Monday, March 31, 2014

Adventures experienced in past 4 months

Past 4 months have been pretty adventurous for me. I tried activities which have been on my wish list for long time. While it was fun to do all these things, I also had to face criticism for wasting money on these activities. Nevertheless

Dec 2013
Cross Country Biking Expedition
Valued at about 2 lakhs
7 Days, 2000kms across northern Thailand
Dec 2013
Rs 28000 + travel
Tandem jump from 10000 ft, 35 seconds free fall
Jan 2014
White water Rafting
Rs 1400
At Kali River, Dandeli, 12km, 3 hours
Feb 2014
Microlight flying
Rs 5000, Rs 4000
Flew xair and Zenair planes, 1000 ft in air, 20-30 mins
March 2014
Scuba Diving
Rs 4500+ travel
At Netrani, 10meters below water, 30 mins

1. Cross country bike ride: This was the only activity I didn’t pay for, thanks to invite from Thailand Tourism Authority. The longest one of all, lasted 1 week and 2000kms. The biking trip was well documented on NDTV Good times and was aired recently. Enjoyed riding powerful bike in the company of amazing riders. Got to explore most of northern Thailand, which I might not have explored on my own had it not been for this event. If organized on our own, such trips can cost INR 1.5 lakhs onwards. Read more about Ride Thailand here. After this trip I am resisting heavy temptation to buy a fast bike.

Except the biking expedition, all other activities were tried in Karnataka itself, not anywhere else in India or world. Indeed Karnataka offers wide range of adventure sports option- check this post for details.

2. Skydiving: At an expense close to 30k, it was a luxury indulgence. But the 35 seconds of free fall was all worth it. Should try few more dives- probably a solo when situation permits next time.
Read more: FAQs * Experience * Video

3. White water rafting: Kali river is the best place in Karnataka to try rafting. We did it in Jan, which was the right time. The 12 km ride had a few rapids and we enjoyed our moments in water, while heading downstream on River Kali.  Unfortunately I don’t have photos of this activity, but then, there’s always another time. (We can try rafting in Badhra river, Kaveri river and River Sita as well). At Rs 1400 per person, white water rafting was the cheapest of all adventure activities among ones listed here.

4. Scuba diving: From 10000 ft above earth to 10 meters below sea level, Scuba diving gives a different experience. Being able to view the sea bed and corals, just the way we see it in Discovery Channel, Scuba diving is a good experience to have. One can try it in Murudeshwara, or at Goa. [More details] 
5. Microlight flying: You don’t need a pilot’s license to fly. With a trained instructor besides you, everyone can try their hands controlling a small plane. Microlight flying involves going up in the air, to a small height of about 1000 ft and then making minor navigations of the plane under the guidance of the trainer. I wasn’t even aware that one can try this in Bengaluru all these days.

I have few more items in my wishlist- hot air balloon ride, skiing and desert safari. But nothing planned in near future.  My next challenge will be to drive around in Northern India and return the car without any dents and scratches. I guess that will be far more adventurous.

When you get old, you’ll regret about things you wanted to do but never managed to, than things you might have achieved – such as house and cars. Don’t give that a chance. If your heart is on something, go ahead and do it.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review & Giveaway: The PM's wishlist by JK Sachin

You might get a copy of the book for free- Refer to the end of the post for details

The PM's wishlist is a thought provoking political fiction and offers practical solutions to India's progress. This is second fiction related to Prime Minister that I am reading (other recent one being Prisoner, Jailor Prime Minister). While the other book doesn't really go deep into India's problems, The PM's wishlist is bang on into India's challenges and solutions. It is an interesting and useful read, given that general elections are less than a month away.

I seriously wish that PM aspirants such as Sri Narendra Modi and others read this book once and try to implement some of the ideas, if not all.

Book is a work of fiction, but the ideas are very practical and doable. PM's wishlist is a set of promises made during the election manifesto, by fictitious Prime Minister Sharan Karan.

Book not only lists the ideas, but also explains their execution and implementation, which is again, very much feasible if only people at the top have had the willpower.

