Saturday, June 30, 2012

The art of persuasion

Indians have a big problem in closing sales. That is the considered opinion of experts. We have great ideas and when the deal is done, we are good at delivery. But, and it is a very big but, we have a hard time convincing somebody to invest in our idea or us.

I heard this from motivational speakers Dr John Demartini, Jeff Slayter and Kane Minkus. I could have easily taken this as just a sales pitch for their forthcoming workshop.

But not only were they speaking from experience, they were echoing the words of someone who deserves to be heard with respect - Ramesh Ramanthan, Founder of Janaagraha, who walks the talk.

Ramesh Ramanathan's Janaagraha is a shining example of persuasion.
This champion of public governance, and his wife Swati, gave up highflying corporate jobs in the West to come back to India. Spurred by the volunteer action of fellow residents in Connecticut, the couple decided to invest their time and fortune in making India a better place. 

In the last decade, their efforts have made Janaagraha a serious voice in civic affairs. The most telling testimony is that several high achievers from the Indian civil services and the corporate sector have joined this organisation and its sister concern Janalakshmi which is rewriting finance models for the urban poor. I can write an entire book about the range of their activities - do visit their websites and

Anyone who has tussled with the system would know how frustrating it can be. Getting our elected representatives and officials to allow people to take their place in a participatory democracy is a daunting task. Not many would persist in a thankless job.

How then has Janaagraha become successful? Its results come from the passion that drives Ramesh, Swati and their committed team members. It is volunteerism at its shining best. Ramesh says that the Government put incredible obstacles in their path but when it was convinced of their good faith, transparency and capabilities, it has extended co-operation.

There are lessons here for us – not just of moral duty but also in applying the same ‘relentless’ (as Ramesh puts it) approach in getting what we want. 

Ramesh and Swati
He draws a parallel between his single minded wooing of Swati all of 26 years ago, when he was willing to forsake everything to be with her, and their dedication to the cause of Janaagraha. Many people might not know the full extent of this voluntary organisation’s work; some might question its impact. “But you know what, it does not matter, we will persevere.” 

Jeff and Kane say that in workshops around the world they have found that Indians are the most highly qualified academically and yet they struggle to find success.

The secret is this: if you are passionate about what you do, you can be successful. If you believe in it, you can sell your idea to others. If you want to convince your boss to give you a promotion, your client to give you an order, your partners to go along with your idea, you have got to believe in your premise and wake up every day with the determination to get it.

Sales is the art of persuasion and it is only when you have conviction in your cause whether it is of self-interest or civic sense, that you can be successful in persuading others.

By Sandhya Mendonca (Sandhya Mendonca writes a weekly column for the Herald Goa)

Read the story on the Goa Herald:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rain and the city

Even as the monsoon stands clear of the city and a rather lacklustre performance by the rain gods is predicted this year, Bangaloreans are prepping to make the most of it.

Driven by the depleting ground water resources and a burgeoning population, enforcing rainwater harvesting could just be the antidote to taps running dry. A threat to cut the existing supply of Cauvery water is the incentive to get Bangaloreans moving.

While it cannot replace the water supply system, rainwater makes for a necessary supplementary source. Bangalore currently receives 910 MLD (million litres per day) of water and falls short by 390 MLD of water required.

Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) imposed mandatory rainwater harvesting (RWH) in the city three years ago. The Act passed in 2009 makes it compulsory for rainwater harvesting structures to be set up in all buildings occupying an area of 2400 sq ft and all proposed constructions on a land area of 1200 sq ft and over. Kemparamaiah, Chief Engineer at BWSSB said that so far 41326 buildings covering a land area of 1200 sq ft and 2400 sq ft have incorporated RWH.

Photo credit: Hari Krishnan
Rainwater harvesting involves collecting and storing rainwater while in the groundwater recharge method, the water is directed to recharge pits and wells to replenish underground water.

A contractor Sridhar says most of the residents he has dealt with opted for recharge pits as the storage model requires maintenance. Rainwater is channeled through down water pipes to a filter and then stored in a storage tank. Stored rainwater can be used for a variety of chores ranging from gardening to washing cars and utensils. While rainwater is pure it can get contaminated due to particles on the roof which makes a sound filtration system necessary if you want to utilise it for drinking, cooking or bathing.

Jameel, who has installed both storage and recharge pits is of the opinion that stored water may or may not be utilised whereas a recharge pit will ensure that the underground water is replenished.

