Modern Cab Tales : Season 1; Episode 1

Alright, this is one way of keeping my blogging habit on. I am using the Web/ TV series format of seasons and episodes. I call this “Blog Series”! I am the cab driver. I am going to tell you stories about my passengers. Hope this will interest you and make you a little bit more aware of what all happen during a cab ride.

So it was a Saturday night. I was driving a share/pool cab that night. I picked up a person in his thirties.

“Sir, can you give me your OTP?”

“5346” the man replied.

“Where are you going sir?”

“I am going to FilmNagar.” he said

Beep, beep, beep. I see there is another booking in close range. So I accept the booking. The navigator in my phone tells me I have to go back to the same spot where I picked this gentleman again.

So I wait for 5 minutes, I try calling the new customers on their phone. They ask me to wait for 2 minutes.

After 5 minutes 2 women probably in their late 20s, dressed in t-shirts and jeans walk towards my cab. Till now I forgot to turn on the a/c but suddenly i remembered and turned the a/c on.

Both women were talking in English. I was the English topper in my primary school. So I could understand what they were talking. I will name them Anaida and Akanksha just for your understanding. I started the cab and took off with the 3 passengers. The gentleman was not speaking at all. He was wearing his earphones and probably listening to songs.

Anaida said “Here’s where I will start ordering my food from” she pointed to a biryani hotel on the way.

Akanksha said “oh does he deliver food home?”

“Yes, he will. And it will be cheaper than the previous hotel.” said Anaida.

They went on speaking about random topics for about 20 minutes. They were not even taking a break. They were jumping from one topic to another. It looked like they were working as air-hostesses in a popular airline company but the salary they were earning was not that great. It also looked like they were living in an apartment and sharing it with another woman. Anaida and Akanksha looked tight from their conversation. One conversation caught my attention.

“Oh, by the way, our roommate needs to buy scotch brite (the vessels cleaning pad) this time. I bought it last time, now its her turn. I do have one with me but won’t let her use mine.” said Akanksha.

I was thinking, if I was getting bored with all this conversation, what was the situation of the third passenger who was sitting right next to them? Probably the songs were diverting him from the pain of this conversation.

After a few minutes, the women started talking about a mall they were going to.

“Oh that mall has a terror threat, see this whatsapp message I got” said the third person in the car. I will name him Anand for ease.

“Oh these days, they circulate all sorts of nonsense and fake news in whatsapp” says Akanksha.

“But see this is from a leading newspaper. So the threat may be real.” Anand said

“Its ok, we both will die for the country.” Anaida says

Anand says “But there are other ways to die for the country. Why die like this?”

“No no, we will die saving others”. Akanksha reassures.

What noble thought ! Then the three of them got lost in regular conversation, getting to know each other, what they do, where are they going etc. But this light-hearted courage stayed with me as I dropped the three passengers off at their required destinations and drove back to pick up the next customer.

“I live in a great country” I said to myself. I am the Modern Cab Driver!

But wait, this new customer who boarded the cab now taps me on my shoulder and asks me “Did the previous rider forget their bag?”

Whats in the bag? Who left it? Did they leave it on purpose?

To be continued…..

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“Telugu Medley Kings” of Hyderabad

