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Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Nissan Micra: Review, Price and details

December 2010 Update: Nissan Micra is now Available in Diesel in India... With 1.5L engine and in 2 variants (XV and XV premium) priced between 6 and 7 lakh Rs on road


November 2010 Update: Auto Magazine Topgear tested Nissan Micra against all other small cars, viz Hyundai i10, Ford Figo, Fiat Punto, Maruti Swift etc and has given a virtual thumbs down for Micra. Micra scored only w.r.t engine smoothness, safety and looks, while other cars fared better on highway performance, fun to drive factor etc. Good car without ABS is better than a bad car with ABS- the article noted. Topgear's verdict is fairly similar to my verdict which is published at the end of this article. (depending on what exactly you look for in your car, you've many other better options than Micra)

Original post:

Nissan-micra-sunshine-orange-XL After a brief visit to Blue Cross Society, I stopped by Sherif Nissan to check out the new Nissan Micra. As I entered the showroom, I was welcomed by the Ranbeer Kapoor cut out that said Booking Open, but I was put off by the telephonic conversation of the receptionist, which I had to overhear- “Yes Sir, we’re open on Sundays sir… you’ve to take left after Raj Bhavan sir… then you’ll find Tata Motors on your left sir, keep coming straight sir, our showroom is on the right side sir!” Why would you divert the attention of your prospect towards a rival brand? What if the prospect stops at Tata Motors and decides to buy a Punto or Vista Drivetech4 instead of Micra?ranbeer-kapoor-micra-ambassador


Some quick facts about Nissan Micra: Micra comes in 4 variants, XE, XE+, XL and XV, with onroad prices starting from 4.63 lakhs (XE) and going upto 6.11 lakhs  (XV) Nissan has delivered about 80 Micras in Chennai so far and has over 350 bookings, 80% of which were for topend XV. Waiting period is about 6-8 weeks, more if you’re particular about Sunshine Orange colour, the most demanded one. No Diesel options and 1.2 L, 3 cylinder petrol engine with driver airbag is standard on all variants.

What’s good? Push button ignition is unique to Micra and as of now not available in any other cars. But this button is positioned on the left hand side. Since left hand is needed to release hand break and change gear, right hand side would have been better positioning, in my personal opinion.
push-button-ignition nissan-micra-Door-handles
Steering is silky smooth, I feared over steering at times. Drive was comfortable but couldn't test its top speed. Door handles are unconventional and eye catching in design. Airbag is standard in all variants.

What’s not good? No adjustable head rest for rear seat, no diesel option, no bluetooth in music system. No mirrors behind sun visor. Looks are supposed to be attractive, but with several other models sharing similar looking front (Maruti A Star etc) I am not sure about this. Rear, instrument consol etc have nothing specific worth mentioning. The beige interior in XV is not as impressive as Figo Titanium. Nissan service network is not comparable with Maruti or Hyundai or Tata and spares will have to be imported from Japan. Lots of fancy accessories- Alloy wheels (about 8.5k per wheel), turn indicators in mirrors etc come at an extra price.
DSC03010 micra-under-the-hood

The representative kept insisting that most of the components are imported from Japan and hence we needn’t worry about quality. According to him, diesel option might be available from next year, nothing official about it as of now though. 14-15 is the guaranteed fuel economy, according to him, though brochure claims it at 18.06 under test conditions.

Verdict: Micra has some uniqueness and carries Nissan’s DNA. Though the Micra model is famous worldwide, its Indian version is tuned down to meet local conditions and expectations (such as fuel economy). It is be worth evaluating its competition. If you want power, Fiat Punto is a good option in similar price range. (90PS is a bit expensive though) If you want diesel or value for money or space, Figo Titanium is a clear winner. i20 has better looks and luxury if you can shell out 6 lakhs. So depending on what you’re looking for, take your pick.

