Gadgets

MapMyIndia GPS Navigator

“Boss, how do I go to Shivaji Chowk?” I ask, to which ‘Boss’ replies “Do one thing, take a left, then a right and you will find Ardha Shivaji Putla (Statue), from where you take second right from the Circle and go straight and ask anyone there”. Then I follow his instructions, but only to take a wrong left and enter some chawl where the road seems to go nowhere. Again, I take a U turn and ask somebody for directions. After a painstaking 1 hour and burning an extra or two liters of fuel, I reach my destination with a sense of accomplishment only to find out that the person whom I want to meet is not at home! Tch..Tch.. I am very bad at remembering roads coz I have visited this person twice earlier, not to mention the time and fuel wasted during those earlier visits! And here I am again doing the rounds.
Well there has to be a solution to help me overcome this weakness of mine. And as if by reply, I read in newspaper, the following day, about a thingie called the GPS Navigator. Enter “MapMyIndia” GPS navigator and I thought to myself this could be my stuff.
I did not want to go for the kill immediately but wanted to understand how this device will help me, this being a new technology available for public. I read the reviews, newspapers and television and found that the device was pretty good at what it does – i.e.: navigate you through the roads, show you Points of Interest like tourist place, nearby ATMs, hospitals, petrol pumps, restaurants among others.
After a long wait, still pensive though on how will it work, I ordered the GPS Navigator, Model Lx130, price of which is bit on the higher side though prices have come down by 25% at the time of this writing.

Features are:

  • No SIM or GPRS required as it is a satellite operated device;
  • No monthly or recurring charges, the only charges you pay are for the updates.
  • Comes with a 3.5” touchscreen (don’t expect iPhone like operations, though pretty ok)
  • Touch the screen and mark your point on the road and choose that as your destination or starting point
  • Drag the map display to see other routes
  • Currently MapMyIndia offers street level turn-by-turn directions in 620 cities across India (including Kolhapur and Belgaum), over 52 categories of points of interest and over 2 million unique destinations, 5,76,000 towns and villages connected by national and state highways. So wherever you want to go, chances are that your destination is covered.
  • No worries for slow data rates, incomplete data, etc

After I received the package, I started unravelling what lay inside.

Then I tested it on the road and here are my views:

  • Touchscreen is more like a poke-screen, but pretty responsive. Marking of a point in road takes getting used to though and sometimes you lose patience if you are in a hurry. The virtual keypad for entering the street addresses, places etc. is also cumbersome.
  • The navigation is voice guided in UK or US English. So you need not look all the time at the screen for directions and concentrate on your driving. Now Hindi and Gujarati voice has also been included.
  • The screen is quite bright and unless you are viewing it in direct sunlight, it is quite easy to read and understand.
  • Boot-up and navigation software loading time is fairly fast and rarely does one witness any lag. However, the Satellite Acquisition Time may vary from 3 minutes to about 8 minutes depending upon the GPS signal.
  • The battery back-up is pretty low, with usage time ranging up to 3 hours. But as it is a car navigation device, it is supposed to be plugged into the recharge socket for most of its usage time.
  • As far as navigation and map accuracy goes, it is accurate most of the time and manages to find shortest route between two places. Even in my locality, it managed to locate small petrol pumps and ATMs with ease and directed me towards them.
  • In order to connect it to your computer and access its data (where you can export it to *.kml and view it on Google Earth), you will have to download and install Microsoft Active Sync for Windows or SyncCe / MultiSync for Ubuntu Linux or similar software for your operating system.
  • It comes with an inbuilt picture viewer, document viewer (.txt files only) and music and video player. They are pretty easy to use and work decently.
  • Sometimes, the routes are not properly mapped. But most of the times were pretty accurate. Maybe an update will help here for me though.
  • I was amazed at how detailed the road guidance is.  I reached a part of Kolhapur where I thought the GPS cannot guide me here, but I was proved wrong!!

Click here for a demo on how it works

This device has made me smile despite my initial scepticism.

All in all, my final word is that this GPS device is a very nice option to have in your car. It has indeed helped me save a lot. And Truly and Finally, a Navigator that works!!

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Travel

Uttarakhand Trip

We had been planning to visit Uttarakhand (formerly known as Uttaranchal and previously part of Uttar Pradesh State) for a long time now.  We had earlier visited Nainital about 2 years back and were eager to explore the sublime state of Uttarakhand, known for its natural beauty.  We were going to Delhi and Rudrapur (which is a district place in Uttarakhand State) for official work.  After completing our work in Delhi, we had 4 days at our disposal before heading to Rudrapur for work, and we decided to make the most of it.  This whole trip was unplanned but fortunately we got all the things right, right from hotel, taxi and railways booking.  Not considering last minute changes (which included visiting Dalhousie, Kulu, Manali etc.), during free time after completing our Delhi work, we planned to visit Mussoorie, Haridwar, Rishikesh and Dehradun, being nearer to Delhi.  Further, after Rudrapur work, as our return trip to Kolhapur was not yet booked, we planned to visit nearby places like Corbett Park, Kausani and Ranikhet.

