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I am Shashi Tharoor’s Sole Speaking January 16, 2014

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This post was originally done by me for MyIndia section of Mapsofindia.com. Mapsofindia team has taken a conscious call to remove this post as it doesn’t go well with Mapsofindia.com’s editorial guidelines. I respect Mapsofindia.com’s decision and hence have moved this post here.

This post is my work of fiction. The article is a light banter and meant to be taken in that spirit. This post is not endorsed by any of the businesses or business interests I am involved with. 

I am Shashi Tharoor’s sole, I have been to hundreds of cities and my mentor has met thousands of beautiful women. Women get attracted to my mentor without any effort from his side. That is the magic of my mentor, he is smart, successful and perceived to be an intellectual, that is what he keeps on repeating that women look for. Once we were at his stylist and she told him that his left shoulder was stooping. The genius that my mentor is, he told the stylist, “I know, I also know how you can help me stop it from stooping”. I am the sole, so I don’t know what happened after I was removed. Usually, I am removed and all action happens without my line of sight. When I was worn back, I heard that the shoulder had stopped stooping. Brilliant stylist.

I remember once when we walked into this palatial room, there were lots of hugs and kisses and of course some Miss-es. There was one particular Miss who walked across to my mentor and declared herself to be his biggest fan. My mentor, in all his sincerity, gently lifted her hand and bowed down to kiss her hand and said, “I am so humbled, you made my day. Of course, my mentor doesn’t flirt, looking at legs below the hem of skirt is not flirting and neither is telling your “biggest fan”  and “I have never seen more shapely legs.” Of course when legs meet, soles have no role and can’t do any status update.

My mentor enjoys dual nationality and multiple spouses, he is very proud of his diverse work experience and especially the one involving refugees towards beginning of his career. He developed a soft corner for all forms of refugees and internally and externally displaced people. That soft corner has stayed with him and he is always open in all ways possible for displaced people, irrespective of their nationality and their current country of refuge or his current marital status. Dubai and Pakistan are no special, and I can say my mentor doesn’t wait at all when it comes to separating from his sole and ensuring comfort to a refugee seeking his solace. He has never let anyone down even if it meant leaving his trousers crumpled over me while he discharged his duties. My challenge is that I am the sole and I can’t definitely and authoritatively see or comment on the whole thing which unfolds once I am off. Whenever I hear my mentor saying, “this was the best I have had in a very long time,” I know it is time for me to be ready to walk.

Today, my mentor has been restless since morning, he has been stomping a lot, and he has also been saying “why do I misread women every time”. He has me, his sole with him 100% today, I don’t think he would be removing me in a hurry. Of course, I hate being worn for long, and here is my dirty little secret on why I hate. I am never alone when I am removed and the sole accompanying me always has equally interesting stories about places it has been to.

So long…

Looking for Political Analyst October 2, 2012

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We at Mapsofindia.com have been covering elections in India since 1998. Later we started covering them in HeadlinesIndia.com a website promoted to cover news by Mapsofindia and now a sub-domain with it. As elections started becoming bigger and bigger we started exploring ideas to cover more of elections without diluting core of either Mapsofindia.com or HeadlinesIndia.com, thus was born concept of a dedicated site to cover elections for MoI part of our business. We didn’t want to do a halfhearted attempt and really wanted to commit ourselves to doing a quality work and realized that quality work can only thrive under a quality domain name. We needed a domain name which was easy to remember and conveyed its existence upfront like most of our projects do. Our search and willingness to pay the asking price got us http://Elections.In – this was our first choice. We have made the domain name live and have been working on back-end technologies for the same.

To experiment with formats we decided to work a bit more on US elections this year. Doing quality infographics and creating a series of news updates with a robust technology at back-end. Results have been encouraging. Having tied domain name, technology and format now we need a right person to carry the project for next 18 months. Individuals who can relate to the following would find this project a perfect fit for their careers.

