27 July 2009
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Posted By joseph
The only time when other vehicles can zoom past the Cedia Sports is when it’s parked. At all other times, this savage beast can keep up with the best of them even on the fastest of Indian roads.
A MSRTC bus whooshes by the parked Cedia near Lonavla on Mumbai-Pune expressway. The Cedia is a quick machine alright, but on the road it does not matter whose got the bhp or the torque when all you can do is park by the roadside and wait for the traffic to clear.
Traffic, the great equalizer. Whether you’re in an Audi R8 or a Alto Lxi, the pace you move at is the same on most of our completely jammed roads. The only saving grace is the view on on roads like the Expressway - especially around Lonavla/Khandala. The green topped hills and the overcast skies come together to form picturesque memories, and the monsoons add waterfalls to bring life to every single nook and cranny on the hills. This post is not really a long detailed one but just a penning down of one of the thoughts that hits you when you stop by the side and exit the mad crowd of criss-crossing crazy Indian traffic. A photo-stop/pit-stop/pee-stop on the highways always puts life in perspective.
See you at the next thought.
27 July 2009
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Posted By namrata
This MBA is a funny thing.
You begin this arduous journey with only your willpower as your friend. By the time you set up base camp in June-July you are a seasoned player. The onset of the GD/PI season is marked by routine skirmishes with the enemy (read: any and everyone wearing a blazer/saree in that room). If you are lucky, you might be one of the few selected to form the top team that will scale the peak that year. But who will reach the summit first?
Navigating through treacherous passes in the fall season, the winter sorts the men from the boys. Avalanches and storms called relative grading and internships are the instruments of its terror. Some give up on the way. Some realize that they are meant for far more important things than climb a stupid mountain. And some persevere.
Case studies are debated, presentations are made, interviews are given and one fine day it’s all over.
You go back home after two long years a changed person. Life back home seems so… well… soft! The senses seem less sharp due to over sleeping. You are meant for sterner stuff. Mom’s cooking is a welcome change but you miss the midnight walks, the night-canteen. You can’t fall asleep before 2 a.m., the ready stock of movies & music on the DC is absent.
And above all, you miss your compatriots. You re-group.
I felt the same way back in March 2007. Just before I started my first job and before I received my diploma at my graduation ceremony. It was the perfect time to go back-packing and the weather just could not get any better.
A bunch of my friends from college (IIM Indore) … Raj, Paro, Anu, Tanvi, Wayne, Kasturi, Vimal, Anoop, Mahesh, Aneek and I went on a trip from Indore to Himachal.
Indore to Delhi (807 km) was an uneventful journey by train, and so was Delhi to Pathankot (485 km). The Indian Defense forces, having the largest military base in Asia in this city, have a considerable presence at Pathankot. It is also the last city in Punjab on the national highway that connects J&K with the rest of India. On that day, we were greeted by a nearly empty station and slushy roads outside. After tiring walk, dodging potholes and mounds of filth, we reached the muddy bus station. At 8 a.m. the place was buzzing with activity. Men, women, children, porters and livestock waited impatiently to board buses that took them to Jammu, Kashmir or Himachal. As Pathankot is situated at the foothills of Dalhousie, our next stop, we looked forward to a pleasant and short bus ride. What we didn’t anticipate was the large number of people, animals and cargo that the bus hoped to carry over the narrow, winding mountainous roads. School & college students regularly boarded the vehicle, so did farmers and women carrying firewood. Snotty, young children were thrust onto our laps at times, and baskets of live chicken found their way under the seats. The nonchalant attitude of all the passengers showed that in the absence of facilities like trolleys and cable cars that are available in other parts of the world, the humble bus was the lifeline of the people of these hilly regions and a small roadblock or mudslide could cut off rations to a large number of their residents.
At Dalhousie we stayed at the YHAI’s student hostel. Two idyllic days were spent hiking along the leafy green trails that abound this place. The little market and the old, stone, British-era structures made one feel that the Brits haven’t really left the place, and one only had to turn a bend, or walk down to the local post office to bump into one of them. Dalhousie was established in 1854 as a British summer retreat and like all things English; it does have its fair share of spooky tales and ghostly encounters. If you are interested in any of those you could probably drop in at the circuit hose and have a chat with the old chowkidar there. We hired a 4-WD for the next leg of our journey.
Dharamshala was our next stop. After visiting the Tibetan monastery we drove through the McLeodganj market. McLeodganj is named after David McLeod, the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab and again, was established in the 1840’s. At first glance, you would think that you have stepped outside India once you are here. People from all over the world – Tibetans, Nepalese, Chinese, Europeans – throng Dharamshala to pray / study at the Tibetan Monastery. This town is the biggest centre of Tibetan culture and religion in India. A hub for the Free-Tibet Movement, it gives the Tibetan people a free and secure shelter to preserve their culture and traditions. Home to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, if you are lucky you could attend a discourse or prayer meeting conducted by him.
