Friday, November 20, 2015

Ford Figo 5 years ownership experience

10/10/2010 was the exact date we purchased the Ford Figo Titanium 1.4 Diesel variant. Since I like to keep my vehicles in stock condition, it has not undergone any modification so far, except for non-stock tyres that came in at 50,000 Kms. I shifted from MRF to Yokohama with no upsizing.
This post is intended to share the ownership experience over the last 5 years. After 5 years, this is what I still love about the car -

  1. It is spacious - one of the largest boot space in it's category. It can conveniently fit in a week's luggage (or even a month's) for a family of four. Also, the legroom is ample. With a 6 footer like me in driver's seat, 5 foot 10 inch adult can be comfortable in the rear seat even on long journeys. The cabin also feels quite spacious because of ample use of glass (and also because I have not used tint on them)
  2. Solid build quality - Even after 5 years, the interiors look like new. The plastics are still shiny and every button on the console has a firm click. I would take some of that credit for regular maintenance and cleaning. But the feel and robustness of interiors was one of the key points in our buying decision, even 5 years ago.
  3. Great handling - This car is great to drive on long drives. Mainly because it is very well behaved even at speeds of 140 Kmph. It feels stable and firmly grounded at those speeds. Having dual airbags and ABS also adds to your confidence. 
  4. Amazing comfort - The rear seat comfort is stellar in this vehicle. Unlike the Swift, I found the rear seat to be larger giving good thigh support on longer rides. It easily accommodates 2 adults and a kid on long journeys comfortably.
What I have begun to dislike and the downsides -
  1. Ground Clearance - anyone who owns a first generation Figo will tell you that it can't even take a speed breaker under it. With 4 adults, it scratches it's underbelly in each and every cellar parking, gets a beating on each speed breaker and if you are in Goa, never enter a ferry boat. If it were minor bruises, I would have neglected it. But once on a road trip to Bangalore, on the ultra-awesome Bangalore-Hyderabad expressway, a trucker had left a stone in the middle and it hit the underbelly of my Figo, damaging the cross member. This not only cost me a pair of tyres but also had to replace the cross member. Total loss - 25K
  2. The rear windows open only 50% - they don't open much. I thought this would not be much of an issue but if you have to pass a bag out (e.g. to your laundry guy), it does not pass though- irritating!.  
  3. The rear windows are manually operated - Again, I knew this right from the beginning and thought, since the car is driven with AC on 90% of the time, this should not be much of an issue. The issues are 2 fold. Firstly, the windows open up slightly over a period due to vibration or passengers accidentally bumping their knees into the lever. So you constantly have to be on the lookout. Secondly, if you are driving and you spot that the rear window is open slightly, imagine trying to close it manually....on  a busy road....on a rainy day. 
  4. The ignition wants you to wait - and then wait some more. When you want to start the Figo, the ignition gives out beeps like - beep beep beep, pause, beep beep beep. You should not ideally start your car unless all the beeps are over. Also, before restarting, you need to turn the ignition completely off and then start, else it won't. On a busy junction, if you happen to stall, there are more beeps in people's mouths then in your car's ignition! Oh and wait! If you are on low fuel, the the beeps have low fuel audio indicator in between, so it be like - beep beep beep, pause, ting ting ting, pause, beep beep beep. WTF!
  5. The stock audio is a mess - the Bluetooth does not connect to most devices, CDs get stuck and Ford takes months to repair.
  6. The door lock system is a real mess - The doors do not have a separate 'lock' button. The same lever that opens to door is pushed inside to lock the door. Hence, a kid can accidentally (& easily) unlock any door. And you cannot always use child lock!
On maintenance expenses side, the largest amount I spent till date was 2 months ago to replace the cross member, the clutch assembly and a major servicing at 60 thousand kilometers. Sounds decent to me!
Having said all this, the downsides are still minor irritants and nothing that makes you get rid of the car. Even after 5 years with decent maintenance, my car looks like it is just a year old. This car will certainly go on for another 5 years. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How to pay property tax in GHMC

I was away for an year and had not received any property tax notice. So  was not sure how to pay the property tax at all since there was no base document with amount etc.

So, I went to the GHMC office in Serilingampally and met a person in Revenue department. The process is quite straight forward. All you need is the TPIN of your house. You can get this from your old notices or receipts of property tax (even if the notice is not in your name).

