Sleeper Buses

Recently we had to undertake an overnight road journey and taking a bus seemed the ideal option. A previous experience had been quite satisfactory hence making this decision was easy. That’s when a well wisher suggested taking a sleeper bus. Many years ago we travelled from Bhuj to Ahmedabad on a sleeper bus. That too was a fairly pleasant experience despite being a non A/C coach.

We went ahead and booked for a sleeper coach happy that this time it was an A/C one. The bus was on time which seemed to be a good omen. Wow, services seemed surely on an up trend now…
We got our first shock the moment we stepped into the sleeper coach. It had a central aisle and ‘coupes’ on either side with a lower and upper berth.
This was the shocking part- the allocation was two (TWO- 2) people to ONE (1) berth!!!!!

We were aghast. How was one to ‘share’ this barely 3 feet wide by six feet long space with a total stranger? The fact that the ‘berth’ had a curtain, was covered with a filthy sheet and provided with much used and unwashed blankets did nothing to ease the developing anger.

Worse, the other passengers did not seem hassled at all- may be this was because most were young couples… Our protests fell on deaf ears and we could do nothing more than sit around stewing about our misguided choice. As the bus zoomed (yes the driver seemed to be an ex-Formula one driver) over the steep ghat (steep hill) roads, there was nothing to cling on to to stay up right.
For the brief time that I did lie down, I sorely felt a need for straps similar to seat belts to hold down the sleeping form as I was tossed from side to side. Things are much worse if you get the upper berth.
For both lower and upper berths there is not much of window space- so if you thought you could spend time looking at the passing countryside- forget it.

For once I did not complain of the driver’s skills as the journey was apparently over sooner than later. The moment we got off, we changed the return journey to a regular seating bus. Being peak holiday time and short notice there was no way we could have got train reservations. For the record, the Bhuj-Ahmedabad journey was on coach with one person per berth.

For those mulling a ticket on a high tech sleeper coach, do find out what is the berth layout when you buy your tickets. Else be prepared for a ‘cozy’ ride to wherever-it-is that you are going…

Katkon Trikon

In Marathi this means right angled triangle. Katkon Trikon (काटकोन त्रिकोण) is a two act Marathi play that deals with relationships in a urban joint family particularly the generation gap. The characters are tremendously realistic and one can easily relate to the developing story line. Dialogues draw from modern city life and succeed in keeping us entertained and touch the deepest chord simultaneously. Dr Vivek Bele has authored the play and also acts as ‘Rahul’ – son of Aaba (Dr Mohan Agashe in a superlative performance). He is torn between ‘Bhakti’ his wife and father as the story plays out minor sounding personality clashes that soon become a full fledged emotional war that ends up with Aaba falling off their fourth floor balcony.

Is this a suicide attempt or an attempted murder? Or is it a genuine accident?

Dr Agashe plays a double role as Bapat, the CID inspector who is investigating the case. He systematically investigates events that led up to the fall and in a humourous often acidic manner dissects their relationships with each other. Like Bhakti he does so using fundamental principles of geometry opening their eyes to the loneliness of a single ageing parent.

The play scores on its dialogues, acting, timing, theme. Majority of the audience for the show we attended were easily above 60. I do recommend it for baby boomers as well though they may not fully agree with the way the play ends.

The story does end up showing only one side of this sad state in our society. Seniors too have their share of ‘eccentric’ behaviour which jeopardises relationships. This could have been brought out somewhere- probably a good theme for another play.

This is the link to the Katkon Trikon blog has upcoming schedules for the play. Don’t miss this one.

Expressway to….

Recently I travelled on the Mumbai-Pune expressway at night. This road has been a boon to people in both cities. When it was first operational the wide multi lane concrete super smooth track seemed something straight out of a ‘phoren’ country. Lanes reserved for heavy vehicles each with their own toll both, helplines (thankfully never had to check if they worked!!) some landscaping to soothe the eyes in the blazing summers, well lit and ventilated tunnels just to name a few.

Traffic too seemed to be following the rules.

Things have considerably now. Most infrastructure mentioned above continues to be fairly respectable. Its humans who no longer want to cooperate.

We were returning to Pune at midnight. The journey to Lonavala from Chembur was a nightmare. Firstly the traffic was choc-a-bloc- partly due to some road repairs. Thereafter trucks and other heavy vehicles were travelling in lanes not meant for them. They were all over the road instead of their alloted lanes. So we had four lanes of trucks, each vehicle bigger than the one on its left. Lets say the one in the slowest lane moved at 25kmph, the next one could be container carrier trying to overtake this one at 27kmph, the next lane had a huge tanker also in the ‘race’ and moving faster at 28kmph. The supposedly fastest lane had a huge trailer carrying steel cables that jutted out from behind (and without lights) and trying to win this unscheduled event.