I am listing some of the ideas below, for your quick reference:

1. Increasing base of tax paying citizen from 2.5% to 20% (Currently just 2.5% of Indians pay Income tax) and lowering tax slabs. Taxpayers to get preferential treatment and additional benefits.

2. Prayaschit scheme for black money or other financial offenses- before being declared guilty, if culprits can pay up and undo the damage they've done, they get to go free.

3. Bringing transparency into tax collection and let citizen decide where their funds should be used

4. Evening courts and weekend courts, Project vigilance where public take part in scrutinizing government records

5. Strong defense readiness, enhanced naval power with mini sub marines and 'Defense lease program' (borrow on a need basis instead of buying). 24-36 month procurement window instead of 10 years

This and many other interesting points and concepts are explained in detail.
  • Book also raises lots of questions about our defense and economic preparedness, if India has to attain the status of a Super power.
  • In one of the pages, army chief says "we do not have enough roads or airports to move troops if conventional routes get snow locked or captured by the enemy." But I guess India displayed its readiness on this front by flying super hurclues to world's highest airport, Daulat Beg in J&K
  • I liked the reference to flipkart and amazon that they can start selling a stuff in minutes and can help speed up reach of govt initiatives
  • If a security guard at the mall entrance finds out that an incoming car has a bomb or terrorists, what should he do? What is our second line of defense?
  • Security assessment via cocept of AWVI (Advantages, Weaknesses , Vulnerability , Impediments) is a good thought.
Of course having such wishlist is easy, but realizing it is tough. But the book anticipates the potential challenges in their executions and gives solutions as well. There is no need for caste based reservations, freebies from the govt and other gimmicks our current political parties resort to, to make India super power. Get the fundamentals of economy, military and administration right and rest will fall in place.

JK Sachin, Author of 'The PM's wishlist
'The PM's wishlist' is only available as ebook and can be bought on Amazon for Rs 187 or 2.94 USD [Link] I bought and read it on Kindle for PC, so it took more time to finish this book compared to a regular printed book.

Paperback version of the book recently launched and should be hitting the stores soon. Will be available on flipkart for Rs 379 [link]

I feel this book deserves to be published in print and sold to general public.

You can connect with the author, Sachin JK at his website, 

The PM's wishlist- Giveaway!
Here's your chance to grab a copy for free. Tell us what according to you is the biggest challenge India is facing and how would you solve it, if you were selected for the top post? How would you convince others about your idea, execution and its benefits?

Do write a brief comment explaining your thoughts. Best idea gets a mention on this blog and a free copy of the book from its publishers. Comments written within next 2 weeks will be evaluated for this giveaway.

Similar: Shoes of the dead by Kota Neelima * Tantra by Adi * RIP * F?@k knows * How I braved Anu aunty and co founded a million dollar company * 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Mahindra XUV500 (Cheetah) W6 Review

Several years since the launch of XUV500 (pronounced Five oh-oh), I never had the chance to drive this much hyped SUV from Mahindra. It was an instant hit due to its killer looks and bookings had to be suspended and lottery system was put in place to decide who gets to own this car. However, early buyers had to experience several mechanical issues with the car and it appeared that Mahindra launched the car without adequate testing and those who went for the looks had to work as unpaid testers of the car.

I could finally check it out, courtesy Carzonrent (Myles) Bengaluru offering it on self drive.

XUV500s manufactured after March 2013 are believed to have improved build quality. When I booked XUV500 on carzonrent website, I believed it is a 2012 model (as that's what their website said in Feb, now make of the car is not shown). So I was mentally prepared to drive a car with loose brakes. But as I took command of the car I realized that it is pretty new with only 2222 kms on the odo.

Carzonrent staff didn't know where the tripmeter reset button was or that there's secondary glovebox. Even I couldn't locate the tripmeter reset button-only a day later, after referring to the manual I figured out that it is located to the right of instrument cluster box. Apparently none of the previous customers could locate it as well- both tripmeters had almost same reading as Odometer, indicating that they were hardly reset. I drove off from the garage and picked up friends. We were 7 of us with a bag or two each. I was hoping to keep the bags between the 3rd row and rear door- but this space seemed to be inadequate. It is not large enough to keep decent backpacks, only small bags would fit in here. So unless we have a roof carrier, luggage hauling will be a challenge when there're 7 people.

