Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Finding a 6/7 seater

Problem statement:

Dear friends of ours have moved to a new city. Though they got the Nexon with them, they need to start looking at a second car: a 6 or 7 seater to add to their fleet. 

Aditi & Abhishek - with their top of the Line Nexon

I'll reveal a bit more: these guys have moved out of a city called Mumbai. Hence they are (i) spared of the ridiculous property costs and are coming to terms with their new found extreme richness (ii) Having escaped the wretched city, they are overwhelmed by that phenomenon called happiness. 

We attack this problem statement after collecting requisite ammunition: the options available in the market and trying to match them as per the requirements of the couple.

We have with us the Tata Safari, Ertiga/ XL6, Mahindra XUV 700, Kia Carens, Alcazar, THE Toyota Innova, and the other niche guys: all vying to be taken home by the lovely people.

If one has romanced with anything that closely resembles to 'work experience and execution' in life, experience recommends to remove the garbage first

And this is precisely what we will do for the first option.

Suzuki XL6/ Ertiga 

Stretch the Swift = Ertiga
So XL 6 and Ertiga are out. No dear Maruti: You could offer cheap service, longevity of cars etc. But stop trying to rely too much on that and forgetting engineering, finesse and the need to stay abreast with technology. Though at a decent price, the terrible engineering and obsolete components make them seem extremely expensive to me. Correction: replace that phrase 'terrible engineering' with 'no engineering': the first model was not even engineered - they started stretching the Suzuki Swift until it broke in the workshop; the end result was a longer Swift with new row of seats that could collapse at the slightest impact. On the good side: it would spare its occupants from prolonged suffering with the guarantee of instant death in case of an accident. Also: Lets be clear: putting leather upholstery on a terrible product is not termed luxury, when the core design is horrible. In that sense, XL 6 should be charged with dacoity. And I will not let my friends be the victims here.


Tata Safari


We do venture into the Tata Safari territory but as the family already has a cool Tata Nexon, maybe a brand change would be fun. But maybe it could reign supreme in terms of design and drivability.

One more plus: in its current avatar, this is suspiciously more of Land Rover territory that Tata.


XUV 700 and the Mahindra affair

Stunner: XUV 700

An imposing road presence, a ship load of electronics and screens: In short, XUV 700 is a stunner. But so are all new cars at any showroom. The driving position and the height do give you that 'feel like God' feeling and I have witnessed people on the road running in panic when I am driving a Mahindra spiritedly. 

Root Cause analysis of that to follow and it revolves around the critical role these cars have played in all nefarious activities. 

Stunner: inside as well


I have no qualms in admitting that I have little faith in these machines from our dear manufacturer which does a better job at tractors (fan of the 265 DI). Like everything else, all products look spectacular in the showroom, but their mettle is proven only with age. And Mahindra has not proven much to me here. 3-5 year old XUV 500s or Scorpios are incredibly rattly, have buggy electronics and I would rather pick up a 10 year old Japanese/ Korean over these machines. They serve me well to explain the concept of 'Cost of Poor Quality' - with ample quantitative data at the spare parts bazaar: where at time of me buying a wiper blade or a polish for my Honda, I found many Mahindra owners desperately scavenging for turbo-chargers, electronic components, etc. for their stalled vehicles. Bolero being an exception here - though of a different league and for a different purpose.

To give Mahindra a fair chance, I decided to have an unbiased assessment to gauge the candidature of the XUV700 for the suave couple.

XUV - the dream car for many

My inhibitions apart, the problem for Mahindra's candidature was a different one in this scenario. It was what they call a 'Fitment challenge' . At the outset, my friends seemed far too sophisticated for a XUV700. They seemed to have little in common with the paan spitting politicians throned in the rear or goons found in driver's seat in Mahindras. While ruggedness of a Bolero has a purpose to it, that of the XUV is crass and reeks of deceit.


Still, to give a fair chance, I decided to dig for something dark in their life to have them qualify for a Mahindra Scorpio/ XUV700. Who knows: Maybe some part of their wealth was ill gotten, being on the wrong side of the law. My scheme involved tricking Aditi & Abhishek to a dungeon, which had ample of those ancient torture tools in supply, tying their limbs and commencing my interrogation. Here are the results:

Mahindra fitment questionnaire 


https://gifs.com/gif/the-laws-of-physics-does-not-apply-in-bollywood-jROG1Y

Sigh… Truth being told, we were personally invested in justifying the Mahindra fitment for these guys for our own little devious scheme. A few minutes ago, Bugga and I had talked about the downward trend of the macroeconomic indicators these days and their degree of potential correlation (adverse) with our job security. A Mahindra available to borrow from friends, could indeed help our kidnapping business take off if times called for it.

