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Showing posts from 2010

The year that was...

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Keeping in line with the tradition of this blog, I proudly present the year 2010 in a recap here...

This year was releatively a crawler compared to the past few years. A majority of my journeys this year were by my new car, and successfully ran over 24,000 kms over this year. Railfanning took a backseat as usual, while Busfanning came forward (only to be sent back again).

Have a fun filled run on the Punalur-Shencottah line this year, and was fortunate enough to be present on the last day of service as well.

Had two fun-filled trips from college, with my classmates - One to Chennai and Vellore, Second to Sringeri, and Manipal. Although both were aimed at attended conferences, we had a blast at both places. Such trips help a lot in improving the bond between students.

Got two pets - a dog and a cat! The doggie is now just about a year old, while the cat (pussy) is just about a month-and-a-half old now. Robin (my doggie) had a long journey to Bangalore (his hometown) and back in my car…

Unity in 'diversity'....

'Unity in Diversity' is one statement we Indian's often quote to explain the greatness of our country in simple terms. Our country is certainly diverse with a wide range of languages and cultures, stratified religions and what not. But this post is not intended to glorify India further, but is aimed at a few interesting "united we stand" tidbits from Kerala. Kerala is one tiny piece of land hanging precariously down along Peninsular India. With perhaps the largest per.sq.km population, Kerala is one helluva populous state.

While, officially, Kerala has only one state language - "Malayalam" (Note: not "Malyalam" or "Malyalee"), the actual form of the language used takes different form, so much enough for each of them being labelled a 'dialect'. Although all the strings of words spoken by common men in Kerala is called "Malayalam", there is a wide variety of "malayalams" used in Kerala. Starting from Kasarag…

The abyss of blogging..

The year 2010 would easily go into the history of this blog as an abyss. With just over 30 posts over the year, Platform7 was dormant for most parts of the year. Not because nothing happened over the year, I got all the more lazy to post! Life has been on the slow track over this year (more on that later).

Getting back to studies after close to two years of living off my own money was not a simple task. My exams just got concluded - and was preceeded by a two month study vacation. I began each day of my vacation with the pledge to start studying "today", and ended up the day with a pledge to start studying "tomorrow". The two months ran off as if it were just two days, and it finally dawned on me that the exam starts the next day! The regular "guilty" feeling of not starting early dawns, and finally ends up in leaving me hurrying through! I do love "performing" under pressure, though!

All the 5 papers had something in common - a terrible "S…

A painful movie experience...

Watching movies at cinema halls are usually a mixed bag experience - one gets the fun of watching it along with comments from other viewers, while the horrible state of cinema halls gives the overall experience a thumbs down. My experience last night at a cinema hall in Kochi was such. I had written a half-baked story comparing conventional cinema halls v/s multiplexes a while back (read it here). I am one who loves watching movies at cinema theaters, but not ready to compromise on comfort.

Last night, I (and my family) went to a pretty major cinema hall in Kochi (one of the three "S"s) to watch the latest Mammootty flick Best Actor. The movie in itself was watchable (not great by any extent of imagination, but a nice movie). The movie is directed by the debutant Martin Prakkat. The movie is all about the experiences a wannabe movie actor faces in his attempts to hit the screen. He finally succeeds, but after overcoming a lot of funny and intense situations. Mammookka has r…

Three railfans go on a 'Sea Cruise'!

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What would one expect when three seasoned railfans come together? Obviously, some railfanning! But RailKeralites are daringly different! After attending a co-railfan's wedding engagement (on Sunday, November 07, 2010), the three of us (Jimmy Jose, Jaysankar and yours truly) headed out for some bus fanning (Yes! You read it right!). Jayasankar had a plan of traveling on the 'Sagara Rani' cruise for sunset. The rest of us decided to join him on the ride. We headed straight to the KSINC Jetty near High Court of Kerala for reservations - the cruise vessel was docked at the Jetty, and the Cruise manager came out and explained the salient features of the vessel. The vessel looked impressive, and we decided to make the journey despite all odds.


The operator, Kerala State Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC, a Kerala Government undertaking) does not issue tickets in advance. All they do is note down the name of the 'group leader' and the phone number. Tickets are issued o…

Multiplex & traditional Cinema Halls... a different experience indeed

Foreword: I am not a movie buff, nor do I work for a cinema house. I am just an average movie goer, who likes seeing 'brainless' comedy, and family sentiment movies - preferably in Malayalam. Not that I don't love movies in other languages, but I usually prefer watching them on TV. I am one movie goes who like to watch movies in an air-conditioned theatre, and that rules out watching movies at my hometown - for the fact that we don't have an airconditioned movie hall here!

To the best of my knowledge, there is only one proper Multiplex in Kerala - the Cinemax multiplex at Oberon Mall, Kochi. The multiplex was opened earlier this year, and has since offered a very different movie experience to movie goers. I have heard people often terming the high ticket charges of Multiplexes a daylight robbery - but, is that true?