Similar: Ford Figo ReviewMaruti A-Star * Ford Endeavour 2.5XLT MT * Mahindra Xylo * Scorpio mHawk Vls * Toyota Etios Sedan and Hatchback * Toyota Landcruiser Prado 200 SUVs * Tata Jaguar RangeRover * Self Drive car rentals in India *

Friday, August 27, 2010

Idea: Custom build cars like Dell?

This idea was conceived in June 2010, during Tata Nano customer Meet in Mumbai, (Taj President Hotel, Cuf Parade). One gentleman, a senior executive with TCS was eager to buy a Nano for his daughter, provided it has airbag. His concern for safety is understandable, but a set of airbags (driver and passenger) costs $600 onward onwards and hence not a feasible option to include in a cost conscious car like Nano.

However, what came to my mind on that spot is why not some car makers play a  Dell? Give customers an option to pick what they want and package the car accordingly. I am not sure how feasible the idea is, because for car makers (or even real estate builders), its all about volume. Any customization would mean more cost. But then, same logic would have held good for laptops and Dell has proved that business model of letting customer customize his laptop is practical and viable. So why not the same for our cars?

We might have liked individual features/options in each cars, but one single car is unlikely to possess all qualities/features of your choice. Why not give customer an option to select his preferred set of options and features?

I’m submitting this idea to the Indiblogger MY DEMAND Contest. Not sure of my chances as I do not like to participate in contests that need me to mobilize traffic to some other site in the name of securing a vote. Also HP is the sponsor for the contest while this post treats their arch rival Dell as a role model…

Now, back to the idea/demand, this is how the Tata Motors customization screen would look, if Tata were to allow its customers to customize cars. (built using Google docs for demo purpose only) Let me know if you like this idea and if you feel this is viable as a business concept. Try  customizing your car


Be advised that customization options do exist. Expensive cars like Fiat 500 are custom built after you place an order and local mechanics can do lot of customization post purchase, but customization options from a car manufacturer for normal cars are almost non existent…Imagine the potential of such a possibility!


If some car maker wants to copy my idea and implement, feel free...

Upcoming Events in Chennai, Bangalore

This post lists lots of events which are lined up to take place in Chennai and Bangalore. I might be attending a few and thought you might wish to consider attending some of them if they interest you. If you’re not from Chennai/Blr or not interested in these updates, please check my July archives instead…

1 India Search Summit, ISS, 28 and 29 Aug 2010, Tidel Park, Chennai
Promoted by the Knowledge Foundation, this is the event for internet marketing professionals, web marketing managers and those who call themselves SEO and social media experts… 2 day event, priced at Rs 1000, Only 25 tickets for spot registration. More details here.

2 Marg Chennai Marathon, 29th August
Select from 21.09 km half marathon or 7km great Chennai run or the wheel chair run… Marg Chennai Marathon is being organized this Sunday at Anna Square, Chennai, in aid of Give Life Foundation. Entry fee starts from Rs 0 onwards. Yes, it’s free. More details here

3 Kannada Play: " ಮರಿಯಂಳ ಮೂರನೇ ಮದುವೆ " ನಗೆ ನಾಟಕ
 V.A.S.P ನಾಟಕ ತಂಡ ಅರ್ಪಿಸುವ ನಗೆ ನಾಟಕ "ಮರಿಯಂಳ ಮೂರನೇ ಮದುವೆ " ಬೆಂಗಳೊರಿನ J.P ನಗರದ ರಂಗಶಂಕರದಲ್ಲಿ ದಿನಾಂಕ 31-08-2010 ರಂದು ಸಂಜೆ 7:30ಕ್ಕೆ ನಡೆಯಲಿದೆ.
ನೀವೆಲ್ಲರೂ ಈ ಸಮಾರಂಭದಲ್ಲಿ ಪಾಲ್ಗೊಂಡು ನಮ್ಮೆಲ್ಲರನ್ನು ಪ್ರೊತ್ಸಾಹಿಸಬೇಕೆಂದು ವಿನಂತಿ.
TICKET: Rs. 70/- For Tele-Booking: 95388 71007 / 98862 99609

