17 August 2009
(5) Comment(s) (15)
Posted By joseph
You are committed
But you are tempted
You know your partner back home is great looking
But this one seems to have something new
You remember all the great times spent with your love
But everyday is a new discovery on a getaway holiday
You know she loves you
But this one showers you with attention
In a way, my girl back home and my partner for this journey are not too different. The similarities are both striking and fatally attracting in this case. When you spend 10 days with someone who is so similar to the one you love and has some deceptively better traits, dangerous things are bound to happen.
As they did.
Now before all you guys start to get all happy and jumpy that the “budding romance” between Namrata and me finally blossomed, let me break the bad news!
Here’s my love back home. Pining for me!
That’s my 2006 Cedia Sports, a.k.a Blackhawk. I love her. She’s been tireless on the long drives and always added a pint of zest and energy to every single trip. She’s been reliable and carried on a flat tyre for 21kms once, and she has been exciting as ever on the expressway - 186kmph being the top whack so far. She look gorgeous and is super comfortable to live in. And she’s mine.
BUT for the past 10 days…
...I have been drooling all over her not-so-distant cousin - the 2009 GDC Cedia Sports. Obviously the hot outfit she wears attracts attention wherever we go. I love taking her around and flaunting her!
Apart from the obvious flashy stickers, the exterior is slightly tweaked as well. The smoked headlamps are replaced by the clear-whites, and the O.Z wheels add a new dimension of cool and the grille is new as well. I have always loved the Cedia’s looks in the flesh and this one is no different. It is low-slung, has a great stance when parked, and looks fantastic from the front - in an almost classic sporty look. But the exteriors are only for the audience.
For the both of us in the car, it has been the interiors and the performance that have mattered the most. We have travelled 3100kms to date and spent more than 80 hours in the car (a third of each day!), and in this time the Cedia has become an integral part of our lives. It is time to look back at the experience.
Living it up
I say: Spending 30% of the day for 10 days on the trot in any car is not easy; especially when you hear all the horror stories about Indian highways! So let’s split this discussion up:
Suspension and comfort: To say the Cedia handled all kinds of roads with aplomb would be an understatement, it actually made driving fun on every single kind of surface. The suspension has endured through the bumps towards the Rann in Gujarat, the unbelievably potholed highways of MP, the backroads in all the many towns we visited, the heavy braking and high-speed runs along the expressways, and the disastrous times when we lost our way completely and ended up in barren fields! There was a slight noise from the rear strut which surfaced after Indore but it has mostly disappeared now - I can’t blame the car for this, the initial stretch of NH3 from Indore to Dhule is a nightmare!
Performance: This is supposed to be the meat and potatoes of any car, and the Cedia performs superbly here. In a straight-line the car can do 0-100 around 10-11 seconds but the fun part lies beyond 150kmph where the speed continues to build - all tests on the National Expressway 1 in Gujarat! The highest we touched was 182kmph (the GPS showed 177kmph), Namrata took a video of it which we can’t find right now. :( More than the sheer speed (which is par-for-the-course for the segment), the delight lies in the high-speed manners of this machine. There is an utter calmness about the way this car goes about its business, the growl in 3rd and 4th gears at high-speed is intoxicating and must be heard to be believed! Book that test drive date now just to hear that growl!
When it comes to daily driving performance - away from the speed-runs on the highways - we had enough opportunities to experience the feel of this car in the smallest of lanes and the dullest of traffic jams. In the city, the Cedia is tailormade for the traffic and the sudden bursts of speed, the biggest factor here being its torque. Torque which doesn’t just figure as a number but is available across the rev range in any gear. Stomp the accelerator in any gear and the Cedia is ready for action, most of the 175nm of torque is available right from 2000rpm onwards and it drives almost like a diesel! Overtaking in the city is a breeze and I found myself shooting out 2-3 cars at a stretch in the race to the Taj Mahal in Agra, on the highway it means you rarely have to downshift from 5th gear to overtake. Overall though, my words will be nothing but words till you drive this car, so go ahead n try it out!
