New Profession, old hobbies

July 30, 2008

I was just wondering why I dumped my first wife (Journalism) to start a new career in Technical writing (in 2006) thereby putting a full-stop to all creative writings I used to do in newspapers.  

As if God had heard my prayers – though I don’t believe him – our Head of Operations Vinaya formed the editorial team for Citec Stay Wired which included me. So, I am writing again on my favorite topics. Thanks to God and Vinaya our Head of Operations.

Now that I have an opportunity, I will restart with my pet topic – nature and wildlife. And where else could I take you other than the wild Bandipur forest which is just 272 kilometers away from the Silicon Valley (Bangalore).

It was during a trekking expedition in Bandipur National Park with my friends from Youth Hostels Association of India, way back in 1996, I got chased for the very first time by an elephant. It was the beginning of a relationship with the wild that would carry on for a very long time.
  After a gap almost 2 years, I was back to Bandipur to trek though the forests on New Years eve with friends wondering if I would be going back disappointed without spotting a tiger.

 Definitely not! Just as these thoughts were swimming around in my head, my friend Prasad suddenly exclaimed and pointed to the left. There in the jungle, behind the bushes looking a little faded due to the early morning mist, was what looked very similar to a large rock among the bushes. Then it swung around and raised its head. A young and handsome tusker!

The tusker put on a full show for us and even walked right onto the track and across barely a few yards away! Bandipur had lived up to my expectations!

This beautiful park is located within what was declared India’s first biosphere reserve. The topography we noticed obviously owes its unique characteristics to it being caught between the Deccan Plateau and the beginnings of the mountainous Western Ghats. Surprisingly, I saw a board here too that indicated that an application for National Park status had been submitted way back in 1974. It never said anything about having received a confirmation. Although the park measures 879 sq. km. with a 274 sq. km. buffer zone, only 82 sq. km. have been demarcated as the tourism zone.

Most of this zone gets covered in the safari ride, which is meant to last 2 – hours but ended within an hour and fifteen minutes on all three occasions with us. The only way to explore the park is in the safari vans belonging to the authorities. Don’t get fooled by the elephant ride notice as you’ll find yourself getting all excited and then being taken only for a joy ride around the tourist complex itself!
  Although one doesn’t encounter too much of a gain or loss in altitude during the drive through the park, it actually does vary from 680 meters above mean sea level at the lowest to 1455 meters at the highest.

The climate was beautiful throughout our visit to the area in the month of December.
  We saw a lot of animals in Bandipur but a very large majority of these were deer. We thankfully saw the one tusker, spotted deer, sambar, barking deer, one common mongoose, wild boar, gray langur, macaques and hare.

 I guess this was one disadvantage of not visiting the park during the best season between April and October. During that time of the year, the chances that you might see many of the other fauna – such as tigers, leopards, Indian bison, wild dogs, hyenas, jackals, bears, civets, loris, otters, pangolins, porcupines, squirrels and jungle cats – are much higher. Also due to the topography, excellent climate and abundant water from the rivers Kabini, Nugu and Moyar, the park boasts of a huge variety of birds. The park has its fair share of reptiles, the largest of which is represented by some excellent marsh crocodiles.

For visiting the next park on our itinerary, Mudumalai, we thankfully had to travel only a very short distance of 12 – kilometers. The only factor dividing these two parks is the political boundary between the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu formed by the river Moyar.


Swift Dzire – A blend of European design, Japnees tech

July 30, 2008

I had this opportunity to research and write an overview of Swift Dzire launched today ( March 26, 2008). This car looks amazing and can be a trend setter soon.
Maruti Suzuki has reborn as a make with portfolio of global models. Way back in 1994 when Maruti had introduced its first entry level Sedan – Esteem – it set a benchmark the continued to rule till early late 2000. With the aging of the Esteem the Maruti scrapped its production from 2008 and has introduced new Swift DZire.
Swift DZire, is the sedan version of the Swift hatchback, which resembles its sibling in most aspects. The model was first showcased at the 2008 New Delhi AutoExpo.
The new sedan is based on the Swift hatchback platform. While designing the new sedan Maruti has made an effort to retain the original overall design theme of the Swift hatchback. But the rear design is a compete deviation from the Swift and resembles recently launched SX4 model more.
Swift DZire comes in six variants Lxi, Vxi and Zxi (Petrol) and Ldi, Vdi and Zdi (Diesel). The trims are packed with upscale accessories, quality interior materials and safety features which is another first in the segment.
The Swift DZire certainly looks a good replacement for the Esteem. By incorporating the design from its hatchback model Maruti has certainly saved heavily on the design cost aspect and is expected to tough completion in entry level sedan segment.
Powertrain and Performance
DZire provides choice of the same two power trains as Swift hatch. Dzire has the 1,298cc, 16-valve petrol engine that puts out 87bhp @ 6,000 rpm. The maximum torque is 113 Nm @ 4,500 rpm. The diesel engine on DZire is a 1248 cc turbocharged DDiS power unit that generates 75 bhp @ 4,000 rpm and a maximum torque of 190 Nm @ 2,000 rpm.
The all-aluminium mills are relatively refined compared to what the competition in this segment offers.
The Swift Dzire variants has lower kerb weight in its class with petrol variants ranging from 1010 – 1035 kg and Diesel variants ranging from 1090 – 1115 kgs. The lower kerb weight advantage translates to good performance of the car. The three spoke steering with mounted audio controls gives a good fell. Also its slick gearbox and smooth clutch makes driving car a pleasure experience.
 Overall, DZire gives the drive feel and performance that is similar to its hatch sibling.
Build and Styling
The Swift DZire retains the cheeky appeal of its hatchback sibling with more premium look. Though the front facia looks almost same as the hatchback it has got a flashy chrome grille and slightly sharp design headlamps.
From the side, the sedan has a complete redesign compared to the hatch, especially from the second pillar. It has bigger door and larger glass area that make occupants feel roomier.
DZire’s back is entirely different from the hatch sibling with a raised boot lid with a lip that merges with the shoulder line of the car. A thick chrome garnish on top of the rear number plate notch attempts to offset the heaviness of the oversized boot lid. It also flaunts new clear-lens rear combination lamps.
Dzire interior has a luxury look and feel with use of quality materials. The steering wheel is the same unit that is offered with the Swift and SX4. The instrument cluster in the DZire has round dials with chrome surrounds and features a white backlight.
But the most notable changes are in the top end variant which comes with standard steering mounted controls for the music system and a new music system has been integrated into the dashboard that adds a lot of charm. The Dzire also has a comfortable seating position for the rear occupants compared to the Swift hatch with rear seat backrest angled at 27 degrees.
The Vxi, Zxi, Vdi, and Zdi come with quality fittings like integrated audio system, tachometer, and convenient features like audible headlights on reminder, centre and front cabin lights, vanity mirror, rear seat center armrest and front electric power windows.
The top end Zxi and Zdi are equipped with more upscale features like Front airbags, ABS with EBD Brake assist, Rear Defogger, Adjustable tilt steering and Automatic Climate Control.

 (Originally Posted on March, 26, 2008)