Friday, April 24, 2015

#BoltDrive to Lonavala

One early morning, sunny day, crazy fun long drive, scrumptious lunch, and a hell of a ride – that was my last Sunday, thanks to Blogadda and Tata Bolt. Blogadda and BoltDrives decided to take a huge group of bloggers on a long drive from Bandra Kurla Complex to Lonavala and back and that is how I got my chance to drive a car in city for the first time ever! But before all that, this is how it went…

We started off early with a lovely breakfast and interaction session at Otto Infinito BKC. With just a prep talk about our rides of the day(which really increased our excitement) we left for Lonavala by 10:00 AM. Yes you read it right it was rides and not Ride! We got to drive the Bolt Revotron (powered by revotron petrol engine) and the Bolt diesel (powered by diesel quadrajet engine) both on the same day, the first one being Revotron. 8 cars, 3 bloggers per car and voila the Red Brigade was ready. The Tata Bolt Team asked us to personally try the brand new cars. Being a recently licensed driver you can imagine the amount of apprehensions I had for driving it in a hustling bustling corporate hub of the city but for once temptation triumphed fear and guess it paid off very well. Tata Bolt’s powerful engine, smooth turn assists, different modes of driving, easy gear changes and power steering made my mini ride from Otto Infinito to MMRDA grounds a super successful ride.

After driving through a suspension test we also realized how shock resistant Bolt is. From there we moved towards Lonavala, finally YAY! After crossing BKC we were asked to change the mode of the car which had been running on eco mode until then. With the change of eco to sports mode I handed over the car to our Driver for the day and decided to slouch in the comfortable back seat with my other blogger friends – Oindrilla and Raj. And just then – Captain Bolt decides to join us! Captain bolt was our constant assistant, host and guide throughout the journey. We didn’t even realize we had a go pro fixed in our car and were being filmed all this while. Captain Bolt helped us explore the other aspects of the car like the voice commands. Yes Bolt has a specially tailored voice command infotainment system by Harman Kardon which was the most fun part for us. From changing temperature to songs and FM and from receiving calls to asking for directional assistance all have simple commands that we kept using endlessly. And given that the system recognizes 9 Indian accents including Punjabi, we hardly went wrong.

Open western express highway, brightly lit tunnels, Ghat roads, bougainvillea boulevards and a super fast car and in no time we had reached Lonavala. We had an amazing lunch Dhaba and Bar at Triose Lonavala and also got interviewed about our experience till that point. After spending a couple of hours there we made a move towards Tiger point in our next ride! Yes now it was time for the diesel engine to roar and all the difference that I could notice in the two cars was the hum. Diesel engine had a faint constant hum while driving while revotron was super silent and impressive. 

Tiger point being one of the most scenic points of Lonavala did not disappoint us even on an extremely hot sunny day and atleast I had a gala time taking selfies and enjoying nature. But only after I entered the car again did I realize how hot it was outside. Lucky for us, Bolt’s Cooling system has to be the fastest I have experienced in cars till date, and so we were saved from the heat.

The trip came to a wrap with cold coffee and brownies and some selfie luck prizes and CCD and we reached back home safely in the evening. But for the first time the dose of luxury tasted better than the flavor of the rustic sleepy mountain town. #BoltDrives to Lonavala was indeed a fun trip!

A sunday well spent at #BoltDrives with BOLT from TATA Motors in association with BlogAdda.

