Sunday, March 31, 2013

My experience: Gurgaon-Jaipur by Bus

This post narrates my bus journey between Gurgaon and Jaipur, which happened in Jan 2013

Once I decided to visit Jaipur, started exploring my options. All trains were full for onward journey, hence had to rely on bus. The internet sites on bus ticket booking had only night time buses and afternoon buses were not listed there. So I decided to try spot booking.

Went to IFFCO Chowki and boarded a bus that had just arrived with Jaipur written on it. It was a luxury, Non-AC bus with reclining seats and looked decent overall. After being the first few to board the bus, I sensed that crew had no urgency to leave and might wait till the bus fills up. Few passengers got down after seeing other buses heading towards their destination. I didn't see any alternate bus, so held on. Couple of AC buses passed by, but I couldn't verify if they’re headed towards Jaipur. I sat patiently and slowly bus started filling up.

One gentleman boarded the bus, kept his bag on the seat, asked driver if there’s a bathroom nearby and got down immediately. My sensors alerted me that he’s leaving his bag and going away from the bus, it could be a bomb. However, the person spent a minute with the conductor, seeking detailed direction for bathroom, so I felt a bit confidence that he’s serious about going to washroom and isn't just planning to move away from the bus. Trusting my instincts, I held on. He came back after few minutes, argued with people who'd taken his seat by pushing his bag under the seat and occupied his seat.

It took good 45 minutes (2 PM) before the bus could leave from IFFCO Chowki, now fully loaded with people, both sitting and standing. My thought that being a luxury bus there won’t be standing seats was false one.

Soon a person started collecting money. He took Rs 200 from me for the journey, no receipt. I asked what time we're expected to reach Jaipur, he said "6". Since the 380kms Chennai-Bangalore is covered within 6-7 hours by buses, I was expecting to reach Jaipur by 5PM as it was just 240 kms away. But partly due to bad roads and partly due to frequent stops, even the 6PM timeline quoted by the conductor proved to be false. We reached only by 8PM. The conductor was asking people "Kiraya bol di?", which translates into "Have you told the rent", while he meant if they've paid the ticket fare or not.

Soon there were few more stops and some more people boarding in. Instead of using few flyovers, bus took the road below, hoping to pickup more people. 

the overhead rack to keep the bags was already full. People were trying move and re-arrange the bags hoping to create more space. Some standing passengers were resting their arms on this bags. I had laptop and camera in the bag and had to keep an eye on it all the time. A lady boarded with some bags-as there was no space to keep the bag, her eyes fell on the space which I believed to be my leg room. She insisted that I fold my legs, so that she can keep her bags the space where my legs were there. I proposed she keep the bag under the seat instead, but her bag wouldn't fit. It eventually ended occupying half of my leg room, without any space for movement.

We passed through Manesar, where Hero Honda and Maruti- India's largest two and four wheeler makers had their plants.

Near Bhiwadi my co passenger got out, a middle aged lady took the seat. As soon as she sat, she asked me to go to a seat somewhere behind, so that she and her husband can sit together. I wasn't interested going behind and losing site of my bag and risking an even bad seat. I declined. She tried to argue, but I held my ground. Couple of stops later, they managed to move someone else around to get 2 seats together.

Outside of the window were lots of green fields with yellow flowers. I learnt that these are plants of Sarso (mustard). I could also see lots of signage related to real estate. The highway was either not complete or was undergoing some repair. 
Mustard fields adjacent to Delhi-Jaipur highway
Before a small town called Bawal, the bus stopped for refreshment, in front of a small roadside hotel. They served some pakodas, packed food and few other items. A shopkeeper was showing "Bus will halt for 30 mins, Jaipur is 3 hours away, have your refreshments". People dispersed and to my surprise, bus started in about 10 minutes. However after everyone got in and bus was about to leave, it was realized that 2 passengers are yet to board. Another 10 minutes was spent tracing them and when they came back they said "That person was saying bus will stop for 30 minutes". Bus crew retorted "They will say anything, you should have checked with us". After couple of minutes the argument ceased and we moved further. By now I'd removed my jacket and conductor mistook me for new passenger and asked me for money again (my shirt and jacket had different colours). I had to put the jacket back on to help him realize that I am the same soul who'd board at Gurgaon.