However, these guys were hopeless. Regret to note that my interrogation was a total failure. Not only did these guys check 'No' for all the questions, they also mentioned words like 'please', 'pardon', 'thank you' during the interrogation!

Data also revealed that they had passed their 10th (1st attempt) and I know their path to education has been marred with those premium schools that have too many 9s. (99.999999 percentile was it? Nope, I think i missed some 9s). 

Mahindra is out for them.

Toyota Innova:

MPV or an indestructible tank?

No point harping on the obvious. We all love the Innova and all of us have been ferried in it amply. In its latest avatar, the Crysta is a remarkable drive, gives you decent feedback of the road and makes its presence felt on the road. With angry eyes/ headlamps these days and some effort expended in hiding it's van-ish profile, it is a smart looker too. Though deprived of 4X4 option, it still does a good job when there are no roads. Personally, I have featured in plenty of stories which involve an Innova gorging a large family inevitably late, their million pieces of luggage, zipping across roads and no-roads with supreme comfort, making up for lost time on way, finally disemboweling its passengers and their luggage at the airport, railway or bus station - in time, without drama.

But here is the problem: Toyota knows too well of the market's cognizance of the quality & unsinkability of this product, and they ask for a handsome premium for it. Well, with those dated interiors, the price, and their claim of indestructability, all the best to Toyota to try selling it to the Israeli ground forces to replace their Merkava tank battalions. But I wont allow them into conning my friends of their hard earned cash. My friends are a genuine moderate use family, with no imminent plans of getting into the taxi business. 

Kia Carens

Kia Carens - the smart front 3/4 look

As for the Kia, my experience is limited to a test drive only. All of us were happy when we heard the price of the Carens and had expected it to be (a) a stretched Seltos with scaled down features (b) Cheap Innova which could be floaty while turning & on highway maneuvers (c ) A flimsy build & structure, just enough to do its job of bettering the horrible Suzuki Ertiga/ XL6. 

A test drive allayed all these apprehensions, for this is something unique indeed. I tried to model it as a scaled down Innova or a stretched Seltos, but failed spectacularly. Of course, the interiors are Selto-ish, parts would be carried over. But when it comes to the drive, this one manages a distinct soul.


Looks feature lower in my priority, but the word that strikes me upon seeing it in flesh and blood is 'exquisite' - there is a charm about this when looking from the front and three quarters view. The fresh front donned by unique lamps, the grill being given a miss gets it some degree of handsomeness . From the side though, it is sadly MUV-ish but the rear is fairly modern. To note that you have to look too hard at the silhouette to find its underpinnings common to the Seltos.

On the downside, there is a lot of material inside which reminds you of the Seltos and the seating position - though very comfortable with an upright driving stance, is a faint reminiscent of the ol' king of kidnapping: Maruti Omni. Also, there is ample going around pertaining to safety issues and rating of the Seltos, assuming Carens' case could be similar.

What finally tilts the balance in favor of the Carens is the price. After test driving, I could not believe the number. A tad cheaper than its mate, it makes a Seltos purchase seem like thievery. Note: the author had spent money on the Seltos and had thought it to be the best value for money at that time. I am not alone with this perception: a nine month waiting list proves that the entire market feels that way, and we could expect a price increase sometime soon.

Hyundai Alcazar: 

It is an incredible option and what we say for Carens ticks for this with a lot more. Though this has different underpinnings that the Carens, I just cannot come to terms in recommending this full heartedly at that price difference over its sister brand. Sorry. If the price difference between the Kia and Hyundai narrows, perhaps we may take a look very seriously. 

Jeep Meridian: 

Expensive. But more worryingly, we are scared about it aligning to its peers' strategy and escaping the Indian market. Chevrolet's and Ford's recent exits have rekindled this fear. Yet with its core SIV underpinnings, I believe it could have the potential to keep the Ford Endeavor (now defunct) fans interested. This is perhaps the only option left for them without needing to switch to the Japanese (Fortuner) 

Skoda Kodiaq: 
Lots of bling, good price, but no Skodas to buy in India please (This line is carefully thought through and drafted by a Skoda owner).

MG Gloster: 

Living is China, I can say MGs are firecrackers when it comes to avionics loaded for that much money . In India at the moment, I feel the prices are not that competitive yet. In its home market, there is a huge difference between the Germans>Japanese/Koreans> MG/Roewe. So thanks, but no thanks to this beautiful video game^. MG India - please stay true to who you are and give up that British brand deceit. I see Morris Garages motif getting larger and larger. 

^MGs have next generation tech at unbelievable price, giving max for the buck for the screen loving population of these times. But cant say that for sharpness in driving.

