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Jon Stewart

Home

I sit in the same corner table, looking through the glass of Heathrow. Staring in smug contentment as aircrafts land and take off. People going and coming home with a sort of wistful energy that a wasp with a loud buzz would convey.

Two empty cups sit in the table in front of me. One I had nursed and the other, she had held. The coffee is gone but the conversations remain. She is gone too. The ruffled fabric of the cushion on the chair, the only other trace she has left behind. ‘So, how many days have you been away from home?’, she had asked a while ago. Her first question. I am still at the first question.

‘Two weeks’, I had said.

‘I mean HOME’. She had emphasised. With an emphasis that a stern teacher would reserve for the slowest student.

She wasn’t talking of where I lived now. She was talking of where we had lived earlier. Where we went to school together.

With the careless ease of slipping into the favourite shirt that got tucked beneath several layers or new purchases, we had dived in. Deep conversation abounded leaving me with abundant joy to think and talk of the easy times when innocence was still our skin. Now, she is gone. Her flight was on time and mine has ‘delay’ written in the air. The empty cups are on the table and the conversation runs in my mind.

So what is home? I ask myself. Still with the first question she popped. My mind darts in many directions. I watch one aircraft take off and my mind follows my eye.

It is but natural to think of HOME as a physical structure. The one that gets built with steel rods, bricks, mortar and paint. From time immemorial the need for people to add structure and territory to safety has existed. The cave men sought out caves for psychological safety as much for physical sanctuary. Over generations, the building of a home has morphed into a ‘life purpose’! It still is, for large parts of India.

I remember what it took to build our home. My dad ran to the architect and then made a dash to the bank. He worked insane long hard hours, to get the structure up. Mom kept the family together while he was at it. Me and my brother watched from the sidelines sometimes lifting a pipe or moving a brick. It was the quintessential man on the moon moment for him when he did build it. We called it HOME. He thought we would live in it forever. But it turned out quite otherwise.

As our age of making our own living arrived so did jobs. We nurtured new dreams of living under bright lights and bustle that big metros invitingly held out. Upon their urging me and my brother flew the nest while dad and mom stayed on. Since then, we have made homes our of mere houses and raised our families in different cities but we can say for sure, that we can never ‘outgrow’ the HOME that dad built. We were, and we are, wedded to the place mentally.

But now, our dear HOME that dad built will tell a curious visitor the tale of poverty of residents and the plentiful silence its privy to. The occasional hosting of the grandchildren, giving the arc of effort in its construction some angular (and only) redemption. But perhaps the building isn’t privy to how often I visit it. To take the memory route to get there, just takes a closing of the eye. Sometimes, that isn’t required either, when you could reach there with wide open eyes and easy ears.

My memories of HOME come alive when I recall conversations. Some hard fights, tender moments, the spanking that we got when we lied, the company of good books, lazy gawking and good coffee. Of course, good coffee! Memories bring the HOME alive. A sanctuary of care and love whose walls come coated with familiarity and ease. Where even the pillars seem to understand us well and the floors take to the careless toss of a well-worn shirt with a muted grin.

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Memories sparkle and rush out like pieces of iron sighting a big magnet. If a home is this accessible, is it a building in a particular place or is it an ‘idea’? To a migrant like me, memories of the place are as sacred as the place in itself. Long after the people moved on and the blue sky turned gray, the twinkle in HOME’s night sky comes from the glow memory offers.

Somedays, sitting in the new home, a memory begets sighs. A longing for what it was and how it would be to go back there. The famous lines from Garden State that my good friend Manu put into my head several years ago come alive

“You’ll see one day when you move out it just sort of happens one day and it’s gone.

You feel like you can never get it back. It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist. Maybe it’s like this rite of passage, you know.

You won’t ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something.

I don’t know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place”.

HOME gives us renewal. But home can also dull us into inaction. With its familiarity and comfort. It does a few things to us. It makes us take to it and our lives thereon with a certain air of settled certainty.

Thoreau‘s brilliant thoughts on ‘living deliberately’ can bring a thought or two. We need seek out the unfamiliar and make new homes. For it is in the balance between the ‘wild’ and ‘cautious’ that new bearings must get taken. These often lead us to tearing down old ideas, learning anew and building new ones. Not only are homes built on the ground around us, but also what we structure our minds with. Perhaps, that makes all the difference.

