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I have off late started judging businesses depending on their parking policies.
No seriously! If you see some of the extreme arm-twisting techniques and prices some of these malls use, it’s unbelievable.

Firstly, charging for parking is illegal (I think) and yet everyone does it!
But if you think about it, we Indians being the free-loaders that we are – would just abuse free parking and I know tonnes of people who regularly do it.

C’mon – haven’t you gone and parked at a mall – just to go somewhere else nearby.

So, after a lot of thought and consideration, I kinda agree being charged a nominal fee for parking my vehicle.
But at the same time, the price should be justified.

The places and policies that top my list are:

1. Crosswords (at Sohrab Hall)
They have reserved FREE parking for people visiting crosswords. All you need to do is – on your way back, get the ticket stamped which says that you were in the store.
This seems completely justified – considering the amounts they spend on reserving parking slots for their customers – the least people can do is visit the store and see what they have on offer.

2. Inox (Free parking for 30 minutes)
Inox charges 10 bucks for bikes and 20 bucks for cars – completely justified in Pune – and this also seems like the norm.
However, what I really like about them is that they have 30 minutes of free parking. (This was an hour earlier but I could live with 30 minutes)

What this does is – gives you enough time to hop into the theatre and buy some tickets or grab some lunch at McDonalds without paying the equivalent of your Mc Donalds’ meal. If I am watching a movie for a couple of hours, fine – I agree with being charged – but theatres shouldn’t charge people for coming and buying tickets!

3. Pune Central (Parking charges redeemable during purchase)
Pune Central charges you for parking – but you could exchange the ticket inside when you purchase something.
This seems kinda harsh – considering that you may not like something and still be paying just to browse around the store. (Hey! Wait a minute! Shouldn’t stores be making it more conducive for you to browse around?)

Anyways, so yeah! What Pune Central does seems pretty just to me.
Actually Dorabjees in camp does the same thing – but you need to purchase a minimum amount of things (I think 100 bucks) before they will re-imburse you for the parking. Not entirely fair – but still okay sometimes.

Now for the worst offenders!

1. E-Square
Nothing – and I mean nothing beats paying 40 bucks for parking your car. I have noo idea what these guys do to your car. 40 frikkin bucks for parking! I could put a litre of fuel in my car for that amount and drive half way around Pune.
Totally sadistic, arm twisting tactics (and there is no public parking available near E-Square for miles!!!)

This is one of the reasons I really hate E-Square and avoid going there.
(The other being the weird seat arrangements and the crowds – but thats for another post)

2. Ishanya, Nucleas, Gold Adlabs, Lifestyle, etc. etc.
(And every other place which does not re-imburse you even on purchasing)
Ishanya and I however have a special history …

When Ishanya opened sometime ago near my house – I thought it was fabulous!
The mall was gigantic – you could get anything there, spend a good couple of hours just browsing around and even the parking was free. (and they have ample parking believe you me)

However, I was in for a rude shock one day when I drive in and am charged for parking which is not even redeemable.
The worst thing is that Ishanya is literally in the middle of no where and you have no option but to park your vehicle inside. Its like paying 20 bucks for an entry ticket to the museum!!!

Anyways, I came back and shot an email to them complaining about it.
To my surprise, the next day, I received a call from their head of operations (signing the email as President, ThinkingSpace Technologies has an effect sometimes) who assured me that they would start the redeemable policy soon and that they were charging parking because people would park their bikes there and go off someplace else.
(Yeah right! If you’re in the middle of nowhere, where do you think I’ll go?)

Anyways, its been a year and more since, and still nothing has been done.

However, I have stopped visiting Ishanya.
Result? I try and buy whatever I need from local places around my house. Ishanya being the last option.
(I dunno – I just somehow feel cheated going there)

To cut a long story short, I do empathize with businesses and their problem with free-loaders parking in places reserved for customers – but these businesses need to come up with more amicable solutions to this problem.
Charging monstorous amounts for parking is just going to hurt your business.