By Varun Mannava (The Author of the *Bestseller book “Polite Pickup Lines in Indian Pubs” buy now on Amazon — http://www.amazon.in/Polite-Pickup-lines-Indian-Pubs/dp/9386073137 )
capricioCapriccio (noun) a lively piece of music, typically one that is short and free in form.
True to the above meaning, Capricio, the Hyderabadi band which is gaining a lot of popularity, chooses some of the liveliest songs in Tollywood and generates short and free medleys out of it.
Ever thought of enjoying all songs that the band plays? Ever thought of being lively and involved through out the performance without taking a break (except when the band takes a break)? It happened to me last night. Capricio live performances at The Moonshine Project are magical! Let me tell you why!
Medley
Medley is IN these days and Capricio will exploit this format to the full extent. Medley simply means mixture of varied things, here it applies to tunes of course. Usually the band starts off with a popular song, they wont tell you which song it is, they will start singing the first song from the ‘charanam’ and then by the time you figure out what the song is they will jump off to another popular song’s ‘pallavi’. This format works wonders, and its here to stay.
Regional nostalgia
Let me be honest. We all love regional music. The nostalgia that regional music can create is not something English popular songs can create. Especially in a live band. Although it requires great talent to keep the crowd involved and glued to your performance, it requires some help from nostalgia and language too. Else one might just be reduced to passive listening and occasional involvement.
Freedom to perform
Emphasizing on the need to provide complete freedom to the artists, Hemender Reddy, co-owner of The Moonshine Project, says that his pub is the only place in Hyderabad that encourages bands to play regional tunes exclusively. Although upon requests the bands do play some bollywood and english tunes. Capricio debuted at The Moonshine Project in January and has been performing every Saturday with the same amount of freedom. “They find themselves at home here which is why they get even more creative” says Hemender.
Deep knowledge in Carnatic music
To be able to handle a Medley successfully, one needs to know the ingredients correctly. Capricio has researched extensively and chosen their tracks with great care and innovation. The handshake between one song to another song in every medley is amazingly smooth. For example they start off with “Urvasi Urvasi” move on to “Chiku buku chiku buku rail” and then jump into “Mudhinepalle” before moving on to some other song. They know they are teasing your brain but what they don’t know is the extent of fun you are having with each song change tailor-made to entertain. So you can help them by being expressive if you are having fun. Claps and the occasional whistles would suffice.
Teamwork
While Ganesh and Eknath are handling the vocals they are perfectly in sync. Ganesh usually does the high pitch very well. In fact so well that I am yet to come across another singer in Hyderabad who can match SPB’s or Shankar Mahadevan’s control on breath. When you hear him sing “Mitwaa” you will know what I mean. Eknath does the base singing pretty efficiently. Sai Teja on the rhythm keeps coordinating Pandu on the Piano. While Ganesh and Eknath are busy singing away, its Sai Teja and Pandu who seem to be having the real fun smiling and giggling away after key tunes matching.
Overall an evening well spent!
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Partying in Hyderabad vs. Partying in Gurgaon!

By Varun Mannava (The Author of the *Bestseller book “Polite Pickup Lines in Indian Pubs” buy now on Amazon — http://www.amazon.in/Polite-Pickup-lines-Indian-Pubs/dp/9386073137 )

Let me be quite frank. Gurgaon is the party capital of India. That’s the truth!

In my earlier blog post, I walked you all through on where and how to party in Gurgaon. I wrote this blog in early 2016 but its still valid. Not much has changed except that there is SOCIAL in Cyberhub now.  (https://varunsword.com/2016/01/03/gurgaons-coolest-hangouts-monday-to-sunday/)

I moved to the city of Hyderabad in January, 2017. In the last 6 months I have been to enough places to have gathered enough experience to write about Hyderabadi pubs!

And it doesn’t look that great in comparison to Gurgaon!! Sorry to disappoint you folks. Let me elaborate.

Stag Entry : This is a big headache in Hyderabad. On a Friday or a Saturday night, the best pubs in Hyderabad follow a strict stag entry rule. Only exception is HyLife where stags are allowed after charging entry and cover charge.  Whereas in Gurgaon, most of the pubs allow stags with a cover charge, else if you know a manager in the pub. I will leave it to your opinion, but if you ask me I hate it. It’s not like men are going to get in and create a rampage. Do some basic profiling before letting stags in. Whatever it is, this has to change.

Band Culture : Hyderabad is currently catching up with Bengaluru and running high on Band performances. Its super cool. However I would like a balance of Band and DJ. In Gurgaon, most of the pubs start the band performances at 6.30 pm and by 10.30 pm the band hands over the baton to the DJ no matter how great the band is. If we are talking about very popular bands then they take over the whole night but on a normal weekend handing over to the DJ at 10.30 is the norm. Hyderabad needs to learn to balance the two.

