Thursday, May 22, 2014

Highway Gomantak - A Quick Review

On 16th May, after several hours of simultasking between internship work and frenzied election result tracking and discussions across WhatsApp and Twitter, a hasty plan was put together to meet and have seafood. After a lot of confusion about which restaurant to patronise, I finally suggested Highway Gomantak, which I had often heard, dishes out the best maharashtrian seafood. Since I started eating seafood when I used to live in Singapore, I myself hardly know much of the local Maharashtrian delicasies and was eager to try out the place myself. 

 Decor & Service

Image Source :
The place derives its name from the fact that it is located right off the Western Express Highway in Bandra East. A simple board in Devnagri above a small door as pictured, welcomes you to the restaurant. Though I liked the simple setting, I was quite surprised by the lack of air conditioning.

Inside the restaurant, there is not much decor to speak of. The food is served in steel plates and bowls on a wooden table. While our group of four could comfortable manage on their table meant for six, the seating is rather cramped and we would have been uncomfortable had we been a larger party. The service also wasnt much impressive as we had to wait for a considerable amount of time before anyone bothered to come to take our orders and even then, the server wasnt very interested in helping us to make a choice.

 The Food

The food is where Highway Gomantak makes up for all its other (slight) lackings. When we went there, the system seemed to be that everyone orders a la carte starters i.e. fried fish and one of their many thalis as the main course. Though everyone around us seemed to be having fried bombil (bombay duck), we opted for a couple of plates of surmai fry (kingfish fry) which turned out to be fried with a deliciously crispy coating.

Mr. AA having surmai!
Each thali at Highway Gomantak comprises of rice, solkadi (a pinkish maharashtrian appetiser made from coconut milk), bits of onion, green chutney and chapati (or tandlachi (rice flour) bhakri) along with whichever seafood or chicken gravy you choose. While Mr. AA, was afraid of fishbones getting stuck in his throat and ordered surmai again, the rest of us opted for a different taste.

Ms. AM was surprised to find that the prawns in her prawn curry though plentiful, were tiny in comparison to what she was used to back home. However, even the Calcutta native admitted that the rich brown gravy was lipsmacking good.

Mr. AD ordered the Mori Masala thali, not because he knew what it entailed or had any idea of what it would taste like, but simply because he was excited seeing the dish described on the menu as Mori (SHARK) Masala. The idea of eating a sea monster enraptured him. 

I ordered teesrya (clams) masala thali which turned out to be a drier dish without much gravy compared to the rest. However, Highway Gomantak thoughtfully adds a small bowl of tangy orange gravy to have with the rice. I had to specifically ask for tandlachi bhakri because if you do not, the service staff simply presumes that you shall have the chapati. 

Highway Gomantak also offers the authentic maharashtrian dessert called kharvas which is a rare delicasy which not many restaurants carry on their menu. So we ended our meal at Highway Gomantak by sharing a plate of kharvas between us. 

Though all the main dishes in our thalis shared the masala nomenclature, each tasted disntinct and complemented the meat it accompanied. Everything that we ordered was delicious in its own way. So Highway Gomantak is not the sort of place where they have the same base gravy for any and every dish that you order.

Our meal which left us reasobnably fell set us back by only about Rs. 360 each which reflects very good and affordable pricing. Considering the rates, the slight lack of decor and service can be easily excused and this place is definitely the most value for money sea food restaurant that I have been to in Mumbai.

For anyone visiting Mumbai, and wanting to have good local seafood, I would definitely recommend this restaurant over its more famous (and much more costlier) counterparts such as Mahesh Lunch Home or Gajalee. 
Though after 8pm the heat did not bother us much, I might be much more apprehensive about visiting this place for lunch during the summer.

