Friday, September 26, 2014

Delhi Street Food!

With the moot court competition turning out to be much less satisfactory than what we expected, my teammates and I were left with almost two and a half days in Delhi (well NOIDA actually) with nothing to do but explore its culinary delights.

Though like any true blue Mumbaikar I believe with all my heart that Bombay/Mumbai is the single most awesome city in the whole wide world, after a couple of days of sampling Delhi street food, I must admit that Delhi street food does hold its own or even slightly outdoes the VadaPav-PavBhaji-Bhel dominated Mumbai street savouries.

 

Chole-Kulcha / Chole Bhature

To start off with, Delhi has a lot more variety in even vegetarian street food. Apart from the samosa and pani-puri (which the Delhites call Gol-Gappas) vendors who are probably ubiquitous all over India, Delhi (and much of north India, I presume) also has a lot of paratha and chole-bhatura / chole-kulcha vendors everywhere. Every street that we travelled to had atleast one of these chole-kulcha carts with their unique copper (or brass maybe) vessel full of chole placed at an angle!  Chole Kulcha, Chole Bhature

Mr. SV and I sampled and completely enjoyed both the dishes! The chole served with the kulchas were mashed together with onions and chillis into a thick paste which managed to achieve that just right level of spicyness. Though I enjoyed the dish I do admit that I was hoping for the freshly baked type of kulchas (i.e. the type that restaurants in Bombay serve) and was disappointed to see that the roadside kulcha was simply a special bread heated on the tava and served. The chole bhature combo however was just perfect and left no room to complain. I am dreading the moment when I shall have to have the college mess chole again. I am sure they are going to fall way short of my increased expectations.

 

Connaught Place Momos!

Momos! This is another north and east Indian street food delicacy that you would be hardpressed to find on Mumbai streets. When we went to Connaught Place, which by the way no one can find on a metro map because it is officially called Rajiv Chowk (Read This if such things anger you). The momos were tasty and interestingly served with not just a a spicy red sauce but also with an additional mayonnaise dip! (unfortunately not photographed) While we waited for the steaming hot momos to get ready, Mr. SV also managed to get a bowl full of fried potatos and masala which is another simple dish which I haven’t seen on Mumbai streets. He also chose to have a bowl of bhel but that is an area in which, Delhi can’t match up with Bombay. We also had the Keventers Milkshake at CP which tasted pretty good. I am told that it isn’t as legendary anymore as it used to be in its heyday. I can only imagine how good it must have tasted then …

 

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Rolls – Nizams and Rolls King

Since Ms. AM had raved about the place so much, Mr. SV and I also visited Nizams which in addition to their awesome tender soft mutton rolls also had this interesting sign saying -

Regional, Racial, Religious Discrimination, Apartheid & Outside Food is prohibited in the restaurant.

While Nizams rolls are delicious, I must say they are also slightly expensive and lacking in quantity. Value for money and awesome quantity we found at Rolls King in Noida!

 

Nizams @ CP       Rolls King Rolls

Non Vegetarian Delights – Tangdi Tandoori and Gulati Kababs

Indirapuram’s famous Winsdor Market reminded me of Food Courts from Singapore with a lot of stalls/shops selling various delicacies. I opted for the Mutton Gulati Kababs and Ulte Tawe Ka Paratha, which is again something that I have never seen in Bombay. Watching the vendor make it was also very fascinating! Apart from it we ordered Tangdi Tandoori but due to some miscommunication we were served Tangdi Stuffed Tandoori which wasn’t bad either.

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Good Food tastes better with good company!

The Delhi food hogging journey was especially fantastic because of the company that I had. In search of the best street food they travelled with me by air, rail and cycle rickshaw. Ms. AM and Mr. SV - you guys rock! Hope we get to go hog more often!

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What Next!?

Delhi is so full of culinary delights that I am sure I haven’t tried even close to all of the good places yet… So please comment and do let me know which are the other great places in Delhi and I shall cover them the next time I go there!




Wednesday, September 10, 2014

An Apple Watch! It's beyond what we expected and imagined!