Subramanian says that they got a recharge pit in their apartment complex which has a terrace area of about 10000 sq ft more than six years ago and they have never faced a dearth of water, and have a continuous supply of water from their borewell. 

Nanda Kumar has set up a variety of RWH structures from recharge pits to sumps with pop-up filter and tank storage. He has seen a good demand from both companies like IBC Knowledge Park and residential buildings. He has installed it for over 150 buildings so far including a 22 ft deep well with a filter and pit for a company.

A resident of Vignanapura, where only one out of every 20 borewells dug actually has water, had a well of around 15 feet dug up last year and after heavy rain it is usually full and is sucked up by the earth within minutes but water continues to be an issue in the neighbourhood.

The yield is determined by the roof area. According to BWSSB, Bangalore’s annual average rainfall of about 1000 mm can easily help a 2400 sq ft house collect and use around 2.23 lakh litres of water.

A coffee planter, Thimmiah feels RWH is not practical considering the rainfall that Bangalore receives. The amount of water that can be collected from their office roof is negligible, the stored water would last a day or ten days. The outskirts and large open spaces which are not concretised would naturally be recharged and are ideal for harvesting rain. 

A first of its kind in India, BWSSB’s Sir M Visvesvaraya Rain Water Harvesting Theme Park in Jayanagar, gives free information about RWH to the public and has 26 types of RWH models.

By Anuradha Prasad/ Raintree Media Features/ 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Add clay to your life

With its wide roads lined with sprawling trees and houses sitting back in quiet grace, the area around Ashoka Pillar is my favourite locality in Bangalore. The Pillar marks the beginning of the city’s largest planned residential zone, Jayanagar, named after the late Maharaja of Mysore Jayachamaraja Wodeyar who inaugurated it in 1948.

The symbolism is apt for this demure entrepreneur who worked as a visualiser and did hotel sales before starting to design terracotta ware. Over time, Shashi Bagchi has created a niche business for gardenware in her ancestral home near Ashoka Pillar.

‘Maati’ (as her business is called) displays its wares under the cover of a bamboo roof and its very openness and simplicity are an irresistible invitation to passers-by. There is a bewildering variety of choice that ranges from standard clay planters and birdbaths to quixotic animal forms: a pig plump with contentment, a pup in blissful sleep in a basket, a dog’s derriere as it digs for a bone, caterpillars with mischievous smiles, frogs, snails, squirrels, crocodiles and gargoyles.

An enchanting triangular stretch of garden hosts some of the gardenware, though there are plenty of options for apartment dwellers – plant holders shaped like coffee cups are eminently suitable for the kitchen or breakfast area. Others shaped as snails, tortoises, frogs and rabbits look charming in bathrooms and sit-outs. Some customers buy them just as display pieces without wanting to plant anything in them. 

That might be good for business but the couple is driven by the need to green the city. They might offer their space for expert gardeners to teach enthusiasts. They have not made up their minds about pottery classes yet as the studio is located on the outskirts of the city.

Shashi conceptualises the design and works on the wheel initially and after the craftsmen have got the design right, she leaves it to them.

It has not been an easy journey; when she began in 2005, traditional potters were very lax about executing orders. “We did not bargain with them, we paid them their asking price but they did not stick to the timelines and the quality of the ware was inconsistent,” she says. 

The disheartening part was that the potters were resistant to making anything other than the large pots and urns that they had been doing. “The market for such pieces has dwindled as most people have switched to plastic containers. If we have to keep terracotta alive, we need to come up with designs that appeal to the new style of living.” Over time, she detected a spark of interest in a couple of younger potters and has cultivated their craft patiently. Along with the gardenware, she has delved into making terracotta cooking vessels, masks and murals.

Handling the creative, production, and sales and marketing is an extraordinary challenge and I identify with the constant struggle of the small entrepreneur. Unexpected changes can increase costs; Maati’s potters don’t use firewood for baking the clay, they use the leaves of the silver oak and this was free for the picking. But with the BDA acquiring more open land to make them into housing plots, Shashi has to buy bags of leaves. 

This makes the price range all the more impressive as it ranges between Rs.100 to Rs.900 (for the biggest pieces).

Maati’s mission is worthy of support – for one, plastic pots are abhorrent while clay pots allow the plant to breathe and thrive. Two, producing pieces that add character to homes and gardens is a good way to keep the traditional craft of pottery alive.