First 1 hour I felt the brake spongy. Drove very cautiously. Eventually my legs adapted to the car and I could drive naturally.

First Impressions
Exteriors of the XUV is much talked about and everyone has seen one. The cheetah resembling front look alone ensured thousands of bookings for the car. Tail lamps also have unique design and get Chinese like inscription. Big bold looks make it very commanding from outside. Everything about XUV5oo is new thinking. The instrument cluster, tail lamps, front facia, door handle, exterior design, hand brakes, AC vents- everything has an unconventional feel to it- something different from other cars we used to drive. Instrument cluster has more symbols than any other cars I've seen. Two concentric rings are very innovative, though to some extent inner ring that shows fuel, trip meter etc blocks the view of outer ring showing current speed. despite having these many indicators, for some info we need to refer to the digital display in the centre console. (For example, instrument cluster only shows that a door is open, while display in central console tells that boot door is open)

Driver's seat
The W6 variant only gets tilt adjustment for steering wheel while W8 gets both tilt and telescopic. W6 has driver seat height adjustment and lumbar support. Overall driver's seat is very comfortable and offers good view of the road. On the door, W6 gets all controls except auto fold mirrors.

Handbrake design is new. Gearbox has 6 gears, though I didn't feel 6th gear adding much value. It could possibly because top speed seem to have been capped at 150kmph by the rental agency. Reverse gear is like Hyundai, pull the ring, push down and to extreme left and front. Central console has a BMWish style- lots of space and boxes.
Lots of space
Handbrake and gear lever
Steering wheel gets all possible controls, including cruise control. I used it for a while, but it wasn't really exciting. Felt handicapped keeping my foot off the gas pedal.

Driving was largely fun, but unlike ford Endeavor, XUV doesn't beg you to press the gas peddle. It obeys your command if you accelerate, but doesn't show any enthusiasm to unleash its power. Endeavor, on the other hand always seemed to have some extra power on standby if you wish to speed up. After initial discomfort, the vehicle grew on me and got used to it. Its big bold exterior commands lots of respect on the road. We drove it for about 1200kms in 48 hours without any discomfort. The additional 30 degree angled headlamps that illuminate on making sharp turn is a nice feature. This and projector headlamps made night driving easy. Suspension was good and absorbed most of the impact easily without affecting passengers much. 

Ambient lighting is a nice feature, but colours don't change in instrument cluster though. Conversation mirror helps locate if all passengers are in. 

W6 doesn't get a reverse camera, but a sensor indicates the distance in cms/meters between the car and object behind. Also only W8 gets hill hold control and hill descent control.  (W8 is expensive by 2 lakh rupees compared to W6 and gets alloy wheels, telescopic adjustment, side airbags, hill hold and hill descent control, colour display, reverse camera, auto fold mirror and leather seats) W8 4WD is expensive by another lakh.

At 150 kmph I got top speed warning and couldn't accelerate much further- I think this is a limit enforced by the agency. Because of this couldn't explore the full power of 6th gear. 
Cornering was not as much as fun as Ertiga but still pretty good. I enjoyed the high speed cornering, but rear passengers experienced some body rolls and lost sleep.

key fob is similar to Ecosport's. Folds and remote operations. No Keyless entry or ignition in W6, has to do it manually.

Second and 3rd row:
Second row is designed to seat 3- gets 3 headrest- even the person sitting in middle gets comfortable seating, unlike Ertiga, because XUV500 is more wider and bigger. For the second row passengers, there's AC vent on B pillar, there're two video entertainment systems on the back of first row headrests and there's generous spacing. We used this space to keep some bags. Second row folds 60:40, windows are large and airy, while offering good view of the road as well.

No side airbags in W6. W8 gets them.