A few days ago, I had a conversation with my brother. About home. Our HOME. We were sitting in a foreign land and talking. We are both migrants with stickers and seals in our passports that ease our entries and exits from places we now call ‘home’. We are migrants too, of a luckier kind. Our migrations forcing upon us a need to reinvent ourselves, renew our relationships and take new bearing. That it hasn’t been easy, is a story that will remain silent. But what retains eloquence is the idea that the HOME that dad built, remains our personal centre of reference.

It connects us back, I realise, not only to what dad and mom put into the building but what they put into us. While the building gave a dimension of physical space and comfort, the real giving was in the treasure trove of moments they have left in us to cherish. It is ironical that building stands in silence, for it has got us sing new songs in faraway lands.

The home’s essence lies in what we put inside it. The care with which we load its beams with strength walls with colour tell stories about the hopes we have for our future. Our children’s future comes from the moments we fill their lives with. The time that we take to talk to them and be with them. It constructs a sense of identity and gives us an inner resilience to build all over again with a sense of imagination and hope. Hopes from which new homes and new futures can get created.

Hopes that can cause us to honour this space with the title of HOME!

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I continue gazing through the glass window of Heathrow. Another flight lands and taxis away. So there, if you aks me ‘so where’s home’, I have this blogpost as an answer for you.

How wonderful would it be to sit down and go on a long memory ride to hear your stories of pillars, beams, lessons and moments.  I will buy you a coffee and spend a few hours with an inviting ear and a careful presence. Perhaps you will open to me, the grooves of your memory lines and the tenor of your dreams. And through the images of your HOME, I will see a little bit of your soul.

When even a bit of the soul is worn on the sleeve, dots connect and new skies become visible for everyone around. Of course, new skies make old clouds irrelevant.

Coffee anyone?

Written after viewing TATA Tiscon steel bars being made at the TATA Steel plant in Jamshedpur as part of the #buildingblogsofjoy campaign. Arresting sights & sounds of iron ore morphing into steel rods and some smelting conversations with people who exquisitely choreograph this, makes me think of HOME. What it takes to build a house and the stuff that makes it a HOME.   Part of a blogger group, put together by www.blogadda.com. Do read the posts from others for a different take. They are listed here. Vivek Patwardhan, Lakshmi Sharath, Shruti Garodia, Shoma Abhyankar, Vamshi Krishna,  Sammya Brata

Spinning the wheel – My reflections on blogging

A couple of years ago, I stood in Kathmandu’s famous Swayambunath temple. I stood transfixed, besotted by all it offered. Of particular interest was a stellar set of prayer wheels. They were exquisite and seemed to offer something deeper and more joyful than what was apparent.

I watched in quiet awe as people came by to spin the wheel, reciting something quick and muted. The older folk turned it with gentle ease and with a ready rhythm backed by an effortless flow. I stood there for a long time. Taken by the magic of it all.

There is a reason why I think of that now.

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A few days ago, I was in Kolkata interacting with some bloggers there. Friends at Blogadda were hosting a meeting and I was passing by and happening to have to time at hand. It was delectable. Both the conversation and the consequent thoughts that it has sparked off. I shared some of my views there and the kind folks there were kind enough to stay put and listen. Some of them reached out to stay connected after the event! Which left me smiling.

Ever since, ‘blogging’ has been on my mind, wondering if I could have been more pointed and coherent.

For, to me blogs are special. They offer the scale and opportunity to thoughts and expressions. Blogging has had a profound impact on my life. So much so, that I could go out on a limb and proclaim that it aided in changing the course of my life.

Here are some reflections on my journey of blogging. Five points. Not much I think. Top five, if you will.

1. Blogging is a craft. People excel in a craft because they love a craft. Awesome bloggers that I know, publish content because they love doing so. While their voice and points of view get heard, it is a relentless discipline at getting better at it, that rests beneath. They treat blogging with respect and intensity. A certain sense of joy and deep value that passionate practitioners of any craft can relate to.

2. Getting the basics right is such an important facet of any picking up a craft. The basics of blogging, in my opinion, revolve around creating good content and finding a way of reaching it to people. Now, ‘good content’ in itself lends itself well to a long conversation. But the idea is this: Content is key. Statistics on the number of hits, where the hits come from, at what time they come etc are incidental. Focusing on getting better at putting the message across makes a substantial difference. You become a great batsman by watching the ball and spending time at the nets. Not by staring at the scoreboard.