By Sandhya Mendonca (Sandhya Mendonca writes a weekly column for the Herald Goa) 

Read the story on the Goa Herald:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Is what you see who you are? If the answer is a vehement no, help is at hand. More than a passing fad and not restricted to a privileged few, image consultants are the modern day fairy godmothers who with a wave of their magic wand (or in this case a sheaf of questionnaires) can transform you.

It is no news that first impressions can take you a long way. “People judge you within 30 seconds of seeing you. The halo effect is when you start off on a positive note and everything you do after that is seen in a positive light,” says Lata Goenka-Kedia, image director at Maximum Effect. Natalie Pereira, whose company Ripple Effect handles image consultancy, communication and presentation, concurs that it takes more effort to undo a bad impression in a world where perception is 90 percent of the validity.

“Image consulting is about how you communicate and what you communicate, the messages you want to portray right from your appearance to your behaviour, and your written and oral communication –what we call the ABCs of image management. The crux of it is how you are perceived and ensuring that it is in line with what you want to communicate. Everyone is a work of art and it is really just about choosing the right frame to showcase yourself,” says Goenka-Kedia. 

Photo: b:blunt
Contrary to popular belief you don’t have to be a celebrity or a corporate honcho to enjoy these services. Most consultants’ clientele is a diverse mix. Pereira says, “It is for everyone from children to adults. You have it, you present it. My job is to enhance my client’s ability to shine…polish the plus points and negate the negative points.” Babita Jaishankar, CEO at WSol, adds that image consulting is not about looking glamorous but for those who want to look their best.

A common misconception is that it is expensive business. But as image consultants will point out most people wear only 30 percent of their wardrobe. Rather than a splurge fest, consultants guide you to building a wardrobe that is 100 percent usable, which makes it a cost-effective exercise.

Goenka-Kedia says, “The process starts with a coffee meet followed by a series of analysis – colour, body line, facial, personality. When I work with corporate clients I use various diagnostic tools and the approach is more strategic. Questionnaires help get a clue about the individual’s personality and what their goals are. My aim is and what I enjoy bringing out is their individuality, their personality through their dress.” 

Lata Goenka-Kedia, image director at Maximum Effect
Jaishankar’s sessions include style profiling, wardrobe restyling, grooming and body language. A trained designer, she designs the entire wardrobe herself when required.

Ask the experts what is their take on workplace boo-boos and Pereira says it is unacceptable that in India most people cannot draw attitude boundaries between work and home. Goenka-Kedia feels a common blunder is wearing traditional clothes to the workplace in inappropriate colours, with flowers and excess jewellery and that one cannot underestimate the power of a good fit. Jaishankar suggests factoring in the occasion, audience, your style and colour profiling before taking a call on what to wear.

A well-tailored third piece gets a big nod from Goenka-Kedia. She says, “A wardrobe essential is a blazer, a scarf, a shrug depending on the work environment as it gives immediate authority.”

While clothes maketh a person, image consulting works on the level of self-awareness which is the secret to a transformation that lasts past the midnight hour. 

By Anuradha Prasad/ Raintree Media Features/

Read the story on the Goa Herald:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Shashi Deshpande's whodunit (it's not the butler)

‘Ships that pass’, Shashi Deshpande’s latest novel took me back in time, with its mood, the characters and the situation to the summers when I perched on the stairs of my grandparents’ house and devoured magazines after my aunts finished reading them.

Shashi is pleased when I tell her this; “The story was first published in Eve’s Weekly and yes, it is set in the 80s.” Reconstructing the story from fragments of carbon copies that she had typed on her Olivetti, she chose to keep it true to its time and not contemporise it, though she has changed the ending slightly.

Having published over 10 novels, four books of children’s stories, two collections of short stories, two translations and a book of essays, she has another crime story coming out in August, ‘If I die today’ and a novel next April.

“I started off writing short stories and have written about 80 of them. There are some that stayed with me and ‘Ships that pass’ and ‘If I die today’ are a couple of them that I wanted to publish as novels. When writers get old and have nothing new to say, they bring out rubbish from the past. I wanted to publish these before I get older and while I am still active as a writer.”

As we chat, I am moving around picking through my bookshelf for her books and find her first crime novel was ‘Come up & be dead’. It is a find indeed - published in 1983 and sold for Rs 15, it is out of print and much in demand among students writing about her for their PhD theses.