3rd row is designed to seat 2, folds 50:50 and is fairly comfortable. 3rd row passengers also get good attention- AC vents and controls, charging points, pockets and lights etc and headrests as well. 3rd row window is large enough, though not as big as first 2 rows, but it won't open.

Shortage of luggage space when fully loaded is evident. Roof top carrier is must for long haul trips with big bags
Fuel economy:
We got an average fuel economy of about 9 kmpl. For 1119 kms we drove, we spent about 7250 Rs worth of diesel, close to  123 litres, which is just about 9 kmpl.  Dashboard computer showed 10.5kmpl average, which could be true because we take car full tank and return full tank. In a 70 litre tank, couple of litre + or - is possible. Note that this economy is achieved when car is fully loaded with people and driven with AC. Claimed fuel economy for XUV500 is about 15kmpl, which you'll probably get if you drive solo without AC on a highway at about 80kmph speed.

Entertainment was good. Music system has all modern facilities including USB, Aux, blutooth and so on. W6 comes built in with Mahindra included video entertainment behind first row headrests.

Boot door open: We constantly got dashboard warning that boot door was open. We repeatedly got down and checked the door, closed it again and again, but this warning sustained for most of the journey. Probably the sensor has gone rogue, sending false signal to main computer.

Went through the owner's manual and quick reference guide- it wasn't customized for each variants, but offered lots of insights into various safety features and utilities in the car.

XUV500 W6 costs close to 14 lakhs on road. At this price, it is a good deal for a premium SUV. Offers good value for money, because of lots of features and functions. Alternate options are Tata Aria (recently refreshed) and Tata Safari Storme. Aria comes closest in terms of features and performance, but somehow Aria hasn't really clicked in the market and will have lesser resale value. Aria's ground clearance is also a bit less. Note that insurance premium alone comes to 5k per month if you buy XUV500 (or other cars in 15-16 lakh price range), EMI and other expenses separate. I am better off renting it at Rs 3000 per day on need basis. [Related: Read this before buying SUVs]

2014 Scorpio refresh is likely to inherit some features and components from XUV500.

External footrests could have been nice. But they can be added aftermarket. Similarly skyrack doesn't have gaps (like the one in Scorpio), hence one can't hold it properly.

Twin rear exhausts are nice- but all cars in the category come with that now.

Do check this post for other interesting features of XUV500 View more XUV500 photos here

Tata Safari EX 4x4 Review * Tata Aria pride 4x4 review * Aria photoshoot * shop online get cashback!

We're all used to shop online. Log into the vendor's website, select our goods, checkout and pay. But did you know there're a few websites which offer cashbacks for online shopping? That is earning few % of spending back for no extra effort. I wasn't aware of this possibility till I heard about works on a simple principle- all merchants/websites usually offer a small commission to agents or referrals for bringing them customers and business. Cashkaro works with shopping sites to get as much discount as possible and passes the benefit back to its members.

As a Cashkaro member, I don't have to do any extra circus to get cashback. All I need to do is initiate the process from, go to corresponding shopping site and conclude the sale. System traces your purchase back to your cashkaro account and after few days, cashback will be credited to your cashkaro account.
Discount coupons are another reason to shop via Cashkaro. 10-20% discounts are also offered on restaurant bookings- mainly in Delhi and Bombay but expected to hit other cities soon.

In a sense, cashkaro is an aggregation of ecommerce sites- like what makemytrip is to air ticket booking. Begin your search from cashkaro, navigate to corresponding websites and without any extra effort, earn some cashbacks.

Cashback sites like cashkaro also make life easy- No need to remember dozens of shopping site URLs- begin your shopping from cashkaro, find out which specific site has better deals and proceed to that particular sites.  Similarly, though selling price is same on amazon and flipkart, I might prefer Amazon over flipkart because of cashback.