3. Participating and building community conversations matter. Making friends via blogs is a natural consequence. The bounty of friends that I have made just because my blogs have been around for a while is a true bounty. Perhaps bounty with a capital B! Blogging is about people and conversation.

I have enjoyed growing with a set of bloggers. Going far beyond knowing them through their blogs and being present when they turned a new page. Grooved by passion and polished by time, this intimacy has evolved beyond the URL. A blessing that is so rich, that it stays outside my limited capabilities of describing it.

4. Responses to posts and ideas over all these years have varied. Swinging from idolatry to the downright dismissive, teaching me a thing or two in the process. The famous lines from Kipling’s ‘If’ has much mindshare now:

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…”

To be equanimous to comments and responses after I hit ‘Publish’ has been one huge piece of learning. Blogging lends itself well to comments and staying calm help.

People who read a blog in the initial years happen to be friends and relatives. People who are generally of the kind kind. A heap of good comments can show up every time you published. I learnt it the hard way, that it’s so easy to get swayed by it. I have one piece of advice: Don’t! Keep working on the craft. If you are into writing, do read this book by Stephen King.

5. After you have put down Stephen King, do make it a point to read other people’s blogs. The better ones. The getting better ones. The ones that you disagree with. The ones with a point of view. The ones with a flourish in language. Whatever. Do read.

For reading helps in finding inspiration and establishing a connection. These connections and inspirations span generations and geography. But present an interweave that goes beyond the obvious. And in a good way, will lead you to stay curious. In the present day templatised world, staying curious can sometimes make all the difference!

So there, those are my top five reflections on blogging.

Now, back to the prayer wheel.

The prayer wheel is profound at many levels, as I discovered. The prayer wheel is spun with a meditative stance. You stay focused and get better at it. There are several beliefs and practices that surround Prayer Wheels. There is one that hugs my mind, though. The Tibetan tradition has a practice ‘of dedicating any accumulated merits that one may have gathered during practice to the benefits of all sentient beings‘.

That to me is at the centre of it all.

To share a point of view, with love and a degree of compassion is an opportunity that is available to everyone with a blog. The choices, of course, are ours to make.

The Pongal Magic

 

The birth of the Tamil month of ‘Thai’ occupies a special significance in my heart. For a farmer, ‘Thai’ is the tenth month in the Tamil calendar.  The arrival of ‘Thai’ is celebrated with colour, splendour, nature, gratitude and of course, good food : Pongal, we call it.  For a long while now, Pongal festivities in urban areas have been relegated to a fun bonfire, a fancy ghee dripping Pongal (the dish) and a lazy time in front of the TV.

The festival, though, has a lineage of several thousand years and the least every succeeding generation did was to mark it on the calendar. Which is fantastic. Needless to say, they celebrated in accordance of the times they lived in and added a layer of flavour.

As a kid, I recall running with a carefree energy, in farmlands of a distant dusty village cluster near Madurai in Tamil Nadu on the day of Pongal. Careful not to trample on the colourful ‘Kolams’ that dotted every doorway. Running to see garlanded cows and goats with a fresh coat of paint donning their horns.  Jostling to get a better glimpse of events at the village centre, atop the shoulders of uncles and cousins.  A uniquely rural Indian moment, if you will. Replete with painted horns matched in their colour by glaring ribbons, and blaring megaphones.  Shy women stood at the doorway of quaint houses and watched drunken men, cows, and kids like us traipse by.  The world seemed to have a spring in its step.

That is my memory of Pongal. There was magic in the air. The Pongal magic.

For long, I believed that it was ‘Thai’ that did it. For it heralded new beginnings. It meant that there was a shift in the seasons. The seeds that were sown months ago and nurtured over several months had morphed into something else. Grain. Food. It was time for a harvest. It was time for abundance.

To date, on Pongal day, a traditional Tamil rural household converges outside of their homes under the benign grandeur of the Sun God and cook. Boiling the milk and adding freshly harvested rice, even as it overflows, to signify gratitude and abundance. Or at least, that’s the story I have experienced.

