Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Elevator Man

I can't figure out for the life of me, why are elevators in India manned? Elevators are some of the few human inventions that work perfectly fine unattended. Why did we create one of the most unnecessary job, with what may be the worst possible view?

Talking of elevators reminds me: crowded elevators in India tend to be a challenge for anyone with half-decent olfactory senses. Try them to see (or smell) what I mean. India is, I think, a market dying for a de-odorant brand to make a killing. They can start by handing out free samples in crowded elevators.

I'll volunteer to hand some out myself.

It's a Lancer!

I came full circle with my shopping for cars. I finally ended up with a 2004 Mitsubishi Lancer 1.5 Petrol VXi.

For a long time I thought I would settle for a Fiat Palio. As it turns out, Fiat dealerships have been shutting down faster than you can say their name. There's only one left in Bangalore, and we couldn't find it where it was supposed to be. Hmmm. Besides, I've heard such hugely negative reviews from Palio owners that I just couldn't get myself to consider it seriously anymore.

I looked at Hyundai (oh, how the mighty have fallen!) Getz and Santro. Santro was just too sluggish for my taste. Getz felt a lot better, but the interiors looked like as though they were designed by some garbage can designers. For the price they charge, it is quite incredible how little they try to please the customer. And not to forget, Hyundai had this deal going for their Santro over Diwali, and all Hyundai dealerships looked like vegetable markets.

So, what's left? It was a toss up between Skoda, Lancer and Honda City. Honda because all the cars seemed to come with a high likelihood of problems further down the road. Hondas at least seemed to do better here elsewhere in the world. And then it turned out that Honda makes you wait several months before delivering the car to you. That's just outright stupid. Out with Honda.

Skoda... 15.7 lakhs was just a teeny bit too much. So I thought I'll actually test drive a Lancer. The dealer (Southern Motors) was a little green -- showed me the wrong car, wrong color, didn't know the prices etc. But what I found to my liking was that the car felt quite ok in terms of power and design. It's not a sports car by far. But it does come with a 3 year maintenance program. The price was much more attractive than a Skoda Octavia RS. Delivery is being promised to be quick. All of a sudden stars seemed to align well for Lancer, and I made the plunge.

Luckily they had a deal to reduce the price by some 40k and throw in a CD changer. Now I am waiting for the car to arrive in the next three days... Till then, I stay at the mercy of the auto drivers and the City Taxi wallahs. Just three more days.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Buying a car

Several eons ago, there was only one car to buy in India. Everywhere you looked, there was this car the size of a bar of soap taking the desi babu where no car had gone before. I knew that things had changed a bit. There were more choices. So, when I went out looking for a car, I was naturally expecting to shop around.

I wouldn't say that I was disappointed, but I did feel a bit let down by what the fancier looking cars had to offer for the price they charge. I am told it is the excise that hikes the price. In any case, I found invariably that the cars were underpowered, lacked finish and in general were tagged with a price much more than what they were worth.

Let me first be clear about what I wanted. I really want a sports convertible. :) But I would have settled for a good looking car with a spiffy engine under the hood, low maintenance and nice interior. And yes, above all, 5-speed manual transmission. No compromise there.

First I checked out the Mitsubishi. I had heard a bit about the Lancer. To my surprise, the 5-speed ones came with 87bhp! A bit low for the car that size and weight. Next, the Skoda. I had never head the name before I came here. I am told it is Czech brand, now bought by VW. The interiors were nice, the car had good stuff to offer, but at 15 lakhs (roughly USD34K) it was way overpriced. I suddenly missed the Audi I sold before I came here. :(

Then the Opel Corsa Sail. Underpowered, overpriced, modest looking. Thumbs down. I had looked at a used Opel Astra Club, and it didn't work out because of the problems with the car.

Looked at Mahindra's Scorpio. As I shut the door, there was a bunch of clanging noise as though every single nut and bolt in the door creaked. I was soon out.

Now I have my eyes on the Fiat Palio 1.6 GTX. Seems to just about fit the bill. But the showrooms here are closed on Sundays, and that means that I have to wait yet again. Oh well.

Friday, November 05, 2004

No timing, sir!

I had this interesting conversation with a security guard at Citibank. I was there to meet someone regarding my new bank account. The guard went in to check if he was there. He returned soon, and then the dialogue went something like...

"No sir."
"He's not there?"
"He's left outside."
"You mean he has left for the day?" (It was 4:30pm, reasonable likelihood.)
"No sir, he's left outside."
"Ok." I was about to leave when he stopped me.

"Sir, he's coming."
"You mean he is still here?"
"No sir, he's left outside. He's back."
"Uhh... He is out, but he is coming back?"
"Yes sir."
"No timing, sir."

Needless to say, I left.

Monday, November 01, 2004


So much has been said by people from everywhere landing here and finding the pecularities, that whatever I say will be a cliche. Nevertheless, there are many things about Bangalore that I love and there are many things about it that I hate.

Food's just great. It is easy to find a good restaurant, service is usually good and restaurants are usually open till late. It was easy to find a rock climbing wall and hook up with a rock climbing club. I love how somehow there's a lot to do, and there's a lot happening all the time.

I hate how most of the people have little value of time, especially others'. Everyone is on a cell phone all the time. We went to check out a car, and we ended up waiting for hours only to find out the service station is closed because of a holiday. No one shows up on time. Everyone has a kind of a very laid back attitude towards everything, which is nice in a way, I guess. I also hate how all these clubs have a snobbish attitude towards new members. The office people in most of the sports clubs seem to relish the fact there is little for them to do. One particular lady at Bangalore Golf Club, smiled as she told us how we had to get 6 different people to support our membership application and then we had to wait for 20 years to get in. Her desk was empty, and I bet we were probably the only people she had had to interact with the entire day. At Academey for adventure sports, we asked for membership forms, and there was a commotion in the entire office. We seemed to have added excitement to these peoples' lives by asking for membership forms.

Traffic is messy. And a lot of it too. But I still kind of liked driving around. I managed to find a pretty decent car for buying, potentially. Doesn't compare much to the Audi I sold in Seattle, but it'll do.

Besides the things I love and hate, there are all kind of things that are just intriguing. Whatever anyone says, they end it as though they are asking a question. I wonder why. Sports clubs and gyms are always more like resorts, with elaborate lounges, bars, restaurants and even rooms to stay overnight.

Well, that's what the first two weeks of Bangalore were about. I am beginning to read some Kannada, though I can't understand any of it. I can count to twenty though :).

Let's see what else is in store.