Book Tag

Yazad tagged
with this book meme that’s actually hopped from LiveJournal to the
"other" blog world. Sorry, my response has been late. But getting the
flu has at least one upside, and that is that you find some time to write stuff
like this. You can’t work even if you want to because your taste buds are shot,
and without being able to taste food properly, a chef is pretty useless.

Here we go then…

Total Number of Books I Own: Like Yazad, I never counted. I estimate
several hundred (at least 700 or so). I got them insured for Rs. 50000 which is
much lower than what they’re worth. The collection also grows faster than I can read
them, so I have about 20 books still to be read. 

Last Book I Bought: I spent many hours at bookshops in Singapore
during my last trip a couple of months back (when I
wasn’t eating
, that is), and the last book I bought was a double
volume of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen
and A
Cook’s Tour

Last Book I Read: Why
Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps: How We’re Different and What to Do
About It
I borrowed this from a friend because the title got me
curious. (I’m always curious about books on human behaviour.) It turned out to
be mostly crap and I read only 3/4 of it. Does that count? If not, the last book
I read completely was Frederick Forsyth’s Avenger.
It was entertaining but set off my "bullshit meter" far too often.

Five Books That Mean a Lot to Me: I can’t possibly restrict it to
five, but those are the rules, so let’s give it a shot.

Writing Well
by William Zinsser: This book is invaluable to people who
want to be better writers. When you read it, you will realise how much more you
could be. I owe much of my penchant for simplicity and clarity to this man. It’s
affordable, so you should buy a copy too.

Design of Everyday Things
: If you think I bitch too much, you can partly
blame this book. It opened my eyes to the world of design, and showed how poor
design is responsible for product screw-ups. If you’ve wondered why people push
a door when it’s clearly marked "Pull", this book will tell you. (And
it’s a design problem, not a user problem.)

Productive Projects and Teams
: Every person who manages a team of
professionals in the IT business should have a copy of this book, and even if
you’re not in IT, a large part of the management advice in this book
will still be useful to you. Stuff like how overtime doesn’t help in the long
run, or how motivational posters actually have the opposite effect… here, read
the sample chapter online

The Psychology of Persuasion
: Robert Cialdini has written a wonderful
book on how we are manipulated by other people all the time. He describes these
"weapons of influence", why they work, and how to protect yourself
from them.

Rains Fishes: Legends, Traditions and the Joys of Thai Cooking
: Believe
it or not, this book has only 30 recipes, but its value lies in the detailed way
the author explains the principles of cooking and combining flavours. I’m a
strong believer in teaching people how to cook rather than teaching them
just recipes, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Read her pieces on balancing
, making curry
, and cooking to
rather than blindly following recipes. This book closely competed with
the far more formidable tome on Chinese cooking, The
Modern Art of Chinese Cooking
by Barbara Tropp. So why did It Rains
win? Because Tropp’s book is not in the least for the casual cook. It
can be intimidating reading it if you’re a novice, but a great learning
experience if you’re not (and I wasn’t.)


Tag five people and have them do this on their blogs

Is there anyone out there who hasn’t been tagged yet? People like Yazad have
tossed their nets out to catch everyone. After much cross-checking, here are my

The Raving Atheist

Shanti Mangala



Anita Bora

Look ma, I’m on TV

To all the fans of my gourmet cooking, you get to see me in the flesh, cooking drunken seafood (I hope they use that clip) on TV.
My restaurant and I will be featured in a segment on Bangalore restaurants. It will air today (04 May 2005) on Zee Business at 5 PM (or thereabouts) and again at 8 PM. So please don’t miss it. I will also try to record the clip and put it up here for the world to see.
The segment is in Hindi, and I apologise in advance for fumbling a bit in my interview. While I speak Hindi quite well (grew up in Delhi, after all), my oratorial skills in the language died after school, which was 15 years ago. I had mentally prepared for an English Q&A, and had to quickly rework it in my head. But the food is all real. :)
Update: Well, that was a quick one. They left out all the interviews so you won’t see me speak, but you will see me smile and cook. (Since I don’t smile at all, that part was very hard to shoot.) I’ve contacted a news monitoring service about recording the clip so I can put it online. It should be up in a few days, and by few I mean at least four.

Bharteeya Blog Mela – 21 April

Greetings, amigos. Please set some time aside for an eclectic selection of posts
from the Indian blogosphere. This week we have 22 posts for you to sample, and
as usual, I’ve taken some time to go beyond the nominated posts and find other
noteworthy pieces of prose. I’ve even broken them into topics. So for instance,
if you couldn’t care less about cricket (like me), you can skip the sports
section completely. Apologies for the minor delay in posting. There was a power
problem at home. You’d think a UPS mated to a spike-buster would do the trick,
but noooo…

On with the show, shall we? 

Society, politics, and culture

Satya argues for liberalisation
of tertiary education
(yet oddly enough not primary and secondary education)
and thinks the government should stop trying to regulate everything. In
another post
, he points out that the Punjab government is opting for a
school voucher system after seeing a big drop in education standards. A model
for the rest of the country to follow? This is an interesting blog that the
will watch closely. 