‘Thai Piranthaal Vazhi Pirakkum’ they say. ‘When the month of Thai arrives, opportunities arrive’ is a loose translation.

The urbanisation of our lifestyles has drifted away from the rhythms of its rural origins. Retaining the ritual and missing the flavour. Yet, the spirit of the festival permeates the mid-January air.

Sometimes, that’s all that matter.

Here’s to a super Pongal. May there be new vistas for health, happiness and fulfilment in all our lives.  And even as they knock on our doors, may we have the prescience to hear the knock and open the doors of our soul.

May we live!

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Rain

When it rains, it pours. I sit and watch the rain rail against the window sill. Many years ago, when Facebook was nascent (and seems like the world was a better place) – a different profile picture greeted you on my Facebook timeline. It was this picture.

 

Rain

 

I recall the clicking of this picture. The beauty of the moment stood tall in solemn elegance. That which had just jumped off the cloud, had flirted with the railing for a brief trickle of a second, was poised to leap and flow into another moment. It got me to smile.  That it was going to jump off was sure to happen. Yet there was a small swirl of energy to the moment. The moment when imminent change that was expected just about arrives, there is a certain magic in the dramatic poise. If you care to notice it, that is.

To me, this droplet of rain, held an entire monsoon together.

My dad lived in an era where there were no special days called ‘Fathers Day’.  He wouldn’t give a damn and urge us to think of ‘meaning’. Thinking of him today seems natural, when rain strikes. For several years he had a giant poster in the dining room. It said, “A single rose can be my garden”.

That was many seasons ago. Much rain has kissed the Earth since then. Facebook has since grown. Many new people came into it suddenly adding relevance to several lives. Many left. Because of the very reason that many ‘new’ others were in. The rains, though,  have been keeping their seasonal regularity with this part of the country. I have looked forward to their arrival like a child for the customary goodie from a visiting uncle. The rains have helped keep stock of the passing years, like nothing else. The most physical of the changes to seasons in this part of the world.

I write this, sipping freshly made filter coffee and staring into the Sunday evening that is fast giving way to the night before Monday morning. Monsoon clouds have enveloped the Sun and make the intense rays of summer a distant memory, and bringing smiles to a parched population. This monsoon will be intense. I think so. I hope so.

Last July, I was in Goa driving in the rain along with some wonderful folks.  When a sudden shower got the wipers on the windshield of a new car, work hard.  This picture resulted.

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For a long while I stared at this picture and realised that this picture held me tight. The new me. Whatever happened to the single drop, I ask myself? Nothing. Actually nothing. The beauty and poise of the single drop will always remain and stay close to me. The energy of a dash of drops moves me beyond the past.

As the coffee runs dry on the tumbler, I reach out to my camera. Wondering what new images my camera will capture.  Sometimes the pictures within you come alive in the words that sprout off the keyboard or the images that the camera captures.

And rain, oh rain. I have a song playing in the background. It goes like this.

Here comes the rain again
Falling on my head like a memory
Falling on my head like a new emotion
I want to walk in the open wind
I want to talk like lovers do
I want to dive into your ocean
Is it raining with you

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A fresh sprouting of a rose catches my eye as much as it catches a bit of rain. The rain dances on the petal. The soul feels refreshed and there seems to be a colourful renewal. The rain does that to you. New hopes sprout. In a while, I peer at the images on my desktop screen wondering if I did justice to the rain. Or to the rose for that matter. A moment later I think about the new hopes and renewal.  The rain has that effect. Always.

Myriad hues of monochrome moments

Its the ‘wee hours’. As they call it. I sit still staring emptily into my computer screen. A side glance brings alive the dark sky that lies beyond the open window. The chill breeze and the lone star in the dark sky that seems to twinkle its way to attention, without much fuss.

The desktop screen has a to-do list with a heap of items that when described as ‘turn-off’s, would struggle to convey the depth of the emotion associated with it. I struggle. My eye catches a piece of paper held aloft by a butterfly magnet. The daughter loves butterflies. And magnets. That two disjoint pieces can suddenly cling on to each other fascinates her. It still does fascinate me.

Run Over

The Sun makes his preparations to shine a new light into the dark night. I continue to look at this piece of paper. A weak smile emerges thinking of the daughter. I tear my eye from the butterfly and double click on the minimised calendar. The computer obeys with a precision that I wish, was bestowed on my will to take on the to-do list.

