Peco’s

The other day I received an email from a friend who’s planning a visit to Bangalore. She was asking about Peco’s and whether it was worth a visit.

My reply –

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Cons
A dilapidated place where a lot of sad, unwashed men hang out. Watery beer. Smell of hash and piss hangs in the air. Men to women ratio 17:1.

Pros
Dirty, smelly, smoky. Like trashed student digs. They play loud seventies music on tape decks. It’s cool like a pair of beat-up Converse keds. Its trashiness gives it a certain grungy edge against its shinier, reccine and glass competition down the road.

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Later in the day, I found myself amused by the Socratic Method of my argument and discovered that Peco’s presents an interesting paradox.

I’m not alone. Although I wouldn’t count myself among the regulars, funnily enough, almost every regular at Peco’s hates the place and frequently carps about the watery beer, the filthy surroundings and the scratchy cassette player.

If everyone who goes there hates it, then why go there?

Is there a certain perverse pleasure that brings out the hidden hippie within us all? Going beyond the peace and love and flower power and underwear burning, hippies stand for The Art Of Unhygienic Living. Eat that, Sri Sri Ravishankar.

As disgusting as it sounds, there are some among us who like to wallow in the mud. Who are turned on by the smell of armpit.

Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore count among these, as avid readers of People magazine will recall. More famously, Napoleon, in one of his more amorous letters to Josephine, begged her not to bathe, for he wanted to enjoy her body odour to the fullest.

But then again, Napolean was French.

The friend who sent me that email is neat, immaculately stylish, pretty, twentysomething Italian girl.

Imagine if I had given the place a clean bill of health.

The habitués at Peco’s would have a stroke. For starters, she’s a girl. Holy Jefferson Airplane! What is she doing here? And pretty too. The last time somebody who fit that description walked into Peco’s, was maybe in 1969. And that was to ask for directions. Why is she smiling? And why does she brush her teeth? Please take her away. I can’t stand the smell of soap.

Understandably, a lot of the advertising crowd hang out at Peco’s. Listening to CCR, CSNY, Jimi Hendrix and who can forget that rush hour crowd pleaser, Grateful Dead. Discussing who’s just been made ECD at Lintas and how long the Brittannia business will stay with Grey. It used to be a regular haunt for IIM-B, NLS and several other fraternities. Most people I know from Bangalore have owned a “pitcher card” at some point of time and a lot of them know Elango on a first-name basis.

Peco’s is also a Training Centre. Once you finish three years or 50 pitcher cards, whichever comes first, your Jedi training is complete. You are ready to move to the next level.

Koshy’s.

It’s where the older, balder Peco’s veterans find a cosy nook where they will become fixtures till Judgement Day.

I’d love to tell you more about Koshy’s. But we’ll save that for another day.

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I hate cyclists

A case against the lycra-clad , watermelon-thighed pedal geeks that plague our cities.

There are people who use cycles and there are cyclists. If you’re a salt of the earth type with 200 coconuts in the frame pushing some British era remanufactured relic around, I have no quarrel with you. You’re keeping it real. Go in peace. Watch out for potholes.

If you’re a deluded city dweller (specifically this city, might be applicable to other cities, who knows?) with a fancy cycle that costs more than two TVS50 XL’s and petrol to run them for a year, here are some observations for you.

This is not the First World. The First World as defined by rules. Which has good roads on which cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as their internal combustion counterparts. This is the Third World and we probably just about squeak into that category.

So if you have a piece of equipment designed for aforementioned urban environments or rugged First World terrain (the rugged terrain we have is strewn with plastic bags and crappers) and  you’re trying to ‘do your bit for the environment’ or ‘get some fitness going’  by cycling around a ridiculous Indian city or the other, be advised you are doing neither.

Those stupid helmets aren’t going to be much help when you get sideswiped by one of the following:

  1. An Autorickshaw . The Lord knows these guys don’t give a shit about other vehicles much less a techie festooned with blinking lights and reflective fabrics.
  2. A bus. You are merely another smear on their front grille along with miscellaneous pedestrian smears, paan spit, and or other bodily fluids resulting from being in the same pincode as followers of the national pastime, wanking.
  3. An Indicab. This is probably the worst automotive product known to man, driven recklessly and annoyingly by ruffians who are in the waiting line to become rapists. Of call center employees but that’s another story.
  4. A motorcycle or scooter of some denomination. Viewed from the air, their behavior on the streets is as unpredictable as a colony of ants. When you’re in a tangle in some ditch with some guy’s fairing aerodynamically sticking out of your noggin, don’t be expecting any ambulances to make their way through the traffic jams real soon to save your lycra-clad ass.

