Monday, 21 December 2009

Mumbai calling, yet again

This is the 6th time I am going to Mumbai, and except for one trip to meet a good friend of mine, all others have been transit stops - coming to Mumbai to start another journey.

This particular trip is different and special in many ways. Firstly, I am going to Mumbai by train - my longest journey by train after the 2 and half days trip to Delhi which I made 6 yrs back when I went for the Himalayan trek.
Secondly I am going on my own - covering 1000 kms in Rs. 360 seems amazing!
Thirdly, the reason I am travelling to Mumbai - to join a 18-day journey throughout India as part of

The first image of Mumbai I have is of our plane landing straight into a huge slum. After it landed safely on the runway, I realized it was probably parallax error.
During one of my other transit stops, I was 'forced' to stay in hotel Leela for a day as our flight was overbooked. I took this opportunity to explore Mumbai on my own - cudn't do it the last time around as my good friends ensured that I was not alone and was looked after. Not that I am complaining, they were all very sweet. So, I went to Colaba in the local train when I had the opportunity to go by taxi. From there, I made a quick visit to Elephanta caves - supposed to be a heritage site but has lot of scope for improvement in terms of maintenance, especially cleanliness. One funny thing I remember about this trip is that I went into the first class compartment by mistake thinking it was second class and thought the local trains had become a lot better from my previous trip where I had travelled second class :)
Compare that to a similar but opposite scenario in Switzerland where I thought I had mistakenly entered the first class compartment when I had a ticket for second class :))

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Never has a car lacked so much - the REVA nxr

5th Dec. 2009

It was the launch of REVA’s next car - the NXR - at the REVAlok day in Bangalore.
People came in their little REVAs to be greeted by enthusiastic members of the REVA family. I hadn't felt so much warmth in a long time even at real family gatherings. Everyone smiled at each other, silently acknowledging and appreciating the choice made for a better environment.
There was no press, no hype, no glitz, no skimpily dressed models at the car launch.. the car would speak for itself. Well, the NXR actually 'talks' back to you through telematics that helps keep u in touch with your car.
All the speeches were short and came straight from the heart.. I liked the part about how Brigadier Harish followed Chetan Maini (founder and CTO of REVA) for 2 kilometeres in Koramangala to get feedback on the REVA without realizing that he was going to ask for feedback from the founder himself :)
The interaction session brought some interesting points.. one of them being the current owners being brand ambassadors for REVA as there have been many instances where we have been stopped and asked questions. The most touching interaction was when one of the owners said how he was able to use the REVA to move around and be independent inspite of having only one functional leg - a lot better alternative to a wheelchair car which costs more than 10 lakhs. He only wanted some slight modifications in the REVA which the board was eager to take up.
I was happy to personally thank Chetan Maini for "giving me a guilt free ride in the city."

I loved the NXR promos as much as the NXR itself. Stuff like 'Evolution is getting rid of things that you dont need - No sparks, no noise, no clutch, no gears, no tailpipe, no emissions, no petrol' or 'Never has a car lacked so much' to name a few.

The 4 seater NXR is born green and comes with a host of features like
- turning radius of 3.9 meters
- intelligent instrument display that provides info on range available, speed and driving efficiency
- top speed of 104 kmph - more than sufficient for cities
- range of 160 km which is covers 97% of all journeys one makes
- normal and fast charge options (fast charge available only in Lithium-Ion variants)
- 'Regen' braking that extends the range by putting energy back into the batteries everytime u slow down
- fully crash tested, highway safe car - M1 category
- optional solar roof charging provides a trickle charge
- REply - a suite of telematics solutions that alerts you with key info such as range available, time to full charge, provides reminders on service and insurance renewals, lets u remotely pre-heat, pre-cool, provides a report on your driving habits and tips on how to improve, etc.
- REVive - remote emergency charge if you run low or out of charge
- and last but not the least, forthe price of a couple of tanks of petrol, one can commute all year long

The price for the NXR hasn’t been fixed yet for India – according to me, a price between 5 to 6 lakhs rupees would be a competitive one.