Socializing : No matter how funny you are you are unlikely to make new friends in a pub unless you are either a performer in a band / actor in a movie. Ha. Trust me when I say this even though I am a conversation starter specialist myself. In the last 6 months I have just made one or two new friends in pubs. This is the major difference between Gurgaon and other cities. If you are funny and start a decent conversation, the women in Gurgaon will engage with you in a conversation. In Hyderabad, people go in groups and they stick to their groups. No new friends please! If this is what you wanted, why go to a pub? House party should do no?

Quick reviews of happening pubs in Hyderabad.

#1 Prost – This is high on ambiance but the brewed beer is not that great.

#2 Hylife – This has various levels of partying and I like their brewed beer the most in Hyderabad

#3 The Other Side – I have heard good things about this pub and its definitely in my list to visit.

#4 The Moonshine Project – This place has some creative gigs. It was the launch pad for a new band called Capricio apart from helping kick-start a regional concept band called Varnam  (https://varunsword.com/2017/02/12/varnam-an-attempt-to-evoke-thought-using-music-and-language/)

#5 FUBAR – This is an open mic bar. Cute.

 

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Karman Kaur, India’s rising Tennis star, has no plans to rest until she gets an Olympic Gold!

Hello world! Meet Karman Kaur Thandi (18 years old) who is training right now in Nice, France at Mouratoglou Tennis  Academy!

Karman’s highest ranking in ITF juniors (International Tennis Federation) was 32. She won the “WTA Future Stars” in 2014 which was held in Singapore.

She was kind enough to squeeze some time to answer my questions below.

(image courtesy – Facebook)

Karman Kaur tell us something about yourself, your schooling and college.

“I started playing tennis when I was 8 years old. My parents put me in this sport during the school vacations just as a hobby and for fitness. “

“I went to Ryan International School Vasant Kunj . Currently I am pursuing my degree first year at Jesus and Mary college ( Delhi University).”

As a child what did you dream of becoming?

“As a child I always used to dream of becoming a tennis player and be the best in that, which is to be number 1 in the world. “

Why Tennis?

“I chose tennis. When I was young I played many games. But I chose tennis because I really liked the game and enjoyed playing it. And my parents encouraged me to go further in the sport.”

What was the first tournament you won and how did you progress from there on?

“Two months after I had started playing tennis I took part in an ‘Under-10’ tournament in Delhi and won it. That was my first tournament victory. After that I stared played National level tournaments. I was number 1 in the country under-14, under-16, under-18. I gradually started playing international tournaments and now am playing in the international women’s circuit.”

You are currently ranked number 2 in AITA (All India Tennis Association) women’s rankings, tell us more about it.

“Yes right now I am no.2 in AITA women’s ranking. I didn’t play a lot of tournaments the last year however this year I plan to play more tournaments and improve my ranking.”

What is your next target, how do you plan to achieve it?

“My next target is to get my WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) ranking under top 300 by the end of the year. I am gonna work hard and give my best to achieve it.”

Tell us something about your interaction with international players or any other interesting personalities.

“When I won the 2014 WTA Future stars, I received the winner trophy from Li Na. I met all the top players there and the atmosphere was fascinating.

By interacting with top players like Li Na, Sania Mirza, Maria Sharapova I gathered a lot of motivation.”

What is your dream and your vision for Indian Tennis?

“My dream as an Indian tennis player is to reach Top 10 in the world and win a few Grand Slams.

And my vision for Indian Tennis is to win the Fed Cup and bring a gold home in Olympics! “

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(image courtesy – Facebook)

On behalf of fellow tennis enthusiasts in India, I wish you very well in all your future pursuits! Hope your dreams come true soon!

–Varun Mannava (Tennis enthusiast, Self-published author)

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VARNAM – An attempt to evoke thought using music and language

A calm Wednesday evening when the cyber bees in Hyderabad are not too frustrated nor looking forward to the weekend. They have ordered their drinks and are casually lost in conversation.