Verdict: 
Those looking for a 7 seater to immediately book a Carens to start their waiting period, think hard in the first month and then: (a) Buy Safari, Alcazar or Innova as per logical analysis, then cancel booking of Kia or (b) Keep waiting for the Carens

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Two supply chain disruptions: The reason?

Then:

1941 August: The German panzers, in absolute synchrony with Luftwaffe were unstoppable. The 4th panzer division  was 30 Kms from Leningrad (erstwhile St. Petersburg). The heart of it was the Blitzkrieg strategy; having already proven itself couple of months back with takeover of western Europe, (France, Belgium, et all) and Africa. 




General Heinz Guderian was the architect of the Blitzkrieg (Achtung Panzer : 1937), and attributable by many for nearly fulfilling the possibility of Germany taking over the world . Almost achieved, until Hitler's interference and obsession with fighting many fronts (especially the long one East at Russia), led to its collapse .


The German onslaught..
Under General Heinz Guderien in August 1941, the 2nd, 4th Panzer divisions (and the collaborative, vengeful Finns at the north) were calculating hours before they could take over Russia's 2nd most important city. With Luftwaffe ruling the skies, and the confusion across the Soviet command structure (some soldiers were taken prisoners even before they received communication that their country was at war with Germany), the prized city would be in German possession. With taking over the port and the cultural capital of Russia, the 4th Panzer division would be fulfilling one of the key German milestones of operation Barbadossa.


All those miles: only to halt outside?

Astonishingly, though Leningrad was well within his grasp, Guderian ordered a halt for the 4th Panzer division.


His move caught his enemies by surprise as well. The Russians were being granted time to fortify the city, perhaps get reinforcements from Moscow and the vast Soviet interior.


Guderian was no fool. If we look carefully, these were his reasons:


  • The Panzer tanks were so fast, that the infantry had got left behind. The panzers were at the risk of being cut-off from the main German supply chain
  • The halt was applicable to 1st and 2nd Panzer division of the South as well, which had captured much of modern day Ukraine
  • The Germans thought to avoid street fighting inside Leningrad. Instead, focus was on reaching river Neva and cutting off enemy's last supply chain rail link connecting Leningrad to rest of Russia



Do note that in the above, 'supply chain' features multiple times. And anyone with an IQ north of 0.027 can infer:

  • You ensure your supply chain remains intact, at all costs
  • You aim to annihilate your enemy's supply chain: it is too convenient a tool to kill or create havoc, without necessarily using your guns


Which is why I am so upset with the Shanghai lockdown affair. While the world had its share of lockdowns, and not it’s Shanghai's turn, the measures here have led to cutoff of supplies for this majestic city and its people. The goal is Zero-COVID, the implementation of control measures is impressive, yet the situation depicts an unfair assessment of the problem and control measures that have gone astray.


Now: Shanghai 


COVID battle is fine, but not at the cost of leaving your people without basic necessities. Over this period, I have seen people (l stick to talking about locals, plight of foreigners is a different story) being denied minimum diet, medical emergencies and everything else. Irony being that this happens to be one of the richest regions of the planet.


While I will ramble a lot, I will mention dear Ian's plight and the eradication of trust thanks to the fake positivity maintained over media.


The tale of Ian and the Red Lion 


Nope, am not starting a fable..

Ian is a person blessed often by one and all. His Red Lion pub is a serious British affair and a holy site in our neighborhood for those serious about sports or beer* or happiness**. *The 2nd and 3rd elements are incredibly correlated. Of the money the pub rakes in on any evening, my colleagues and I hope to be healthy contributors. Ian, a British Shanghainese, finds admirers not just in us as casual visitors, but he commands immense degree of respect from his fiercely loyal Chinese staff.

Red Lion - soldiering on until barricaded in blue
His staff had been providing skeletal food services in the lockdown period. Now while I call it skeletal, it was a heaven-sent option for all those locked down. Nothing short of heroic, procuring extremely scarce items such as vegetables, milk, meat, oil, an etc., converting that to food and achieving the impossible by delivering it to your residential compounds.

For some miraculous reason, the streetside shops were barricaded and the staff whiffed away to some location of no-one's liking. No infection, no close contact, no violation of rules and no explanation. One policy change overnight: it rendered the business as non-compliant in some peculiarly mysterious manner (we were operating for a month legally weren't we?).
  

After 11 years, for the first time, Ian is seriously rethinking if this is all worth it. It pains me to see the exodus of great people from the city at such as scale.

The glorious city of hard working and wonderful people, caught in the cross hairs of a sniping rifles, gunning out some arbitrary measures in the cloak of pandemic response.