The cars themselves will be produced in REVA's new low carbon assembly plant in Bangalore which is being built to IGBC (Indian Green Building Council) guidelines which includes rain water harvesting, natural light and ventilation, and employs solar energy for electricity and heating - hence the term 'Born Green'.

REVA, named after Chetan’s mother, also means ‘a new beginning’ in Sanskrit – and a new beginning it definitely is. If I heard it right, REVA is the first company producing commercial electric vehicles and has the largest deployed fleet of electric cars with customers in 24 countries. Bangalore has 1200 proud REVA owners and there are about 3000 cars worldwide.

If I had to sum up the evening's proceedings in one sentence, it would be something like this.. I felt how it was to have realized a dream - a dream of designing and producing responsible auto in a responsible way and still being so genuine.
Each guest was given an indoor plant as a token of thanks.

PS: Please pardon the low resolution pix.. I felt like kicking myself for forgetting my SLR.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

2 small decisions I am happy to have made

Last month was anniversary critical mass and we were getting Tshirts done to mark the occasion.. here's where I got an opportunity to make 2 small but important decisions which I will cherish for a long time.

The tees were supposed to be ready by Wednesday morning and when I went to check out some samples in the evening around 5 pm on Tuesday, I saw some women were still working and they would have had to work till late to complete the remaining stuff.. I told the guy in charge that it is ok to delay the delivery by a day but the women have to go home on time.

The second one was really easy.. they normally pack each tee in a separate plastic bag and I obviously said no to it. So, that explains why the tees are so crumpled and messy.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

I-Day in Bangalore as seen while on a ride

I did not have any specific plans for I-Day as I was puppy-sitting. But the cyclist in me got the better of me and I joined the I-Day critical mass ride. As I rode on Mysore Road, I saw flags hoisted on some buildigs and street vendors selling flags and little badges. One big relief was that there were very few plastic ones being sold compared to previous years.. some improvement.. One particular I-day celebration caught my eye from the top of the flyover.. it was of a Muslim girls school. All the students were dressed in spotless white clothes from head to toe, including their head/face covering. Made me ponder if this was really freedom.. I did not want to think too much and raced down the flyover.

There were 20 other cyclists gathered at the Press Club gates in Cubbon Park. We started after fixing the Indian flag onto one of the cyclists and rode along Vidhan Soudha and Parade grounds, attracting some attention, including from a journalist from CNBC.

I rode back on the same flyover to find a bunch of enthusiastic guys put up a huge flag on the shoulder of the flyover.. thatz the biggest Indian flag I have seen so far. I got down to take some pix and there was this guy on a scooter who had stopped too to be part of the excitement, or so I thought.. but what this guy said really spoilt the spirit of freedom of secular India. There was a mosque in the background and he did not want me to cover that in the pix.. how absurd! I just ignored him and did not care to even respond to him.

I had almost reached home when I saw 2 kids walking home from school.. one of them had the little badge on, but the other did not. I went back and put my badge on the other kid and she gave me a big smile and both posed for a neat snap :)

All in all, it was 4 hrs well spent on Independence Day.

Jai Hind

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Dont throw waste, just dump it

I dont remember when and how I got the idea of managing waste at home; paper to start with and then moving on to kitchen waste.
Inspired by a TV program on handmade paper, my brother and I used the wet grinder at home to grind waste paper and made hand made paper out of it.. this was when we were in school :)

We were already using kitchen waste for the garden in a very unorganized way by just throwing it in the garden, but mom was not very happy about it because of the flies and rodents who would come to devour on it.

I then heard about using earthworms to convert waste into compost.. tried using existing worms in the garden but it was not enough. Then I consulted the HoD of Entomology at GKVK (Gandhi Krishi Vignan Kendra) who explained the mechanism of vermi composting. I was very impressed by her knowledge and simplicity and more importantly for agreeing to spare half an hr for me.
I picked up some earthworms and followed her instructions to create rich black compost by the end of three months.. it was not without hardwork though.. firstly, the idea of buying 3 big cement pots to store waste did not go well with mom... and I had to change the place of the pots more than once.. one of the reasons was to prevent our dog from messing up with the mess..
finally it landed up on the terrace and that was not very convenient... but at the end of it, it was worth the effort.
I couldn't continue with the project as I had to move to a different location and when I came back, what do I see? A complete solution for converting kitchen waste into compost, without earthworms and such a neat design that it looks good too. When DailyDump visited our office with their products and services, I was very impressed with what they had to offer.
Needless to say, I use one of their products - the 3 pot Kambha and inspite of the ants, flies and maggots, it has found acceptance in our home.

