December 16, 2018

Best laid curry

One of my favorite eating places is a small shop that serves only one dish, the indian curry. The chef is from Japan. She moved to Vietnam to learn Vietnamese food and somewhere along the way got interested in Indian curry.

Curry in Saigon

To find the place, head into the Japanese town of Saigon. Japantown of Saigon

December 5, 2018

First cut is the deepest

Once in a while, I get modestly interested in what this large tech company is doing. I type in the web address and before I can see anything on the web I get prompted for my email. Irritated, I close the prompt. I type in a question on the chat assistance box. Again I get asked for personal details. I close the web and listen to some music.

First cut

First cut

YouTube: First cut is the deepest

November 17, 2018

Simple shoes

Most shoes sold by big brands in South East Asia are not designed for local climes. They feel too hot. And if you get stuck in a flood, they take days to dry out. Today I found this pair in Saigon made by a local company called Một (one in Vietnamese). I like such simple design. I bought them for 30 USD. It is nice to see more and more locally designed and manufactured stuff. Let us see if this pair can stand up to my daily 8 kilometers walk routine.

Mot shoes

Mot shoes

Mot shoes

Mot shoes

Saigon Vietnam Fashion
November 11, 2018

Indonesian books and an Afghan movie

I was in Jakarta to watch an Afghan movie. The movie had Indonesian subtitles but maybe because of some similar words in Dari and Urdu, and perhaps because the family life and issues facing the youth are somewhat identical in South Asia and Afghanistan, I could make sense of the movie. The movie is about a young Afghan girl who is getting ready to go to a law school. Her plans are thrown astray because of a romance with a young Iranian immigrant and the resulting complications. I will recommend the movies as it gives us a glimpse into urban Afghanistan where people are enjoying the normal life.

Wajma, an Afghan move

The mini-theatre when they had the showing is in the same building as a bookshop I often like to visit in Jakarta. I love the Aksara bookshop as it always has a decent selection of translated novels or anthologies by local writers. This time I got talking to one of their staff who loves reading too. The only thing more joyful for me than finding a new bookstore is finding a bookstore owner or staff who loves reading also. It always reminds me of bookstores of bygone days in our Rangoon or Calcutta, where all you need is to tell them what you are feeling like - perhaps you are missing Tibet or just had a heartbreak. The owner, without even looking up, will tell you that the perfect book to cure your heart is on the second floor, the third book on the fourth shelf on the wall to your left. Such astute bookseller could give you insights into the local lives and compare it with popular literature, not to mention recommendations about local authors to check out. More than the books, it was a joy to talk to the owners as perhaps more than any other person in that city, they have seen the change in the intellectual fiber of the city.

Below are the books that I picked up from Aksara.

Last year in Jakarta, I bought a story collection called Monsoon Tiger And Other Stories” by Rain Chudori. I like stories where people remember their cities. As I kid, I wanted to be a kid in all countries. So I try to live my younger days in another country via such stories. This time I found a guidebook on Jakarta by the same author. The destinations are based on the places that the author is fond of. Some of these places are also where something significant happened in her life.

Aksara books

Aksara books

Aksara books

Aksara books

Aksara books

The next book is a collection of stories from a magazine called Jurnal Perempuan. The four stories that I have read so far are about women in unique situations and how they deal with it

Aksara books

  1. a woman in a loveless marriage just getting into an affair,
  2. another woman who has left her sex-work to get into a monogamous relationship with a married man,
  3. a woman who reflects on symmetry and the human body as she has lost a part of her body to cancer
  4. and a girl who works as a domestic help in Singapore. She accidentally breaks her employer’s favorite porcelain spoon. The story talks about the loss of agency that such employees face and how even sneaking out of the house to buy a replacement spoon can be a daunting task.

Porcelain spoon
Porcelain spoon

The last book introduces lesser-known authors, beyond the more accessible Java island. So far, I have only read one story from this book. It is a story set in Jakarta where a kind religious preacher opens his house to two drunkards. Rather than forcing them to reform, he gives them the space to change themselves. The end of the story has a twist where the reformed duo takes on a path that often shocks the more open-minded religious teachers.

Aksara books

Indonesia Jakarta Books Movies
November 10, 2018

I will possess your city

Why do you travel to the same city so often?”

You know how when a cat loves someone, it tries to claim that person by rubbing itself all around. I am that cat, and I love your city.”

I am a cat

Jakarta Indonesia
November 2, 2018

The Mac in China

I remember, I think it was in 2004, I was in a fast food restaurant in Central China typing something on my iBook. A fellow patron came and sat next to me. He explained that he wanted to see how the OSX compared to Windows. Those days Macs were not so common in China. My new friend was impressed by the design of the laptop but he felt that Apple might never make a dent in the Chinese market as it was too pricey for the average Chinese customer. He also felt that the Chinese customers were geek and they didn’t mind the occasional housekeeping on Windows. Domestic Chinese app makers used to make adware-full and creaky apps that ended up slowing down the Windows.

I suggest the following factors that might aid Apple’s growth in the future 1) the Chinese will make more money and 2) people and their geeky neighbour or geeky nephew will get busier and they will not have time to fix things. My new friend was still not convinced.

Mac in China

I remembered my fast food cafe friend while watching the Apple man’s presentation earlier this week. There was one slide about the rapid speed at which Mac is catching on in China.

Mac in China

I think the analysts and trend watchers often equate Apple stuff with high end specially when it comes to develping economies. They seem to discount that almost everywhere people get tired of tweaking things and at some point find something comfortable and stick with it. I also notice that many folks who work for local Chinese phone companies use the iPhone as their personal phone. I guess privacy and security is also at play here.

Apple China