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This last weekend, a bunch of us decided to make a holiday out of the music festival very popularly known around here as the NH7 Weekender. A great lineup of musicians and the wonderful weather of Pune in tow, we set out to make the most of the 3 day festival. This weekend was anything but non-eventful! Not for the music but for all the goof ups that happened around it, this can be easily termed as my series of serious unfortunate events. Many hiccups later, we found ourselves on the festival grounds and boy was I in for a surprise! As Nirmika Singh of Festival Sherpa, rightly puts it
“… you couldn’t have missed noticing how the majority of attendees have suddenly got younger. Laxmi Lawns this year was filled with compulsive selfie-clicking, shorty shorts-wearing high-school girls and their cigarette-smoking, peck-planting, shoulder-surf-offering boyfriends…”

The festival did nothing but make me feel old and degenerated. While I clamoured around to find my fit of people, 16-somethings happily bumped into me spilling more than just love. Complaining aside, between hopping stages, guzzling rum and hogging on German sausages, I did manage to listen to some really great music. Saturday was dedicated to a bit of Soul Clap, Raghu Dixit in the afternoon. By evening, we were set for Mark Ronson, who I believe was keeping Indian times since he was more than an hour late for the show! A fun set and a few sing-alongs later, we pushed our way into Nucleya’s gig. Now, Nucleya aka Udyan, I’ve been a fan of since my college days. Way before he was Nucleya, he was the other half of Bandish Project who I enjoyed listening to. His Saturday sets at Kitty Su in Delhi had only reinforced my faith in his brand of music. And I have to say, of all the shows I saw at this festival his was the most flamboyant. In terms of production, visuals and of course the music. Albeit, the average age of his listeners have gone down but his music still never fails to entertain me. I found myself acting quite like the 16 year old next to me (perhaps on acid) when he blasted ‘Jungle Raja’.

Rehman at nh7

Sunday turned out to be a chill day in more ways than one. All of us, as a bunch decided to make the most of Pune’s famed breweries and found ourselves at the Independence Brewing Company near Koregaon Park. One too many Belgian Witbier (and a bunch of Jager Bombs and Vodka-chillies) later we stumbled into the festival venue with a vengeance! Having missed Raghav Sachchar by then, we waited for Swarathma to get on stage. A bit of walking around to shake off the drunkenness, we positioned ourselves for the highlight of the evening – A. R. Rehman! He is a legend, yes. He is an extraordinary musician, yes. Showman, he is not! Musically the show was brilliant but a bit lacklustre when it came to leaving the audience wanting more. While I waited for him to belt out his most famous numbers, he only occasionally pranced around the stage in what could be called a ill fitting disco ball. Major hate towards the irritating camera man who hogged more limelight than Rehman did himself! I wasn’t there to see you cover Rehman with your fancy equipment, I had paid money to see the man in flesh, singing, playing the piano and doing what he does best.

Since the folks at OML had been cheeky enough to have Flying Lotus play simultaneously, we made our way out of the crowd, only to have “Why would you leave Rehman and leave?” thrown our way. Well, excuse me while I get refills and some fresh air!

Quite the interesting weekend, this. A celebration of music and a consolidation of our brotherhood thanks to some misplaced bookings and utter lack of customer service by Agoda. Big ups to Uber for sorting us out on our never ending trip thanks to network jammers at the venue. Such an irony, OLA gave out voucher codes but forgot to mention to us that neither network nor cars were going to be available for us to redeem those coupons. The only people coming out rich were the auto-rickshaw guys with their exorbitant muh-boli-fares. Touche!

 

It had been a while since I had done my last little Quick & Dirty exercise and the Housing Designathon could not have come at a better time.
24 hours, 8 teams, 1 floor. And what came out was sheer brilliance! The 24 hours of BOLT, as it was called, felt nothing less than a reality TV script customised for design consumption.Taking away from the shroud of serious nerdiness were surprise twists and turns every hour and a game of rock-paper-scissors thrown in for extra effect. But yes, the scoring was rather strict which made us designers scramble across the floor every time the Boss, Suvonil pealed the bells.
The brief – a digital product at the end of 24 hours that could challenge or upstage any available product at present. What worked best was the open ended brief that restricted the imagination to no bounds. Products ranging from fantasy real estate forums, future home automation to local empowerment found its way into the Housing design studio.

The result: An extremely fun design-marathon that not only tested our stamina (surviving on coffee is no mean feat!) but also tricked our brains into thinking intemperance is but a placebo. Surprised by our own inherent skills of natural selection, some of us jumped head first into the world of prototyping. Whatever inhibitions one might have had before, about coding or coffeescript had to be squashed with immediate effect. It was time to act! In a designathon like this, what matters the most is perhaps the planning. It all comes down to hard working vs. smart working.