As the name says, all you need to do is dump your daily kitchen waste into it along with a few dry leaves and shredded newspaper and mix it up once in a while. There are additives that hasten the process and also minimize maggots. If you do not want to get your hands dirty, there are service plans to take care of it for you. Overall, a neat design for a common problem. Infact, DailyDump was one of the finalists for TATA Nen - hottest startups.

There is a variety of products to choose from depending on the space that you can spare or the amount of waste that you generate or both. Some come with plants so you dont have to worry about taking out the compost and using it elsewhere. And they all come with a handbook.
I feel DailyDump makes for an ideal house warming gift, whether they like it or not! Afterall, we all have a responsiblity to the environment.

Here's an experience by another user.

So, till the time BBMP comes up with an effective and efficient system that we can trust, we can do our bit by reducing our contribution to the garbage dumps.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Not so guilty about driving in the city anymore

We recently bought a Reva, with the intention that dad and mom can drive around in a safe and convenient way, within the city. It may not be as safe as a standard car, but definitely better than a two-wheeler which has a constant fear of being knocked down by a bus or lorry. The Reva has given us more freedom and choice and more importantly a guilt-free ride for short distances within the city. There are no direct emissions, no sound, and a smooth and easy ride.. A friend of mine, Thej has a more comprehensive review on the Reva.
There have been many stares, curious on-lookers peeping in to see a gearless car, excited kids talking about the Reva and free advice from many people. One of the advice was from the guy doing the sun film - "mam, 3 and half lacs ge 'car'e togoboditalwa", meaning "for 3 and half lacs, you could have gone for a car itself" I told him this is indeed a car. The guys at the workshop somehow couldn't stop smiling and giggling at my choice.
All said and done, I am happy to be driving a state-of-the-art electric vehicle which is environment friendly to a large extent.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Cycling, cycling and more cycling on one fine Saturday

A couple of hours before logging out on Friday evening, got to know about a cycle inclusive planning workshop at Bangalore with interesting topics by eminent speakers. I was very excited that something like this was happening in Bangalore and that I had a chance to contribute my two cents to it. Last year when a friend of mine organized a cycle rally, I had come across BMLTA and their idea of making cycling as the prefered mode of transport for Bangalore. But I had thought that it was all only on paper. So was pleasantly surprised to see some progress.

Though it would have been apt to cycle to the venue, I ended up going by my new Reva.
The workshop started with introductions and context settings by the BMLTA convener, Mr. Gaurav Gupta and Rajeev Chandrashekar, MP. I was happy to see cycling getting the much deserved importance.
Then there was a nice video from cycling friendly cities like Amsterdam, Bogota, Copenhagen. Cycling is really in their culture.
As the day progressed, there were some serious presentations by architects, town planners and environmentalists on the challenges faced in designing for sustainable and non-motorized transport. I was amazed by the amount of thinking and planning behind a simple form of transport.

For me, the best part of the day came in the form of an imprompto cycling experience in the form of critical mass. Critical mass for cycling is a monthly cycling event in Bangalore to prove that we are also part of traffic and need to share the same infrastructure with all other vehicles.

I learnt the bike salute (check out this bike salute in front of the Vidhana Soudha). It was so much fun.

How can forget to mention this kiddo who easily did atleast 10 km with us!

There were some enquires at traffic signals and some questioning by policemen and a lot of stares! Our purpose was served.
Thanks to Mayank and Omer for arranging the cycle for me.. a cool, foldable Montague and a cycling experience comparable to the one I had in NYC.
Go.. cycle and save the planet :)