Ladies and SUVs

 women n suv

 

                                          I love women in SUVs… Driving them that is, although sitting prettily and adding glamour to the scene too is fine. But behind the wheel? I think they look amazing, awesome and incredibly hot. How they drive the damned monstrosity, however, is a different matter altogether.

                  My first tryst with a SUV happened about 9 years ago when my hubby owned a Tata Safari. Anyone who is remotely familiar with Tata vehicles knows that they are, or at least were, no dainty darlings. Even the smallest among them, Indica, was way heavier to handle and manoeuvre than any other vehicle in the segment. How a Tata Safari, and that too the first generation Safari, when Tata had yet to make it a wee bit gentle, would feel to my hands accustomed to Maruti brand only, is anyone’s guess. I had to practically stand on the levers to accomplish anything. Be it to accelerate, brake or get to the clutch, I was usually hanging half out of the seat. Changing a gear was as herculean a task…The gearbox was so rigid! And the killer of all? The steering. It was ridiculously light, almost feather touch. Pair the heavy-everything-else with a steering that will respond to breath! Yeah that was sure to help me get my coordination and reflexes right!!

                     However once I had got it reasonably under control, I realised that out on the roads, it was pretty much a walk over! Not literally but, it was almost as if I owned the roads. As it is, most people have a strange mentality of making way for or even following traffic rules only when the other vehicle is much bigger than the one they are in. For the rest, smaller vehicles, they seem to think it’s perfectly okay to mow them over. But what happens when the other vehicle is a veritable monster and the driver behind the wheel is a woman? You run, you make way, you go off roading on city roads if need be- you do everything you possibly can to stay out of her way.What a treat that is! Do I not need to elaborate? No incessant honking, no attempts at overtaking you recklessly, no snide comments about women drivers…you are pretty much the queen of the road! A woman driving a small vehicle is a sitting duck even if she’s a better driver than most men are. But a woman in a SUV…all run as if it’s the Furies after them and I love it!

                   Perhaps having control of the roads is not the best reason to own a SUV but it is a strong pro in their favour all right. With so much being said about safety of women and how men need to respect them, I think ladies can help the men folk in being more deferent towards them, although almost at gun point so to speak, by driving a SUV. Jokes apart, any driver on the roads is likely to be more wary of a SUV than a little car even if the little car is Herby itself a la Beetle. Yeah a Beetle is way cuter than any SUV, style quotient is very high but respect on the roads…nah. Not happening. On the contrary, “the rich spoilt lady with no driving skills” stereotype comes into play. So my advice- ditch the small, go for the big. Size, you see, does matter! And while you are considering terrorising all and sundry on the roads, do consider honing up your driving skills as well. One can play the damsel in distress or terror on the road card only up to a point. Besides, the latter can’t be taken too seriously or exploited to the extent that you get challaned everyday. Though Hon’ble Finance Minister has made SUVs more expensive but he has allocated Rs 1000 Cr to Nirbhaya Fund for women empowerment and has talked of setting up women only banks. May be a loan from these banks will be forthcoming for the purchase of a SUV. After all we will be contributing towards women empowerment and safety. So all the smart ladies with smart phones- be smart and go and get yourself a loan, a SUV and drive well, drive safe.

 

 

Tata Nano

                2012_Tata_Nano_Range

                         Tata Nano has been around for quite some time and honestly, I did not pay much attention to it beyond the few Nano jokes that would surface now and then. But the 2012 Nano edition was a riot of colours and that is what got my attention- orange, yellow, blue, green, red! It was a delight to watch this pretty little thing zipping about in an orange or a green..we sure can use more colour on our roads. And then during my recent visit to Shimla, I saw Nano all hardcore macho- one with a carrier laden with apple boxes and the other with so many fog lights on it. I just had to try out the Nano !!

                   First things first, the engine is 625 cc which is less than good ol’ Maruti 800 we grew up in. And that means less power – if you wanna get few kicks by zooming ahead on a red light or by overtaking the cheeky jerk who’s been bugging you, Nano will most likely not come in handy.