4 Callezee Guru Samarpanam Event, 5th Sep 2010, Chennai

This is an annual event organized by Callezee (INMAC), a tele info services company which recently got funded by Yahoo. Noted teachers are invited and honored on the occasion of Teachers day on Sep 5. Event will be held at the Music Academy, Chennai. More details in this post

5 CII Connect 2010, 8th and 9th Sep 2010, Chennai
Connect is TN Govt’s equivalent of Bangalore IT.com and its into 10th year now. A 2 day event to be organized at Chennai Trade Centre, Connect 2010 will be looking beyond IT this year and tracks are planned for healthcare, entertainment, security and automobile industries. I might be live blogging this one. [More]

6 TEDxChennai- Scheduled for 10-10-10, second edition of TEDxChennai is being planned to bring in some of the best speakers/achievers to share their experiences. Ticket price has increased from Rs 1000 last time to Rs 3000, but I learnt that quite a number of people have bought them already. More Info

7 Facebook Developer Garade, September, Chennai- More details awaited

8 Cerebrate –couple of new editions are planned in near future, but this is an invite only event. Read Cerebrate Blog

9. Redcross- CTC- Blood Donation Awareness Ride, Sep 18, 19
Chennai Trekkers Club is organizing a bike ride to Yelagiri next month in aid of Redcross society to spread awareness about blood donation. Expenses are taken care by Redcross, you just need to actively participate [More details]

10. Blogger 11th Anniversary, 31 Aug
Blogger is celebrating it's 11th anniversary throughout the world on 31st august (in Bengaluru, its on 29th august). More info here(via Jack )

Let me know if I've missed any other major events worth mentioning. Couldn't find interesting is happening in Bangalore on Sep 4th and 5th...Let me know if you're aware of any...

All information as available at the time of composing this post and information are subject to change. Check with respective organizers for updates/clarifications.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ford's SUV Endeavour 2.5 XLT MT review

After a month long overdose of driving a Tata Nano, Ford Endeavor was the first car I got behind the wheels of. When I sat in the driver’s seat of Endeavor outside the Avis counter in Trident Hotel, Chennai, all I could see was miles and miles of bonnet in front of me… For a moment I felt I’m in a truck or a train.

Its not everyday that we get SUVs like Ford Endeavor on rent, at an affordable rate. Last year when checked, Avis had said they don’t give Ford Endeavor to individuals (they’re lent out only on corporate contact) Recently, either due to a change of policy/addition of new cars/non availability of business from corporate clients, Avis is renting out Ford Endeavor and Tata Safari to individuals on self drive. The rent was about 3300 per day. When I learnt about this availability booked it for couple of weekends, though had no specific plans what to do or where to go.

Ford-Endeavor-in-action
Endeavor is one big vehicle, the biggest I’ve driven till date (if I exclude the tractor-trailer [details here] and the bus (used for HTV driving license test), but takes just a few moments to get used to. Interiors has nothing special, but all standard controls and displays, in a slightly bigger size. The controls are a bit odd from other ford vehicles- the lever to adjust seat positioning is on right hand side of the seat (unlike other cars that have it at left hand side), the handbrake is of a different kind-parallel  to steering wheel, similar to one found in Tavera and Qualis (how am I supposed to do drifting with such handbrake?) Turn indicator control would be on left and wiper controls would be on right side in normal ford cars, but in Endeavour these are positioned vice versa. No steering mounted audio control.

The one we got was the 2009 model, XLT 2.5 4by2 TDCi variant, complete with 2CD changer, video player and more (USB drive was missing though). The horn was very week- a mild type (makes only keem keem sound) not good enough to draw enough attention. A louder one (that makes Pom Pom sound ;)  ) could have been better. Suspension was very hard- impact of all speed breakers and potholes would be promptly transferred to the passengers inside. Hard suspension is good for ruggedness of the vehicle and its SUV capabilities, but for city ride, it spoils the fun. (A specially hardened suspension even saved the life of lead character in Fredrick Forsyth novel, the Odessa File, ) Of course these are not factors worth complaining, because if you’re indeed buying one you can always get horn and suspension customized to your preferences. Ground clearance is better than Scorpio and Safari.
endeavor-in-actionFord-endeavor-cabin

