Friday, December 28, 2012

Skywatch Friday: Sunset at Udupi, Karnataka

This will probably be my last post for 2012, post no 949 for the blog and 195th for 2012.

Signing off with a sunset pictures clicked near my native place.

 Going... going.. gone

See you all next year, with a new dawn, new beginning

Vijaya Next Kannada article on self drive

A Kannada article of mine has been published in this week's edition of Vijaya Next, a weekly magazine from Times of India group. It is about self drive car rental

ಇಂದಿನ ವಿಜಯ ನೆಕ್ಸ್ಟ್ ಸಾಪ್ತಾಹಿಕದಲ್ಲಿ ನನ್ನದೊಂದು ಲೇಖನ ಪ್ರಕಟವಾಗಿದೆ . ಸೆಲ್ಫ್ ಡ್ರೈವ್ ಪದ್ಧತಿ ಯಾ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಬರೆದ ಲೇಖನವಿದು 
Its fairly long article occupying 80% of the page. Editors have done minor changes to increase the effectiveness. Thankfully editors have published my blog URL as well. I consider it a very good end to the year with this article in print.

I also had 2 mentions in Vijaya Next earlier this year, for giving correct answers to a detective photo quiz

Read it online at  page 32 (current edition will be online for a week before getting archived)

Also read: My English article on Self drive * Tata Safari (used in above article, clicked by Ravi Raj) photo shoot and review

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Honesty is NOT the best policy?

We're always told Honesty is the best policy.

Consider these situations:

Bank Loans
You take a loan from the bank and repay it promptly with interest on time. By doing so you've saved bank the trouble of having to use recovery agents/auctioning your property or eventually having to write off your loan as bad debt. From the same bank, few other customers who loaned money never bothered to repay. After some recovery efforts, banks will write off the loan and take a loss. Banks still make profit overall because this loss is paid for by honest customers like you. When deciding interest rates banks would have kept a provision for a small % of loans going bad and charge everyone else marginally high.

For example, if you've taken a loan from a bank that has lent money to Kingfisher, you're paying on behalf of Mallya.

Effectively you pay more, for not being able to smart enough.

Illegal property constructions
While building a home, you'll give enough off set and obey all rules set by municipality, while your neighbor floats most of them. He gets more carpet area and a bigger house, while you adjust in a smaller one. Once in few years, government runs a regularization program (Akrama-Sakrama) and all illegal constructions will be legalized. Your neighbor laughs at you for being honest.

Toll Road/Railway gates
You're waiting in line patiently at a toll road or a railway crossing. A rogue vehicle comes from behind, breaks the line and tries to squeeze in at front. 3 other vehicles line up behind it. In theory, police or staff guarding the gate should send these vehicles back to the end of the line. But 100% of the cases that won't happen-either staff don't dare question these drivers, or there's no space to go back. Hence these rogue vehicles will be allowed to go first, so that blockade is cleared. So much for being honest.

Being honest is good, but being street smart is important

Sunday, December 23, 2012

2012 Recap & New year wishes

2012 will soon be history. Fortunately or unfortunately the world didn't end as planned.  I’ve survived another 365 days on planet earth and this post is a quick recap of how 2012 went for me

Travel: Life was good on travel front- 4 international trips to 3 countries, 3 of them on work. Visited US, Singapore and Thailand this year, close to 30 days spent outside India. Read Singapore Posts, Thailand Posts here. On domestic front, only 1 domestic flight was taken- 2 visits to Bengaluru, one visit to Chikkamagalur, Munnar, Kadapa, 2 visits to Tumkur, a visit to Ford factory in Chennai and couple of visits to native place were my local travel this year. No visits to north India at all

Drove Tata Venture, Maruti WagonR, Toyota Etios Petrol, Toyota Innova G, Mahindra Scorpio 2005, Mahindra Xylo E4 and Tata Safari EX 4x4 this year, adding close to 6000 kms in total

Hardly any adventure activities this year.
Media and Writing: Got more mentions in print than last year. One Kannada article in Taranga about tiger temples, another kannada article in Udayavani about Pens, one mention in The Hindu NXG, two mentions in Vijaya Next weekly for giving correct answers to a detective quiz were my media mention this year.

Events: Not too many: Attended TEDxChennai, another event organized by Opera Software, gave a talk at Tumkur University and attended one more conference on Business Analysis

Blog: Closing towards 1000 posts on this blog. Average visitors per day has dipped a bit- not sure if it is due to Panda update or something else. This year saw highest no of posts- 190+

Misc: DSLR purchase and Thailand trip were the expensive spends this year. Yet to master the camera, but could take some good pics which wasn’t possible earlier.

