Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Knowledge Trinity

It seems i am getting hooked to blogging, haven't blogged for a couple of months and i already have withdrawal symptoms. So here i am, returning from back-to-back London and New York trips which kept me away from the routine ( thankfully i still take a bath everyday unlike a lot of people in London :)

London and New York, two big cities — two of the biggest hubs of world publishing. It is almost as if they were separated at birth — strikingly similar and teasingly different. Let's begin first with what binds them. They say the London weather is as unpredictable as Indian women, if that's the case then New York weather is no different from a T20 cricket match, to use a cliche, the only thing predictable about it, is that it is unpredictable. The roaring, rather deafening subway trains in the two cities— the New York Subway and the London Underground — almost simultaneously built in the beginning of 20th century are remnants of the might and vision that was, and a loud (literally) reminder of the need for constant improvement. Another queer similarity is the number and kind of Indians you come across — be it on the Wall Street or the Oxford Street — and mind you a lot of them are not the "Paaji, ki haal hai ? ( 'Brother how are you? ' in Punjabi) types".

Talking about Indians, most of the Indian restaurants in London are actually run by Bangladeshis — majority of them serve good-for-nothing food and are actually doing a dis-service to both Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine. To top it, they are downright rude.
I have a suggestion. I think all Indian-run restaurants should start writing "Run by Indians" underneath the restaurant names to retain the brand-value of Indian cuisine. Food reminds me of the American tradition of 'big things' — from big cars to bigger buildings and the biggest portions of food you would ever eat, they seem to have a fetish for size. Bookshops in New York faithfully follow the pattern too, though as of now, there are more people buying books in a London bookshop than in its compatriot in New York. Americans seem more clued on to the mind-body-spirit genre while for the British, lifestyle books appear to champion the non-fiction genre. There is of course far more interest in India and Indian subjects in London than in 'The Big Apple'. A visit to the museums in the two cities clears any misconceptions that one may have on this. British Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum also display the inherent capacity of the British to look beyond the obvious. Their impeccable upkeep is even more creditable because they don't charge a penny in entrance fee, (except for special shows) unlike the US museums which have more-than-a-nominal entrance fee. No wonders British take pride in their sense of history.

It is time the book people of Darya Ganj too realised that they have a chance to create history — to make New Delhi one of the three big cities of world publishing — the missing link of the knowledge trinity.