The effect from the investor community would be punitive, in the least. As they say:

'It takes ages to build trust, and a lot shorter time to eradicate it'

Quick review of news:
  • News: Shanghai's market watchdog will strengthen supervision and management of group buying with combined measures, regulators announced on Sunday.
  • From <https://www.shine.cn/news/metro/2204104204/>
    • Reality: Nope, you are not helping us. We were patient for days and have resorted to non-sensical group buys/ packages and black marketers . Don’t you dare meddle and cut supplies further - tampering with anything more. Focus on improving supply chain. In rest of the world - COVID lockdowns, wars, and whatever the problems were, bread does reach their citizens.
  • News: New safety measures ensure food security
  • https://www.shine.cn/news/metro/2204104193/
    • Reality: We all personally know of fellow human beings being inflicted. Tong Tong's (our dear Ayi) cousin is without food for 3 days, her daughter had only rice and oil for 14 days. Less of words, more of action please.
  • "Why China's dynamic zero-COVID approach must be sustained" (Xinhua - state publisher)
    • Rationale for this may be substantiated by facts: (1) Overconfidence (my strategy triumphs yours) (2) Too much of uncalled for fear amongst people  (3) Lower vaccination rate (linked to fact 1)
    • In this article there is an iota of truth, check this fact: "The repercussions of lowering the guard could be disastrous for a country with 1.4 billion people, including 267 million aged 60 or above and more than 250 million children."
    • Adding on to that: a healthy percentage (including aged) are unvaccinated. Again attributable to overconfidence (Our dynamic zero strategy will ensure we will never be exposed to the virus, and hence no need for vaccination - a common belief amongst many, until now)

From our neighborhood group: Basics right. Really?
The fact that I write this on the day Shanghai opens is no irony. For the 'open up' still remains fractured with real freedom of movement to be tested with time and onset of cases here and there. And yes, irony died a thousand deaths with all those talks and articles about why lockdown is good for the overall society. Economics and human cost: anyone? Any lessons from rest of the world?
Have we said good bye to COVID forever at Shanghai? Can someone pin a number on probability of recurrence, and the lockdown thereafter?







Excerpts from siege of Leningrad: "On 21 September 1941, German High Command considered how to destroy Leningrad. Occupying the city was ruled out "because it would make us responsible for food supply". The resolution was to lay the city under siege and bombardment, starving its population. "

The siege of Leningrad lasted for 872 days and is debated to be one of the largest loss of life in a major city during battle. 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

An Indian motorcycle: saved by a British ghost

<<Based on a decade old true story from Mumbai days..>>

From archives: One of it's mud rallies
There was a mild 'klunk' when I had driven over that particular pothole - one more abuse added to the billion shocks my poor machine had withstood. Sometimes it was the poor roads, sometime it was me venting out my anger addressed to rest of the world unjustifiably directed to the machine.

Though it had taken more than its share of hardships, today I was a bit worried for my bike.



And as I parked - the proof was there. The security guard came running to point out a trickle of petrol left in our trail. He shouted - 'Sir ji - kabse bol raha hoon. Nayi lo, ye bangar ko de do. Dekho khatra kar rakha hai iss building ke liye..' (been telling you - get a new one; this one ought to be scrapped. This is dangerous for the building/ society). 

 The words hit me hard. 

 


When you love someone or something, you are so lost in that journey of love that you would fight wars to protect them. But today, I was hit hard…. And was tired.. somehow I was not able to fight his words back..

 

Humbled in the parking

A sense of helplessness engulfed me. Looking around - my old love was humbled by a Hayabusa, a KTM RC 390, a Kawasaki Z 650 and a modest Yamaha R15; a BMW 3 series nearby. I saw the security guy's point - an aging Bajaj Pulsar 200 was not exactly glamming up the scenario, but now it posed a fire threat to the whole place itself. Hence his sharp words.

My casual analysis pointed to a fuel tank rupture. But I was tired because of all what the bike had been through:

 



Maybe Mr. Manohar (our security personnel) was right, maybe I had abused it more than it had to offer. Maybe it was time for it to go..

 Suddenly there was an alarming chill in the air... and I felt.. 

Something ….

something different..

I ran the facts again, it was a hot Mumbai evening, the security guy was sweating.. But yet, the chill was growing from a meagre nuisance for me to an intolerable ache in my body.. Increasing every second..

While the body took its pain, the mind seemed to be in a precarious state as well. Some hazy hallucinations came up. Something like flashes of an airstrip, view of the sea from a high altitude, and a union jack…

I never believed in 'Possession', ghosts or such mumbo jumbo that those cheap novels harped about.. Until NOW….

