Sunday, September 21, 2014

3 Friends. 3 Books. 1 Plug.

I feel like the Amar Singh and Baba Siddiqui of the Indian literature space with three friends coming up with their books at the same time. Although I have read only 1.5 of these, but having being an avid reader of their blogs and 140 character quips on Twitter I can confidently vouch for these works of fiction and trivia. 

1. Arnab Ray's 'Yatrik' 

One of the most well established names in the Indian blogging scene for over a decade now, Yatrik is Arnab's third book in five years. I got to know Arnab, much better known as Greatbong, through his immensely popular blog - Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind, and count him as one of my closest friends and more importantly favourite writers. His first book was a collection of short, hilarious stories based on the India of the '90s, while his second book was an Indian horror story that charted a new path for that genre of writing in Indian English. Yatrik is right up his alley mixing some sensational concepts with human relationships and emotions, a subject that he has dealt with much dexterity in many of his blog posts and his previous book - The Mine. I was fortunate to have read many early versions of the book over the last few years, and definitely feel it's an interesting story told in an engaging manner. As long as you don't go in with the expectation of the usual Greatbong style of humour, or any humour almost, you're in for a treat of a story.

Available (from Oct-1-2014) at 
Physical version: Amazon India (Rs. 221 + Free Shipping) & Flipkart (Rs. 260 + Rs. 40 shipping )
Kindle version: Coming Soon

2. Diptakirti Chaudhuri's 'Bollybook'

This guy loves Bollywood and trivia as much as I want to love Bollywood and trivia. Again, have known him through his blog - Calcutta Chomosome and his very active Twitter stream, and online merged with offline in a delectable dinner at Delhi Darbaar, CP. This is also his third book, after a beginner's and intermediate's guide to cricket during the 2011 World Cup and that second book - Kitnay Aadmi Thay (KAT) which made me a fan for zindagi, aur uske baad bhi. I haven't even read Bollybook, but have heard it has parts of KAT and a lot more. I can just tell you this much, if you have a passing interest in Bollywood and trivia, then I challenge you to find a better way to spend a few hundred rupees than this book. I just placed my order on the Kindle while writing this post, and can already think of quite a few friends who're getting this on their birthday's over the new few months.

Available at -
Physical version: Amazon India (Rs. 370 + Free Shipping), Flipkart (Rs. 374), Amazon USA ($62.78)
Kindle version: Amazon India (Rs. 370), Amazon USA ($6.69)

3. Parth Pandya's 'r2i dreams: For here or to go?'

Parth is yet another quizzer extraordinaire, lover of Bollywood, cricket, Sachin Tendulkar, the quintessential Indian, living abroad. We were acquainted through some quizzes held in Microsoft's Seattle campus and the one spectacular Bollywood quiz conducted by him where my wife & I managed to make it to the finals from a written round of over 50 teams. I have read some of his pieces through his blog and Facebook posts and this one post - "Why I Hate Helium?" convinced me to buy his book whenever he came up with one. Parth has a conversational, casual style peppered with vivid details and descriptions laced with some Hrishikesh Mukherjee brand of humour. He also conducted an interesting study on the term R2i (Return to India) on his Facebook timeline, triggering grieving comments from friends.  

Available at -
Physical version: Amazon India (Rs. 769), Amazon USA ($10.44), Pothi (Rs. 286 + Shipping)
Kindle version: Amazon USA ($7.99)
Also available on Kindle Unlimited.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Midsummer Night's Tale

Your topic for "Just  A Minute" is -the Football world cup. Your time starts now.

1. Pele-Maradona, Brazil-Argentina. Choose your poison and stick to it.

2. Extreme heat, we're talking 40C+ & humidity making sauna-tionalists feel at home

3. Late, very late night games as India's time zone is not on friendly terms with any country that dares to host the tournament

4. Inconspicuous, esoteric nations only found on maps coming to life

5. Endless World cup history and trivia

6.  Mom coming to the TV room at least once a night, checking on the score, before going for a quick shower to beat the heat

7. The sound of excited commentators wafting through the neighbourhood at unearthly hours

8. World Cup special magazines, read cover to cover, twice over

9. Dreams of becoming a journalist with The Telegraph to cover a World Cup at some point

10. The guarnateed load shedding (power cut) at least once during the game. Usually perfectly timed with the only goal scored

11. Discussing that tackle and that dribble during lunch break at school the next day

12. Newspaper clippings of the black and white pictures from the match played two nights back

13. Dad joining Quarter Finals onwards. Though it took the Semi-Finals and beyond to keep him alert after the half time whistle.

14. The secondary citizenship of a random country of our choice for those 30 odd days

15. The ultimate adulation and jubilation of your team lifting the trophy, or the heartbreak of the other team doing so.

The inevitable feeling of emptiness after Doordarshan (Indian national television channel) aired the final commercial. The beginning of the next four year wait. 

That wait ends today. Let the celebrations begin!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mealster - Review

[Updated with comments from Rohit, the founder]

Amazon's headquarter in Seattle's South Lake Union has a fairly large employee base, and surprisingly these people get collectively hungry right about noon time. To tackle this unusual problem there are cafes, restaurants, and food trucks dotting the area. However, demand seems to grossly outweigh supply, especially during the peak period of 12:00 -12:30 PM. Add to this the occasional lunch time meetings and the constant companion - Seattle rains. This gives rise to a demand for lunch delivered to your desk. Although this had been acknowledged for a while by one and all, it took sometime for a bunch of enterprising guys to come up with a business plan. 

Introducing Mealster. I'll let them explain how it works directly.



Fairly simple. And comparatively affordable, as for the same ~$10 price (inclusive of tips, taxes and delivery) you get food truck fare, usually less filling than the restaurant fare Mealster has been offering.

I tried them out for the first time today. Sign up and checkout was a breeze, you can use all sorts of cards and Paypal. Here's a snapshot of their menu for this week.

Meat option


Veg Option


And here's how it actually looked. If you have a 3D printer feel free to download a plate.


Bottomline:

Pros 
  • convenient
  • affordable (comparatively)
  • filling
  • tasty
  • healthy (I'd like to believe!)


Cons
  • need to warm the food as it can get slightly cold
Rohit: This seems like a hard / external problem to solve (e.g. esp in case of cold weather etc.). I would to add that the containers are microwaveable (and ecofriendly), so one can take out the raita and heat the container/food for 1 minute in the microwave (ease of reheating). We will try to look into options of having warmer bags that are used to carry the food boxes.
  • no specific time mentioned (between 12-1 PM)
Rohit: Great point. We are planning to come up w a delivery window for each building (based on our delivery route). We will keep our subscribers informed about updates via our mailing list and website.
  • lack of options as of now (tie up with only 2 restaurant - Chutneys and Sichuianese Cuisine)
Rohit: We are working to onboard new restaurants on a weekly basis, for the next few weeks. We will keep our subscribers informed about updates via our mailing list and website.
  • flight food packing feel and flimsy plasticware
Rohit: I have passed along this feedback to Nitin, the owner of Chutneys. They will be looking into better options.

Will recommend giving these guys a try.