Work and personal: Nothing great worth mentioning, status quo continues by and large.
Thanks for your patronage reading my posts. Wishing you a happy and prosperous 2013

Best & most commented posts of 2012

This post provides a list of popular posts published in 2012-most viewed, most commented and author's favorite ones among 190+ blog posts published during Jan-Dec 2012 period.

Most viewed: (more than 1000 views)
  1. Wifi God-Miracle (4364 views)
  2. Tata Venture vs Eeco (3575 views)
  3. Tour of Nilgiris-Inside Story (3292views)
  4. The Sodexho fiasco-Good bad and ugly (2592 views)
  5. Tata Venture GX review (2118 views)
  6. Audi Q7 Limo (1230 views)
  7. Kingfisher vs Satyam- a comparison (1197 views)
  1. Toyota Etios G petrol review (1598 views)
  2. Broken bridge, Adyar (1124 views)
Most Commented
  1. The Sodexho fiasco-Good bad and ugly (23 comments)
  2. Tiger closeup photos (21 comments)
    3. My New arsenal- Nikon D5100 (15 comments)

Author's picks
Wishing you happy and prosperous 2013.

Also read: Best of 2010 * Best of 2011

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Toll road nuisances

Toll roads in India were very rare a decade ago. Then only highways used to be tolled and those traveling interstate only had to cough up tolls. Now every other road is getting converted into toll roads- irrespective of how good they are and what value they add. In some cities like Bangalore, there’re alternate roads if you don’t want to use toll road (example Electronic city flyover, NICE Road etc) but in cities like Chennai, there’re no alternatives.
This post is about some of the nuisances of toll roads- particularly to the residents who reside around the area. 

  • On theory, residents along the roll roads will be given a pass which allows them to use the road without paying the toll, but practicality is different. Below are some of the key points:
  • Only those who own a vehicle will get the pass- one should give details of the vehicle and vehicle registration address should be inside the roll area. This raises following questions: what about who don’t own a car but use a rented vehicle? Since they are bonafide residents of the area they should be allowed to go free. But this doesn’t happen.
  • When car pooling, if the other car doesn’t have a pass, bonafide residents have to shell out money
  • Pass is not applicable to commercial vehicles. If I am a taxi driver and if my home is inside toll area, end of the day I wish to go home and rest, but toll gate won’t let me through for free, since mine is a commercial vehicle.
  • One should give passport as a address proof- getting passport is a big mess at present and toll company will not reimburse thousands one has to shell out to get passport. Why not accept other govt documents? Why should one get a passport for toll purpose if he/she never plans to leave the country?
  • Toll companies set up barricades on the bylanes around the toll plaza- this is to prevent vehicles from using these roads and not paying toll- but this causes inconvenience to local resides, as they need to take a longer route and pay toll, if their home happens to be on the wrong side of the barricare. What is their fault?
  •  There is no SLA for toll companies to fix the potholes or complete work. In Chennai’s OMR, 3 full years since toll collection has started, service road is yet to be completed, bus shelters are yet to be created, people hardly use FOBS. Several highways – particularly NH4 near Sriperambadur and road between Krishnagiri and Salem section have developed lots of bad sections. Even after months they’re not fixed. If the roads are not maintained, tolls should be discounted no?
  • Even when part of the roads are under construction, there's no discount on toll fee. Travel between Tumkur-Chitradurga to experience this.
  • Local residents will have to shell more fuel, because they need to go kms at a stretch to take a U-turn. Some provisions are made for people to cross roll roads- FOB etc, but what about animals- how are they supposed to cross the road? Locals also pay with their life due to speeding traffic on toll roads.
  • Smart card schemes are available to enable speedy clearance at toll gates, but the customers are charged extra towards maintenance of smart card system- Isn’t the toll company also a beneficiary of this? (as they can have more cars passing through in given amount of time)
  • Return ticket validation is limited to 24 hours (sometimes till same day mid night)- why not 1 week? Those leaving Friday night  and returning Monday morning will have to buy two one way tickets.
  • In South India tolls are relatively less. In Maharastra locals set up their own toll booths and loot from outstation vehicles.
  • In Chennai, one of the gates of IT Park is intentionally kept closed, to ensure that everyone uses the longer road that passes through toll gate… 
I don’t have any solutions to this- just sharing my opinion

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

SUV Tata Safari EX 4x4 Review

Tata Safari is a popular SUV from the stable of Tata Motors. Over the years it has evolved considerably and at present, a fully overhauled Tata Safari Storme is in the market. However, I didn’t have an opportunity to drive the Safari till date- none of my relatives owned one and no agencies had this on self drive. Recently I managed to rent one on self drive (from San Carz Bangalore). Drove it for close to 1200kms between Friday night and Monday morning, covering wide range of terrain. In this post, I am sharing my experience of spending few days with this vehicle.