Shashi says she has always been interested in mystery novels as crime happens when human nature is pushed to the extreme. She gave up writing crime fiction as the plotting was getting entangled. “I bump them off (the victims) quite easily but I never know how to end the stories,” she says laughingly.

Crime fiction was an enjoyable experiment for her, inspired over time by Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers, PD James, Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky. “I love their books because they are specific to where the authors live. I don’t like people who write for the world market,” she says, dismissing the Dan Browns of the world and sadly, my own favourite Alexander Mccall Smith.

She regrets that writers like Sayers have not got their due for their writing ability; having been slotted as crime writers, while the works could easily fit into literary fiction, she says.

One of the reasons that she felt compelled to rework her crime stories into novels is the claim that language does not matter anymore. “Young writers are hailed for dumbing down their writing for their readers. This upset me very much. As a writer your first loyalty is to the language that has developed over centuries. Why should someone centre a book around words like crap, shit and fuck?”
Shashi was determined to answer this claim by bringing out a book that is easy to read and has good language. She has.

Sandhya Mendonca writes a weekly column for Oheraldo

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Flavour of the season

Come late summer, it is the mangoes’ moment in the sun. Visitors at the mango and jackfruit fair at Bangalore’s green spot, Lalbagh were spoilt for choice with around 10 varieties of mangoes from across Karnataka calling out to them.

June is the time for the Mango fair organised by the Department of Horticulture for the last 10 years. Crates of mangoes of different hues – from vivid greens blushing a deep red to sunny yellows, and bulky jackfruits which have been included in the fair have seen throngs of buyers.

With a spread of 70 stalls, this year’s fair exceeded last year’s number of 50 and offered around 11 varieties – Alphonso (badami), raspuri, sandura, bangapalli, hybrids malika and amrapali, malgoa, kalapadi, sakregutla, totapuri and neelam. Of these the totapuri is available till July while neelam is available till end of August. The omelette mango is ideal for pickling. New varieties include valaja (with a small seed and more pulp) and dussehra, which is normally grown in north India.

Mango fair at Lalbagh
The farmers came from districts around Bangalore: Ramanagaram, Kolar, Chickaballapur, Tumkur and Chitradurga.

Dr SV Hittalmani, Additional Director of Horticulture (Fruits) said that they have strict guidelines where quality is concerned and only allow farmers who bring in naturally ripened mangoes. A team ascertains that the mangoes carry no traces of calcium carbide and are not immature.

The department hopes to bring together the producers and consumers at the fair. When consumers buy directly from the growers, the need for middle men, who pocket 50-60 percent of the profit, is eliminated.

Abdul Rahman has been coming here for 7-8 years from Srinivasapura in Kolar. He recommends the tiny and deceptively green sugar mangoes that pack a sweet punch. The sugar mangoes aka sakregutla can turn lemon yellow as they ripen. They were sold at Rs 34/kg instead of the Rs 60 at local markets.

Ramkrishnaiah at Samrat Farmers came from Ramanagaram with 40 crates of around 6-7 varieties of mangoes and planned to stay till they were sold out. He offered the badami mangoes at Rs 50/ kg. Those who love pickles can stock up on the naati mangoes. Grated, it can be used with lemon rice. Naati mangoes are those grown on the roadside and of nondescript variety and are mostly unnamed. There are several of these growing in Lalbagh.

It has been an off-year for mangoes, with only 2.7 lakh tonnes of mangoes produced in Karnataka this year compared to 8.5 lakh tonnes last year. A quirk of nature ensures that irrespective of when the mangoes are planted, every alternate year is a on-year which means next year will see big boom in the mangoes produced, a summer to rejoice.

The low yield has driven prices up in the markets outside and the reasonable prices at the fair have made city dwellers quite happy.

Mango pickles at the fair
Kadamba Organics, an organic society from Sirsi has been invited by the department since the fair’s inception and sell jackfruit papads and chips, and sugar dipped amla. They also sell sukela, which is supplied to the Sports Authority of India. It is said to convert to energy quickly and aid in digestion. Found in the wild it is dried and sold with no frills attached. At another stall, there is also an array of mouth-watering homemade pickles to choose from.

