The NYC Diary- Places to Drink

Now there are different types of bars in NYC. There are those where tourists flock to and then there are dive bars which are basically “neighborhood bars” where people from the nearby areas gather and drink. The dive bars are cheaper and you see more of the locals there, which is better since no books or sites can guide you better than a local person.

There are several ways in which you can land up at a dive bar:

– Go to and search for dive bars. But since they are in every neighborhood it kind of beats the purpose.

– Refer to other online guides or the written books.

– The preferred way according to me is to take a downtown subway from Times Square and get off at the 3rd or the 4th stop. A subway generally stops at every 6-8 streets which means you are a good 20-25 streets away from the tourist area. You will be surprised as to how the city changes the deeper you go.

But no matter what kind of a bar you go to here, there will always be certain differences from those in Mumbai.

– Most bars in Mumbai cut you off from the outside and keep it dark with the music booming through your ears; Here you can very well see the streets and whether it is dark or not and the music is generally soft till late in the evenings. It encourages communication and even the seating arrangement in the bars is such that people who go alone can mingle and meet others very easily.

–  You can see more people sitting alone reading or doing something on their phones here; In Mumbai I know many people who frown to even have a drink alone in their homes. For them drinking alone equals being lonely, which is so not the case.

– They are actually strict about the drinking age and always check IDs, no matter what age you “look”.

– The bars in NYC have a larger collection of alcohol; some of it are the usual brands like Budweiser, Heineken, etc while others are brewed locally; And when I say locally I don’t mean the kind of local stuff we make which leads to deaths. There are local breweries, like the Brooklyn brewery and they have their own brands.

– I don’t need to specify it but the bars are open till the wee hours in the morning and nobody is going to attack you for “violating religion” kind of stuff.

So if you are in NYC, go to a neighborhood bar and try a new brand of alcohol. Oh, and you better tip the waiters/ waitresses there; they are sensitive about that stuff. 🙂

The NYC Diary- Places to Drink

The Spa of South India

When one of my friends from Tamil Nadu said that we should go to his hometown and travel around on a bike, I did not blink twice before saying yes. A break is exactly what I needed.

So there we were, after an arduous 15-hour bus journey from Mumbai to Bengaluru, the weekend in Bengaluru catching up with some old friends and then after another 12-hour journey from Bengaluru we reached Tenkasi- a small town located in the shades of the Western Ghats and on the border between Tamil Nadu and Kerala. For tourists, Tenkasi seems to be the perfect location. One can hop on a bus and visit the Meenakshi temple in Madurai (3 hours), another bus to Rameshwaram temple (2 hours from Madurai) or just hop on a bike to Courtallam falls (10 km).

That is what we did.

We packed a few clothes, took a bike, filled the tank and were off. Courtallam falls is also known as the Spa of South India and is roughly 10-15 km from Tenkasi. Paddy fields line the road and one can see never-ending lines of coconut trees and the occasional windmills with their slowly rotating sails towering above everything. The water-falls is not only a tourist spot but a religious place as well. There are various temples in and around the area, though we did not visit them.

So there I was- the only fair-skinned guy among an army of dark-skinned people. I am not a racist, but that is the accurate description. I stood there, stripped down to my boxers and fighting my way in. The thing is, at Courtallam falls you need to fight your way in to stay under the water. It is like getting on a Mumbai local during peak hours…well…not that bad, but you get the point. The water was clean, but the people washed their clothes and bodies under it so you might have that “yucky” feeling. I didn’t care. Soapy bodies or no soapy bodies- I jumped in.

The water slapped on my back as I kept watch on the people nearby, the push could have come from anywhere. People pushed each other to come under the falls, then came out and applied soap and then came back in again. It was mad. There was a different section for women, and two cops kept vigil. The water was cold and the cool, pleasant weather did not warm me up. After drying ourselves we headed for some drinks and dinner.