Couldn’t test its top speed. Touched 150 easily but didn’t have a straight road and enough visibility to beyond that. Not so experienced drivers might get scared to drive this due to its sheer dimension and power, but once tamed, this one is as easy as any other car to drive. It has a massive road presence and commands respect. Got a fuel economy of just 8.8kmpl overall (city+highway+offroading). This is a bit less compared to Innova or Scorpio. 3L 6 speed automatic variant might be delivering even lesser mileage
DSC01002DSC01003

While its good to have big vehicles like Ford Endeavor, their poor fuel economy and excess dimension often form a disadvantage for normal day to day usage. I often think of certain types of baggage-which has couple of lines of zipper at its bottom-if you unzip it, the bag can be expanded to accommodate more luggage. Wish something similar happens with automobiles- a small city car could be expanded into SUV on demand…Adventure done with Ford Endeavor commands another post. About that, some other time.

First Photo courtesy: Ramasubramaniyan K

Similar posts: Toyota Landcruiser Prado and 200* 2010 Ford Figo review * Mahindra Scorpio mHawk 2.2 Vls review * Wayanad in a Scorpio * Mahindra Xylo vs Innova * Self Drive cars in India * Tata jaguar and Landrover * Brief date with Mercedes benz * 4x4 Himalayan Jeep Safari-mission aborted * Mitsubishi great driving challenge * Toyota Fortuner trapped in Mud * Tata Aria Review *

Sep 14 Update: Ford has unveiled a new variant of Endeavour today, a 3.0L 4x2 AT at Bangalore...

Ford india is also organizing a 200+km drive in several ford endeavours, termed Ford Endeavour Media drive at Goa, for a group of select bloggers and media people.

December 2010 update: Drove an even older ford endeavour... This one didn't have the speed and pick compared to the above [Details]
endeavour

Also read other SUV stories: Toyota Fortuner stuck in mudToyota Landcruiser Prado and 200* 2010 Ford Figo review * Mahindra Scorpio mHawk 2.2 Vls review * Wayanad in a Scorpio * Mahindra Xylo vs Innova * Self Drive cars in India * Tata jaguar and Landrover * Brief date with Mercedes benz * 4x4 Himalayan Jeep Safari-mission aborted * Mitsubishi great driving challengeFord Endeavour XLT review * Aria 4x4 review * Aria photoshoot Set 1Set 2 * Aria in Mullayanagiri * 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Relevance of Blogging-My talk at LIBA

Gave a talk yesterday after a long gap (earlier talks were at Manipal Institute of Communication, Manipal and MSRIT, Bangalore (details). During the Mashable Meetup at LIBA (Loyola Institute of Business Administration) got an opportunity to talk about the Relevance of Blogging.

Are blogs still relevant in the days of twitter, facebook, foursquare and the likes? This was the main agenda of the talk and I also touched upon my experience as Official Blogger for Tata Nano Superdrive and Corporate Blogging in general.

When I asked the audience if they thought whether or not blogging is still relevant, more than 50% of the audience stated that they think blogging is still relevant. Only one gentleman said its not relevant anymore as people have no time to write lengthy blog posts and are moving to twitter and facebook. Rest of the audience were in Don’t know/Can’t say mode.