As per this readwrite article, Apple CEO Tim Cook had told an audience of journalists on Tuesday—literally—what he has up his sleeve:
“An entirely new product. We believe this product will redefine what people expect from its category."
And guess what, it has truly redefined what we expect from this category!
It is called and Apple Watch. Yes. You got it right. An Apple Watch. Without the pesky 'i'. Expecting an iWatch, werent you? It is not an iWatch, it is an Apple Watch!!
Also this time around, even if you are ready to pay Apple's ridiculous prices for its gadgets, you still have to wait till 2015 to get an Apple Watch!
Well done Apple! You have truly redefined our expectations.
As for everything else announced yesterday, larger phone screens and addition of NFC support, it is all Apple trying to catch up with Android. Just what we expected...
Photo from : http://www.apple.com/watch/

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book Review : Fraudster by RV Raman

I wanted to read this novel mainly because of its blurb which promised a great corporate thriller. It goes -

 
Illicit finance, high stakes crime and vicious manipulation come together in this story of corruption, greed and treachery among corporate India's black sheep. Arresting, fast-paced and written by an insider from the corporate world, Fraudster will keep you on your toes till the very end.
The book completely fulfills the first promise but falls slightly short of the second one.

The plot is brilliantly crafted and really takes us deep into the murky world of modern banking and accounting.

The novel begins with a trio of seemingly unrelated deaths and a hacking attempt into the server of one of the biggest accounting firms, following which we find our lead characters trying to make sense of the events by connecting the dots. It is a race between the good guys (Varsha, an employee of the accounting firm and Ranade, the police officer) trying to protect sensitive data and the bad guys who try their damnest to keep the evidence of their fraudulent activities under wrap. Though the plot is intricate, the narrative moves rather simply from one situation to the next without many parallel events or storylines. Towards the end, there are many exciting elements including high speed car chases and kidnappings through which the reader is nudged towards red herrings which keep the reader distracted till the protagonists track down and reveal the real fraudster and killer.

The amazing part about the novel is its interesting plot and how complicated technical aspects are described in a simple manner. The narrative includes complex financial manipulation and tinkering with BlackBerrys as well as Microsoft Exchange Servers.


However, it is not tedious to go through these technical parts as it is all nicely woven into the storyline. The author's expertise with respect to the banking industry is apparent from his descriptions of banks' decision making processes and also from how realistic the story is.

The plot revolves around a scam relating to dubious corporate loans facilitated by corrupt bank practices and officers. When I was reading this novel, the leading news story in financial newspapers was about the arrest of SK Jain, Syndicate Bank CMD and also the role of brokers in bribery for loans scandal! Thus, 'Fraudster' is so realistic that might just be a true story!

Where this novel falters is on its promise to be arresting and fast paced. The novel begins rather slowly and it only picks up pace close to the halfway mark. There aren't any real parallel story lines and only a feeble attempt to show the villains' point of view which seems to have been abandoned after just one chapter. More finicky readers may not stick to it till they reach the point where the story picks up pace.

Furthermore, the characters aren't particularly memorable either. After going through more than 280 pages I cannot remember any of Varsha's traits or description other than her being a karate expert and having tomboyish short hair. Similarly, Ranade, is also a cop who is too simple and straight forward and who gets his way almost always with their being only a passing reference to possibility of political interference with police work right at the end.

The cover of this book though seems to have been heavily influenced by Ravi Subramanium's two previous books, (Bankster and Bankerupt) both of which have a similar cover of a silhouette against the backdrop of a skyline. Though both authors cater to a similar audience, the nearly identical cover (be it intentional or not) seems like a cheap ploy to get the other's readers and does a disservice to Raman's writing which is good enough to sell copies on its own merit.

So though I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, I felt that it had the potential to be much superior. Better characterisation coupled with some cliffhangers and probably some more narration from the villain's point of view would have made this novel perfect!

RK Raman definitely could be the best corporate thriller writer in India and with his banking insights, he might give Ravi Subramanium a run for his money! I hope just like Ravi Subramanium, his novels become better and better. I hope he writes many more thrillers and am already looking forward to his next novel! You can follow him on twitter here.



Rating : 6/10

You can buy 'Fraudster' at a discounted rate on Flipkart.com!



Disclosure : I was supplied with a review copy by Hachette India.
 


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Monkey selfie! Does the monkey own the copyright to it? An Indian perspective…

David Slater, a British wildlife photographer visited a park in Indonesia in 2011. At the park, a crested black macaque got its hands on one of his cameras and took several selfies, including the one accompanying this blogpost. Slater is reported to have said said “They were quite mischievous jumping all over my equipment, and it looked like they were already posing for the camera when one hit the button, … The sound got his attention and he kept pressing it. At first it scared the rest of them away but they soon came back - it was amazing to watch.”

The selfie accompanying this post has become a point of dispute between the Wikimedia Foundation and David Slater since Wikimedia refused to take the image down and has deemed it to be in public domain by displaying the following notice -

This file is in the public domain because as the work of a non-human animal, it has no human author in whom copyright is vested.”