Exterior Design:
Safari is a big car and has considerable road presence. An added body cladding contributes to the muscular look. I am sure you’ve seen enough safari’s on the road and I don’t have to elaborate much on how Safari looks. The looks haven't changed much over the years and hence has begun to feel old school. Even the new Storme has by and large same design curves, except for a revamped front and rear.

Interior Design:
·         The front AC vents of Tata Safari are forcefully moved to be part of door frame. To support this, air vents have been extended into the door- refer image below. I do not know what value it adds, since keeping the air vent in the dashboard itself would have saved some extra work and money. Not sure if there’s any specific advantages keeping the ac vents this way. I can’t think of any. (in new Tata Safari Storme, the AC vents are back on dashboard) I didn’t find the AC powerful enough- but this could be due to high temperature outside and inside, plus a big cabin takes longer time to cool. There’s an AC vent for middle row, but nothing for third row. Similarly the heater also wasn’t so effective- probably we didn’t understand the controls well or there’s some issue specific to the vehicle I drove. I don’t want to generalize it and blame the vehicle as a whole.
·         A rotating knob for selecting 4H, 4L or 2H is located near the console, but this button’s view is hidden by steering wheel. Extra effort is needed to check in which mode the vehicle is.

·         An analog clock on the central console looks good. But from the driver’s seat, I found it hard to read it. Both hands(hours and minute) look similar and without any numbers on the dial, takes time to get used to the clock.
  • Third row side facing seats are not impressive. A front facing seat could have been better. No AC vents for 3rd row. 
  • Red light on door which glows when open is nice. Helps recognize if a door is open and also throws some light on ground to keep our feet on during the night
  • Boot space is huge enough to play a kabaddi match, but the side facing jump seats were a let down. Good for kids/short distances but not for long drives. Hope Tata launches some variants with buckets seats and front facing last row seats
My first few moments were not that great- I felt the gear liver very loose and shaky, but got used to it couple of minutes into the drive. I couldn’t cross 130kmph, partially due to shortage of straight road and partially due to the pickup, which I felt could have been better. The engine is powerful on paper, but when put to work, it is like a lazy boy not at all willing to wake up early on a Sunday morning. It felt somewhat similar to first gen ford endeavor I'd tried 2 years ago. In a drag race, old safari is unlikely to beat its rivals- Scorpios and Innovas. Tata Safari has designated top speed of 160kmph, while comparatively low spec Innova reaches that speed easily. Tata Aria had relatively better engine and I hear new Storme has an improvised engine. Please note that this comment of mine could also be because of my over expectation from the vehicle, additional weight and mechanicals of four wheel drive system and or maintenance of the 3 year old engine. I do not want to generalize it across all Safaris

Seat height adjustment was a good value add. With increased height I could see the left extreme of the bonnet and could drive with increased confidence.

Did some mild off roading and Safari didn't complain. Thanks to its design, Safari has better approach and departure angle compared to Tata Aria (despite the same ground clearance, Safari is better at off roading than Aria. A 300mm water wading depth is good feature

Safari comes with a proper jack and jack rod, not the toy types provided with other cars.

About the new Tata Safari Storme: New Safari Storme has dual exhaust pipes in rear, similar to Aria, better than the single pipe in 2.2 Dicor. New Storme is also a thoroughly re-engineered car with stronger body, more improved engine (vericor), 4 disc brakes and fresh interiors.

Fuel economy: For over 1200kms, we spent about Rs 6600 on diesel (diesel price varied between Rs 50 to Rs 53 per litre), close to 130 liters (two tank),averages to about 9.6 kmpl,(keeping some provision for fuel left in the tank) with full load of people and luggage, AC used at times. Please note that this vehicle had already logged over 1 lakh kms.

Disclaimer: One I drove was an old vehicle, some of the experience could be due to factors not generic to all vehicles. Please use your discretion.

Also see: Safari EX photoshoot * Kannada article on self drive * Tata Aria * 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Arranged Love" by Parul A Mittal-Book Review

A novel by Parun A Mittal, titled "Arranged Love" is the latest fiction I've read. This post is a quick review of the book.

I received this book some 10 days ago, but last weekend I was driving around in a Tata Safari, hence couldn't read the book. Finished reading it this weekend instead.

"Arranged Love" is a must read for those on Arranged Marriage or Love Marriage dilemma. Sometime back there was an Indiblogger contest on this topic, had I reviewed this book earlier this might have been a good entry at the contest.