At the same time, Krishnan, the pianist cum vocalist is lost in discussion on-stage with Niteesh, the guitarist cum vocalist. They are discussing what is the pitch for their next song. This rough practise might surprise a few guests initially but when they hear the fair copy of the song, the trial seems worth its time.

Krishnan goes “This song starts with a certain pitch and scale”, while Niteesh is immediately trying to replicate that on his guitar, Krishnan corrects him and gives him a better note instead. They shake their heads in agreement and get ready to play the fair version. Out of nowhere they are singing an organic cover to the song “Humma humma”. This is nothing new. We have seen all types of creative covers for all the songs on you-tube by various artists and professionals these days.

So what makes VARNAM so special?

VARNAM is the brain child of Hemender and Jaidev who own the pub “The Moon Shine Project” in filmnagar, Hyderabad. They spring up with childish enthusiasm whenever they are explaining the concept to someone. So why this excitement, what is this concept?

Let’s consider the same Humma song. It goes like this “Andha Arabic kadal oram, oor azhagai kandene…..” Krishnan completes the pallavi in TAMIL. This is when Niteesh jumps in and sings the charanam in TELUGU! And Krishnan comes in un-announced to sing a few more lines and at one point they both are singing and harmonizing together.

Yes, this is the mother of all fusions that you would have witnessed in Hyderabad till now. It does two things.

a.       Transports you to the era of growing up with these songs.

b.       Forces you to remember the lyrics in your mother tongue whenever the house is singing in the alternate language.

This keeps your mind and heart engaged for the 3 hours that VARNAM is live.

In between, the singers take a quick break but they are also kind enough to take ‘on the fly’ requests from enthusiastic guests. This gets even better. A new / unprepared song in their list may take more discussion time between Krishnan and Niteesh but once they are ready they take off as if it’s no one else’s business.

The scene gets more meat with Shiv Menon (who along with Krishnan initiated Varnam, took a few wednesdays off and is back now). Shiv is an amazing vocalist and guitarist at the same time. He has the potential to steer the evenings to another gear and when that happens Krishnan and Niteesh are more than happy to match his creativity.

The microphone is also open to genuine singers/ guitarists upon request.

Overall, VARNAM is a heartful of nostalgia and a mindful of memories, that too on a Wednesday night!

Long live Illayaraja and AR Rahman for pioneering the effort of bonding the two cultures through music! VARNAM is an ode to their impact on Tamil and Telugu listeners alike!

–Varun Gowtham Mannava (Also the author of the book ‘Polite Pickup Lines In Indian Pubs’)

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MeetNumber: The need to organize your personal or business schedule

If you are a working professional and have worked on a windows desktop, you would have come across Outlook Calendar. The easy-to-use interface and reminder pop-ups have made the outlook calendar an integral part of office requirements just like a desk, chair, lighting.

Now imagine the need to set up meetings for your personal needs (leisure) or business needs (entrepreneur) and you either cannot afford MS outlook calendar or you don’t want to further contribute to the riches of the already rich Bill Gates. What other options you got?

Facebook. There is a section in Facebook called Events where the users can set up a private/ public event and choose a location. This also enables choosing co hosts. So what is the problem in using Facebook to organize your events? Usually Facebook is used for setting up mass events like engagement announcements/ wedding announcements/ DJ tour etc. Plus the data in Facebook may end up getting sold to vendors resulting in no privacy even for a private event.

If you want something more low-key yet reliable and personal just like your little black diary where you used to jot down your everyday schedule/ weekend meetings and contacts MeetNumber is just the app you need.

MeetNumber is available on PlayStore for free. It is a light weight application and runs pretty fast even on low cost smartphones. You go through a user demo once the installation is complete. The app has 1 major Meeting view and 3 sub-views (Schedule list view, Contacts view, Messages view) apart from the settings view.

