Monthly Archives: April 2014

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Latin America’s literary icon

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Magic realism: A literary or artistic genre in which realistic narrative and naturalistic technique are combined with surreal elements of dream or fantasy.

This is the Oxford Dictionary’s definition for this literary genre that was pioneered by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a writer who has been compared with the likes of Charles Dickens and Mark Twain and Victor Hugo. He is considered the one of the greatest Spanish-language writers and a Latin American icon whose works purportedly sold second highest across the continent after the Bible. Latin America and the rest of the world mourned the death of this Colombian literary giant at the age of 87 on April 17, 2014, in his adopted home country of Mexico.

Garcia Marquez was born on March 6, 1927, in Aracataca, a river town located in the Carribean Region of Colombia, to Gabriel Eligio Garcia, a telegraph operator, and Luisa Santiaga, who hailed from Barrancas, and whose family had shifted to Aracataca after her father, Colonel Nicolás Márquez Mejfa, had killed a man named Medardo Pacheco in a duel over a point of honour. Garcia Marquez was the first of 11 children, and his parents moved to the city of Barranquilla shortly after he was born, as his father left his occupation to become a pharmacist there, hoping to become rich. However, Garcia Marquez was left in the care of his maternal grandparents for the first 10 years of his life and remained in Aracataca. His grandparents’ turbulent history and colourful tales would provide the ethos for his fictional works, and his birthplace became the model for Macondo, the imaginary village that formed the backdrop for his most famous work, ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’.

Once Garcia Marquez joined his parents, he was sent to a State-run boarding school just outside Bogota, where he was a stellar student with a love for Hemingway, Dostoevsky, Faulkner and Kafka. In fact, he would come to regard William Faulkner as his ‘master’ and would quote him at his Nobel award acceptance speech, saying, “On a day like today, my master William Faulkner said, ‘I decline to accept the end of man.’ This, my friends, is the crux of our solitude.” He wrote his first short story, ‘Eyes of a blue dog’, in 1947. He mailed it to the newspaper El Espectador in a response to its literary editor’s statement that ‘Colombia’s younger generation has nothing to offer in the name of good literature anymore.’ ‘Leaf Storm’, his first novella, was written in 1948, when he was only 21, but he had to pursue publishers for seven years before the novella was finally published in 1955.

Though his father wanted him to pursue law, Garcia Marquez felt drawn to the world of journalism. He unflinchingly reported on the civil wars and social unrest that was beleaguering Colombia during the 1950s, and his style of reporting came to be known as New Journalism. His leftist political leanings, inspired by the tragedy of the 1928 massacre near his home town, of banana workers striking against the powerful United Fruit Company, and the assassination of a people-centric leftist presidential candidate, Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, in 1948, were apparent in his journalistic ventures, often resulting in adverse reactions to his work. This was most apparent in the case of his 1970 non-fiction work ‘The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor’, where he recounts government corruption as contributing to the disastrous events narrated by the real life protagonist Luis Alejandro Belasco, which caused a great scandal at the time.

In 1953, Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, an Army General, became the 19th President of Colombia and proceeded to establish a dictatorship in the country. Garcia Marquez had returned to Bogota in 1954, where he worked for El Espectador as a reporter and film reviewer. His narrative of government ineptitude and corruption, serialized in ‘The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor’ as an elaborate expose, provoked the ire of the dictator, and the newspaper, fearing a political or violent backlash, sent him to Europe as a foreign correspondent. Unfortunately, while he was in Europe, the Colombian government shut down El Espectador and Garcia Marquez was forced to live a hand-to-mouth existence, barely making ends meet during the day and writing fiction at night.

After publishing his novella ‘No One Writes to the Colonel’, based on the life of his maternal grandfather, in 1957, Garcia Marquez travelled back across the Atlantic and found a position at Momento magazine in Caracas, Venezuela. In 1958, he briefly returned to Barranquilla, Colombia, to marry his childhood neighour, Mercedes Barcha, with whom he has two sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo.

Since the age of 18, Garcia Marquez wanted to channel the stories told by his maternal grandmother into a novel, but could not find the right tone for the story, until one day, while driving to Acapulco, inspiration hit him and he turned his car around and returned home and started writing. He sold the family car to finance his family’s needs while he devoted his full attention to writing every day for 18 months. His wife also took credit from the neighbourhood stores and their landlord to keep the family afloat. By the time ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ was published in 1967, the family was several thousand dollars in debt. Fortunately, the book went on to become Garcia Marquez’s most successful and critically acclaimed work, selling in excess of 30 million copies. It also netted Garcia Marquez the Nobel Prize for literature in 1982.

‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ tells the story of seven generations of the Buendia family in the fictitious village of Macondo and provides a metaphorical look at Colombian and Latin American history. Although the book has been praised by renowned individuals, from authors to politicians to critics across the world, as one of the most profound pieces of literature that should be a required reading for everyone, and many intellectuals have ascribed deep meanings to the symbolic elements of the story, Garcia Marquez himself disliked intellectual pretensions and preferred to experience a story intuitively.

Garcia Marquez’s fame exploded post ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ and made him an influential person in world politics. Most notably, he became close friends with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and unsurprisingly, their friendship was criticized by many notables, including American literary icon Susan Sontag, who famously rubbished Garica Marquez’s justification of his friendship allowing him to get Castro’s dissidents off the island as ‘weak and ridiculous’. However, Garcia Marquez continued to remain the toast of kings and Presidents, forming a close friendship with, among others, former American President Bill Clinton, who professed himself to have keenly read his works even as a young man in law school. Though critics accuse him of being attracted to power and deriving a weird pleasure from it, Garcia Marquez did indeed use his influence to negotiate between the Colombian government and the 19th of April Movement (M-19) guerrillas as well as the FARC and ELN organizations.

Garcia Marquez is known for other works as well, including ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’, an atypical love story between couples in their seventies who find love, even as death is all around them. He had based the premise for this story on the history of how his parents met each other and proceeded to marry against the wishes of his maternal grandparents. Another hard-hitting work is ‘News of a Kidnapping’, a non-fiction account of the high profile kidnappings that occurred in Colombia during the early 1990s during the reign of drug czar Pablo Escobar, whose Medellin Cartel was building an empire based on narco-trafficking. ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’ is a mix of realism, detective story and reporting, and is based on an actual murder that took place in 1951, of Garcia Marquez’s childhood friend, Cayetano Gentile Chimento. Another controversial work was ‘Autumn of the Patriarch’, based on the life of Venezuelan dictator Juan Vicente Gomez. Garcia Marquez’s family moved from Barcelona to Mexico City soon after publishing it, and he agreed not to republish it until Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was deposed. However, he went ahead and published it while Pinochet was still in power, as he could not remain silent in the face of the oppression and injustice rampant during Pinochet’s regime.

Although Garcia Marquez will always be remembered for implanting the concept of magical realism forever in readers’ minds, he was a pragmatist and an acute observer of the reality around him. In fact, his surreal motifs only heighten the wretchedness and banality of the reality represented in his works. Ultimately, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s writing philosophy and worldview was aptly summed up by the man himself when he described Latin America in his Nobel prize acceptance speech: “Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.” Garcia Marquez has brought the common man across the world in touch with the uncommonness of his reality, and allowed him to see a world beyond himself, in which he is a metaphorical figure. The legacy of Gabo will live long.

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2014’s most-awaited smartphone: The iPhone 6

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2014 marks the advent of five major smartphones that may redefine the benchmarks for the industry. These are the Samsung Galaxy S5, the Sony Xperia Z2 and the HTC One M8, the Nexus 6 and the iPhone 6. Samsung made waves with the release of the S5 on April 11, and the Z2 and the M8 are the best models yet of Sony’s Xperia Z and HTC’s One series, respectively. Considering the triumph of the Nexus 5, Android fans are eagerly awaiting Google new flagship phone. But there’s little doubt that the showstopper of the year promises to be the iPhone 6.

Apple has reluctantly followed in the footsteps of its competitors in introducing phones with bigger screens, making the iPhone 4 with a 4-inch screen long after competitors like Samsung, LG, Sony, HTC and others had already made phones with larger screens and were regularly coming out with phablet models. This year, the mobile industry is expecting Apple to pay attention to the demands of the segment of smartphone users that like phones with large screens. Two versions of the iPhone 6 are expected to hit stores, one during September, and the other towards the end of the year. The earlier version is expected to be the one with the smaller screen, of around 4.7 inches, while the latter version is the one with the bigger screen size of 5.5 inches. This marks a major change in Apple’s philosophy, which had hitherto been along the lines of Henry Ford’s famous statement, ‘The customer can have a Ford car in any colour as long as it is black.’

