Hunger illa … at Hungrilla!

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Not many eating houses in Bangalore can provide acceptable vegetarian fare for delicate palates like mine.  This is especially true of Kanakapura road, well known for its cut-rate bars and dubious hotels.

Hungrilla, a newly opened vegetarian bistro near the Art of Living ashram off Kanakapura road, comes as a relief for those who like their grilled sandwiches. The name is a Kannada-English pun, and nicely appropriate. The grilled sandwich menu here is a delight for the most finicky vegetarians.

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Vishnu and Lakshmi, the young couple that owns the place, are both practising Ayurvedic doctors and active AOLites. For the uninitiated, this means that they are with the Art of Living ashram and disciples of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. For the hungry customer, this means that their fare is strictly vegetarian, clean, healthy and cruelty-free.

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The sauces are hand-made and vegan. The kitchen is squeaky clean. The hands that make the food are cleaner. There’s no garlic used anywhere. And onion is used only if you want it.

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The decor is unpretentious, breezy and made entirely from recycled wood and other eco-responsible material. And it’s DIY, hand-made by the owners and volunteers from AOL. You get a nice 360-degree view of Kanakapura road and the surrounding greenery. There’s even a nook for children to play board games, and a little library for those who like to read while they eat or vice-versa.

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Food portions are generous indeed, believe me. I was hard-pressed to finish my grilled sandwich. Their grilled menu is quite varied. I’d recommend the Bombay masala grilled, or the Rajma masala grilled. My personal favorite – Alu cheese. And take a look at their cold beverages and shakes.

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Birders like me are a hungry lot, and after a hard day’s birding in the hot sun, we’re always on the lookout for safe, clean places to rest and feed. Hungrilla fits the bill just right. Large portions, clean veggy fare, airy decor, and reasonably priced.

Payment, for now, is via Paytm or cash. And they provide home delivery within a radius of five km. Although, I’d say grilled sandwiches are best enjoyed straight off the grill and piping hot.

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The bistro is brand-new, and a start-up venture by first-time entrepreneurs. A few rough edges here and there to be smoothed over. They’ve got off to an impressive start though, and they’ve got the most important factors right – the location, the quality of the food and the price they charge for it.

A hefty meal for two with a large glass of cold coffee, will cost about Rs. 350/-.

Location: Just off Kanakapura road, about 500 meters after the AOL ashram, and adjacent to the main gate of Soudamini apartments. On the right, as you drive down from JP Nagar towards Kanakapura.

Bottom-line: Solid value for money. Just go, and bindaas khao.

Cheers … Srini.

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Bangalore fights back … the story of Puttenahalli lake.

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Puttenahalli lake today.

Twenty five years in Bangalore have made me a hardened cynic and a prophet of doom. I’ve seen this city deteriorate from a beautiful, innocent little hamlet into one of the filthiest, overcrowded, screwed up cities in the world.

I remember when this was a nice little town for pedestrians and pensioners. Now it’s a shithole filled with stray dogs and thugs. There were trees and parks lining every avenue here once. Now there are malls and brothels.

There were lakes and ponds filled with clear water once. Now there are open-air toilets and slums. Once there were flowers and birds everywhere. Now there are dogs, dogs, dogs, everywhere. Roads with more potholes in them than tar. People defecating in public view. Hooligans driving two-wheelers on pavements. And hawkers squatting on what’s left of those pavements.

Bangalore’s demise is inevitable. Investing in this urban nightmare would be a remarkably foolish business decision. But still, there are determined citizens who have chosen to fight back. And there are some victories.

Puttenahalli lake is one such. Once a delightful waterbody tucked away inside Puttenahalli villlage, on the southern outskirts of the city, the lake suffered the same fate as all other lakes across Bangalore. Encroached, surrounded by concrete condos, filled with garbage and human waste, infested with mosquitoes, vermin and local goons.

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The lake was written off, waiting to be swallowed by land-sharks and politicians. A small group of locals decided to do something about it. The Puttenahalli neighborhood improvement trust came into being about seven years ago, with the single-minded objective of reviving the dead lake.

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It took them a great deal of hard work, and a considerable amount of their own money. But today, Puttenahalli lake is a thriving waterbody, filled with clean water, a home to fifty species of birds and all kinds of flora and fauna. It’s not out of the woods yet, there is still a slum to be removed, but I’d say the worst is over.