I love what Crosswords is doing – but I also understand its difficult to implement.
But I’m completely cool with the Pune Central approach too. (Redeem parking when you buy)

I actually have a better idea!
Redeem double the amount of parking when you buy something! (Applicable over a certain limit. For below the limit, just redeem the amount what you paid for).

Here is wishing some sense manages to creep into the heads of people making such idiotic decisions (especially the ones from E-Square) and hoping that ’09 is a brilliant and fun-filled year for everyone!

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Our family dinners are generally boring … we have a selection of a couple of places we generally go to – and as no one is particularly fond of experimenting with their food, that too is generally from a tried and tested selection.

Anyways, the incidents which took place today were far from the usual boring stuff that we end up doing. (I know I am using the words boring a lot – which I just realised how dinners generally go anyways – I mean what else can you do besides eat, drink and talk?)

In the evening, my dad comes up and asks me whether I’d like to go out for food – and being the hog that I am, the question was redundant. This time around, we decided to go to this far off place called “Chandraphool Gardens” which is a huge garden restaurant – little ahead of Dighi on the way to Bhosari.

We’ve been to this place only a couple of times – way back in the past and have always had a pleasant experience.
The place has sprawling lawns, good natural air, decent lighting and decent food – which made it a decent enough place to visit any time of the year.
And, as we had not been there off late, we decided to pay the place a visit.

So, all of us ready and 40 minutes later – turn up at the venue.
We’re surprised to see their pretty huge parking lot, full with cars – as it was a very sparsely populated place on our previous visits.

Once we entered, we realised that there was a party going on at the other end of the lawn (which is again pretty, pretty big – easily about 200 – 250 mts in length).
After being seated and having ordered the drinks, we realised that it was sort of an all – mens party – probably thrown by a guy for his co-workers who recently got promoted.
This was underlined by the fact that extremely loud, item number type of music soon started playing including “Babuji zarra …”. The sight of grown up, formally dressed (possibly drunk) men – holding hands and gyrating to these numbers was particularly amusing.

I was instantly transported to the Bihar of the movies and the ambiance and the crowd added to the effect.

Things got more interesting when two drunk men sitting on the table behind us, got up and assaulted the waiter who was serving them for no apparent reason.
The waiter fought back – but was soon over powered by the two goons who looked like some cheap political party workers.
Soon, the poor waiter was falling around, dropping plates and landed next to our table.
(Just to be clear, by assaulting, I mean – being slapped repeatedly, lots of pushing, shoving around and trying to sock the other guy in the face)

Thankfully, the manager showed up in time with a couple of other waiters to break up the fight and save the poor guy’s life.
“Perfect” I tell myself – an experience worth driving all the way out of Pune for.

All this while, my extremely charged up little brother shouting – “If anyone did that to me, I’d _beep_ him and _beep_ him and _beep_ him”, added to the entire experience of seeing a guy get clobbered. (Just to clear matters more, my little brother is not so little – he’s almost 6 feet and pretty big and probably capable of doing the _beep_ things that he said he’d do. So you better not try messing with me! I’ve got protection :))

Funnily, after the break up, the two guys get back to their seats and continue with their meal, booze and even order something more.
(If cooks and waiters spit in your food for being slightly rude to them – I’d hate to see what they must have done to their food for assaulting a fellow worker).

These two fellows might have gotten scared of being clobbered by the rest of the waiters when they stepped out – because one of them calls his other goon friends up for back up.
In fifteen minutes, four other equally goony looking men show up.

All my hopes of a goon Vs waiters show down went up in smoke when instead of barging into the kitchen and clobbering up the waiter, these guys made for the exit. Whether they paid their bill or not – is sort of irrelevant at this point I think.
However, the other families sitting around looked sort of relieved at their departure.

And if you’re wondering, the party men at the other end of the lawn, were dancing all this while – holding hands to the tune of Babuji, a Titanic Remix, a Himmesh Reshammiya number and also an “We’re going to Ibiza” track.