This left other ‘smaller’ passenger vehicles with no option but to slow down and follow them- something not many drivers did. Instead they chose to move to the shoulder of the road, and move slalom style between these behemoths to get ahead.

We tried to get our driver to slow down but if we finally did make it ahead, there was yet another truck three-some or four-some in their own private race. Our driver said this is a normal occurrence daily particularly between 12 midnight and 3AM. Traffic thins out thereafter.

Yet another danger was drivers falling asleep- I know ours was… Despite having been on the expressway road often, this was the first time I actually felt threatened and insecure.

We read of several tragic accidents on the expressway many may be avoidable. So whether you are driving yourself or are driven by your driver or you are in a hired vehicle please take all efforts to stay awake and keep the person at the wheel awake. The person in the front passenger seat MUST NOT doze off. This was the only time I was grateful for the blaring music in the car stereo- helped keep eyes open…

If traffic situation is common knowledge, surely the concerned traffic police must know too? What are they doing? Errant truck drivers must be punished for ‘playing’ with their own and others’ lives. Its better to arrive late than not arrive at all.

This is the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, not the expressway to the other world….


The much touted CAT went online this year. While aspirants spent several thousands taking mock computerised tests the suspense till the last moment was expected to be the difficulty level or if those appearing later in the ten-day schedule would have an easier time.
Yet the unexpected happened.
The online examination system crashed not once but repeatedly three times (today is the third day).
While experts will obviously analyse what went wrong. the government has stepped in and asked for a report on what went wrong.
As a parent and lay observer I have some questions:

  • There apparently was no back up plan in case something went wrong. Now remember we are talking the top institutes in our country. How can they have overlooked this aspect? Even for a routine dinner party home makers have something to fall back on in case of a disaster. Hey don’t blame me for a mundane comparison. The situation demands it as here we are talking about the future of several thousand aspirants.
  • The glitch was blamed on a virus attack. Surely the tech brains should have anticipated this.
  • I believe the job of conducting the exam was entrusted to an American firm. India has some top notch tech firms with excellent grey matter. Why could they not have been entrusted with the responsibility?
  • Is the CAT and are the IIMs slowly becoming over hyped? Have they been swayed by obscene salaries and prime media time allotted to them when their summer and final placement starts?
  • Rescheduling is not easy as almost all Sundays from now onwards are ‘booked’ for entrance exams to other B-schools. Often students appear for more than just the CAT so how do they cope? Remember all tests have a different format…

Obviously a computerised exam is the way forward considering the huge numbers involved, man-hours spent in hall tickets, assimilating all data, correction, results etc. This does not include efforts to set valid questions as often there are reports of mistakes there as well. But we’ll look at that issue another time…

These are some interesting reports:
CAT Chaos on
Pagal Guy has aspirant views
This report suggests that along with the aspiring candidates, the IIMs too should have taken mock tests.
This is a link to an article on
This article describes the plight of CAT aspirants in Bangalore

Good Luck to those who are yet to appear and those who may have to give the rescheduled test.

Where Love Has Gone?

I read in the papers that 19 November was celebrated as International Men’s Day but from some reports suggest this seems to have been marked more as the International Husband’s Day. Read this news from the Hindustan Times.

Whoa there.. I was under the impression that it was us the weaker (and fairer) sex that was the one that were subjected to atrocities, dowry harassment and more. Countless zealous women’s welfare organisations must have obviously worked zealously for us to have reached this state. Is this really the state of affairs? Has the equation changed?

I read about an organisation called Purush Suraksha Sanstha in Maharashtra. There were many more and affected groups actually converged together to fight for their rights. Read this news. There are reports that like women, some husbands (and quite a frightening number that) committed suicide due to harassment. Bangalore based Save Indian Family Foundation has taken up this cause.

Times certainly are changing. It took quite some time for us to accept that men could actually turn tormentors to their wives but never ever did I imagine things going to this extent.
Divorce rates are increasing alarmingly as well.
Where are we heading?
Think about it.


Everyone hates seeing and some fear signs of the march of Time on our bodies. That would explain the huge adspends (and revenues) of hair colouring products (removes grey) and anti-wrinkle, anti aging creams- just to name a few.
At least these people have had a chance to experience life for some years.

Nothing could be more tragic than a condition called Progeria- Hutchinson-Gilford syndrome.
Derived from a Greek word, it means ‘prematurely old’.
I guess that terms explains it all.

I met a child with Progeria in Bhuj, he was on his way for treatment to Mumbai. The boy was just past half way into his first decade yet had the appearance of a very old person. I shall never ever be able to forget him.