Handling and braking: Firstly, at high speeds the car is a dream. The chassis screams for the 160bhp MiVEC engine from the RalliArt version in the US - this is obvious cuz taking curves at more than a ton and a half are a piece of cake in this car. Most fast cars (Verna CRDis, Magnums, Civics etc) kept pace with us on the straight but at the curves it was a delight to just chuck the Cedia into a corner and let its famed rally pedigree take over. There is no drama in this car, whether it is a 140kmph curve or a 100-0 braking manoeuvre at night to avoid ending up in a truck bum on MP’s “highways”, the tyres squealed all of once but the car was never unsettled. This is really the heart of this car, the power might not be the highest among similar cars but show this car some curves and boy can it move! For those who think I am praising this emptily - try it and dinner’s on me if you aren’t left with a big grin on your face at the end.
The maneouverability of this car is one of the most pleasant surprises it’ll throw at you during your time with it. The turning radius of 4.9m equals many hatchbacks and the car shrinks in size in the city. Visibility is good all around (though we were handicapped by the many many stickers on the windows and rear-screen!), and you can easily find your way around the smallest of gallis. What I’d recommend though is a parking camera as the length of the car is not a joke for first-time handlers and a parking camera/sensor can really help.
Steering and low-speeds: I love this Momo steering wheel. If I could, I would steal it and install it in my car in a jiffy. The wheel is chunky at all the right places with muscles bulging out where your hand needs the most grip. It is not really small and tiny but it is thick and perfectly weighted. The turning radius has been a cool surprise for all the security guards and parking lot attendants who try to tell us “saab itni badi gaadi fit nahin hogi”, we took the Cedia into the Old city of Jodhpur, the gallis of ancient Gwalior and real cramped lanes of Ahmedabad’s old town, and returned without a single scratch on the body. Considering we had deadlines to meet every single day, we were not exactly tip-toeing our way across town. The wheel and the steering system will make you feel like a pro after a few hours in the car itself!
Interiors: The aluminium pedals are nice but do not really add anything to the experience - if nothing else, they are good show-off material to your buddies. :D The SatNav system is great for music but a pain to navigate around due to the really slow menu system - Mitsu please look for a firmware update for this one! When fired up though, the SatNav works like a charm at all times. Without Sattu the Satnav we wouldn’t have been able to find our way onto the highways in any city - everyone gives contradicting directions. Obviously it has its caveats but the sheer utility value is unmatched! The new seats are great to look at and uber-comfortable. I was contemplating a neck-rest but never needed one at any point. Namrata loved the leg-room in the front but wanted a few more cubbyholes - for a touring machine, we could always do with more places to place stuff! I wanted a more detailed information display, something with a fuel efficiency meter as well! The Climate Control system worked as advertised and kept the temps constants all through the heat, rain and cold nights, no issue whatsoever.
After these 10 days, this is what we think:
What we loved:
1. Looks, looks, looks. The car gathers attention like crazy - not just due to the stickers but even our support car had people asking questions. Maybe it is the rarity of this car on the roads but mostly it is the simple classic sports-car styling.
2. The simplicity of everything. The dashboard, the styling, the instrument cluster…everything. This car does not intimidate you with barrage of buttons or meters, the dash is ridiculously neat and uncluttered and everything falls into place - from the power windows to the gearshift to the perfectly placed A/C controls. Everything.
3. The performance, braking and handling and the high-speed manners. No drama anywhere.
4. The way the car inspires confidence on the speedways and belies its size in the gallis. The ground clearance and the turning radius make it a car meant for India.
5. The gearshift. The feel of the stitched-leather and the shift action are a dream at high speeds.
6. The fact that we got to own it for 10 days. No questions asked, no supervision, nothing. We need more contests like this!
What we would have loved:
1. A maplight in the front, really need this one. In-cabin illumination at night is quite low and a light in the front will drastically improve this.
2. A multi-information display for fuel efficiency etc. Just a thought.
3. I know most sedans do not have them, but flip-forward rear seats perhaps? For this trip we did not use a single rear seat and most of the luggage was placed precariously on the backseats. Perhaps even space UNDER the rear seat could do!