So if any of you people are interested in experiencing the “Bihar of the movies” ambiance, please head to Chandraphool Gardens – I’d be happy to give you directions.
This place beats the artificial environs of Horn Ok Please on F.C. Road hands down.
Brilliant experience and highly recommended.

[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 86.]

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I have always realised, that we in India – don’t give a damn about quality.
I don’t exactly know why, but I am guessing it has something to do with the demand always exceeding the supply – considering, we’re bursting at our seams with the large population.
So, as long as the goods keep coming, the manufacturer (and not the customer) is king – and they can keep dishing out crap – because there will always be someone to buy it.

I have a complete live example to give – hence this post.
This is about the Pune International Film Festival (PIFF website).

Last year, we guys from college had gone for the 4th Pune International Film Festival and it was tonnes of fun (even though the organisation had a lot to be desired).
So, when it came around this year – we went for it again (It is still going on – at the time of writing this).

This time around, the movies are pretty good and we’re having lots of fun again – but nothing has changed organization side.
And considering it is an “International” film festival, the standards are far from it.

The schedule of movies was available extremely late – just a day before the festival and the catalogue (which has the synopsis of all the movies) – only a couple of days after the festival started.
The schedule is given only for the next 3 days (out of the total 7 days of the festival).
So, if I am working and need to really catch a movie and need to inform my boss about it, there are chances that I would be doing it only hours in advance

Quite a few movies had their running times mis-reported in the schedule – which caused a mix up of our plans.
Then, the schedule (or the catalogue) ends up having movies in the wrong category – so you never find the movie you’re looking for (there is no index or a table of content).

In 3 days the festival has been running, the schedule has on been changed on 2 occasions , on the fly. They exchanged the timing of a couple of movies minutes before they started – which again threw all our plans out of the window.

Their website (which I think is one of the most important things) is totally un-updated and you have news from PIFF 2006 lying around.
It also has a schedule section – which lists movies which have already finished showing and a catalogue section which contains information on only 1/10th of the movies running.

But, the icing on the cake is this – which actually prompted me to write this blog.
I wrote the organizers, the following email:

Dear Sir / Madam,

This is a very humble request to the organising committee to please put up the complete schedule of films on the website (preferably in the document / excel / pdf format) which is also up to date.

Today (18th), the schedule for the remaining days became available at the venues (19th onwards), but the website still shows the schedule only till the 18th.

I request you to please update this – so that we can better plan which movies to go for.

Thank you and regards,

– Saurabh Jain

To this, I got the following reply from a Moti Irani:

Please stop visiting our website we are all far too busy collect the schedule from INOX or Esquare

Hah!
Hows that for providing shoddy service and having the audacity to tell your customers to F*** Off? A perfect case of demand more than supply.
I don’t know, but if something is worth doing, its worth doing well.

In my opinion, if they have a website running, it should be updated – otherwise there is absolutely no point in having it in the first place.

[ Min number of posts to go till Mar 17, 2008 : 88. ]

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I’ve lived in Pune all my life, and to tell you honestly, I wouldn’t probably want to live anywhere else …
But of late, there have been a few things, really hurting, which I wanted to yell about.

I don’t know if this is happening in other parts of the country, but it shouldn’t generally happen anywhere at all.
Anyways, here are a few things which really hurt and I have no idea how I could help to fix.

1. Pathetic Roads
When the it rained recently, all the roads got completely damaged.
I mean – the roads were so bad, and nothing was being done about them … that someone actually came up with an online petition which was the number 1 active online petition till some weeks ago.

Even now, the roads are pretty bad and if you get out of your house, you are sure to face the brunt.

There is a road behind residency club ( which I have also written previously about ) in which people come to one of the ends.
Stop their bikes or cars, get off, observe the stretch, go back to their bikes / cars, turn around and take the longer route.
The Pune Police has actually barricaded the stretch of road to deter adventurous people from venturing there.