Progeria is a rare genetic condition that is fatal on average by the time the child is 13 years old. Most children with Progeria have a gene mutation (the LMNA gene) that encodes the protein lamin A. The cause is not known and children are usually born healthy. signs of aging usually appear at 1 and 1/2 to 2 years of age.
Research for treatment, ways to improve longevity and quality of life are on.

These are some useful links for more information:
The Progeria Research Foundation

Progeria FAQs

Progeria Research

Rhino poachers at Orang

Several years ago we had a first hand experience of seeing forest guards in action at the Orang Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam when poachers were sighted. Rhinos are often killed for their horns that are said to have medicinal properties. Today’s dailies carry news of forest guards shooting two poachers at Orang. Click here to read the full news.

According to an earlier news that cited a census carried out in March 2009, staff at Orang had successfully increased one-horned rhino population at the Park to 64 (Click here for full news). Orang gets its importance as its the only viable home for rhinos north of the River Brahmaputra but has several issues that hamper local authorities from providing adequate protection to the threatened rhinos. Click here to read more.

Our experience at Orang was unforgettable and had a poacher element thrown in as well. Living in amidst the urban dazzle and rat race, we often discard such news as having nothing to do with us. Yet we need to contribute in any possible way to stop such atrocities. Contributing money to organisations working to this aim is one way. Another more effective one would be not buying artifacts or other products made from endangered species.
Every step counts. Think about it.

Medical Consumers

Doctors are paid for their services- very often these are astronomical fees. While the complexities of a human body are certainly governed by an unknown force (some may call it God), medical science will certainly help in a large number of cases. So its natural for a patient to expect relief from their complaints.

Yet in some cases, things go horribly wrong and instead of relief, the patient may land up with something much worse. Then there is talk of ‘suing’ the doctor, taking legal action etc.

So is medicare in India covered under consumer laws?

In Pune, Rida Shaikh succumbed to H1N1 infection. We all grieved for the loss of this young girl on the threshold of her youth. Was Jehangir Hospital at fault? Were her doctors negligent? What test did Ruby Hospital really perform (the results were returned faster than the usual time required for a H1N1 test)?

A television discussion last week dealt with this topic and here is what I understood:
A doctor cannot be sued for error of judgment or difference of opinion. In most cases, it is another team of doctors who investigate and they will always stand by their own. How does one then prove that the doctor was at fault? Read the full discussion here.

Our legal system being what it is, a case will take forever to reach a logical conclusion.

Where does that leave us? Are we not entitled to some legal protection such situations?
What are our rights, if any, as medical consumers?

Other instances of negligence/oversights/mistakes (whatever be the word play used) that may cause death or damage are certainly punished such as the recent Delhi Metro under-construction bridge collapse where Gammon India was to be issued a show-cause notice.

This argument can go on for ever and the issue would still remain unresolved. In the meanwhile, each one of us needs to focus on our health.
Take a rain check of your lifestyle..
Is your diet a healthy one?
Are you exercising regularly?
Do you practise stress-management techniques?
Do you follow basic hygiene practices?

As some one said, one should never have to require services of professionals wearing a black or white coat.
Stay well!

What(er) on earth?

Puneites misery continues with water supply on alternate days. What is worse is are the distribution anomalies as is the blatant wastage that occurs in the pipelines.

The dailies carry reports of tanker water suppliers demanding above prescribed rates for water. The PMC claims to have taken some steps in this regard.

Now Mumbai too faces a 30% water cut. Click here for details.

Did you know that only 1% of world water is usable by humans. Click here for some interesting information about sources of water.

Of Car Colours and Brands

I recently came across this article that talks about car colours and insurance premiums and human personality. I know that colours are associated with emotions but this was new to me. 

I would like to go one step beyond this.
Are car brands associations with certain personality types limited to flaunting ones wealth, social status or machismo? Have you observed performance of  hatchback/ SUV/ sedan and multiple other passenger vehicle category drivers that zoom past us at signals, on highways, tiny streets and by lanes, at day or night? 
More often than not a particular brand recurrently tends to jump signals, overtake persistently from the left, honk endlessly and generally make their presence felt when driving on roads. Some incidents often get known by their car types more than the incident itself. Read this and this and this
Similarly there are some vehicle types that are ones that I found to be maximally adhering to traffic rules. 
One thing I know for sure. The presence of a female pillion rider almost always sends the speedometer of any two wheeler driven by a young male, zooming in the clockwise direction. 
Whatever be the psychologists’ verdict (on relation between behaviour related to road safety and traffic rules and car brands), safe driving is as important to a driver, vehicle occupants as it is to pedestrians and other vehicle drivers.
Follow traffic rules.