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To a large extent, the battle is won, and Puttenahalli is now officially known as a “saved” lake. Considering what it used to be, this is a major achievement by any means. And across the city, other citizen groups have taken up the fight to save their local waterbodies.

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For a city that has been destroyed by political greed and corporate thuggery, and is in imminent danger of death, Puttenahalli lake is a small beacon of inspiration and hope.

As long as there is hope, I think Bangalore city still has a chance to survive, however slim that chance may be.

Take a look at my Puttenahalli collection.

Cheers … Srini.

The thrill of photography.

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Omkar temple, Bangalore, India. One of my favorite images.

Today, Aug 19th, is World Photography Day.  Why Aug 19th, you ask?

On Monday, August 19th, 1839, the Daguerreotype photographic process was released to the public as an open-source technology. Read about it in Wikipedia, if you want.

Thanks to this great gesture by the French, you and I can enjoy photography without paying hefty royalties to anyone. Vive la France!

Photography is my primary stress-buster. Keeps me sane, makes me really happy. Almost as good as sex. Almost. (I have been an involuntary celibate since many years, fyi).

In the days of celluloid film, photography was a demanding hobby. Composing a good photo required considerable skill, a great deal of patience, a lot of good luck and a competent studio that could develop film correctly. A professional photographer or a serious hobbyist who wanted to develop his own photos had to have skills in chemistry as well, and a dark room, and plenty of money for film and chemicals.

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Scarlet darter at dusk.

Film photography was a time-consuming and expensive hobby, but it was fun nevertheless.

Things changed with the birth of the digital camera. Nikon introduced the first commercial digital SLR camera in 1986. And Canon, Minolta, Sony et al quickly followed. Those early digital cameras cost a fortune. Most of us photographers in India could merely dream of buying one.

Today, we have cameraphones, point-and-click digcams, gopro’s, webcams, god-knows-what-else, for any budget, any skill level.

Some questions about photography:

Is photography very expensive?

Of course not. If you have a decent smartphone, that’s enough to get started. Some of my best images have been made with my phone. If you have about Rs.20K to spare, you can get yourself a very good bridge camera that’s almost as good as a DSLR camera.

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Made with my cellphone.

If you don’t have Rs 20K to spare, there are hundreds of affordable point-and-click digital cameras out there.  As your skills improve, you can spend as much as you want, depending on how far you want to go. For most people, a bridge camera will be all they need.

Should I buy Photoshop or something?

Not necessarily. Most camera manufacturers offer free imaging software with their cameras. And there are many photo apps on the net, all free. Gimp, Snapseed, VSCO, the list is endless.

Do I need a computer?

Perhaps. For cameraphone photography, you don’t need a PC. Just click, process, share. For a bridge or DSLR camera, you do. Any unbranded PC is enough.

Where do I save my photos?

As you take more pictures, you will find yourself running out of space on your PC or phone. Not to worry. There are many cloud-based sites like Google Drive, Flickr and 500px that allow you to store and share hundreds of images. If you have the money, buy an external or internal hard disk.

What is the best time for photography?

In principle, any time is good. For outdoor photography, daytime is best. I do most of my photography in the hours between 3pm and 6pm, depending on the season. Dawn is also a good time. Avoid afternoons, in general.

What kind of photography do I get into?

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Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata).

Anything you like. Nature, wildlife, food, people, travel, street, candids – anything at all. There are on-line resources for every taste, every skill level, every person.

Does photography pay?  No.

Don’t even think of quitting your job. At the professional level, photography is really expensive and very risky. Save your money and time. Enjoy photography as a hobby, take great photos that you can share with your friends and family, spend as much as you can afford, and not a penny more.

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Butterflies are difficult to shoot!

Which camera do I buy?

Buy only the camera you can comfortably afford, without the need to pay in instalments. Buying a camera ( or any other electronic device costing less than Rs. 20K) on instalments is just foolish. Cameras have negligible resale value. Remember that.

As I said, all you need is a good smartphone and a free app. Nowadays, you get all kinds of affordable lenses and accessories for smartphone photography, if you think your phone is not good enough on its own.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive and immensely satisfying hobby, that will last for a lifetime, and that may or may not get you laid, I’d say modern photography is one of the best options you have. I’ve yet to get laid, but one lives in hope.

Go ahead. Put your hand into your pants. Take out your cellphone. Make your day.

Cheers … Srini.