In my talk I shared an opinion that blogging is still relevant, based on following observations:
  • Blogging is getting accepted at par with media. Most of the companies and PR agencies have started to invite bloggers for their press meets, product launches or events.
  • For twitter, facebook and foursquare, you’re its inventory and not customer. Every minute you spend (or waste) on facebook, facebook makes money. Blogging platform in turn gives you complete control over the content, design and monetization.
  • Facebook updates are not searchable by search engines and twitter updates seldom appear in search results. Blogs continue to derive good volume of traffic from search engines
  • Twitter and FB has very short attention span. Unless an update goes viral (through retweets etc) its easily lost in the flood of new updates on your timeline.
  • Few years ago blogging was a fashion and everyone jumped into the bandwagon. At present, I feel not so serious players have moved away from blogging (to twitter n FB) while serious writers continue to run their blogs as effectively as earlier. All  popular bloggers are also active on twitter and fb and are using these platforms effectively to promote their blogs. Building an effective blog takes time and efforts but pays off well in long run.
  • Companies continue to invest in their corporate blogs
Below are a few questions asked by audience and my answers:
Q: Should companies publish negative comments received at their blog? As long as the comment is genuine and legitimate, it should be published along with a resolution to the concern raised. This gives rest of the visitors a confidence that this company will actively work on their mistakes/customer complaints. Trying to suppress a customer concern will do no good, as users have several other mediums to air their concerns.
Q: Why should students start blogging? Its a great way to build one’s identity online. Having a blog related to your field of interest/expertise heavily increases your chances of landing a job, if HR folks decide to google you out. Even otherwise, its a good way to hone your language skills, network with like minded bloggers.
Q: When can I take blogging full time? About 1 out of 100 bloggers manage to earn enough money from blogging to make a living out of it. For others, a blog can complement whatever they do/specialize in.
Q: How to market one’s blog? This is another detailed topic altogether, but in brief, good content, basic SEO, networking with like minded bloggers, reading and commenting at other blogs and consistency should pay off.
shrinidhi-speaking-at-Liba
There were a few more questions I’m not able to recall now. To your left is the first available picture of me talking, shared by Arun Sag.

Ppt I used for the talk is embedded below.

Thanks to Sorav Jain of Echovme for inviting me for the talk.
Blogging shrinidhi-hande
View more presentations from enidhi.
After my talk Mr. Faheem Ahmed, founder, CEO, BYT Social shared a case study of how Basics Life is using facebook for its online marketing. It was a very good session. Demographics and strategies he shared were very interesting.

November 2010 update: Do read my post about "tips for live blogging an event" and advantages of live blogging  *

Read about my MSRIT talk * Official Blogger for Tata Nano Superdrive * SEO Basics * Social Media for SMEs * a Social media case study- what not to expect from blogging *

Painters Day Out-Coimbatore

Most of the city corporations have taken a decision to paint all white compound walls with paintings that represent the heritage of the state. Lots of walls in Bengaluru and Chennai are already painted and other cities catching up.

Hundreds of painters have got work because of this initiative and are busy painting walls. They draw the same referring to photographs given by the authorities. Below are some images of these people in action, taken in the town of Coimbatore during my Nano Superdrive road trip, June 2010.

painters-at-work
The artists are fairly good and the paintings are very much life like. The best thing I like about this initiative is it keeps walls clean from sundry posters. Hope the distraction caused to motorists is not severe enough to cause any accidents.

During election time, political parties have a habit of whitewashing the walls and reserve the space for their election campaigns. [read another post of mine detailing this] I hope they’ll spare these well painted walls from the same.
coloursWall-painting-coimbatore

Not sure if this initiative is unique to south India. Didn’t notice similar paintings in Delhi, Mumbai and Vizag during my visits.

Similar post:s Painter with a mission *

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dealing with Customer Care-part 1-understanding CC setup

We all do call customer care centres (also known as tech support, helpdesk, customer service, support centre etc) to get some of our issues resolved. Often we complain about the inefficiency of customer care staff or how pathetic they are in solving our problems.

I’m planning a few posts around this, with an aim of explaining how the call centre typically functions and give some tips how we as customers can make the most of it and overcome common causes of disappointment.
Part 1 of this series explains the life on the other side of call, when you call a customer care.

1. First and foremost, we need to understand that we call customer care only when there’s some problem. None of us call them to give an appreciation that everything went well. People at call centre deal with problems all day long and soon they get mechanical about it and develop a sort of insensitivity. Most of the pleasant voice and calmness shown on phone is often fake. You’ll understand their frustration if you see how they throw the headphone after a call.