Now it was sunset time and Jaipur was nowhere closer. A signboard told me it is still 120 or so kms away. Eventually by about 8 PM the bus entered Jaipur town. With help of a fellow passenger,  got down at a place closer to civil lines and headed to my destination, Shahar Palace. Thankfully return journey on Jaipur-Delhi double decker took only 4 hours.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Security tip-detecting CCTV looping

In several movies we see con men breaching CCTV security system, by hacking into CCTV circuits and looping the video. This fools the control room folks monitoring CCTV footage into believing that everything is normal, while the con men begin their act breaching into the premises.

I don't know how this is actually done. In some movies, this is achieved by one of the guys cutting some wires, fixing an extra gadget... in some other movies, CCTV looping is achieved by attaching some sort of magnetic device/circuit to the CCTV itself. In some other cases, this is done by a set of computer commands.

I was thinking how to secure the building against such an attempt of sabotage? I came up with a simple idea.

In front of key cameras, fix an analogue clock. This clock would keep running and should show current time in the monitors showing CCTV footage. If the cameras are hacked and looped, footage would show an earlier time and will show same time again and again every few minutes. Security folks monitoring the footage must randomly cross check if the time shown in the clock is correct.

Image from and

If I was a highly paid security consultant I would have sold this idea for few million bucks to high profile clients. Since I;m not, just sharing the idea with public. Hope right people will spot this idea and put it to right use. Do comment

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Amer fort photos, Jaipur, Rajastan

Amer Fort (or Amber Fort) is a majestic fort located some 10 kms from Jaipur city on a small hill. It is visible from a distance and looks magnificent. Fort campus is also surrounded with lots of hills and a “Great Wall of China” like structure.

This fort opens for public by 8AM itself. I didn’t have this information right, hence I went there by noon.

There were multiple options to go up- by foot- free, by elephant (one way, Rs 900) and by jeep. I opted to go up by foot. The campus is huge and takes several hours for proper exploration. The same combi ticket which I had bought at city palace could be used here. [View photos of elephant ride to Amer fort]
Once inside, spent an hour or two roaming around. It is a fairly large complex with thousands of rooms and windows. Leaving you with loads of images.

External views of Amber fort

Inside views
Above: A garden inside the Amer fort. 
Below: A pulley

 Interiors of the fort
 View of the city notice the temple, another fort like complex, hills and defensive walls

 Vehicles are also allowed till top
  Another fort nearby- I couldn't go there due to shortage of time


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Book Review: Shailendra Singh's F?@k knows

Book Review:  F@?k knows by Shailendra Singh

When I got this book for review, I had thought it is a fiction. Soon realized that it is not.  Shailendra Singh, an entrepreneur and advertising professional, shares his life lessons and lots of gyan.

Book starts with a rather unusual disclaimer, which says all resemblances are purely incidental.

First few chapters were a bit boring, because I was reading with a preconceived notion that this is another book full of useless gyan on how to make it big and successful in life. But by the time I was done reading first 60 pages, I was now serious. The author meant what he wrote and the contents are simple, straight forward and often ignored by all of us.

The chapter, Conversation with God, for example, throws up a very simple, practical question: which phase of life we get to spend the way we like it? First 5-10 years we have no control on what’s going on and we spend it as facilitated by our parents. Next 10 years is lost in school and colleges, whether we hate it or not. Then comes the hunt for job, career, followed by family pressure on wedding and kids. Our 20s and 30s lost this way, preventing us from any adventure we might wish to take part in- say jumping off a plane or climbing a mountain or anything else that might be in your wish list. Despite having enough energy and hopefully enough money, we’re prevented from taking up any adventure/risk, citing the potential impact on family if something were to go wrong or the need to save up money for future. By 40s, though somewhat settled in life, health problems start to creep in, preventing one from intended ventures. So when in life we take decisions for our own, do what we wanted-no matter what others say?

Other chapters also revolve around the similar facts- our life, how we lose control of it, how one can fix it and so on.

Throughout the book, author repeatedly urges readers to make a wish list and take immediate steps to fulfil them. Author also gives tips to clear obstacles, streamline thoughts and priorities.

Book also attempts to clear several myths (like doing good things will result in longer life- refer page 96-98.

Few other tips including enjoying your work, taking care of self, starting all over again, giving it away and so on

Some chapters are thought provoking to funny (like why suicide is called Khud kushi in Hindi, which translates to “self happiness”)

Author also shares good amount of personal and family incidents to correlate with what he is explaining.

Title: F?@k knows
Author: Shailendra Singh
MRP: Rs 195 (Rs 137 on flipkart, 
Publisher: Rupa
Pages: 234
Genre: Self Help

Overall the book "F?@k Knows" makes a good reading. Language used in the book may not be everyone’s likings, hence proceed with caution. But the facts are facts nevertheless.