Screen

The 4.7 inch screen is expected to have a screen resolution of 1920×1080 while the 5.5 inch screen is expected to have a resolution of 2272×1280. The iPhone 5 models use Low Temperature Poly Silicon (LTPS) and Apple is likely to continue using this technology in the models of the iPhone 6. One major change that is expected for the screen is the switch from the tough Corning Gorilla Glass to sapphire crystal, the element used in the manufacture of the iPhone camera lens as well as the home button of the iPhone 5S. Traditionally, sapphire crystal has been very expensive to manufacture, but Apple has teamed up with a company called GT Advanced to manufacture this tough material in large quantities at lower prices so as to be able to use it in the production of the entire body of its devices. Currently, GT Advanced’s Mesa, AZ, sapphire plant can product up to 200 million sapphire displays, which are enough for Apple’s entire line of devices.

Design

Although initial rumours suggested that the iPhone 6 might have a curved screen, recent ones suggest that the display would remain flat, as in the case of the iPhone 5S. It has also been suggested that the design of the new iPhones will takes cues from the iPad Air and the iPad Mini, and thus have rounded corners. Also, there may be no bezels; instead the glass of the screen is expected to curve downward at the edges. This would increase the size of the display without making the overall chassis of the phone bigger.

Processor

The new 20-nanometer A8 processor, though not a revolutionary upgrade from the current A7 processor that powers the latest iPhones and iPads, will be smaller and more energy efficient. The A8 chip is expected to include both a quad-core 64-bit processor as well as quad-core graphics and will contain 1GB of RAM, the same as its predecessor.

Camera

The iPhone 6 is expected to use an 8 MP camera, similar to the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C, but improvements will be added in the form of increased pixel size, a larger aperture, a ‘True Tone’ dual-LED flash, optical image stabilization (OIS), among others.

Other features

The Touch ID fingerprint sensor currently available in the iPhone 5S is expected to feature on the iPhone 6 as well, and there are also expectations of the phone featuring sensors for pressure, temperature and humidity. The phone may also support the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, also known as ‘Gigabit’, which offers speeds upto three times more than existing 802.11 wireless networks, possessing the capability of reaching speeds as high as 1Gbps

It is rumoured that Apple may introduce two variations of each of the two large sized devices, as in the case of the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C, allowing it to offer a full-priced flagship device, a mid-tier device, and previous generation devices at lower costs. Apple is expected to sell more than 90 million units of the iPhone 6 worldwide, for 2014, which would mean immense work for its manufacturing partner, Foxconn. This might well be the biggest iPhone launch ever. We can’t wait!

What will a Modi government be like?

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‘Ab ki baar Modi Sarkaar’ – this is not just the punchline of many internet memes lampooning the massive promotional campaign of the BJP in its bid to be elected as the party that would form the next Central Government. It represents the sentiments of many across the country, including some of his detractors, who are tired of the corruption, scams, inflation, unemployment, and other ills plaguing the Indian economy and people. Narendra Modi, the man of humble origins, who famously used his tea seller background as a concept to meet and talk to commoners about their day-to-day problems, hopes, and desires, seems to already be heralded as the next PM by a huge mass of supporters, many of them youths who hitherto had not had a strong opinion on India’s political scene. In the one-upmanship game of politics, where perception is often accepted as reality even before it happens, Modi seems well on his way to become the most important figure in the country, holding the country’s future in his hands.

So what do his supporters expect from Narendra Modi? How will he change the perception of India, both in the minds of Indians, as well as the international arena? Here are some expectations about the way the Modi government will handle the vast and complex Indian economic, political and cultural landscape.

Economic revival

In a situation where inflation is double the growth rate, the rupee is struggling to revive its former levels against the dollar, and foreign investments have reduced, Modi has promised to make economic resurgence his top priority. However, he would need the support of his coalition partners to push forward his progressive foreign investment-friendly policies that would also encourage State autonomy in investments. The political clout of the BJP will come at a cost: it cannot afford to pull the plug on populist programs established by the Congress, such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and the National Food Security Bill, which offers food subsidies to the great majority of the country’s population. As a result, economic revival might be slower than expected.

