Under my byline

Business magic

Posted in Architecture/Design, Books, Living by Rrishi on 13 August 2011


Six days after it opened, three months ago, I happened by the Spell & Bound Bookshop & Café in SDA Market, a prosperous corner of South Delhi. The market has restaurants and coffee places and one of the better-stocked thekas in the city. Primed by years of Harry Potter products, my eye was instantly captured by Spell & Bound’s forest-green and olde-worlde facade, with its promise of cosiness and warm bookery. (more…)


Denis the blessing

Posted in Architecture/Design, Books, Living, Profiles by Rrishi on 8 January 2011


September 1998 was a good month. That month, Google first went live. Already by the end of the year it had been praised by PC Magazine as having “an uncanny knack for returning extremely relevant results”. Also in September 1998, the Arts & Letters Daily website went live. ALDaily, too, was a near-instant hit.

Google quickly became as commonplace as furniture, as useful and almost as invisible. That was its success. ALDaily, however, I fell hopelessly in love with. (more…)

Before and after

Posted in Architecture/Design, Books, Living by Rrishi on 11 December 2010


There are few things as instantly arresting as the before-and-after photograph pair. Two photos side by side become an essay in images: the beginning and end are before you, and the story lies in between. Usually one can easily fill in the story: a person has aged or had a makeover, a place has been revitalised or destroyed and rebuilt, a forest is now a shopping mall, a snowfield is now a desert… (more…)

Brain-dead beauty

Posted in Architecture/Design, Living by Rrishi on 11 October 2010

BS blog 20

On the day of the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony, chief minister Sheila Dikshit gave a TV interview in which she managed to appear at once smug and humble. She tut-tutted gently about the mess in the run-up to the Games, when preparations were not directly in her hands, and, because she was far wilier than the interviewer, was allowed to dwell upon what she described as her government’s success at cleaning things up at the last minute. (more…)


Posted in Architecture/Design by Rrishi on 13 September 2010

BS blog 19

Last week a design-related experience left me angry and unsettled.

We went to pick up a relative at the new international airport terminal. The plane was to land around 3 am, so we were on the Gurgaon highway at about that time. The lane leading to the international airport exit was marked, on the big green signboards above the highway, thus: “I.G.I.A. Terminal 3″.

Help! (more…)


Posted in Architecture/Design, Living by Rrishi on 17 August 2010

BS blog 18

How many of you readers like the new rupee symbol?

I don’t (despite a caveat, which we’ll get to). Here’s why. (more…)

Hits and near-misses

Posted in Architecture/Design, Books, Profiles by Rrishi on 23 July 2010

An idiosyncratic history of human flight, by a modern air adventurer and entrepreneur

Reach for the Skies: Ballooning, Birdmen and Blasting into Space — How a Handful of Pioneers Risked It All to Make Dreams a Reality
Richard Branson
Virgin Books
pp viii + 344


He doesn’t seem to have made a single one of his record attempts and record-breaking journeys without having stared death in the face. If it wasn’t weather, it was equipment failure, or extreme bad luck. (more…)

Make way for something small

Posted in Architecture/Design, Living by Rrishi on 12 July 2010

BS blog 17

In the lane behind the office is usually a long row of illegally parked cars. Most are drably coloured: grey, brown, white. Most days, however, the line is brought alive by a flash of mango — that is, a mango-shaped and mango-coloured Tata Nano. It’s a delight to see it there, seasonally correct on a sweltering day under a green tree.

The funny thing is: like some of the larger cars nearby, the Nano too comes equipped with a driver, who sits in the rear seat fanning himself with a newspaper. (more…)

There you are, Raju mistri

Posted in Architecture/Design, Books, Living by Rrishi on 13 April 2010

BS blog 15

Over the past couple of weeks I have spent a fair bit of time peering at Wikimapia, ostensibly because I had to review a book on the Saraswati river. Not the mythical river that meets the Ganga and Yamuna at Allahabad but the real historical one on whose banks the Rg Vedic sages did whatever sages do. (more…)

Highway low

Posted in Architecture/Design, Living by Rrishi on 13 January 2010

BS blog 12

A week or two ago I had the misfortune to be driving home from deepest Gurgaon to Delhi near midnight, through a thick fog, on the national highway. This national highway, unlike most other NHs in India, is a Herculean carpet of Tarmac and concrete laid across the landscape. Riding it at speed is like surfing the spine of a colossal dinosaur, as one rise and falls on the flyovers and flat stretches. (more…)

Glass nuts

Posted in Architecture/Design, Art, Profiles by Rrishi on 12 December 2009

How the Klove Studio partners designed the set for Karan Johar’s fashion debut

Couture is a big step or two beyond mere fashion. It involves one-off, custom-made designer originals executed to a very high degree of finish. So, not many design houses in the world are qualified to do couture. Nevertheless, India has a fledgling couture week, which the organisers say is only the third after the ones in Paris and New York.

The second HDIL India Couture Week took place in Mumbai this October. Since it was Mumbai, top billing was given to the fashion debut of Bollywood director-producer and TV celeb Karan Johar. (more…)


Posted in Architecture/Design, Living by Rrishi on 7 December 2009

BS blog 11

The other day in the narrow lane behind our office I watched as a vast ivory-white SUV executed a three-point (well, many-point) turn. Any car thus hemmed in would have looked silly — and so, despite its de luxe pedigree, did this Audi Q7. What was such a fancy automobile doing lurching about in this dingy lane? Needless to say, a chauffeur was doing the driving. The owner, no doubt some sort of businessman, must have been paying court at the sales tax office nearby..

In India there’s no escaping the close juxtaposition of stylish and sordid. But surely they don’t have to be forcibly united — by, no less, a German luxury brand? (more…)

Letter and spirit

Posted in Architecture/Design, Art, Books, Profiles by Rrishi on 7 November 2009

Vincent van Gogh, self-portrait, 1887OVERLEAF 54

Deprived of finer speech, my chief utterance during the time I spent reading van Gogh’s letters was: “Oh, this is brilliant… this is brilliant… brilliant…” It isn’t as often as one would like that one’s reading matter is of such quality as to interrupt one’s respiration, and even less often that form, substance and function come together so satisfyingly as they have in the latest, and finest, edition of the great artist’s collected letters. (more…)

Energy saver

Posted in Architecture/Design, Books, Living by Rrishi on 17 October 2009


The scene is New York City in 2025. Henry Poiret, a former FBI scientist, is a specialist in environmental balance sheets who tracks down energy wasters of all kinds for his clients. For the very first time, he allows a journalist to watch him at work — and to get an inside glimpse of his new lab. (more…)

Men of mêtis

Posted in Architecture/Design, Art, Books by Rrishi on 2 September 2009

An American archaeologist reveals Athens’ navy as the engine of that city’s golden age

John R Hale, Lords of the Sea

Lords of the Sea: The Epic Story of the Athenian Navy and the Birth of Democracy
John R Hale
Penguin Viking
pp xxxvi + 396



Sparta is now remembered chiefly as the arch-enemy of ancient Athens, not so much for its own achievements. The entire story of the Persian Wars, during which the quarrelsome Greeks united against Darius and Xerxes, of the Peloponnesian and Spartan Wars, which saw Athens and Sparta locked in a bloody, costly, decades-long struggle, and the wars thereafter which precipitated Athens’ slide into naval oblivion, was written by Athenians and Athenian sympathisers. Today, we acknowledge our debt to golden-age Athens every time we speak, study, represent our universe through art (in the Western tradition, at least) and, of course, congregate politically. Athens is the capital of modern Greece; Sparta isn’t even a noble ruin. (more…)