  1. Love India
  2. Understand Indian politics
  3. Worked as political correspondent
  4. Traveled extensively across length and breadth of our nation
  5. Can sense a story
  6. Have a flair for writing
  7. Can manage to reach out to key politicians for exclusive soundbites
  8. Has an open mind
  9. Understand merits of an editorial and understand merits of news
  10. Can number crunch

We can sit and develop profile together. Essentially we have a budget of Rs 18,00,000/- for this profile spread over next 18 months. Initially project would require 2-3 stories a day with one editorial every week, closer to election date it would definitely require 24×7 approach and a back-end team of 6-7 junior analysts (for which our budget would be in addition to this)

Those who are interested can call me or text me at my India number – nine nine one double zero five three five thirty eight, it is a Delhi number. One from our team has already started shooting India, we would have extensive footage in place other than the one already with our project PicturesIndia.com

We would prefer someone working from home, however we can offer an office space in Delhi too.

Please pass a word around.



Anna Movement – Putting the cart before the horse? August 21, 2011

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Are we putting the cart before the horse?

My thoughts without any filters about Corruption and India

All of us who have ever given any bribe are part of the problem.

I know only two people who have most likely never ever given any bribe. One of them is our colleague – Rajiv Gupta Ji and the other probably, going by the spirit,  would be Shri Anna Hazare.

How do you define bribe – bribe is not only to government employees, it is also tax evasion, it is also in private sector as “familiarization tours” and it comes in 100 different ways or favors.

OK,  is Kiran Bedi clean, by what definition?

Why she did not resign from IPS when thousands of Sikhs were massacred in Delhi? Was she not aware what had happened, was she never in a position to get those who were guilty to books? Don’t tell me she never used any home-guard or a constable for her own personal use? She was part of this system for thirty years which she is calling corrupt. I am sure if Ms. Bedi was Commissioner of Police for Delhi and the Anna Movement was happening, she would have been the one to ensure that “lathi charge” and everything else happened.

The first real bribe transacted in this country was even before this country was “born again” as an independent country- when “Mahatama Gandhi” agreed to handover Congress President-ship from Moti Lal Nehru to Jawahar Lal Nehru and created India’s first political dynasty. It happened again, when Congress agreed to pay bribe to British in form of acceptance of two nation theory in lieu of Indian Independence.

If every one of us pay our taxes correctly, our moral right would shout at top of our voices, we will not need an Anna Hazare to pick our cause, the heat of our eyes will not allow any corrupt politician to exist, we will not need any lokpal bills or janlokpal bills.

Solutions are within us, let me ask:

Can we suffer for few more hours and not give those extra Rs 100.00 to submit that passport form out of queue?

Can we sacrifice a second or third or a fourth car and pay our full income tax?

Can we sit and burn midnight oil and submit all documents which are asked by government authorities for electricity, water and other utilities?

Can we stop filling fake reimbursement vouchers and deflated income tax returns?

Can we delay our journey by two days and not pay that 500 Rs to TT?

We understand that every time we don’t take a bill from a chemist shop we add to corruption, a corruption which we know costs life, can we wait for that additional five minutes for him to make that bill?

To me the problem begins from me, I am the spoke in the wheel of corruption, till I don’t resolve to take minor suffering in my stride, I will suffer majorly by this curse of corruption.

Bharat Benz February 21, 2011

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My eyes opened to a new name “Bharat Benz” – is it real? Yes, rubbed my eyes and read the whole advertisement/ announcement and my smile kept on getting bigger. We all know and have heard it time and again that “India has arrived’ this time the smile was for a new fact,  the big and mighty like Daimler/ Mercedes have taken a bow. Thank you Daimler for recognizing and public display of your acceptance that you need India more than India needs you. I as an Indian thank you from my heart for going public with that.

Way back in 1977 multinationals in India were forced to dilute their equity holdings and change their names, it was an order by the Janta Party Government in power, Coca Cola left India, so did IBM and hundreds of others. Mercedes Benz trucks in India made in collaboration with Tata’s came to be known as only Tata Trucks and I am not sure how much but Mercedes did reduce their equity in Telco as Tata Motors was called then. What a turn around, a 100% or whatever is the max possible susbsidiary of Daimler decides to name their entry level vehicle as Bharat Benz.

I am proud, very proud of what India has achieved and would achieve in next couple of decades.  It will-  be pure delight to see Bharat Benz running on German Autobahnens and maybe the picturesque houses of Microsoft honchos on Mercer Islands (Seattle) using “Bharat Soft” made BharatOffice. Times are changing and I am loving it, which began with McDonald launching Aloo Tikki Burger has got much bigger and would even get more.