You simply have to give them the TPIN and they will tell you the amount with penalty, if any. Pay it by cash or by cheque and your receipt is handed over to you then and there. Easy!

Apparently, this can also be done at any e-Seva counter. But, I have not tried it yet.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Yeh Dil Maange More!

Liberalization, represented by Pepsico, entered our lives with this slogan in 1998. And since then it has held and grown it's roots through our existence. Everybody who was yet to take up a job in the 90's is today possessed with the 'need' for more. Mind it, it's not wanting more of everything but needing it!
Today the careers we all are into are mostly driven by this need for more. More speed in cars, computers and phones, more return on investment, more homes to live, more luxury, more health care and what not. If you take a ratio of everything that is more today to what the same parameter was 20 years ago, the result will almost be infinity! But does all of this come for free? How come all of us are inclined to believe that this 'infinite' amount of 'progress' has come with no cost at all. In fact most of these things have become cheaper than they were 20 years ago. Isn't that hard to believe and against the order of nature?
In my opinion, the cost is not monetary. It is more abstract and is in the form of peace. We all have paid for this development by collectively giving up a part of our human existence and peace of mind. We all have agreed to be a part of this race for more by wanting more for ourselves and also fulfilling this artificial  & induced 'need' our our customer's or the customers of our employers!

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Why working from home is a bad idea

A couple of years ago I wrote this piece about how to work from home. From the stats and comments I received, it looked like a pretty famous topic close to many people's heart. However, after having worked from home for 2 years (and also having worked from office before that), I believe today that working from home ALL THE TIME is not such a good idea. 
I am not denying the benefits of WFH entirely. You get to babysit when needed, spend time with parents if required, run errands etc. But, this cannot be the norm! The days you decide to work from your home should be an exception which should be generously allowed by your employer. Like, an acquaintance who worked from home for 6 months to look after her bed ridden mother. Or, like another friend who could work from home while her husband got transferred from city to city.
But what changed my mind? Here it is -
  1. Networking: one of the main advantages of going to an office facility is when you come face to face with people who matter. This helps you network and build professional & personal bridges. Without being physically present, you are left to virtual means to achieving the same results. 
  2. Work environment: When everyone around you is working, you want to be working. If others around you are watching TV, reading books or worse having a siesta, how can you work?
  3. Accelarators: The scanner, the VOIP, the copier, the dispatch office are all so handy and co located at your work place. You waste very little time doing any of these over head activities. That is a pain when at home!
  4. The Commute: Your commute to and from office is the time you gradually go from 'home' mode to 'work' mode. Take that away and you are left feeling guilty most of the day for mixing work with family.
  5. The work-life boundaries: When working from home (especially in India), it is difficult to convince your colleagues that though you are working from home, you need a lunch break! or that at 6 PM, when rest of the world is commuting back home, you need to take your kids to the park!
Just like everything else in life, access of WFH is not good. So, let your employees work from home, don't make them work from home.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How my job changed me as a person

I have been working for 11 years now. The first 2 years I spent in a bank. Doing trade finance operations. I used computer like a took back then. I used it to do my job faster and better. Circa 2006, I moved into I.T. Consulting because it was 'the place to be'. 
Since then, my life has changed a lot. From being a people person who liked to go out and meet people, I have become a laptop & smart phone person. Having spent close to a decade in IT, I have started believing that a person can achieve a lot and 'get things done'  through just a laptop and a data connection. Well, guess what, I AM WRONG!
This feeling has been fuelled further by all the on line utilities like paying bills, bank transactions, shopping, ticket booking and what not. You can even get entertained (or so you think) in front of the laptop! You almost feel like you can live your entire life in front of the laptop and not regret it at all.
I don't mean to blame my job entirely for it, since a lot of technology has changed in the last 10 years as well. However, being in the same industry that has driven this change, definitely adds up to my feelings.
It is only a false sense of control and achievement that the technology gives you. There are millions of other jobs done by billions of other people that don't need a computer and are as important, if not more! Using the computer and Internet as a tool is critical to success. But when one builds a life around it, the life starts becoming miserable. A lot of crop is grown, a lot of patients cured and a lot of houses built across the globe with minimal intervention from computers or internet. I feel small in comparison. 
I have started becoming so anxious when not with my laptop or smart phone that I almost feel like I need rehab! It's time to hit the reset button. Could I reduce my dependence on the technologies?