4. More cubbyholes for the roadtrippers!
5. Keeping this car. I love my gaddi but the added features in this are making me cheat on it!
Finally, this trip made us learn a few things:
- Roadtrips in India are possible and can be tons of fun too. Not tiring, not irritating but fun, fun and fun. The roads are great in more than 80% of the 6 states that we visited and doing 400-450kms in a day with sight-seeing is easily possible in all of the states.
- Across India, the people are very helpful and go out of their way to get you to the right place. Sometimes even if they do not know the way!
- India badly needs more car-tripping clubs. With the roads in place now and cars like the Cedia around, we need to build communities to sustain this. The way we see it, this has been by far the most memorable experience and definitely one of a lifetime. Heck, we are ready to bet it is more exciting than a Eurotrip or a typical south-east Asia tour.
- Driving is for everyone. We are not specialists or even veterans, between the both of us we were the most inexperienced team of the lot…the fact that we’ve made it thus far is (apart from God’s grace!) testament to the fact that Indian roads and conditions are there for you to conquer if you just get yourself to get going.
So, seriously, strap on those seatbelts ladies and gentlemen and get road-tripping in India. ‘Cuz no matter if you get lost or get stuck in traffic, you will always discover new things and find yourself. Of course, a stupendous car like the Cedia is an icing on the very, very, delightful cake.
PS: No I’m not cheating on my Blackhawk. I promise to take her around India more often now!
PPS: My other partner for this trip (Namrata! ) was not too bad either. Without her I would be typing this sitting in Nagaland and not Nashik. She’s given direction, stayed focused, and kept me going all through. Take a bow, my navigator and kick-butt partner!
PPPS: There was a white guardian angel occupied by two wild asses following us all through. Also known as our media crew, they rocked our world! Thank you Raghu, Sunil and Subash (the driver), you kept it real.
17 August 2009
(6) Comment(s) (18)
Posted By namrata
Arrival at the Vineyards
Joe: So this dude who had drunk too much wine and hence broken his hand in a toothpick fight kept talking about some chevy blond n other blond. So while Namrata took notes, I shot some shots - photos I mean.
Ye yes, I did take some notes. Look like sheets of music my notes. Ok so we go to this awesome vineyard near Nasik, started by this dude from Stanford, called Rajeev Samant. He like chucked his fine job in the U.S. of A to become a farmer in Nasik. Went for some euro trip I guess where he liked the wine and got back some grape plants… vines i think… planted them in Nasik in 1996 and they like grew immediately.. very well.. awesome na!?
But not everything went so well and he could only harvest them grapes in 1999. They made their first bottle of wine at that time but all family and friends guzzled it before he could stop the. So had to make wine again. Wait for grapes to grow again.
Of course he had some help, firangi fellow who is some wine canoshier helps him blend and cook the wine. All this Harshal told me, poor guy with broken hand. Cant serve wine like his other friends on the first floor, so has to give wine tours, must be so boring na.
Neway these chappies grow the grapes, did you know there are two types of grapes, no not green and black u morons, but table grapes that are seedless that we eat at home at the dinner table and the seedwala grapes that u can make wine from. So that means if u ever bought seedwala grapes home, eat they carefully or u might get really really high!
O ya! these people very serious abut making wines, didnt appreciate when we asked if we can jump on the grapes and make own wine. Says that is only done once a year, during party, we make wine with fully neumatic… automatic process.
Neway, the weather here is awesome! lake nearby and people sipping wine. We then went for the wine tasting - 6 different types of wine - dry, rose, brut and some other stuff… good stuff this… some cheapo uncles asking harshal’s friends to pour more for the tastings, so sad na!
Neway, harshal like slips us extra wine coz we were so attentive and asked such intelligent questions. We have wine, joe takes a plate of cheese apperitifs, God I am so much more french now after all that wine! So we dont pay for cheese, Joe takes someone else’s plate, he takes some good pictures also.
Than we drive back all the way to Taj hotel. Best hotel in Nashik. On the way I think we lost that wheel. But could be earlier also. No idea.Going to crash now. Feel woozy. Joe is sleeping at the steering wheel only.