I can say without sarcasm  Mera Bharat Mahan – My India is Great.

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Maps of India is Getting Younger April 22, 2010

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I am flying MapsofIndia.com has got a new homepage. New homepage in itself is a reason enough to fly but this time it is not just a new homepage it is an all new approach to website homepages. Some random thoughts/ steps as we moved towards the new homepage are shared in next few points.

  1. Do we need a new identity? The answer was yes. We moved and created a new identity for Mapsofindia.com. It took lot of resources as initially we were not sure what we wanted. As things progressed we knew we wanted a younger identity which covered much bigger space than our existing identity did and addressed a larger, much younger audience.
  2. Do we plan simultaneous launch of new identity and new homepage? The answer was an emphatic NO. We decided to close and push the new identity first. It was a tough challenge and as we got going it brought its own issues and challenges. It took us time in addressing them. Patience and persistence worked together to achieve over 90% penetration of new identity within 30 days of its launch.
  3. What is wrong with the existing homepage/ why do we need a new homepage? We accepted that the existing homepage was an evolving one with bells and whistles being added year after year, an update after an update. We understood that our audience was getting younger and the expectations were rising. We acknowledged the fact that Mapsofindia.com was now way beyond maps, we wanted to be a complete information site on India and our user wanted just about everything we could offer. We honored the fact that we were now a repository and there was a need for a more advanced but simple navigation engine.

More to come…

Gajalee Vile Parle, Mumbai – Review March 16, 2010

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Date: March 15, 2010

Time: 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm

City: Mumbai (Vile Parle Outlet)

Address: Kadamgiri Complex, Hanuman Road, Vile Parle (E) Mumbai -57

Country: India

Restaurant: Gajalee; Owner Gajalee Coastal Food Pvt. Ltd.

Occasion: Been there done that.

Cuisine: Malvani – (Malvan is a town towards south extreme coast of Maharashtra. Malvani cuisine is arguably different than the Konkani cuisine in variety of dishes and in form of preparation)

Format – Casual Non A/c and Air-conditioned Semi-Fine Dining

Drinks: Diet Coke – No issues (Rs 35/-)

Soup:  Sol Kadhi – It is a traditional Malvani soup made of Coconut and Kokum flower, very tasty, refreshing and a natural appetizer. it takes couple of minutes to feel what the soup does as an appetizer, once done you may not be able to stop at one.  It is served in a glass like a drink and is pink in color and slightly above the room temperature (Rs 25/-) 5/5

Starter: (Non veg) Bombil Fry (Rice flour coated fried Bombay Duck fish fillet) served with Green Chutney (Chutney made of onion, Mint, Cilantro, Ginger, Garlic and spices) (Rs 150/-) Wow taste, my personal choice would have been slightly less oily 4/5 for Fish and 5/5 for chutney.

Starter: (Veg) Paneer Tikka Hariayali – Tandoori Paneer Tikka marinated with Sesame Seeds, Mint and Green Masala. very well cooked (Rs 200/-)  5/5

Main Course: (Non Veg) – Baby Shark Masala (Cytora Moori Fish) Masala had Kokum flower for flavor and fragrance. Slightly spicy for my taste (Rs 175/-) 4.5/5

Main Course: (Non Veg) – Crab Stick Kabab (In picture) Excellent, served with onion flakes and lemon slice (Rs 225/-) 5/5

Main Course: (Veg) – Mushroom Peas Masala – I was told it was a Punjabi Dish (I am sure it was not). The flavor of fresh peas was standing on its own in front of a great gravy and super tasty mushrooms (Rs 200/-). 4/5

Breads: Chappati & Roti (Rs 10/- & Rs 20/-) perfect 5/5

Important: As they cook fresh, it is important that you order by course together, not an ideal place for “as you eat” ordering

We didn’t go in for any dessert/ sweet dish.

Thank you Sharad for joining me and tolerating me while I went about creating my notes.

More to come…

What upsets me most about India January 26, 2010

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What upsets me about India is far less than what excites me and the excitement of being a proud Indian with his base firmly in India continues.

These bullets are my random thoughts – What if, if they just vanish one day. One day. One day. We shall overcome, we shall overcome one day. Oh Ho Deep in my heart, I do believe that we shall overcome one day.