Monday, March 16, 2015

#MyDaughters

A common thread that has come across on social media with the BBC documentary of the Nirbhaya rape case convict, the #IndiasDaughter hash-tag and the ensuing debate is that, as a nation, we need to change our mentality. We need a change in education, change in society, change in the way we raise our kids. Well, I am all game!
Now, I am a father of two daughters. They are very young, the sum of their ages being about 4 years. But I am already petrified at the thought of them growing in this society. The child abuse, rape, pedophile, kidnapping and all sort of news I have heard, are scaring me and dictating my decisions. They dictate where I want to live, my career choices, the friends I make, just about everything! So, if there is someone who wants a real change, it's me! No doubt!
So, here is the tricky part. Do I have to change something? If yes, then what? I am all in for freedom to my daughters. I want them to grow up like free birds and I will ensure to the best of my ability that they will grow up without fear or prejudice.
But do I control the way boys are raised in this country? What about those boys who are out there and have already been wrongly raised? Can I control them? Or do I keep a 24 hour vigil on my daughters?
These are questions I have no answer to! Do you?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Husband's reply to the Breastfeeding Wife

When I read this post on Facebook, I began thinking if I really needed to be told this and in this manner! Are men so insensitive that they can't see their wife tired? Do men of my generation who have access to Internet, don't know how demanding is it to be a mother? I felt offended for being typecast. So, I decided to respond...
Dear Breastfeeding Wife,
First of all, it's OUR baby, not MY baby. Stop referring to the baby like a strange object that has entered our relationship. Didn't we speak at length about this? Didn't we both know raising a baby would be demanding, both for you and me? I didn't do it to you by force!!!
Coming to the part of breastfeeding the baby. I know it's demanding. I can SEE that you are tired from all the chores and the breastfeeding. I don't have an iota of doubt that it's taking a toll on you. If it was practical, I would have left you to only nursing the baby and do all the chores myself. But it is not! Which is why I try to do the chores from time to time. But, you need to cut me some slack as well. I am not good at chores. Let's just accept it. I am not built for it, mentally AND physically. It's just the way men are. While there are exceptional home-maker husbands, you haven't married one.  
So, after WE had the baby, the house isn't going to look like it used to. You may have to use the 'wrong side of the towel' sometimes. You may see me using the wrong broom in the wrong place. The khichadi I cook may be a tad salty. I may buy marginally bad and expensive vegetables. But hey, it's both of us trying to raise a baby together and I am only doing the best I can.
Remember - neither of us have chosen who will play the mother and who will play the father. It was decided when we were born. What we have chosen to be, collectively, is being parents!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Open letter to all the kids in the world

Dear kids,
Hope you are having a good time! Since you believe in Santa, fairies, knights and all the mythical characters that are righteous, I am sure you live with eternal optimism (though you don't have a clue what that word means) through all the thick and thin.The stories you have heard of obedience, selflessness, honesty and all the other right virtues are probably shaping you into an ideal person. But this is not going to last! You will soon turn into an adult, which is a far worse version of yourself. Your parents will teach you to lie. All the kids will help each other in becoming adult humans with egos (I can't really describe to you what an 'ego' is, but is it what makes us adults, other than a moustache) bigger than the largest playground you have seen. We all adults wish that our kids remain kids, but we haven't so neither will our kids remain!
The purpose of this letter is to bust some myths about adults or grown ups, whatever you call us. I will go one by one so that you can quickly refer to any point as and when need arises:

