Friday, August 27, 2004


I spend a lot of time browsing through bookstores. Ive done this all over, whichever city I have spent more than a day in, with perhaps an evening free.

Some bookstores are nice, some are comfy, some have character, some are cold. Some are just sinply bookstores, nothing more, nothing less. A lot depends on the owner/manager of bookstores.

Ive been to small round the corner bookstores where the owner is a cranky old man, who looks at you like you are asking for secret documents of the CBI each time you request any book. Then there are the big chain stores which are still comfy because the management has realised you need to make your customer feel at home in a bookstore.

Ive been to Om Books in Gurgaon. The owner there was a young kid but he knew his books and so did his staff. Most of them were hindi speaking, but one of them even engaged me in an intelligent discussion on nietzche (in Hindi) when I requested a book of his. Their recommendations were usually good and I did pick up a lot of good books based on what they suggested. I picked up 'Da Vinci Code' because of them, over a year and a half ago, before it exploded on the literary scene. Yes, Om Books had staff who enjoyed the books as much as their customers if not more.

Gurgaon also has this little nook n corner kind of place. I think it is 'pens & pads' or 'quills n canvas' at the Galleria. this lady had an amazing stock of books for kids. And it was the easiest place to pick up a gift for the kids of the hosts who had invited me to dinner.

Crossword at Bangalore is over 1500 sq ft and a place I visit at least once as I travel through this city. Its a good place to go when you have some time to kill. They have a couple of leather seats that you can bag, if you are lucky. You can pick up a book, and curl up on the chair for the whole day and read. The staff is very friendly and let you be as long as you want. You can even sit on the mats in the children section and browse through as many comic books as you like. Which reminds me, have you read the new phantom comics ? I hate the feel of the pages. Nothing beats the feel of those rs1.25 comics with their colors and drawings. The cartoons at the back, Henry, the little king... Though not glossy, they were so much easier on the eye to read.

Strand at Manipal centre in Bangalore, is a good place to go in case you are looking for a difficult to find book. They almost always have a sale so you are sure to get some amount of discount on your purchases.

Theres this old man in his quaint book store on Church street, with books piled all higgledy piggledy like the towers of Sauron after a couple of attacks launched on it. But its amazing just for its atmosphere. I think its called the 'premier book shop' the shop is over 30 years old and Mr. Shanbhag the owner is a charming man who knows his books.

There's another very charming and courteous old man on 1 of the roads off Commercial street. He runs more of a library than a book shop, but often sells some of the books at reduced prices. If you take the time to talk to him, he will regale you with some old stories and chai. Downside being, his major stock comprises of romance novels for college girls who are his biggest clientele.

I hate Gangarams. They might have the biggest collection in Bangalore, but they also have the worst attitude. The staff does their best to brush you off, if you happen upon any of them in the first place.

Landmark at the Forum has the hugest collection I think, but again minimum warmth, they arent rude,. Its just difficult to find someone to help you and they dont know much themselves and spend another 10-15 minutes trying to locate someone who does.

Higginbothams is ok. But you are forever bumping into another shopper. That doesnt make for a pleasant experience at all when shopping for books. Makes you feel like you are shopping for vegetables in Chandni Chowk.

Bombay, I heard Crossword closed down at Crossroads in Worli. Not too sure about this info. But my favourite place for book browsing are the streets in Fort area. They are second hand books but you often chance upon some gems. The possibility of getting a "find" in Bombay is much higher than any other city, I have found. Could be the number of professionals around who have to keep moving from city to city and sell away their old books during the move.

At Hyderabad, I adored Kadambi at SD road near clock tower. But cant seem to find him now. He has moved and Ive still not been able to find where he has moved to. His family had the shop for generations but he was forced to vacate so MCH could widen the road. Another cultural victim to development.

Odyssey is a good store. The staff is friendly, polite, unobtrusive, yet omniprescent in case you need some help. They may not have the widest selection. and a special order you place may never arrive from the mother store in Chennai but that pales in comparison to the friendly service and the permanent 10% discount that members get on any purchase from the store, books, magazines, stationery, gift items. Then of course there r the frequent user points. But Ive already spoken about that in a previous post.

Crossword in Hyderbad is too small. Barely the size of their childrens section in bangalore. So number of titles available is much lower. Though the service is polite, its normally left to 1 woman who has to man (/woman) the cash counter too. Its location within shoppers stop ensures, a lot of mothers send their kids there to keep them occupied with the maids in tow, but the kids being the fun factory kind, would rather be on the 5th floor than the ground, so u can imagine the ruckus they create. (which reminds me, I have to write a vent on mothers who bring their maids to mind their kids wherever they go)

Walden has the largest collection but the scarcest staff. Posters and banners sternly declare: "Reading magazines in the store is not allowed." I havent seen them enforce this, but the posters are enough to leave a bad taste. I havent had much success rordering books from here either. My conclusion is that its just a scam, u can place as many orders for unavailable books as you want, the books will only come in when the bookstore owner/manager wants them to.