Also as I experienced:
  • Cashback could be as high as 10% or some sites may have an upper limit (like Max Rs 240)
  • It is not possible to use cashkaro account balance for future shopping. We need to pay directly while buying and need to withdraw cashkaro balance separately into our bank accounts.
  • Flipkart is not offering cashback at this moment. Amazon, Myntra and other websites do.
  • So far Cashkaro has disbursed Rs 1.5 crore in cashbacks. That is pretty decent amount.
  • More than 500 brands are tied up with Cashkaro for this cashback scheme, so almost anything you can think of buying online, you can probably buy via cashkaro.
  • I have made one purchase on flipkart and one more with Amazon, via Waiting for my cashback on my Amazon purchase. Amazon purchase has been successfully tracked back, but refund or cashback will take several weeks to materialize. Should be fine. As I was browsing through flipkart noticed that top header section showing user information was blanked out for a while and was retrieved during check out. I could use my flipkart account to load per-defined address etc
  • Cashback duration takes months... For a transaction done in March, cashback is expected to be confirmed by end of June
Rohan and Swati Bhargava
Image from
Gurgaon headquartered Cashkaro is a 15 month old start-up and growing fast. It is founded by Rohan and Swati Bharghava [Read detailed story of the Cashkaro start up on]. Abandoning dream jobs like the one with Goldman Sachs, the couple is working towards facilitating cashbacks on day to day items,which we'll have to buy anyways- with or without cashback. I wish all the success to Cashkaro team.

If you're signing up at Cashkaro, pls use this link

Cashkaro competes with, etc.

Festival wishes and have a great shopping season ahead.
Similar posts: Foodpanda

Scuba Diving Experience-Netrani Murudeshwar

Another adventure activity ticked off. Scuba diving off Murudeshwara was a memorable experience. After seeing BP Bhat’s post on this topic, Scuba diving was on my wishlist for long. Had tried underwater walking in Thailand 2 years ago, which was very close to scuba diving in experience, but there our movements were heavily restricted because of the limited range of oxygen pipe.

This time the event was not organized by me- I only arranged transportation (mighty XUV500) while cousin’s friends organized Scuba diving. We’d booked months in advance with DreamzDiving and  were eagerly awaiting the D Day (Dive Day). Previous night 10.30PM we left from Bangalore, drove whole night (exactly 500kms) to Murudeshwara via Chennarayapatna, Arasikere, Shimoga, Honnavara-Murudeshwara. I felt this was the best route. We reached Murudeshwara by 6AM, less than 8 hours. 
Murudeshwara in the morning
Same spot in the afternoon- notice the water levels
Our organizer would only arrive by 8.30 AM. We were told we could use the bathroom facility they had for quick refresh, but we found out that it is not usable. So we took a room at Kamat Yatrinivas for just an hour to refresh (Rs 600 for 7 people for 90 mins). After some sunrise photography and quick refresh, we re-grouped at the organizer’s office (or den, a small building behind RNS Residency hotel in Murudeshwara). We signed the indemnity bond, paid the balance amount (Listed price is Rs 5000 per person per dive, but depending on how large the group is, there could be some discounts- we paid Rs 4500 per person for a 7 member group)

I was expecting some practice in swimming pool- which apparently is facilitated by the other Scuba diving organizer in Murudeshwara, but there was none. We were given a jacket and we headed to the boat. Another boat with equipment and support staff left ahead of us.

Journey from Murudeshwara coast to Netrani island would last an hour. It is a distance of 22kms.

We were given briefing on the boat. We were told that we won’t be given the suites- which are required when the water is cold, but current sea water is very warm as it is summer and we were asked to dive in our regular cloths. (Another disadvantage of the suite is that recognizing you in the photograph will be difficult as everyone will look alike) 
We were told about the key hand symbols underwater. Key point to remember is that ‘Thumbs up’ doesn’t mean I am ok. It means ‘take me up’. We were briefed about the equipment. SCUBA stands for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. It is extremely heavy to lift and run, but underwater we won’t feel the load, as it is filled with air and water buoyancy helps it feel light. It has a pressure gauge, 2 mouth pieces (1 for use, one for emergency), buttons to inflate/deflate the air in the jacket.