“February”. Screams the calendar. Its the most silent scream I have heard in a while. January has been consumed by a relentless march of every day. One full month seems to have sneaked out. Tirelessly consumed by trifles, while starting with a promises and possibilities bordering on the momentous. Sometimes I feel its still the first of Jan. Of 2014! My mom says the last fifty years of her life have rushed off in this manner. Sometimes when memory of another moment from another time and circumstance visit me, I wonder whatever happened to the intervening years. The comfort in continuity, washing way any guilt that a possible stagnation can fester.

The monotonous clang of every passing moment speeds off with what seems to be a desperate lunge of an athlete who hedged his life on winning the Olympic Gold! The star on the horizon seems to flicker as though wanting to tell me something. I stare at the flicker and see a raw beauty in it. A colour and sparkle that is so brilliant, against the backdrop of what seems to be a hesitant dawn.

I pick up a pen and write. As is wont, when the urge to say something to myself is immediate. Every passing monochrome moment has a colour to it. In fact every moment has colour. It isn’t the moment’s fault if a monochrome lens envelops the eye. I write, ‘ Myriad hues of monochrome moments ‘.

I think of something I stumbled into sometime back.  “This is Water” said its title. Do give it a read. Below is an excerpt of the full piece on video. Pretty good, I must say. Here is the full speech. Perhaps it would provide you with insights beyond what emerged for me. Maybe we should talk.

I look into the night sky, which seems to seamlessly give way to light. Without a fight. The bright brilliance of the star on the horizon seems to have taken a different hue, settling behind the haze. I notice the time again. The date sneaks out from behind the curtain.

I get to work on the to-do list.

February will fly. Besides it has only 28 days.

Goan Zest

Buffaloes

”Ouuccchhhhh’.

Her scream from inside the car on any other day would have caused a scarecrow three miles away to jump in fear. Or so it seemed to me. I was at the wheel of a TATA Zest.

Its was a small road. A cowherd and his set of buffaloes were walking towards us, on our lane. I had steered the car to stay a safe distance away from the buffaloes. As we crosses them, one buffalo, on a whim moved to the centre of the road and swung his tail to hit the rear view mirror on the left. A couple of feet from where Nandita is sitting.  The sound was deceptively deafening. No collateral damage to the car. The last I saw the buffalo, there seemed to be none there either.

I could have sworn the bloody thing was premeditated. For as we passed the cowherd, his more than mischievous smile was on ineffable display. Nandita, fresh from the scream, expressed some rather pleasant thoughts she had for the cowherd and his buffalo. I spotted the cowherd’s trudge on the rear view mirror. He seemed to be on a song, while I was shaken.

The three of us, Nandita, Neha were the trio that was testing out the TATA Zest. Some more context and details are here.  This is my second and final post that I had promised. A review of a car(or for that matter, any product) on the blog, is something that I have never done and I barely have knowledge of automobiles as a nursery kid would have of the constitution. Or any other fat book, for that matter.  Earlier today, I asked myself how I wanted this blogpost to read. I wrote ‘precise, honest and flowing’. And then, I don’t know what got me to write ‘Clarkson’.

Car reviews with a soul, bring the visage of Jeremy Clarkson to my mind. None else. .

For several years, Top Gear was my favourite program on BBC. On all of TV, for that matter. Jeremy Clarkson James May and Richard Hammond, held attention in a rather unbridled sort of a way that escaped adjectives. Gripping drama and dripping quaint British humour, they had me tune in regularly. Clarkson was irreverent and had a deep resourcefulness to source a capacious assortment of adjectives. I write in past tense, for I dont watch much TV these days. But am sure (and I hear) they continue to be their usual selves to date. Every other auto show host since then, has looked like someone still recovering from a very intense combination of jaundice and constipation. As the buffalo swung his tail to catch the rear view mirror, that was my Jeremy Clarkson moment. My gripping drama. That was that.

Let me for a minute talk of P.Chidambaram. Now, Jeremy Clarkson and P.Chidambaram sitting on adjacent paragraphs must be enough for you to call an ambulance to ferry me to an asylum. No, all is well. Thank you. I have a reason to bring P.Chidambaram into the picture.

