Absolutely freezing. A sharp Easterly wind has conveyed itself across London over the last week or so – with only a slight hint that it might be decaying on this cold, but sometimes sunny Sunday.

Looking forward to the Spring? Absolutely. The daffodil shoots are visible on the grass verges in outer Brent. Soon they will be in bloom of a bright, and sometimes rich, yellow.

Which brings me nicely to one of the latest Indian Cinema productions gracing the screens of some larger multiplexes in suburban London lately: Rang de Basanti. (Which literally translated from Hindi means “the colour yellow”.) There are so many reviews of this film out there I won’t even attempt to try to review it properly other than to say that it was an interesting film. I would even go so far as to say that this production stands out from the staple of Indian Cinema output – but I suppose this sort of film could absolutely become staple in due course.

Our Protector. The Best of Helper. Absolutely.
(Stuck to a lamp post in side-street in Whitechapel near Aldgate, East London)

I went to see it at a multiplex in Feltham (which I always associate as a place where the nation’s young offenders are locked up) – and am amazed that this cinema manages to insulate itself very well from the thunder of jumbo jets taking off at nearby Heathrow Airport. (The cinema is directly underneath the flight path of the runways which are less than a kilometre away.)

Things that impressed me about the film: *some* of the cinematography was excellent. *some* of the music was very fitting and iconic (in a Thelma & Loiuse kind of style) and the storyline was mostly well put-together even if it was little preposterous. But the latter can be forgiven somewhat.

Things that annoyed me about the film: Amir Khan: who I *used* to like as an actor is absolutely in the wrong role in this film; he just DOES NOT work as a university student amongst his character comrades at all in my opinion. I shall always benchmark him with his role in Lagaan or Dil Chata Hai – and his role in Rang de Basanti just so doesn’t work. Also: the gang of friends at the centre of this “male bonding” movie broke out into playful childish-like song way too often than was necessary to emphasise their comaradarie. (Did I spell that right?) And finally: there were times during the film where shortcuts in the editing process were very noticable – and frankly quite crap. (Sigh)

Other than these – it was a great film – glad I watched it in the end. Despite the interestingly critical review by Anand at MDEII.


Attended the 3GSM World Congress last week – a massive tradeshow for the world’s mobile industry. It had outgrown Cannes (which is where it has in the past been held annually) and frankly I think that even the city of Barcelona felt overwhelmed. It took place at the Fira de Barcelona – which is an exhibition centre not far from the centre of town comprising 8 massive halls between Placa Espanya (a big roundabout) and the Palau National de Montjuïc (a big palace on a hill). There were over 50,000 attendees and nearly a thousand exhibitors – and several CEO summit-style conferences were all taking place at the same time there. All the world’s major tech and service companies involved in mobile were there – many providing trade journalists with all-expenses-paid packages to be there in return for good writeups – and several governmental trade missions will have used the event to further relationships with this industry which, in the UK alone, contributes 1% to the national GDP.

Needless to say, every single hotel room in the city was booked – and every single seat on flights to the city were booked up for months in advance as the airlines took every opportunity to rip people off for direct flights from major cities elsewhere in the world.

I travelled Monday, attended the event Tuesday and Wednesday and travelled back home Thursday. I refused to pay the extortionate prices for direct flights from London (circa £600 return) – so managed to get a a cheaper ticket (£120 return) with KLM from Heathrow via Schipol in Amsterdam. OK so the journey time was longer by a 2 to 3 hours each way – but it felt a lot better doing that than lining the pockets of British rip-off Airways.

3GSM World Congress
(On Avinguda de Maria Cristina looking up towards Palau National de Montjuïc)

I’ve been to Barcelona before on business, but never really got to know this city very well on those occasions. This is the effect of stepping out of airports and hotels and stepping straight into taxis. You’re never quite in touch with the rhythm of a city until you’ve experienced moving with the people of the city in the way that they do. So this time around I schlepped it on the trains tubes and buses. (Did I say tube? I meant “metro”.)

The train into town from the airport was cheap and efficient. As is the metro. The metro trains themselves are like a cross between the Paris metro and the Hong Kong MTR: the doors have little handles in them that are used to open them at stops – and some trains are made up of carriages that you can walk right through from one end of the train to the other. Because the trains are just below the street level you can get a mobile phone signal on most of the system – and the time it takes to get from surface to train and vice versa is kept to a minimum. I don’t know whether it was because of the 3GSM event or not – but I noticed a lot of security police with scary-looking dogs patrolling the trains and the streets over the few days that I was there.

Just about every major advertising space in the city was taken by the mobile phone industry. And in many cases the entire fronts and sides of massive buildings and hotels were draped in massive adverts. By the time I left the city I was sick of “Hello Moto“. Go on – click that link to get an idea of the sort of picture you would see plastered all over the side of a 10 storey building. They were everywhere, featuring different human models of various ethnic backgrounds all dressed up and made up to look like internationally correct customers – but mostly looking like they had come fresh off the set of a Gap commercial.

I did a lot of walking. Mostly between the nearest metro stations of near convention centre and my hotel – which was not too far from the south end of Las Ramblas which is a touristy sort of pedestrianised street in the old and scenic part of town. The funny thing is I also got stopped by a number of Spanish tourists who wanted to know the directions to various places. In some cases I was able to help despite my Spanish not being very good at all! This reminded me my times in New York and Los Angeles – where I would often get mistaken for being of Latin American origin. Personally I consider it an advantage being an Indian in the tourist centre of Barcelona – or indeed any country lining the Mediterranean. You’re less likely to get treated differently when interacting with local people. For example – I went into a coffee shop which was on my way from my hotel to the local tube station one morning. The guy in front of me was clearly a foriegner – a British guy attending 3GSM probably. (Just like me!) He ordered a coffee – but the shop assistant qualified his request by shouting “American?” – and he nodded. What he got served was a normal cup of black coffee – which was served in a normal cup, with some sugar and milk on the side. I was up next – and ordered coffee too. But this time the assistant didn’t qualify my request – and I got a “real” coffee – more like an espresso, in a tiny little cup – and no mik or sugar on the side. That made me feel great. And the coffee tasted fantastic too.

I have now made my mind up to come to Barcelona again at some point. For pleasure. There is so much to see and do in this town – a couple of days on business does it no justice at all.

Alive & Cooking

A quick posting to indicate that Route79 is still online. Apologies in advance to non-drinkers, vegetarians and people not aware of Delia Smith:

1. I’ve noticed that several brands of Spanish Rioja wine are top-sealed with a metal foil which has the word “Rioja” embossed on the top of the cork. The letter “o” in the word “Rioja” is an excellent targeting point for the corkscrew used to open the bottle – as it results in a dead-centre piercing for the cork – which subsequently comes out perfectly flush.

2. Chicken: I still haven’t figured out why “breast” chicken meat in the UK is the most expensive cut given it is the most blandest, tasteless and horribly-textured part of the chicken. Not complaining though.

3. Delia Smith was once a heroine of the people when it came to educating the masses in British cooking. I can see exactly why her demise in the last decade has led to her occupying obscure spots in the UK TV Food channel schedule: last night’s late-night showing had her cooking up some mushroom risotto – where the main ingredient was chanterelle mushrooms. Now where on earth in suburban London can you find chanterelle mushrooms? Neither Safeway/Morrisons, Tesco, Asda or Sainsbury’s carry this variety of mushrooms. And you’d be hard pushed to find them at your high street grocer too. I get the feeling that she is focussing on being seen to cook stuff rather than actually helping/inspiring people to do so. Even the Two Fat Ladies show is more practical – despite their upper-class stuffiness.