  • Mussoorie:
    • Day 1:  This was our first trip after Kerala.  Now to the North.  We left Delhi in the afternoon by Taxi (Toyota Innova).  Mussoorie is about 300 kms from Delhi and takes about 6-8 hours depending on traffic.  It is a hill station situated in the foothills of the Himalayan ranges, is also known as the Queen of the Hills and at an average altitude of 6,500 ft (2,000 metres).  It was peak season and all the hotels were booked, but our Delhi client was generous to book a hotel for us.  We reached late night at 1:00 am and checked in.  When we woke up the next day, the beautiful valley view from our hotel room greeted us.  After having our breakfast, we visited Kempty falls located 15 kms from Mussoorie, which is one of the most popular attraction of the region.  The weather was slightly warm, better than the blistering climate back in Delhi.  Surrounded by high mountain ranges and located at a high altitude of 4500 feet, the falls offer a breath-taking view as the water falling down from a high altitude of 40 feet splits further into five more streams.  Tourists were enjoying ‘swimming’ in the cold water in the scorching temperature beneath the Falls.  Perhaps, we thought, the best time to visit is the off season.  We had a ropeway ride down to the Falls.  We had the ubiquitous Maggi noodles near the Falls and off we went back to Mussoorie town to visit the famous Mall Road in the evening.  Mall Road is lined up by shops on one side and the Doon valley on the other.  It has eateries like Café Coffee Day, Bistro and hotels serving Tibetan, Chinese and Thai dishes.  Many shops sell woollen clothes, home made chocolates, fruits, handicrafts, antiquities etc.  On the other side, is a beautiful view of the Doon valley and the city of Dehradun.   We took an evening stroll along the street watching the tourists taking pictures, shopping, enjoying cycle rickshaw ride.  We reached Gunhill point which is another tourist destination in Mussoorie.  We then visited the famous Cambridge Book Shop, known to be frequented by the famous writer Ruskin Bond.  It was Saturday, when he normally visits, but we missed him.  We bought a collection of Ruskin Bond short stories.  Then we did some shopping.  It was dinner time and we were famished and heard that that the Mall Road houses great Tibetan food.   We went to a Hotel called “Rice Bowl” run by a Tibetan family and ordered ‘Thukpa’ which is a staple noodle soup of Tibet.  We hired a cycle rickshaw back to our Hotel and retired for the day.
    • Day 2: The next day, we went to Dhanoulti, situated 28 kms from Mussoorie on a high rise mountain, which is an Eco Park with protected patch of small forest and is known for its quiet environs amidst the alpine forests of Deodar, Rhododendron and Oak.  The road to Dhanoulti was on high rise mountains called Ghats.  We were listening to Garhwali folk songs along the way and that set the mood for exploring Uttarakhand.  Dhanoulti is a very beautiful place surrounded by Pine, Fir, Spruce, Deodhar Trees and huge mountains. From here, we can have a beautiful view of the Himalayas, if weather permits, which it did not in our case.  It was crowded by Tourists and there was no peace, at least at the entrance of the park.  There were eateries, children park at the entrance.  But we trudged along the walk way of the Park, to move away from the crowd and sooner we were alone in the calm of the trees.  The wind suddenly picked up and the cold started building up.  This is what we expected of Mussoorie and the Himalayas.  We felt rejuvenated as we trekked along the walk way through the Eco Forest.  We could hear the birds chirping, the wind gushing.  I immediately felt like becoming a poet and composing a poem at that very moment.  Further on, we reached a valley where we sat down and enjoy the view of the mountains.  We then continued walking to the end of the Eco Park, which ended in an open space on the mountain.  This gave us a good vantage point of the surrounding hills called the Shivalik Mountain Range and it was a great feeling.  There was no crowd at all.  We did not feel like leaving this place.  But it was after noon, and lunch beckoned.  We came out of the Park and devoured like crazy after having a long walk in the Park.  We spent the entire day in Dhanoulti.

Our suggestion for those travelling to Mussoorie, avoid during peak season, look beyond Mall Road, Gun Hill and the Kempty Falls, as Mussoorie has great walks and it is a “Walkers Paradise”.  Other good walks to visit are Camel’s Back Road, Lal Tibba.

  • Haridwar and Rishikesh:
    • Day 3: It was pilgrimage time for us.  We first visited Rishikesh, holy city for Hindus and a famous centre of pilgrimage.  It is also known as the gateway to the Himalayas and is located around 25 kilometres away from another holy city, Haridwar, which was our next destination. Rishikesh is the starting point for traveling to the sites that form the  Char Dham  pilgrimage — Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.  The sacred river Ganga flows through Rishikesh. In fact, it is here that the river leaves the Siwalik mountains in the Himalayas and flows out into the plains of northern India. It is also becoming a popular spot for white water rafting enthusiasts, both from India and abroad, as it offers medium to rough rapids in the course of river Ganges.  The Beatles stayed in an ashram in Rishikesh and even recorded a few songs here.  The Ram Jhula (suspension bridge) connects the town with the temple over the Ganga.  Also there is another similar bridge a few kilometres away called Lakshman Jhula.  It was believed that Lord Rama’s brother, Lakshman crossed the river on this very place using Jute rope.  There are many ashrams here in Rishikesh where one can contemplate and meditate.  Many devotees visit Rishikesh to pay respects to Lord Shiva and attain moksha by taking a dip in the holy river Ganga.  We had lunch in a hotel called “Flavours”, which we read is ‘Recommended by Lonely Planet”, which was my favourite show on Discovery Channel.  Then we crossed Ram Jhula and visited the adjoining temple and paid our respects.  We then descended into the Ganga.  It was 45 C and hot, but the Ganga was stone cold.