Just a glimpse of our ride! :D

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The All New Asus Zenfone 2

Mobile world is the fastest world these days – and here I wasn’t talking just about the speed of our message deliveries or the magic of 3G – Mobile world is a fast fleeting world of changes. One year back it was all about iPhone 5/5s and Nexus 5, some months back the world changed its focus to iPhone 6 and Nexus 6. While Samsung and Motorola have been constant players in the market with their new products hitting the markets quarterly, in recent years it has been facing tough competition from companies like Karbonn, Micromax, HTC, Xiaomi and Asus. But one thing that has been growing along with the competition is the price range of products. Along with the companies even we, the consumers, got into a race of being more tech savvy with acquiring new products as and when they hit the market. Unfortunately, people have now realized this race was spun out of control and for many of the general tech savvy squad this race is pretty much lost due to budget constraint.
Wondering why I am rambling about all this on a boring Wednesday morning? Suddenly I seem to have tripped on a card that would help us poor souls with budget issues come back to being tech savvy the way we like without burning a hole in our pockets. I am sure all of you would agree Asus has been the major new player in the market with its amazing Zenfone series. Well guess what, AsusZenfone 2 is all set to hit the market!!! I wouldn’t dive a lot into specifications here but what I do want to point out is why you should consider buying this phone asap.

1.    Speed – The phone is fast, like really fast in functionality. Given the fact that it has 4GB RAM with Intel Atom Processor, you should not even ask why and how. I could give details of its functioning in flops and maps but keeping this post not very techy, I am going to refrain from that.
2.   Memory and More- I own a Nexus 5 and the biggest issue I had with it was memory. These days when data flow and exchange happens at such an crazy rate no matter how much memory is provided internally, the memory does get exhausted at a point and you have to resort to deleting stuff you don’t want to. But worry not, Asus Zenfone 2 not only has 2-4 GB LPDDR3 internal memory it supports external memory upto 64 GB. And plus you get your SIM memory for numbers. Did I mention it is dual SIM? You get my point now don’t you?

3.   Camera – Been a regular visitor of my blog, then you know how much I love photography. I love clicking and I love travelling so you can imagine the pain of carrying a heavy SLR wherever I go. I always wanted a phone with an amazing camera. Till date I kept thinking iPhone has the best camera with the sharpest sensors available but damn too expensive for me so it was always SLR. Fortunately ASUS Zenfone 2 has PizelMaster Camera that not only clicks brilliant shots in light, it is the best mobile camera for low light shots. And if you are a selfie person this phone is a total win win for you as it has a 5MP front camera with a 13MP rear camera.

4.   Zen Motion - ASUS Zenfone 2 has something called as the Zen Motion that lets you access different phone functions based on various touch gestures. It is a smart time saving functionality that Asus has incorporated in this piece and this surely feeds my techy brain!

5.   Price – Like I mentioned before, this is a trendy tech device you can keep in your pockets without the fear of it drilling holes in your pockets. Even now if you compare functionalities and market rates, Asus phones are placed at considerable lower rates as compared to their competitors and Zenfone 2 is going to be no exception.

So basically there is a new beast in town to catch your eyes this May. With its sleek design it might be hotter than the summer too but in a good way. So keep your eyes open and techy souls awake, you never know this might be the phone you have been waiting for! :D And you people who have already decided to buy it - THIS is where you will get it.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Form Glory to Ruins - Chittorgarh

Rajasthan is a land of forts, ruins and stories. These stories speak of the glorious Rajputana to the fall of the great kingdom due to betrayals, greed and internal wars. The stories are not just about the bravery of kings but that of queens too. One such Rajput state was Mewar and one such fort that silently tells the tales of Ranas and Ranis of Rajputana till date is Chittorgarh. Chittorgarh was known for its grandeur in the past, but all that remains now is ruins.

Temples of the fort
I had visited this amazing place, close to Udaipur, a couple of years back and I am still under the timeless spell this place seems to cast on all. Yes, Chittor is known for the courageous Rana Kumbha, for the daring and beautiful Rani Padmini, for the brave Panaa Dai, for the Princess turned Saint Meera Bai and for the atrocious acts of Alauddin Khilji but this place is like an open book with a lot of missing pages.  For example, it is said that the actual fort was built by Maurya’s in the 5th or 6th century and later occupied by the Rajputs somewhere around 11th century. But there is no record of which Rajput king actually claimed the fort or what happened to the Maurya’s of Chittor. The current ruins have no traces of the Mauryan Chittor but what remains is what Rana Kumbha made and his successors could preserve after the three sieges of the fort between 15th and 17th century A.D.