2. People manning call centre are relatively underpaid, often less educated/trained (or most of the times just outsourced to 3rd party company). If you call a customer care, you’ll never get to speak to the engineer who designed and built the product or MBA decorated marketing/sales person who sold them to you. Venting your anger on hapless support staff will do no good.

3. Most of us complain that every time we call call centre we’ve to start from scratch as call goes to different person. Call routing software that routes the calls has no intelligence to identify that “Oh when this customer called last time it was handled by agent X, let me route the call to same agent” Its designed to route the call to an agent who has been most idle (or least busy) or other such parameters. The only solution for this is to get your complaint logged properly and get a reference number.

4. Priorities differ: If your phone is not working, it could be top priority for you. But if just 1 out of 10 million subscriber’s phone is not working, its not at all a priority for mobile company and they can’t divert all their resources to solve your problem. Similarly, while your priority could be resolve your concern, but the agent’s priority could be just to get rid of you asap, if his performance is measured by how soon he closes a call and not how happy the caller is at the end of conversation.

While companies readily spend on branding exercises, celebrity endorsements and marketing, spend on improvising customer care is seldom on priority list of decision makers. In next part, will give some tips on how to avoid some of the most common issues faced during our interaction with customer care.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

JLR K-Gudi Elephant bathing

Elephant ride was supposed to part of our package (subject to availability) when we stayed at Jungle Lodges and Resorts, K Gudi (stands for Kyata Devara Gudi), B R Hills, but the ride was denied on the reasoning that two female elephants are over aged and 2 male elephants are in their heating period…

However during my afternoon walk we spotted this elephant having its bath. The scene immediately took me back to Dubare Elephant camp, Coorg, where tourists can bath the tuskers…elephant-bathing-k-gudi

Two caretakers were bathing the elephant. What they were doing in reality was scrubbing the body (the super thick skin) with some rough stones and brushes. What caught my attention was severely torn dresses of these mahuts (Kannada word for elephant caretaker). May be they were paid so little that they can’t afford better dresses or may be they don’t prefer new dresses since dresses are bound to get torn while walking in deep forests or may be these guys are spending their income on arrack.

bathing-elephant

I too ventured into the water and tried my hand cleaning this king sized animal. As I went little more into the water the mahut warned me to step back, saying if elephant gets up I’ll be under its leg. Just when I moved back the unthinkable happened- Elephant got up to change sides…
tusk P7301042
Every evening these elephants are let free into the forest and they roam around freely. Next morning caretakers go to forest and fetch them back. These are highly domesticated elephants and do not mind when people go up close. During our jungle safari a few of them came very close to the jeep, probably anticipating some food. During the annual event of Mysore Dasara, elephants from these camps are taken to Mysore for procession.(julus/meravanige)
elephant-close-to jeep Elephant-on-our-path
Sadly I am not able to recall the names of these elephants and their caretakers. For the local people, dealing with these elephants is as easy as dealing with dogs and cats. Often we outsiders get frightened and end up scaring these animals.
Shrinidhi-bathing-elephant
Above: Me posing for camera with the elephant and its bath tub…(Photo by Raviraj)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Rangde micro credit investment update

About 6 months ago I had made a small investment in Rangde, a micro credit facilitator. Rangde helps self help groups and individuals with small seed funds to help them set up small businesses and become financially independent.

I was just going though my portfolio and was happy to note that all borrowers have repaid about one third of the loan they’ve taken. At this rate, in another year’s time, these village people will have fully repaid their loans and will be proud owners of their respective business.

rangde-status-13aug

Ratnamala from Maharastra who is into printing press business has been most efficient among by borrowers while Kalavathy from Kerala who’s into tailoring has been the least.