Infrastructure

India has been crying out for better infrastructure to accommodate its burgeoning population as well as its growing commercial initiatives for a long time. Under the Congress government, though measures were taken to create adequate budgets for infrastructural projects as well as several key projects were greenlighted, actual progress was little due to massive scams and rampant corruption. Infrastructure in the form of roads, bridges, highways, seaports, airports and more, are sorely needed to improve connectivity and quality of living, and the cost for this would come to billions of dollars. For the Modi government to follow through on his desire to significantly improve the country’s infrastructure, controlling corruption would be a major challenge.

Security

Modi has a ‘we don’t negotiate with terrorists’ attitude towards security threats, both within the country as well as those stemming from outside. His policy is expected to be to work towards the economic development of impoverished regions where Naxalites and other insurgents hold sway, as well as take a hard line against militant groups that threaten peace and order in the country with terror attacks.

Women’s rights

The BJP is known to be a conservative party that espouses old-fashioned patriarchal values that have defined Indian society for ages. Narendra Modi seems unlikely to deviate from the unchanging stance of the RSS when it comes to promoting women’s welfare. Additionally, many BJP members have raised the hackles of feminists and women across the country by asserting that rapes are the inevitable result of an urban, westernized lifestyle that promotes liberal values and loose morality. Modi is expected to have to field comments like these from several of his own party members going forward. However, it is also expected that he would give suitable lip service to the issue of women’s welfare.

Welfare of Muslims

There is a perceived thorn of contention between Modi and Muslims across the country, post his handling of the 2002 Godhra riots, that left more than 1200 people dead, most of them Muslims, besides displacing around 180,000 Muslims. Even though the BJP can win despite a lack of support from the Muslim community, which makes up about 13% of the country’s population, Modi would not be able to maintain his credibility if he alienates this voter base. At the very minimum, the Muslim community expects a sincere effort from him to atone for his silence and apparent lack of regret for the Godhra tragedy.

Foreign policy

Modi will have a challenging time balancing the priorities of India’s allies in the West, the Middle East and Asia. Modi has already shown his understanding of the necessity to counter China’s might by having high-level talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye as well as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. A delicate balance also needs to be maintained between sustaining cordial relations with Saudi Arabia, while also preserving India’s long-standing friendship with Saudi Arabia’s enemy, Iran. The focus, however, would be on increasing the pace of trade and economic cooperation with Saudi Arabia. Finally, the seesawing relations with the US would need to be smoothened, by ensuring that recent frictions caused by issues like the Devyani Khobragade issue do not reflect on trade or economic investment. However, it is expected that Modi would turn to other possible trade partners like Japan while maintaining good relations with the US.

To sum up, Modi is hard-selling the ‘Gujarat model’ of development and promises to grow the entire country along similar lines if elected. Considering the enthusiasm of big businesses, foreign investors, as well as the masses to his vision, it remains to be seen whether Modi would create a sustainably growing economy, promote relations with all strategic partners, ensure security and raise the image of India as a growing superpower, if his party comes to power and forms the next government.

How Steve Jobs changed the world

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“Here’s to the crazy ones — the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”                                                                          – from Apple’s 1997 ‘Think Different’ campaign

These words are not only the memorable message of a brilliant and award-winning ad campaign, but are also a fitting eulogy to one of the greatest creative visionaries and business legends of our time, Steve Jobs.

Few business leaders have changed the way consumers perceive multiple industries as Jobs has. From personal computing to the entertainment industry to smart mobile devices to retailing to software integration to user interface and hardware design, Steve Jobs has redefined the mindsets of manufacturers, marketers and consumers. Robert Pirsig, the erstwhile author of ‘Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance’, who explores the fundamentally important question of what quality means in his classic book, would have found a kindred soul in Steve Jobs.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at how this business icon, who helped create the world’s most valuable technology company, has immeasurably changed the world and our outlook through his vision.

Design

In the early 1970s, while working at Atari as a technician, Jobs teamed up with Steve Wozniak, a software engineering prodigy then working as a programmer at HP, to market Wozniak’s brainchild, the Apple I, which was exhibited as a next generation computer at the Hombrew Computer Club, an informal association of computer engineers who were looking to create more efficient and powerful machines. While Wozniak’s focus remained fixed on finding ways to accommodate more circuits, and thus harnessing more computing power, on a compact circuit board, Jobs realized that a lay user would focus more on how immersive the operative experience of the external unit would be, from the graphical user interface to the hardware design to the durability. It is to Jobs’ credit, thanks to his interest in calligraphy, his preference for smooth and curved edges and his dislike of fan noise, that the Apple II became the first computer that created benchmarks in the industry in terms of overall user experience.