We then proceeded to Haridwar to be just in time for “Har-ki-pauri” – Ganga Aarti.  There was a huge crowd compared to Rishikesh.  The Mega Maha Kumbh Mela had just concluded about a month back.  People were taking a holy dip in the Ganga.  The river torrents were rougher.  Each evening at sunset priests perform Ganga Aarti here at sunset, when lights are set on the water to drift downstream. A large number of people gather on both the banks of river Ganges to sing its praises. The priest hold large fire bowls in their hands, the gongs in the temples at the Ghat start ringing and the chants flowing out of lips fill the air. People float earthen Diya, with burning flickers and flowers in them as a symbol of hope and wishes .The golden hues of floral diyas reflected in the river Ganga present the most  enchanting sight.  It was a lifetime experience to see such a Mega Aarti.   The Aarti touched our souls and it was the most amazing experience.  After the Aarti, we proceeded to Dehradun for night’s stay.

  • Dehradun:
    • Day 4: Dehradun is the capital city of Uttarakhand.  It is located in the Doon valley surrounded by the Himalayas in the north, Sivalik Hills in the south, the river Ganga in the east, and the river Yamuna in the west. The water divide of Ganga and Yamuna passes through the city.  It is also famous for its schools and you can see school children going to school in their uniforms.  Our first stop here was a place called Sahasradhara – The greenery and the foam of waterfalls make it a best picnic spot.  It is believed that Dronacharya performed penance in the caves here.  There is a ropeway to the mountain, where there is a well maintained Sai Mandir, children’s park, restaurant and nice view of the surrounding green mountains.  The next stop was Robbers Cave, known for the stream of water that disappears and flows underground through a cave. It again reappears as a stream of water after some distance.  Then we visited Forest Research Institute which is said to be built in 1906 and is a premier institution in the field of forestry research in India.  The beautiful FRI building has colonial style of architecture.  Its museums, in addition to being a source of scientific information, are an attraction for tourists.

We then checked out our hotel and boarded the Kathgodam Express to Rudrapur.