Of course we don’t like the idea of someone being in control of our body.. 

The hallucinations became more strong. Forget Call of duty, this was way more real than a first person video game simulation. I saw a whirring fan, with dozen of instruments, experienced a negative g-force effect of climbing an air pocket, and a thud with sounds of wheels over a long tarmac..

 


The helmet was taken off as the gentleman swung across the ladder to get off his airplane. We were at the Gravesend Royal Air Force airfield and the uniform name tag read 'James Harry Lacey' and with little knowledge of the emblems, I could not make out the rank. The mark on the aircraft he alighted meant that he was already a flying ace, downing at least 5 enemy aircraft. The aircraft seemed like one that I had seen in a book or a museum, but I could not identify it yet.

Suddenly, there was shrill of sirens. No mistaking the sirens - they were warning for an impending enemy air raid.. 

Sgt. Lacey's RAF 501 squadron 
Lacey could not believe it. He had just finished a sortie and thought his 501 squadron had pushed back the Luftwaffe's (German Air force) squadron over the English Channel. Pushed them back to France.. Or so it seemed.

Evidently, that was a decoy. The real attack was coming now! Lacey thought for a while. Logic and protocol demanded to abandon the aircraft and make a run to survive.

The future was pretty bleak. A quick fact check:

  • Regardless of what that ol' bloke Churchill said over the radio, Dunkirk had proved that the once mighty Britain was now embracing a retreat objective, going back from an offensive strategy.
  • It was an open secret: Unless it got help from some allies (those Yankees perhaps?), the days of Royal Air Force and Britain were numbered. Luftwaffe ruled the skies now. Hitler had deployed 2600 fighters and bombers, to best Britain's meagre 640. With France having fallen and most of Britain's European allies seemed to be following suit, it was only a matter of time before the Royal Air Force (RAF) would succumb with its dwindling number of aircrafts. General Goring and that funny moustache guy's Blitzkrieg strategy seemed to be working well, and our dear Lord Dowding for once seemed to be turning out a sod.
  • Having finished a sortie and some intense gunning, his aircraft was already low on fuel and ammunition. The starboard wing had taken some fire sometime back and he had not yet checked the degree of damage.

  

Wait.. I shook myself hard.. Why was I seeing all this? Experiencing things from history? 1940s perhaps.. The severity of emotions I felt made me convinced that this was not a movie, but a reality I was experiencing from a different era.

I remember the chill rising again, Manohar (our security personnel) looking at me in astonishment - as if he had seen a ghost, and when my mind could no longer battle on, I succumbed.

Sgt. Lacey looked around. The orders were clear: abandon the airstrip, it was too late to scramble aircraft to form a defense for the onslaught of enemy fighters. Not to forget the Junkel bombers, which were surely bringing up the rear to create havoc on the airfield once the frontline fighters had done their job. It was a no brainer- abandon your aircraft and try to save your lives.

That feeling that Lacey had.... It seemed way too familiar for me... Well yes! - it was exactly the same mix of despair & helplessness what I was feeling like moments ago!

Lacey fared better than me in getting out of that pit of pity and indecisiveness. He put his helmet on and made a dash for his Supermarine Spitfire.

Jump in the cockpit and start up the engine。。。

Move all the wheel blocks。。。

There's no time to waste。。。。

A war hero: V12 Rolls Royce Merlin engine

The Rolls Royce engine roared to life and he turned the rudder to direct the aircraft towards the empty patch on the right.

Got to get airborne before it's too late..

The sound of the German aircraft changed from a buzz to roar, and he could see with his naked eye a formation of BF109s nearing in. Machine gunfire followed and he sadly saw them strafing the parked RAF fighters. 

Next, that notorious shrill sounded. His fears were reality now, it was those menacing German Junkel bombers going into a dive.


Soon enough, the first set of bombs exploded. The airfield was being annihilated into nothingness. 


Too late for Lacey to change his plans though. The speed rose and he pushed the throttle to maximum and pulled the lever. The aircraft rose from the ground!

  

I was back in our time. Mr. Manohar was still frozen looking at me as if I was phantom. While I could see things, a new reality dawned to me: 

My limbs would not respond to my brain signals!  

I had no control.

However, the feet started moving to a jog. While I was not in control, someone else was clearly operating my body deftly. Now, my life seemed a movie: one which I could watch and experience, but without any control over the script.

Good God! It was possession indeed. My body was in this ancient war pilot's control!

I saw helplessly as my hands started pushing the bike, and the legs started moving, to a run now. Out of the gate, to the road and to that slope. After gaining some speed, Lacey made my body jump on the moving bike. With some momentum gained..

