Monday, September 24, 2012

Driving Lessons - III

As promised (rather hoped for) in the previous post, the 3rd edition in this series comes with experiences from behind the wheel. Yes, I have had my first real hands-on driving lessons. Here are some of the learnings made from the driver's seat.
  • #1 - Having a experienced and professional driving instructor helps - a LOT. He knows exactly what kind of mistakes first time driver would make, what kind of roads to take to begin handling the car etc. I received an informative ten minute talk on the basic driving equipment and their usage. And then only was I allowed to start.
  • #2 - The key to a driving is good handling of the clutch combined with the accelarator. I wasn't driving at a very great speed, but hardly needed to use the brake. Having good control of the clutch is an essential pre-requisite for a good driver. (Proud moment - Not once did the car stall while starting due to  sudden clutch release)
  • #3 - While changing gears, you don't really need to look at the gear handle. Its better to keep your eyes on the road and the mirrors.
  • #4 - Use the horn a lot. At turnings, at turns, at busy parts of the road. Better to warn the person ahead, that an inexperienced fellow is driving the car instead of putting them at risk. Also gives sufficient warning to others.
  • #5 - Practise and practice more. I actually jumped at a chance to get an extra session on the 1st day itself. It makes you more comfortable and eases out the nerves as well.
  • #6 - Keep your speed low. It enables better control always. Lower the speed, lower the severity of any incident.
  • #7 - Align the steering wheel to the road ahead. But this is easier said than done. Quite likely to overdo this simple thing.
  • #7 - Learn about your car. Keep reading the manual whenever you get a chance. Even a simple thing like opening and closing the bonnet over the engine becomes complex. For opening, there is button near the front door on the driver's side which release the bonnet. Then you go and unlatch it manually. For closing the bonnet needs to be dropped from a certain height. It just does not latch up if pressed down.
Have to say, it was an exhilirating feeling to be driving a vehicle for the first time ever. The thrill of feeling the car move with me at controls is bit undescribale. Have to say this, learning to drive a car seems to be a simpler task than learning to drive a 2-wheeler. (Guess the brain feels safer being inside a stabler vehicle).

Some of the highlights -
  • able to get the car moving at the first attempt itself
  • not stalling the car during driving
  • making a U-turn at the lights (Yes I did that)
  • reverse driving (with the aid of the the instructor)
  • taking an uphill blind turn
More driving sessions coming up and am certainly looking forward to them.

Friday, September 21, 2012

MovieNotes - Barfi

Movie - Barfi
*ing - Ranbir Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Ileana D'Cruz, Saurabh Shukla and others
Language - Hindi & Mime & Music

How to describe Barfi? Its a movie about specially abled people, but  it doesn't focus on the disabilities of the lead characters. (barring a couple of scenes). In fact tries to show them living a life as normal as they can.
With the chief character being mute & deaf, music takes over the narrative. The background music is lively and fun. And when there are transitions in scenes to be shown, three musician characters playing different instruments appear on the scene from nowhere.  And as a special highlight, an accordion makes an appearance after many many years.
Now for the actors
Ranbir Kapoor delivers an almost Charlie Chaplinesque performance as the lead character Barfi. His actions speak louder and more clearly than any words can. 
Priyanka Chopra gives a good performance as an autistic woman, while newcomer Ileana D'Cruz doesn't have much to do really. Its Saurabh Shukla and the other smaller side characters which add to the fun aspect of the film.
The story jumping back and forth between different eras (1972, 1978 & modern day) and changing locations (Darjeeling & Calcutta) does tend to confuse slightly.

Overall rating - 9/10

P.S. What is with Calcutta & the Bengali connect with the better made movies of 2012 - Kahani, Vicky Donor and now Barfi

P.P.S Blog Update - After seeing this compilation here - all I can say is Barfi is a very "well compiled" film. And its not just a film, its a whole film festival.

Previously on MovieNotes - The Exepndables 2

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bali - The Land of Green & Blue

Been itching to write this pictorial blog for a long time. Finally getting into the groove to do it. Earlier this year had gone on my first ever foreign trip. And it couldn't have been to a more beauteous location. Mere words won't be able to convey the beauty of the place. So thought about doing a picture blog series on the Bali trip.

Some trivia to begin with
  • The island of Bali has a population which is 95% Hindu. Means that Indian tourists are quite welcome here.
  • The Indonesian currency is heavily undervalued. The minimum currency note is of 1000 rupiah denomination (1USD~9000 rupaiah). And lots of headache occurs in trying to figure out the number of zeroes during the conversion process.
  • If you are travelling from Mumbai, you will be treated like royalty. Reason - you are coming from the city of Shahrukh Khan. Yes, Balinese are crazy about Bollywood films with Shahrukh being the favorite actor by a huge margin. Hrithik Roshan also comes up high in the popularity stakes.
  • Chhaiya Chhaiya is the most popular Hindi song in Bali. One of the hotel drivers sang it for us on learning we that we had come from India. Also managed to catch on the local TV a live performance what seemed to be a remix version (called Cinta Cinta)
  • Cuisine is mostly non-vegetarian. But people go out of the way to prepare vegetarian food.
Enough trivia for now. Now for the pictures. It was a pretty difficult choice to make. But have tried to pick the few most representative of the land.