  1. Adults have responsibilities: If any of us tells you that we have so many 'responsibilities' and that is why we are 'stressed', they are lying ! Most of our responsibilities are work we have created for each other. Auditors, consultants, police, judges and many more people exist because we adults don't trust each other.
  2. We go to work to buy you new toys: No! We go to work so that we go to fancy restaurants where yelling kids are not welcome. Or to buy a swanky car where each drop of ice cream you spill is going to count. If we had never introduced you to video games or electronic games, you would have never asked for them. Simple?
  3. We save money so that you can have a good future: If we wanted a good future for kids, we would be saving the planet. We use the resources from the planet, to earn more money which 'we think' will safeguard the future. 
  4. We are smarter than you are: If I gave you a glass of water and told you that's all you will get the entire day, will you drink it or wash your face with it? We adults are bathing  with that glass of water. And we claim to be smart. 
  5. We are careful & thoughtful: We drink, we smoke, eat stuff that we know is harmful to us (in fact we tell kids NOT to eat it) and how can we then claim to be careful? We are aware of the stuff we don't have in abundance like fuel, time or minerals and we still waste it. Thoughtful? 
This is just the tip of the iceberg. We do a lot more that we should not be doing and shun away from doing what we should be doing. There could be books written, research paper published and conferences held to highlight how we adults are not doing what we should be. But unfortunately all of it is created and consumed by us adults, for our own gratification. You kids know nothing of it. 
The day you will see through our facade of adulthood, it will arouse a feeling within you that you may not have witnessed before - HATE!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Is it good to be money-minded?

I have spent last few weeks trying to make choices between health, children's education, career choices, safe & secure environment for kids, time with parents and most importantly - money. People who have witnessed my dilemma have told me I am too emotional, not ambitious enough, 'wasting my talent' and what not!
At the same time, I have also seen people of my age and caliber make the same choices with ease. So, I got thinking. What is it that helps them make these decisions? After a lot of deliberation, I think it is money. I have grown up in a household that places minimal emphasis on money. My father once told me that money will help me survive but it's my passion that will help me have a life. So, money has been no more than a tool! In fact so much was my self gratification that I even looked down upon people as 'money-minded'. My definition of such people was - people who would make decisions purely based on monetary gain. While, I made my decisions based on my emotional quotient. 
Last few weeks though have made me realize, that money is a far more reliable and quantifiable goal to keep! If you take decision based on what (you think) is best for your kids, it may not always turn out to be that way. If you think your parents need you, they may not think in the same way. Besides, middle class parents have spent their entire life trying to make ends meet and earn some money. To them your earning opportunities outweigh their emotional needs. If you think you are awesome at some art, say painting and make career choice based on this belief, you may be in for some reality check. The one thing that almost always turns out right is - if you think you will make money, you WILL make money!
What do you think?

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Hyderabad to Goa by Bike

Happy new year 2015 to you! Hope you spend hours and days on roads without traffic in the coming years. I had a dream new year eve - on the road, going home. After numerous previous road travels on this route (read here and here), this time I decided to travel by my Royal Enfield Std 350.

I was short on any sort of planning time, so decided to use my experience and just take the route taken before. 
Google maps says it should take about 14 hours to do this journey. However, we took a night halt at Raichur and including the halt, completed the journey in 29 hours.



Our itinerary, roughly, was:

30.12.2014, 16:00 - Depart from Lingampally, Hyderabad
30.12.2014, 21:15 - Reach Raichur, Karnataka 
Night Halt at Hotel Kubera Palace @ INR1400 per night including complimentary breakfast
Better option is Hoten Kritunga which we took last time
31.12.2014, 08:30 - Depart from Raichur, Karnataka 
31.12.2014, 09:30 - Puncture in rear tyre about 40 Kms from Raichur
31.12.2014, 11:45 - Resume after fixing the tyre
31.12.2014, 15:00 - Reach Bagalkote. Karnataka [brief halt for snacks]
31.12.2014, 18:30 - Reach Belgaum, Karnataka [city traffic and halt for snacks]
31.12.2014, 19:30 - Depart Belgaum city limits
31.12.2014, 21:30 - Reach Ponda, Goa

All in all, we spent about 18 hours on the road and the rest in halts. 
The bullet behaved extremely well. I was riding with a pillion rider and consumed approximately 25 liters of fuel. Maximum speed was 80 Kms per hour.

Road condition:
This route takes the super smooth Hyderabad - Bangalore road till Jadcherla and then takes the SH20 all the way till Belgaum. The SH has a good tarmac quality but is single lane without dividers. Also, be watchful of work in progress, especially at night. These are small patches but extremely dangerous and fatal if you are not paying attention. And since this is a state highway, there are speed breakers near village crossings all along.

Happy touring!

P.S.: Detailed travelogue and some motorcycle touring advice probably later.