There were many takers for the massive jackfruits from Hassan, Doddaballapur, Tumkur and Bangalore Rural. Hittalmani hopes to bring in more varieties of jackfruits next year and promote cultivation of new varieties of jackfruits.

By Anuradha Prasad/ Raintree Media Features/

Read the story on the Goa Herald:


Monday, June 11, 2012

BEST OF INDIA ebook is launched!

It gives us great pleasure to inform you that the ebook of BEST OF INDIA has just been uploaded on to the gvpedia site.

The printed books will be ready by the end of June; the formal international launch will happen at the Future Africa conference between July 15 -17 -

The formal national launch of the BEST OF INDIA will happen at WTC Mumbai also in July. 

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Funny side up

Slightly-built Paul Fernandes is the opposite of in-your-face. This characteristic works in his favour as he recedes into the background and observes everything and everyone with a keen eye. His observations become fodder for his delectable cartoons.

Just as Goa has been immortalised with loving amusement by Mario, Bangalore plays muse to Fernandes. Or rather a slice of Bangalore that he is familiar with – the ‘Cantonment’ side. Over the years, as he has captured the idiosyncrasies of the city and its denizens, we have split our sides laughing at the images which vividly remind of us places and people we know.

Paul Fernandes
Sadly though, the IT boom of the 90s and the haphazard development that it set off changed Bangalore drastically. The heydays of the city can only be viewed at Fernandes’ new gallery aPaulogy. Just across Richards’ Park, it is in a small and simple building where locals can take a walk down memory lane and newcomers get introduced to a juicy slice of the city’s history. One room is dedicated to his impressions of Bangalore in general, the second is for his part of town Benson Town and its surroundings, and the third is his homage to music.

I don’t really need a guide but I want to hear young Jatin’s spiel and he sets about giving nifty descriptions of each drawing’s inspiration. From the ‘overnight guest’ at Shoolay police station (now renamed Ashoknagar police station and relocated as the old building was pulled down), to a nose-in-the-air couple at Bangalore Club to old man Koshy (restaurateur) and his friend warbling arm-in-arm to the aunty with knee-high socks and red ribbon returning from church, there are quirky stories of local characters that the pictures vividly capture.

From Paul Fernandes' collection
It is not the expressions on the faces but also the authentic lines of the buildings that seem to surge with vitality. The images are part of our collective memory and I feel an almost physical pain in my tummy that I recognise as regret for times gone by.

I ask Fernandes, “There is such a strong strain of nostalgia running through your work, tell me if you approve of any of the changes? Is there is anything positive in what has happened?”

“Oh yes. Take Richards’ Park for example. It used to be a dry dusty hole and look at it now – it’s green, full of birds and bees and you can breathe clean air,” he says.

He would make an ideal candidate for one of his own pictures; quiet, almost reclusive, he has suffered a career in advertising. He hates meeting clients – he just wants them to buy his work without all the talk that accompanies a transaction. The naughty twinkle in his eye gives an inkling of his talent but he is a kind man. While always humorous, his portrayals are never hurtful.

From Paul Fernandes' collection
Referring to the recent furore over cartoons in a text book, Fernandes says, “While politicians make for great cartoons, you can’t make fun of certain situations as minds are not mature enough to appreciate it. It is a delicate line.”

I ask him about the general opinion over Indians having a thin skin but he disagrees. “Indians do have a great sense of humour or how else would the poorest of our poor be able to smile and joke in the most horrible circumstances?”

 aPaulogy Gallery sells copies of the prints on order and if you are not visiting Bangalore, you can visit it on

By Sandhya Mendonca (Sandhya Mendonca writes a weekly column for the Herald Goa) Read the story on the Goa Herald:

Thursday, June 07, 2012

La dolce vita!

It was a date with sinfully delicious chocolate, cream, luscious strips of mangoes and more at the gourmet cake making and decor workshop at Mama Mia, India’s first gelateria.

Gelatarias are known to send people into raptures – Elizabeth Gilbert waxed eloquent on gelatos in her bestseller, Eat Pray Love. And Natasha Aggarwal, CEO at Mama Mia, is no exception. A business grad, Aggarwal was bowled over by gelato on a trip to Italy. Enamoured by its flavours, she went on to learn gelato-making at a gelato factory in Bergamo, Italy with Chef Danielle Ghisalberti.

