Cerebral Shangrila

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Masala Dosa - An interview with the winner

With the Outlook magazine announcing " Masala Dosa" as the national dish of India through a nation wide survey of 1000 people (!), there is no dearth of drum beating by the south Indians. I thought its better to interview the winner ( Masala Dosa) on this historic win which could have deep repercussions for the future of culinary scene in India. Here is an exclusive interview with Masala Dosa ( only on our blog) :

Q: Did you expect this win?

A ( By Masala Dosa): Honestly, I did. I knew in a country like India, the votes would be split with very little consensus. I was counting on my southern brethren to contribute to my win.

Q: Were you surprised by the support that you got from North Indians?

A: Not actually. Most North Indians know little more than Masala Dosa in South Indian cuisine. In addition, the fact that I have "Aloo" and Idli doesn't , tremendously helped me.

Q: What do you think about more women preferring you than men?

A: Is this going to be telecast on National TV or Cable? My response would depend on it !

Q: How do you plan to ensure your lead against competition ( Mainly Mutton Briyani, Tandoori Chicken, Idli Sambar)?

A: Between you & me, I am trying to garner some political support against the mutton, chicken camps. Since the foreigners can't vote, I am safe against competition from " Tandoori Chicken". Idli could hardly be considered as a competitor to me, it is not even available throughout India.

Q: Heard that a certain politician is trying to rile up protests against you since "Vada Pav" didn't win the polls.

A: You & I know the truth. Even people in his city eat more Masala dosa than Vada Pav. I have nothing against Vada Pav, if you think about it, he is a very close cousin of me.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

25 Authentic Asian Tourist Experiences

We all love doing the "touristy" things - " been there , done that". Here are 25 "non-touristy" things to do in Asia. Nice list.

My pick : Sheep rearing @ NZ, Komodo Island in Indonesia, Bicycle racing in Japan, Hiking up the Penang Hill ( Can't believe that I have actually done this one !).


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bali Photos - Part 1

Bali was spectacular. Here is some of those amazing scenery.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Business Trivia

What is common to Cisco, VMWare & Flickr?


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bombay jayshree - live at tank road temple

Bombay jayashree performed at the tank road temple on Friday. She sang very well although the choice of songs were quite predictable. The poorvikalyani & thodi were sung with a lot of depth. Rks, Arun Prasad & Aditya lent excellent support. Here is the song list :

1. Siddhi vinayaka- nattai
2. Sogasujooda - k.goula
3. Akhilandeshwari - dwijavanti
4. Ananda - poorvikalyani
5. Karmuga shanmugha
6. Karthikeya - thodi - with thani
7. Virutham - bahudari, kaanada, behag - muruganin marupeyar
8. Kandha vandarul - natabhairavi
9. Srinivasa - hamsanandi
10. Thillana -maand
11. Mangalam - sowrashtram

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Photos - Manhattan, Statue of Liberty

Photos taken during my trip to New York in Oct'09.

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Friday, January 08, 2010

NRI's can vote soon - PM

A much welcome move. I hope it some kind of a cohesion between the Embassy / High Commissions and the NRI's living in that country.

On a Separate note, I was at the High commission of India (Singapore) yesterday and was pleasantly surprised by the efficiency. My task got completed in 10 mins, unimaginable a few years ago.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

Ben Bernanke - Time " Man of the Year"

An excellent photo album - From a spell bee to geek to academic to Chairman of Fed.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Raining concerts in Singapore

It is raining carnatic music concerts at Tank road temple. Thursday ( 7th Jan) is P.Unnikrishnan, Friday is Bombay Jaishree , Saturday & Sunday ( will she be singing the same songs on both days?) is Sudha. All concerts start at 7pm and are free.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Chitra's first tamil song

I had always assumed that Chitra's first song in Tamil was " Poove Poochudava". Learnt yesterday ( thanks to super singer) that her first recorded song was " Poojaiketha Poovidhu "( Yet another hidden gem of Raja).

