Monday, July 29, 2013

BMW 320d- what you don't get at 38 lakhs

I spent a day with BMW 3 series, the cheapest variant in 3 series family, which is 320d. This car costs about 38 lakhs on road to buy, but misses out on several features found in cheaper cars. Obviously a cost cutting exercise to save some bucks and offer a cheaper variant is evident from stripped features. 320d is for those budget constrained buyers who want premium BMW brand value and a nice drivable car, without some of the fancy stuff, found in other cars and deemed standard on a luxury car.
Listing 11 things you won’t get in a BMW 320d, for about 38 lakhs INR on road…

1) No spare wheel. This sounds odd for Indians, because every other car is sold with a spare wheel. However, BMW sells cars worldwide without spare wheels, because of advancements in technology. BMW tyres can run for 200kms at a speed of 80kmph, even after going flat. (Not sure if this 200kms is on German autobahn or on pot holl filled Indian roads) So because of this, it might be possible to manage without a spare wheel. Most of the BMW customers would use it as city ride and hence this may not be an issue. But  during a long drive, having a spare tyre adds to confidence. 

While BMW may have full faith in its vehicle, technology and support, to what extent we can trust the Indian roads is left to the judgment of each customer. If it is me and if I intend to use the car as my primary transport, then I would prefer to play safe and buy a car which has a spare wheel. May be I am just being skeptical, because 1000s of BMW customers continue to buy the car and seem to be comfortable without the spare, so let us give some credit to BMW for having full faith in their technology and sticking to their stand of not providing spare wheels.

2) No sunroof. i10 has it, Honda city has it, Cruze has it, Merc C class, A class and B class has it. But BMW 3 series cheaper variants miss on sunroof. During a long drive or when weather is nice, having a sunroof helps take nice photos, enjoy weather and adds to appeal of the car. But 320d misses it.

3) No rear view camera in 320d. A graphical sensor is provided, but no camera. Higher variants of 3 series get rear view camera + graphical guidance

4) No cruise control. 320d gets a limit switch, but no cruise control. I am not a fan of cruise control, as it tends to induce lazyness. But if you're keen on this feature, watch out.

5) Uncomfortable seating for 5th person. BMW 3 series is comfortable for 4 passengers only (several other sedans, including Renault Fluence have this problem) and for 5th passengers, long drive is not really comfortable. The transmission shaft occupies most of the space and 5th person need to adjust with one leg on left side and another on the right. If you need space to carry more people, go for may be X1 or other cars.

6) No Day time running lights (DRLs)- This fancy stuff helps grab additional attention, available in higher variants of BMW 3 series and rivals. Hyundai i20 gets it and even HM Dost LCV has DRL now. But 320d doesn’t.

7) No Navigation system- available in higher variants of 3 series– rely on your smart phone for driving directions.

8) An un-customized owner’s manual. I had a quick look at the owner’s manual and I found it very generic across BMW 3 series. Not customized to different variants under 3 series and owners need to sort out the confusion among themselves, if there’re some differences in what the manual says and what is actually there in the car.

9) An un-customized India website. has all images with left hand side driving layout. I would have appreciated them customizing the website with India images (right hand side driving). I did a quick check- Mercedes Benz is showing right hand side layout, while Audi continues to have LHS images similar to BMW

10) No xenon headlamps. Headlamps in 320d is ordinary, nothing inspiring about it and illumination is normal. (Can be fitted after market)

11) No door lamps. Mercedes Benz, Tata Aria and many other cars get a lamp in the door, which lights up when open- helps provide some illumination when people get down/get in during night or helps realize that door is open.

Note that I am not even talking about high end features like night vision, self parking, massage seats and attention assist.

Bear in mind that annual insurance premium for 320d comes to about 1.9 lakhs, almost as much as a Tata Nano. 

I am not saying BMW 320d is a bad car. Standby for good things about the car and related information.

View more photos of BMW 320d * Review of the car

Updated: Dec 2013: Corrected on road price of the car to 38 lakhs.
Also read: BMW leasing options explained

BMW 320d-photoshoot first set

I spent a day with a brand new BMW 320d. While more details about this car is being compiled, sharing a set of photos of the car. Clicked by myself and other passengers who were traveling with me.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gaitore-Royal Resting place, Jaipur- Photos

During my 1 day visit to Jaipur, my auto driver Raju took me to this place, called Gaitore.