  • Corbett Park:
    • Day 5: From Rudrapur (not considering our working days), we went to Jim Corbett Park, about 90 kms from Rudrapur.  The park was established in 1936 as Hailey National Park. Situated in Nainital district of Uttarakhand, the park acts as a protected area for the critically endangered Bengal tiger of India, the secure survival of which is the main objective of Project Tiger, an Indian wildlife protection initiative.  We hired a Gypsy vehicle and went inside the forest.  This forest houses varied wildlife, flora and fauna.  We were feeling like adventurers atop the Gypsy.  We had no hope of sighting a tiger, as it is a rarity.  We started around 2 pm and our ride ended at 7 pm.  We spotted deers, sambar, jungle fowl among other wild animals.  The deciduous forest mainly consists of sal, haldu, pipal, rohini and mango trees, and these trees cover almost 73 per cent of the park. The 10 per cent of the area consists of grasslands.  The experience was great and we had a good time.  We then returned back to Rudrapur.
  • Kausani:
    • Day 6: We hired a taxi from Rudrapur to Kausani, a picturesque hill station.  Many people don’t know about this place.  Another hill station near Rudrapur is, of course, Nainital which we skipped, as we had earlier visited.  During our last visit to Nainital, we were told by many people to visit Kausani, which stuck in our minds and at last we decided to visit Kausani, this time around.  Kausani is a destination for Himalayan tourists. It is located 53 km North of Almora. The altitude of this place is about 1890 mts.  En route Kausani, we passed through Almora, another hill town and a district place.  The town roads of Almora were dangerous, as a slight mishap will end up in the deep valley below.  Our driver told us that tapes and CD players are not allowed in the vehicles and if found, the cops will fine upto Rs. 5,000.  The entire town of Almora can be seen from far away as it is wholly situated on hill top.  When we were nearing Kausani (often misspelt / mis-pronounced as Kasauni), it started raining heavily.  We reached our hotel and retired for the day.
    • Day 7: It was 6 a.m. in the morning and we felt as if it was 10 a.m.  I casually looked out of the window of our room, and lo and behold!, the Great Himalayas lay right before our eyes.  The Range was so close as if we can touch it.  The sight was spectacular.  There are very few places in the Himalayas which can compare with the beauty of Kausani famous for its scenic splendor and its spectacular 300 km-wide panoramic view of the Himalayas.  Our Hotel Manager said we were very lucky cause it had rained heavily the past night.  The previous guests were very unlucky on that one though.  He told us that the best time to visit Kausani is October to January, when it is cold, but it is cloudless and blue offering a beautiful view of Himalayas in its entire glory.  I couldn’t take off my eyes of the beautiful peaks.  There were clouds but not enough to cover the spectacle.  We ordered lemon tea and sat in the balcony viewing the splendour and sipping away our tea.  After breakfast, we went to Anasakti Mahatma Gandhi Ashram, which was just 50 meters away from our Hotel.  Mahatma Gandhi had come to Kausani for 2 days, but he stayed back for 15 days, marvelled by its beauty.  He coined Kausani as “Switzerland of India”, due to similarily in landscape.  Tourists can also stay at the Ashram.  It has a prayer hall which contains pictures of Gandhi and historic moments.  The view point from the Ashram is also breathtaking.  We spent the whole day in walks and watching the splendour that is Himalayas.  In the evening we went to a nearby Shiva temple from where we could see the sun set over the Himalayas and the changing color of the mountains.  Enchanting!
    • Day 8: We woke up at 5 a.m. to see the sun rise.  We could see the whole Himalayan range (300 kms) as a silhouette in the sky as the Sun was rising from behind the Great Ranges.  B-e-a-utiful!  We thought it will be a clearer day than yesterday.  But, in a while, the Himalayas were covered by thick clouds.  We were fortunate enough the previous day.  Phew!!  Without the Himalayan view in Kausani, it is just another ordinary day in a hill station.  This day, we decided to visit a few places around Kausani.  We went to Baijnath temple, 19 kms from Kausani, amidst the mountain ranges with the splendid sceneries around.  The 12th century temple complex exhibits the amazing Katyuri architecture of the age.  Then we visited a Tea Factory and had some different flavoured tea.  Then we retired for the day.  We drove past the Kumaoni villages surrounded by the mountains and the Himalayan view.  The lifestyle of the villages were typical of Pahari people.  The main occupation was to grow paddy, rice and fruits.  The hills have been carved into steps using stones for agriculture purposes.  It was marriage season and many decorated cars could be seen throughout the day carrying the bride and the groom.  On the way back, we visited a Shawl Factory, which produces hand woven, Kumaoni pattern shawls, scarves.
  • Ranikhet:
    • Day 9: The next day, we left to Ranikhet, a hill station and a cantonment town in Almora district.  Ranikhet is at an altitude of 1869 metres above sea level and within sight of the western peaks of the Himalayas.  Ranikhet Uttaranchal offers an excellent view of the great Himalayan peak of Nanda Devi (7816 m), but weather did not permit. We took a walk around the town and its sylvan surroundings.  We then visited The Jhula Devi temple (known for its thousands of bells tied around the temple) and the Chaubatia orchards where apples are grown. Upat Kalika, 4 km from Ranikhet, offers a panoramic view of the Himalayan ranges, if you are lucky and has a nine-hole golf course.  We then visited Mankameshwar Temple.  We then checked in our hotel and retired for the day.

Then we were back to Delhi and then to Kolhapur.  The whole trip above was unplanned but never felt like it.  We dropped our second visit to Nainital and visited Ranikhet instead.  We could book our hotels, trains and flights at our convenience through Internet.  In Kausani, we booked our return train ticket from Lal Kuan to Delhi through my Nokia E63 mobile (using ngPay) as there was no internet access.  It was very convenient.

We have now visited almost all places in Uttarakhand, except of course the Char Dham (Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri) and Pithoragarh (also called as the Doosra Kashmir).  Watch out for this space on these remaining places.  Coming Soon!

Uncategorized

My First IPL Match!

We were in Delhi for official work.  We had a tedious workload for finalising the March end accounts of one of our clients.  Then the client told us that there is an IPL cricket match on 11th April between Kings XI Punjab and Delhi Daredevils at 4 p.m. at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, which was situated in close proximity where we were working, and whether we were interested to watch the same.  This was a good opportunity to have some relief and refresh our minds, so without wasting a moment, we agreed and tickets were booked.  Though I am not such a huge fan of cricket or IPL, I thought this is a good opportunity to see something so hyped about.