Another important aspect is being able to equalize. As water enters ears, it causes some pain and discomfort. Way out is to try pushing air out of your ears, by closing nose and mouth.

We were also briefed on not to touch anything, for we won't know which of them are harmful. Also not to dispose off plastic materials into the sea.

Half an hour into the ride, the island was visible to the eye and appeared so near, but it took another half an hour to get closer. The journey lasted for an hour and we finally reached Netrani. Participants from the other organizer had already reached the venue and were practicing.

Our boat and support boat was tied together. Few people went for scuba diving first while others were given a face mask and asked to practice in the waters (snorkeling). Water was just about 10 feet deep and we could see scuba divers below us walking close to the sea bed. After about 30 mins of swimming and floating, I went back to the boat and the support staff mounted the oxygen cylinder and other equipment on me. Fins were attached to my legs. As I said earlier, because of heavy tank, diving is done is a particular way- we are pushed backward and before we know what is happening, we'll be in water.

One of the instructors took me down, I was very comfortable breathing in and out of the mouth, but took some time to get regular with breathing out of the nose. Whenever I felt discomfort and indicated the same, instructor made me comfortable by taking me little up and giving instructions as to what to do. We dived close to ocean bed and the view was nice. I've not tried the corals at Andaman or Goa, so from what I can remember of my underwater walking in Thailand, Netrani corals and underwater life appeared slightly better.

Shande had suggested that we get a contact lens, but I could manage without one. The dive lasted for about half an hour, which appeared so long when under the water. One of the crew took underwater pictures which were eventually shared on their fb page, that's how I got below pictures.

Eventually we came up and the memorable scuba dive is over. For those interested, one more dive on same day can be had at an additional 2000 Rs.

There was no need for swimming pool training. We managed very well despite being first timers.

Once back, had to wait for everyone else to finish. No lunch, but snacks and fruits were provided. It was about 3 PM when were done and started return journey. (Note that this time largely depends on how many people are diving that day. 2 weeks ago Shande's dive included a gang of 20+ and they could come back to Murudeshwar only by 8PM. When we dived, we were about 15 people, 7 from our team and about 8 others, so we could return to mainland by 4PM). If you have some specific plans for the evening, check with organizers as to how many people are diving that day and what is the expected time of return. Availability of crew can also influence time- more the crew, more simultaneous dives and faster return)

Swimming & snorkeling in the ocean was fun- thanks to life jacket and availability of trained crew around, the risks were minimized. Waves were largely non existent near the island. 
Nishant has uploaded a teaser video on youtube about our dive, taken in his gopro. We're all waiting for him to upload full video. So now GoPro is on my wishlist of things to buy. 

I was expecting a certificate for the dive, but there was none.

Next step would be to do a certificate course in Scuba diving. A 3 day PADI certified course enables you to dive solo (provided you've the equipment).

Check the entire album on fb here for more photos.

Read Sandeep's account of Scuba diving experience

Scuba diver Murudeshwara-Organizer contact details
email: / Mob: +919740752480 & +919326151300

Thursday, March 27, 2014

RoadTrip Thailand Documentary on NDTV Goodtimes, March 29 8PM

NDTV Goodtimes will be telecasting a documentary on Thailand as a biking destination.

The broadcast has been scheduled for this Saturday 29th March, 8PM and there will be 2 repeat telecasts:
  • Wednesday, 2nd April 3PM and 
  • Thursday 3rd April 10 AM
Do watch this program. Myself and other bloggers (Niranjan Das, blogs at Tales of Nomad) & bikers (Joshua, Meeraj), as well as our host- Director of TAT Mumbai, Mr Buddhani & guide Sumon (Extreme right) will be featured in this documentary. NDTV's Aditya Bahl (3rd from left in below picture) will be playing the anchor.
Team that was part of Ride Thailand Expedition, Dec 2013

I have also written 2 part quick summary of the trip group travel site Ghumakkar- you can read them as well

I am looking forward to see how the documentary is. As the NDTV crew planned and executed their shoot, I could understand the amount of effort that goes into making a 30 min video- One needs to shoot videos worth as much as 100 times that duration and careful editing goes in to select the best of the frames and finalize on a 30 min documentary. During events like this, different people will have different objectives- such as bikers might wish to cruise very fast and reach destination asap, a photographer would prefer to go slow, stop for pics etc, organizer may have his own priorities. At times lot of things may not be favorable for shooting-bad light, too much traffic etc. NDTV producers and crew had to ideate, communicate and execute their video shoot. Lots of good thinking and effort has gone in by Sheron Pinto (Producer), Dheeraj and Nishant (cameramen at NDTV).