Rana Kumbha Palace
The largest structure of Chittorgarh Fort is Rana Kumbha’s Palace. Though now a structure of broken walls and pile of stones, the palace was a three storied one back in the days. And even from the ruins it is fairly easy to figure out how magnificent this palace might have been in its heyday. Tall pillars, underground tunnels and escape routes, chattris, windows with sophisticated carvings are still visible. If you are able to climb some walls of Rana Kumbha Palace, you would get the best view of the city as well as sunset. But stories of Jauhar and fall of the Rajput during the first siege from the guides of Chittor is what will keep you captivated and also curse some characters of the past.
Kumbhasham Palace

Mira Bai Temple
Close to Rana Kumbha Palace are two temples - Kumbhashyam Temple dedicated to Vishnu and a smaller temple called the Mira Bai Temple. Kumbhashyam was built by Rana Kumbha and has intricate carvings on the walls and pillars, all depicting verses of the Vishnu Purana. The Mira Bai temple on the other hand was built buy Rana Udai Singh for his aunt, the poet-saint Mira Bai. It is not as elaborate as the Kumbhashaym Temple but has an appeal to it as her bhajans are still played or sung in the temple. The temple unlike the other one, does not have a statue as it is believed Mira Bai always carried her ‘Krishna Murat’ (statue of Krishna) with her where ever she went. Also some believe Udai Singh built this temple to get his Aunt back to Chittor from Dwarka, but Mira Bai never returned as she had left Chittor forever by then.

Intricate designs on the Kirti Stambh
But the most significant structures of the fort are the Kirti Stambh and the Vijay Stambh aka the Victory Tower.  The Kirti Stambh (Tower of Fame) was built by a Jain Merchant in the 12th Century, about 300 years before the Victory Tower. It is believed to be the only surviving ‘not from Rajput era fort, structure and has inscriptions of teachings of Jainism. On the other hand Vijay Stambh was built by Rana Kumbha to commemorate his victory over Qutub ud din and Mahamud Khilji in the 15th century. Rana Kumbha wanted this tower to be taller than the Kirti Stambh and to be visible from all point of Chittor. Thus this 9 storied tower of 37 meters was made, 4 stories taller than Kirti Stambh and is on the hill that is 500 ft in height – totally visible from far away! 
Vijay Stambh or the Victory Tower
This red sandstone structure has carvings that tell the story of the war on walls and roof of the 9th floor, while other floors are dedicated to history of Rajputana and exteriors have stories from Mahabharata. It also has Allah written on 7 places, which was to make sure no Muslim Invader ever damaged the structure. Impressed by the architecture, Rana Kumbha asked Jaitia, the chief architect to make Jaitia’s figurine or signature too somewhere in the tower. The 5th floor has Jaitia and his 3 sons’ face figurines. The towers have a hollow center and a nearly hollow gallery, therefore they still stand straight after all these years despite the height. (Leaning tower of Pisa could have taken some inspiration!)

Padmini Palace
Rani Padmini Palace, though is another famous structure of the fort, the current structure is just a reconstruction of the original one and not even open to commoners. In the olden days it was believed to be in the center of a lotus pond but today it is surrounded by a foul smelling stagnant pond. Padmini is the queen whose beauty drove Alauddin Khilji crazy and he attacked Chittor. The signs of destruction are clearly visible everywhere in the fort in form of destroyed temples.

Temples destroyed by Allahudin Khilji

The other prominent structures are the Gaumukh Kund, Kalki Temple, Tridev Temple, Panaa Dai Mahal and the Udai Singh Palace. But the best part of exploring this whole place is just roaming around, listening to the folklore and ballads by Banjaras and locals. Chittorgarh has a lot of guides so in case you have a time crunch it is best to get one, else you could always explore this 13 km long 700 acres fort on your own and listen to the stories the guides have as and when you see one. Be sure to spend time till sunset here – the feeling then is like all the glorious, some not so glorious, tales boil down to reality and finally sink in with the sinking sun! Chittorgarh is a famous tourist place in Rajasthan, but is comparatively less crowded and is totally worth a visit.