Coming back to the novel, the plot revolves around Suhaani, an Indian born, America studied girl who's forced to come back to India since her US job offer at Lehman Brothers didn't materialize due to slow down. Meanwhile her family tries to hook her up with a nice guy, who eventually ends up being her boss when she takes up a job in a dot com company. The plot is a first person narration of Suhaani, mainly revolving around the dilemma of having to chose between her american boyfriend and her boss as her life partner.

Couple of side tracks involving love lives of few close friends/relatives offers good deviation from otherwise focused Suhaani-Jay-Deep story.

Plot leverages facebook cleverly, there's generic mention of Chetan Bhagat and other real life characteristics or business houses. Lots of Hindi movie names and plots are also mentioned/leveraged where appropriate. Usage of Hinglish (usage of Hindi words in English), several analogies and lots of cleverly crafted dialogues/phrases keep the readers interested in the book.

Personally I liked Suhaani's mother's tech savyness and her Dad's open mind. I also find it amusing how relatives think "if you don't like this guy can I consider him for my daughters?'- as if Love is like a book borrowed from library, pass on to someone if you're not reading it.

I wonder if iTrot is makemytrip. We were given to feel that it is a start up. But it looked like a well established start up with 200+ employees. No mention of its founders (start ups are usually known by their founders)

Though there're few pages discussing the topic from male perspective, by and large the book portray's female perspective of Love vs arranged marriage. Narrating part of the story from male angle (like what was going on Deep's mind when he proposed, was rejected or later accepted) could have balanced the novel very well. (or may be reading a different novel would compensate on that aspect-This of course is my personal opinion.

Also elaborating a bit more on how low conversion at itrot were increased. For those not very keen on emotional stuff of love and marriage, this track could have been a real value add. But doing that would have diluted the core topic and might bore an otherwise interested readers

You can know more about the author Parul Mittal at her website, She seems to have designed her site on her own, so we have an author+ designer here. "Arranged Love" is her second book, first one being "Heartbreaks and Dreams". Book is published by Penguin metro reads and priced at Rs 150 (but you'll get it for little less at online shopping sites).

Image sourced from Publisher's website.

Other book reviews: Once Upon the tracks of Mumbai *  Topgear magazine * Comical Saga Fate, Fraud and Friday Wedding * She's a jolly good fellow * 3-in-1 Book review *

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Birds at our village- another set

Here's another set of birds, clicked around our village. Please click here for previous sets: Set 1, Set 2, Set 3

I do not know the name of these birds, if you can recognize them, please help

1. Indian Roller (identified by Mridula)
 2. Same bird in flight, lifting off from its position
 3. Indian Pond Heron
4. A hen in standing position
 5. Common Kingfisher.. (identified by Mridula) ..300mm zoom is just not enough
 6. A yellow breasted bird
 7. A pure white bird with its reflection in water
Please comment if you can recognize these, I'll update the post with credit.

Also see: Birds on a powerline * birds near Bheemshwari *

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tata Safari EX 4x4 Photoshoot

I rented a Tata Safari on self drive for the first time. It was an EX variant with 4x4. Drove it for close to 1200 kms during the weekend. I drove to native place to attend a family event and photoshoot was not the objective of my drive. However when situation & time permitted, managed to click a few photos of the vehicle. Sharing them below for your quick reference. Detailed review coming up soon.

Below: Tata Aria on a road between Shivamogga and Thirthahalli in western ghats, Karnataka. Photo clicked by Ravi Raj
The swimmer: Safari has a water wading depth of 300mm. When I saw a road which was entering into water (it was a submerged area- a road existed here once) I knew that I had to take it. Sunset time was added complement.
The climber: Negotiating sleep slopes is easy for Tata Safari. Safari has better approach and departure angles and that reduces the risk of body parts touching ground while negotiating this kind of drive.
At the Chakra Dam: Remember Aria’s photo at the same venue?

 How to make our own road and reclaim our life?
Standby for review and more photos

Also see: Tata Aria Photoshoot: Set 1, Set 2 and Set 3 * Tata venture photoshoot: Set 1, Set 2 *

Kundadri hills near Agumbe, revisited

We revisited Kundadri again, after a gap of 1 year. Last time I’d explored Kundadri was in a Tata Aria during October 2011. [Read earlier post on Kundadri] That was an evening visit. This time, we revisited the place during noon time, in another Tata SUV, Tata Safari EX. Due to the time of visit, sky was clear and view was good. But we missed the clouds and breeze. If we’d gone there few hours earlier it we might have seen few may be.
Last time we’d lot of tourists at Kundadri (a bus full of Gujarathi people of Jain community had come to visit the Jain temple on top of Kundadri). This time the place was deserted. We spent a few mins re-exploring the place and came back.