Gaitore doesn't appear on the list of top tourist attractions in Jaipur. It is the place where members of royal family are buried. The name, Gaitore is reportedly derived from Gaye (those who've gone) ka Thor.

The Gaitore complex is some 10+kms from Jaipur city and consists of few well designed buildings. Each building is built on the burial ground of kings and queens of Jaipur and has nice carvings.


 The campus is surrounded by hills and there're steps to climb till top. I didn't have the time and energy to climb all the way. It would have offered beautiful shots of the city. Should try next time

An entry fee of Rs 20 is applicable, few locals offer to be guides for a fee, if you're interested in additional details of each structure, the king or queen it belongs to etc

Other Jaipur attractions: Jal Mahal * Amer Fort * Hawa Mahal * Central Park * Shahar Palace Hotel, Jaipur * 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Trees cut for highway

Whenever we cruise on a highway, we test how fast our cars can go, we complain about heavy toll, we boast how early we reached our destination. But not even for a moment we spare a thought on how the highway might have been constructed.

All over India, road construction/widening invariably involves chopping off trees. Big ones at that. Because our forefathers thought it will be nice to have shade giving trees by the roadside, they planted hundreds of trees, which used to be adjacent to the roads. But when roads had to be widened, these speechless trees were easy target. 
Notice the space carved out for additional lane- there were lots of trees here
A sensible planner would have kept them as median and would have build roads on both sides of it. But that would face even tougher challenge, since it means destroying houses and buildings constructed by the roadside. So almost all the times, trees are cut. There's a bigger timber lobby behind the scene which buys these trees in auction and sells them off for hefty profit.

I had to witness all these myself, as NH17 (now NH66) which passes through our village was getting widened. Earlier the drive was fairly scenic with trees on either side, now it looks extremely plain and bland. Earlier, while going from Udupi to Kundapura (or other towns on the highway), we could see outside and identify where we are, based on buildings. Now all roadside buildings and trees are gone and we have to struggle locating the village.

Below are some photos of the giant trees that were cut and left on the roadside. I should have photographed the roads with trees before these were cut (say during my previous visits). But the beauty of trees were no natural and we were so used to it, I never felt the need to take a photo. If only I had taken few photos of how good the roads were with the trees, it would have helped understand how harsh we have been, in quest for development. 

One of the yet to be cut trees

It hurts to see these massive destruction. Life of villagers also changes with multi lane highways. Crossing the road is now life and death question.
-One has to cross the road fearing getting hit by high speed vehicles.
-For evey turn, several additional kms have to be traveled, more money on fuel.
-Roadside businesses fail, as people cruise on highway and hardly stop to buy anything.

If there're trees near the road in your village, take their photos now. We don't know when they will be cut off. Karnataka government is planning to widen highways and introduce tolls.

But this brings us to a challenge- how to ensure growth without spoiling the environment. Few options I could think of are listed below, pls add your thoughts
- Keep the trees in the centre, build additional lanes a little away. This way trees serve as median, providing shade as well.
- Instead of widening, build a parallel road through a path which minimizes tree cutting
- Elevated highways (not practical for 100s of kms, but can be tried in areas where too many trees have to be cut)
-Encourage RORO (Roll on, Roll Off) on railways. Vehicles can be loaded on the train and taken to next big city- this saves fuel and reduces burden on roads- watch video below

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bird Photography, recent collection

This photo shares a set of bird photographs, clicked in recent times (2013)

Brahminy Kite, having its meal, clicked at Tranquebar, TN
A bunch of little birds, busy chatting, clicked somewhere near Bheemeshwari

A bird and its reflection in water
Move away before I drop something you may not like
Another bird.. help me name these

View more: Darter Bird * Egret * painted stork

Monday, July 15, 2013

How to get a boat into water?

How do you get your car on the road? Get into the car, reverse it, drive out of the garage and you’re on the road. 

But life is not so easy for fishermen. Getting a boat parked on the shore into water takes lots of effort. Seen in these pictures below, about 10 men lift a boat using bars and ropes and move it into the water. Few photos below, clicked at Tranquebar.

An easier option will be to leave the boat in water, but that will reduce life of the boat, hence fishermen move it ashore when not in use. They work as a team, once done with one boat, they began moving the next one.

Another less effort intensive way is to park the boat on wheels, as seen below in Goa

Everyday Challenges

What are the challenges you face every day?