Her destiny with all things sweet began early when she worked at her dad’s company Rollick Ice Cream. She launched the first Mama Mia outlet in Kolkata in 2005 and it became the first company to introduce India to gelatos; today, there are 10 outlets in Kolkata and two in Bangalore with plans to expand to other cities. The gelatos are 96 percent fat-free and made with natural ingredients like vanilla beans and fruit pulp imported from Italy.

She also brought in sorbetto. Dairy-free and 100 percent fat-free - a combination of fruits, water and sugar blended and frozen together, even vegans and the lactose-intolerant can indulge in it. The flavours concocted by Aggarwal include Pepperoncino - chocolate with red chilly flakes, Bloody Mary Sorbet - complete with tomato juice, celery bits and spicy Tabasco, Mojito - a lemony minty creation with a dash of white rum and the popular Sicily Lemon Sorbet - a tangy sorbet made with imported lemons from the south of Italy. There are gelato sundaes and thick shakes, and soon to come are signature sugar-free gelato, gelato cakes and pies. 

Natasha Aggarwal, CEO, Mama Mia with her delectable creations
Sharing her expertise in desserts at a gourmet cake making and decor workshop, Aggarwal gave the low-down on how to bake, layer and decorate gourmet cakes. The stars of the show were of course, the cakes - Fresh Mango, Black Forest and Chocolate Truffle.

Sunitha who frequents Mama Mia for its gelatos and has never repeated a flavour yet, said she was there for the nuggets of information that you don’t normally get in recipes. And there were plenty of that to be found during the two-hour workshop.

The workshop was interspersed with tips ranging from baking tools like knives and turntables to basic techniques of making neutral soaking syrup and using cola in sponge cake as the fizz helps the cake rise and lends colour to it. 

 Mama Mia's gourmet cake making and decor workshop
As she expertly dressed up the mango cake, Aggarwal said it was a versatile recipe and ingredients could be mixed and matched with some amount of imagination. She suggested that the baking is done in an air-conditioned room and to avoid other cooking while baking as the cake can absorb the scents easily. She also strongly recommended OTGs over microwaves while baking.

The workshop was concluded with tips on decorating the cake and Aggarwal showed how to use the OHP (overhead projector) paper and butter paper cones for the icing as she sprinkled chunks of dark chocolate on the creamy black forest cake. A drizzle of glossy, drool-worthy chocolate truffle sauce and white chocolate decorations finished the chocolate truffle cake. To Rashi, a 13-year-old participant, this was the highlight of the workshop. Participants got a taste of the delectable goodies, and some to take away.

For details of location, check

By Anuradha Prasad/ Raintree Media Features/

Read the story on the Goa Herald:

Monday, June 04, 2012

Push the tempo

BLOT - an acronym for Basic Love of Things – is an audiovisual collective that mixes music, art, design and video on one platform. They blend sound and music, while manipulating their performance techniques as well as stop-motion animation and motion graphics.

BLOT consists of Avinash Kumar, a designer, VJ, visual artist and the man behind The Grey Garden (a restaurant in New Delhi), and Gaurav Malaker, a DJ and producer. The duo’s diversity is as apparent in their music as it is in their visuals. Their gigs are wild, energetic, funky and fresh. It consists of fantastic electro music and some brilliant visual treats.

BLOT also creates installations, videos, digital arts and more. They love to get messy with sounds, instruments, genres, art, photography, videos, light, projections and anything else they can play with. 

As India’s original and leading audiovisual collective, BLOT curated the experimental stage at Sunburn Festival in Goa (2010 & 2011) and further afield have performed at legendary venues like Bar 25 and Tresor several times as well as at the India Music Week (2011), Geneva’s Electron Festival (2011) , Berlin Music Week (2010) and UNBox Festival.

I caught up with them at their recent gig in Bangalore and their set was a little more theatrical and accessible while still keeping it club friendly. Here's an exclusive interview with BLOT.

How does it feel being India's original and leading AV collective?
It is not a very big scene, so I don’t know if we feel that distinction - we’ve never thought about it and I wouldn’t recommend that anyone else think about it either!

What encourages the two of you to constantly try something new and different?
We’ve got short attention spans and are our own worst critics, so we’re constantly trying something new just because by the time we’re done with anything, we’re sick of it already.

What inspires the two of you, in your music and visuals?
The world around us. 

