Archive for July, 2010

When I went to meet my friend in Hyderabad, I realised how difficult it is to drive there. Not because of heavy traffic, but because of erratic traffic. Hardly anybody follows traffic rules, and we accustomed to follow traffic rules religiously in Bangalore, will find it quite difficult to drive there. When I suddenly saw a mail from one of my friends, my driving in Hyderabad lingered in my thoughts and I felt like sharing this article with all. Many will agree to what he says. If they, don’t I’ll tell them to try to drive once in Hyderabad!

This hilarious article was written by an expert from Baan, Netherlands, who spent two years in Hyderabad.

Driving in India For the benefit of every Tom, Dick and Harry visiting India and daring to drive on Indian roads, I am offering a few hints for survival. They are applicable to every place in India except Bihar, where life outside a vehicle is only marginally safer.

Indian road rules broadly operate within the domain of karma where you do your best, and leave the results to your insurance company. The hints are as follows:

Do we drive on the left or right of the road?

The answer is “both”. Basically you start on the left of the road, unless it is occupied. In that case, go to the right, unless that is also occupied. Then proceed by occupying the next available gap, as in chess. Just trust your instincts, ascertain the direction, and proceed. Adherence to road rules leads to much misery and occasional fatality. Most drivers don’t drive, but just aim their vehicles in the intended direction. Don’t you get discouraged or underestimate yourself except for a belief in reincarnation, the other drivers are not in any better position.

Don’t stop at pedestrian crossings just because some fool wants to cross the road. You may do so only if you enjoy being bumped in the back. Pedestrians have been strictly instructed to cross only when traffic is moving slowly or has come to a dead stop because some minister is in town. Still some idiot may try to wade across, but then, let us not talk ill of the dead.

Blowing your horn is not a sign of protest as in some countries. We horn to express joy, resentment, frustration, romance and bare lust (two brisk blasts), or, just mobilize a dozing cow in the middle of the bazaar.

Keep informative books in the glove compartment. You may read them during traffic jams, while awaiting the chief minister’s motorcade, or waiting for the rainwaters to recede when over ground traffic meets underground drainage.

Occasionally you might see what looks like a UFO with blinking colored lights and weird sounds emanating from within. This is an illuminated bus, full of happy pilgrims singing bhajans. These pilgrims go at breakneck speed, seeking contact with the Almighty, often meeting with success.

Auto Rickshaw (Baby Taxi): The result of a collision between a rickshaw and an automobile, this three-wheeled vehicle works on an external combustion engine that runs on a mixture of kerosene oil and creosote. This triangular vehicle carries iron rods, gas cylinders or passengers three times its weight and dimension, at an unspecified fare. After careful geometric calculations, children are folded and packed into these auto rickshaws until some children in the periphery are not in contact with the vehicle at all. Then their school bags are pushed into the microscopic gaps all round so those minor collisions with other vehicles on the road cause no permanent damage. Of course, the peripheral children are charged half the fare and also learn Newton’s laws of motion en route to school. Auto-rickshaw drivers follow the road rules depicted in the film Ben Hur, and are licensed to irritate.

Mopeds: The moped looks like an oil tin on wheels and makes noise like an electric shaver. It runs 30 miles on a teaspoon of petrol and travels at break-bottom speed. As the sides of the road are too rough for a ride, the moped drivers tend to drive in the middle of the road; they would rather drive under heavier vehicles instead of around them and are often “mopped” off the tarmac.

Leaning Tower of Passes: Most bus passengers are given free passes and during rush hours, there is absolute mayhem. There are passengers hanging off other passengers, who in turn hang off the railings and the overloaded bus leans dangerously, defying laws of gravity but obeying laws of surface tension. As drivers get paid for overload (so many Rupees per kg of passenger), no questions are ever asked. Steer clear of these buses by a width of three passengers.

One-way Street: These boards are put up by traffic people to add jest in their otherwise drab lives. Don’t stick to the literal meaning and proceed in one direction. In metaphysical terms, it means that you cannot proceed in two directions at once. So drive, as you like, in reverse throughout, if you are the fussy type. Least I sound hypercritical; I must add a positive point also. Rash and fast driving in residential areas has been prevented by providing a “speed breaker”; two for each house.

This mound, incidentally, covers the water and drainage pipes for that residence and is left untarred for easy identification by the corporation authorities, should they want to recover the pipe for year-end accounting.