  • For some, the primary challenge is to find a way to feed themselves and their family for that day. If you’ve crossed this stage and don’t have to worry about food for near future, you’re lucky
  • For some, challenge is to survive till the month end with the meager salary. They struggle to save every rupee, work overtime to earn a few rupees more, all in an effort to make ends meet. If you’re not facing this challenge and have an income good enough to cover your monthly spend, you’re lucky.
  • For some, the challenge is to meet tomorrow’s income with today’s expense. Living off credit cards and EMIs, these hope that their next promotion, next hike or next job change will bring joy to life, clearing their pending dues. What they don’t realize is that until spending in curbed, they’ll never be able to save. If you’re going through this, wake up before it is too late.
  • For some, the challenge is to keep up their status among peers. They strive to show off with latest cloths, cars and other luxury items, in an attempt to win peer recognition and a false sense of importance. They feel low if a colleague or neighbor overtakes them in this race, by owning a fancier car or something like that. If you’re going through this phase, you’re unlucky. Correct your approach to be able to live happily
  • For some, challenge is trying to decide where to strike a balance between work and life. How much time one should spend at work earning money and how much time one should spend enjoying life- doing things they love-travel, reading, cooking, farming and so on.  This is a touch decision-earn too less, nothing much will be left to spend on your passion, earn too much taking too much time, no time left for passion. While weekends help, many a time a 2 day weekend is just not adequate. How do you relish the challenge and strike a balance?
  • For some, challenge is to convince themselves on what they’re doing is right. Somewhere deep within, they want to follow their heart and live free, but their mind doesn’t consent. Fear of failure holds them back and makes them hang on to whatever is deemed safer. Neither being able to gather courage and follow the heart, nor being able to live comfortably with that they have, these people live a tough live which eventually leads to increased frustration and reaches breaking point. If you’re in this phase, don’t continue in a state of dilemma forever. Take a decision- the easy or the tough one and move on.
  • For those few who’ve chosen to be one’s own boss, challenges are of a different nature. With no guaranteed monthly income, they need to constantly sell whatever their company is selling and ensure regular income. They need to prove to their family and friends that they did the right thing by starting their own venture and not hanging on to a day job. If you’re in this sphere of life, my best wishes to you, to cherish the challenge and come out in flying colours
  • For some, challenge is no longer about money. They’ve the money, power and status, but hardly anyone with whom to share this wealth. In their quest for money and power, they would have deserted close friends and relatives. Now with all the money, they need to battle loneliness. 

  • For some, the challenge is to hide the extra money earned through illegal means. Despite having every luxury money can buy, they live in a constant state of fear and suspicion.
What challenges are you facing today and how are you relishing them?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Danish Fort (Dansborg Fort)-Tranquebar

Danish fort is the main attraction in Tharangambadi (formerly Tranquebar). This was built in 17th century and its primary objective was to support trade between the then India (Chola Kingdom in South India) and Denmark. While the fort campus does have a few cannons, the walls seem to be too low to serve as protection against insurgency. It had large rooms, used for storage of goods that were meant to be exported.

Fort is open to tourists from about 10.30 AM till 5.30 PM. Entry fee is Rs 5 per person and camera fee is Rs 30. It houses a museum, which contains few artefacts dating back to 17th century or later, along with several historical details like governors of Tranquebar and so on. Friday is weekly off.

This fort has successfully survived the 2004 tsunami that hit east coast of India, despite being on the sea shore. Another testimony as to how ancient engineers knew the art of building ever lasting structures.

View the photos below.
View of the Dansborg fort from the sea shore
View of the Danish fort, Tranquebar from an inside corner
Another inside view of the fort. Notice the ramp on left side
At the centre is a well, serving freshwater but is now poorly maintained. Goats were roaming around freely inside the fort campus. Some stairs were unofficially closed.
Frontal sea facing unit of Dansborg Fort. Now houses fort office and a small museum
History of Danish fort
Below: History and a cannon facing the sea

Notice ventilation hole in a store room
One of the store rooms inside the fort. This one had protective bars while other rooms were open. Probably sensitive/expensive items were stored in this room, or this could also have been a jail
Neemrana's Bungalow on the beach and Hotel Tamilnadu are the available accommodations nearby. I was hoping to get some good sunrise shots around this fort, but clouds spoiled my chances.

Out of curiosity I checked how to go to Denmark from Tranquebar, Google maps is showing a distance of 10000+kms and says road includes toll and ferry. Understandably there was no Google maps back in 17th century and the traders had to use sea route, which could have been 3 times longer than the direct point to point distance shown by the map below. Copenaghen is home for world's largest shipping liner.

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