On the match day, we were there lined up for security check.  It was 3 p.m. and there was a big crowd building up outside the stadium, with cops overseeing the orderliness of the audience.  All kinds of merchandise like Team T-Shirts, whistles, caps, face paint and stuff were for sale.  As we walked by the stadium to Gate 18, we could see crazy fans lining up at the entrance. Security was huge and I mean really ‘huge’. Had to be…Police, Army, Private security, you name it. Gate 18, our entrance into the stadium had 100 odd fans waiting to get in.  Before entering the stadium, we could see Yuvraj Singh having a net practice with the other Punjab guys.  When we entered the stadium, we were greeted by a spectacular lush green outfield with DLF IPL and Delhi Daredevils (local guys) posters and logos everywhere.  Players from both teams were practicing and stretching all over the ground.  The sound system was great and the DJ played some thumping music.  The best part was that we were in shade and the scorching sun had already crossed our part of the stand. The cheerleaders’ stand was to our far left below.  With about half an hour for the match to start, people started streaming in and soon the whole stadium was packed.  We caught hold of some seats which was at the ground level, so we could catch a glimpse of players near the outfield fence.  Sure enough, there was Brett Lee who was sprinting along the boundary (he was not playing btw due to a broken finger).  He was spectator friendly and said Namaste with folded hands.  We could see in Brett Lee’s eyes and face that he enjoyed the stardom in India.  And why not!  Then there was Piyush Chawla, Daniel Vettori, Maharoof, Sodhi, Jayawardene and Ashish Nehra too stretching and taking high catch practice.  Soon the noise started building up with whistles, horns, inflatable balloons, DJ music and we knew that we are in for a good time.  It was a carnival of sorts.   We could see Preity Zinta sitting and chatting with players of Punjab.

The following was the team:

Delhi Daredevils:

Gautam Gambhir (capt), Virender Sehwag, David Warner, Dinesh Karthik, Paul Collingwood, Mithun Manhas, Farveez Maharoof, Daniel Vettori, Rajat Bhatia, Amit Mishra, Ashish Nehra.

Kings XI Punjab:

Kumar Sangakkara (capt), Mahela Jayawardene, Adrian Barath, Yuvraj Singh, Karan Goel, Reetinder Sodhi, Irfan Pathan, Piyush Chawla, Juan Theron, Ramesh Powar, Love Ablish.

Gambhir won the toss and elected to bat first.  Delhi were looking to seal their place in the semi-finals with at least two victories from their last three matches, while Punjab, who had beaten Kolkata and Mumbai, would like to keep their winning run intact.. The match started with Delhi taking on the field to bat.  We could see nothing from where we were sitting.  It is not the same as watching on television where you get detailed views of each ball along  with expert comments and opinion.  We also did not understand who was bowling and batting.  It more looked like a bunch of school boys playing cricket match.  Of course, the standard of fielding and catching was very high.  The cheer girls appeared to know nothing about cricket.  They were dancing at the cue of the DJ playing music to indicate that something exciting was going on!!     There were wickets of the Delhi side tumbling one after the other and 111 runs was all they could muster up.  We were expecting explosive batting from Sehwag, but he got out cheaply.  There was a big screen showing the scoreboard and live TV.  The Delhi crowd were not at their best because of their home team’s dismal performance.  Gambhir looked to be good with excellent timing and placement but his innings was short lived and was run out.  There were no DLF maximum at all during the entire Delhi innings.  This let us and the home crowd down.  This is not what IPL is meant to be!  Is it?!

The Punjab team had an easy task ahead of them to chase down 111 runs.  The only moment when the Delhi crowd erupted was when the first wicket of Irfan Pathan fell.  That was the moment we wanted and expected from an IPL match.  The atmosphere suddenly changed from murky to animated.  But that was short lived as Sangakara and Jayawardene steadied the innings and bought the Punjab team towards victory.  Yuvraj chipped in with 20 odd runs with a six to his credit.  Piyush Chawla was declared Man of the Match for his bowling performance.

We did not wait for the presentation and hurried out among the scores of people getting out.  When I reached my hotel, I turned on the TV to see the match review.   According to the experts, it was a boring match, and that was what had to come our way on our first live cricket match!  Tch..Tch..!! Gautam Gambhir said that he would like to play away games more as the Kotla ground was not as per expectation.  The Kotla ground was again the focal point of controversy.

Nevertheless, I thought about how amazing a concept IPL was. Action packed cricket lasting just 4 hours and with the music, awesome management, IPL surely has completely transformed watching cricket live in the stadium. It is complete entertainment and good fun day out for everyone.  More females can be seen at the stadium which was not the case a few years ago. IPL is not only a day of interesting cricket, it is a party – a celebration where even if your team turns up on the losing side, it is at least certain you had pretty good time at the stadium with all the music and power cricket (though the latter was absent in this match).  For those of you who haven’t yet watched the IPLs, I would suggest at least one match live and you will know what I mean!

My personal favourite to win IPL 3 is Mumbai Indians!  What with Sachin in such a divine form!

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Movie Reviews

“Natarang” Marathi Movie Review

Been hearing about this Marathi movie “Natarang”.  Heard that it is a different movie in the Marathi language genre.  So I thought maybe it would be a good idea to shell out some of my money and actually watch the movie. And I was not at all disappointed.  I have earlier watched only a few Marathi movies, but only a few packed the right punch like Dombivili Fast, Zenda, Harishchandrachi Factory etc..

This movie has a serious storyline, unlike most other popular Marathi movies which are mostly of the slapstick comedy type or in-law brawls.  There has been a welcome change in Marathi movies in recent years, from some cheap comedies to sensible movies like this one.