It’s already a month since the last of the rains and still most of the roads have not been fixed. Going at more than 40 km/hr for more than 2 min at a stretch is next to impossible and even trying to go above 50 km/hr anywhere is plain suicidal.

2. The Public Transportation System
In Pune, this equals to nothing but the PMT ( Pune Municipal Transport ) buses.
Everytime I go to college in the morning and see the scores of hapless people waiting at the bus stop, and hundreds of people hanging out of the bus, I thank my stars that I have a bike and don’t have to depend on the crappy system.

Everytime I see people hanging from the buses, and by hanging I mean – atleast 7 people hanging from the bus, I feel this blinding rage at the apathy of the PMT and PMC.

The true story goes that, sometime ago, there were the six seater rickshaws which would ply through most of Pune.
They were not allowed to move in as many places as the PMT buses were, but they covered a major chunk of Pune.
Of course, they were rash drivers and would stuff 8 people in places meant for 6 … but they were a blessing.
You could walk out of your house and be certain of catching a six seater within 5 minutes.
They stopped everywhere, and their sheer frequency was such a boon.

Anyways, naturally people preferred them, rather than waiting for the buses.
So, PMT went into loses and they got an order passed via the PMC, banishing the six seaters to the outskirts of Pune.
Their reason – six seaters cause too much pollution.

Later, more buses were promised …
But I think its almost 5 years now, and nothing has changed except the number of commuters.

All the people who switched over to using the public transportation system ( six seaters ) were stranded.
It’s so sad and pathetic.

The government creating a monopoly in a market which it itself does not have the resources to satisfy the basic needs.

3. Power Crisis
I have noticed this huge crisis cropping up ever since the congress government came into power.
There hasn’t been a single day where you had 24 hours of pure unadultrated power ( electricity ).

And on top of this, the government has the audacity to offer free power to farmers.
The farmers, naturally happy at the offer, elected these people, and are now suffering the most.

All villages around Pune undergo 9 hours of power cuts everyday.
And as all election promises go, the free power deal was eventually cut off …

On top of this, the maximum revenues of the MSEB come from Pune and it has always gotten step motherly treatment.
With hundreds of BPOs and software companies and industries in and around Pune, needing to manage power themselves for 3 – 4 hours daily, who in their right mind would want to come here ?

4. Fuel Stations
There should be a rule made in the constitution, which makes it illegal for fuel stations to go on strikes.
It has just been happening too frequently off late here.

These people know that they can hold an entire city to ransom, just by going on an indefinite strike.

The latest thing which happened just yesterday is just short of a joke.
The Fuel distribution centers went on an indefinite strike ( which has now been called off ) because they did not want the Oil companies coming and checking the purity of the fuel they were serving.

Their argument being that the oil companies themselves send them adultrated fuel and come later to check it themselves.
What utter crass !

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I don’t know, but I sincerely hope something is done.
Sell off the PMT, sell off BSNL, sell off MSEB, sell off everything that makes any difference to the life of the general populous to private companies.
Though I doubt anyone stupid enough to actually buy any of these.
Privatisation, it seems might be the only way out …

You don’t see Mumbai undergoing load shedding of 2 hours daily … do you ?

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Banner Banters …

There is this thing going around in Pune … which I had been wanting to blog about … for quite some time now …

Its about the amazing number of advertisement boards coming up … all over Pune … with guess what … Birthday wishes for politicians …

The board will be a pretty big one …
And will be strategically placed at the corner of an intersection … so that whatever view we got of the traffic coming from the left … is blocked …

The entire board will contain a huge picture of an ugly politician .. who looks like he’s stepped out of Satya …
The message will read something to the tune of “Heartiest wishes for so and so’s birthday on such and such date …”
The poster will then contain the photographs of the 3 to 4 people who are wishing him … in bottom right … which actually look like mug shots taken from the Tihar Jail ..