Note: Book is being reviewed under Blogadda’s Book review initiative. Image sourced from

Also read: RIP * Shoes of the dead * My Stroke of luck * How I braved Anu Aunty & Co founded a million dollar company

Friday, March 22, 2013

Skywatch: Sunset at Kabini River

After returning from a boat ride that lasted 2.5 hours we were relaxing in the JLR campus in Kabini. Suddenly realized the sunset and rushed to the river side. Below is what I could click. If I had reached few minutes earlier, I would have got a perfect reflection of orange sun in the river water.

Waiting for weekend to publish few more posts pending since long time. Standby.

Similar: Sunset near Udupi * Sunset at Colombo *

Monday, March 18, 2013

Renault Fluence E4 diesel-on road price, test drive notes

A colleague took a quick test drive of Renault fluence and I accompanied him. Drove the car for a km or two and below are some quick notes from our relatively brief test drive experience.
When Renault had originally launched Fluence in India, the diesel version was a stripped down variant with most of the features missing. Soon Renault made the corrections and introduced more features in Fluence diesel. However, salesman insisted that there was no such thing.
Salesman also couldn’t tell the difference between SRS airbags and SRP airbags. (Even I didn’t know till I googled it later). He said SRP is just another manufacturer or airbags. I read later that SRP is slightly better technology in airbags.
Reportedly a fluence facelift is expected in June. As expected, sales man didn’t talk about it, as his objective is to sell a car NOW.
Renault Fluence onroad Prices in Chennai: (Ex-showroom+insurance+tax=Onroad price)
E2 Diesel: Rs 1386300+49789+220945=Rs 1657034
E4 Diesel: Rs 1549100+55494+245365=Rs 1849959
E4 Petrol: Rs 1556200+60517+246430=Rs 1863147
Good things:
  • Sleek look, nice speedo console
  • SRP airbags, which are believed to be a bit better than SRS airbags
  • Lots of boot space 
  • Lots of features, including tilt and telescopic steering, cruise control, smart card access and so on.
  • Smart card access is fairly impressive
Bad things:
  • No touchscreen entertainment system or reverse camera (even under 10 lakh tata Manza has got them) Note: the next refresh of Fluence is likely to get this.
  • Only 4 people can sit conveniently. For the 5th person, sitting in the middle of second row, seating position is likely to be very inconvenient.
  • As Fluence comes via CKD route, a big chunk of your money goes towards tax. If it was locally manufactured, Fluence would have been priced at par with Hyundai Verna or Toyota Corolla probably
  • Fluence is very soft and smooth, which is great for European roads, but may not survive well on Indian roads.
  • No sunroof
The 110 PS power comes from same 1.5 litre engine, which is housed in 3 times cheaper Pulse. The engine is also doing duty on Duster. Even fluedic verna 1.6 is more powerful and is lot cheaper.

Fluence didn't impress me overall. Fluence is NOT worth the 18 lakh plus price tag it carries for top end variant. With that kind of money, one can get a nice SUV like XUV500 or Tata Aria. Or buying a used C-Class at 20 lakhs will be a much better option than buying fluence. If you'r particular about D segment sedans, Cruze is a great choice if you enjoy driving. If it is the backseat where you'd sit most of the time, Jetta can be considered, or wait for the new Octavia

Indian Roller photos

Indian Roller is a nice bird, which looks even colourful when in flight. Below are few of its photos, clicked around Kabini

 I tried capturing this bird with its wings open, but below is the best I could manage.
Also see: Darter * Fake CrocodileBirds at Bheemeshwari * Birds at Valparai * Birds near Hoysala Village Resort, Hasan * Nearby: Shettyhalli Holy Rosary Church * Birds of karanji kere, Mysore * Dancing peacocks in Mysore *Birds on a powerline *   Birds at our village- Set 2

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Review: Jungle Lodges Kabini resort

Kabini river lodge is the 4th JLR facility I've explored (after Bheemeshwari, K Gudi, Galibore, Rivertern Lodge (Badhra river)). Kabini river lodge is one of their most expensive facilities, with per person charges for Indian nationals currently at INR 5000. This includes couple of safaris and food.