Contrary to what some news outlets have tried to suggest, even the Wikimedia foundation never really suggested that the copyright belongs to the monkey legally. That was just bad reporting and clickbait headlines on part of Times of India.

Indian Position

I am not very well read on Copyright Law but a cursory reading of the Indian law on the subject i.e. Copyright Act, 1957 seems to suggest that Wikimedia would be right even if all the events had taken place here.

Section 2(d)(iv) read with section 17 makes it clear that the person clicking a photograph is its author and the owner of the copyright so long as the photograph is not clicked as another person’s employee or upon being commissioned by another to click it. The relevant sections are as follows (underline added for emphasis) --

2. (d)(iv) “Author” means -- in relation to a photograph, the person taking the photograph;

17. First owner of copyright.-Subject to the provisions of this Act, the author of a work shall be the first owner of the copyright therein.
Provided that-
(a) in the case of a literary, dramatic or artistic work made by the author in the course of his employment by the proprietor of a newspaper, magazine or similar periodical under a contract of service or apprenticeship, for the purpose of publication in a newspaper, magazine or similar periodical, the said proprietor shall, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, be the first owner of the copyright in the work in so far as the copyright relates to the publication of the work in any newspaper, magazine or similar periodical, or to the reproduction of the work for the purpose of its being so published, but in all other respects the author shall be the first owner of the copyright in the work;
(b) subject to the provisions of clause (a), in the case of a photograph taken, or a painting or portrait drawn, or an engraving or a cinematograph film made,
for valuable consideration at the instance of
any person, such person shall, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, be the first owner of the copyright therein.

 

Since, by no means can it be proved that the monkey was an employee or a person acting for valuable consideration, it is quite clear that under the Indian law as well, Mr. Slater would not be the owner of the copyright despite the camera being his. Thus the wikimedia stance seems sound even when tested on Indian Copyright law.

 

Does the copyright belong to the Monkey? Is it a ‘Person’?

Now that we established that the copyright will not belong to Mr. Slater, the obvious question that next arises is whether or not the Monkey shall then be the owner of the copyright. As per sections 2 and 17 the would be the author of the photo and the first owner of the copyright, but only if it can be established that the monkey is a ‘person’. Since the word person is not defined under Copyright Act, 1957 we shall have to look into the General Clauses Act, 1897. It states -

"Person" shall include any company or association or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not…

While a simple reading of this would suggest that a Monkey is not defined to be a person, it could be argued that the definition, the way in which is worded only clarifies that in addition to the usual or other meanings conveyed by the word ‘person’, it would also include companies, association of persons etc. The definition does not bar a monkey from being defined as a person at all, though for all practical purposes I think no court would be ready to entertain a claim that ‘person’ includes Monkey.

 

Can Monkeys be non-human persons?

Though I say it is unlikely to succeed, I would love to see someone try argue that monkeys are ‘persons’ and  capable of owning copyright. I think one would almost certainly have to rely on a policy statement from Ministry of Environment and Forests which suggests that animals such as Dolphins may have rights. The statement was issued when the government banned dolphins from circuses or marine park shows. While by no means does a mere statement have the force or weight of law, it could be argued that both dolphins as well as apes or monkeys should be termed as ‘intelligent nonhuman persons’ having some rights though not all.

The ministry is reported to have stated -

Whereas cetaceans in general are highly intelligent and sensitive, and various scientists who have researched dolphin behaviour have suggested that the unusually high intelligence; as compared to other animals means that dolphins should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights and is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purpose,” the ministry said. <Link><Link>

 

State as a guardian?

If monkeys or other animals could actually be proved to be ‘persons’ eligible of owning copyright, the next question that would arise would be how would they enforce it in courts or what would they do with their revenue gained through licensing if any. One possible model that could infact work would be with the entire animal kingdom considered to be one large association of non human persons with all the copyrights of selfie clicking animals accruing to it. The state could then be the guardian of this entity and incharge of licensing the images. The funds raised through licensing could be collected in a special fund on animal welfare… The existence of such a model could also possibly extend its own scope to include animal sound recordings apart from selfies!

Note: The copyright of the image used on this page either belongs to Mr. Slater or the monkey or the image is in public domain. It certainly doesn’t belong to me. I believe my usage of the image is permitted under section 52 of the Copyright Act, 1957 as fair dealing for the reporting of current events.

 

That is all from my end. What do you think about the monkey selfie?

