• Automatic transmissions have come of age in India. Those who previously sneered at the inefficient, lazy boxes are now considering buying them, thanks to a range of more dynamic automatic transmission options available in the small car segment.

    The Honda Brio has the reputation of being one of the best city cars. Now, Honda has made it even better with the introduction of an automatic transmission.

    Visually, you will hardly spot any difference between the automatic and manual Brios until you step inside the cabin. Apart from the automatic transmission gear stick and the gear indicators on the instrument panel, the interiors too remain pretty much the same.

    The automatic Brio is powered by the same engine, as its manual sibling. The 1.2 litre i-VTEC is a gem of an engine that gets better as it revs towards the redline. Mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, the engine ever-so-smoothly makes light work of urban commuting.

    The Brio gets a conventional five-speed automatic

    Read More »from Road Test and Review: Honda Brio Automatic
  • For most of us, Karnataka means the 'erstwhile garden city' of Bangalore, which has now been transformed into a concrete jungle. But beyond the city, there's a pristine, unexplored expanse of countryside spread over the profusely green Western Ghats. Honda's Drive to Discover programme explores such unexposed splendour of India while rediscovering the joys of driving a Honda car. So when Honda invited me to drive the Brio from Goa to Bangalore across the Ghats as part of the Drive to Discover event, I didn't think twice about joining them.

    My tryst with the Brio began with a ceremonial flag off at Coastal Honda in Goa. It was a rainy morning; the party capital still asleep, streets deserted, hymns from nearby churches wafting through the raindrops...what an ambiance to begin the drive!

    Since there was no predetermined route or timetable to stick to, we started sauntering along the coastal highways of Goa in two sticker-clad Honda Brios. As we crossed the Goan border, monsoon clouds

    Read More »from Discovering India, with the Honda Brio
  • Have you been following news on the Assam riots and the North East exodus from the rest of the country to Guwahati? Something seems to be happening, and the disappearance of your Nepali guard was strangely linked with violence in Mumbai. Similarly, the reappearance of the Mizo students next door is linked with refugees returning home from relief camps.

     Relief Camp at Kokrajhar, August 7. Photo : ABP, more at Kokrajhar, August 7. Photo : ABP, more at https://bengali.yahoo.com/Relief Camp at Kokrajhar, August 7. Photo : ABP, more at http://bengali.yahoo.com/

    Here's a snapshot view of events as they happened.

    • Widespread riots between Bodos and Bengali speaking Muslims broke out around July 20.
    • July 25. At least 36 people have been killed and 500 villages torched.
    • By July 30, the death toll had risen and close to 2,00,000 riot victims were living in relief camps.
    • Rumor regarding alleged attacks on North Eastern students in Pune and New Delhi spread in early August.
    • On August 12, protesters gathered in Mumbai's Azad Maidan (apparently students from one Raza Academy) attacked the police force, torched vehicles and damaged the Amar Jawan memorial. Two people were killed and an estimated 54 wounded,
    Read More »from HARD LIGHT : Snapshot View of the North East Issue
  • Story  1

    Mr. P has just arrived in Bangalore from Kanpur with a plum job as software developer. He starts house-hunting, and after checking out all kinds of accommodation from truly ugly to palatial, he finalises a one bedroom apartment. It's in a clean, green, quiet neighbourhood. After his small and congested home in Jajmou, it's quite a break. The apartment is in a mess, but Mr. P feels it's quite a deal at 14K per month. It's airy, has sunlight and overlooks a pretty road. The deposit is a bit steep, but he does not argue with the landlord.

    With the rental agreement in place, Mr. P starts renovating the flat. He installs cheap but handy window sliders with mosquito nets, replaces a few bathroom fittings. Fresh paint, light furniture and flowery upholstery complete it.

    Mr. P is happy with life. He works hard, and enjoys dinners in the apartment with his friends. His new girlfriend thinks it's 'a really cute place'. The landlord had never visited him again after riding away into the

    Read More »from SOFT LIGHT : Bangalore to Bodoland – Two Stories for You
  • 'North East', 'Assam', 'illegal immigrants'. Keywords that have been 'trending' well since early August. Every news report, article, op-ed is peppered with a group of familiar terms whenever the North East issue is being addressed. Of course, 'North East issue' itself is one of these vague, generalized and therefore safe terms.

    Like most content producers living off the web, I wanted to write about the situation in Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Chirang. It was a hot topic, after all. Stories, reports and photos of the relief camps looked suitably bleak. There were lots of sad children, weeping women and lost, scarred men.