Atul Kulkarni plays the lead role called “Guna” in the movie.  He is a farm worker and wrestler (Pehalwan), avid Tamasha (Marathi folk dance) fan and lavani writer.  Due to automation in farms he is working, he is out of work along with his fellow mates, and then they choose to form a “Tamasha” group, despite opposition from peers.  It becomes evident to them that they at least require a female performer to attract crowd to watch their Tamasha.  They find a female dancer, played by Sonalee Kulkarni (not the “Dil Chahta Hai” fame) whose condition is that there should be a feminine homosexual “Nachya” in the troupe and only then can she join them.  Despite hesitation, Guna, who wants to play the part as a King, undertakes to become a “Nachya”.  The dedication shown by Atul Kulkarni in this movie shows his professionalism.  He had to build up his body for the wrestler part and then shed kilos to become a nachya in the troupe, and all that in one movie!!  His acting stands out in the movie.

Thereafter the troupe achieves fame and some money, but what follows is the societal prejudice and the POV of the society at how they look upon a nachya.  He is deserted by his wife, teased for performing feminine roles, abused and declared a eunuch and gay by the society that fails to understand the creativity involved in the art form.  But Guna never gives up and he continues to pursue his passion.  However, this outburst could have been portrayed much intensely, but then again, it would have attracted smaller crowds due to intensity.  Atul Kulkarni will now be more remembered, not for his role in “Rang De Basanti” but for his role in “Natarang”.

The music / soundtrack of “Natarang” by Ajay and Atul was incredible.  It gave the movie the right direction and it never felt that it was moving away from the essence of the movie.  Man! Love the sound of the “Dholak”!  And here’s a big thumbs up to Ravi Jadhav, the debutant director, who has shown that he is no amateur in directing this movie.

This movie has changed the course of Marathi movies and movie goers have also shown that they need change from the usual slapstick comedy, and Natarang has given them a breather.  Watch out! More to come from the Marathi movie stable!

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Gadgets, TechnoGazette

My New Nokia E63 White

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I have purchased Nokia E63 smart phone. I had a limited budget of Rs. 10 k and this phone fit perfectly in my wallet. There was another phone Nokia E72 costing Rs. 19 k which I compared before going for the kill. There were only a few differences that mattered according to me like:

  • E72 is built of quality materials like stainless steel whereas E63 is built of plastic. (Does that make much difference especially if you are likely to change your mobile every 4-6 years?)
  • E72 has built in 5 MP camera whereas E63 has 2 MP. (This doesn’t matter as I don’t care about camera phone)
  • E72 is lot thinner than E63. (Ok, so what)
  • E72 has a GPS receiver whereas E63 does not.  (Does not matter as I have a dedicated GPS Navigator by MapMyIndia)

That’s about it that I was concerned about, without going through the technical details. The price difference was huge so I chose ol’ E63.
The E63 came bundled with a Bluetooth Hands free (though I don’t use it). The following are the basic specifications:

  • QWERTY keypad
  • Weight : 126 g
  • Screen size: 2.36’
  • Supports GPRS, EDGE, 3G and WLAN / Wi-fi and USB
  • Practically unlimited contact and phone book entries and fields
  • Has a 3.5 mm audio jack

Available colours are Ultramarine Blue, Ruby Red, Black. But I got my hands on a pearly white E63 which is newly released. It gives a charming, professional look to it. Nice one there!

Earlier, I was using Nokia N70 (Music Edition). The phone was slowing down, the GPRS speeds were bad, internet experience was null on that phone. But, it’s understandable, as N70 was The phone once upon a time and with advancement in technology, it had to be.

My Experience with E63:

  • The GPRS and EDGE speeds of E63 is outstanding. I have a wireless router in my home, so I get good Wi-fi speeds on the phone.  Having trouble with WiFi configuration on your E63 and especially “No Gateway Reply” error?  Check out this Guide and it won’t fail!
  • The interface is intuitive and I am at home with QWERTY.
  • It has the good battery backup. It gives talk time of 11 hours and standby time of 432 hours.
  • It has amazing memory. It has internal memory of 120MB and supports expandable memory of 8 GB. It is enough for your apps, games, movies, music etc.
  • Image quality of E63 is quite decent though there is a lot of noise in the images.
  • I have configured Pull email, and it is working satisfactorily. Took some time to figure how to configure Push email from Rediffmailpro, and finally succeeded!  Works like a charm!  It is very simple indeed!  Just enter your email id and password and your push mail is ready as Nokia mail services have tied up with many email service providers.  There is no need to enter ‘pop’ or ‘smtp’ server references at all!
  • Its operating system is Symbian 60 so no worry for apps.
  • There is a huge number of audio formats supported including MP3, AAC, eAAC+ and WMA.
  • Has a provider dependant VOIP support.
  • Application downloads are available at Nokia OVI store. A few recommended downloads are:
      1. Skype:  With all the benefits of Skype on your phone you can save money and stay in touch when you’re on the move. Remember Skype to Skype calls are free anywhere in the world. And if you have a  WLAN, it’s free to use Skype in a WiFi zone. Wow!  So that!
      2. ngPay: Online mobile commerce and shopping where you can buy movie tickets, bus, train and air tickets, subscribe to magazines, buy gifts, instant mobile recharge, utility bill pay and many more
      3. iMobile: If you are an ICICI account holder, this is a must for viewing balances, transactions, funds transfer, bill pay, ordering cheque book and cheque status, service requests, shopping and much more.
      4. The Flashlight: Use the screen as a flashlight with 7 different colors.
      5. Free Dictionary: Nice and handy dictionary
      6. Best Blacklist Lite: Blacklist calls
      7. Record call

and many others.