Denpasar  Airport - View form inside the plane

Denpasar, the capital of Bali, is the airport with the runway jutting into the sea. The first feeling one gets is that we are going to land into the sea.

The traditional prayer offering

The ubiquitous prayer offering which was found in front of all homes, shops etc. Changed every morning.

The Kris & Barong dance depicting stories based on Mahabharat characters

Kintamani Volcano

Had a magnificent buffet lunch with this view. Kintamani is an active volcano. The smoke could be seen rising from the crater. The black lava flows with a volcano lake alongside, the misty weather all together made for a perfect scene of bliss.


Kopi Luwak, the most expensive coffee in the world cant be made without key contribution from the animal in the picture above.

Lady roasting coffee beans

A house in the plantation

Now for the blue part

Discovery mall - The only airconditioned mall in Bali opens directly to the sea

A marble statue depicting the Mahabharat war

The place was full of signs, symbols from the Indian epics.

Balinese House
 All Balinese houses have to follow the traditional building design norms

Massive Roots - people can get lost in them

4 days of bliss. More pictures maybe coming.
But it wasn't just the place which made the trip memorable. It was the people and their amazing hospitality. 
Couldn't have seen and enjoyed so much without the excellent planning done by the tour agency. Pickups, drops, guide, hotel booking, ticket bookings all done in a very efficient manner. 

Bali - the island of Gods as the locals say. It certainly is.

Monday, September 10, 2012

MovieNotes: The Expendables 2

Thought about introducing a new section to this block. A section on movie notes. My little post-movie review. So here is the first of the many (hopefully) to come.

The trailer opens with Sylvester Stallone talking about his new movie. Not that it needs any talking about. With a star cast which reads a Who's who of Hollywood's best retired action stars (mostly), it is like any fan's dream come true.

Stallone, Schwarznegger, Willis, Statham, Jet Li, Van Damme, Lundgren and above all Chuck Norris. This lineup doesn't really need any story to carry it. The heavy duty star cast carries the bare minimum plot line successfully.

There are some standout moments even in this action mish-mash. They may have grown old, a little wrinkly, some slower reflexes but they certainly don't lack wit. The best part of the movie is the way these "stars" sportingly parody themselves. Examples
  • Chuck Norris sharing a Chuck Norris fact. 
  • Willis telling off Arnold on hearing his "I'll be back" to which Arnold replies "Yippie ka yay". 
  • Stallone comments that an aircraft belongs to the museum. To which Arnold responds, "So Do We".
  • Van Damme's army needs the combined forces of Arnold, Stallone & Willis to be stopped in their sinister designs. (Hence van Damme is the greatest super-villain of all time)
  • Liam Hemsworth gets assigned the Mickey Rourke part of the emotional back-story, but is not able to deliver to that extent.
So in short, movie has lots of nostalgia, light on story, fast paced, self-parodying stars and just the touch of humour. It gives the feel of a vintage car rally. A movie made for fans and not for critics. A perfect Sunday morning entertainer.

Looking forward to the next installment. 

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Driving Lessons - II

This is in continuation to the previous post on the subject.

I am still to take the wheel. Heavy rains, packed work week and non-availability of slots in the driving schools are to blame. As also my unwillingness to start in my own brand new car. But the lessons from observations continue.
  • Lesson#6 - The roads are full of idiots. Specially on two-wheelers. And some on two legs as well. Why do people have the tendency to drift towards the middle of the road when walking? So to avoid any accident, keep pressing the horn as often as you can. Also use all sorts of signals, lights, horns, hands and your voice.
  • Lesson#7 - New car, new driver, keep to the left side of the road. Let the faster ones move along the right and centre. Also makes it more easy when you have to take a turning. (Applicable for India and other left-side driving countries)
  • Lesson#8 - When driving on a highway, keep a close eye on the turns. If you miss one, the next may not be coming up for quite some distance. And that is not easy on the nerves.
  • Lesson#9 - Reiterating. Having an extra pair of eyes help as long as both sets are focussed on the driving. Keep alert for signals, traffic police, other vehicles, road signs. And there is always the fact that company is comforting. (P.S. I am now a certified good navigator). Only condition the co-passenger should be a patient and not easily harried person.
  • Lesson#10 - Keep calm. Take care of your own safety. Others will also follow.
Hopefully next post will have experiences from the drivers' seat. And I get the driving school slot.