Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tata's Nano -- First Look

I always curse Bajaj uncle every time I step on the brake while driving.

The easy-maneuverability, wobbly design and low-cost running of the 3-wheelers (fondly called Autos or Autorickshaws) that he sprayed onto Indian roads have become the largest hurdle in having a decent traffic pattern. Cities like Bombay have banned autos from the business districts, which is such a blessing. In Bangalore, the irrationally large number of licenses doled out by vote-happy politicians have multiplied the mess. With their sudden stopping, sudden swerving and smoke-spewing posteriors, this breed of vehicles takes back in public safety and convenience what it offers by way of "transport".

Tata Uncle has brought the same menace to 4 wheelers now. The Tata NANO was launched at Auto Expo in New Delhi today, with an ex-showroom price of $2500. While we appreciate his concern for the middle class to have an affordable vehicle, we wonder whether at that cost he can really promise a SAFE ride to the family? With the raging road traffic, especially the Monster Cabs and SUVs, being in the Nano might be akin to sitting in Bajaj Uncle's autos!

While the commercial success of this-- and copy-cats to follow-- is near assured, one wonders if that same middle-class is not cutting the branch it is sitting on? Corrupt or sleeping municipalities sanction new Malls and Office Complexes as part of India's reality boom with parking sufficient for 20 vehicles and seat capacity of 3000 or more! Residential complexes sport the "Visitor Parking Not Allowed" banner. Fancy hypermarts like Forum, Spar and Big Bazar have absolutely no access road, causing main-road traffic to pile up for miles as cars wait to find parking slots. With high-end vehicles like Skoda and Hyundai spewing black smoke, the sanctity of PUC certificate is a joke!

Add the Nano and its sisters to this milieu. Tata and Toyota would do the common man a much greater service if they came up with more affordable, more efficient and more accessible public-transport vehicles that city municipalities could deploy with their meagre budgets.

Monday, January 07, 2008

First Day, Last Show

CubbyR saw his first movie in the theatre last evening.

Took him to our favorite Urvashi theatre, near Lalbag. It is one of the rare single-screen theatre with low-priced sandwiches and pop corn during interval. Sadly they have tried to go "multiplexy" by putting up LCD screens to display ticket availability and jacking up ticket rates. Thankfully, the inside still retains the old world charm and usual hooting-whistling junta!

The fellow jumped out of his skin as soon as the decibels of Bollywood ambience score hit him. He kept whimpering and yet turning around to have a look at the screen. After a few sessions of Abha running out the hall with him, he got used to the sound. Soon he started smiling and (hopefully) enjoyed the rumbunctious goings-on. During the climax, he even managed to nap comfortably. By the time he came home, the Cub was all set to recount the plot till 2:30AM in his usual, non-verbal, pelvic-thrusting excitement gestures...

Unfortunately, the lack of last-minute tickets for good movies means that we cannot proudly reveal the name of his first movie experience. Unless you say "Thank You" ;-)

Earlier in the evening, a staffer at Urvashi spotted my flat tire. At 9PM on a Sunday in Sleepy City when all shops would be closed! Ouch. We started inching our way looking for a tyre repair shop. Typical Indian style, we were told "It's just ahead..." every time we asked. A drunk in the very shady "Mavalli" area near Lalbag volunteered information about a chap "at the next circle". Turns out he was the only one who knew!

The place is just before Basappa Circle on the left, on the road from Lalbagh Main gate to City Market, beyond Minerva Circle. The guy was called Jaffer and he's open daily till 1AM. He did charge me 250 bucks to replace the entire tube, but fixed us up in about 10 minutes and was very polite and efficient. (I am inclined to believe the tube-story since Pradeep Shetty of RNS Motors did give me a raw deal for the "Truevalue" car. I found Mandovi Motors to be much more reliable for Maruti needs in Bangalore.)

Next, we grabbed a yummy Jowar-Bhakri meal at Kamat's on JC Road before going for the late night movie with our Cub. The Kamat's are a renowned South Indian brand and this place was no different. Delicious leaf-thaali and homely service!

This was probably the first adventure day for CubbyR and one he's least likely to remember. A milestone nonetheless and he was such a sport the entire time!