IMHO, No! The Multiplexes offer clean halls to passengers - each hall is cleaned before every show, and they ensure that no layovers of the previous show r…

Exercising franchise... a new record in Kerala

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Kerala is known as a hot-bed of politics - with almost every single citizen interested in the daily political drama. Kerala has two major political fronts - left and the "right". The left, "Left Democratic Front", is led mainly by the Communist Parties, while the "right", "United Democratic Front" is led by the Congress (Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee). In addition to the two fronts, the national party, Bharatiya Janata Party, too has been unsuccessfully trying to make a dent. In a state that is so interested in politics, the state assembly elections usually work on an anti-incumbent wave - the ruling party has to move to opposition irrespective of their performance.

In what could be termed a curtain raiser to the State Assembly elections, the state went to polls, to elect new Local Self-Governments. Perhaps, ours is the only state where almost all the Panchayats/Municipalities/Corporations go to polls together - giving a feel of a full fledg…

The derailed railfanning attempt..

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Metre gauge railways always have a sentimental aspect is a railfan's mind - I am not different! The news that the final piece of Metre Gauge railway in Kerala, the Punalur-Shencottah line was closing down brought tears to the eyes of many - and a ride on the last train would be a fitting send-off for this humble train from railfans. Although elaborate plans were made, everyone dropped off at the last moment, and I was left all alone to make the trip - not be let down in any circumstance, I decided to go solo. My initial plan was to take a train from Ernakulam to Kollam, then the new passenger from Kollam to Punalur and finally the metre gauge ride. The return was to be by bus. However, being a weekend, trains were heavily waitlisted - I first thought of going unreserved.

However, on reaching Ernakulam station, I was greeted by heavy crowd and found that my train was running pretty late. I wasn't interested in missing the passenger and hence decided to take a bus instead. After…

The Shama Big Bus...

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After ten rocking days in Bangalore - including runs on the Mercedes Benz buses, a visit to a hospital casualty, getting two IV Injections, and laying on the bed for a full day down with fever (what more can I ask for???), it was time to head back home - to God's own country. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I never considered traveled in a State bus anywhere during planning for the return journey - both the KSRTCs were kept off my consideration. This time around, Kerala SRTC stood no chance of being even considered, while Karnataka SRTC was kept my last choice. Reason why Kerala SRTC was not even considered: A horrible hard product. The only feasible option for me is the 2200 AC bus from Bangalore - while the bus is known for punctuality, the ride and comfort is horrible.

Once the STUs were thrown out of the window, the choices were simple: A tie between Kallada and Shama. Only these operators run a decent Volvo service, touching Thrissur town. Others prefer taking the bypa…

Mercedized.. Part-2

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After the good experience on the MCV C120LE City bus, we (Myself and Bharat) returned to Majestic to find our way back home. We did some train spotting on our way back, and content with that short Mercedes experience, we were walking towards the City bus section of Majestic. All of a sudden, Bharat suggested we have a look at the "Mofussil" section to see if the inter-city Mercedes Coach was anywhere in sight. I wanted to see if the MSRTC Shivneri was still running as well. We, thus, headed in. The Mysore platform had a huge queue of Volvo buses, and an almost parallel line of Rajahamsas/Sheetal/Meghadootas. Dejected, we decided to return home, and just turned back.

OH! Wait a minute... did I just see that square box rolling towards us? Yes, it was. The much awaited Mercedes Benz O500R two-axle RE bus was rushing towards us. The bus just rushed past us.. with the boards reading "Bangalore Mysore". No seconds were spared.. if the bus was going to Mysore, we decided t…

Mercedized.. all in a day!

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Monday, October 11, 2010 was a day I would not like to forget in my life.. a red lettered, three-pointed star day! The day was earmarked for "Travel(ing) with the Star". Yes, you guess it right - that was the day I did a back-to-back trial on two Mercedes Benz products in Bangalore. The two reviews would come in two parts. Presenting part-1.

One fine evening while crossing the foot-over-bridge from the mofussil section to the city section of Kempegowda Bus Station, I saw this pink (or rose?) coloured bus parked all set to head to the airport. Unable to believe my eyes, rushed off to the bus - yes - it was the MCV C120LE City Bus that Mercedes Benz has provided for trials with BMTC. I was thinking that the bus was returned after trials (coinciding with news paper reports that the bus was to head to Mumbai for trials with B.E.S.&T., and some rumours that the bus would be tried by KSRTC in Mysore). The spotting appeared as a surprise for me. But the time was already past 5,…

Conti... A nostalgic journey to the past

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Conti Travels, or UMS Conti, is a established bus operator based in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. UMS, or United Motor Service, was launched in 1920. Since then, UMS turned into one of the most efficient passenger transport company in this part of Tamil Nadu. Conti Travels was the first Inter-city coach service in Tamil Nadu. UMS operated a few city buses in Coimbatore, under various names. I have vague memories of them, but I distinctly remember that their buses were well maintained during the mid-90s. UMS diversified into various business, and are now a formidable name in the electronics manufacturing industry.