Overall I would rate this place : 8/10

P.S. - Despite my best efforts and photography overenthusiasm I often fail to capture the best moments. On the road to the rear of this building is an amazing icecream place where we polished off a few scoop of amazing tasting Litchee and Berry flavoured ice-creams while loudly debating and placing friendly wagers about who shall get what ministerial berths. Making several loud snide comments about several possible ministeral candidates, we were blissfully unaware about the surroundings and the fact that the others in the parlour could have been amongst the171,459,286 BJP voters. I do not even remember the name of the place. I hope I shall be able to find it again. :(

UPDATE (30/05/2014) : Anonymous commentor and Ms. AM have kindly let me know that the name of that really nice Ice Cream place is Kamath Icecream! Thanks folks!

For my previous food and restaurant review posts see-

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I was wrong… The Modi wave was a Tsunami! Reflections on the election result.

Just a few days ago, I blogged about my predictions regarding the general election result. I predicted about 240-250 seats for the NDA and that turned out to be absolutely wrong. I underestimated the Modi wave completely. Here are my few quick reflections. Better late than never.

  • Local candidates hardly mattered

My prediction regarding Congress holding on to its Mumbai seats went completely out of the window as a BJP new comer such as Poonam Mahajan manages to unseat Congress veteran Priya Dutt. While many of the Congress ministers who lost totally had it coming because of anti incumbency (the negative image of the government), I was really surprised that veteran and well qualified Congress leaders such as Nandan Nilekani, Naveen Jindal, Priya Dutt and Milind Deora also lost their seats. This is seen most clearly from the fact that Jaswant Singh, the former BJP stalwart who contested his old seat of Barmer in Rajasthan as an independent, also lost to the BJP candidate there. People voted for parties rather than the candidates and this maybe the reason why despite the renewed and intense focus on criminalisation of politics during the last couple of years, the people voted into office a Lok Sabha with the most number of “criminal MPs” till date.


  • Presidential style election / Rahul Gandhi disaster 

Though he was not a part (not a minister) of the corruption ridden UPA government which the electorate rejected, many people can be seen attributing much of the failure of the Congress Party to his leadership. The latest viral internet sensation is, a website with Rahul Gandhi’s campaign gaffes called created by Ashish Virmani, (@virmani ) an engineer at twitter.

The reason why Rahul Gandhi’s shortcomings were highlighted and UPA’s achievements (modest or vast) were largely ignored was because, the BJP by its very early selection of a PM candidate, managed to turn the election into a presidential style one. Votes were asked in the name of Narendra Modi rather than the BJP and the people were shown the dreams of a “Modi Sarkar” rather than a “BJP government”. Rahul Gandhi absolutely paled in comparison to Modi when promoted as a visionary leader. Not only were his speeches seen to be boring, but also his television interviews might have worsened his support rather than galvanising it. It is an ominous sign that even in his super safe seat of Amethi, Rahul Gandhi did trail his BJP opponent Smriti Irani for a significant duration on the morning of the counting day (the 16th) before finally edging over her when all the votes were counted.

I think that by now Rahul Gandhi’s reputation is so battered that it may never recover and that a change of leadership might be the most appropriate path for the INC if it has any hopes at all of reviving itself.


  • AAP disaster 

On result day, AAP seemed to be Aam Aadmi Punjab, for Punjab alone elected into office 4 AAP MPs while all AAP failed to open its account in all the other states including its home turf, Delhi. Though in late 2013 and early 2014 AAP dominated the headlines and focused the spotlight on issues relating to corruption, their resignation from the Delhi Council of Ministers not only almost irretrievable damage their own reputation but also seems to have allowed BJP’s media team to set the agenda and bring the focus away from corruption as a whole to  Modi and his own model of development.

I personally believe that though Modi managed to capture the imagination of the nation in 2014, the malaise of corruption is still an issue that is important to the voters. With Modi in Delhi already, corruption might again become important when states go to polls and BJP will find it hard to win Assembly elections simply on Modi’s name. Though AAP is down, it may not yet be out and there is surely a good scope for revival.