Chennai has Crossword, Landmark, Walden and Odyssey which r kind of like their sister concerns in the other cities.

Tell me what u think ? Which book stores do YOU like ? N why ? Feel free to disagree with me.

Music n some rambling too

I confess, I am a frequent point addict. Thats the reason i goto planet m, buy most clothes from shoppers stop, lifestyle, was addicted to cafe coffee day opposed to barrista, om books in delhi, crossword in bangalore n odyssey in chennai n hyderbad tho walden has a better selection in the last 2 cities.... Ive had decent interactions with these guys. If the service pisses me off, Im the first to leave tho, but in the above mentioned book shops Ive had the best of service other than walden who is too big to bother. Same goes for landmark in bangalore n chennai. Huge collection but very impersonal staff.


All time favourites, bellamy brothers, simon n garfunkel, beatles, allanis morisette(just adore her, kind of identify with her catholic school upbringing) bon jovi, scorpions, liked madonna in the 80s but she's getting weirder by the day, same with MJ, I love dance music from the 60's n 70's, beachboys, abba, carpenters. the latino rythm is something i like, yet the only options available in india r enrique n jlo, tho i dont much care for 90% of her albums, there could b just 1 or 2 songs worth listening to. indian stores donts even carry gloria estefan. sinatra, perry como, jim reeves, elvis, nat king cole..... voices u can still swoon to.

Havent been able to get my hand on some big band variety, when in chicago i didnt know how to pick up good jazz stuff, so didnt buy any. Now plan to do a crash course with hari (who seems to know everything about music) and will request whoever flies to US next to pick up stuff from a list or maybe wait another 6 months for my bro to get back. dad's useless at shopping. If i ask for peabo bryson, he'l most probably get me p diddy or prince(tho his latest video with the little kid who dances amazingly well, is quite good too) or something like that : ) he keeps mixing names up, so definitely not a good option.

hate the hindi remixes that r churned out everyday in a more demeaning form, started listening to hindi music (actually understanding hindi itself) when I went to xl, so now, I like the classic RD burman, kishore, mukesh, asha (helen nos r my favourite here), lata variety, tho I most probably wouldnt be able to identify them individually. I actually like Indian Ocean and Euphoria. Used to like Lucky ali but find his tunes r getting a little monotonous these days.

Listen to a couple of boy bands becos of my sis n pick them up for her too. Westlife, blue, backstreet boys, u must know them by no. I do listen to MLTR tho, the range in their songs is extremely difficult to achieve, very few people can sing an MLTR song without changing scales mid way.

Im a trained pianist tho i dont play a note these days, that was a 'done thing' in my community so.... but im rebelling now. But yeah i do listen to classical stuff too. Strauss' waltzes r my favourites but chopin, beethoven the rest of it too.

Tho i start my day with bhajans n hindu chants esp gayatri mantra which i have found works for me., keeps me calmer the days i listen to it.

Guess u can say : I am a bundle of contradictions, but thats what makes life interesting. Hari's moved here. So we totally freak out on his collection. He has some really rare collections n compilations. so if u have varied taste u will freak on it too.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Cubicle Culture

Wall Street Journal

Workaholics Use Fibs, Subterfuge to Stay Connected on Vacation August 25, 2004

You never would have guessed Jodi Burack was vacationing last week in South Carolina. When she received an e-mail from me last Friday asking if she was doing work during her time off, she responded within 10 minutes.

"Well, there was an outage of service," she pecked back on her BlackBerry. "I was nuts calling my office too much." But then the service was finally restored, and she was barraged with more than 200 e-mails, "My husband was playing golf. Did not catch me but we are with friends and they grabbed the pager away," she typed.

The attitude of family and friends forces Mrs. Burack to do what any self-respecting nonrelaxer must do: deceive, beguile and swindle. Last March in Hawaii, for example, her husband expressed shock that she hadn't brought her BlackBerry. But "I had it," she admits. "I was hiding it." She used it when everyone else was asleep, and if they weren't, she would sneak into the bathroom or the closet. The closet? "Oh, yeah, that's nothing," she says.

Some people just can't take a real break from work. Harboring an abiding certitude that something tragic will happen when they aren't looking -- including possibly to them -- they spend great sums and drive great distances dowsing for a few bars of cellular signal or BlackBerry link. Loved ones, though, rarely understand that the very possibility of missing something big at the office is more tragic than spending hard-earned money to effectively set up a satellite office beachside. That forces the helplessly connected to abandon all semblance of dignity just to get their fix. It's another sign of how much work can contaminate leisure.