It is the cheapest handset from Nokia stable having Wi-Fi and 3G. It gives value for money with all the latest features incorporated.

Well, now for a few cons after using the phone for 6 months (Recent Update):

  • Sometimes the phone freezes just like a Windows PC, especially after using Internet applications like chat and stuff.  I have to restart the phone.  But thats the case with all the phones, right?
  • The GPRS / 3G connections sometimes don’t work.  For this again, I have to restart the phone.  Well, also depends on the connection / reception quality.
  • Nokia Chat application gave up on me.  Hence installed Fring , which is working ok right now.
  • The Email client was working pretty good.  But suddenly, the Push email stopped working on its own.  Hence now I have to manually Sync with my email server.  Well, now figured it out!  From the email application menu, selected “Go Online” and now working as required.  Don’t remember when I selected “Go Offline” mode, but then why should I?
  • The battery back up was great earlier (See above).  Now the talk time is about 4 to 5 hours and standby time is about 48 hours.
  • Now the Mother of all Cons!  The signal / reception sometimes just goes out even when you are in the heart of the reception.  Then you have to restart your phone.  I never had this nagging problem with my earlier phones.  I have seen this inherent problem with other E63 phones as well.
  • When you are roaming and having “Always on” packet data connection with chat, email applications running, the battery goes down within 4 hours of stand-by time which is very sick!  Imagining if I used 3G connection, my phone battery would have lasted not more than an hour at this rate!!!!

Asked the service personnel to fix this and he could not.  He says its only an electronic device and these things are bound to happen!  Yeah right, thanks for reminding!!!

P.S.:  Why can’t any mobile phone and its applications work consistently once it is working as expected?

Overall my rating for E63 is:  7/10 (Very Good)

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Professional Topics, Taxation

Union Budget 2010-11 Highlights

The much awaited (as always) Union Budget was kept before the Parliament by the Finance Minister Shri.  Pranab Mukherjee on 26th February 2010, which can be termed as a relief oriented budget.  This time, however, the aspirations were high due to the global economic meltdown.  The year 2009-10 has been a very difficult and testing year for India.  The FM had to take certain stern steps and had to keep in mind the fiscal deficit before coming out with the proposal.  Fiscal deficit was seen at 4.8 per cent and 4.1 per cent in 2011-12 and 2012-13 respectively as per the Economic Survey.

Salient features of the Budget 2010-2011 in Taxation:

Direct Taxes:

  • FM prunes tax rates:
    Income up to Rs 1.6 lakh – Nil, Income above Rs 1.6 lakh and up to Rs 5 lakh – 10 per cent
    Income above Rs 5 lakh and up to Rs 8 lakh – 20 per cent
    Income above Rs 8 lakh – 30 per cent.

New tax rates would offer relief to 60 per cent of tax-payers.

The increase of minimum personal taxation slab of 10% up to Rs. 5.00 lacs will pave the way for better tax compliances and revenue generation for the Government.

  • Income Tax department ready with two—page Saral—2 return forms for individual salaried assesses.  The introduction of SARAL II Form will enable the small tax payers to file their return without difficulty.
  • The relief upto Rs. 20,000/- under 80 CCE would suitably boost infrastructure sector while simultaneously providing tax relief.  This deduction is in addition to the deduction limit of Rs. 1,00,000 already allowed under section 80C.
  • The Budget has given some thrust to conversion into LLP (Limited Liability Partnership) without attracting Capital Gains Tax. However, the restrictions and preconditions may be reviewed to provide full benefit to the conversion of such entities.
  • While he has left the base rate of 30% the same for corporate taxes, he has cut the surcharge from 10% to 7.5%.  This marginal reduction of surcharge will give relief to corporate entities and partially offset the increase in MAT Tax which is raised from 15% to 18% of book profits.
  • The thrust given on research and development by enhancing the weighted deduction from 150% to 200% is welcome since it will boost research activity.
  • No disallowance under S-40(a)(ia)  will be made if after deduction of tax during the entire previous year, the same has been paid on or before the due date of filing of return of income specified in sub-section (1) of section 139.
    Removal of genuine hardships in this area of TDS is welcome.  This amendment is proposed to take effect from the Assessment Year 2010-11 and subsequent years.
  • Implementation of the much talked about Direct Tax Code from April 2011.
  • FBT (Fringe Benefit Tax) remains withdrawn.