If the entire poster didn’t look gooney enough … the pictures of these 3 dumb-asses would complete the picture …

Saw in the newspaper sometime ago … about this dude from somewhere in the city … who put up an equally sized poster with his Alsatian dog’s picture on it …
Below, he conveniently puts the pictures of a pom, a doberman and another dog …

The caption reads …
“Heartiest birthday wishes to my dog – Rocky … from his fellow dog friends …”

This deserves an applause :)
Bravo !

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Its that time again …

Kind of a been there, done that feeling … deja vu’ …

The Maharashtra Government, on a High Court Order, is making Helmets compulsory from the 1st of Feb.

To cut a long story short, some college students from the Symbiosis college here, had long ago, filed a writ petition … seeing the number of people losing their lives in road accidents …

The High Court had ordered the Govt. to make the helmets compulsory … and they even had done so … for about a week … before some stupid people got together, and got a stay order …

This all happened sometime in 2000 – 2001 … if I remember correctly …

I, for one, am totally for the helmet issue …

I do not take my bike out without a helmet … has become some kind of a compulsion now …

Pune, has the highest number of two wheelers in Asia … and I’d reckon … the whole of the world …

Most of the two wheelers drive rashly … and are prone to accidents …

Its a well established fact, the outcome of studying hundreds of cases … that having a helmet, could have saved a person in an accident from dying, or worse, turning into a vegetable …

Then why do people do this ?

Why can’t they just acknowledge the fact, that the Govt. for once, is doing something right, and they should let them do it …

Every other country in the world, has helmets compulsory for two wheelers …

Then why cannot we implement it here ?

This just shows how dumb can people get …

They have formed an organisation … a 6 word something – Marathi name … which translates as : “The Pune Anti Helmet Order Group”

Everyday, you’ll see a notice in the newspaper, saying that the PAHOG is having a meeting at such and such place … to come up with reasons and protests, as to quash this evil Govt. scheme …

Then there is this smart-ass, who writes to the Editor that …

The helmet law should not be implemented due to the following reasons :

1. A person is responsible for his own safety …

2. When this law is implemented, helmets will become expensive … or cheaper, subsidized stuff will be available …

3. This will be another way in which a policeman will harass people and take bribes …

4. The roads in Pune are so bad that two wheelers do not travel at a speed of more than 20 km-hr … so there will no use of a helmet in an accident …

I mean, people have all the time, and brains in the world to come up with such fantastic excuses, that I feel, its no use protecting their heads with helmets, which is functioning so poorly anyways …

How about doing something constructive for a change ?

When I first started going to college on a bike ( 12th std – Junior College ), I had a Bajaj Sunny ( the so un-dependable ) … and I was forced to wear a helmet by my mom … whom I later thanked profusely when I was involved in an accident … and lived to tell about it …

It was a funny sight …

I was already finding it hard to fit on a Sunny, and on top of that, with a helmet, it must have been a sight to see …

People would often ask me … why did I wear a helmet on a “Sunny” ?

The answer was simple … the guy hitting you from behind, won’t care a damn if you’re on a sunny or a mo-bike …

They are also coming up with the “Pillion needs to wear a helmet law” which I am not totally for … it seems pretty unpractical …

But, if they impose it, I’d be following it happily …

I’ll have to lug an extra helmet … but what the heck ?

On the other hand, it could turn out to be a boon … refusing some not so interesting people a ride … under the pretence of not having a helmet …

But then it can turn both ways …

Feb 1st is the day to watch …

Just have to see whether stupidity again wins this time …

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Pune has the highest number of two wheelers in the whole of Asia …. I think …

And this is very apparent to everyone … for the fact that you just have to step outside your house and if you can see, you will know …

Another reason that we can safely put to the equation is the utterly crappy public transportation system that exists …

Unlike Mumbai, we have no such locals to speak off … Most of them ply only between Pune, Nigdi side and towards Lonawala …

Earlier, we had the six seater … which were so much of a convenience … you could get one from anywhere within 5 minutes and they stoppped anywhere …

They were a pain on the road … but their merits took care of their flaws …

Anyways, the PMT ( Bus Transport ) people got cut off coz everyone preferred the six seaters ( tam tam … tam as from ‘tamatar ) and so, they got a court order and restricted these six seaters to certain routes … … and so, people suffered … and hence, everyone buying bikes makes perfect sense coz its cheaper – spending money on fuel, than going by bus ( Pune buses are the most expensive in the whole of India ) … even if your bike gives you a mileage of 40 kmpl … and besides, who can argue with the added convenience of a bike ?