 I am getting featured on TV after few years (previous 2 occasions were once on TV9 during Tata Nano Superdrive and another one on an ETV Kannada debate show, way back in 2001)

Thailand has some political unrest in recent times, which has now been resolved. Tourists can resume their plans to visit Thailand. Apart from visiting typical destinations like Pattaya, Phuket etc, there's lot to explore in Thailand. This particular NDTV documentary would focus on Biking around Thailand.
Do watch the show and let us know your opinion.

Book Review: Prisoner Jailor Prime Minister by Tabrik C

Prisoner, Jailor Prime Minister is a political fiction written by Tabrik C.

Published by Hachette India, this 320 pages long paperback fiction is set to take place in near future, 2016, along with a flashback dating 2-3 decades earlier. Largely written in first person view of the lead character, Sidhartha Tagore while some chapters (which doesn't involve Sidhartha) are in third person. News clippings are also used to provide additional details.

The plot is about the future prime minister of India, who is a Harvard Alumni and whose dad was an MP. More interestingly, Sidhartha Tagore is a brilliant musician, who is respected worldwide for his concerts. Sidhartha is known to take some tough decisions and stands, which wins him enemies both within and outside the country.

Though 'Prisoner Jailor Prime Minister' is a fiction, it occasionally refers to real political parties and people- BJP, Deve Dowda, Saffron, Khakhi chaddis (RSS) and so on. The plot seem to be developed on an idea that a 3rd front government will come into place after 2014 General Elections. Though there's no direct blame, the plot seem to project that saffron party, if elected to power would bring in constitutional changes to enforce vedic culture and traditional rules.

There is no physical reference to prison and jail. Assume the term used in book's title are more to reflect the mental state of the prime minister- the dilemma he faces and the circumstances that try to tie him down.

Story begins in the present, occasionally goes back to 1980s when Sidhartha was a student at Harvard. He finds his love of life there and enjoyed huge fan following because of his expertise in music. Over the course of the story the past and present merges very well. Read the book to find out Sidhartha's journey of politics and music-his personal and professional challenges and more.

Title: Prisoner, Jailor Prime Minister
Author: Tabrik C
MRP: Rs 350 (Rs 267 on flipkart, Rs 235 on
No of Pages: 320
Publisher:  hachette India
Genre: Political Fiction

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

 Similar: Shoes of the dead by Kota Neelima * Tantra by Adi * RIP * F?@k knows * How I braved Anu aunty and co founded a million dollar company * 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kuppalli-Kuvempu's Birthplace in Sahyadri hills

While returning to Bengaluru from Murudeshwara, we took a deviation and visited Kuppalli village. This little village, located off Thirthahalli in Shimoga district, Karnataka is the birth place of popular kannada poet and writer, Kuvempu (Kuppalli Venkatappa Puttappa). The house is now converted into a memorial.

There're 3 spots to visit in Kuppalli- Kavi Mane or house of Kuvempu, KaviShaila- a scenic evening spot on the rocks, where Kuvempu used to sit and take inspiration from the nature. His samadhi or burrial memorial is here and the third one is an art gallery and memorial building.

Some exterior photos for your reference. Photography not allowed inside.

1. Kavi Mane (House of the Poet)
Front view. Inside the house, the artefacts used by Kuvempu- house hold items or otherwise are preserved and displayed. Also on display are his books, medals and certificates. We could see hand written copy of Sri Ramayana Darshanam, which got the Jnanapeetha award to Kuvempu.