Do you think Mr. Slater owns the copyright or the monkey?

Or do you think differently and believe that the rights of humans who take selfies should be stripped of their human rights?

Do comment below and let me know!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book Review : ‘Private India’ by Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson

I loved reading two of Ashwin Sanghi's previous works - Chanakya's Chants and The Krishna Key, and was thus eagerly looking forward to reading his next novel. Frankly speaking I was a bit apprehensive when I learnt that Sanghi and Patterson, two authors with rather distinct styles are collaborating. However, I must say that they have managed to come out with a novel that wonderfully blends the two styles.


'Private India' as the title suggests is the story of the India branch of the worldwide Private investigation agency whose other operations have been detailed in Patterson's previous books in the Private series such as Private LA, Private Games, Private Down Under and Private Berlin. As is now the trend with Sanghi, he has even come up with a YouTube trailer for the novel.

Private India book cover (James Patterson & Ashwin Sanghi)
My first impression of the novel wasn't all that great. Though the cover artwork looks impressive, the cover itself seemed too thin and had a very cheap feel to it. On 21st July it has only been released in India, (the cover mentions - edition for sale in India only) and it is only available for preorder as of now in stores abroad. While I am glad for an Indian edition (which I am assuming is a less pricey than other markets edition) I wish the publishers had gone for a better quality cover. It is interesting to note that Private India is the only Private Series novel cover in which the collaborating author’s name (Ashwin Sanghi) appears in a font size larger than Patterson’s! Perhaps that is the reason why, James Patterson’s official website has no mention of Private India at all! It neither finds a mention under the Private Series nor is it listed as an upcoming release. It did not find any mention on his Facebook page on the day of its India release either.


As you would expect from such a book, the novel starts with a murder the investigation of which is handed over to Private India by the police. The Private India team headed by Santosh Wagh, a detective with a murky past and a drinking problem soon discovers that the body discovered in the hotel is only the first in a long series of victims strangulated to death by a ritualistic serial killer. Ashwin Sanghi's usual touch of adding historical and mythological flavour to his thrillers comes to the fore as the investigators begin to unravel the mystery behind the killer's very elaborate rituals. While the murders remain the central theme of the novel, the tale soon branches out in a way that Private India is left to tackle not just a serial killer on the loose in Mumbai but also threats to its own existence.


The best part about the novel is how almost every chapter ends with a cliff hanger leaving you wondering what is about to happen next. The authors have managed to pepper the narrative with innumerable red herrings and the narration makes the reader constantly suspect different characters. The hints of betrayal of Private from within manages to keep the reader at the edge of his seat. About halfway through the novel, the Private India team is also joined by Jack Morgan, the worldwide head honco of Private. The book is divided into more than a hundred very short chapters. Most chapters are only about 4 pages long and the shortest one is just a couple of paragraphs. With each chapter the narration jumps from scene to scene and the narration from the point of view of the bad guys is scary enough to send a chill down the spine. Rapidly changing point of views along with the cliffhangers kept me completely hooked and I finished the book in much less than two days.

The trail of the killer takes the investigators around various Mumbai landmarks such as the Film City, Dharavi, Taj, Tower of Silence and onboard Mumbai's suburban trains. Here Sanghi manages to do complete justice to the city of his residence with detailed and vivid descriptions. He has also managed to weave into the plot begging networks, match fixing, bollywood romances and godmen-politician nexus, thus managing to capture every possible field of murky dealings happening in Mumbai.

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The authors take us to an interesting end which is hard to predict or guess. However, while the story of the killer’s identity is satisfyingly concluded, its link with the terrorism related subplots seems rather tenuous at best. Having read Rowling's novel featuring another limp detective just a few days prior to reading Private India, I could not help but feel that the character development is slightly lacking apart from Santosh Wagh's character. I was also left wondering details such as how Jack is personally familiar with Mumbai's underworld dons and how Private continues to investigate without any clear indication of who is picking up the tab.


Despite some of these minor irritants, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Private India. Its rapidly changing points of view along with the awesome cliffhangers kept me completely hooked and I finished reading the novel in much less than 2 days. This 450 page tale is full of suspense and continuous drama and I would not be surprised if it is soon picked up for a film adaptation. A thriller's objective is to keep you turning the pages at the edge of your seat and despite its few shortcomings Private India manages to fulfill this role perfectly!


Rating : 7/10

 

Private India and other books from the Private Series are available on Flipkart and Amazon.in! Buy them now!



Disclosure : I was supplied with a review copy by Random House India.