Posts Tagged With: Reviews

The Innovators: A fascinating history of the digital revolution

The InnovatorsTitle: The Innovators
Author: Walter Isaacson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 2014)
Pages: 560
ISBN: 9781471138799
Genre: Non Fiction, Computers & Technology, Business
Rating: 4/5

Long before the advent of the computer and internet as we know it now, long before Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were beatified as idols of computing and Apple and Microsoft became household names, scores of scientists and engineers had been busy decoding the principles of science, seeking to understand the ways of the machines. Almost a century of discoveries, innovations and generating and executing ideas that helped create the “digital age” is what biographer Walter Isaacson has explored with great zeal and attention in ‘The Innovators.’

But here there are no individual heroes, brilliant thinkers and visionaries who stood above the rest. For Isaacson places teamwork as central to innovation. Elaborating how creativity is a collaborative process, he writes, “The digital age may seem revolutionary, but it was based on expanding ideas handed down from previous generations.” The best innovators are those who understood this trajectory of technological change and all of Isaacson’s characters, be it engineers, scientists, hackers and entrepreneurs, took the baton from other innovators.

When a dream was envisaged by Charles Babbage, his ideas were borrowed and galvanised by Harvard Aiken for his Harvard Mark I. To understand how the first transistor came about is to learn of the collaborative efforts of Walter Brattain and John Bardeen. Steve Jobs built on the work of Alan Kay, who was in turn inspired by Doug Engelbart, who built on JCR Licklider and Vannevar Bush. Yes, this book isn’t a book of lone geniuses and Isaacson, ever so powerfully attests to the romance of collaboration rather than individual effort.

Throughout the book, he singles out the creative genius of the various visionaries and through their stories weaves a wonderful tapestry of human-human and human-machine symbiosis, how each in their own way contributed their share to create a world where new technologies thrive.

The book begins and ends with the story of Ada Lovelace, celebrated as a feminist icon and a computer pioneer, who had a propensity for the marriage of the poetic realm with math. Assisting Babbage on his ‘Analytical Engine,’ she dreamed of a world where “machines would become partners in human imagination.” The saga of the digital age that is ‘The Innovators’ — cataloguing how the digital universe evolved, how technology progressed from transistors and  microchips to personal computers, video games, internet, et al — has amusingly reinforced this idea. Innovation after all happens when you understand the relationship between humanity and technology.

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Back in Time by Andaleeb Wajid

Back in TimeTitle: Back in Time
Author: Andaleeb Wajid
Publisher: Bloomsbury India
Pages: 168
ISBN: 9789384052935
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 4/5

Author Andaleeb Wajid is a consummate writer and she has time and again proven her knack in etching characters that have strong convictions, be it women who are tormented by inner conflicts, those who are not afraid of love or those who will go to any lengths to right a wrong. They are always charming, intelligent and resourceful. The book, Back in Time, the second in the Tamanna trilogy after No time for goodbyes, is no different. By telling the story of a strong female time-travelling protagonist, Wajid subtly touches upon human emotions like love, longing, belonging, anger by carefully weaving a delicate and pristine love story. The book is also a portrait of Bangalore of a long time ago, which earned the first book much critical acclaim.

Tamanna, who once again finds herself in the past, is now torn between her love for Manoj, a younger Suma’s neighbour, and her yearning to be back in the present, where her parents are going crazy with her state of unconsciousness. And to make matters worse, the camera, which would transport her back to the present, is stolen and hence, she is trapped indefinitely in the 80s. What happens during her stay in the 80s, how she comes back to the present and what happens to her love life — this forms the crux of the story.

I picked this book up at random; as I was awaiting a package of new books to arrive that evening, I wanted to read a book that would fill the gap in between. This book is a refreshingly fast read (I finished it in four hours with breaks) with a simple yet tightly-woven narrative. Though a Young Adult fiction, with time-travel at the core, it is a pleasant romance, which will leave you chuffed to bits, no matter how old you are.

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Stone Mattress: The queen of dark yarn shows her best yet again

Stone MattressTitle: Stone Mattress: Nine Tales
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Published: September
Pages: 288
ISBN: 9780385539128
Rating: 5/5

Good short stories are rare to come by. Not all novelists are adept at writing short stories, for such works do not have the luxury of a whole book to capture the reader’s interest. In my mind, very few have achieved this feat. I love Alice Munro for her captivating short takes, or Tanith Lee, who, some say, writes better short stories than novels or James Joyce, for his wonderful book, Dubliners. And then there’s Margaret Atwood, who is an accomplished novelist as she is a short story writer.

Stone Mattress, her latest book is one such masterpieces she has produced in her 50 years in the publishing industry. A missive with nine stories, some written or narrated by her in the course of her career, these stories are nothing short of exquisite. Her characters are old but feisty, callow but bold, self-aware but bohemian, lonely but free-spirited and her stories question the rules of gender, genre and age.