Getting some confidence from this, I’m reinvesting the amount repaid by these borrowers. A quick search through the site told me that Rangde has launched a section called Mirco venture, wherein borrowers are given about 15k for a slightly better business ventures (micro credit was of 5k range)

Selected these two individuals- Lokesh and Nagendra from Koramangala, Bangalore and have invested a 1000 rupee each in their “natural fibre crafts” business… That’s just a small percentage of their need of Rs 15000 each, but let us see how this goes.

p-lokesh-blr-natural-fibre-crafts Nagendra-Koramangala-natural fibre crafts unit

Financial inclusion is a big topic of debate and consideration among economists. Financial inclusion is about getting more and more individuals involved in banking and other financial activities. While there 600 million mobile users in India, number of people having bank accounts is just a fraction of that. Last week I attended a day long seminar in Mumbai about Financial Inclusions and Digital payments, wherein industry experts discussed various aspects of financial inclusion-barriers and potentials. That warrants a separate post. Organizations like Rangde are doing their bit to make finance accessible to more and more individuals

For the interested, Rangde is conducting a fund raising concert this independence day at Bengaluru

The Rang De Freedom Concert (on 14th August) is a carnatic classical music concert that is being organised by the Rang De Bangalore Chapter with an overwhelming support from celebrity artistes Ranjani and Gayathri.  More details at Rangde blog

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sunflower fields near Mysore

I don’t get to take photo of a beautiful sunflower field everyday. Last time I stopped by a sunflower field was 3 years ago, somewhere near a village 100kms off Hyderabad. 

After that, there’ve been occasions where I’d pass by a sunflower field. But as used to be in driver’s seat, I’d realize that we’ve crossed/neared a sunflower field little late and reluctant to slow down or take a u-turn, I would think I’ll stop near the next sunflower field and I’d never get one. hello-sunshine1

Recently we stopped near one such field, near Himavad Gopalaswamy betta, Gundlupete, some 100 kms from Mysuru town. Just sharing couple of photos for your eyes. sunflower-field1

Villagers would insist that tourists who enter the fields/take pics give them money. Can’t quite complain because it’s their field and their desire of making a few rupees shouldn’t be termed wrong…

sunflowers sunflower-upclose

Next time while using sunflower oil, think of these beautiful flowers ;)

Life in a Submarine: Vizag Submarine Museum

Life under water is completely different from life on the ground. Having seen submarines only in movies, the submarine museum in Vizag was a good opportunity to get close experience of what it takes to spend a life deep down the ocean, several months at a stretch.
submarine-museum  front-view-submarine-museum
Vishakapattanam (Vizag) is one of the very few places where you can find a submarine museum. The one present on RK Beach (Ramakrishna Beach) was the first of its kind in Asia.
torpedoesmines
INS (Indian Navy Ship) Kursura S20 is the name of this submarine, which was purchased from Russia and commissioned in Dec 1969 and was operational till 2001. After its decommissioning, it was pulled to the shore, converted into a museum and is now available for public on the shores of Vizag’s RK Beach.
valves-and-controls  gauges-levers main-compartmentpropeller
INS Kursura was one of the several submarines India bought from USSR. These submarines were supposed to have a life of 20 years, out of which 50% of the time they had to be kept idle, for refits or otherwise. More technical details here.

Once inside the Submarine, we were shown the torpedoes, the main weapon in a submarine. We’re told it can carry about 24 of them, I felt that is a very small number for a 3 month assignment. Mines were another kind of weapons carried. Inside of the submarine is full of controls, valves, gauges, displays, meters and so on. Kitchen, barracks, toilets, control rooms and everything had to be accommodated in as little space as possible.  The submarine is over 90 meters in length and powered by 3 diesel engines, of 2000 HP each (1 of them is kept on standby).   
dining-roomexecutive-officerescape-suite
The submarine could house 75 crew members and could go till a depth of 280 meters. If it dives further down, the body may not be able to withstand the pressure of water outside. Each one has a role to play. There’s no concept of taking a shower inside. Disposable cloths are used. Water is a precious resource and used only for drinking and cooking. There’re provisions to convert sea water into consumable water, but used only as last resort. Once into water, the submarine would take about 2-3 months before returning to base. The duration will be even longer, in case of war. Everyday is a weekday.