What is your take on the Indian EDM scene and more foreign artists coming in and discovering India?
It’s a really good time to be looking towards the Indian scene. For a start people are looking for sounds they like, and that means that they follow artists, and look for gigs that suit their sound. That’s quite an evolution. This scene might be in its nascent stages, but it’s setting the blueprint for shifts in the scene.

What has been the best gig so far for BLOT?
We played at this huge underground party called Champagnarama in Berlin in 2010 – it’s been one of the best experiences of my life, and it changed the way I perceive electronic music. Besides this one, our gigs at smaller venues tend to be the ones that stand out for us. It’s the nature of them, because they’re intimate, and allow us to have a direct connect with the attendees that make them memorable for us.

Is BLOT looking forward to any gigs this year?
We’re looking forward to the album tour this summer – we’re rolling out the full ra-ra treatment, with live instrumentation, guest artists, 3D visuals – going whole hog basically. And later this year we’ll be in Germany, Vienna and the UK – we’re looking forward to those. 

BLOT is currently managed by UnMute Agency, which is led by Dev Bhatia, manager of Jalebee Cartel and media professional, and Arjun Vagale of Jalebee Cartel (India’s biggest electronic music export).

To find out more about BLOT, listen to their tunes and check out their visuals, find them via their Facebook page or SoundCloud.

By Aditya Mendonca/ Raintree Media Features/

Read the story on the Goa Herald:

Friday, June 01, 2012

Food for thought

A strip of nondescript buildings and shuttered shops by day, the lane is transformed when dusk comes calling as a flurry of activity takes over. This is Bangalore’s very own food street.

The buzz is palpable as food carts wheel in, hawkers claim their place and tiny shops roll up the shutters, fire up the stoves and get ready for the droves of people who faithfully turn up each evening to gorge on the food being dished out, undaunted by the not-so-hygienic conditions on Market Road, Visveshpuram.

As intrepid traveller and foodie Anthony Bourdain of the No Reservations fame once remarked, “Street food is the best of a country – and strangely, much safer for you than the spaghetti bolognese at the Hilton.”
Known as the Food Street, it is the perfect place to satiate your appetite and what’s more the food is yum and easy on the wallet. You don’t have to stop at seconds. Come weekends, it turns into a mini-carnival with crowds milling on the streets, whirring pinwheels and fluffs of sticky pink cotton floss. 

Dosas, idlis, bhajjis, chaat, corn on the cob, steamed groundnuts, gobi manchurian, pav bhaji, akki roti, holige, gulkand, masala soda, hot jalebis and refreshing badam milk – it is an all-vegetarian menu here.

Tucked away on one end of the road is VB Bakery, that is something of an institution in the locality and famous for its assorted breads, rusks and other baked products. It is particularly known for its congress buns with peanuts and butter stuffing, and dumroot halwa (pumpkin halwa). 

VB Bakery
A few steps down, at the Subramanya Fast Foods molten orange jalebis are sizzling in the wok. Relatively new, Srinivas who mans the shop says they are already doing brisk business. The crowd, mostly college-goers and families, picks up after eight but it is weekends that bring in the most business.

On the other end of the street is Dev Sagar where a man expertly prepares the bhaji undeterred by the waiting audience. The owner Om Prakash Agarwal recommends pav bhaji, Raj kachorie and rasgolla chaat. There is also the Gujarati dabeli, malapua (pancakes), chiroti/ pheni, and an array of Bengali sweets – many of which are traditionally served at weddings. 

Pav Bhaji

Agarwal says that the best way to experience the food street is to sample a snack or two at two–three joints instead of making just one stop. The shop has been here for five years and has already earned a reputation among regulars like college-goer Sunitha, who is a fan of the spicy Bombay vada pav and badam milk served here and the puliogare (tamarind rice) served next door.

Right opposite is the Vasavi Dosa Camp that serves up more than just dosas. Madesh has been here for over fifteen years now and spends the day preparing the batter for dosas and idlis, chutneys, and the dough and filling for obattu (a sweet flatbread also known as holige and puran poli). 

Shivanna’s Gulkand Centre is highly-recommended by regulars. It specialises in gulkand, which is rose petals preserve. It is served topped with butter and fruits or ice cream. For Ashok who likes to do a round of the stalls with his family on weekends, the coffee that is served from a van parked near the Gulkand Centre and the corn and chaat served at the push carts are a must.

The food street is open for business from 6pm to 11pm.

By Anuradha Prasad/ Raintree Media Features/

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