Sunday, March 13, 2005

Back from Bangalore

I went to Bangalore today after a whole two years, and I must say that the IT explosion has also led to tremendous explosion in traffic. Traffic in the so-called 'Garden City' is insane. It took me over twenty minutes to go three kilometers, and that too riding pillion on a colleagues scooter.
But, I guess that is the price of progress. After speaking to some people in the city, I got quite a few divergent opinions. A senior journalist told me that the the new government has done nothing for the city, a fact that was bourne out in a headline I read in the local ToI which said the local Finance Minister had ignored the city. Well, the sidewalks are in a worse condition than those in Kolkata, or so I felt.
Now some people believe that ignoring the city would leave Banaglore losing out to Hyderabad. Oh well, there are some signs that is already happening. Microsoft's IDC in Hyderabad is easily able to recruit people from Bangalore who want to leave the crowded roads and increasing living costs. Any investments coming into the city still are legacy investments, but no major new foreign FDI will come into Bangalore, people believe. For example, the new international airport which even though recently cleared will still take three years to open. By that time, the current airport would be spilling over. It is hardly able to handle a few 737's and A320's, god knows howit handle a 747 or a 340. And the traffic on the road out from the airport is well, I guess it suffices to say that it is dreadful.
The contrarian view claims, "What has IT done for Bangalore?" Well, one answer is that IT has put Bangalore on the map. But, yes, IT companies led by Wipro have managed to avoid taxes for years on end. Now, manufacturing companies don't think this is fair. I think Azim Premji should stop zealously gurading every penny and give the city back some money, ditto for Infosys, Mphasis, iGate and god know2s how many hundreds more. If the taxes from IT companies can total a even a 1000 crore each year, I think Bangalore can become a model city for India. The caveat for that I guess would be that the army would really have to give up some land in the city.
Oh yeah, I had gone to Bangalore to get a glimpse and a drive of the new Toyota Innova as well as get a chance to interact with Toyota India's top brass. Surprisingly, I had already met Toyoshima-san, the boss of Toyota Kirloskar Motors (TKM, Vikram Kirloskar owns around a percent of the company, I think having his name there helps in getting permissions and all that) the night before at a dinner where they gave out the JD Power awards for India.

Anyway coming to the car, we drove it up and down Jakkur airbase a few times. I first took off with the 2.0 petrol version. I'll tell you this much, the petrol car is woefully underpowered, and the gear lever has tremendous 'snatch' which means it shakes virtually everywhere if you end up over-revving the car. As I desperately tried to plod the Innova into getting a semblance of speed, the lever seemed to have a mind of its own, something like a 'stick shaker' on an airplane. I didn't like that one bit. The diesel engine is a lot better. The engine is very torquey and free revving, but just as the the petrol is surprisingly quiet, I didn't expect the 2.5 common rail diesel engine to be so noisy. Well, it is quieter than a Hyundai Accent CRDi but I thought Toyota could have fitted more soundproofing in the engine bay. Again, the diesel is not the peppiest thing I have driven, far from it. But the drive of this diesel is a lot nicer than that of the old 2.4 litre Qualis engine. And given a long enough run, I'm sure taxi drivers would love the car. Comfortable and it did have a little there to make driving fun, not much, but there was a little bit.
However, if people drove the way I did, hydrocarbons would disappear rather quickly from the planet. Anyway, that said, the car has a wonderful ride, it does not wallow from side to side like the Scorpio and the seats, at least in top of the line (Rs 9 lakh plus) 'V' specification Innova are great. But, I guess there should be an option to have a three seat second row on this spec, which has ABS, airbags, electric mirrors and other pluses. The Innova is a nice, comfortable car with a lot, and I mean A LOT of space, and lots of glass. It is spacious and airy and before an ed. asks about this, I think it should easily pass the 'big dog' test. God knows how it behave in the city, but I liked my short stints with the car.
However, I am surprised that Toyota completely withdrew the Qualis. It might have a decision beyond the control of Toyoshima-san, but I guess that the new Innova might be seen as a MPV rather than a cattle car as many Gurgaon and Noida-based call centers made the Qualis. And this has only seating for a maximum of eight people. Call centre guys will have to suffer the Sumo and thus arthiritis later in life or the slightly problematic Tavera. But, I believe it should do well. The only thing is that Innova seems like a slightly silly name, and yes, the literature will say how 'innovative' the car is with hundreds of innovations, most of which will never change your life, but well, i'm sure a new type of sprocket made someone in marketing mastrubate when he thought of the potential for seeling the car.
If you haven't picked up the latest issue of The Economist please do so, it has a wonderful survey of India and China called 'The tiger in front'. Very good read. Talkking about tigers, they seem to be dying out thanks to poachers. I will get some gyaan on this from Banerjee and i'll write a bit more about it when I 'know' more instead of farting through my fingers.
After all these drives and all, I went out to a new hot and happening club called 'Taika' which is on Church Street, pretty nice place, but despite what I was told, not too many women were around. Anyway, ended up having dinner with Mix-on and Nix-on. Oh well, I got drunk, didn't sleep and I am most propably going to die from a lack of sleep soon.
Talking of which, I should sleep soon and I've written enough for the time being.

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