Monday, December 27, 2004


My niece was orginally going to visit me in Bangalore during her Christmas vacations. But when I got sick last month I decided that I'm not yet set up well enough in Bangalore to be a good host to her. So I decided to go to Pune to visit them. Then tickets became hard to find and we had deadlines coming up at the end of the month.

Last week though, it occurred to me that one of the big reasons I came to India is so that I could meet up with family. I decided to chuck work and just leave, so I jumped in my friend's car (he was planning on driving to Pune for a wedding) and did the 850km, 17 hour drive to Pune. I didn't drive (though I offered) so it wasn't as tiring for me. The drive was okay; the roads were a mixture of amazing (for india) divided highways and smaller two-lane undivided roads that were in the process of being converted to highways. As great as the divided highways are, I'm still nostalgic for the small roads that go through a village every 20km. The divided highways are becoming as boring as america's interstates.

I spent Saturday with my parents, talking to banquet managers at various hotels to decide on venues for the wedding. That was fun and I'm actually pretty excited now. I spent Sunday chilling with my sister and nieces. Instead of taking a nice afternoon nap after overeating, we ended up watching a terrible movie. Then we went up one of the tekdi's (hills) near my sister's old apartment for a fast walk. It's such a luxury to be able to do that here. You can be in the middle of the city and just go up on these tekdi's for a walk or jog and escape most of the pollution. That said, there were some idiot kids on dirt bikes riding around on the hill. When we saw them they were on their way home after being yelled at a bunch of regular walkers (including my sister). I think it's awesome that the Pune-ites are so protective of their open spaces.

We came back and turned on the TV to hear about the tsunamis that had hit the region. It's crazy that there were three hours between the earthquake and the time when the waves hit the Indian coast. It sucks that our meteorologists didn't know to expect them coming. Though supposedly they had some information but didn't react fast enough.

Anyways, I didn't totally chuck work. I'm online from my cousin's place this week and trying to get a bunch of work done remotely (which I should get back to doing right now).

Monday, December 20, 2004


Well last night I went to eat at Shiok, a 'far eastern cuisine' restaurant, after reading about their Chef's tasting menu here.

I was really impressed. The place is very nicely decorated. The walls are a textured deep orange and the lighting is soft but not too dark. They have a regular restaurant area, and then a really cool cocktail lounge area that's a little more chill. It'd be awesome to rent it out.

The menu's were printed on sheets of paper, rolled up, tied with a red ribbon, and placed on our tables. Nice touch. I decided to go with the seafood lover's menu and Sindya went with the vegetarian supreme. There was a complementary glass of wine included with the meal (but Sindya's not drinking these days). I had a glass of red. I should've asked to look at the label. I'm no wine expert, but I haven't been impressed by the wine here yet. It tastes pretty 'flat' (is that a technical wine-tasting term?) like they got grape juice and made it alcoholic; no other flavors really.

Anyways, the food was fantastic. I'm going to list out the actual menu in case they remove the link from their site:

Fried fish soup
A citrus-flavoured soup flavoured with tamarind juice and bits of pan-fried fish fillets

Steamed fish mousse
A Thai mousse of fish paste, red curry paste, coconut cream, and lime leaves - steamed

Prawn satay
Large juicy prawns marinated overnight in a spice paste and then grilled in their shells on a satay stick

Soft rice noodles with fish curry
Rice stick noodles are steamed and served topped with a Thai fish curry sauce garnished with basil leaves

Tiger prawn - lemongrass, chilli, and lime
Marinated large Tiger prawns in steamed in a mixture of chillies, lemongrass, galangal, garlic, and lime.

Pineapple and shrimp fried rice
A standalone dish of juicy shrimp and pineapple pieces stir-fried with curry powder, a touch of chilli, garlic, and red peppers

Thai Coconut custard
The perfect ending to a hearty meal, this custard is made from a coconut cream and palm sugar mixture that is then steamed.

The commentary is not mine, it's from their menu. :)

My comments:

  • The fish mousse was nicely done.
  • The service was great.
  • I know prawn is an expensive delicacy, but I was a little 'prawned out' by the end of the meal. I loved the fish curry; maybe they could've switched out one of the prawn items for another fish dish.
  • I never found tiger prawn to be worth the hype.
  • For a seven course meal, the portions were a little large. They started off with small portions which made me feel like I was going to end up just right, but then they threw in some big dishes. I ended up getting my fried rice packed to-go (even though it was phenomenal) because I wanted to make sure I could enjoy my dessert.
  • I asked if I could get a hybrid between the chicken and seafood menu, but they weren't amenable to that. I can see how, because of the big price difference between the two and the fact that not everyone likes seafood, they separate the two menus. However, it would've been nice to get a bit of everything during the meal.