Now the thing is, the governments in Kerala and Tamil Nadu control the bars. So like all things government- they were cheap, not well maintained at all and the shadiest places you will come across in these States. The “bar” was a small counter where you purchase alcohol from an old, grumpy man with spectacles. There was another counter where you need to purchase glasses, water, soda or anything else you want. The whole place looks the sort where people dump their garbage…not of their minds but of their houses. There are sets of three stone slabs- one functions as the table and the other two as places to sit on either side. After some whisky and an amazing dinner (not at the same place 😀 ), we headed off. It was already dark by the time we got on the bike and started the ride home.

If the road was beautiful in the afternoon then it was magnificient at night. Tamil Nadu has electricity problems, with power only for 8 hours everyday. There are no street lights, and all you can see is what the head-lights of your vehicle shows you. The paddy fields cannot be found and you can outline the dark shapes of the coconut trees while the windmills seem like long shades stretching in the sky. It seems like I am in the middle of a horror film set- just a very natural one. We ride along slowly, but surely.

When I look back, I see nothing. The road is entirely empty, and dark. Not a single light, not a single sign of life. The stillness of the night scares me, completes me. At that moment, nothing matters. Not the people you love, people you hate, your wants, needs, desires, your frustrations, your life…nothing at all. What matters is what you feel at that moment.

We reached home, and I crashed on the bed. I had not slept like this in a very long time and the last thing I remembered was the stillness of this beautiful night.

The Spa of South India

From My Book-shelf

Breathless in Bombay

A friend gave me this book after he was done reading it and I am glad I got sick during that time. I took a 2-day leave from office and since I had nothing to do, read this book. This book is a collection of short stories with the backdrop being Mumbai. The characters are so beautifully crafted that one can feel that they actually exist…and maybe they do. I could not put the book down once I started reading it. In fact, I wanted to rush home after work and read this book! This is a must read for people who like to read short stories as this book takes you through the same emotional journey that a novel does.

A House for Mr Biswas

Reading became a hobby when I used to read stories from my English text-books even before they had been taught in class. After that I moved on to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sidney Sheldon. I had never read Indian authors nor did I hear from anyone that Indian writers are widely acclaimed. Hence when I started reading voraciously, I never took a book penned by an Indian. But off late I have had a change of heart. I have read about Indian authors and there is a sense of emotional touch they have which I can connect with. The characters are well sketched out and the focus is on the place, the culture and the characters rather than the plot (Refer God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy).
VS Naipaul is an acclaimed author of Indian origin. His book “A House for Mr. Biswas” is about a man’s struggle to have a house of his own. On the way, he gets married, has kids, changes jobs and places, goes into depression, becomes a journalist and goes through the ups and downs all of us go through. The book is a little boring, but then this is a typical Indian book- focus on characters, culture and family rather than the plot. But then, credit to the author…after all how many can write a whole book about a man who wants to own a house. 😀
But the book is more than that. It is about Indian family values, trials of living in a joint family and the kind of thinking that still exists in India. But you need to be patient to read it. At some points it drags for a while and one is tempted to put it down. So if you are a patient person and prefers books which are not racy enough but focus on the characters and their emotional journey then go for this one.

The Old Man and His God: Discovering the Spirit of India

I read somewhere about Sudha Murty and saved her name in my phone so that if I find a book written by her, I’l take it. This time I did. And well…I regret it. Sudhar Murty has written numerous books and they have been translated to many different languages. Maybe I picked the wrong book, but I guess that happens once in a while. 🙂
This book is a collection of short stories- all of them about the people the author has met and have influenced her in some way or the other. Reading this book reminded me of my school days when we used to read short stories which were 3-4 pages long and were written in simple English. I guess some stories can be made a part of the school curriculum but I’d stop there. The stories are good, simply written and it feels like the author has used her name to publish some entries she must have made in her diary. Some stories seem incomplete and a waste of time while others are good and yet you feel something is amiss.
I would recommend this book for school going kids and parents who tell their children “bed-time stories”.

From My Book-shelf