Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Gold cars

Here are a few photos taken by me on the way to Chelsea.

Please take note of the cheeky bastard who has pasted gold paper over his budget Ford Ka. He had parked this along with the gold cars.

There is no better way to put it than a report from the London Times.

Most people pack a book, clothes and toothpaste to go abroad, but a Saudi tourist arrived in London over Easter with a fleet of gold cars worth more than £1 million.

Their appearance heralded the start of “supercar” season when millionaires from Kuwait, Saudia Arabia and United Arab Emirates escape the heat of the Gulf and compete with each other to drive the most ostentatious vehicles in the capital.

The Lamborghini, as well as this Rolls-Royce Phantom, are thought to belong to the same family.

The tourist brought with him cars including a £370,000 Mercedes, a £350,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupé, a £180,000 Lamborghini Huracán and a Bentley Flying Spur worth £220,000.

Only a handful of airlines offer flyers a car-carrying service. Qatar Airways charges about £20,000 for the option, which involves the vehicles being secured to the floor of a plane. The “supercar” season led to so many complaints last year over noise, speeding and illegal parking, that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was forced to introduce a public spaces protection order in Knightsbridge.

Motorists are banned from revving engines, rapidly accelerating, racing, performing stunts, sounding horns or causing obstructions. They are also prohibited from leaving the engine of a stationary car running. Motorists who breach the order face a maximum fine of £1,000 or fixed penalty notice of £100. Over the past three weeks, seven drivers have been handed fixed penalty notices.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Bharat Mata Ki Jai

On the day of the India Pakistan T 20 match on 19th March 2016, we had a most unusual, and in retrospect, pleasant experience.

As is the norm, a backstory. I have watched several sporting encounters – be they soccer matches between countries, Rugby matches, Formula 1, even cricket – being televised in bars and pubs out of India. The hallowed Bombay Gymkhana is also where I have watched televised sporting encounters. This has a charm of its own. Passions can be high. When watching Rugby or Soccer, the sight and sound of the hundreds of spectators singing “You Will Never Walk Alone” or “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” or “Auld Lang Sang” or “Waltzing Matilda” has always been deeply emotional for me. Often the emotion was so much that I had wiped away that errant tear that rolled down my cheek and maintained a stiff upper lip, I wondered, when we in India would have a similar sense of, dare I use the word – Nationalism or patriotism?

Let’s face it, rarely, if ever, do we, as in the spectators, sing the National Anthem at sporting events. At times we heard shouts of “Ganpati Bappa Morya” coming through the television, but, frankly, at the cost of being guilty of blasphemy, that really does not have the same emotional appeal of 10000 spectators singing in unison.

I have written about the The Irish House pub that has opened a very close to home. This has become a favourite with us. Importantly, during the unconditional Happy Hours from 5 pm to 8 pm every evening you get drinks at half price, and thankfully, the music has become softer. When we were there for a quick tipple on Thursday, the staff asked if we would like to see the India Pakistan T 20 match on 19th March 2016 at the Irish House. So, on the 19th we strolled down to Irish House. The place was packed with happy, young people who, obviously had similar ideas. Mind you the match was delayed by an hour because of rain. We were given a place to sit, ordered our drinks and soaked in the atmosphere.

As I said happy, people all around. Many foreigners who were quite oblivious to what was going to enfold. As match time neared the crowds kept coming in. The place was heaving with the crush of humanity.

Then, the telecast started and it was like a flame had been lit in the bar. The atmosphere suddenly turned electric. Sachin Tendulkar came and spoke and the bar erupted with chants of ‘Saaachiiin Saaachiiin’. I was astounded. This was followed by wild applause when Amitabh Bachchan came and spoke. I was fairly surprised at this reaction from the punters in the bar.

What followed was, to me, staggering.

Amitabh Bachchan started to sing the Indian National Anthem. Mind you this was on Television being relayed from Kolkata. One cue, every single person in the bar stood up and a few sang along. The sound of Amitabh’s voice over the speakers in the bar was completely and totally drowned out by the vigorous, robust and hearty chorus of “Jaya He Jaya He” that the people in the bar shouted. This was followed by an enthusiastic loud and long round of applause by the punters. This was deeply emotional. I had a welter of thoughts and emotions. I was at the same time, proud and strangely embarrassed. I had never seen this kind of reaction – well I lie - I had seen it once at the Wagah Border but that was so utterly filmi that I was disgusted. There was no filmi backdrop, no `Rang De Basanti Chola’ and `Mere Desh Ki Dharti’ no homilies from Her Ladyship the Hon’ble Pratibha Rani. This was pure unabashed nationalism or patriotism.

No, I did not shed a tear. But, I was deeply affected by this reaction of people. People who are like me - westernised, drinkers, living in one of the most expensive areas of Mumbai, in a bar - all of whom, I would think, like Kiran Rao [Khan], harbour thought of fleeing, suddenly being caught in this nationalism or patriotism.

In the end, India won. In the end, if there is one thing that has changed in Mumbai among the rich and the sophisticates it a feeling of nationalism or patriotism.