Music

The digital revolution of the 90s changed many industries, not least of which was the music industry. Even as Napster, the peer-to-peer file sharing service started by Shawn Fanning became the bane of musicians and record labels, Steve Jobs pioneered the world’s largest music retailing platform, iTunes. iTunes now has more than 200 million registered users worldwide, who have purchased and downloaded more than 15 billion songs. The iPod, which has become the world’s best selling portable music player, only added to Apple’s supremacy in the music industry. Apple also invented the podcast, a series of web episodes streamed to different devices, and audio podcasts became the means to learn new things and share useful and important information, and were increasingly downloaded or streamed, which increased the popularity of Apple’s online store on iTunes massively.

The personal computer

Throughout Apple’s ups and downs in the personal computing domain, Steve Jobs never lost his vision of creating a computer that created a paradigm shift in what a personal computer should be. Though the Apple I never became a mainstream device, and the LISA flopped, as did the sophisticated business machines he helped create at NeXT, Jobs continued to bring sleeker and more sophisticated machines into the market, that were not only admired by individual home users but also by professionals, notably in the design industry. The Macintosh, iMac, Macbook Pro, Macbook Air, and the Power Mac all bear the Apple stamp of excellence, thanks to Steve Jobs’ acute awareness of the importance of the human experience aspect of personal computing.

Mobile computing

Back in the early 1990s, one of Apple’s visions for a portable computer, an early precursor of the tablet device, called the Newton, failed to generate much excitement and was shelved. Similar attempts by competitors such as Microsoft also went unnoticed. However, after Jobs’ phenomenal comeback in 1997, he soon reworked Apple’s concept of a tablet using an industry leading compact design, an easy-to-use mobile operating system, a relatively long battery life, and an app store that is praised for its high quality apps, on which apps of other mobile operating systems have been modelled. The result was the iPad. The latest incarnations of the iPad, the iPad Air and the iPad Mini with Retina Display pack in the power of an A7 processor, combined with the beautiful user interface that have mesmerised and converted millions of consumers to Apple products over decades.

Smartphones

Steve Jobs scored another first for Apple with the iPhone. Introduced in 2007, it redefined the concept of a touchscreen mobile phone that functioned equally well as an internet and multimedia device. Effectively, Apple created the first functional computer that could be carried in a pocket and could be used as a phone, among other things. The iPhone revolutionized the smartphone industry, and since its launch, smartphones have become one of the biggest selling electronic gadgets of all time, selling in excess of 1 billion units per year worldwide since 2012. Although it faces tough competition from Samsung, which has overtaken it in several markets, the iPhone today still remains the most coveted device in the smartphone category. With features like a 64-bit architecture, a fingerprint identity sensor, a better and faster camera, ultra-fast wireless, an app store with more than a million apps, a cloud platform that seamlessly supports file storage and editing, and more, the iPhone has all the characteristics of a futuristic device that has altered our perceptions of a phone forever.

Movies

After Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple in 1985, he founded a company called NeXT, which was aimed at creating powerful and sophisticated business machines. Though NeXT’s products never became the commercial successes that Jobs had hoped for, he got a breakthrough when he purchased Pixar, a computer animation company owned by legendary Hollywood filmmaker George Lucas. Though Pixar struggled initially, when ‘Toy Story’ was released in 1995, Steve Jobs again was hailed as an industry game changer. In a genre dominated by Disney and Sony Pictures Animation, Pixar became an overnight sensation, grossing an average of $600 million for each of its lavishly animated full length feature films. Almost all of Pixar’s films have now become animation classics, watched and re-watched and admired by millions of viewers across the world.