One may say, the collection has a theme, the theme of the transcending power of the story itself, as Atwood alludes in the afterword. It is no surprise, that those of who have devoured Atwood in the past, will find the stories imaginative and compelling, where her writing makes something magical out of the mundane.

The first story, Alphinland forms part of a (loosely put) trilogy. The subsequent stories are Revenant and Dark Lady which delve into the lives of a fantasy fiction writer, a dying poet and a muse/ex-lover.

This is followed by Lusus Naturae or ‘freak of nature’, which is one of the works which was previously published.  The other stories in the book The Dead Hand Loves You, The Freeze-Dried Groom, Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth and Torching the Dusties are equally laden with affliction. But the best, perhaps, is the ‘Stone Mattress’ which lends the book its title. Originally published in the New Yorker, the story about Verna who is raped at 14 and who now tries to avenge the brutality caused to her, is sharp and gritty and hits you with brute humour.

In her book Negotiating With the Dead, Atwood pondered: “Writing has to do with darkness, and a desire or perhaps a compulsion to enter it, and, with luck, to illuminate it, and to bring something back out to the light.” This book, which is her 55th, illuminates themes that are dark and heavy, where the characters are plagued by inner demons and a desire to avenge the deeds done to them when they were young; the book satisfies you in a way that only Atwood can.

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Revisiting War Through Letters

Great War

Title: Indian Voices of the Great War
Edited by: David Omissi
Publisher: Penguin Books India
Published: July 15, 2014
Pages: 382
ISBN: 9780670087112
Genre: Non-fiction, History, Letters
Rating: 5/5

There were about one million Indian soldiers who served in the First World War as a part of the British army. Of them, about 60,000 died and 9,000 were decorated for their valour. Yet, they remain unsung heroes, their sacrifices are not acknowledged in the post-colonial world. Their struggles and stories don’t find a place in history. The book Indian Voices of the Great War (Penguin India) aims to recount the stories of these forgotten heroes by opening a window onto the tremendous role that India played in Britain’s win in the Great War.

The 300-odd page book, edited by eminent historian David Omissi, is a collection of correspondence between Indian soldiers in Europe and their families and friends in the subcontinent, between the years 1914 and 1919. The letters, written in various Indian languages but translated for the purposes of the book, are powerful reminders of the different battles, raids and large-scale attacks upon the German lines and the weather conditions in various theatres of war.

Through the various letters we find out how some soldiers detested the war, likening the scale of it to the Mahabharata and the battle of Karbala. On the other hand, the manner in which some of the Indians resigned themselves to the inevitability of death, how stoically they reported stories of horror and carnage not wishing to cause distress to their families and friends, is moving. These letters also reveal the soldiers’ unflinching loyalty to the King and how the Rajputs, Pathans and others fought not for mercenary motives but to preserve their izzat. Importance was also placed on receiving decorations — especially of the Victoria Cross.

But their letters also prominently dwell on things other than the war. Several interesting stories about their day-to-day life in the faraway land stand out in this aspect: a soldier recalling his encounter with a friendly child who didn’t shy away from talking to him, another narrating to his father how ‘pleasant and beautiful’ the country of France was, how the fruits there were tastier than what you got in India, are wonderful reminders of ordinary things in face of the looming war. One soldier, towards the fag end of the war, expressed the benefits of educating a girl child, saying, “The advancement of India lies in the hands of the women; until they act, India can never awake from her hare’s dream.”

Talking about the book, a friend recently remarked, “This book will teach us more about the First World War than our textbooks did.” And this is not an exaggerated claim. The book is a unique and compelling account of the Great War by those who experienced it first hand.

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First published in The New Indian Express on September 23, 2014

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‘Chaat’ tastes good here!

Binge On!

In every locality, there are a few special eateries where people keep coming back for a bite. Calcutta Victoria Chaat House, located on the quiet street of Kasturinagar, is one such place. It has become a perfect hang out zone for people in the area.

The eatery sells a variety of namkeens and chaats that have the quintessential Kolkata flavour. There is not much space to sit in the place – a few plastic stools are kept for those who like eating their bhel in a relaxed manner. In spite of this, Calcutta Victoria Chaat House, has managed to pull in a huge crowd comprising of students, office goers and families.

Freshness is the USP here. Fresh fruits and vegetables are used to prepare the chaat items. The place serves a variety of items like bhel puri, sev puri, nippat masala, groundnut masala among many others. A plate of bhel puri is served in a rolled up banana leaf and tastes a little sweet and spicy with pieces of tomato, onion and carrot adding to the crunch of this dish. The masala puri is also quite popular on the menu. Served with a large splash of masala over green peas and crushed sev, it is a welcome bite in Bangalore’s mild weather. The place also serves lip-smacking samosa chaat – hot and spicy – this is a treat for the taste buds.