Clutch>>> Gear 2 >>> Clutch release

 The engine sprang to life!

Smart egg - this Sgt. Lacey.. I see he avoided electric start and chose the momentum jump start method. Sans electricals, there is one lesser way to catch fire indeed. But what were we trying to do here? He still wont give me control of my body and was gunning the engine - increasing speed. I grimaced: with a leaking fuel tank and a revving engine heating up, the bike and I were essentially a Molotov cocktail bomb - waiting to explode any second on the road.

As if he had heard me, Sgt. Lacey raised one finger to my forehead, picked up a drop of sweat. The bead of sweat was bent and put on the engine bay. I saw that the drop did not sizzle into steam, it flowed down. 

Point taken - engine was not that hot. Not enough to boil a sweat drop, perhaps not enough to set fire to the fuel trickle it was subject to. Yet…

The bike and I were gaining speed. The engine was being gunned well, though never reaching the redline, and upshifts being moderated at 4000 rpm; perhaps to optimize heat generation and speed generation.

As a mere spectator, I marveled at how my body and my bike were being driven swiftly with precision, under the command of Sgt. Lacey. Seeing the skillful operation, my mind (my own in this case) wondered why the spirit of a British flying Ace was out trying to help me here? As if a neuron of my brain connected with that of Sgt. Lacey’s, both the minds opined on the following:

  • Both of us had an indescribable love for our machines. We trusted them, and they trusted us.. Logic parked aside, this was a unique relationship of pistons, cylinders, and neurons.
  • From a British ace swearing by his hand built Rolls Royce engine on a British masterpiece: ready to battle the technically superior German; to an Indian retaining his Bajaj machine as against that Japanese & German onslaught, there was a lot in common. I was particular happy to possess an Indian machine with an indigenous engine, built in my country, by my country(wo)men.. We both had superior competition, but still chose to stick to our country: being patriotic, in our own ways.
  • Clearly, both of us were willing to risk it all for our machines. While Sgt. Lacey decision making was immediate, an external (or inter-dimensional/ ghostly) push was needed in my case. Live to fly, fly to live. Do or die..

As I was contemplating the situation, another challenge accosted us. A massive traffic jam could be seen ahead at the Saki Vihar road. Our engine was still heating up, ready to set fire to the fuel and a traffic jam would not just increase the heat, but also have ample of other live human beings - being risked with a makeshift bomb made of a heating bike and leaking fuel.

I was losing vision again.. from the present.. And gaining vision and senses:  Of the British air, from another era, flavored with war scent of bombs, gunfire and aviation fuel.


As British as one can be:
the Supermarine Spitfire

The Spitfire was in the air, increasing distance from the bombarding at the airfield. However, the sound of the Rolls Royce 10 cylinder engine that was not the only one to be heard. There was another. Lacey turned around. 

BMW powered FW 190: Nazi markings et all
Sure enough, at his tail was a Luftwaffe fighter! No mistaking that wretched turbocharged radial BMW 801 engine. Deutschland seemed to producing more of these Focke-Wulf 190 than what the Allied powers could shoot down in a day.


Though a rare phenomenon, I could sense fear building up in Lacey's blood. The chances were weighed, and they weren't bright - No Sir.. He was alone, low on fuel and underpowered form an engineering standpoint. If he went into a dive with the engine on, the negative G-force would flood fuel to his carburetor, choking and finally stalling his engine, while his enemy's turbo charger would have no such problem and dive in faster to gun him down.

Blimey.. To hell with it. Our dear mate 'logic' should take a back seat for a while..

He shut off the engine and commenced his dive. His nemesis from the Luftwaffe followed and as expected, was gaining on us. The FW190 started strafing, but we narrowly escaped.

1,030 hp Rolls Royce Merlin powered Spitfire,
with 1,530 hp BMW powered Luftwaffe on tail

Now Lacey pulled the lever fully. I cringed upon experiencing the massive organ crushing G-force as the aircraft swerved hard right. While the German FW190 claimed supremacy in horsepower, it was not was not the same case in agility, where the tables turned in favor of the British Supermarine Spitfire . Bracing the extreme centrifugal force,  Lacey completed a loop and was now successfully at the side of the German. The hunter had become the hunted! Why, he could also see the Hornchurch airstrip! As the war trumpet, he pressed down his guns at the German.


Poof.. I was back from the World War II and was now seeing my body mounted on the speeding Pulsar 200. Having just witnessed Lacey's tactics, a chill ran through my spine as I looked in anticipation what he was about to do to address this traffic problem ahead.