‘Create Event’ function has a start date, time and end date, time. It also records the information whether the meeting is a recurring one or standalone one. Location (using gps), people (using contacts), reminder alert and notes can also be recorded. Whats a meeting without the purpose, ‘Title’ captures the purpose.

The schedule list sub-view is pretty straight forward, easy to view and shows up some of the past meetings in addition to current and future meetings.

The Contacts sub-view imports all the contacts from your phone and displays it similar to the contacts display on your phone. The only difference being that you can swipe and set a meeting with each contact. This enables you to send and invite separately to a particular contact.

Messages sub-view, as the name suggests, displays the messages you received through the MeetNumber app.

Settings sub-view is pretty simple and easy to use. The preferences section enables users to update ‘Week start day’, ‘Default event length’ and ‘Default reminder’. Whats a networking app without a ‘Status’ field. Go ahead, speak your mind via the ‘Status’.

Highly successful people keep a strict schedule to get the most out of everyday. Everyday counts. MeetNumber helps you be successful everyday!

Click here to install the app on your Android/ i phone.

http://www.meetnumber.com/dl

–Varun Gowtham Mannava

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Federer : The new synonym for Hope

Hope is a beautiful thing.

Hope makes everyday worries seem little. Hope makes years of waiting run by in a jiffy. Hope makes hearts melt. Hope makes some journeys unending yet interesting. Hope is what convinced Red to meet his friend Andy in the end (Shawshank Redemption).

When Federer tweaked his knee, we are unsure what was running in his mind. Was he feeling sad? Did he surrender to the pain? Was he considering retirement? What would fans think? Was he too careless? Did he commit a mistake which was a point of no return?

We get some clues here and there from his 6 month break. He goes trekking on the Alps. Great news, at least he is walking freely and fit to climb. He posts a picture of sprinting in gym. Terrific news, at least he can serve and volley. He posts a live feed of his practice session in Dubai. Lucas Pouille gets a taste of practicing with a child like Federer. He books the court in advance for practice before Hopman Cup, crowds turn up in thousands to watch him practise. He loses Hopman cup but at least looks fit to take on top 10 tennis players.

Destiny plays its own game. “Sir” Andy Murray, who is in tremendous form since 2016, is placed in the same draw as Federer. It would have been a blockbuster Quarter Final had Murray remained in the tournament. But he had to crash early. Federer played Berdych as if he wanted to catch a subway train. Berdych’s coach Ivanisevic says Federer gave Berdych a free tennis lesson in the third round!

Federer reaches fourth round where a samurai precision Nishikori almost cuts him into two halves in the first set. He recoups and eventually tires the Japanese out in 5 sets. Not so easy peasy japaneezy. Again he plays Mischa Zverev as if he wants to reach a pub before last order. Mischa is lucky he got tennis tips from the legend.

Wawrinka, who won the most recent grand slam, is a different animal when it comes to 5 setters. The grand Djokovic himself handed over the final after winning first two sets in 2016 US OPEN! Our man wins first two sets against Wawrinka in the semifinal here. Then out of nowhere he loses the next 2 sets. Federer’s backhand in the match never caught up. But somehow he held on to his placements and won the match.

Destiny plays its final game by bringing up your worst nightmare. Both Federer and his fans know that beating Rafa on a hard court is as difficult as all the matches put together till now. He surprisingly starts well, takes 2-1 sets lead, then tanks in the 4th set, then digs his own grave in the first game of the 5th set. After that what he did to break Nadal in the 6th game and how he served out the match is what HOPE is made of.

HOPE was present in all the hearts of the audiences present in the Rod Laver stadium. HOPE was present in all the hearts of the viewers who were watching it all over the world. HOPE was present in every shot that Federer took against Nadal from that 6th game on. HOPE was present in every HawkEye review challenge that was posed against Federer.

HOPE made him surpass all the hurdles from the first round till the final and made his 18th grand slam title an amazingly blissful and joyous sight!

Hope is a beautiful thing.

–Varun Gowtham Mannava

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