Here’s some more food for thought before the fitness angle argument. There you are, huffing and puffing despite Shimano’s best efforts, inhaling more than the average pedestrian schlepping along. You think that’s air you’re breathing?  Good luck with the emphysema.

One last thing. Cycling shorts on grown men are a gay conspiracy. You are warned. Put your junk away.

First published in KIRIK 02, March 2010

 

Burger & Fries: Reminiscing the Cold War days in Bangalore.

I had the most awesome burger I ever had yesterday. You’ll never guess where, though. Hard Rock Café Delhi. It’s 3 minutes from the office and we thought we’d take a gamble, knowing that, at 2 pm we could avoid tourists and Delhi’s rockers. Boy did we hit paydirt. I don’t know if it’s just the Saket outlet but I swear it was the dope. Try it and see. It’s called the Legendary Burger. The portions live up to the name. Your doctor wouldn’t recommend it, but screw him.

I have a love-hate relationship with franchises, like most people. Much as I hate them for changing every city in the world into Generica, you gotta admit, they bring a measure of familiarity to a city. We draw comfort from it. First time I went to London, my flight landed at 6.30 in the morning. Everything looked and felt so alien. Some Rastafarian dude was trying to sell me skank and my hotel looked nothing like the pictures I saw on the internet. Then I saw a KFC outlet somewhere and it was cool, know what I mean?

Hard Rock Café has its avid followers, mostly marketing execs and people who work in HR or pharma. These are the sort who have Hard Rock Café shot glass collections at home. It’s a strange world. I sat right underneath Seal’s guitar. I know. Wooooo. It must’ve cost them a little over the cost-price of a regular guitar. The cheese-factor was overwhelming but strangely reassuring. It was like all those faux-American restaurants we used to have in Bangalore in the Eighties grew up, got married to a rich, white lady and came back with a HumVee.

Remember Mac Fast Food? The original Mac’s, on Church Street, Bangalore. 20 bucks for fries. Considered ridiculous then. Then there was Indiana’s down the road who had the greasiest, most disgusting burgers I’ve ever eaten. I hate fucking mayo on burgers and they slapped it on with a trowel. The meat was chewy and you only used the ketchup if you were willing to risk your life. By far the best burger in town then was this small place called Ice & Spice, on St Mark’s Road. Fairly uncomplicated burger. Loved it. A friend visited recently and tells me old Ice & Spice is still around and their burgers still kick ass.

We were so hooked to Americana those days, like the rest of the world. I still can’t figure why we all read Archie comics. I tried reading one recently and it was unreadable. The jokes are so fucking lame. Ok we get it, Jughead likes to eat and Big Moose is possessive as hell. The drawings so bad, I can’t bring myself to read them. But I can’t trash it from the hard drive that is my brain. Reggie Mantle, Jughead Jones, Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge are burned into my head. For the current generation, its Harry Potter I suppose. All you Nineties born kids, you’re going to have a bespectacled geek burned into your sub-conscious and there’s fuck-all you can do about it.

Back to the America thing, I remember playing chess with a friend of mine who insisted on keeping a little USSR flag on his side of the chessboard like his great heroes Kasparov and Karpov. I wasn’t that crazy about chess but I coloured out the stars and stripes on a bit of paper to keep at my end. I loved the Cold War. It was such an amazing time to be a boy. The space race, the spy stories, the intrigue, KGB, Mossad, Frederick Forsyth and John Rambo. We had a secret spy society with a secret code and a logo and passwords and everything. I don’t know what the Guild was called but I remember one of our slogans was ‘Dewar Mooshe Darad. Mooshe Gooshe Darad’. Russian words for ‘The walls have mice. The mice have ears.’

Thanks to our friend Nehru who tried his best to make us a Socialist country, we had Book Fairs from time to time held by our friends from beyond the Iron Curtain. Who needs Mark Twain when you have Ukrainian Folk Tales? There were some real trippy stories. Most were about some blighter called Ivan. (Not the same Ivan). And there were a lot of bears involved. Flying ships too. Beats the hell out Harry Potter and his retarded school for boy wizards.

First published in KIRIK 02, March 2010