Truth. Coffee Cult, Cape Town


Truth. Coffee Cult
They roast coffee. Properly.

“Do you want sugar with that?” asked Thomas the barista. “Would I need sugar with that?” I should remember not to reply to questions with questions. Oh well. Who takes sugar with a well-made cappuccino anyway?

Truth takes its coffee very seriously. It’s religion to them. They have irrevently named blends like Resurrection, Vengeance and Donde’s Chaos. What caught my attention is how they describe each blend with a snippet of a conversation. Their decaf is dubbed Antithesis, because you know:

“Do you have a pacemaker?” We ask. “Yes.” You reply. “Then this is perfect for you,” we say only with the slightest hint of ag-shame, “It’s coffee without palpitations, or caffeine.”

When I was there, there was a old man flitting about the place barking orders and muttering things about “customer service” while being quite dodgy himself. Spiteful managers and good coffee served by all smiles and gentle baristas, such a bittersweet way to start the day. 

I bought their House Blend quite aptly named Resurrection:

“How strong?“

“Well, strong enough to resurrect even those that stupidly chose to drink Kool-Aid.”

Exactly what I needed after encountering that slight old man so early in the day.

The Art of Lepak

On the Malaysian Art of Lepak-ing:

“Sometimes, driving around the city on my way home after dinner, I am struck by its small-town ambiance – the inherent slowness of life, the dedication to a certain way of life that revolves around languid, simple meals with friends, often in modest, open-air eating places, or going from one mamak stall to another, nowadays perhaps interspersed with a drink in a fancy bar somewhere in central KL. We call this kind of social interaction to lepak, even when we are speaking English.

‘What do you want to do tomorrow?’

‘I don’t know, maybe just lepak’.

It can be most closely translated as hanging out, or relaxing, or kicking about, but it is more than that – it involves a greater sense of intimacy, an acute appreciation of the absence of responsibility, a feeling that there is, in fact, nothing more to do in life than to lepak – as if to lepak is inevitable. To understand the Malaysian’s commitment to the art of lepak (or lepak-ing; the verb can be used with great freedom) is to understand why KL is a strange place – a capital city with the soul of a village, a metropolis that doesn’t quite know how to be a metropolis.”

Look East, Look to the Future

Chikmagalur, Belur and Halebidu, A Roadtrip


Belur & Halebeedu

Put on my blue suede shoes and I jumped into the car…Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues, In the middle of the pouring rain. Ok, this was Chikamagalur but it will do for now.

Sunday was the birthday and all I wanted to do was drive down to the temple towns of Belur & Halebeedu. K obliged and off we went: Belur is 30 km away from Chikmagalur and Halebeedu another 15 kms ahead of Belur.

Belur & Halebeedu are known for the temple complexes dating back to the Hoysala Empire. Wikipedia tells me, It was built by king Vishnuvardhana in commemoration of his victory over the Cholas at Talakad in 1117 CE. Legend has it that it took 103 years to complete and Vishnuvardhana’s grandson Veera Ballala II completed the task.

At Belur, I was overwhelmed by the magnificence of the temple, the attention to detail and the history of the area. A perfect way to spend my birthday.

Halebeedu, on the other hand, is a study in disappointment. The craftsmanship itself has improved - the elephants look more elephant-like, the horses have more detailing on their faces, the humans are more proportionate. Interestingly, there are no expressions on the faces in both the temples - all staid, bored Indian gods. Then you also see cornerstones that have been left out, there’s less attention to detail and you come back saddened.

For example, this unfinished panel we came across (it’s also the last picture above): The one on the extreme left has a ton of intricate detailing - curves and dots; the fringe in the middle has the bare minimum - just curves with very little detailing, the third one is a smooth stone.  

The Halebeedu startup had run out of funding.

Belur was glorious, Halebeedu was all about ruination. 

Coffee, IG and Other Spoils

Chikmagalur- Chikka+Magala+Ooru literally means ‘Younger Daughter’s Town’. It is said to have been given as a dowry to the younger daughter of Rukmangada, a legendary chief of Sakharayapatna. I also saw a gopuram styled structure that welcomed visitors to Hiremagalur. 