But now I'm just nitpicking. I highly recommend.

I love that there is so much good food in Bangalore.

Update (12/22): Check out Chef Menon's blog . In addition to cooking up a riot, this guy is hilarious and he stops at red lights and waits in lines. I'll definitely be frequenting Shiok.

More food reviews.

I was told this weekend that Peco's (just off Brigade Rd.) is an absolute must-visit pub in Bangalore. I went there for lunch yesterday. It was pretty terrible. I'm sure that die-hard old-time Bangaloreans are going to be pissed at me; but I'm sorry, the place is terrible. It's dark and dingy, has bad circulation (probably not as big a deal if you smoke), and terrible service. The tacos were actually quite alright, though they weren't really tacos. I had a ginger sausage and it turned out to be cocktail sausages bathed in a spicy ginger sauce (ok, the sauce was actually quite tasty). We ordered some more tacos and nachos when some friends joined us, and 45 minutes later we had no food. Pretty annoying. I hear they're redecorating soon. I think it could be a chill place if they improved the ventilation, light, and service. We'll see.

Next stop was Koshy's (off St. Mark's Rd.). I had acutally eaten already so I didn't sample the food there. But the place was chill and well ventilated. I had a "Ginger Punch" (some sort of fruit juice with ginger) that was pungent but extremely tasty. Clearly I was in a state of ginger-lust.

After chilling at home for a few hours, we finished the night off with dinner at "Herbs and Spice" in Indiranagar (directions: go North on 100 ft. Road past the junction with CMH Rd. Take a left in the alley before Domino's, then take the first right and first left. It's on your left). This place is amazing. It's a tiny Italian restaurant with very cosy but minimal decor. There's a blackboard with 8 items on it that make up the menu for the evening. The ice-tea was super refreshing. The bread rolls were hot and delicious. We split a spinach and cumin soup which was very healthy tasting, and then had a simple pasta with marinara. The marinara tasted very fresh, with large chunks of tomato in it. There was just a little cheese - enough to add taste, not enough to give you a heart attack. I was told that the desserts there are phenomenal, but we were pretty pooped after a day of eating and decided not to indulge. Price was reasonable - under Rs. 500 for three people. I highly recommend.

I took some of my books out of their boxes. I'm slowly getting closer to decorating my apartment. Need to find a place to buy plants.

Saturday, December 18, 2004


I woke up pretty late this morning (11am) because I was at work till about 2:30 last night. How pathetic is that? 2:30am on a Friday night.

Anyways, the upside is that I took off in the evening to go watch a play with Sindya and one her Indicorps coordinator Sonal (who's visiting this week). Sonal's awesome. The play was called "Where there's a will" and was playing at the Rangashankara theatre. It was pretty funny. Slightly stretched at some points but pretty damn funny.

I spent the morning driving around town trying to find a Hutch store to pay my phone bill. Parking is a nightmare. Finally parked at Bangalore Central which is a pretty big mall in the central area. Was inspired to buy a shirt there because the parking fee of Rs. 50 is fully refundable on any purchase. Pathetic how gullible I am.

The Hutch store is a 10 minute walk away. On the way back I passed a small vegetarian restaurant. Apparently there's a genre of restaurants called "Darshan" that, according to Sindya, have strict requirements in order to carry that name. They are pure veg, have a certain cleanliness standard, etc. A meal there was Rs. 11 for a huge pile of rice, some rassam, sambar, a vegetable, and some dahi. I topped all that off with a Rs. 10 coconut off the street.

Now I'm being pathetic and at work checking email and blogging. I'm out of here.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


I went out clubbing with some people from work yesterday.

Unfortunately, I got a flat tire on the way. The car jack was a little wierd and it took me longer than I'd like to figure out how to work it. Anyways.

The club (Spinn) was pretty fancy. I actually liked it a lot. When you walk in, there's a pretty large outdoor seating area where you can just chill. Inside, there's a large bar with a lounge type area next to it with plush sofas. In the back there's a dance floor. You can take the stairs up to a smaller dance floor that overlooks the main one. Once you're upstairs, you can also walk outside and chill under the stars (there's a see-through covering so you can still see the stars). It had something for every mood.