I was lucky to be a part of an eclectic bunch of travel enthusiasts who at every thought of having a few hours to spare, plot and plan their next trip. Stemming from this love of travelling, of exploring the unknown, rose COMPASS. A unique experience seeking application that not only connects you to the local cultural activities but also lets you live like one. A perfect antidote to cultural dilution. COMPASS is for a group of people and individuals, who see themselves as a collective or a community, who share and work to preserve experiences, customs and traits unique to the site. Not for the feeble hearted (with their set plans and ‘glamping’ gear), the idea of Compass thrives on enabling the provincial community with opportunities that best benefit them. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could experience a place just as the locals do? Eat their food, live like them perhaps? Compass celebrates the idea of discovery. Of the joys of coming across something previously unseen, of finding that new spot that you want to tell your friends about, share with your peers. Of interacting with the local community. It thrives to empower the travelling community to be more participatory in shaping their journeys than placing trust on middlemen with business goals. The question it poses, what can we do for the locals?

Many a travel apps have made their way into the market since Lonely Planet and Tripadvisor. The competition is steep and the users spoilt for choices. But how many of us want the same itinerary as the rest of the world? The fun of going off-road and uncovering something new has a greater pull. But then again there are two kinds of travelers. Ones who travel to check things off their list and the ones who travel to add to life experiences. The destination holds little importance to them. What the destination offers has more value. Compass provides a unique platform to explore a certain location via either discovery or experience. Targeted mainly at weekend travellers, it enlists destinations within the range of 500kms from the chosen city. Once the point of interest has been established it details out the geography and cultural interests of the place. You could browse through a directory of local hosts and guides, home-stays and unique culinary experiences. Details of which could be either uploaded by the parties hosting or by the travelers themselves.

Compass

As fun as it was working on this, we are working towards making this a reality soon. Watch this space for more …

There is something about girls and castles. Or maybe it’s just me ….
Having heard (and read on Tripadvisor) so much about the Windsor castle, I decided to finally give it a go on a lovely cold Monday morning. Owing to the fact that it was a Monday in January (not mid-term) I presumed the crowd to be thin. But to my surprise, if the number of people on a Monday is anything to go by, I can only imagine what the weekends would be like.

The train journey from London to Windsor and Eton Central is pretty fast and the little two coach train that greets you at Slough is just plain adorable. That said, don’t be fooled by Google map’s efforts in getting you lost in Windsor. Give the convoluted Google route a miss and follow the clearly marked signage around the town to find places. The castle is pretty breathtaking in itself. Quite literally overflowing with English opulence. It’s a pity you’re not allowed to take pictures in the state rooms but then again maybe there lies its allure. The audio guide is an absolute must and takes one through the castle and state rooms pretty swift. Though I have to say, I was a bit disappointed by the ‘doll house’.

Not so much an art lover, portraiture per se, I have to admit, some of the Van Dycks were absolutely spectacular! The silk in his paintings are still gleaming! A little walk around town and a quick visit to Eton later, I was back in London.

A day quite well spent.

p.s. Stopped at a little cafe by the river called, The Chocolate cafe. They had the most delicious apple pie and hot chocolate.

While London is an interesting city in itself, it could get a little monotonous. Having exhausted all the pubs in London, I decided to give Friday night a try in Bath. The drive from London was a pretty peaceful two hours but what was more exciting was the sunshine that greeted me near Swindon. Oh beautiful sun! One wrong turn and I found myself in Bristol driving along the river while looking for a pub for a quick round of Pimms.
Bath maybe on every tourists’ hotlist, but I found the city a little overrated (or probably because fall is not the best time to visit). I would rather spend my £20 at the heated Bath spa than have me walking around a tank for the same price. The town is quiet and cosy and the hike up the Cathedral gives a breathtaking view of the town. Friday night at Bath maybe less taxing on your purse strings than London. Lots of little restaurants and clubs to try out. My favorite one being Graze at Brunel Square. A little up the road, The Cosy Club was also a wonderful little haunt. Very unlike London, very rustic, very festive. Having said that, the English countryside is an absolute delight with its fall colors and natural ambient light. Also on the way stop by at the Fairtrade village, Saltford for some goodies at reasonable prices.

Here’s to more such unexpected adventures.
x

Of all the places I have been at, the country that charmed me most is Belgium. After all it IS the land of Tintin and Captain Haddock, my first loves. Also, the host country of the magical Tomorrowland which has been on my bucket list since I had discovered electronic music and long before it became mainstream. Quaint little villages, friendly people, hot waffles, even hotter accent [swoon] and surprisingly healthy nation of potato lovers. Though much of my album from this tiny country consists of landscapes and picturesque town squares, equally exhaustive is my beer list! With every region and its specialist beers I was spoilt for choice and boy did I enjoy it! While the English like to guzzle down their beer like cola, the Belgians enjoy it. Not that they swirl it in their glasses and spit it out, but if you happen to guzzle down a Belgian beer you could be counting stars sooner than you thought. With alcohol levels ranging from 6% to 11% some bars even have restrictions on the number of beers served to a single person [smart move!].