  1. Political Dynasties
  2. Democracy in corruption, everybody has a right to be corrupt
  3. Branding of schools, corporal punishment to school students and heavy school bags
  4. Lack of decision making at all levels – from removing of slum clusters to letting zero tolerance known to Pakistan
  5. Missing opportunities in 1965 and 1971 to settle matters with Pakistan once and for all
  6. Reservations for rich scheduled casts and scheduled tribes and their ever expanding lists. I also dislike the nations ability to accept terms as OBC reservations
  7. Lack of education infrastructure linkage to growing population
  8. Gifting away prime property in name of memorials. Teen Murti Bhawan as a permanent memorial was the first such blunder and every year we add few to these
  9. Female foeticide
  10. Sports committees & administrations being hijacked by industrialists and politicians
  11. Siphoning of funds from poverty eradication programs
  12. Fake students, teachers  and schools under “Serv Shiksha Abhiyaan (Education for all)
  13. Failure to deliver straight, simple and quick justice

more to come…

India Today, the magazine is dying January 24, 2010

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Everytime I hold a copy of India Today, I am reminded of an institution which played a massive role in my thought building process between the years 1977 – 2000. I am reminded of how I would ensure that I read the copy the same day it is out and how we would always get two copies at our home as there was this mad rush to read it.

Somewhere between 2000 and 2005 the obsession transformed into a desire and post 2005 the desire came even a notch down and became connect. From a must read, first thing first, cover to cover in 10 years India Today has become for me “I also read India Today”

The reasons for this are not hard to find:

It has become flimsy, lacks depth and doesn’t offer anything new.
The Impact Feature is a big NOT ACCEPTABLE.
Multilayer covers confuse me and distract me.
Aroon Purie’s editorials now are hollow and hardly worth a read.
I dislike the “staged photo journalism” – can’t relate India Today to it even after 10 years of India Today getting into it.
The number of right hand side ads is always increasing and obstructs my reading flow.
Too many center spread ads make me wonder why do I pay for the magazine, it is India Today which should pay me.
Stapled in or gummed advertising inserts add to the insult.
Path-breaking stories just don’t happen.
One issue doesn’t even bring out one fact which was not in the air anyway.
Last page has become too predictable.

I can go on and on, in short from a complete exciting meal in the 70s, 80s and 90s – India Today has become a slice of white bread, I still eat it but no longer look forward to it.

Division of States – My Personal Stand January 24, 2010

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This is one question which has been coming up practically in every third lunch or casual meetings. It is high time I thought that I must pen down (if only for self clarity):

I am against division of states of India on the basis of language or religion. I am in favor of division of states if it leads to correcting economic imbalance in our society and leads to reducing nepotism and increasing penetration of central funded projects.

Telangana from Andhra Pradesh – Economic reason looks dominant. Fast, yes literally fast methodology adopted by Chandrashekhar Rao have undermined the key issue. If economic disparity between the two regions can’t be handled and equal Government job opportunities given to people from Telangana, division of state would be the only solution.

I am in favor of Harit Pradesh & Porvanchal for economic development reasons.

Bundelkhand, Vidharbha, Kodagu, Saurashtra, Bodoland,Mithilanchal, Bhojpur and Gondwana look wishful and impractical at this stage.

I am in favor of Mahakoshal and Gorkhaland as the states would economically progress quickly as independent states.

Zest Restaurant, Vasant Kunj – New Delhi. A Review January 2, 2010

Posted by simarprit in Delhi, Food, Review.
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Zest has been covered by most of the magazines and all newspapers since it opened its door to New Delhi’s creme de la creme on July 10, 2009. We decided Zest as the restaurant for our first family dine out of  the year 2010, yes, I did think twice about it, read few blogs and concluded that it is likely to be somewhere between OK and awesome. Mini and Mishti were as excited as me as it would be a change from our half-dozen faves.