The bath room- has a pot for hot water and a small pit in which one would stand and take bath. 

Kuvempu Memorial 
 Art Gallery 
Kavi Shaila- a view point on the nearby rocks, where poet would spend his evenings and draw inspiration from nature.

Books written by Kuvempu are available for sale in the campus.

Kuppalli is a scenic place far away from cities. Certainly worth a visit when you're in the area

Entry fee Rs 10, open from morning to evening. KSRTC has a Rajahamsa bus directly to Kuppalli. Otherwise one has to go to nearest town Thirthahalli and then go to Kuppalli.

More about Kuvempu on wikipedia

Nearby places- Kundadri * Sakrebailu * Sringeri * 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

10 Good Features in Mahindra XUV500 W6

I drove an XUV500 for the first time since its launch- thanks to Carzonrent offering it on self drive. I’d heard and read a lot about XUV500’s looks, features (and some complaints as well) and was eager to experience it first hand. What I drove was W6 variant, one step below the top of the line W8. 

I was highly surprised by the amount of thought, innovation and technology that’s gone into the making of XUV500. It has lots of features, even more than the BMW320d I’d driven earlier. In this post, I am listing a set of XUV500 features that are not available in most of the cars in its price range (15-20 lakhs)
1)   Angled headlights for sharp turns (officially known as static bending headlamps)- XUV500 has couple of extra headlamps, positioned at an angle of 30 degrees. If we make a sharp turn, the light switches on automatically, lighting the corner. Brilliant feature- whoever thought of this, take my bows. Very useful during night drives or parking.
Notice a lamp between two headlights-this static bending headlamp is useful during turns
2)   Lights below the mirror to illuminate walk in path. You’re approaching the car in dark and you don’t know what is there on your path- it could be cow dung, it could be a pit or even a snake. So XUV500 has a white light below the external rear view mirrors (not the turn indicators- this light points downward on the ground). When Follow Me home or Lead me to  vehicle function is on, this light glows, illuminating the path, so that you can take careful steps to your car.
3)   Ambient light- red coloured light glows at about 3 places- around the front lamp, near the footrest and under the seat- only for front passengers. This is not mood lighting though, just jazzes up the interior with red.
4)   Convex mirror to view passengers (called conversation mirror)- you’re seated in driver’s seat and you want to know if all your passengers have taken their seat or while driving you wish to check if people are sleeping or awake. The regular rear view mirror is designed to view vehicles coming from behind and not to keep an eye on the passengers. So XUV500 has an additional convex mirror in which all seats of the vehicle are visible. Super.
5)   Lumbar support for first row passengers
6)   Cruise Control- tried it for a while- I felt very uncomfortable having to sit there and do nothing, so reverted to manual mode. Also auto transmission and cruise control tend to make the driver lazy, so I avoid them where possible.
7)   Dozens of storage areas- there’re 2 glove boxes for front passenger, another box at the centre of dashboard, another large box in between the two first row seats, overhead boxes to keep goggles, water bottle storage spaces all around, additional storage area for 3rd row passengers- think of an item and XUV500 has space for it. However, only limitation is shortage of space to keep big luggage. If you have 7 people and all of them have say 2-3 bags, then without a roof mounted carrier, it will be difficult to manage. Large bags won’t fit in between the last row and rear door. We managed to keep one under the first row seats and in between first and second row etc. Front passenger glove box even has a laptop holder.
8)   Micro hybrid technology to save fuel

9)   Extra light under boot door- while most car makers expect us to manage with 3rd row light for luggage, XUV generously provided one extra lamp, under the boot door.
10)  Attention to every passenger- all 7 seats get adjustable headrests, all 3 rows have charging points, reading lamps and AC units. So no passenger feels ignored or he's sitting in a bad seat.

Above is just W6 variant. W8 variant gets hill hold and hill descent control, ESP, side airbags, telescopic steering adjustment, fold-able mirrors, alloy wheels, GPS, tyre-tronics and leather seats extra.

View some of the Xuv500 photos here. Standby for detailed review and more photos of XUV500.