The music wasn't that great, though I'm not a big clubbing person so don't take my word for it. The crowd supposedly included a lot of who's who from Bangalore. The downside of that was that it seemed a little haughty. But that's what you get if you go to a swank club I guess.

PS: someone else posted a comment about Rs. 200 for a daily carwash being pretty expensive. To set the record straight, that was Rs. 200 for an entire month of carwashes. I say 'was' because that security guard took Rs. 100 from me "for new shampoo that he bought for my car" and then quit his job 3 days later. grr. Anyways, I now pay someone Rs. 350 a month to wash the car. And every Saturday I give him the keys and he cleans the inside too.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Timing the commute

I timed the commute from work back home, and then from home to work.

It's 7km from Divyasree chambers in Shantinagar to my home in Benson Town. The distance is pretty much symmetric (which is not always the case in Bangalore).

Last night (12:49am) I got back in 9 minutes. This morning (8:21am) it took me 16 minutes. Maybe I'll start plotting graphs similar to the ridiculously detailed telemetry provided by the trixe update.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Climbing in Ramanagar

I went climbing in Ramanagar this Saturday with Romain, who I met at the climbing wall last week, and Dean, who's visiting the India office from Seattle to take care of some legal stuff. We left Bangalore at about 9am and reached Ramanagar about 10:30ish. Dean went on a hike of the area while Romain and I headed towards some 'easy' climbing near a lake. I don't know the names of the climbs we did. I say 'easy' and not easy because the climbs weren't rated too high. I know I'm capable of doing them in the gym but, for some reason, I get pretty freaked out on real rock. It's only the 3rd or 4th time that I've climbed outdoors. I definitely want to go back more often and get comfortable climbing outside.

It was hot as hell during the day and we as exhausted from the heat as the actual climbing. We stopped for a quick lunch on the way back. Dean was surprised that you could get a light meal for four people for Rs. 140 - probably because his food consumption had been restricted to the Taj Westend hotel. We got back around 6pm and Dean offered to let us use the Taj swimming pool. By the time I went home, got my swimming trunks and got back to the hotel, then sun had set and the water was excruciatingly cold. Nevertheless, we had a quick swim and then decided to 'hit the town.' Unfortunately, we were blocked by the same problem again; getting into places all-stag on a Saturday night is pretty unlikely.

There is a festival called 'Bangalore Habba' going on here. One of the events is an art sidewalk on M.G. Road. We spent a while walking there and then went back to Ebony for dinner (Romain met up with us), after which we stopped by Nineteen Twelve for a few drinks. The crowd there was pretty old and docile.

I think I need to set a goal for myself to explore some of the city's much talked about nightlife in the next few weeks.

Making the world smaller

So I got this amazing email from a friend in response to my 'cheesy comment' about the world feeling smaller:

The world seems really really small. When I was little we used to have a specific time on Saturday mornings when my abuelita (grandma) in bolivia would be listening on a certain frequency on the ham radio and we would "call her" with the radio: "C P 6 D G, this is C P 6 D G, can you here me D C 3 P B? Hi abuelita how are you doing?" This was before there was a direct telephone line to Bolivia from the US and it wasn't until the beginning of the 1990s that it was cheap enough to actually use the phone to call Bolivia.

Now I'm reading about my friend's stomach ache on his blog in India and my dad emailing me everyday about what so-and-so said to so-and-so; Stuff that you wouldn't have wasted your short and expensive communication systems of the past.

I guess that makes this a reply to a comment about a post about comments about earlier posts. I've heard that that's not good blogging etiquette. Oh well.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Around bangalore

So apparently there's an email going around which talks about cool stuff to do around bangalore. There's also a book called something like '52 weekend getaways around bangalore'.

I don't have either. However, last weekend I went to Nandi Hill. It's about an hour and a half outside bangalore. It's a pleasant drive and the temperature there is a few degrees cooler than here. The air is wonderfully clean.

To get there: go north on Chowdiah Road, past Mekhri Circle. At Yelankha Police Station, veer right at the fork in the road. After a while you'll see signs for Nandi Hill and you'll take a left at the fork. Eventually you'll come to a T junction with a lot of activity (people with carts set up to sell stuff). Take a left; when you get to the next junction, take a right. A little vague I know, but that's how directions work here.