So here we go:

Location: DLF Emporio, No 4 Vasant Kunj Malls, Nelson Mandela Road, Vasant Kunj Phase –  II, New Delhi – 110 070, India – Tel (+ 91 11) 43119999  – Excellent 10/10 (Though approach roads currently are under re-routing, so be prepared to get lost and keep time to reach 15 minutes on the side of error of omission)

Interior: Bar format, wine cellar followed by semi formal sitting (formal = The Orient Express, casual = Coffee Shop at any decent hotel property). Decor is great, layout of the kitchens and food counters is a little more than a bit confusing – take time to understand before you get going   – 6/10

Reservations – Works, it is better to do a table booking well in advance maybe even a couple of days in advance. Give correct number, they would call back to confirm 10/10

Hostess: Busy, pretending to be busy, on the side of arrogant – all guests are never equal approach.  – 4/10

Staff: Senor staff fairly competent, on look out to identify regulars all others looked like on-the-job-trainees, evident lack of confidence and no long term goals. Restaurant manager couldn’t be identified, though one person looked and operated as one, but as he was sans “you may ask me smile” I concluded that he can’t be the one whose career depends on this restaurants success. Overall 6/10

Crockery: White, pure white. Fine bone china from Luxemburg – 8/10

Glasses: Wine glasses and other tumblers were all fine – 8/10

Cutlery: I was expecting much better cutlery – 6/10

Table and seating: Very cramped layout, no walkways (you have to move around all other dinners)  swill chair is an excellent idea. They couldn’t find us a table for three so they made us sit on a table for six. Overall table and seating rating 5/10.

Soups & Salads: Today they had only one soup in the buffet, an adaptation of  vegetarian Manchow Soup. I am calling it an adaptation as it was one, not authentic recipe, though it was excellent in taste . Soup -10/10.

Salads were few and Cheese Platter was missing. With Red & White wine on the house – Cheese platter missing is not a good thing., there was fresh mozzarella cheese in one of the salads. I liked Smoked Salmon and Potato salad, though potatoes far outnumbered pieces of salmon. I am sure the salmon was farm raised and not wild, but good nevertheless. Total about 10 – 12 different  salads were there. Salad – 8/10. Mini who is 100% vegetarian found the selection very limited.

Starters: No separate section for starters, you have to go from kitchen to kitchen to fill your platter. My suggestion skip this course and enjoy seven distinct cuisines however we did. I took grilled Sea Bass (it was Asian Sea Bass and not the Black Sea Bass which I die for in San Jose). It was very tasty, well marinated and nicely grilled, it was accompanied with White Wine Sauce which was just perfect. 9/10  – Mini took Hing Aloo 6/10  & Hara Bhara Kababs 7/10 (her ratings) – Mishti skipped

Main course: Portion management on the counters is an issue. You never have all to choose from.

The following is the mix-n-match as courses were not separated by them, we had it all together so covering them in the main course:

Mix Veg Pizza (Mini/Mishti) 9/10 – Thin Italian hand tossed

Shell Pasta with Arrabiata Sauce 7/10 – I would have preferred little more drained pastas and some more ginger flakes

Chicken  Indian/ Arabic Kitchen (Mishti) – 10/10 She had 4 pieces, it was spicy and very tasty as per her

Veg dumplings – 7/10 (Mishti) they were bland for her

Noodles (Chilli, Tomato, Garlic): 9/10 (Mishti)

Shrimp dumplings: 9/10 They were good – I enjoyed them

Veg Pulao 6/10 – The rice was not the ideal rice for pulao and the full aroma which Dum Pukht Pulao can get was not there

Fish Curry – Indian Arabic Kitchen – 9/10 – very tasty though they said it was fresh river sole, which I am again sure it was not, it was King Fish and tasted like one. I have no issues with King Fish

Salmon Sushi – 3/10 It was nicely made but somehow I didn’t like the bonded taste of rice and salmon

Deserts: Fresh fruits, Cakes, Custards, Mousse, Rasmalai, Gulab Jamun. I loved Blueberry Mousse and Chocolate cake with Gold flake – Over all Deserts 10/10

Date: Jan 2, 2010 – Time: 1:30 – 3:30

Over all experience – 7/10

Price Rs 5,000/- or $ 110 – They include service charge @10% before Taxes. Base price is Rs 1,250.00 per person or $27 per person. Taxes and service charges account for about 25% and you invariably land up giving an additional 10% tip.

Valet Parking: Costs Rs 140.00 or $3

I recommend one visit, repeat is purely your call.

“Zest is now called Setz”