Workaholism is nothing new, particularly in a nation founded by people who distrusted idleness. "Everybody who's observed American culture, beginning with de Tocqueville, has said that Americans are uneasy with leisure," says Geoffrey Godbey, a professor of leisure studies at Pennsylvania State University. The difference is that now people have a way to calm themselves when a vacation is packed with too much fun: "New technologies make it easier [to channel] those impulses," the professor says.

In June, Bryson Koehler, a director of Internet services at a hotel company, went with his extended family to Hilton Head, S.C., where he discovered that only in one corner of his parents' bathroom would his BlackBerry and wireless laptop connection work. So he camped out in the loo, even after his mother, unaware he was sitting there in the dark one evening, began to undress for bed. "Whoa, Mom. Wait, I'm back here," he shouted.

When his family went biking on island trails, Mr. Koehler surreptitiously planted his laptop, cellphone and BlackBerry in the bicycle trailer carrying his 9-month-old son, leaving them with their power on to collect messages during the ride. It worked until his wife caught him. "She accused me of giving the baby cancer because I had the cellphone under him," Mr. Koehler recalls.

The persistence of his connectedness "gets on my wife's every last nerve," Mr. Koehler concedes. As a result, she'll "accidentally" unplug his BlackBerry from its charger, "accidentally" switch it from ring to vibrate, or just hide the thing. Her newest tactic is to book cruise vacations, where Internet access is exorbitantly expensive.

A vast ocean didn't stop Juliette Anthony, a legislative consultant for a solar energy company in California, who went on a cruise in February with a friend. She fibbed to her friend, who worried she didn't know how to relax. "I'd say, 'I'm going to the gym' or 'I'm going to get a massage,' " she says. Instead, she would be in the ship's bar, drinking ginger ales and racking up Internet-access charges.

For his transgressions, Jeffrey Cohen, a sales director at insurance information provider Advisen, gets the "evil stare" from his wife, as well as such comments as, "Oh, nice of you to join us," he says. If he needs a pen or paper and asks for it, no one will fetch it for him. At the same time, his twins mock him in unison, pretending they're typing on a handheld.

Workaholic Henry Franceschini took his first vacation in four years last Easter, but the 48-year-old sales manager soon discovered there wasn't much cellular service in Destin, Fla. So he spent a lot of his time driving in search of a signal.

Altogether, Mr. Franceschini probably spent as much as four hours each day working. He'd tell his family he was using the Internet to find a great restaurant for dinner but would answer e-mail instead. He'd say he was going to the bathroom but call the office. He'd say he was going to the grocery store but phone work instead.

Because he's tired, he vows to reform, sort of. "I won't take the laptop but I will take the cellphone," he says. He plans to use his 371,000 frequent-flyer miles to go anywhere in the world, so long as it isn't to the Caribbean. "There's no cellphone coverage" there, he exaggerates.

There's another solution: try to persuade family members you don't have any choice about working. Failing that, you should just hope your kids turn into normal teenagers. "When they're teenagers, you're invisible anyway," says Jeff Porter, a Dallas attorney.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004



I love to write. Couple of my articles have been published whether they r reviews of movies, pubs or restaurants. I also love to travel and some of my work has been published. I wanted to put all of this together in one place like a scrap book. So gg ( recommended, I move to the blogspot.

Feeling my way around here. So forgive the initial chaos, but I hope to be able to sort it out soon. Will just take me a little time to figure everything out.

As u can c, I love entertainment and travel and thats what most of my blog is going to be about.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Papermaker smells money in elephant dung fit for a president !

Papermaker smells money in elephant dung fit for a president

PINNAWELA, Sri Lanka (AFP) -

A group of enterprising Sri Lankans are taking their recycling business to jumbo heights -- by turning elephant dung into paper fit for use even by US President George W. Bush.

Through their company Maximus, named after their chief supplier "elephas maximus", the group's modest paper plant churns through up two tonnes of manure a day. And its appetite shows no signs of abating, with increased demand for pachyderm paper from Japan, Europe and the United States. Maximus paper is 75 percent dung, and the rest is recycled cardboard.

Dung paper is a good conversation piece," said Thusitha Ranasinghe who manages Maximus. "You give someone your business card printed on dung paper and they immediately want to smell it. It is a good ice breaker."

The deodorised paper has no trace of the raw material, although a connoisseur may be able to say what the elephant had for dinner by looking at the paper's fibres.

And Maximus can certainly stake a claim to have provided for some political heavyweights -- none other than President Bush, his wife Laura and US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

In July 2002 on a visit to the United States, Sri Lanka's then premier Ranil Wickremesinghe gave President Bush a box of gold-monogrammed dung writing paper, envelopes and name cards.

He elected the more delicate bougainvillea paper stationery Bush's wife Laura.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell received a spicy variety of cinnamon and banana-recycled paper.

But since its inception in 1997, Maximus is going from strength to strength.