Enjoyed the uphill drive as I did last time. Took a similar photo of Safari like the one we’d taken for Aria.

Some photos for your reference.

Above: Tata Safari EX 4x4 at Kundadri Hills, December 2012, clicked by Ravi Raj Bhat, driven by Shrinidhi
Below: Tata Aria in the same spot about an year ago, October 2011, clicked by Vinay,driven by Shrinidhi

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Longtail boat Canal ride in Bangkok

On our last day at Bangkok, we had a free morning. We went to explore few places on our own. From hotel we took a taxi to Grand Palace- it costed about 110 baht (while our tour guide yesterday had said it would cost about 200 baht and recommended that we take his package for 600 baht per person (which includes palace visit etc). From palace we went to Golden mount, based on advise from a localite. After exploring golden mount [details of Golden Mount in this post], we were dropped off at a ferry by the tuk tuk driver (he took 40 baht). Here we could board a long tailed boat for a ride in the canal. We were quoted with a price of 600 baht per person or 2400 baht for 4 of us. We were not in a mood to spend that much. We began negotiating at 800 baht for 4 people, eventually settled for 1000 baht. The ride lasted for about an hour, including 20-25 minutes spent at Wat Arun (more about Wat Arun later)

The boat was nice and long, could have seated some 15-20 people. We were just 4 and a driver. After Wat Arun, he steered the boat into the canal, which introduced us to the other side of Bangkok. Cheap houses were constructed over the canal with pillars going deep into the canal for support. Their stuff (cloths, flower pots etc) visible from outside The water was dirty to say the least. We spotted a baby crocodile. We also met another vendor selling stuff from his boat (This canal was not the popular floating market area). His rates were a turn off.

Several temples (they all begin to look same after sometime and you stop caring about them) were also to our sides. The journey went on and on for sometime and we were beginning to getting bored. We suspected a return journey on the same route, but to some relief, we were taken back in a different route connecting near the market situated next to Grand Palace.
At two places we had to pay 20 baht as boat parking fee, in addition to what we’d paid the boat guy earlier.

This activity (boat ride in the canal) can be skipped completely if you’re pressed for time or if you have better plans.
 Closer look of the engine
 Vendor on a boat
 Cheap housing by the canal bank
  View of the canal
 Slightly luxurious houses

Sunday, December 09, 2012

My article in Udayavani daily

An article by me was published in leading Kannada daily, Udayavani. It was published 2 days ago, I came to know about it only yesterday.

Below is a screen print of the same. Click on the pic for enlarged view

The article is about pen- how pens get lost and tips to recover/protect them. Image used in the article was not supplied by me- it was added by the magazine. I'd written english version of this artilce earlier on my blog here

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Ford Sale, Sankara's trip, Nokia event Updates

This post is quick update about multiple new/events

1 Ford Midnight Sale on December 5th
Just like Big Bazaar's "Sabse Sasta din", Ford is running a day specific offer on December 5th. Called the Ford Midnight Sale, Ford India will be offering deep discounts, freebies and lucky draws on this day. Last time Ford tried this event on a weekend, now on a weekday.
Discounts from 25k to 80k are on offer on all Ford Models- Figo, Classic, Fiesta and Endeavor, plus spot gifts and contests. Ford has also launched a facebook app to promote the sale. Do rush to your nearest Ford Showroom to check out in person- they're open till midnight.

Ford started advertising this couple of days ago. I feel it would have been better to promote such events couple of weeks in advance, giving enough time for customers to be ready with their finances, test drive of competition vehicles etc.

Almost all manufacturers run year end offers, since customers hesitate to buy in December (A car bought on Jan 2013 will have higher value than the one bought in Dec 2012).

2 Be on the road with Sankar
Fellow blogger Sankara Subramanian is on a multi-country tour in South East asia region and has been posting exciting updates about his travel experiences. He plans to explore Thailand. Burma, Vietnam and few other countries. He's visitng several interesting places not frequented by general tourists. Do read his blog for regular updates. You can also catch him on facebook here 

3 Nokia Event
If you're a mobile app developer and have great app ideas, you might wish to attend this event being conducted by Nokia. It is being conducted in different cities across India, in Chennai on Dec 11, 12. They called me several times asking me to register and attend the event, but I politely declined, since I am not a developer and can;t develop an app on the spot. I seem to have accidentally deleted their mail and couldn't find much about the event on net. If interested, try your luck at below site

4 Car Pooling website in Chennai
Try this website if you're interested in car pooling in Chennai. It allows car owners to earn a few bucks by ferrying other passengers. The venture is co founded by Ravindra Rapeti