Indirect Taxes:

  • The increase in Central Excise Rates by 2% would augment tax revenues while bringing convergence with GST rates.
  • Procedural reforms in placing reliance on CA’s certificates for input credits, amendment in demand provision would reduce litigation and give widespread relief.
  • Certain accredited news agencies exempted from service tax.
  • Service tax to remain 10 per cent.
  • 10 per cent central excise duty on all non-petroleum products.
  • 7.5 per cent duty on petrol, diesel, crude restored.  Hence petroleum prices will rise.
  • Government is actively engaged in finalising structure of Goods & Service Tax (GST Act) regime; hopes to implement it from April 2011.

The Budget skillfully balances the need to step up the economic growth on one side, check inflation on the other side and also address the socio-economic needs of the nation.  I welcome the Budget however the fiscal deficit and food inflation control measures have to be taken.

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Music

Musical Journey

Music was in my blood right from birth.  When I was an infant, I used to sway to the tunes of ABBA and Osibisa.  I remember (I do remember!!) going to an ABBA movie when I was 5 years old with my parents in a theatre in Dharwad.  It was a disco era and many college going crowd were there too.  My parents told me that I was dancing to all the songs played in the movie and the crowd was cheering me along.  Music was so in my blood.

My early teenage influences ranged from GNR, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Roxette, Kishore Kumar, Md. Rafi, A.R.Rahman and the usual yada yada.  I couldn’t get enough of it! I wanted more varying types of music to listen to.  I was fascinated by the Guitar and seriously wanted to try one out.  Nobody in my family is into music or are musicians.  Hence I didn’t know where to begin with.  I was into Rock (slow, heavy, grunge and other variants).  I slowly started to build a collection of Rock and Pop cassette albums.

Turning Point

When in pre-university, I met two guys, Amar and Aniket, who were equally into the same taste as mine.  We soon started frequenting each other, exchanging cassettes, discussing albums and artists.  They used to play guitar and I thought that this was a right time to buy a guitar.  So that was the foundation of another rock band in the making!  Both my dear friends were instrumental for developing my musical taste thereafter.  They used to get hands on some albums and we started sharing and exchanging cassettes.  Though we were all broke, somehow we managed to buy our guitars, cassettes and other equipment.

The Edge

Soon we formed an amateur band called “The Edge” which consisted of Aniket and myself on Guitars, Amar on Synth Drums and Daniel on Vocals.  We came up with some amazing original songs like “Understood”, “The Edge”, “Ghost”, “So how does it feel”.  These are the songs which we love playing till this date.  We performed some live shows like the Aptech show (2 nos.), CA seminar (which my dad had organised) and some other memorable shows like a one song show in GIT gathering.  Though we may not be sounding spectacular, but that kept our spirits high and we enjoyed every bit of all the shows.  Our influences were Poison, Green Day, GNR, Scorpions which we played in every show apart from our originals.  We also played in Youth Festival in Belgaum and qualified for the next round in Dharwad.  What a wild time we had in Dharwad then!!

Antibiotic

During our late graduation days, we came across Ajay who was a guitar virtuoso.  We jammed with him for a long time and thought we can come up with a good band.  We found that there was one missing link in our band which is the “Bass” and I decided to take up the reins as bassist of the band.  I bought my first bass guitar from Panaji, Goa.  We formed a band called “Antibiotic” with following line up – Aniket on vox and rhythms, Amar as drummer (with his brand new drum kit) and Ajay on leads and rhythms and myself on bass and back vox.  We started practicing for a show in GIT Belgaum.  Our setlist comprised of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Agni, Pink Floyd, Metallica among others.  We had all the kit we can muster up for the show.  We came up with our very own T-shirts bearing the name “Antibiotic” which we were going to wear for the show.

GIT College Show

We were performing two days in a row, the first day as “Antibiotic” and second day as “The Edge” with Shaunak as drummer.  Both the shows were spectacular.  We received rave reviews and were on top of the world.  We became famous and were savouring our stardom.  It was a great feeling.

Sadly that was it! It was time to follow our career paths and give up our bands for good (bad?).  Aniket and Ajay went to US, and others dispersed in various parts of India in search of careers. I joined my dad’s CA firm as an article assistant.

Thereafter, I completed my CA and joined my father’s firm as partner.

NH4 and Firepod


Then, things again started stirring in the music field.  My dude Amar came up with an idea of organising an Annual Rock Fest called “Firepod” in Belgaum.  We formed another band called NH4 with following lineup – Rahul on vox and rhythms, Ajay on lead, rhythms and backing vox, Amar on drums and myself on bass.  There was another budding band from Belgaum called “Idioteque” who were also performing in the show.  Our setlist consisted of Deep Purple, LedZep, Judas Priest, Beatles among others.  The Firepod show was a success with a turnout of 150 people (something we did not expect).

Reunion of sorts

Aniket was coming back to India for Christmas in December 2009.  So Amar organised a reunion of sorts for reliving our old times.  This reunion party was planned nearby a swimming pool in Belgaum.  The band members, their families and relatives and friends were there.  Most of the guys were married and some with babies!!  We played all our old stuff and jammed like crazy under the moonlit night.  We had the time of our lives!

We all cherish those days even till this date!

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