Saturday, January 28, 2012

Coffee, aaraamale.

I visited one of the Philz Coffee stores in the Bay Area recently. At Philz, the barista grinds the beans only after you select the coffee you want, waits for you to taste it and fixes it if you don't think it's just right. I had one of their dark roast blends, Aromatic Arabic, and it was pretty fantastic. One of my friends wasn't a huge fan of the medium roast she got but didn't feel like going back to the barista to tell her that it tasted a bit off. It's hard not to disappoint though when you name the drink, 'Ambrosia Coffee of God'.

I've wondered for a while about the kind of coffee shop I would like to run. I can't distinguish one kind of coffee from another with the articulation of a coffee conoisseur. But I have been to many coffee shops and absolutely love how the very best ones can be inspirational. The smell of coffee beans, the chaotic rhythm of people chatter, lighting so artful as to tempt a photographer, music that sets the tone and sofas to wind down on. There's a wonderful warmth to that atmosphere.

In my coffee shop, a small library is a must. The bookshelves will be filled by books donated by customers (and me, of course). Anyone can pick up any book and read it in the cofee shop, or if it's not a book that can be finished in a couple of hours can borrow it for free to read at home, the understanding being that they return it in a reasonable amount of time. A community driven library that runs completely on the goodwill of customers.

Filter coffee is definitely on the menu and will be served in a steel tumbler accompanied by a steel dabarah. There will be a make-your-own-coffee section with a press, a small grinder, a selection of different types of beans and a barista to guide through the process. 'To go' cups will be compostable and people are free to draw on the mugs they get their coffee in with permanent markers.

There will be a few seats outside for people-watching on a warm day. A little stage inside, with floor-to-ceiling windows offering a glimpse into the city as the backdrop, will host nights of poetry and music, book readings and interviews. Local artwork will occupy the walls of the cafe with one wall devoted to display this quote, my favorite, by Picasso:
I'm reading the paper; sitting around; I'm chatting; going for walks. But all of this is just perception. I'm actually working. Or rather: something is spinning around in my head and I'm just waiting to grab it and form it.
And finally, the cafe will bear the name, 'Aaraamale' (pronounced aa-raa-muh-ley) which in Tamil means 'warm forever'. @lavsmohan tweeted it as a play of words on AR Rahman's 'Aaromale'. Coffee on the house for her if she'll let me steal that name.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Thoughts on Certified Copy (Copie Conforme)

"I know you hate me. There's nothing I can do about that. But at least try to be a little consistent."

Can you like a movie when you can't fully grasp it? You know the director, Abbas Kiarostami, is trying to tell you something, he's being all too subtle about it, but he's definitely trying to make a point. You've spent a couple of hours watching him use two wonderful actors and the beautiful Italian village of Lucignano to bring to screen his thoughts through conversations that vary a ton between small talk and opionated discourse and that jump up and down an emotional scale.

The first time the characters played by William Shimell and Juliette Binoche meet in Certified Copy, you take it for granted that it really is the first time that they're meeting. But soon you realize, through very well picturized scenes of them interacting while driving through, walking along and sitting in cafe's and restaurants that what you took for granted is defintely up for debate. Are these two characters really meeting for the first time?

Shimell's character, James Miller, is an art historian who's written a book called 'Certified Copy' in which he proposes that there is no such thing as a copy as even the Mona Lisa is a reproduction, a Da Vincian take on Lisa del Giocondo. There is no point in questioning the autenticity of a piece of art if every piece of art is a copy. He then poses the question, why should the question of authenticity detract from the emotional connect between a viewer and the colors that bring to life an empty canvas or the painstakingly chiselled statue that anchors a piazza. The connection between this truth of Miller's and the relationship between the characters is what has got me thinking about the movie long after the credits rolled. Is theirs an authentic relationship? And what determines that authenticity - the perception of the strangers around them or their own point of view of what brings them together and keeps them apart?

To answer the question I raised at the beginning, can you like a movie that you can't fully grasp, yes I think you can. The act of searching for the truth in an open ended story - whether it be in written or visual form - is extremely rewarding. And when you have an actor of Juliette Binoche's caliber, expressing vulnerability with stunning ease and honesty, guiding you through that journey, oh boy it's worth it.

P.S: It's on Netflix Instant.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Play Kohli

Photo courtesy: Royal Challengers Bangalore
I remember a brash shot Virat Kohli played early in his ODI career against Pakistan. He was batting at number 4 with Rahul Dravid holding anchor at the other end. India needed slightly more than 6 runs per over with around 30 overs to go. Kohli hadn't spent too much time at the crease but went for a lofted shot anyway, only to find the long on fielder. It was an unnecessary shot at that stage but one that could be attributed to his inexperience and inability to gauge the right way to play the middle overs of a chase. Over time and with the confidence that constancy in a batting line-up can provide, #3 when Sachin or Sehwag were rested and #4 otherwise, he's become a player you can count on. He looks for the singles early on and a large percentage of his boundaries flow along the carpet. He's got the hang of pacing an ODI innings.

In the past two years, he's scored runs with consistency and class. He's contributed to a world cup victory, his place is assured in the ODI setup, he's confident of his abilities and in the limited amount of first class cricket that he's played runs have come at an average of almost 50.

There is no doubt in my mind that he is a test cricketer in the making. Sure, he failed in the away series against the West Indies and he's struggling right now in Australia. But we absolutely have to play him in the remaining two test matches. Even if he fails to put bat to ball, we have to play him. Slot him above Laxman in the batting order so that he has the cushion of wickets in hand. It'll allow him to spend more time in the middle with Sachin who is in beautiful touch. He will have the luxury of playing out deliveries because Sachin and Laxman will score freely. By the time he has to bat with Dhoni, Ashwin and the tail he would have seen off the early nervousness.

Kohli can potentially be the glue that holds the top and middle order together. He's repaid the Indian cricket team's faith in him in ODI cricket. The team now has to be prepared to let him fall a few times in test cricket before he finds his footing.