5. Enchanted Lands and Fables Project
Came across this project which uses fables and films to create awareness about some of the most fragile ecosystems and endangered species on our planet. One of their video is pasted below, which shows beautiful amazon

6. Tour of Nilgiris 2012
Next edtion of TFN is around the corner. Do visit for details

Monday, December 03, 2012

"Once Upon the tracks of Mumbai" by Rishi Vohra

I received this book- "Once Upon the tracks of Mumbai" from its author on Friday afternoon and  it made a perfect weekend reading. The novel is written by Rishi Vohra. By Sunday evening, I was done with the reading. Below is a quick review.
Once upon the tracks of Mumbai is about an individual, Babloo, who is physically strong, has strong sensors but has some mental disorders- he can’t process information at normal phase and is very slow in reading/understanding/ speaking. Because of this, he is neglected by his peers and family. The novel goes in first person to explain how his days went, how his thoughts ran and how he handled various situations. Eventually he appears winner. Besides the main track of Babloo, book revolves around an ambitious & sensible but family bounded girl Vandana, villain character Sikandar, middle class and upper middle class families of Railway staff and the life around railway tracks in general.

The good side: 
The story revolves around the railway tracks of Mumbai. Author’s expertise about Mumbai’s railway network, particularly around South Mumbai is evident in the book. Characterization is good, adult content is well under control. Out of curiosity I tried to confirm if road from Prabhadevi to Bandra passes through Mahim. It did.

Plot is fairly unique. It is not the everyday love story, no big hero-villain fights. Because of uniqueness, it is very difficult to predict what happens next, since you wouldn't have read similar stories in any other novel.

If you have anyone around you who is not mentally normal, reading this book helps understand life from their perspective. Even if they're not like everyone, they'll certainly have some strengths. They also need some consideration & attention.

Book also tells you it is not easy to be a superhero. A real life superhero can't practically be everywhere all the time and he'll have his limitations in terms of timings, transportation etc. So becoming a superman or Shaktimaan is not easy in real life.

A downside:
I felt first half of the novel bit slow. The book did go through in detail to set the context and detailing is good, but for me it happened at the cost of being clueless as to what is all this about. It took me 30 pages to get a general sense about the characters. The key word, RAIL MAN, on which entire novel focuses on, appears only by middle of it. I don’t intend to complain, but I feel it helps to set the context in first few pages (or in back of the book). In “Once upon the tracks of Mumbai”, I learnt that it had something to do with railway tracks of Mumbai (due to title and cover), but too me long time to grasp the theme of the novel. Editing off some 10-15% from first half of the book could have helped. I could continue reading without losing interest (since context setting around Babloo's character was good), but someone who doesn't have patience might stop reading, if first few pages doesn't generate any interest or give an idea what it is all about. This is my personal opinion. On the contrary the climax was too fast, everything falling into place within few pages. 

There was no mention what happened to the file Babloo took home from Railway police office- did he return it after being reprimanded?

Once upon the tracks of Mumbai is published by Jaico Books and is priced at Rs 175. Do read for a different experience. Book is 266 pages long and can be read over a weekend in couple of sittings. I feel it also makes a good plot for Madhur Bandarkar movie. RIshi Vohra has done a good job in his maiden novel and I wish him luck for subsequent novels. Mumbai now has a monorail- may be author can focus his next novel around it. You can learn more about the author at 

If interested, you may read this post for an interview of the author at Sapna's blog

Image taken from Author's website. I'm now reading "Arranged Love" by Parul Mittal.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Fail & Lovely beauty product ideas!

I was watching TV for few minutes and was shown this ad- Fair & Lovely now has come up with a Fairness facewash. The ad was saying "Just using a fairness cream is not enough, you should wash your face with fainess facewash first".

I was wondering if this was true, isn't fair & lovely guilty of selling a faulty solution all these years? Earlier they never said one would need a facewash before using their fair & lovely cream. They used to advertise that using fair&lovely for couple of weeks is enough. Now they've invented a new product and need ideas to sell it, so their way of selling it is to create fear that just using a fairness cream won't be enough.

I am wondering where all these will head to. Here're some ideas Fair & Lovely brand managers are free to consider.

Fair & Lovely Fairness Spray: Just using fairness facewash and cream are not enough, you should spray your body and face with Fair & Lovely fairness spray

Fair & Lovely Fairness Spectacles: Just using fairness facewash, cream and spray are not enough. Beauty lies in the eyes of beholder, so in order to look beautiful, you should buy our stupid overpriced Fairness Beauty Spectacles  and ask people around you to wear it.  You'll look 10x times more fair in their eyes

Fair & Lovely night time cream: Your beauty dips by several % when you sleep, so apply our new Fair & Lovely night cream before going to bed, your face will be glowing when you wake up.