17 August 2009
(3) Comment(s) (16)
Posted By namrata
Night 7, ITC Mughal, Agra: Prudence. By saving some monies on our stays at Ahmedabad (ITC Guesthouse) and Indore (IIM Indore Campus), we decided to splurge on our visit to Agra. Barely 10mins away from the beautiful Taj, we chose the ITC Mughal, one of THE most luxurious hotels in India for our night-stop. With its exquisite interiors, sprawling architecture and impeccable service, the Mughal scores high on our list of holiday accommodation. The food was excellent, since we were in Mughal land, we tried the chicked biryani and raita for dinner and sampled the extensive breakfast buffet spread in the morning. The variety on offer was mind-boggling and we stuffed ourselves with some delicious bread, cakes and continental fare. Didn’t have the time to check out Kaya Kalp,their spa, that is the biggest in India and meets world standards, might be worth a visit.
Place - 10/10 , Food - 10/10 , Ambience - 10/10
Night 8, Tourist Village, Shivpuri: As we ended up going to the Taj once again in the morning, we decided that since we wouldn’t have much time to explore Gwalior and that the Gwalior-Indore stretch is too long to be covered at one go, we would park ourselves at the Madhavrao National Park at Shivpuri (210km from Agra) for the night. This MTDC guest house is right in the middle of the national park and is a great place to stay for serious wildlife enthusiasts who would like to hit the trails early in the morning. The service is unhurried and forces you to unwind after a long, tiring day.
Place - 8/10 (not very hygenic), Food - 8/10, Ambience - 10/10
Night 9, IIM Indore Campus: From Shivpuri, we headed straight to Indore, to our campus and alma mater IIM Indore. The familiar roads, bad traffic, crazy road-sense of drivers and pedestrians alike filled us with nostalgia rather than irritation this time. Going back to campus was a great feeling and meeting some familiar faces from the junior batch as well as greeting some of our avid followers filled us with nostalgia and a longing to turn back the clock to 2007. The canteen contractor had been changed recently and somehow the maggi and parathas in the night canteen were not quite upto the mark. Was it just that or the absence of the familiar kitchen staff, I wonder?
Place - 9/10 (some of the hostel rooms could use some repair after the monsoon seepage dries up) , Food - 9/10, Ambience - 20/10
Night 10, Hotel Krishnai Food Court, Dhule: We spent the day attending the flag-hoisting on campus and meeting some of our favorite professors. This obviously meant that we left Indore quite late and hence had to make an unscheduled night stop at Dhule. We stayed at Hotel Krishna that is along the Nasik-Dhule highway (267km from Indore). The place was neat and tidy, rooms were spacious, the food is not highly recommended but might be the best that Dhule can offer. (Do not try the Chicken Strognoff and the Kantucky Fried Chicken (sic) even if you feel adventurous!) And yes, though the hotel is called Krishna, non-vegetarian food is available.
Place - 8/10, Food - 8/10 , Ambience - 8/10
Night 11, The Gateway Hotel, Nashik: From Dhule we ventured into wine-country and consequently are staying at The Gateway Hotel (Taj Group) in Nashik. The hotel has been built in accordance to traditional Maharashtrian architectural style and is very spacious and quite pleasing to the eye. As expected from any Taj property, the staff is helpful and courteous, the place neat and comfortable. For dinner, we sampled the buffet and found that sorely lacking. Joseph Radhik, our in-house expert on non-vegetarein cuisine found the fish .. quite… err.. shady (?!?!), the chicken dishes though passed his muster. In my opinion the vegeterian biryani could be tastier and fresher than tonight’s preparation, the desserts (especially the chocolate gateaux) were excellent and so were the soups.
Place - 10/10 , Food - 9/10 , Ambience - 10/10
Next stop, home sweet home!
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Namrata and Joseph, Bombay-ite and Hyderabadi, implore all you interesting, smart, cute and sexy people reading this to please, pleeez follow us !
Fresh out of college, we were thrown into the dust bowls of U.P and the jungles of M.P. Sneaky trainees that we were, we took full advantage of the available resources to explore. Whether the pine trees of Almora or the ruins of Khajuraho, a Bhojpuri film shoot or some gun-laden, mustachioed dudes in the Chambal areas of Bhind - our travels always had added flavor!