, I was asked by a relative, why in the world didn’t I mix around with friends. Well the simple answer to that is, I just didn’t feel the need to. When I have my hands full with smelly clothes, Medal of Honor, DVDs and the odd VHS tapes where do I have the time to socialize?

Am I a loner? No, no way, definitely nein. I guess in the midst of all the noise that a party throws up people have forgotten the meaning of silence. If ‘silence is golden’ is too clichéd for you then try ‘silence can be a mind reader’. Try it, Silence has made me AWARE of the world around me. Silence has kept me entertained as I watch dumkoffs spew their brains out. Giving time to myself over the weekends has made me relaxed, though it would be wishful thinking and a sacrilege to call myself the dude from Big Lebowski.

Silent loner who lives in the shadows – that’s me and I love that. More so, I leave it to your imagination to give me the freedom to work according to my profile. Till then omerta is the word.