Fair & Lovely teenage cream: How can you give your (assume you're a mom) cream to your teenage kids? Teenagers need special fairness cream. Use the new Fair & Lovely teenage cream. Its special ultra teen formula made exclusively for teenagers to keep them fair all the time. Now you no longer have to use your sister's or mother's fairness cream. (Better idea is to split into age groups of 5 years each, one for 0-5 year kids, another for 5-10, 10-15 and so on- you buy your dress keeping in mind age, why not fairness cream?)

Fair & Lovely wedding day cream; How can you use the same ordinary cream on your most auspicious day? Now available, new Fair & Lovely wedding day cream, made exclusively for Indian Brides. It makes you look extra white on your wedding day and even whiter in wedding photographs

Fair & Lovely Rainy day cream: Going out in rain? You need special care, use fair & lovely Rainy day cream to keep your skin warm and bright during the heaviest rains

Fair & Lovely helmet cream: Do you ride two wheeler and wear a helmet? How can you use ordinary beauty products? Use exclusive fair & lovely helmet cream, which protects your skin when confined inside a helmet for long duration

Fair & Lovely Bus cream: Do you travel in bus? then you need special care. Fair & Lovely bus cream is designed to keep you fresh and energetic during crowded bus rides

I've some more ideas, but let me stop there. Even for hair care, there're half a dozen different stuffs to be applied at various times and various stages, before bath, during bath, with shampoo, without shampoo, after bath and so on

Another brand, Dove says "Is dove better than soap? Apply Dove on one half of your face and ordinary soap on another half for 15 days and see the difference". I am yet to meet a single person who's tried this- applying different soaps on half face each for 15 days...

Sometimes I get an idea, to make one universal paste, which can be everything in one- fairness cream, facewash, shampoo, hair oil, sun screen lotion and so on. Then a family of four needn't buy 30 different products to take care of their face & head, just buy one product of mine and be done with it (apply it anywhere on the body)- Don't you think it is a great idea?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Audi India Q7 misuse issue [updated]

My few cents on recent issue involving Audi India and a Q7 owner in Mumbai

It is very common practice in India for dealerships to misuse customer vehicles. I experienced it first hand at Bajaj dealership in Hyderabad (Madhapur area), wherein service centre staff just drove off in a bike that had come for servicing, to get some diesel for the generator. Even in other dealerships, once customer picks a bike for purchase, till it is registered and handed over, it is often used as test drive vehicle. The temptation for service centre staff is much higher, when the bike/car in question is a premium vehicle, which they may never be able to buy for themselves.

News that’s going rounds at present is about an Audi Q7 sleep walking in Mumbai. It’s owner, Vishal Gondal is MD, DisneyUTV Digital whose Q7 was reportedly given for servicing at an Audi authorized service centre in Mumbai West. The owner was alerted by GPS triggered SMS that his vehicle is overspeeding on the streets of Mumbai at midnight. Quick scanning of GPS trail reveals that vehicle is being driven for 100s of kms all around Mumbai all through the night, with a prolonged stop near a popular scrap market, before returning to dealership silently the next morning.

Apparently some service centre personnel took the Q7 out for a joyride- may be to impress his girlfriend or to enjoy the sheer driving pleasure Q7 offers- we don’t know yet. This unauthorized usage, proved by GPS data soon gained momentum on the internet. Vishal Gondal is no ordinary citizen, he has his circle of influence which includes several people from media. Prima facie there was enough truth in Vishal’s claims and the incident was soon giving indications of a PR disaster for Audi India.
Audi local dealership has outright rejected the allegation, and claim vehicle never left their premises. Below are the “Proofs” shown by Audi dealership and counter argument…
·         Entries at the register maintained by security guard of the service centre, which logs when a vehicle came in and was driven out. This is a hand written sheet and obviously the inside person who takes a customer car for joyride will not be foolish enough to make an entry with security and take a gatepass
·         A photograph showing a Q7 console, which indicates a trip meter reading of 10.6kms- this needs more investigation- is it standard practice in audi to take trip meter photographs? Was it taken just for this case? When? After customer complained and before he taking his car back? How to ascertain it is from the same Q7 that belongs to Vishal Gondal (the photo shows an Odo reading of 10600kms- Vishal should tell if he drove his car for only 10k kms since its purchase in 2011? If not, Audi service centre is caught red handed, trying to provide a fake evidence.
·         CCTV footage that shows Q7 is in the service centre- I’ve not seen the footage and Owner Vishan Gondal claims registration number is not visible in the footage. Need to investigate if there were any footage capturing the entrance during non office hours

Audi officials did realize where this was heading to, none other than MD Mr. Michael Perschke did tweet that he’s looking into it. But 3-4 days since the incident broke out, Audi is yet to resolve the matter with the consumer in particular and explain to general public in general as to what’s happened. Dealership continues to reject the claim and a senior audi official has met the customer, we need to wait for the outcome. While the MD is busy with Neha Dhupia in Ahmedabad, hope his team is at work on the matter.