Anyways, getting back to the point ….

I happened to partake in the festivites of a traffic jam the other day …

Now, I have been in jams … and many of them had nothing to do with traffic … but this jam was special … because it took me 17 whole minutes to travel a distance of 600 mts on a 4 lane road …

This is the maximum amount of time I have spent on any traffic jam … and so, I spent my time, constructively, observing my fellow homo sapiens sweating it out there in the 10 o’ clock sun.

Here is my thesis on traffic jams …

Now, traffic jams are caused due to the following factors :

A. Bad roads

B. Failure of traffic signals

C. Truck / Bus / Car breaking down in the middle of the road

D. Alien invasion

E. Incompetent traffic policemen

F. Avalanche / flash floods / mud slides / earthquakes / volcanoes and other such related natural phenomenon

G. Closure of some important bridge / main connecting roads

In my case, it was due to reasons A, B, E and G.

Normally, if you end up in situations D or F, I’d recommend leaving your vehicle as it is and running for your life …

In a traffic jam, there are the following different kinds of vehicles :

1. Buses / Trucks

These vehicles are the most well behaved … and they maintain their line … one behind another …

These slow moving creatures are the cause of many such jams because of their slow movement … and this causes tremendous heartache to two kinds of people …

(i) The people who are smart enough to juxtapose themselves in such a manner as to be in direct line of sight of their exhaust.

(ii) The miserable souls who end up in buses with deficieny in seats.

2. Cars & Jeeps

These are second to buses & trucks in behaving good. Second due to some ambitious Tom Cruise who thinks that he can probably turn his car 75 degrees to the left and then squeeze it between a bike and a rickshaw …

But mostly, these vehicles are well mannered … travelling at .005 kms / hour … listening to music and chilling out in the AC.

Even the auntys enjoy themselves as all they have to do is to follow the bus in front of them at speeds which they would otherwise be very comfortable in driving …

The blessing in disguise comes in the form of a hot chick sitting in the passenger seat of a car to the right of you … but these phenomenons are very rare and must not be counted upon.

3. The Cyclists

These people are the most confused lot. They are not able to comprehend what the hell they are doing in a traffic jam …

The reason is mainly because they do not come under the traffic category …

Objects coming under the traffic category, usually drive on the left side of the road and wait at traffic signals.

These people will wait for a while … some will get off, put their cycles on their heads and walk out … while the clever ones will get to the footpaths and fly … mocking the other mortals who look enviously at them while they get away …

4. The people on the bikes

Chaos theory has been discovered lately … but what the scientists failed to notice that it has been in practice in Pune ever since the invention of 2 wheelers …

People riding their two wheelers are masters at this form of art …

Any nook, any corner, any small passage available … and they are off …

People on bikes will make different formations automatically … as to move from point A to point B in a traffic jam … and in the process, opening more avenues …

All the members in this community are able to communicate using ESPs and can help each other out without saying a word or even looking at the other person …

5. The Rickshawalas

These people are the biggest bas***** on the roads. This quality is more personified during the course of a traffic jam. Basically, these people have a wrong pre conceived notion that they inherited the roads from their fathers when they started driving the rickshaw …

These are the most selfish and inconsiderate people on the road and will try to jam their big butted rickshaws into any crevice they can find …

Caution is needed against such creatures and no feeling of guilt whatsoever is to be felt when you drive rashly against these creatures …

Conclusion:

In conclusion, I would like to quote the wise old Murphy and remind you fellow human beings of the fundamental three laws of nature :

1. Nothing is as easy as it looks.

2. Everything takes longer than you think.

3. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

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