Quaint Chikmagalur city now is all of 2 roads - Indira Gandhi Road and MG Road. It also has a stunning piece of modern architecture: a multi-coloured mosque located just behind the BP on their high street, IG Road. 

Even more distasteful are the hoardings plastered all over the town about Congress and their resounding success in the region. Ugh. Because it is after all the constituency that elected Indira Gandhi in a by-election in 1978 after she lost the 1977 election in Rae Bareli, paving the way for her eventual return to power in 1980. 

Since I don’t scrunch my nose at the thought of chicory in my filter coffee, we picked up Panduranga coffee from a store of the same name on IG Road. 

Legend has it that Hazrath Shah Jamaal Allah Magatabi, later known as Baba Budan went to Mecca on a pilgrimage around 1600 AD where, intoxicated by the fragrance of the coffee flowers, he smuggled seven coffee seeds in the fold of his robes, out of Yemen. On his return to India, he planted these seeds around his mountain abode on the Chandradhrona Parvatha, near Chikmagalur. The plant took root and thus was born the Coffee Industry in India. This place is now known as Bababudangiri.

Many Lives, Many Languages

Aravind Adiga in one sentences captures the beauty of learning many languages in the Daily Beast.

Language becomes for me what German must be for those who have learnt it well enough: a new way of understanding the world.

As Adiga points out, most of us Indians grow up ‘in an archipelago of tongues.’ (What a beautiful phrase!) It’s only after I moved away from India that I understood the beauty in the mangle and deluge of languages that hit you from every corner here. It was also a time when I yearned to hear languages that sounded like home to my ears. A few words here and a snatch of a conversation and I’d be back in a happier place again.

In Mangalore, I wake up to Konkani caught in the tangle of a busy weekday morning. Someone’s rushing for work and someone’s late for school, someone else has forgotten lunch and someone has forgotten a morning kiss from Mommy(me!).

The dust settles, it’s quiet till the domestic helps start trickling in. Then it’s the mad clangor of Bagalkot Kannada(I think! I should find out from Iramma) and the local Kannada. Dishes are washed, clothes hung out to dry, gossip exchanged and soon the chaos of an alien Kannada and a familiar tongue vanish. It’s time for Leelamma the fisherwoman to do her round, you see.

'Daada, Leelamma? Yenchina und meen?’ Nothing sounds more cut-throat business like than Tulu. It’s brusque, even. Even if Babyakka the grandmotherly lady down the road is asking me 'Kodeh idjiya?’ I straighten up and pay attention.

Kannada and Tulu didn’t come easily to me. Tulu’s the language I learned by way of explaining to Muthakka the milk-lady that my shorts weren’t half as scandalous as her hitched up sari; it was also the only way I could convince Ajja, Grandpa’s friend, to part with the little stem from his betel leaf. 

Kannada was all my Grandma’s doing. A little outraged that I knew not a word she made it her mission to go the whole hog with Kannada - writing, reading and speaking. Udayavani, Udaya TV, god knows how many four-lined notebooks and many stifled snickers from strangers later I could finally confidently give directions to the rickshaw driver and buy groceries at the local shopkeeper’s. 

The mythology of a city’s not-so-distant golden past

Madiha Sattar, a writer based in Karachi, in her recent comment on the Karachi violence complained about ‘the mythology of the city’s not-so-distant golden past’ that is evoked whenever the times are dark and roads bloody.

Those of us not old enough to have worn hipster saris to nightclubs here in the 60s and 70s, are frequently subjected to misty-eyed reminiscing about a city that was once apparently safe, cosmopolitan and liberal, a magical place where one could drive around late without racing home to avoid a hold-up and people were far too polite and open-minded to be too fussed about each other’s religions, sects and ethnicities.

“We desperately need narratives of Karachi that do justice to its complex past and help us grapple with its bewildering present.”