That being background, I’m adding my share of thoughts:

A police complaint could have helped. A city like Mumbai will have hundreds of cctvs in public places- by checking these CCTV footages at the time and location as indicated by GPS, police can confirm if any Audi Q7 passed through these streets at the time. This will be a fool proof evidence to decide who’s speaking the truth- the customer or the service centre. Vishal would have paid over 20 lakhs in tax alone while buying his Q7, so providing some CCTV footage is the minimum law enforcing agencies can do to help the tax payer when he has a situation at hand. Police/people at checkposts, tea stalls, toll booths etc can also tell if they saw a white Audi that night.

Another option would have been to catch them red handed. If I was in Vishal’s place, I would have either driven to the place where the vehicle was can make some video recording to prove that someone else is using it, or driven direct to service centre and demand that they show me my vehicle. But I know it is easy to give this idea after the incident and not everyone are bound or required to think and act in same way.
We don’t know much about the GPS device involved. Was it an external one easy to detach and attach? Is the data accurate? (GPS company issued a statement that data log is accurate, with only other possibility being device being mounted on different vehicle. There is no motive for anyone to falsify GPS data, so prima facie it appears genuine.

Engine immobilizer could have been another idea, but here the driver would have had authentic key.
In all probability, a service centre employee would have taken the car out for a joy ride, probably hand in glove with security guard and few other employees. Service centre management might not be aware of the reality and might be refusing to accept/investigate the matter fearing negative publicity. However, trying to suppress an allegation will have more negative impact. It is better for Audi to conduct a detailed investigation and accept the faults if any.

Below: a file photo of Audi Q7 limo, clicked at US
Years ago Kiruba Shankar had a similar issue with cleartrip. Kiruba had booked the ticket with a name which was not exactly as in his passport. He arrived at the airport with his ticket, only to be told that ticket has been cancelled. Cleartrip had noticed the discrepancy in his name, had cancelled his original ticket and got  anew ticket for him. However, cleartrip missed to inform Kiruba of the error and new ticket. Kiruba’s tweets that he’s not able to fly despite having paid cleartrip caused a PR issue for cleartrip, which offered an unconditional apology, though the customer was partially at fault for giving wrongly spelt name in the first place. Kiruba flew with a freshly bought ticket- this amount was refunded to him and Kiruba was upgraded to business class on his return flight at Cleartrip’s expense and everything ended in positive. Now customer is willingly spreading good words about the portal and cleartrip’s prompt action gave them good positive coverage and increased customer faith. [The Kiruba Incident: read more on this at cleartrip blog]

Audi has a similar opportunity to turn crisis to its advantage. We need to see how this situation reaches its conclusion. Company that provided GPS to Vishal Gondal is also getting good limelight for revealing the theft/misuse. I am sure their sales will increase by leap and bounds after this incident. Audi’s rival BMW has already made a killer move, by giving Vishal Gondal a BMW Mini Cooper S Countrymen for him to try out.

What other security measures we can take for our cars? May be fix a micro cctv camera that captures live feed of drivers' seat and feeds back on internet? Auto forums are abuzz with discussions on this topic-who is right and who is wrong. Hope we'll have answers soon

Disclaimer: All information as available in public domain. I am not a party to this issue and have nothing to loose/gain from the situation. I am just sharing my personal opinion/thoughts. Please use your discretion.
Similar: Audi Q7 Limo at US * Jaguar and Landrover pics * Prado and Land Cruiser Pics

Update: Looks like Audi India and Vishal have settled the matter in private. Nothing much has been made public as to how it is resolved or what happened. I guess Audi managed to win back its customer with some goodies and in exchange requested him not to pursue the matter further, fearing more backlash and getting similar complaints from other customers. I feel it is not fair on Vishal to keep complete silent. Since he used social media to garner support, there's curiosity as to what's happening. Forbes reports that Audi has agreed to replace Gondal's car. But by not owning their mistakes and trying to keep quite, Audi will be raising more questions and concerns among prospective customers. Further, there're claims that Vishal has a stake in Technopurple, the GPS company and all these is a staged incident for publicity. We can only speculate since Vishal and Audi won't reveal anything more. And speculation can do more damage at times