Manali-Rohtang-Shimla – Our travel to all these places was a blur. Not that we rushed through these due to paucity of time, this was a blur due to the snowfall and rain. All along we travelled in a minivan, without its windshield wiper working. The person sitting next to the driver was responsible for brushing away the snow using a straw broom! Visibility was poor and we had quite a few near-misses on the narrow, winding roads. We experienced snowfall for the first time on this trip at Manali. Setting up camp at the local Youth Hostel here (not as comfortable as the one at Dalhousie), we first visited the Hidimba temple in Manali and Ghatotkatch’s shrine too.
With fresh snow covering the hillside, the climb to this ancient cave temple was quite slippery. The temple is surrounded by Cedar forests and the view once you reach the top is very peaceful and scenic if not for the trigger happy honey mooning couples who make it a point to visit this place if they are in HP. Tourists can For Rs.50 hold a giant wild rabbit, sit on a yak, or take pictures of the old, natives (mostly ladies) decked out in traditional wear lounging in the temple premises.
About 70 metres away from the temple is a shrine dedicated to Goddess Hidimba’s son, Ghatotkacha who was born after she married Bhima. But you might really miss seeing this place as it is located by the roadside near the many fruit juice and fast food stalls, and is quite unremarkable to the tourist eye.
The next day we drove up to Rohtang. The plan for the day included skiing, sliding down snow-slides on a rubber tube - apart from intermittent snow fights and general hooliganism. Happy to say that all these objectives were met.
Observing others who had been too stingy to hire the snow-suits and gum boots from the vendors, by the roadside, a few kilometers back, was a treat. From ladies trudging around in sandals and guys in tennis shoes to fools who thought a mere shawl would be enough, their agony was both real and if I may say so, quite comical. I felt it reflected our quintessential Indian way of thinking, ‘Zara si toh thand hai, extra socks aur shawls le chaleinge,’ ‘Ye sabh hamein ulloo bana rahe hain, 500 rupaih ek snow suit ke liye?!?!, upar chalke dekhenge kitni thand hai, rates bhi kum honge!’.
Needless to say, not only was it freezing up there, but there were no shops hiring out suits or boots. A tip though to fellow travelers, carry your own water and food, prices here seem to be a function of height above sea level and a function of other available options. Carry your sun-glasses and don’t litter! Please!
The last leg of the trip was reserved for Shimla, where we relaxed, walked The Mall multiple times. Spent enough time at the book stores, protected our bags and cameras from the ferocious langurs that terrorized the passers by. Satiated our craving for Barista coffee and Dominos pizza. The youth hostel of Shimala, though not a patch on the Dalhouse one, provided basic facilities, but in our opinion was a little low on the hygiene scale. All Youth Hostels provide lodging and basic meals (varies from place to place), but not to worry, as there are enough dhabas, serving some delicious rajma-chawal, dotting this state.
This trip was a truly memorable one for many reasons. It gave us the opportunity to really relax and soak in the experience without any deadlines or placement anxieties marring these 10 days. We climbed, hiked, slithered, slipped, jumped, walked, ran to our hearts content. Every moment was captured by multiple cameras. Not only to capture Himachal with its beauty and simplicity but to hold every smile – impish, mischievous, honest, naughty and beautiful – for years to come. And above all, we grew closer to the friends we made here in the past two years – for they are friends for life.
27 July 2009
(2) Comment(s) (15)
Posted By joseph
It has been 38 days since I first laid eyes on her. I drove down to Somwar Peth (yes that’s a place in Pune) to meet her, nervous all the way, sweaty palms sliding over the old steering wheel, a check on my deo every once in a while. The person who’d set up our meeting said she was eager to see me too, she had just had her shower and was looking her prettiest with a slight wetlook.
As I turned into the lane, I saw her…it could only be her. Jetblack metal, gleaming alloys, red callipers and the swagger of someone who owns the road. She headed off into the distance to my dismay while I parked my steady love for 8 years - the Alpine blue Indica you see in the background in the shot. One last shot of deo before I got down to meet her.
My first date with my future partner. My Labrador Black Cedia Sports.
The owner told me his son (Mr. H) was just taking her for a spin and it would be mine to have fun with in just a short while. I was offered chai-coffee which I promtly declined - all I wanted was her. She returned from the spin, and I saw her face for the first time. Her striking sharp features will take your breath away every time you look at her. The smoked reflectors look more purposeful than any projectors on the highest end cars, the bumper looks ready to take on the world, the ridge along the centre of the bonnet lends character and the triangular grill with the triple diamond on top finishes off the boldest statement on the sportiest sedan this side of the Evo X - atleast in India. The razor-sharp front flows onto the sides which, though flat, are set off wonderfully by the curvy roofline and the aggressive side-skirts. Your eyes are then pulled towards one of the sexiest rears in the business, the stunning tapering clear tail-lamps set in a bootlid which curves upwards towards the subtle spoiler.
She is sexy and understated at the same time. And you know she can be garish and loud if she wants to be (Fast and the Furios anyone?). She, then, is truly a girl for every occassion. On the outside atleast.