Sure enough, my wrist opened the throttle opened fully to gain as much speed as we could;
and then I saw my other finger hit the engine kill switch. Just like the Spitfire and Lacey, the bike and I were coasting as illegal speeds, with the engine shut off (See - Lacey did think about not putting innocent people in danger) towards the traffic. I was a tad scared considering my worn out tires and the limited grip they could offer but by now, I had faith in Lacey (and his spirit). 

That is the queer thing about Trust: Once one has won it, he/she could persuade the other bloke into anything, however absurd it may be.

And this is precisely what Lacey played on with me.


This time, I parked inhibitions aside, and let his spirit take full control of my hands and watched in awe as we leaned, swayed, bent the motorcycle - snaking nimbly through the crowd comprising of cars, motorcycles, autorickshaws, cycles, hawkers and everything else that Mumbai traffic has to offer.

As I was approaching the end of the road, the workshop was in sight. I was also beginning to sense control getting back for my limbs. The mind and the body were getting reconnected now. With a cold shiver, I witnessed a sight from the other era: the aircraft landing safely on the Hornchurch airfield and Lacey's victorious grin. Also an emotion of goodbye. 


Since I had control over my body again, and the workshop was 100 m away, I mustered all my energy and shouted: "Uday bhai! ***censored** tank phat gaya! Bachaao; aag pakad sakta hai".

{Help! Ruptured tank- fire risk!!}

Petrol tank's end of life

If Kimi Raikkonen or Lewis Hamilton were watching, they would boil in jealousy to see the speed and sincerity with which Chandru and Uday heard my voice and ran to tend to my machine before I could even fully stop. Within seconds, my pit crew had taken over and dismounted the fuel tank, flushed the residual fuel and dumped the ruptured tank. Few minutes later, we were discussing if the fuel line and valvetrain could be augmented, to push more fuel; to make the bike go faster. And other things that could be repaired & augmented- now that the bike was at the workshop waiting for a new tank. The new tank;  of course, could be scavenged at a fraction of the cost from the notorious chor bazaar.. 

Roads or not, we keep going
Moral of the story:

  • Love your machine well, and it will love you back…
  • Heavens forbid, if the spirit of  Squadron Leader 'Ginger' Lacey pays you a visit, tell him to go easy on the clutch, lest like me - you end up with a slippy clutch after his aggressive drive..

 

PS: In an era where new, manufacturers introduce faster models every month, a special thanks goes out to Uday, Anthony, Ganesh anna & Chandru: who managed to keep this Pulsar 200 one of the fastest machine on the streets for a decade.



Friday, April 30, 2021

Phebe: mysteries unraveled..

On HuangShan>>

Pre -read reference: 

Shoo: make (a person or animal) go away by waving one's arms at them, saying “shoo,” or otherwise acting in a discouraging manner (source: Oxford dictionary)

Caveat: It's been a while that we've hit the club scene and maybe that’s why we may sound so excited here

We were so out of sync that we realized we were humming 'wheels on the bus' while starting off from the hotel. Phebe was chosen for the sole reason that it was near to the hotel and thought we'd be getting back quick. No there is no mis-spelling here, kindly refer to Sona's picture here.

Once we got to the place, I was a bit skeptical. The place was huge; even from the outside. The car park was envious: A Lamborghini Urus, funky Beijing BJ 40, Cadillacs, Porsches and even a couple of heavily modified Japanese humbled our VW cab.

We darted in and started posting our enquiries: was there an entry fee? Could we see the menu please? (fact of life - always be prepared on what your bill in going to be) and so on. The petite lady would have none of it and shoved us inside. The interior was a different world. A lot more than what a Saturday party place should be.


The smarty lady led us to a table near the DJ, where many ladies were already seated. With a couple of shouts, she shoo-ed them away with sharp words. In a manner that would make a shepherd and his sheep grimace. She installed us at the table and started talking to us.

However, I stood my ground. I would not yield without seeing the menu and being apprised of what a drink/ table would cost. I shouted, she shouted, and all of our words - regardless of the language, were drowned by the music. The smarty girl finally yielded and decided to hand us over to the master Shifu and the manager - Mr. Bin

A suave chap, he had us impressed with his stylish moves with his phone and with sign language - he managed adding us on text. Presto! Now we could type and communicate over translator! After some communication a short menu appeared out of nowhere.

The situation was summarized as follows: the table that had been allocated to us (after shoo-ing those ladies) was a good one and we ought to order from that specific menu - with a minimum order being for couple of grands.

I revolted vehemently. I explained my life's mission statement, my budgetary policy and expressed by willingness to exit and head to Liyang street pubs.