The Conti Travels "bus stand" on Avinashi Road
UMS is headquartered at Avinashi Road in Coimbatore, not very far from the Railway Station. I was a regular passenger in Conti Travels during the mid-90s, traveling very often from Coimbatore to Alappuzha and back in their coaches. Their buses used to be white in colour, with "Intercontinental Coach" painted in blue …

Why is Kerala RTC's premium services proving dud?

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The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation offers various "premium" services both within the state and on selected Inter-state routes. The premium portfolio of KSRTC includes 33 "Super Deluxe", 20 "AC" and 3 "AC Garuda" buses.

A Super Deluxe bus..
Super Deluxe buses are non-AC buses with Air-Suspension and 40 push-back executive seats. All the existing Super Deluxe buses were built by KSRTC's Central Workshop, on Ashok Leyland Viking 222" WB Chassis. These buses feature sliding glass windows, and a single entry/exit door. As evident from the image above, the buses lack a very important 'feature' - Attractiveness. The bus looks like a badly built contraption, which no-one would in their wildest dream think is an Air-suspension bus. The interiors are pretty decent, and the seats are comfortable. There is no partition between the driver cabin and the passenger section - this results in light from oncoming vehicles directly flashing…

A testing month!

Its been just 12 days since this month started, and its already been testing! Oh! Don't get me wrong: I've been testing different buses over the past week. It all started on October 8, 2010, with my first ever ride on an Isuzu LT1 (Swaraj Prestige) bus. Yesterday had something bigger, two tests back to back! A Mercedes Benz (MCV) City bus (C120LE) running on trial with BMTC, and then the Mercedes Benz Intercity Coach (O 500 R Two-Axle bus), recently introduced by KSRTC (Kar).

Other than these three new products in the Indian bus market, I had two more firsts in my life. My first ever journey in a Kerala RTC "Super Deluxe" bus, and also a Kerala RTC "Super Express" bus. So the days ahead will be dotted with a few trial reports, and some photographs. Be sure to be right here!

For the railfans: Sorry to disappoint again - the only bit of railfanning I did was seeing the 2008 Shatabdi rushing through Bangalore Cantonment yesterday behind a WAP1.

Exploring the controversial freight ghat! (Part-2)

...It was more of a doze than a sleep. I could clearly hear whistles blown by gangmen, gurgle from umpteen streams and falls on the route, and the regular clickety-clack. We were certainly crawling (the ghats have a limit of 30kmph) - the weather was cold. I remained partially awake as we continued our crawl up the ghats. All this while, my coach was a beehive of activity, and the lone TTE was pulling apart his hair one by one - and was continuously being mobbed by passengers with unreserved tickets. To make matters worse, almost all stations between Mangalore Junction and Hassan issue manual tickets - the TTE is handed over a chart at each station. Each station has a quota of 8 seats each, and for these 8 seats, there would be atleast 20 passengers waiting!

The commotion over seat allocation, and the rightful occupants making their claim over the unreserved passengers added to the show. I jumped out of my berth as the train neared Sakleshpur. The hum of a consist of WDG4s were barely…

Exploring the controversial freight ghat! (Part-1)

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Since my relocation to Kerala in June 2009, my railfanning outings have been on an all time low. The number of dedicated trips too has hit the rock. The only recent one has been to the Punalur Metre Gauge line (read it here). After long 4-and-a-half months of hibernation (as in not railfanning), I was heading out for another one. This one was a long pending dream - a strenuous ghat section, where trains proceed up and down with utmost caution, and a line that was in at the eye of a controversy.

Some of you would have guessed it right. For the uninitiated, the talk is about the controversial ghat section between Sakleshpur and Subrahmanya Road. This ghats lie on the Hassan-Mangalore Railway Line. The ghat is being referred to as "controversial" since this ghat section has been cleared for operations with a lot of conditions - including a moratorium on operation of Freight trains when a passenger carrying train is operation along the ghat. The railways earn their bread from th…

Kerala's Road Habits: An Analysis (Part-1)

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I have been driving since August 2004 - I am one who learned driving exactly after I turned 18, and took a licence 40 days after my birthday. Its been 6 years of driving now, and during this period I have driven in Maharashtra, a brief stretch in Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

I have been driving daily through a typical Kerala-style highway since January this year - a distance of about 66 kms daily. I believe these 8 months were enough for me to make a conclusion on driving habits. Keralites are among the most educated lot, and people here (am too a keralite) have a special sense of driving. Here are some brief notes on the most common habits I've noticed over the past few months of driving here: (The post does not intent to harm anyone. BUT, it certainly is intended to tease your wrongdoings.)

Habit #1: Dog in the Manger:
Most of us would be familiar with the dog and the cow story. There is one habit commonly seen among drivers in Kerala, which is awfully similar to t…