Saturday, January 31, 2009

Road Trip Log

Last weekend, we set out on a road trip to the ancient city of Hampi. This post is a summary of the road trip. Look out for more on Hampi in a future post. This was the first time I was driving on a highway in India - and a looong drive it was! The drive to Hampi from Bangalore took us over 9 hours. The return trip was a bit shorter.

For all of you who are might be contemplating a similar adventure, please bookmark this post as a reference. I have advice here about how to enjoy a long drive on a highway in India while ensuring safety. Here are some of the key highlights of the journey:

Entertainment and Education
Yes .. you heard right! A drive on an Indian highway is highly entertaining and educational. The backs of trucks (lorries as they are affectionately known here), have visuals and messages that entertain and educate you. Messages include the spiritual kind (God Bless You, Jai Mata Di etc), the advisory type (Small Family - Happy Family, Don't Drink and Drive, Keep Distance) to pure entertaining (Highly Infal mable). Messages encourage you to maintain a party atmosphere by honking your horn (Horn OK, Sound Horn, Blow Horn). Signs on the highway encourage safe driving by advising you to avoid killing yourself as your family awaits you.

Driving on an Indian highway is no different from navigating an obstacle course. Constant vigilance is required because you have no idea where the next obstacle will appear from. Obstacles include a 2-wheeler, a metal road block, a huge rock, a tractor driving towards you on a one-way road and of course human beings.

Nature Experience
Wild life peacefully coexists with humans in India (even in semi-urban areas). So it was no wonder that we saw a variety of animals including dogs, cows, buffalos, pigs etc. Animals can also serve as obstacles.

Highway fast food is not as widely available as in the US but a popular South Indian restaurant (Kamat) has started to open a chain of clean restaurants serving vegetarian food. Of course, you have the usual 'Dhabas' that are unique to Indian highways and serve rich and spicy food.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Craters and Valleys?

Nope! I am not talking about a recent sightseeing visit to an exotic volcano site. Rather, I am referring to driving on Bangalore roads and specifically referring to the GIANT speed bumps that you would typically encounter every 100 yards or so. The sickening crunch that you hear every time your car navigates one of these gives you pictures of the battered underbelly of your shiny new vehicle.

After the millionth such crunch, I was convinced that there must be a solution to this. I googled Bangalore Speed Bumps and sure enough, found hundreds of discussions on local on-line forums on this topic. One of these forums had the answer. As your front wheels start to climb the speed bump, you turn your steering wheel to the right or left and drive over the bump at an angle. Of course, you have to correct course quickly as you are climbing down to avoid totally confusing the traffic around you. But it works!

Since then, I have not only managed to avoid damaging our car but have also dispensed this advise to all my friends who are plagued with this problem.

Couple of other useful tips:

  1. Unload your heaviest passenger before passing over a speed bump
  2. Heavier passengers should sit in the front seat
  3. If you happen to be driving to the airport with heavy luggage, the passenger on the front seat (and even the driver if possible) should carry a heavy piece of luggage on their lap
  4. If you happen to be going to dinner, eat less in order to keep the weight in the car low
Happy driving!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Out with the old, In with the New

As we bring in a new year, it is but inevitable that one is going to reflect back on the prior year because history is the best teacher for the future! 2008 was a mixed year for us. We are now completely settled in Bangalore and this has become very much a home for us. The children are growing up into adults with their own personalities but with a very important skill - adaptability and flexibility. The worse effects of the global economic recessions have not been felt in India and even the most conservative estimates are predicting a 5% growth in GDP for 2009. Mona has never been busier in life both socially and professionally. 2AdPro is doing well and I enjoy most of my time there (there are always moments when you would rather be in a dentist's chair!). And then, this was the year that the US elected its first African American president. Way to go, America!

But this year has also been marred by many unfortunate events. Hate filled terrorists have continued to wage a war against innocents throughout the world. We experienced bomb blasts in Bangalore and Istanbul. The recent shooting and bombing incident in Mumbai left all of us cold and in a state of shock. Israel is attacking Hamas as we speak and a conflict is brewing in every part of the world.

My biggest hope for 2009 is that violence and terror will lose and peace will prevail. How is this going to happen? I feel that it has to happen from within each human being. We must all identify the hate in ourselves against anything and anybody and destroy it. No new leader of the free world or a prophet from the stars will solve this problem. We have to step up to this and each one needs to do his/her part in building a peaceful and tolerant world.

Happy New Year!