      The interior is very spacious – more than what one would expect seeing its compact size.. Not only could my 7 year old happily jump back and forth but my husband at 6 feet something could sit comfortably as well- both in the front and in the rear seat. The interiors are nothing to write home about but decently done up. One thing that I did not like was that the button for the front power windows is way down near the gearbox. Anytime you want to roll the window up or down, you practically have to dive. The back windows are manual, something that threw my son into peals of laughter at the sheer antiquity of it.

           The seating is something I enjoyed – it’s a hop in- hop out tallboy design which is straight after my heart. It makes getting in and out a lot easier even with any elaborate dress like a saree or some cocktail dress you might be wearing. Low seating, like that of most Sedans (say Honda City) doesn’t work for me. It’s like sitting on a bean bag- good enough in your bed room while you play PS3 but on a drive and that too in a Saree? Nah! I am yet to come up with a way of daintily sliding in and out of one of these low seating cars without showing more skin than I would like to. It was a feat that Late Princess Diana had mastered. But that was Lady Di; I’m just a bull in a china shop..let’s leave it at that. And lastly, in a weird sort of way, low seating makes me feel fat. The last thing I need is for a car to make me feel fat- so thanks but no thanks.

                 Higher seating also means more ground clearance. So if you are one of those who pays no attention to the abnormally high speed breaker or an abysmally low pot hole that can crop up anywhere on an Indian road, this will suit you. No point needlessly scraping the car as you drive along, now is there?

                 Sitting on the driver’s seat does feel funny to begin with. With the engine at the rear,there is practically no bonnet in front of you! It’s a bit like driving a Maruti Van or an auto, if you’ve ever driven, or at least sat in the driver’s seat, of either of the two. And the single wiper too strikes you as odd in the beginning. But all this is just a question of getting used to. It’s a four speed gearbox, good enough for its engine and the seat belts are all in place. But no air bags. The brake is “Dual Circuit, Vertical Split operated by tandem master cylinder with vacuum booster” …duh?? All that concerns us is that “lag jaati hai”- apply the brakes and  it will  bring you to a halt quickly enough at least in the city. How it fares on the highway at a speed of 90kmh, I can’t say. I for one, will not be cruising around on the highway in a Nano. Well yes Tata says that it meets all safety standards but from my experience of Maruti 800, this little thing will probably tremble on the highway and shake my bones to the core. So not trying – period! The steering isn’t power steering either. What people! At 2 Lac ( approx.) bache ki jaan loge kya? But not to worry. Steering is light enough and there is no fear of building arm muscles while driving  Parking it, however, may be a different ball game altogether as the steering tends to become heavier at very slow speed.  It is convenient to manoeuvre and the cutting is very good too. So don’t fret over lack of power steering- you wouldn’t notice it anyways. And with tubeless tyres, you don’t have to worry about getting a flat and being stranded in the middle of nowhere.

            The boot does not open from the outside. Instead, you need to access it from the rear seats by folding them down, which may sound cumbersome but is not. As for the AC and heater, available in top model, Nano LX, both are efficient ( AC is there in Nano CX too). But then there were just 2of us on a 15minute spin. How it fares with 4 people in scorching June heat, I can’t say though I’ve heard that it performs well.

            Okay now for what spoilt it for me. The noise inside. It gave me a headache! No matter what the Dealer said, I just could not get over it. When I am trying my best to drown out all exterior noises with loud music, I don’t need something drumming my head right inside. I believe a battery version of the car is on the way and that might solve this problem but otherwise Nano would be a no-no for me just because of this reason. What the diesel version will do to the noise, I dread to think.

                While assessing the Nano one has to remember the price tag with which it comes- there is nothing comparable in this range. With a mileage of 25kmpl and all basic features in place, it is s good car for city driving, if you can deal with the noise. But if you are one of those whose social standing and esteem is defined by the car you drive, well Nano clearly is no Beetle. Otherwise a good enough deal!