Patrix, in a post that rules him out as a libertarian, opines that individual
rights can and should be subverted
in a time of national crisis.
Shocking! Somebody tell him about Indira Gandhi and her Emergency. ;)

In another post, Patrix ruminates
about making safe career choices
or leaving it all to do something one

Harini talks about how Indians will marry anything and everything in as much
style as possible. That
includes marrying trees too

Nitin Pai ridicules a foreign
policy expert’s suggestion
to negotiate with terrorists in Kashmir. (Get proper
permalinks, Nitin. :)

On Sepia Mutiny, Anna is miffed that a list of the best 50 restaurants in the
world doesn’t
have anything Asian in it
. (I want to make that list one day with my
restaurant, but given how poorly Indians receive gourmet multi-course meals,
it may not happen if it’s in this country.) 

Saket Vaidya, in a long post, details
his concern for the poor
and how he has fed many a poor person on the

Suhail Kazi has a meandering post on his journey and the trials and
tribulations on his way to getting
a Social Security Number
in USA.

about witnessing large rallies in Kerala, God’s own country (how
I hate that term!) 

Fellow atheist Sybil, who lives in Melbourne, finds that most of her
colleagues have tried
some drug or the other

goes on a train ride
in Mumbai and tries to explain some of the local


Naveen, on the CCS blog, has suggestions for books that explain how markets
work around the world

Marketing and Management

Neelakantan takes
pleasure in trying food
from different vendors, grateful that he doesn’t
have to endure the standardised mediocrity served at McDonald’s. He also thinks
that ready-to-eat
packaged food
has more potential in India than ready-to-cook food.


Swaroop forgets to use the spell-check while writing that Saurav
Ganguly’s six-match suspension
will help him get the break that he needs. To
ignite a flame war, he even mentions the support for Saurav from some
cricket-loving Cartel members. Could he possibly be talking about posts
like this

And Nandan thinks Sehwag is more like
Don Bradman
than even the legendary Sachin.

Science and Technology

is upset at Microsoft
being granted a patent on a method to access emergency

Rajesh Jain believes that affordable
bandwidth will lead the way
in encouraging development of ASP-modelled
software solutions for SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises)


has an excellent plan
for eliminating all crime from Mumbai. It involves a
strategic identification of all the hotspots of criminal activity, and then
shutting them down one by one. Bravo!

Lastly, please don’t miss this
hilarious post on The Examined Life
where a couple of Cartel members take on
the mysterious Sudhakar Nair who appears unable to detect sarcasm, sardonicism,
and irony. Well, maybe he’s not so mysterious after all. His writing style and
IP address bear more than a passing resemblance to a certain left-leaning socialist writer whom we all know and love. (Seriously, "Sudhakar",
you’re dealing with a bunch of very smart people who are even smarter when
working together. Did you think we wouldn’t find out? You need to do a better
job of concealing your Clark Kent identity.)

Thank you for visiting folks, and I hope I’ve given you a decent selection to
read. Posts with just a couple of lines and a hyperlink were left out, just for
the record.

The next mela will be hosted at Selective

Blog Mela Announcement

Yes, folks, yet another Blog Mela is being hosted at MadMan’s Web. This one will be on 21 April. If you missed the last one, catch it at AnarCapLib.
I’m sure you know how it all works, but here you go again:
The Rules

  • Posts must either be made by Indians or must focus on India or Indians.
  • Please send permalinks to the blog entries only, not just the blog URL. If the permalink is not working, send me the title and date of the blog entry. Whole blogs are not accepted as nominations.
  • You can nominate your own posts or someone else’s.
  • You can submit any type of posts except personal journal entries. By “personal journal entries”, we mean the navel-gazing posts of the kind that would be of interest only to your friends and family.
  • The entries have to be dated between April 14 and 20.
  • Not all entries nominated may be accepted. Editorial discretion
    will be used.
  • New rule: If your site has those annoying pop-up, pop-under, or floating ads, forget about it!

Please post your nominations as comments to this post. Don’t post too many links at once or you’ll trigger my spam-buster.

The corrupt and the religious

Till recently, I was just a salaried bloke without much need to interact with various government agencies. I have learnt a lot in the one and a half years I have been running my own business as an entrepreneur. Firstly, those who tell you that the Licence Raj is behind us have never run a company that needs a thousand and one licences to actually get it off the ground. And of course each department wants its share of “performance incentive” fees to get things done. So I have been exposed to the ugly and sleazy part of running a business in India – a part I thoroughly despise.
A curious thing you observe while visiting various government offices is the number of images of gods and goddesses that abound there. Yes, many of these government officials are very religious people. Every morning, Ganesh will be worshipped, fresh garlands will adorn the idol, and the nice people will pray earnestly. No business will be conducted in the Rahu Kaalam, the inauspicious part of the day (Saturn’s evil influence, see) that usually (conveniently?) falls just after lunch time. I’m serious! We didn’t get one of our licences in the afternoon, the official insisting that we wait till Rahu Kaalam had passed. We got it around 5 PM.
I am an avowed atheist as most of my readers know, so these things don’t concern me in the least. What I find baffling, however, is the fact that these same religious people have absolutely no qualm or shame in demanding and accepting dough for their “services”. How does this fit in with their religious views? If you believe in an all-powerful, all-seeing deity that dispenses justice based on your actions in this world (a view that is part of most religions), then surely wouldn’t you also believe that this deity sees your corrupt, despicable actions and will make you pay for your sins in the afterlife or the next life? Somehow, this doesn’t seem to bother any of our nice government employees in the least, who merrily conduct large transactions every day at most offices. And yet the greedy, money-grubbing government lackey will make regular visits to Tirupati, Dharmasthala, and numerous other “holy” places to seek the blessings of the almighty. They must have missed their religion’s lessons about leading a virtuous life.
What a wonderful country we have…