But our suave Shifu Bin would have none of it, he took us to another 'tavern' table which offered a different menu. Once we got here, he mouthed an earful to another group of youngsters seated - who hurriedly vacated the table, rushed to the stage and started dancing. This phenomenon of shoo-ing people was getting strikingly peculiar. Sona later solved this one, but more on that later.

So for now we are at a new table and a different menu was summoned magically from air by Bin. The menu had something that was in line with what would not dent my retirement fund and I requested for two pints. Now, Bin was not convinced. He almost got cross at us at the prospect of two measly beers - they could only get one so much happiness and offered us a peculiar deal: for 20% more - we could get a 12 beer pack and a gigantic platter. This time, I got concerned about HIS financial model and bottom line; but took the bait.

We glanced around: The DJ had switched this time and people were gathering near the stage for another showman who was taking over. Guys and girls - all of them were having a good time, and we were also settling into the mood.

As I got my eyes back to our table, I found another slim debonair guy staring at me. Bin had disappeared. The new guy's eyes conveyed a mystical determination and never left mine. I tried to look around but I could still feel those new set of eyes drilling at me. When I realized I was not going to be able to shake it off, I found the courage to look back in his eyes. Our eyes met. Without leaving his gaze, he pulled out a pint, opened the bottle and poured out in two glasses. His job, and stare done, he glided away into the dark.

Phew..

As our eyes were adjusting to the dark and quirky lights, and we were getting a better feel of the place. Everything was likeable. The debonair glided in again, emptied the bottle and opened another one with that stare.  

For a while at least things were fine. Next, a towering and well-built figure appeared. No mistaking that uniform - he could have been from security or from an official authority. 


He politely waved us to step out and we knew at once that this was not one of those situations to bargain or argue.
In my life's journey, I have been in trouble amply; and consider myself a decent judge of deciding on when to run and when to comply with the authorities. The voice inside today leaned to the latter

Once outside, we were explained that in the mayhem of (a) we trying to figure out about the place and (b) the manager's concern to settle us in, we had skipped the security and the COVID-19 code check protocol. So we held out our devices and tried to get our government codes. Tsch tsch.. The club acceptable one was the provincial health code. Now came the problem: this particular one was not designed well for foreigners and we struggled to fill the online Hanzi form.

After a while, we realized we were not getting anywhere. We then flashed our hotel key - requested the security Shifu to call our hotel to fetch get the codes (which they already had from our check-in). 

Well, as per his process document, this was acceptable as an exception, with the following conditions:

  1. That we fill up a physical form and declaration, giving the details of our passport, train details, train time, hotel details, Shanghai address and our genetic codes.
  2. Protocol also stated that we be given fresh masks lest our masks carry infections from elsewhere.

Lambo Urus & Beijing BJ40

For point #2, the macho fellow headed to his macho SUV - a modern day red Beijing BJ40 (not a fan but impressed by this barebones Humvee look-alike) and fetched two fresh masks. He made sure we disposed our old masks carefully in the designated bin in front of him. Now we could head back.

As we got back, the scene had changed again. The color theme was different and music had switched from English to local and club mix. Seeing us return, some youngsters meandering on our table were shoo-ed again by the debonair and we found our next glasses already readied. 

The dance floor in front of us was a bouncy one (no kidding - a springy one indeed) and the people were filled to the brim and dancing in sync. Behind us, there were people standing on the platform above our heads and dancing. (Think of the YMCA moves done by Hard Rock Café staff on higher platforms/ bar counters). Some were moving to the music, some with fancy Chinese fans : an amazing blend of tradition and modernity.


This time, a woman manager of a different kind came by and shouted scathingly at two ladies dressed in red at the platform dancing behind us. They immediately got down and drove off to mix with people.

Now Sona hypothesized - some of the crowd could be hired. By Jove! It all fit and as the point drove home - I started seeing around with new lenses: One particular category - I could place as students, being called in to drive up the cool factor. One group of ladies in red, were clearly there to spruce up the glam factor and possible companionship for patrons. 


As it struck to me, one of the red lady appeared next to me. A drink went by and I could still feel someone behind me. I hugged Sona tightly to make a point and stayed there until the threat passed.

We did not know the time, but our debonair guy made sure we were never without a drink and kept the other round ready - to avoid any blasphemous scenario of we being kept waiting for a drink.

Between us, we have seen some places and could list some common factors between Vegas & Amsterdam, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore & Brussels, etc. However, this was an experience phenomenally different from what we had ever witnessed.

Maybe we have been away from the scene for a while, maybe we are getting old. But there is no point thinking about the reason of our excitement.  Phebe will remain an unforgettable place.


More on HuangShan: http://lifeisanopenroad2me.blogspot.com/2021/04/exceeding-expectations-huangshan.html