 

Traffic Times

dog driving

 Chandigarh apparently has one of the best traffic in the country. What exactly that means, however, I have no idea. Driving in the city is no doubt a breeze, specially after Gurgaon (though the sad quality of FM does leave one wishing the drive were shorter). This “best traffic” tag however has me a bit confused. Does it mean that the drivers are law abiding? Or does it refer to the orderly traffic movement? Or maybe the vigilant traffic police? Or the fact that due to less population density, the number of vehicles on the road is bound to be less? Whatever be the reasons thereof, with a practically nonexistent public transport system and the Punjabi flair for flashy cars, the ease of traffic movement, is no doubt a welcome surprise and relief.

 

                   Chandigarh traffic does have some peculiarities all right. Staying in Gurgaon for almost 4 years, I had started wondering if we had any police force in the name of traffic police at all. Chandigarh drastically altered my perceptions. There is no dearth of traffic police in Chandigarh and the best part is that you don’t get to see any until, like an over smart Alec, you jump a light or do something similar. It took me a while to understand their modus operandi. If you can spot a cop from a distance, the chances of you continuing zipping at a speed of 90km an hour or breaking a few other half a dozen traffic rules are bleak. The whole fun of it is in the siege. No sooner have you jumped a red light or taken a wrong turn at the most innocuous of crossings, a hurly burly Sardar ji cop wll apparate in front of your car as if from thin air. To give them their due, for all the unpleasantness of the situation, the cops are, by and large, a pleasant lot. Of the various stories about greasing their palms or them targeting outside vehicles more, I can say nothing, not having experienced the same. All that I do know is that tears and playing the damsel in distress card does the trick as well. You apologise profusely, promise on the powers that be never to break a law again and look at them with tear filled eyes. Chances are they’ll let you go with a warning. A child with you who as promptly bursts into tears? Well they might even apologise for upsetting the child but they were just doing their job and saving you from harm. Of course you understand , you nod, and that’s it!!

 

             The lady officers on duty however are a bit of a different story and deserve your sympathy instead. To begin with, most of them seem emaciated so much so that had it not been for the little posts they stand on, you are most likely to miss them even while they wave you down. And such is our deference to law, that it is not uncommon to find many people just ignoring them and whizzing past. At one time, I actually saw some male officers giving back up by way of waving down all those who had ignored these ladies at the earlier light or crossing. Sector 9 inner market and the main road between sector 9 and sector 10 is often a sight for such bizarre happenings. I often find myself slowing down in a smoothly moving traffic out of sheer sympathy and deference to them, much to the chagrin and honking of those behind me.

 

       And this brings me to the most annoying habit of drivers in Chandigarh- honking at a red light. Before the ticker at the signal can hit a “0” and the light turns to an orange, forget a green, all hell breaks loose as it were. Incessant honking from all sides! I mean really people give me a break !! No one has any intention whatsoever of spending their life at the signal and will move at the first available opportunity. Unless a car is expected to grow wings and start flying, we all just have to wait. So very often I have resisted the temptation of stepping out and showering these pearls of wisdom on people behind me. But seriously..Let us learn something from the awful NCR traffic. Given the congestion in NCR, specially at peak time, very often you are just left waiting at a signal for quite some time before you can cross it. But nobody honks- not maniacally anyways. A few odd ones will do the irritant needful anyways but, by and large, the “Even a dog does not bark without a reason. Please don’t blow horn at red light” campaign seems to have driven home the point.

 

            Times are changing fast and a look at the profile of the vehicles in the city gives us a clue as to where we are headed. A haven for two wheelers and even cyclists at one time, Chandigarh is rapidly becoming a city not safe for two wheeled drives that leave your limbs dangling all over the place. There are exclusive cycling tracks but very rarely does one see any enthusiast on it. Even the University does not leave much scope for cycle usage given the vehicular rush there. My only regret is that I did not give cycling a chance while I could in my days at the University. Perhaps I should enjoy the drives in the city before they too become a thing of the past.