Friday, July 30, 2010

Two short stories

(Hindi word for first earning in the morning)

As soon as his cycle tire puncture was fixed, police constable started to move.
-‘Sir,  my charges?’ He asked.
-‘Don’t you know who am I?’
‘I know but it’s my ‘bohni’ time sir’
The police constable started searching his pocket but had nothing. Suddenly he saw a cycle rickshaw approaching and waved the rickshaw puller to stop.
-‘You’ he roared like a wounded lion ‘don’t you know plying rickshaw with three people is an offence?’
-‘It is my mistake sir. It was my ‘bohni’ time, that’s why I agreed to carry them’ rickshaw puller pleaded.

-‘Ok …Ok … give me ten rupees and vanish’ the constable demanded. Without second thought, the rickshaw puller handed over the amount and sped away to avoid further penalty.
The constable gave five rupees to the puncture repairer keeping the balance in his pocket. Along with puncture repairer and the rickshaw puller, the constable too got his share of ‘bohni’ for that day!


He was observing the Banana vendor (Kelewali) from a distance. Finding her alone with her child, he swiftly came to her.
‘What’s the rate?’ looking around, he asked mischievously.
For a moment she glanced at the customer and putting her sari -pallu down hesitantly said –‘Fifty rupees’.
‘Too much, make it forty and I shall come in the evening.’ So saying he drove away on his bicycle in one of bi-lanes of the street.
Hearing the conversation, the child looked perplexed.’ How come Mama, you are selling the banana for fifty to him while to others you quote twenty rupees a dozen?’
Before she could react, the child ran away to catch a kite in the street.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Himalayan Odyssey 2010

Guest Article:
By Satyan Ayyangar

Over the last few years Royal Enfield has come up with a novel idea (first time ever by a two wheeler manufacturer in India) to promote riding culture among their customers which is a success today with many more such tours like Southern Odyssey, Rann of Kutch tour , tour of NH17 (Mumbai –Goa), North east tour has got added up. They have become very aggressive can be known from the fact that they have a target of 100 days of touring in a year. I am sure that all of these routes are equally exciting as these routes are selected by experienced riders based on their years of riding experiences but HO has a special charm among all these rides and Royal Enfield will be known for this in the times to come.

What make this ride more special are the geographical diversity that one gets to see and an opportunity to appreciate Mother Nature. It is endurance test of your physical and mental stamina. It is an example for you to set for yourself that you are capable to achieve more than what you think you can. Trust me; this tour is for every one of us and not only for people owning bullets. What all required is continuous focus, determination, patience and you can easily overcome the high altitude sickness, headache, vomiting sensation, breathlessness, boulders, gravels, slush, water crossing. It is amazing to see our bodies getting acclimatized after 1-2 days and then you start enjoying the place.

Our trip was flagged off from Delhi on 19th June 2010 from India gate and the route was something like this DELHI – CHANDIGARH – MANALI – KEYLONG – SARCHU – LEH – KHARDUNGALA – HUNDER – KEYLONG – KAZA – KALPA – NARKANDA – PARWANOO – DELHI covering 2800kms.

The cost for registration for this trip was Rs22,500/- which we understand is quite less than what actually the company has to incur, almost 40.000/-. The cost of petrol, food, spare, riding gears is born by individuals. The accommodations were reasonably good as it were most of the places tourism of Himachal and J&K and not to forget Punjab (Chandigarh halt).
The daily routine being- Get up by 5.30am- breakfast by 6.30am-Luggage loading by 7-Look for bike issues, idling-Briefing about the road condition/riding tips- by 8 start- reunion point for lunch- break for tea- arrive at next destination-unload luggage-get inside hotel/camp

Day 1-This trip was exciting for me in more than one way, as I was traveling back to Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and riding on the route where I had been traveling during my childhood and higher studies. The good part of this journey was that we had a very good roads now with flyovers built up to give easy passes whenever you approach a town/city but the sad part was I could hardly connect it with the images I had in my memory about this road. Finally, we arrived at Chandigarh hotel in Sector-24 by 1.30pm.The traffic was the same what I remember it was ten years ago, roundabouts still exists and not given way for traffic lights, the same open space available all around. Simply Superb!!

Day2-The other interesting thing on this tour was the diversion towards Bilaspur deviating off the road to Nangal where I lived for 23 years; I never knew that we had such a beautiful road and scenery towards Bilaspur. The road up to Manali is great with picturesque sceneries. Manali, as expected was more commercial and congested. Temperature had dropped down considerably compared to what it was in Chandigarh.

Day 3-I had already made up my mind to wear all the 5 layers of clothing to protect myself from rain/cold wind rather than wearing it as and when required. Road after Manali is again quite decent as you gain altitude. Approach to Rohtang pass, you can see traffic jams as the roads are not wide enough to make way for two way traffic and loads of tourists. For most of the people road ends there but for us it started there. Rest of the road traffic hereafter is very sparse but the road condition becomes worse (or to say interesting) for the rest of the journey. The destination that we were heading was Keylong and we were to stay in a camp for the first time in this trip after filling our fuel tanks for the last time before next 365kms. We had lunch break in Koksar, a small village. The lunch was simple rice and dal with sabzi and was to become routine for the next few days during our rides. You have an alternate as Maggi and paranthas.

Day 4 -Keylong to Sarchu was the most crucial day for us as we were now going to climb 16000ft for the first time and need to prepare for the high altitude sickness. Baralachala was the pass which we had to overcome before finally settling at our mobile camps in Sarchu at around 3.30pm. It was all alright till we reached Sarch. There was a sensation of headache but I thought I could not get affected by high altitude sickness. I thought I was invincible but it was my mistake. The night was horrible with head ache and chilling cold. Sleeping in mobile camps you have to be ready to go for loo any time in the night. Just can’t avoid and believe me you just don’t like moving an inch but you loose the battle unless you have an empty bottle next to you!! Once I went out then I realized why it is called as nature call. Look at the sky above you and you never knew the night sky is so beautiful.