Who would believe if I told you that PC and his babus spawned an entirely new ‘genre’ of cars?  From my preliminary reading, they do seem to have worked on it and I am open to standing corrected here.  Well, as finance minister in 2006, he announced an 8% reduction in any car less than 4 meters in length for cars housing a 1.2L petrol or a 1.4 L diesel. He didn’t care to add, if the car could have a boot or otherwise. They just had to be less than 4 meters. An entire class of cars arrived : trimmed down versions of a hatchback with an appended boot as an afterthought that had no way of concealing how pronounced afterthought appeared! If there was a lousier evidence of mass production of ‘cut & paste’ technology, hmm, well, well..I am not sure how I should end that sentence.

The TATA Indigo was the first amongst a set of ugly, ‘cut and paste’ cars. If that was the worst one could have imagine seeing, Maruti Suzuki came up with Swift Dzire. An even more bizarre appendage of a boot to a wonderful car called Swift. One of the greatest ironies was to call this ‘cut & paste’ assortment of metal, ‘Dzire’!

A buffalo. Jeremy Clarkson. P.Chidambaram.  Hmm. What an assorted spray paint of a start to what was supposed to be a precise review. Sigh. Ok. Quick, let me add some zest!

First off, the TATA Zest is different. When designers sat on the table, their brief was to build this as a sub 4 meter car. It is not a ‘cut & paste’ car and It shows. The lines are bold and it has a rather ‘wanting to move forward’ kind of agile look. Maybe thats what pissed the sedentary buffallo and its wayward ways.

The car handled like a charm taking to the small roads of Goa almost with a familiar shrug of the shoulder. The Zest provides ample leg room with élan that clearly makes it inviting. Especially so for Indian families and their small extended ties. Of course, we know how small our extended ties are!

Now, let me get some petty things off my mind. Stuff thats been humming in there. Like a rattling fan. First off, the petrol engine. Wonder why they call it 3-in-1. Its an automobile engine. Not a dishwashing liquid.  ‘Three engines in one’ as a primary brand proposition requires a large dose of courage and a generous degree of audacity. Or so I think. Although am sure there must be reams of research to back it up. But then, thats that. Second, the engine operates in three modes to operate which TATA Motors have chosen to call : ‘City’. ‘Eco’ and ‘Sport’. Wonder if any one else thought of the Honda City and the Ford Ecosport, every time the three modes were spoken of! Maybe its just me and my cynical ways.  Sorry.

Nevertheless the engine did well and everyone said ‘peppy’. If you expect that car to turn into some kind of a ‘Batmobile’ at the press of a button as you move from ‘city’ mode to ‘sport’ mode, well, you will end up a poor sucker like me. So much for marketing.  Truth be told, overall the car handles well, for its class.

Goan cyclist

We clicked a few pictures shifted speed, accelerated, paused, stopped and got a few locals on the road driven to their wits end, as we tested out the horn. It seemed that the horn was placed by a campaigner against ‘noise pollution’. To get it going required the full supply of calories from a heavy breakfast. All the same, it was good for verdant Goa. Goa is a place where life happens in slow motion. Even rain seemed to be taking its time. People have a relaxed tonality to life that will inject you with allure or paralyse you in silly awe.

If you met the great Achilles himself and asked him to point towards the better example of his much famed heel, he could well point in the direction of Service standards of TATA Motors.  The TATA folks tell me, that story is changing. And that they have moved from 13th place to 7th on the JD Power rankings for service. Hopefully, that translates to something useful and differentiating.  I stay stubbornly hopeful that the new thinking of being a ‘design lead’ thinking versus being a ‘engineering lead’ company will take the car and the company a good distance.

The moment you switch topics and talk about the diesel car and the Automated Manual Transmission, you will catch me smiling far more.  In the middle of a rather fetching highway after manoeuvring to a position where no vehicle was in sight and after checking with the ladies if they had their seat belts on, I put some speed to the dial of the diesel Zest. It responded like a famished lion that spotted prey. It didn’t quite feel like diesel, had brilliant auto transmission and the noise reduction inside the cabin was near perfect.

More buffaloes dotted the greenery of Goan fields besides the highway. I stayed careful. Neha and Nandita took to the wheel with a matter-of-fact ease that didn’t surprise the car as much as it surprised them, I would think. T