On the hill itself, there isn't tooo much to do. You can walk around and take in the view. There are 4-5 restaurants there. The one we went to served us cold idli sambar so I wasn't too thrilled. There is some historic significance to the place; apparently Tipu Sultan fought off the British from there. There's even a special place on a cliff from where Tipu Sultan threw British soldiers to their death. Note that this information comes through a somewhat questionable channel. There was an enterprising little kid whose grandfather told him all these stories. He in turn told Abhijit the stories in Kanada. Abhijit then did a poor job translating those to English!

Reply to comments

Thanks for leaving comments. It makes me feel loved. Thought I'd respond to some:

sn's comment about Indian Ingenuity: I went to the origianal MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Room) two nights ago. You may know MTR for its ready-to-cook packet mixes, but this place is the original. They have a thaali (mixed plate of food) for Rs. 75 and you can get as many dosas as you want. They give you like 3-4 rounds of sweets, 3-4 different types of rice... basically it's death by glutony. But I digress. I just wanted to point out that the original MTR restaurant has sinks with foot pedals.

In response to Amod's comment about me being brave by driving a car... I think it'd be much braver of me to drive a two wheeler here. For one, the buses here just barrel through the roads and barely move for cars, let alone two wheelers. Second, two-wheeler riders have a tendency to attempt to swerve through traffic a lot resulting in them having close calls with four-wheelers. Third, the traffic is pretty bad so when you're stuck at a traffic light, you end up standing for minutes at a time (I got stuck on my motorcycle in a traffic jam on my way from Seattle to Portland and I never want to do that again). Lastly, you're constantly exposed to all the fumes on the road and I don't think I could deal with that first thing in the morning and on my way home from work every day.

Jigna asked why I get my car washed every day . Because of the pollution, as well as the indian climate in general, there is a lot of dust in the air. So at the end of the day, the car is covered in a film of dust. Actually, it still doesn't look bad after one day. But after two days it looks pretty terrible. Plus, I justified buying a red car (red, like black, usually looks pretty bad when dirty) based on the fact that I'd be able to afford getting my car washed daily here.

This sounds cheesy but hearing from you guys definitely makes the world seem smaller.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Some price estimates.

I thought I'd clue people in a bit on random expenses I've faced in Bangalore. If there are any Bangalore-ans reading this, then let me know if I'm getting ripped off! :)

  • Services

    • I get shirts and pants ironed for Rs. 2.50 per item. I drop it off with the dude who sits down the street, and he leaves it with the security guard at the end of the day. I have a feeling that some people pay Rs.2. This morning I gave it to a different dude (there's 3-4 of them that do the ironing) and he tried to charge me Rs. 3.
    • I pay a lady Rs. 500 to come to my place every morning and spend 45 minutes sweeping, mopping, dusting, and washing dishes. I'm paying too much; mainly because of the building/area I live in. For the work she does in a neighboring area, I should expect to pay about Rs. 300
    • I pay someone Rs. 200 to wash my car every morning. He hasn't washed my car since Saturday so I need to yell at him (actually I think he's been sick). However, assuming that washes it every day, I think that's pretty reasonable.

  • Eating out

    • I paid Rs. 12 for a plate of idli-vada this morning at the cafeteria in our building. I'm told that prices outside are about the same; maybe I'd pay Rs. 8-10 instead (at a simple non-fancy place). A small cup of coffee was Rs. 5
    • Last night I had dinner at a pretty nice restaurant called Little Italy which is an all-vegetarian italian + mexican place (we only tried the italian dishes). We had garlic bread, bruschetta (sp?), and two eggplant parmesians (they were each called something different but that's basically what they were). We also split a bottle of local Indian wine (I forget the exact name but it was something Indage - I didn't like it but Pooja did. She also said that she expected me not to like it because it wasn't a 'guys wine'; whatever that means!) between three. I paid Rs. 550 for my part of the meal. The wine bottle was sold to us for about Rs. 800 but I checked the MRP (Maximum Retail Price) was Rs. 298.

  • Groceries

    • Half a liter of milk costs Rs. 14.
    • A liter of Tropicana Apple Juice costs Rs. 74
    • At my corner store, I bought tomatoes at Rs. 10 per kg; a head of cauliflower for Rs. 10 ; a small bundle of cilantro (about the same size as you get in the US for $.75 or so) for Rs. 4 ; and I think I got onions for Rs. 12 per kilo. As you can see, my cooking has been somewhat limited so far.