Day5-Just waiting for the sun to rise and get out. Iam knowing the day is going to be tough with constant headache. We had two passes namely Lachungla and Tanglala pass (17,500ft), Moore plains and finally Leh. A long and tough day was awaiting but at the same time most diverse in terms of geography.

Day 6-Was rest day. Going around Leh or getting your bike serviced. Leh is also very beautiful place with wonderful roads laid and maintained by armed forces. The scenic beauty can not be explained by words. You get a feeling of tranquility, a place for meditation.

Day 7 -It was the day to reach Khardung La pass which is at 18380ft and considered highest motor able road in India. It was hardly 40kms from Leh but in terms of altitude gain it was from 11000ft at Leh to 18380 ft. The gradient was too high and covered in 2 hours. It was not only gradient which was posed as a challenge by nature but also we had snow storm while climbing which resulted in frost bite for all of us. We even had to stop in between as the army who has various checks on the way did not allow us to go due to anticipation of road blocks. After waiting for almost one hour we were allowed to go ahead but it still raining and temperature dropping to -4. It was all forgotten when we finally reached Khardung la as there was no moment to think about frost bites but the thrill of making it up to the pass. The best part of HO10 is about the 100% completion of the trip as there were no dropouts this time.
Further from Khardung la we traveled to Hunder which is a plain area having sand dunes. It was surprising to see sand dunes and double humped camels at this altitude. We had a group snap as well at sand dunes of Nubra Valley

Day 8 &9&10-Travel back from Hunder was quite comfortable in a way that there were no rain and snow storm anymore but it also meant that we had more ice melting and trouble water crossing at many places. By now we were also used to the weather and we were more relaxed and enjoying our rides in the known path. Most of the people who were not confident initially in this new terrain had gained substantial confidence and driving comfortably and carefully in the loose soil, slush & potholes.
The first ten days of trouble free bike riding was sufficient for me to convince once again that the amount of time and money I have spent in maintaining my bike is worth each single rupee. I did not get even a single puncture till the end leave alone any other problems which made me to strand on the road waiting for maintenance jeep. We were just ripping the bike and enjoying our rides. We stayed in Rumtse, sarchu and Keylong.

Day 11-For the first time in HO we took another route after Keylong towards Kaza, instead of Rohtang, which is located in Spiti valley of Himachal which is also considered as pilgrimage for bikers. In a way, it gave us more energy for the next 5 days as we had to explore new routes and the unexpected. If we had taken Rohtang pass, probably we had got exhausted completely by the same route half the way.
The most interesting thing about this route was that there was never a tar road laid on this route and we knew what was ready to welcome us after experiencing all these days. At the end of the road we were all of the same opinion that “this was the best ride”.

Day 12-The roads were getting better and better now and our adrenalin for driving reducing. Smooth roads are boring had become the mindset. The traffic was increasing now and roads becoming too curvy and tempting to drive fast. Finally we reached Kalpa, another beautiful town of Himachal and unexplored. You do not see the level of commercialization as you see in Manali or Shimla. We could also have a look at Kailash peak from this town. This part of Himachal is also knows as Kinnaur valley leaving behind Spiti valley.

Day 13-15-We finally reluctantly made our way to Delhi on day 15 after satying in Narkanda and Parwanoo. I had my first shave in Parwanoo in those two weeks time at this place. We stayed in a lush green resort in Gurgaon that day where we packed off our bikes to respective destinations. Later in the evening there was a closing party arranged by Royal Enfield.

Photos can be viewed at the following link-

( Satyan Ayyangar works for VOLVO Company at Bangalore and can be contacted for  other details at )

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Out of Turn

The Petroleum Ministry has come out with a scheme to bail out oil companies called ‘Preferred time LPG delivery (PTLD) whereby a customer can get cooking gas refills out of turn jumping the normal queue at any time or day of the week of their choice at an additional charge of Rs.25 or Rs.50 per cylinder depending on the time and day despite the fact that the cost of LPG gas was revised recently along with petrol and diesel. This scheme has been envisaged keeping in view the urban households where both spouses are working with no one to receive the refill. Fine, but the scheme is open to gross misuse and nepotism. What is the guarantee that whosoever is opting for this are a working couple and not somebody else? Any body can pay the extra amount to get a refill out of turn leaving the common men in queue fuming whose waiting period may get extended by 2/3 weeks.

First it was ‘Tatkal’ scheme by Railways and Passport department to introduce such kind of out of turn premium service and now the Petroleum Ministry is setting a precedent for others to follow. No wonder, some day you may have to shell out extra premium for paying your Electricity, Water. Telephone bills to avoid the long serpentine queue. Just imagine you occupy a front row seat in a Bus without the hassles of buying a ticket at the counter because you have opted for ‘Out of Turn’ and the bus conductor will give you a service with a smile at your seat! There already exists a service called ‘Special Darshan’ in some temples down south for quick darshan of the lord!  Even petitions/grievances in government departments will be attended on priority basis ‘out of turn’, all for a premium. How nice it would be!

There would be no end to such gimmicks. Does it not imply that the government is encouraging some people to jump the queue out of turn using the ‘back door, under the table method’ which has now the official tag? Is this the remedy to compensate few oil companies to recover their losses? If so, what is Government doing to compensate the entire masses of this country for their losses on account of enhanced taxes and soaring prices of all the essential commodities?