Retailing

After returning to head Apple in 1997, Steve Jobs realized that Apple needed to make its own foray into retailing to push sales. While Jobs had always known the power of great presentation, he was disappointed to see that even well setup displays of Apple products in major retail stores did not seem to significantly push sales, owing to the poor training of the stores’ salespeople, which adversely affected customer loyalty. True to Jobs’ maverick style, the first Apple retail store was opened in a brick-and-mortar town called Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, in 2001. Jobs ensured that visitors got hands-on experience with a variety of functions, such as checking out multimedia interactions, specific gadgets, accessories, etc., for each of which a specific section of the store was allotted and hands-on demos were readily available. Apple’s retailing concept boosted customer experience to a large extent, and a testament to its success is the massive sales figures of $11.7 billion, achieved in 2010 through retail store sales alone, which accounted for 15% of its total sales of $76.3 billion dollars.

In sum, Steve Jobs can easily be called the Midas of the modern age, redefining industries, creating new standards, and moulding people’s minds through the sheer intensity of his attention to detail, focus on quality, and his understanding of the importance of the human experience of technology. He was indeed a messiah of the tech and business world, and an icon that many have tried to emulate, with varying degrees of success. The world sees men like Jobs very rarely, and it remains to be seen whether we will see another legend like him anytime soon.

My duty free shopping experience at Bengaluru Duty Free

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I was recently flying from Bangalore to Dubai via Jet Airways, and had, as usual reached the Kempegowda International Airport a couple of hours before my flight was due. I was listlessly watching the flight schedule screen and was wondering whether I should buy a book to pass the time, when my eyes fell upon a display board, illuminated, and saying: We surpass even Dubai Duty Free when it comes to value for money. Intrigued, I walked over to the display and found myself at the storefront of what I can only describe at the most posh store I’d seen so far in Bangalore. This was Bengaluru Duty Free, Bangalore’s top duty free shopping mecca.

Entering the store, I was dazzled by the elegant displays of liquors, chocolates, cigars, cigarettes and tobacco accessories, electronic gadgets, perfumes and cosmetics, clothes, luxury fashion goods…the store seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see and the expensive-looking wooden shelves were stacked with the finest luxury brands. It was a veritable temptation island of material pleasures. I have always been a fan of fine Scotch Whisky, and remembering my memorable experiences tasting Teacher’s and Ballantine’s on special occasions, I headed straight to the liquor aisle.

It was with pleasure that I took up and examined fine bottles of matured whiskies by Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Balvenie, Laphroaig, Talisker, Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Glenmorangie and other excellent staples of Uisge Beatha (Gaelic for ‘lively water’ or ‘water of life’, the Scots’ fond moniker for Whisky). When I checked the price tags on these delectable bottles, I realized why there was so much hype and hoopla surrounding duty free shopping. It’s not just the fancy ambience, the top-line brands, and the exciting in-store contests and lucky draws, it’s the most basic factor: the price. Duty free goods are exempt from certain local and national taxes and duties, and this makes a huge difference to the price. Thus, a bottle of Chivas Regal 12 Year Old Whisky costs Rs. 4600 in the Indian retail market, but if you buy the same bottle at Bengaluru Duty Free, it costs $39, which comes approximately to Rs. 2,343. Even without any additional discounts, that’s a steal!

After wandering the other aisles and gazing in awe at the world’s most famous brands and controlling my temptation to purchase every object in sight, I picked up a bottle of Glenfiddich 12 Year Old and a Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve, and was on my way to the purchase counter when a cheerful store employee directed my attention to a Vodka and Whisky tasting event happening as part of a special summer promotion. Do good things never end at duty free stores? Apparently not, as I savoured a pint of Absolut Blue Vodka and one of Jack Daniel’s No. 1 Whiskey, feeling much better about my trip. As I paid for my cherished  Whisky bottles at the counter, the friendly salesgirl directed my attention to a nearby kiosk where Bengaluru Duty Free’s Facebook page was showing and encouraged me to like their page and my favourite promotions in their summer campaign, called ‘Bengaluru Summer Surprise – A Shopper’s Delight’. I liked the page and the offer posters for some of my favourite drinks from Absolut, Smirnoff and Chivas, and was handed a special discount of $2 each on my two bottles. Feeling on top of the world, I exited the store.

As I walked towards my boarding gate, I remembered the display outside the store and smiled at the thought of how serendipitous it was that I could now actually verify the claim of Bengaluru Duty Free’s prices being better than those of Dubai Duty Free. Whether the claim turns out to be true or not, my purchases, and my overall experience at Bengaluru Duty Free was certainly value for money and more. I look forward to my next flight from Bangalore, so I can experience this superb shopping destination again.