  • Other

    • Petrol is about Rs. 42 per liter. There's about 3.78 liters in a gallon. So that's pretty expensive.
    • At our office building, you pay Rs. 20 per day to park a car. If you go to some random shopping area and park for a few hours, you can expect to pay Rs. 5 to park.
    • It's recommended that you connect most electronics through a voltage stabilizer here (generally they take input voltages in about the 200 ~ 300 range and give you 240V). I paid Rs. 1200 for a .5KVA (500 Watt) stabilizer. I later found out that I should expect to pay about double that, and I probably got what I paid for. I'll need to buy some more for around the house so I'll have a chance to buy some better quality items at that point.

I can't think of anything more that I've bought recently. If you found this useful, leave me a comment and maybe I'll put up another similar post in the future.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Staying fit in Bangalore

I'm still trying to figure out how to stay fit in Bangalore. There are a fair number of gyms here - which is definitely an option. However, the avenues for playing any sports are limited.

Minus the past week and a half when I've been sick, I have been going to the climbing wall at kanteerava stadium. It's pretty cool and there are a bunch of friendly climbers there around 7-9am and 4-6pm.

We investigated most of the clubs in Bangalore looking for squash, tennis, badminton, swimming... but most of them have huge membership initiation fees and 15-20 year waiting lists.

I'm looking at playing/learning tennis at the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association (KSLTA) which has a few courts, good gym, clean locker rooms, a reasonable fee, and no waiting list. The only downside is that you have to sign up for a 3 year membership and, never having played much tennis, that's a big commitment (esp. since it only has tennis and no other sports).

Friday, December 03, 2004

Back up.


It's humbling for me to see how demoralized I got last week in the face of illness. The fever/cold didn't get to me; my spirits were still high. But as soon as I started feeling nausea, that was the end of my morale. Thanks to the two sweet ladies that left get-well-soon messages on my blog. They made my morning.

I'm back up to speed now, running at about 95% of normal. I don't yet feel completely there but I've got most of my energy and appetite back. I'm in the office on a saturday morning because an interview candidate is presenting a case study that we asked him to do a few weeks back. He was meant to present earlier but, you guessed it, he was down pretty bad with a flu.

The maid that comes in the morning to sweep/clean for me is Tamil. She only speaks Tamil. The lady who lives next door, Uma (who is awesome), set me up with this maid so she bargained and everything in Tamil. Now I'm left to communicate with her by sign language. I was relying on being able to call up Sindya and have her translate but, unfortunately, she's out of town this week on a water-sports trip (she's taking the kids to a place 5-6 hours away called Hannemardu). The lady is really sweet; her daughter-in-law works at Uma's place. She's pretty old and very smiley. I made tea for her yesterday morning. She told me that she won't come to work tomorrow because it's Sunday but Uma had told me that I should give her 1-2 days off every month but that she'd work on Sundays in general. I tried telling her that this morning but, of course, there was some severe communication gap. Oh well. Once Sindya gets back things will get sorted out hopefully. In the mean time I'm beginning to be able to recognize the few words of Tamil that I know. It's wierd but, even though I knew some words before, it was hard to pick them out in sentences. Now I'm getting better at that.

What else? The world definitely looks like a brighter, sunnier, more beautiful place this week than last. Hopefully I'll be able to go climbing again by next week. This weekend I need to focus on sorting through all my boxes that were delivered last weekend, so my place starts looking more like a home and less like a warehouse.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

a slight downer...

I hate to admit it. But this past week has just been terrible. I got sick last Wednesday - I felt like vomitting and had a terrible headache. That spiralled into a really bad fever/cold/cough and I was at home sleeping for the entire weekend. I couldn't keep my eyes open for more than a few minutes at a time because they were stinging. Since I haven't got someone to cook for me and my kitchen is not completely set up, eating was a problem. Thankfully Sindya cooked me some rice/daal which sustainied me for the rest of the weekend. I haven't figured out where to eat out - everything is heavy and oily and I haven't found a place to go get simple food.
The past 2-3 days my fever/cough/cold is better but I keep feeling like throwing up. I'm sick of staying at home and I actually don't feel too ill at home. But if I stay out (at work) too long I start feeling queesy. It's the worst feeling. For some reason, it totally messed with my head the past few days and made me just want to go home. Where's home? Who knows. But it's just frustrating that I don't know how to do simple things here. I don't know what kind of shop to go to to buy a toaster or microwave. I don't know where to go get some soup. I don't know who to call when my stove stops working.

I hope things get better soon.