There're not many accommodation facilities around Kabini and all of them are equally expensive or more. (Orange County Kabini, Kabini lakeview resort etc are few other options). Almost all of them rely on JLR for forest safari. (few other guests boarded our Safari vehicle outside the campus)

I'm told the resort has a capacity for 120 people, which consists of tented cottages, maharaja cottage and other types of rooms. Resort runs full during weekends and weekdays would have much less occupancy at about 30+ people. My 3 months advance booking certainly helped.
Kabini JLR has electricity supply and doesn't feel like we're in deep forest. In comparison, K-Gudi was different with no mobile signals, no electricity. Kabini area has several mobile towers and lots of villagers, hence doesn't feel isolated.

Liquor is sold generously in Kabini. K Gudi and few other places didn't have this (or is it introduced recently?)
As we went in March, the campus was all dry. It would look great post monsoon I assume. There were no adventure activities.
A documentary is shown every evening at 7.45 PM, but it was the same video we'd seen at K Gudi.

Food was just fine.

Two goats were tied near the cottages. These goats were very afraid of people, but managed to go close and pacify them.

The guests were surprisingly punctual, even ahead of time. When we went for Safari on time, we were the last, others were there much earlier.

Bird sighting within campus was very few. Monkey menace is considerable. Be sure to secure your room and stuff.

Staff courtesy was fine. We'd booked 4 rooms and I was asked to adjust in 2 rooms for sometime, since guests of two other rooms hadn't checked out yet. After I made some noise, they gave 2 more rooms.

A one day visit, which lasts 22.5 hours, as we experienced, will be a bit hectic. Longer stay is recommended, but that would punch even larger hole in your pocket.

The last 12 kms leading to the resort were in bad shape. Some construction work was going on. Hopefully it will be better soon.

Also see: JLR Badhra Dam * JLR general review * Elephant bathing at K Gudi * Comparison of all JLRs * Kali misadventure camp (a bad experience we had)*

Safari 4x4 off road misadventure

Giving out gyan and putting it to use when the situation commands are two different things. I realized this last weekend.

About 2 years ago, I had published this post, wherein a Toyota Fortuner was stuck in muddy waters outside MMSC in the outskirts of Chennai.[Read and view it here] After entertaining the onlookers for over 30 minutes, after getting help from many people and trying several tricks, finally they pulled out the vehicle and drove away.

Last weekend, we were driving towards Kabini. We saw a waterbody (Nugu Reservoir) and a mud road going closer to water. We left the main road and drove close to water. I stopped at a safe distance away from water, clicked a set of photos and all was great at this moment. One of the team members encouraged me to go little further, saying “little bit of mud would look great in photograph”.  With the confidence of few previous mild offroad experiences, encouraged by the participants, I threw away my otherwise cautious hat and drove couple of feet further.
Above: Where we'd stopped originally
Below: After going "a little closer"
Then the unthinkable happened. Three wheels sunk considerably in mud and other one partially. Only 1 wheel was over the ground. With the hope that this is nothing for Tata Safari, “The Real SUV”,  I engaged 4H and tried pulling the car out. But the wet surface and mud didn’t offer any traction and wheel only sank deeper.
We tried one more time, by putting some small/medium stones under the wheels. But this was of no help. The over weighed SUV managed to bury the stones in mud and stood there smiling as if nothing has happened. 6-7 people trying to push the vehicle also had no impact.

Our next option was to deflate the wheels and try again, or get some planks to put under the wheels, before sending out distress calls.

Thankfully, a tractor was nearby. They were filling water into the tanker.  Tractor guy offered to help. A steel road was used to tie the tractor and Safari. In first attempt, the rod came off, since the lock was inadequate. We tried one more time with better interlocking and this time, safari was pulled out easily.
Lessons learnt:
·         Weight of the vehicle can be the biggest spoilsport during off-roading. A light vehicle can easily clear a muddy path while heavy vehicles would sink.
·         4x4 s are not invincible. They’re good ego boosters, but doesn’t guarantee performance. Half of it depends on good driving skills and other half on being able to make right judgment of the situation. Drivers should be aware when to take risk and when to play safe.
·         Momentum is key. If we kept moving, we could have cleared this path. But stopping and trying to start again was a big mistake. Trying once in forward direction and next time in backward direction is even bigger mistake
·         Without support/backup, life could be miserable if you allow over confidence to take over.

Later during the trip, we didn't hesitate to get off the road, but were far more cautious.

Now looking at the images, I felt it was too simple a situation. We should have managed to pull out the vehicle. Availability of the tractor nearby played spoilsport, as we didn't attempt much and sought his help instead. If only that tractor was not present, we would have experimented more and learn more tricks.

Images by Ravi Raj and Vidya