Bangalore Book Festival

So today I made my way to Gayatri Vihar in the Palace Grounds to visit the Bangalore Book Festival, on its last day. It was interesting, though a bit crowded (what would you expect on the last day of an exhibition? and that too, when it’s a Sunday?). I didn’t buy much (just picked up two books) given the massive unread pile that lies at home. However, there was much scope for pertinent observations. Like I always do when I have a large number of unrelated pertinent observations, I’ll write this in bullet point form.

  • There were some 200 stalls. Actually, there might have been more. I didn’t keep count, despite the stalls having been numbered. Yeah, you can say that I wasn’t very observant.
  • All the major bookshops in Bangalore barring the multicity ones had set up shop there. I don’t really know what they were doing there. Or were they just trying to capture the market that only buys in fairs? Or did they set up stall there just to advertise themselves?
  • It seems like a lot of shops were trying to use the fair to get rid of inventory they wanted to discard. All they had to do was to stack all of this on one table and put a common price tag (say Rs. 50) on every book in that collection, and it was enough to draw insane crowds
  • One interesting stall at the fair had been set up by pothi.com an online self-publishing company. I’ll probably check them out sometime next year when I might want to publish a blook. Seems like an interesting business model they’ve got. Print on demand!
  • I also met the flipkart.com guys at the fair. Once again, they were there for advertising themselves. Need to check them out sometime. Given the kind of books I buy, I think online is the best place to get long tail stuff.
  • There was an incredibly large number of islamic publishing houses at the fair! And have you guys seen the “want qur an? call 98xxxxxxxx for free copy” hoardings all over the city? Wonder why the Bajrang Dal doesn’t target those
  • There was large vernacular presence at the fair. I remember reading in the papers that there was a quota for Kannada publishers, but there was reasonable presence for other languages also, like Gult, Tam, Mellu, Hindi
  • A large number of stalls were ideology driven. Publishing houses attached to cults had set up stalls, probably to further the cause of their own cult. So there was an ISKCON stall, a Ramakrishna Mutt stall, a Ramana Maharshi stall, etc.
  • Attendance at most of these niche stalls was quite thin, as people mostly crowded the stalls being run by bookstores in order to hunt for bargains. Attendance was also mostly thin at publisher-run stalls, making me wonder why most of these people had bothered to come to the fair at all.
  • I saw one awesomely funny banner at the place. It was by “Dr Partha Bagchi, the world leader in stammering for last 20 years” or some such thing. Was too lazy to pull out my phone and click pic. But it was a masterpiece of a banner
  • Another interesting ideological publisher there was “Leftword books”. Their two sales reps were in kurtas and carrying jholas (ok I made the latter part up). And they were sellling all sorts of left-wing books. Wonder who funds them! And they were also selling posters of Che for 10 bucks each
  • I wonder what impact this fair will have on bookstores in Bangalore in the next few days. Or probably it was mostly the non-regular book buyers who did business at the fair and so the regulars will be back at their favourite shops tomorrow.

I bought two books. Vedam Jaishankar’s Casting A Spell: A history of Karnataka cricket (I got it at Rs. 200, as opposed to a list price of Rs 500) and Ravi Vasudevan’s “Making Meaning in Indian Cinema”.

Food Review: Silver Thali at Maiya’s

The new Maiya’s restaurant has recently started a concept called the “silver thali”. Served on the third floor, it is advertised as “fine dining”. And the high point of the meal was supposed to be the “40 items”. Despite the steep price tag of Rs. 350, I wanted to try it out, and hence chose this place when I had to treat my cousin and cousin-in-law last night.

It is an extremely small place, the hall where the “silver thali” is served, on the third floor. Mindful of the 40 items that were to follow, we decided to take the stairs. We were made to wait for a brief while while they set up our table, and in we went. The dinner began with a speech by the owner of the restaurant explaining the “concept” of the 40-course meal and advising us to just “have a taste” of each of the items in the meal, and we could then revisit the items we liked if we still had stomach capacity. The freaky part of his speech was that he asked us to recommend his meal to friends and relatives – it wouldv’e been ok if it were after the meal, but I don’t know what the guy was doing telling us this before we’d been served.

The most freaky part of the meal was the waiter. Given that it was positioned as “fine dining”, it was fair on the restaurant’s part to recruit someone who spoke English. Unfortunately the guy couldn’t speak Kannada. So here we were – three Kannadigas (ok – two; cousin-in-law is technically marathi) eating proper Kannadiga food, and not able to discuss it with the waiter. Also, the waiter had some complicated fundaes about the direction from which to serve, and he kept coming behind us and between my cousin and me in order to serve me. Was very freaky. And the number of times he told me “and for you, sir” suggested he was a steward in his previous job.

We enthusiastically counted the items as they arrived. We lost count midway through the meal, but I think there were 40 items – counting each variety of papad separately, and the chips, and the beeDa. Most of the items were of better-than-decent quality. They also had some “exotic” items such as the tambULi, the lime rasam, “gojju-amboDe”, etc. Surprising thing was there was just one big sweet – and then there was paayasa made of hesarbELe (this is the paayasa usually made at death ceremonies) and some grapes “gojju” which¬† tasted like chyawanprash.

The worst part of the meal, though, was the rice, which was hard – and this made it very difficult for me to enjoy any of the rice-accompanist items (majjige huLi (similar to the north indian kadhi) , sambar, rasam, tambULi, etc). Thing is they cook rice once for all the people dining in the fine dining area, and so it would’ve become slightly cold by the time you are served, especially if you’ve gone late. The grains were too big and didn’t gel well with the accompanying items – which were too watery to gel with this kind of rice. In fact it was similar to the rice they make at Shiok, but that kind of rice is perfect for Thai stuff, not for Indian stuff.

The rest of the items were ok, but I still wouldn’t recommend this thali. There are too many items, and the service is a bit freaky, and it is overpriced. They don’t seem to know how to do the fine dining stuff. They make excellent food though, which is why I recommend you to visit the Restaurant. However, I advise you to go to the first or the second floor and have the normal thali (priced at Rs. 125). Excellent food. Significantly better service. Better “experience”.

Silver Thali at Maiya’s, 30th Cross, 4th Block, Jayanagar, Bangalore:

Cuisine: South Indian vegetarian

Meal for three: Rs. 1050 (alcohol not served)

3 stars;

Menu (whatever I can remember):

  1. Choice of grape and ginger juice
  2. Tomato soup
  3. fruit chaat
  4. Kosambri
  5. lady’s finger dry curry
  6. cabbage and chickpeas dry curry
  7. vegetable saagu
  8. onion-and-potato saagu
  9. poori (oh, there was no chutney; #fail)
  10. gojju-AmboDe
  11. some yellow bengali sweet
  12. onion pakoda
  13. bisi bele bhath
  14. aloo dum pulav
  15. raita
  16. potato chips
  17. plain rice
  18. tambULi
  19. mixed vegetable majjige huLi
  20. sambar
  21. tomato rasam
  22. lime rasam
  23. normal papad
  24. small papad
  25. fryums
  26. baaLka mensinkai (fried salted chillies)
  27. hesrbELe (moong dal) paayasa
  28. pickle
  29. curd
  30. buttermilk
  31. grapes gojju (the thing that tasted like chyawanprash)
  32. choice between hot chocolate fudge and fruit salad with ice cream
  33. beeda
  34. water