Its seven-strong workforce has now mushroomed into 122 employees, mostly from Pinnawela. And they don't have to travel too far to restock with the freshest of supplies.

Pinnawela is home to the world's first elephant orphanage, the state-run facility boasting more than 60 living recycling machines. When they're caught short, Maximus staff simply dash to the orphanage.

Maximus produces two main varieties of paper -- dark and light. The dark comes from an elephant which has eaten a meal of palmyrah branches while a jumbo snacking on coconuts will give lighter paper.

Ranasinghe said 10 kilograms of dung will usually produce 40 to 50 boards or 600 to 660 sheets of A4 paper. There is money in dung. The price for six sheets of A4 paper is about 50 US cents.

Recycling revenues have gone up from 650,000 rupees in 1998 to 19 million (200,000 dollars) last year. "Ninety percent of our production is exported," he said. "We could do more, if we have more paper."

The island's northern and eastern regions, where wild elephant herds are known to roam, could be a gold mine for Ranasinghe, who has sounded out Tamil Tiger rebels who all but control the region.

"This is a very labour intensive process and Tigers can employ a lot of people in this profitable business," Ranasinghe told AFP. "We can have dung-paper produced in Tiger-held areas."

He is printing business cards for Tiger supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran and his senior aides on dung-paper, hoping it could break the ice and make new "paper Tigers".

Monday, August 16, 2004

I'm a Carbohydratic by Dave Barry


I probably shouldn't admit this to you younger readers, but when my generation was your age, we did some pretty stupid things. I'm talking about taking CRAZY risks. We drank water right from the tap.
We used aspirin bottles that you could actually open with your bare hands. We bought appliances that were not festooned with helpful safety warnings such as, "DO NOT BATHE WITH THIS TOASTER."

But for sheer insanity, the wildest thing we did was - prepare to be shocked - we deliberately ingested carbohydrates. I know, I know. It was wrong. But we were young and foolish, and there was a lot of peer pressure. You'd be at a party, and there would be a lava lamp blooping away, and a Jimi Hendrix record playing. And then, when the mood was right, somebody would say: "You wanna do some 'drates?"
And the next thing you know, there'd be a bowl of pretzels going around, or crackers, or even potato chips, and we'd put these things into our mouths and just EAT them.

My only excuse was that we were ignorant. It's not like now, when everybody knows how bad carbohydrates are, and virtually every product is advertised as being "low-carb," including beer, denture adhesives, floor wax, tires, life insurance and Viagra. Back then, we had no idea.
Nobody did! Our own MOTHERS gave us bread!

Today, of course, nobody eats bread. People are terrified of all carbohydrates, as evidenced by the recent mass robbery at a midtown Manhattan restaurant, where 87 patrons turned their wallets
over to a man armed only with a strand of No. 8 spaghetti. ("Do what he says! He has pasta!")

The city of Beverly Hills has been evacuated twice this month because of reports - false, thank heavens - that terrorists had put a bagel in the water supply.

But as I say, in the old days we believed that the reason you got fat was from eating "calories," which are tiny units of measurement that cause food to taste good. When we wanted to lose weight, we went on low-calorie diets in which we ate only inedible foods such as celery, which is actually a building material. The problem with the low-calorie diet was that a normal human could stick to it for, at most, four hours, at which point he or she would have no biological choice but to sneak out to the garage and snork down an entire bag of Snickers, sometimes without removing the wrappers.

So nobody lost weight, and everybody felt guilty all the time. Many people, in desperation, turned to disco. But then along came the bold food pioneer who invented the Atkins Diet: Dr. Something Atkins. Dr. Atkins discovered an amazing thing: Calories don't matter! What does matter are carbohydrates, which result when a carbo molecule and a hydrate molecule collide at high speeds and form tiny invisible doughnuts.

Dr. Atkins' discovery meant that as long as you avoided carbohydrates, you could, without guilt, eat high-fat, high-calorie foods such as cheese, bacon, lard, pork rinds and whale. You could eat an entire pig, as long as the pig had not recently been exposed to bread.

At first, like other groundbreaking pioneers such as Galileo and Eminem, Dr. Atkins met with skepticism, even hostility. The Celery Growers Association hired a detective to - yes - stalk him. His car tires were repeatedly slashed by what police determined to be shards of Melba toast. But Dr. Atkins persisted, because he had a dream - a dream that, some day, he would help the human race by selling it 427 million diet books. And he did, achieving vindication for his diet before his tragic demise in an incident that the autopsy report listed as "totally unrelated to the undigested 28-pound bacon cheeseburger found in his stomach."

But the Atkins Diet lives on, helping millions of Americans to lose weight. The irony is, you can't tell this by looking at actual Americans, who have, as a group, become so heavy that North America will soon be underwater as far inland as Denver.

Which can only mean one thing: You people are still sneaking Snickers.
You should be ashamed of yourselves! Got any more?
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