Once underwater, its all about outsmarting the enemy. Intercepting enemy communications, while communicating with one’s own base in a way that couldn’t be intercepted by others, destroying enemy ships and vessels while protecting one’s own submarine from behind hit are all part of daily routine.

Related: Scuba Diving in Netrani * Amet cruises- Package, price and other details * Bura caves *

Read this 2013 post on Swedish Submarine U3 * Operating Instructions for Submarine toilets

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Incredible India-A photo from Vizag

We were returning from Araku valley, off Vizag (Vishakapattanam, AP) and were passing through a town called Sunkarametta. A state road transport bus pulled over for its scheduled stop and sitting near the window was a beautiful lady, understandably from outside India.

An auto driver (share auto) , who was driving in the opposite direction, got visibly excited after seeing her and immediately got half of his body out of the auto and managed to strike a conversation with her. “Hi, what is your name?”, “where are you from?” “where are you going?” etc were his questions, in pure english. The lady patiently answered them and our excited auto driver extended his arm for a shake hand.

Shaking-hands-autodriver-tourist-l

The lady obliged and the shake hand lasted for a time long enough for me to take out the camera and click it.  Eventually the meet ended with a “Bye Bye” as other motorists started honking, because of the traffic jam created by these activities. Our auto driver was still unwilling to withdraw his hand and had to watch helplessly as the lady withdrew her hand and waved at him… (refer to 2 more photos clicked subsequently)

Pic2 pic3

Disclaimer: This post just shares 3 pics clicked in public place and doesn’t aim to interfere with anyone’s private affairs/preferences/interests.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Beautiful Birds near Bheemeshwari (100kms off Blr)

Bird watching was not my forte. But after a few recent trips with Ram, I feel I am developing an interest in this activity. En route our recent trip to Bheemeshwari, I spotted a large number of not that common birds. Managed to take presentable photographs of few of them. Though my Sony DSC H50 has decent zoom, the higher zoom comes at a  price- I’ve to reduce image resolution. This is one of the moments I miss a DSLR with telephoto lens.

Sharing with you photos of a few birds clicked during this visit. Most of them were visible on the road side. I feel weather also might have contributed a little- After 2-3 days of rains, the day was sunny and birds had the compulsion to come out and get some food. Due to the noise of car’s engine, they flew from one place to another, hence identifying them was a bit easy.

I didn’t knew the names of most of them. Ram and Shankara have helped me in this, by quickly identifying them as soon as I upload them to facebook.

Green Bee eater. I’m thankful to this one as it didn’t escape even though we were 3-4 feet away.
Green-bee-eater
Below is a brief description of Bee Eater, written by Radha Rangarajan on CLAY Blog
Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis) is a common bird and can be found in various habitats like grasslands, scrub jungles and even away from water. They have vibrant colors and when perched together, they make a colorful sight. As the name suggests, Bee-eaters mainly feed on bees, wasps, ants and dragonflies. A Bee-eater repeatedly thrashes the prey on a branch to remove the sting from its prey before feeding on it.
Drongo
Drongo

Red Whiskered Bulbul and  Red vented bulbul (there’s another bird in the frame which I didn’t notice initially :( …)
Red Whiskered Bulbulred-vented-bulbul

Streak Woodpecker? Ram feels this might be Streak Woodpecker, while Shankara doesn’t think so. If you have a definitive answer, do comment. I waited for 10 minutes for this bird to lift its neck, but it never did. Busy searching something…
Streak Woodpecker
The Common Hoopoe and Brahminy Starling… Click to enlarge
hoopoe Brahminy Starling
White Browed Wagtail and a fox (or Jackal)…
White Browed Wagtail fox
Feels good to have captured all these birds. If we’d spent some more time, we would have got a few more…
Thanking Ram and Shankara for helping with identification

Birds near Hoysala Village Resort, Hasan * Nearby: Shettyhalli Holy Rosary Church * Birds of karanji kere, Mysore * Dancing peacocks in Mysore *