And I am glad.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Chairman's Office

Every word written here is true. I have typed this with one hand while the other rested on the Bhagvad Gita to ensure I did not stray from the truth.

First a back story, the moral of which, has remained with me since circa 1987-88.

Way back in 1987-88, I was very young bushy tailed eager lawyer working in what was then probably India’s greatest law firm, Crawford Bayley & Co. 1987-88, just to put things in perspective, was way before mobile phones, sometime before fax machines, way before computers and laptops [we had several typewriters and a couple of rudimentary word processing machines] and definitely before the internet. It was a time of telexes, beige postcards and blue inland letters; it was a time when the postman was hugely important. It was a time of Indian Airlines and calling a travel agent to get a ticket.

One day, sitting in the absolutely disgusting reception was, I clearly remember, Mr M H Shah Legal head of Phillips along with his deputy Mr Mallik and a junior whose name I cannot remember. These gentlemen knew me and after exchanging pleasantries, I was intrigued why they were so grim looking. It turned out that someone had written a letter to the then Managing Director of Phillips – obviously a `gora’ or foreigner – complaining bitterly about a shaver he had bought. The gent in question had threated legal action if his unhappiness with his shaver was not resolved. This simple act of writing to the Managing Director had turned the entire legal department of Phillips into jelly. They needed to consult what at that time were the best and probably most expensive lawyers on how to deal with this.

This, my dear readers, is what the problem is in India. We are a bunch of irresponsible, uncaring selfish fools who only fear supreme authority. You can have your so called `Mission Statements’ pasted on walls and your website, you can have ombudsmen, grievance officers, sales heads and god knows what else – nothing works. A kick up your arse by the supreme boss is what gets action.

Now to the point of this post.

A few days ago while idly browsing thru the available channels on Tata Sky, I saw that there were 3 new channels – 526 which was Magic Bricks, 566 and 567 which were Nat Geo and Travel channels. However, I could not view them. I kept getting a notification that the signal could not be reached as there was rain and that I would get the signal once the clouds moved away. Of course, there was no rain. I thought that it was possible that though the channels had been allotted the actual broadcast had not started. Finally, after several days, HRH The Queen of Kutch called the Tata Sky help line only to be told that (i) the broadcast had started (ii) our subscription package included these channels and therefore (iii) a service engineer would have to visit our home to set the problem right.

Promises were made by Tata Sky to depute the engineer on the 7th of March. HRH The Queen of Kutch got a few tantalising phone calls from the service centre as well as an engineer. No one turned up on the 7th. A couple of calls to the Tata Sky help desk on the 8th, more promises more tantalising calls and no service engineer. Same story on the 9th. By this time the `complaint’ had been escalated, supervisors spoken to, complaint red flagged and so on. No service engineer. You must know this story. The saga repeated itself on the 10th.

Finally, at 1930 hrs or 7.30 pm on 10th March I sent this email to Harit Nagpal the Managing Director of Tata Sky.

Dear Mr Nagpal,

You can only imagine my frustration. I would not have written to you without grave provocation.

Briefly, we are unable to get the new channels 566, 568 etc.

From 7th March 2016 we have registered complaints.

We have been told that a service engineer would visit us on 8th, then 9th and now 10th March. No one has visited.

We have continually followed up. Just unfulfilled promises.

My wife has stayed home in the fond hope that an engineer will turn up.

The complaint is still unattended and unresolved.

Could you please intervene


At 1937 hrs, that is seven minutes after sending the email, yes folks you read correctly, seven minutes, I got a call from the Chairman’s office in Bangalore (i) apologising (ii) promising action (iii) requesting me to not make any more calls and that the matter would be resolved.

At 9 pm a service engineer turned up. He took a flashlight went in the dark to the antenna on the building terrace, readjusted the antenna, made a few tweaks in the settings on my set top box and lo and behold I was getting those 3 channels as well as numerous other Hindi channels.

I realised I was a fool getting my knickers in a twist. I should have written to Mr Nagpal in the first place.

This reminds me of another episode on similar lines. An aged uncle and aunt of HRH the Queen of Kutch had, for reasons best known to them, taken some sort of timeshare package with Mahindra Holidays. Then they wanted their money back. Boy were they given the round around by Mahindra Holidays. Then, they asked if I would help them by taking them to a lawyer who specialised in Consumer Court cases. Aaah, how innocent, idealist and trusting people are, believing that a lawyer would be able to help them. I told them to write to Arun Nanda the Chairman of Mahindra Holidays. They did, and guess what, they got their money back.

Staying with the Mahindra’s but Mahindra Financial this time, I had a largish Fixed Deposit with them which I wanted to prematurely encash. I was aware that I would lose some money and that was acceptable to me. Several phone calls but no the refund was stuck. A email to Mr Ravi V the Managing Director and Ms Arnawaz Pardiwala the Company Secretary and within a day the proceeds were credited to the account.

How many times have you heard in the recent past about complaints being made on Twitter and being addressed instantaneously?

I really do not want to get into the question of why no one can do their jobs unless humiliated or kicked.

Go Figure.