Night driving on Indian roads can be an exhilarating experience (for those with the mental makeup of Chenghis Khan). In a way, it is like playing Russian roulette, because you do not know who amongst the drivers is loaded. What looks like premature dawn on the horizon turns out to be a truck attempting a speed record. On encountering it, just pull partly into the field adjoining the road until the phenomenon passes. Our roads do not have shoulders, but occasional boulders. Do not blink your lights expecting reciprocation. The only dim thing in the truck is the driver, and with the peg of illicit arrack (alcohol) he has had at the last stop, his total cerebral functions add up to little more than a naught. Truck drivers are the James Bonds of India, and are licensed to kill. Often you may encounter a single powerful beam of light about six feet above the ground. This is not a super motorbike, but a truck approaching you with a single light on, usually the left one. It could be the right one, but never get too close to investigate. You may prove your point posthumously. Of course, all this occurs at night, on the trunk roads. During the daytime, trucks are more visible, except that the drivers will never show any Signal. (And you must watch for the absent signals; they are the greater threat). Only, you will often observe that the cleaner who sits next to the driver, will project his hand and wave hysterically.

This is definitely not to be construed as a signal for a left turn. The waving is just a statement of physical relief on a hot day.

If, after all this, you still want to drive in India, have your lessons between 8 pm and 11 am-when the police have gone home and The citizen is then free to enjoy the ‘FREEDOM OF SPEED’ enshrined in our constitution.

Having said all this, isn’t it true that the accident rate and related deaths are less in India compared to the US or other countries!!? ?

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The much awaited film was out and I was more than eager to watch it. Not just because it was directed by Mani Ratnam, but also because it was shot simultaneously in two languages. Moreover, the beauty of Athirapally falls lingered in my mind and I could feel the sound of the waterfalls ringing in my ears whenever I heard the name. And here it is Raavan in Hindi and Raavanan in Tamil. Need not say that I liked the Tamil version. For the first time I watched both the versions on the same day. I would have not done that if it was any other movie, but I wanted to know which is the best and I feel the Tamil version is!

Veera aka Veeraiah, played by Vikram (Raavanan), rules every frame. He’s the backbone of the film. He is intensely loyal to his people and everybody loves him. He has a reason for every action.

Dev Prakash, played by Prithviraj (Rama), is dashing and handsome archetypal hero who is destined to destroy the evil. He’s an encounter specialist with 28 successes to his credit. He loves his wife and his motive is to reach Veera to avenge his wife’s capture. Ragini, played by Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan (Sita), a lovely glamourous doll. She loves her husband and exhibits her loyalty to him throughout the film. Gnana Prakasam, played by Karthik (Hanuman) is one of the few likeable characters. He drinks, jumps around, chatters incessantly, and though obviously belongs to Dev’s side, is absolutely fearless when it comes to meeting Veera on his own home-ground. Singarasu, played by Prabhu (Kumbakarnan) is Veera’s brother, who stands by him through thick and thin. Though he has little screen-space, he portrays the gruff toughie with a heart of gold. His job is to stay by Veera’s side, come what may. Priya Mani, in the role of Surpanaka, lives up to her reputation as she plays Vennila, the betrayed sister and the reason for Veera’s horrible rampage against the police. Mani Ratnam has given a twist to her role by portraying her almost like a heroine, and completely lust-free. Munna plays Sakkarai (Vibeeshanan), a brief role of a peace-maker.

What captures the mind is scintillating cinematography by Santhosh Sivan and V. Manikandan.

Vikram, carries the film on his shoulders, and touches us in the last 10 minutes. The vulnerability in his eyes shows us what he’s capable of, given the chance.

But after both the movies, I felt, we can take a Tamil director out of Tamil Nadu, but Tamil Nadu out of him. Mani Ratnam’s films are about the native culture and it is very difficult to translate them to other languages, especially to touch the hearts of North Indians!

Though many feel Raavan is a villain, there have been works which have portrayed him as the real hero. They have also shown the darker side of Rama, who killed Vaali and asked virtuous Sita to undergo an agni-pariksha! No one forgets that Raavan never seduced Sita. He became bad in the eyes of the world for losing his heart to a married woman. But think for a while, how many have not done that?!

Who had imagined that Sita could have like Raavan? Mani Ratnam visualised it.

Just feel like saying hats off to Aishwarya. This film is one of the most physically challenging roles she ever done in her career, and every time she stumbles through the river, jungle, or jumps off the waterfall, one has to know that she had to shoot the scene twice, once in Tamil and once in Hindi. Just incredible!

Raavanan soars, thanks to Vikram. Abhishek’s Beera, on the other hand, makes the right expressions and sounds, but doesn’t go beyond them. His act doesn’t seem that natural when we see Vikram doing the same role. Vikram’s performance is way way ahead of Abhishek. There is absolutely no room even for comparison. I think Ajay Devgan could have done justice to the role in Hindi.

Maybe I’m not the only one to feel that music appealed to me better in Tamil than in Hindi. “Kattu Sirukki” is hummable in Tamil than “Ranjha Ranjha”,  so is “Keda Keda Kari Aduppula” over “Kata Kata”,  and “Kodu Potta” over “Thok de Killi”.