“I come here almost every other day and especially like the bhel puri,” says Sheethal Balam, a regular customer. Another must try item is the kachori, which is a version of samosa but with channa masala and different vegetables. The dahi puri also has the good blend of dahi and the masala making it a perfect evening snack.

In addition to this, the place also serves parathas that come with different types of filling like gobi, aloo, methi etc. Many customers say that the parathas have the right amount of filling and are not too thick.

The place is open from 11 am to 10 pm. Evenings are specially busy and it is hard to find a space inside the shop, most customers are seen eating outside on the platform.

Published: Deccan Herald

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An exotic slice of Andhra Pradesh

Spice Route.

Red and green chillies, lip-smacking ‘gongura pickle’, and ‘Hyderabadi Biryani’ — mention Andhra cuisine and these are the first things that come to one’s mind. The region’s specials are meant to be high on ‘spice’. Probably, one of the hardest things to find in Bangalore is a good place that serves authentic Andhra style food.

But at ‘Sree Spicy Hub’ in Jeevanbhima Nagar, one can savour an array of authentic dishes that have the typical Andhra flavour without drilling a hole in the pocket. The speciality of the food lies in the fact that all the spices are brought from Andhra Pradesh and prepared in the restaurant by cooks from Andhra itself. “This is because we want to preserve the taste of home-made food,” say the proprietors Gopi and Murli. The food comes in great quantities too, hence you have the option to order half portions.

The menu offers a variety of refreshing drinks to start off with. When it comes to starters, the regional delicacies have much to choose from. Try the gongura mutton, or the most favourite ‘Andhra chicken’ which is a true speciality of Andhra Pradesh. Juicy inside and crisp outside, the chicken tastes best when paired with spicy chutneys. You also have the ‘Andhra breads’, that is chapathi and pulka fried in spices, which is a great choice.

And for those who like fish, there’s more than you can hope for at this place. Choices include the simple fried fish marinated in masala or coated with a rava batter and fried.

Somehow, the natural preparation is best if you like fish for what it is.

The prawn preparations are yet another delight and are cooked just right with a generous coating of masala.

When it comes to the main course, you may be spoilt for choice because of the immense variety. The different varieties of biriyani be it mixed vegetable, chicken or prawn, is worth every morsel. Prepared in a unique style, the dish is just perfect when paired with the spicy green peas masala or mushroom curry.

Nattikodi pulusu curry, an ethnic Andhra dish, is another delight for those who prefer non-vegetarian food. Try out the ‘Spicy Hub Special Biriyani’ too which is a filling platter. For those who like their rice plain, red rice is also available.

Top it with a dash of ghee, sprinkle gun powder and curry leaves powder and it makes for a perfect meal. Completing the rice fare are lemon rice and the curd rice which is cooked to perfection.

Apart from being tasty, the food is reasonably priced. So if you are in the neighbourhood anytime and in mood for some great Andhra food, do try out this place.

It is located on 10th Cross, Jeevanbhima Nagar Main Road. They take delivery orders too.

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The beach beckons

PARADISE ISLE

MALPE

Nestled among the lush green flora of coastal Udupi and set in a rustic ambience, the Paradise Isle Beach Resort at Malpe beckoned us after a weary journey from Mangalore. The resort, which boasts ethnic architecture with a touch of modernity, offers a plethora of facilities. Once in the cottages, hear the gentle whooshing of the sea, and be greeted by great views of the Malpe beach.

SEASIDE HAVEN Paradise Isle

SEASIDE HAVEN Paradise Isle

There is something for everyone here. Foodies can indulge in an appetising breakfast followed by a sumptuous meal that is a blend of the ethnic and Continental.

The butter garlic sautéed calamari and the stuffed mushrooms have us craving for more. The resort also houses a food court and a coffee shop that offers over 60 varieties of coffee.

At the Ayurvedic Spa, indulge in an aromatherapy body massage, salt glow and a beauty-enhancing detoxification. To supplement this experience, there is a fully-equipped health club with facilities for badminton, table-tennis, billiards and swimming. There is also an in-house discotheque.

But, the bounty here is the array of water sports. Feel the spray of the salty seas on a jet ski or venture out on the banana boat.

There is also a boat ride to St. Mary’s Island and a tour over the tranquil backwaters that combines a sight-seeing trip of the cultural beauty of Udupi.

How to get there

Paradise Isle is approximately 60 km from the Bajpe airport and also from Mangalore. The resort provides transportation services.

Things to do

For those in the mood to laze, the beach is the best place to be.

  • Take a ride on the backwaters and photograph beautiful Udipi.
  • Visit the health club, spa, food court.
  • Indulge in water sports.

Tariff

Accommodation costs between Rs. 1,500 and Rs. 9,000. Meals and other services cost extra. The charges for water sports are Rs. 200 per person.

For details, log onto http://www.theparadiseisle.com or call 0820-2537300 / 2537791 /2538777 /2538666 or e-mail your queries to info@theparadiseisle.com.

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