This song is from the movie " Nee Thaana Andha Kuyil". Wow, how appropriate ! In the 80's she stormed the Tamil filmdom as the indisputable" Kuyil". Isn't there some poetic justice in this world?

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Bali - Travel Diary ( Travelogue)

The island of gods, beaches and handicrafts offers a unique experience for travelers. Bali is famous for numerous things - Ruined temples, sun kissed beaches, lush rice fields, breathtaking volcanoes, Music & dance and above all people.There is always something for everyone who visits Bali.

I had been intending to visit Bali for a long time but the terrorist attacks in 2005 made me cancel my trip and am glad I finally " been there ; done that".

HISTORY : Indians started arriving in Bali from as early as 7th century A.D and Hinduism still exerts a powerful influence . Hinduism is the dominant religion in Bali island with close to 95% of the population being Hindus. The Hindu way of life permeates across the culture of Bali by deeply influencing its dance, music, spirituality, food and living.

The only international airport at Bali is in Denpesar. Bali has excellent connectivity to most parts of Asia Pacific, Europe & North America.

VISA DETAILS : Most nationalities can obtain a visa on arrival (including Indians) . It costs US$ 10 if your stay is for 7 days and US$25 if the stay is 8-30 days. No photo is required for Visa on arrival.Make sure that you carry the exact amount of US dollars ( not any other equivalent currency else you may get a poor exchange rate).

Tourists flock year-round to Bali. Bali has a typical tropical climate - hot and humid. The best time to travel is from April to September when its dry. December can be very rainy and crowded.
Be prepared to come with plenty of Sunscreen lotion since it could quite hot during most part of the year. Bali can also be quite dusty and filled with insects. As a caution, bring anti-allergy tablets and general purpose medicines.

The Currency of Indonesia is Rupiah . There are foreign exchange counters all over. The best exchange rates can be obtained away from tourist centers in Bali rather than your home country ( The exchange rate at Changi airport was 6250 Rp, 6400 Rp at Denpesar airport and 6600 Rp inside Bali ). At the time of writing, 1 USD = 9,700 Rupiah.

Bahasa Indonesia is the most spoken language in Indonesia. People in Bali speak Balinese Bahasa that is quite unique to the island. English is spoken quite haltingly in tourist places. Make sure that you speak English slowly and clearly when conversing . In the rural areas people speak only Bahasa.
All road signs are in English, aiding tourists in Bali.

Indonesia is in the ASEAN region and is close to Singapore & Malaysia. Bali is one of the 17000 islands that makes up the archipelago nation of Indonesia. Bali island is around 144 Km X 80 Km.


Buses: There are hardly any public buses in Bali and hence its not a preferred mode of transport ( unless you are relying on tour operators).

Taxis : Taxis are the most relied form of transport although metered taxis are quite rare. Make sure that you agree on the price ( always after haggling) before embarking on the trip.

Cars / Bikes : Can be rented and is a good option if you know the island well. The road directions in Bali are quite poor and hence one needs to be careful about this option.

Bemo : A form of mini bus that plies between key towns in Bali. Is quite cheap although the reliability isn't very convincing.

Bali is GMT + 8 hours.

Hotels range from extremely cheap ( as low as $5 / day ) to really expensive depending on where you stay.

If you are a beach person, stay at Kuta ( the most popular), Seminyak, Jimbaran, Legion or Sanur.

I stayed at Ubud, the cultural capital of Bali. Ubud has some fabulous resorts that are extremely tranquil & serene.

Bali has an eclectic choice of restaurants. The best restaurants are found at Kuta, Seminyak. Being a vegetarian is hardly an issue in Bali since most restaurants serve some kind of Veg food.

