04 January 2010

Tavern news

A couple of days ago, The Telegraph had this on the front page: Last meal at NY’s Tavern on the Green.

And in spite of globalization and shrinking virtual worlds, I didn’t relate to this story. It is not as much as about the restaurant, as it is about the correspondent’s personal nostalgia about the biggies he met and the scoops he got there. Ho-hum.

Secondly, why is it on the front page? Yes, they could have been short of Page 1-ish stories, it being 1 Jan and all, but what about the story about 70 persons killed by a suicide bomber in neighbouring Pakistan? Maybe, bombings have become routine in Pakistan, but it’s still no excuse for the NY restaurant story to be prioritized. Oh, but then, maybe the enlightened editors at The Telegraph didn’t want to spoil the New Year cheer. Well, that’s understandable.

Thirdly, the story deals with the Tavern only superficially, and soon turns into a long-drawn treatise on why the correspondent thinks the recession in the US is far from over. The economy's impact on the restaurant definitely needed to be brought up in the story, but not at the cost of the story. There are no quotes from the restaurant regulars, the owners, in fact the entire story has no quotes at all. Neither is there any mention about how it looked on its last day, did they have anything special on the menu, nada.

And, we are still talking about a restaurant here.

02 January 2010


I recently read Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. After a long, long time, this was a book that had me licking for more from Page 1.

I have often thought that when you meet the work of a true artist, you get the feeling that he/she knows you, knows something about you that can make you smile or cry a tear. They know something about you that you never bothered to discover. I got this feeling when I read Shantaram.

Roberts writes of a love so intense that everyone can’t know or comprehend and makes one wary of the pain that must invariably accompany such searing love. He writes of the human heart’s incredible ability to hope and the will to fight through impossible circumstances.

Yes, at times, the book flows rather too well, events in the book are too much in harmony with each other. For instance, Ulla appears with movie-like precision in the plot. Perhaps, this was intentional to make it look more like a work of fiction, something made up, and not autobiographical.

The way he puts words to feelings caught my breath. Simply brilliant. My copy of the book is marked up in so many places for the words I loved, like, “But wisdom, in one sense, is the opposite of love. Love survives in us precisely because it isn’t wise,” or, “a prairie of longing”.

All the things that matter in life – love, friendship, integrity, and even death – Roberts’s involvement with each is touching. I loved this book for being so unabashed about its sentimentality, even as it takes us through the lanes of organized crime in Mumbai. So much in the book is so incredible like Roberts’s escape from the high-security prison in the middle of the day. I have not read a book that’s as compelling as this and is yet a literary masterpiece at the same time. Nothing could match up to the pulse of this book. And all, written in a way to make you pause and look up and think for a long time.

I can’t wait to watch the movie, what with Johnny Depp and all. But it can never be better than the book, of course.