    However, apart from Kokrajhar, capital of Bodoland and Dhubri, I was not familiar with the other names. So I set out to research a bit by looking up legal documents, archival news items and asking my friends in Guwahati about it. It seemed Bodos were forcing illegal Muslim immigrants to vacate their homes and flee to relief camps in a violent land-grabbing bid. In

    Read More »from HARD LIGHT : What We Refuse to Learn from Assam
  • SOFT LIGHT : Made in India

    I was in New Delhi when 'Paan Singh Tomar' was released. There was a multiplex at Nehru Place, and it was barely 15 minutes walk from where I was staying in Greater Kailash (GK 1). There was some technical disruption while running the movie, and a bearded young man, a thin boy, and some others were just as vocal in asking for a replay. Shouting at the theatre manager together created a sort of instant bond. Consequently, four people from the audience settled into Mc Donald's downstairs after the show was over. We talked about Paan Singh, sports, government neglect of sports, the beautiful landscape of Chambal, the link between geography and cultures, and then got into a massive debate on spiritual questions.

    None of us remember each others names, and we never met again. But we did have an interesting conversation, thanks to Paan Singh.

    As an Indian, it is difficult to decide what India is. Is it the first map we learned to draw in school? Is it supporting Indian cricketers? Hoisting

    Read More »from SOFT LIGHT : Made in India
  • You've probably heard that the Renault Scala is a rebadged Nissan Sunny. Yes, it is. The French carmaker hasn't had budget-busting development costs to roll out their fifth car in fifteen months as it's a Sunny in disguise. But hey, look again — although it looks familiar, Renault has thrown in some smart design cues to make it a unique product. Let's go into detail.


    Up front, the Renault Scala looks much better than the Sunny. The large hexagonal grille with chrome-plated bars and Fluence-inspired headlamps stay true to the 'lozenge' logo. The Sunny roots are more obvious in profile, however, the Scala gets trendy alloy wheels and chrome beading around the glasshouse. There's a decent amount of Renault-isation at the rear, too. The tail lights are of the same shape but have a different design. The white strips on the tail lights join a large chrome garnish across the boot lid. As we saw on the Duster, the name 'SCALA' is embossed on the chrome strip. Overall, Renault has done

    Read More »from Road Test and Review: Renault Scala
  • HARD LIGHT : A Letter To The Viceroy

    13 April, 1919, Amritsar. The venue was Jallianwala Bagh, a park enclosed by walls on three sides, with just one exit point via an obscure, narrow lane. A shootout was ordered by Brigadier General Reginald E. H. Dyer, who later on faced a tribunal and was removed from service. He had emptied all the ammunition  in ten minutes, firing 1,650 rounds (approximately), killing thousands who hardly figure in the 'official statistics' given out by the British Government or even the Indian National Congress.

    It was a Sunday. Some 15,000 — 20,000 people assembled at Jallianwala Bagh to celebrate Baisakhi Purnima. It's true that meetings had been banned in view of a probable insurgency, but a peaceful gathering (women, children and aged people included) couldn't have been a 'threat' for the well equipped Angrez Police.

    Rabindranath Tagore got to know the details by 22 May, 1919. The mass media kept mum and whatever reportage was given out was heavily 'censored' or distorted. Tagore had a tough

    Read More »from HARD LIGHT : A Letter To The Viceroy
  • SOFT LIGHT : The Garland, or the Noose

    Growing up in Kolkata, the golden voice of George (aka Debabrata) Biswas reverberating from the radio, haunted our sultry afternoons. It was rather amazing how he stayed on as a household name even after getting blacklisted by Visva Bharati — sole authorized holder of Tagore's copyrights then. "The advent of microphones saw an entire breed of singers becoming feeble crooners. George-da's sonorous rendering of Rabindrasangeet surely made a difference" observed Satyajit Ray, a distant relative of his. In short - Biswabharati disliked Biswas exactly for what he was — an effortless performer. But despite such hostility, the singer survived.

    Debabrata Biswas was born in what is Bangladesh now. That was in 1911, the fateful year. King George visited India, cancelled the partition of Bengal, following which Tagore composed his 'Jana Gana Mana'. This got young Biswas his nickname 'George', and it stuck for life. He was one of those who left the folds of the Communist Party of India out of

    Read More »from SOFT LIGHT : The Garland, or the Noose
  • Rarely does an auteur have the fortune of starting a century of controversy from the moment he creates a piece. As a phenomenon, Rabindranath Tagore is indeed rare. And the text in question is our national anthem, born infamous exactly 101 years ago.

    Not so long ago a hoax message made its rounds via chain mails and social networking sites. This was in 2008, 2010 and 2012. It claimed that UNESCO had declared Jana Gana Mana to be 'the best national anthem of the world'. In 2004, Sadhwi Ritamvara circulated a hate audio cassette against Muslims, where she claims the song was an act of treachery. Hate mails and heated responses have done the rounds every year since 2001. In the late 1960's, 1980's, each time India went to war, each time a new government formed — there has been a furor over the origin of the song.

    The Morning Song of IndiaThe Morning Song of India : in Tagore's Handwriting

    The Morning Song of India 2The Morning Song of India : in Tagore's Handwriting

    Jana gana mana adhinayaka jaya hey,

    Bharata bhagya bidhata….

    Critics, journalists, poets, politicians, and just about everyone has wondered who this 'adhinayak' could be. The

    Read More »from HARD LIGHT : Jana Gana Mana… ‘Adhinayaka’ ?


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