The good Indian restaurants are :

a) Bumbu Bali, Ubud : Is located opposite to Ubud palace. The limited Thali costs Rp41,500 ++ and is a good "deal". The food isn't typical Indian but a mix of balinese & Indian. I would rate it 6/10.

b) Indian delities , Ubud : Is located close to ARMA museum in Ubud. Authentic Indian fare and a meal for two would cost around Rp200,000. I would rate it 7/10.



Kuta : The most popular beach in Bali and a great place for nightlife & water sports. There is also a water theme park in Kuta for kids & adults.

Kuta has suffered over the years due to its popularity. The scar of 2005 bombings are yet to heal and the place is also a constant traffic nightmare during tourist season.

Legian : Is a little less quieter than Kuta and is further up north.

Seminyak : Is the "high end" place filled with flashy lifestyle and western style malls. I wouldn't recommend staying here - its expensive, phony and boring.

Jimbaran : Lies just south of Kuta and is much quieter and a decent place for families.

Sanur : This beach lies on the east side of Bali, which means you don't get to see the fabulous sunset. Beach isn't that great either.

Temples :

Most temples in Bali are ruins and hence set the right expectation before you visit.

Pura Luhur Ulu Watu : Is one of the nine directional temples of Bali and lies in the southern tip of the island perched majestically facing the ocean. The sunset view from the temple is amazing and don't miss it. The temple has a lot of mischievous monkeys so pls be very careful about your belongings ( Don't have any loose items including spectacles - I saw a monkey grabbing the specs of a person next to me).

Pura Tanah Lot : Lies on the South-west coast and is one of the most photographed spots in Bali. The temple is an island in the ocean ( though the island is just 10 ms away from the beach!) and can be reached during low tide. The temple isn't much to boast about but the sunset is fabulous. Many consider this to be the perfect sunset spot in Bali ( Although I would rate Ulu Watu higher).

Pura Taman Ayun ( Mengwi) : Is a royal temple surrounded by a huge moat. The verdant green lawns add to the lustre of this place. I liked this temple a lot and would highly recommend visiting it.

Pura Tirta Empul: Beautiful temple located in North. There are natural springs that gush out and are supposed to have healing powers. The bathing place is quite clean and if you are religious, this temple should be on your "must visit" list.

Pura Masceti: Is located in the South east and is one of the nine directional temples. The temple is quite ordinary but the beach is good (and devoid of crowds) with black sand.

Pura Besakih: Is located in North and is considered the "Mother temple". It is actually a series of interconnected temples. The walk from the parking lot is about a km (though there are bike drivers willing to drive u upto the temple for a fee). I couldn't visit this temple since it rained continuously the day I went there.

Gunung Kawi : Located close to Ubud, this complex consists of 10 rock cut temples. The walk is quite steep and takes around 15-20 mins but the views are breathtaking.

Goa Gajah : Located near Ubud, this is a cave having Ganesha & Shiva idols. The entrance to the cave has a daunting figure that is supposed to ward off evils.

Monkey forest temple : Located at the heart of monkey forest. The temple is in ruins but there is a spectacular monkey demon statue and of course plenty of monkeys.

Dances :

Balinese dances are world famous and Ubud is the place to go for genuine performances ( The Kuta dances are mostly shortened version for tourists). I attended most dance performances at the Ubud palace in a open courtyard. Tickets normally costs Rp70,000 - 80,000 and can be purchased at the tourist office opposite to the Palace. Most performances start at 730pm and last for 90 minutes. Make sure that you take mosquito repellants with you.

Kecak Dance : The most famous dance performance held as a choir. Themes are often borrowed from epics and often accompanied by fire display.

Legong Dance : With elaborate costumes and performed by young girls, this dance is very graceful. I saw the "Mahabharatha" theme being enacted by the Legong dancers ( Don't expect the entire story of Mahabharatha, in most cases a small incident from the epic is illustrated).

Barong dance : Its the battle between good ( barong) & evil ( rangda). It is quite a spectacle with elements of suspense & drama.