It was then time for me to get intimate with her, experience how she behaves when ridden, properly. Mr.H handed me the keys and I promptly took position in the driver’s seat. Everything just fell into place, my left hand automatically rested on her smooth leather clad gear-shift while my right caressed the curves on her steering wheel. I slipped the key into her ignition and with just one short twist, she was turned on. No drama, no ungainly cranks, just a smooth idle just begging to be taken onto the open road.
We drove out of the busy city centre and found some back roads to really unleash her wild side. A few quick turns later, I was facing the horizon with no traffic and nothing to disturb us. This was no time for smooth foreplay, I stomped her accelerator and she reared into life, first gear was disposed off at 40kmph, and 80kmph disappeared in 2nd gear, she was sounding orgasmic at this point. The cry of all her 2-liters, 4 cylinders and 16 valves had reached a goose-bumping crescendo. I saw the needle climbing up towards 5k rpms in 3rd gear while we were far past the ton but then I could also see the unwelcome rear ends of her poorer cousins get nearer. Such is city life, only one short burst of euphoria at a time. Each climactic moment lasting not more than 3-4 mins before the brakes are called upon.
And what brakes these are. I spared no mercy when I stomped down hard on the pedal, all four discs, ABS and EBD sprung into life to make everything seem so mundane. Coming down to 20kmph from 120+ was undramatic and almost akin to being thrown back to reality. Back in the real world, I threw her into 3rd gear at 30kmph to see how she’d cope with the vagaries of traffic. This lass had it all, not only did she surprise me with all her torque ensuring minimal gearshifts (40kmph in topgear is a breeze!) but she also totally caught me off the rocker with her ridiculously low turning radius (4.9m); not only was she raw and savage but also quite nimble!
After what seemed like a roller-coaster ride of an hour, I grudgingly parked her beside my Alpine blue baby. It was time to reflect on this beauty in my hands. As I looked out the panoramic windscreen, my eyes were drawn to the carbon-fibre dash and the many small touches of titanium in the dash. Each little bit not distracting from the overall experience of what this car was - pure driving pleasure. I was reminded of the ad campaign for her - No Parking; how true!
I got into my Indica, started her and drove away. Knowing very well that I’d met the love of my life. We were meant to be. She was mine.
41 days later, she is going to be mine. On Thursday, July 16th 2009 this beauty will come home with me. To spend the most of the rest of our lives together.
The Mitsubishi Cedia Sports. My first car. Soon.
Statutory Warning: Car enthusiasts will not appreciate the superlatives used in the above paragraph. But as an enthusiast, you’ll relate to the meaning of first love. Head over heels.
PS: Yes, the Great Driving Challenge is just a coincidence. But it would be very very helpful if you guys could vote for Namrata and Me, and write a testimonial too.
PPS: Should I name her Black-hawk? :D
It’s been 10 days since I’ve got the car and I’m utterly in love. 726kms done till date, a trip to Mumbai, a drive down Bandra-Worli sea-link, a trip up the treacherous slopes of Tiger Hill in Kamshet, a hypersonic blast on the Expressway and much much more already achieved in the car! Ownership experience thus far = WOW! Will put up more posts on this beauty on this page!
Me on the Expressway with the black beauty!
23 July 2009
(3) Comment(s) (13)
Posted By joseph
We are the best candidates because..we are NOT the best candidates for a rally drive.
We are not great drivers, not cornering champs and are utterly hopeless with our directional sense. We get stuck in traffic jams or get lost while driving for the weekend movie or end up in Timbuktu ‘cuz we never asked for directions. BUT we do believe that the journey is far more interesting than the destination. And we ensure that every single moment of that journey is captured. Engagingly, involvingly, passionately and entertainingly. We are writers. We are photographers. We are visual thinkers. We are story-tellers. We live for the moment and we live every moment.
We LOVE India. And we have travelled, worked and LIVED all over the real India - from the dirt-roads of rural eastern UP to the serene palm-tree-lined roads of coastal Andhra, from the scorching Delhi summers to the bone-chilling winters of Pahalgam, from the sweat and grime of Calcutta to the soul-cleansing air of the Himalayas, from the urban jungles of Mumbai to the wild corners of Corbett National Park, from the charming gallis of Hyderabad to the planned roads of Jamshedpur. East, north, west or south we have spent countless days interacting with people, learning India and coming back to tell everyone what we did, where we were and sharing every little slice of our lives.
BUT all that has come easy. Work has taken us to places we never knew existed while growing up meant celebrating almost every new year in a new house or a new city. The GDC gives us a chance to drive for the sake of driving; to visit some of the few places in India we have never set foot on. To stop going with the flow and take charge of our lives - if just for 12 days and 3000kms. We love telling the world about our lives. We live by showing the world a new perspective. We believe the internet is the awesomest invention of the past millenium - and the wheel in the millenium before that. We LOVE cars. We relate to the real India. We’ve been bloggers for 5 years, photographers for 6 years, best friends for 4 years and explorers for 25 years. And we’ve been driving Mitsubishis for 6 years.
This is not a driving challenge for us. It is who we are.
PS: We will do ANYTHING to skip work for 12 days - even write long boring manifestos to climb Mt.Everest!
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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!