  • An end (atleast temporarily) of the coalition era

With 282 seats in its kitty, the BJP has won an absolute majority on its own strength! Something, that I had thought will not ever happen in my lifetime. With the rapid proliferation of small and regional parties, it seemed in the recent years that coalition politics was here to stay in India for a really long time.

A stable government is probably the best thing that shall come out of this election. Much too often, the UPA either had to backtrack on its decisions or not take decisions at all because of the threats of withdrawal of support by the allied parties. Also, many of the scams that tarred the UPA, were perpetrated by ministers from the allied parties, rather than Congress itself.

With a majority of its own, the BJP can credibly promise an end to the policy paralysis and the new government will not have excuses or scapegoats to blame if they fail to lead and deliver on their promises.


Just as my election result predictions were totally wrong, I hope my apprehensions regarding the Modi/BJP government are proved wrong as well. The country has reposed its faith in Mr. Modi and in the form of a single party majority, handed a massive opportunity for the BJP to prove itself and give the country the good governance it deserves. I hope the Modi govt manages to take up the mantle to give the country the good governence it deserves. Bring on the achhe din!


Monday, May 12, 2014

General Election Prediction 2014!

In a few hours the exit polls for the 2014 Indian General Election will be out! So here is my quick take (prediction) about how the real result will be and regarding some of the crucial issues in this election. If you don’t want to read the whole post, here is my prediction in short – NDA will fall just short of the magic figure of 272 and shall form government with Modi at the helm after a week of wrangling with regional players to get support.


Now for the issues -

How many seats will NDA / BJP get?

The Sensex has rallied more than a thousand points in the last two days hinting that the markets are presuming the victory of the (allegedly) pro business Modi led NDA. The latest opinion poll conducted by NDTV-Hansa Research in April also shows the NDA crossing the 272 on its own, however many of its predictions such as BJP sweeping 51 out of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh and 6 out of 7 in Delhi seem extremely far fetched. A chat with any BJP volunteer or supporter will lead you to believe that BJP alone will cross the 272 mark and NDA will get 300. Everyone seems to have forgotten that the 2014 NDA is a mere shadow of the Vajpayee led NDA. I think that the present NDA i.e. without BJD, JD(U) and AIADMK will find it very hard to cross the 272 mark on its own.

Prediction :
BJP                      –
NDA (BJP+allies)  - 240


Modi Sarkar?

Yes but after some hard bargaining with Jayalalitha and Mamta Banerjee. I think both AIADMK and AITMC shall be in contention to be the third largest party with about 20-25 seats a piece. I have a feeling that after the personal barbs that Mamta and Modi have exchanged, she will be unwilling to join the government but might be willing to extend outside support…

Prediction :
NDA (BJP+allies)                  -
Core Govt (NDA + AIADMK)  – 265
Govt (NDA + AIADMK + AITMC) – 295  - TMC may extend “outside support” to a Modi govt.



With its terrible record in its 2009-14 term, there can be no doubt that the UPA is going to suffer badly. Most people see the present government as the most corrupt one in the history of modern India. Also, the UPA campaign has been a disjointed, underwhelming and unimpressive one. Neither the promise of Rahul Gandhi’s leadership nor their verbal attacks on Modi ever sounded credible. The UPA achievement ads were even almost laughable. Many pollsters are predicting a two digit tally for the Congress this time around. Congress’s worst ever tally thus far was in 1999 when it managed to bag only 114 seats in the Lok Sabha. I believe that Congress shall manage to cross into triple digits. Congress could possibly put up a good show in Telangana and NCP and NC may deliver a good show in Maharashtra and J&K respectively for the UPA. I predict that while Congress will easily become the second largest party, Congress led UPA has absolutely no chance of forming the government this time.

Prediction :
INC                        - 105

UPA  (INC + allies) - 140
Note : However, a Third Front of regional parties might rush to Congress for outside support if they manage to get numbers respectable enough for them to band together and take a short at the PM’s chair. There is no lack of prime ministerial ambition amongst the regional party heads.