Volcanoes :

Gunung Batur : Don't miss the Gunung Batur Volcano & Lake ( near Kintamani). The views, on a clear day, are terrific. I was extremely lucky here. It was raining cats & dogs when I landed near the Volcano. By the time I came back from Lunch, the rain had stopped and the sun smiled at me beautifully !

SHOPPING : Bali is a great place for shopping. Its famous for paintings, handicrafts and stone carvings. The " Pasar Seni", close to the Ubud Palace, is the best place for bargain hunting. The market starts at 9am and winds up by the afternoon. Be prepared to bargain (sometimes starting at less than one-third of what is quoted) if you want a good deal. I bought plenty of paintings, T-shirts, souvenirs here.

I would advise not to buy stuff near the tourist places as they tend to be expensive.

If you want to relax, get yourselves a massage - body/ foot.

How much would a trip cost ?

I went for 8 days to Bali from Singapore. I am a budget traveler ( I rarely stay in fancy 5 star hotels nor do I rent an expensive car to drive me around) who likes to backpack and travel with crowds. It cost me US$ 700 / person for the whole trip ( Includes Air travel, local transport, Accommodation, Temple entry fees, Food, Shopping , Departure tax , Visa fees, Misc ).

Do they speak English there ?

Most locals know a smattering of English that is enough for simple conversations. I didn't find the language to be a major issue. I had planned my trip well in advance and had the " Lonely Planet" guides and maps to tow me around. So the bottomline is, if you plan well , you should be able to manage.

Do I get Indian Food / Vegetarain food there?

Yes. I had already written reviews about the Indian restaurants in the "FOOD" section.
Getting Veg food isn't a challenge in Bali.

How many days are enough to see Bali?

Depends on what you want. Plan for at least 4 days.


a) Beware of street dogs. They are everywhere and bark constantly. Don't enter dark alleys alone after sunset.

b) Beware of touts who promise to be your tour guide or insist that the temple compulsorily requires guides.

People are extremely religious in Bali and I was often asked " Are you Indian?" or " Are you Hindu?". Irrespective of your religious beliefs, respect their culture and dress properly when entering temples.

FINAL WORD : Bali is a celebration of life and is a very unique place on this planet. It is where spirituality meets the surf and culture clashes with the malls. Most people would tend to love one of these contrasts.

At some level, you start wondering if Bali is over-rated - that is - if you haven't found your nirvana there.

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Sanjay's comparison - Cricketers and Carnatic musicians

The Q&A in Jaya TV Margazhi mahotsavam has been adored by the audience for "breaking the ice".

Loved this response from Sanjay. Can't agree more on GNB / Gavaskar & TNS / Sachin comparison.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Worldspace - End of an era

Two days ago there was music but today there is just silence. Most listeners of the Worldspace satellite radio were taken by surprise when the broadcaster announced the closure of its Indian ( Asian) operations on 31st Dec. The news shouldn't have surprised many, considering that the company filed for bankruptcy protection in the US more than a year ago.

What made Worldspace good ?

An excellent rooster of India specific content ( well, they had 95% of total global subscribers from India) that was ad free and well compered. Their classical music channels , Gandharva (Hindustani) & Sruti ( Carnatic), particularly stood out filing a niche and cultivating a loyal audience.

My tryst with World space

In early 2009, despite knowing about the bankruptcy filing, I bought a World space radio in Singapore and immensely enjoyed the experience. I was particularly addicted to Sruti, listening to yesteryear masters and thematic programmes that greatly enriched my understanding and knowledge of carnatic music.

Why did I buy the Worldspace radio fully knowing about the bankruptcy?

Music is a matter of heart and perfectly rational people make irrational decisions, listening to their heart. With that same irrationality, I am hoping that Worldspace would make a come back in 2010 ( rescued by angel investors). It would be a shame if it is allowed to die.

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Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy new year!

May the new year bring peace, prosperity & joy to everyone!

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