Don’t be fooled by the size of the country, it has much to offer. But they had me fooled by the size of Manneken Pis. Manneken Pis was exactly the size as drawn on the map! […And the map claimed not to be of scale] I have come to believe the Belges have great sense of humour or that they have an overenthusiastic PR mechanism in place. A national symbol that requires a microscope to spot!

The most common question anyone in Brussels is faced with I guess is, “Should I go to Bruges or Ghent?” I’d say Ghent. Ghent is quieter, smaller, prettier, classier and less Disney-fied version of Bruges. It also has a brilliant castle worthy of being in fairy tales with a hidden chamber of torture. Though I am not much of the ‘must-do-must-see’ places, I was threatened by my brother that he would disown me if I skipped Bruges while I was in Belgique. I do not know if it had to do with the fact that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site or that In Bruges was shot there – a film that had him in splits. In all probability, the latter. Bruges invariably was swarming with tourists, not all Collin Farrell fans I hope. My personal pictures were constantly bombarded with one or two unknown entities whom I had to pretend I was friends with eventually since they hogged the better sceneries. The Basilica of Holy Blood was an interesting visit. A place where you can pray to the real blood of Jesus. Yes, that’s as real as God can get!

While I would like to make this post about how ‘awesome’ the country is, my rambling about their beer is probably not going to stop. At the end of every night I found myself ‘sampling’ some more beer from the region [sometimes beyond my capacity] and as much as I remember my mother asking me not to befriend strangers in my inebriated state, “Hello Google” doesn’t quite respond well to my mumblings. So till I find my Prince Charming, I am going to be ‘Drunk in Belgium’ [sorry Beyonce].

Hic!

Not everyone ventures into Amsterdam with the same enthusiasm to visit a museum as I did when I landed at Museumplein. While tourists flocked to the ‘I Amsterdam’ for a souvenir picture, I readied myself for what was museum day for me in Amsterdam. A day when drinking and smoking would take a backseat while I soaked the much needed art into my system. While Musuemplein has the famous Van Gogh Museum as well as the Rijksmuseum [houses Rembrandt], the one museum I absolutely and utterly loved was the Stedelijk. Not only do you get a staggering 50% off on flashing your student ID, everything about the museum is quirky. If modern art is your thing, forget Tate, I’ve found us a new love!

The architecture, the curation, the three stories high textile wall marking the levels, the little coffee shop outside, I loved everything about the museum. The Bad Thoughts show was excellently curated. Loved the short film by Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler called Single Wide. Quite an intriguing piece of film making.

I have to admit, I’ve always fancied signage in museums, especially the toilets. Sometimes they precede the art for me [haw!]. Though Stedelijk scores high on the art quotient, it’s not too far from the toilet quotient either [Serpentine still takes the cake on that one]. While it may come as a shock to many, Van Gogh museum is totally overhyped and under delivers. Unless the man is a God to you, roasting yourself in the blazing sun for an hour and half to find out that the ‘Sunflowers’ are on a loan to the National Gallery in London for 6 months is pure torture. Only bright side is all the yellow the museum throws at you irrespective of the color palette.

By the time I could squeeze my way out of the gift shop, my body had contracted alcohol withdrawal symptoms. So I promptly decided it was time for the Heineken experience. For starters, it is not much of an ‘experience’ to write home about, if you exclude the two beers (and half) included in the ticket (€17). The (supposedly) 4D Heineken ‘ride’ is pretty much a let down lest you enjoy a mini earthquake and water being sprayed at you while you’re a barley grain on a mission to be brewed. PS: Some bubble guns are also let loose for extra effect.
But I have nothing to complain about since with my two pennies not only did I score a free beer mug [official merchandise], I also have a cool certificate as the official Heineken pourer! [for what it’s worth]

While I could go on about how wonderful my rest of the evening was, my memory fails me. The last I remember of this day is stumbling into a ‘coffee shop’ near Spui and gobbling down some ‘space cake’. Not for the weak hearted I must warn. As helpful as the Dutch folks are [very might I add], it’s better to know when the last tram is or where your night bus is from. Unlike London, night buses in Amsterdam run once every hour and the wait unfortunately is strenuous enough to kill any joy you might have been riding on previously.

Till then here’s to some beer by my lovely wife.

HeinekenCheers!
xx