Aam Aadmi Party?

I was rather fiercely critical of the India Against Corruption and Anna Hazare in particular for holding an elected government to ransom by going on hunger strikes to further their own legislative agenda of LokPal. I firmly believe that if you want a particular style of governance and you claim that the nation is behind you, you should contest the election rather than simply demanding that the government accede to your request. Thus, I was rather pleased to see the formation of Aam Aadmi Party. It does (or tried to do) what I believe is crucial – changing the system from within and also focusing on decentralisation.

If GNLU exam schedule had permitted me to be home for the election, I would have voted for (and perhaps even campaigned for) the Aam Aadmi Party.  However, I have come to realise that in the general election, not everyone shares my optimism regarding AAP.  AAP is being judged not on its principles but on its record in Delhi. AAP’s debut Lok Sabha campaigns do seem impressive considering how new the party is. However, the party has done a pathetic job of explaining its decision of resigning from the government in Delhi.

Almost everybody whom I have met in Mumbai seems to think that the party can only oppose and not govern. I have lost the number of times I have heard the lines - “They ran away from responsibility in Delhi.” “They could not run Delhi.” “They resigned! their government did not fall!”  Delhi AAP’s poor PR job might hurt the chances of many good AAP Lok Sabha candidates.

I really wish that AAP would get 100 seats or more but I don’t see that actually happening. ;(

Prediction :
AAP    -  20 seats

Around 4 each from Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and UP along with a couple of surprises elsewhere.
It may go upto 25 or even 30 if there is a strong showing by the AAP outside the Hindi-Punjabi belt. In that case, it could be in contention for the third largest party tag!


The Big Seats


I would really love to see AAP win but the seat is a Congress and Gandhi family bastion. Rahul Gandhi’s less than impressive campaigning coupled with UPA’s super-anti-incumbency, in this election there was a chance of wresting the seat from the Gandhi family. However, this is unlikely in a three cornered fight. There are likely to be very few swing voters in Amethi and the non-Congress votes will not be consolidated with any one candidate. Both BJP’s saas er… I mean Smriti Irani and AAP’s Kumar Vishwas are strong candidates and have campaigned hard but in a three cornered fight, I predict that Rahul shall have the last laugh!


Prediction : Rahul Gandhi wins Amethi but not a landslide victory



All eyes are on this constituency in which the voting is taking place today. AAP has concentrated a bulk of its resources in Varanasi to campaign for Kejriwal hoping to stop the Modi juggernaut. In the last election the BJP candidate (Murli Manohar Joshi) in this seat has polled 203122 votes while Ajai Rai (then a SP candidate), who is the Congress candidate in this election got 123874 votes. I have a feeling that it is going to be hard for the AAP to carve a place for itself in Varanasi despite its heavy campaigning.

Prediction : Modi wins Varanasi but with a less than 20000 votes margin.

Note : If I was religious, I would be praying hard right now that this prediction is wrong. A loss in Varanasi could seriously dent Modi’s image if it materialises and will be a boost in the arm for AAP.


Mumbai and Chandigarh

Unlike Kejriwal and Vishwas, Gul Panag, the AAP candidate in Chandigarh will most likely manage to win the seat on back of the AAP sympathy in Haryana and Punjab and because being Punjabi she can claim to not-be-an-outsider. However, that also being a three cornered fight, it may go another way too.

In Mumbai Congress may win most of the seats since it fields good candidates such as Priya Dutt and Milind Deora. However, I predict that the activist AAP candidate Medha Patkar will manage to win her seat on the back of her relentless campaigning and the positive image she already enjoyed before joining AAP.



So that is all from my side! I might do a reflection on the result post on the 16th…
Let me know your predictions in the comments section below!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

End of the airport overcharging (hopefully…)

IMG_20140321_141422Not very long ago, I was at the Ahmedabad airport, waiting to board a flight to Calcutta. With time to kill before boarding and faced with the prospect of a two hour long flight without any onboard meal, I wandered about the airport looking for some nice snack. Not only were all the fastfood outlets serving the same fare at almost twice the usual price, even a can of softdrink cost Rs. 100. I had to reluctantly pay Rs. 40 for a packaged ice-cream with printed Maximum Retail Price (MRP) of just Rs. 25.


Daylight robbery by exploiting the restaurant exemption

As per the law, nobody is allowed to sell packaged goods for a price which is more than the printed Maximum Retail Price. However, hotels and restaurants are exempt from this rule as the courts have ruled that when hotels or restaurants serve a packaged item, it does not constitute a ‘sale’ of the product per se because the hotel / restaurant combines it with a service and the amount charged to the customer includes the charge for service as well as any modification made to the product. Though some courts have passed differing orders in some individual cases, the SC judgement in State of Punjab v. Associated Hotels of India (AIR 1972 SC 1131) largely holds the ground.

It is very clear that when no service is bundled with the products, the products cannot be sold for more than the MRP and thus stalls at the airport which merely handover chocolates or soft drink cans to the customers should not be allowed to charge beyond the MRP.  To explain their behaviour, the airport stall owners cite the fact that they pay exorbitant rents to the airport authorities and they also claim to have been authorised by them to overcharge.

On the face of it, this model of our airports being developed by companies who in turn recoup their costs from rents paid by food stall owners, actually sounds good. However, that is not how they operate. Private companies such as GVK and others who have modernised the airports charge every single passenger, a "User Development Fee". So, the attempt to overcharge has nothing to do with raising funds to recoup airport development costs but is simply an unethical deal through which both, the airport management and the stall operators make supernormal profits by overcharging the airport passengers.


DK Chopra v. Snack Bar

There is no good reason why stalls at the airports should be exempt from the MRP regulations and the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has recognised this. On 4th March 2014, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) has ruled that an airport stall which is not a restaurant cannot charge a customer more than the MRP in what I think is a landmark judgement. The stall had to pay a massive fine of Rs. 5 lakhs for overcharging the complainant by Rs.75 for a can of RedBull.

In its judgement NCDRC has accurately pointed out that Airport Authority of India or any other airport developer has no right to permit stall owners to violate the law regarding MRP. In what is sure to annoy the owners of pretentiously named ‘snack bar’, the NCDRC has compared the airport stalls to paan-beedi shops. The judgement states- A Snack Bar, just like a Tea Stall or a Pan/Beedi Stall, hardly provides any service to its customers.

 Full text here. News article here.


The Way Forward

Knowing that this is India and that respect for rule of law is scant, I am sure that the practice of overcharging shall continue despite the NCDRC ruling. I regret not having protested the overcharging at the Ahmedabad airport the other day. However, I have now vowed to be vigilant about the prices charged at the airports. It is crucial to note that the complainant failed at the district and state forums, amongst other things by the reason of not being able to prove the receipt. Thus, one must remember to insist on and preserve the receipt from the airport stalls in order to be able to successfully pursue the matter.



Though it is not the focus of this post, the concept of MRP in itself is controversial for two reasons -

  1. It amounts to what many may categorise as unwanted government interference in pricing mechanism. It can be argued that the market forces of demand and supply should be setting the prices of all the goods. However, I believe that in many places in India, some vendors hold such a position in the market that they can influence the price singlehandedly and the MRP system is necessary to protect the consumers.
  2. The rule that customers cannot be charged more than the MRP is found in The Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 rather than in the act itself. Though the courts have not struck down these rules, it maybe possible to argue in future that the Central Government, while making these rules has exceeded its authority under the Parent Act, making the rules ultra-vires. (Nowhere in the Act is it said that selling at a price above the MRP is illegal or punishable)


I believe that regardless of whether it is a prudent system or not, as of now, it is the law of the land and nobody should be allowed to violate it.