Archive for March, 2012

Vorsprung durch Technik – Making an Audi India proof

March 28, 2012

Interview in the Goan Herald newspaper today, where the head of Audi in India explained how they were forced to adapt their cars for the Indian market.

Step one – need a new horn. Indian drivers use their horns more in a week than Germans do in a year, and fitting the standard European horn meant it wore out in a couple of weeks and was not suitably loud. So a new super strengthened, louder animal was required.

Step two – there is the little matter of chauffeur-driven cars. As many Indians have drivers, it was necessary to put more controls ‘in the back seat’. We assume he meant distractions such as air conditioning, CD player, radio etc, satnav, electric window switches and other playthings as opposed to bare necessities; steering wheel, brakes, clutch and gear lever.

Unfortunately he didn’t mention whether they had made other changes. Have they altered the ride height to cope with India’s mountainous speed breakers and cavernous pot holes? Have they done away with indicators, rear view mirrors, speedometers and engine warning lights, because Indian drivers generally don’t use them? Do Audis in India still have a dip switch on the headlights (in India headlights are usually full beam or off)? We wonders, we wonders.


Seasonal change

March 23, 2012

The change in was noticeable a few days ago when the temperature started to rise and stay risen. Our back garden, in reality a neglected irregular shaped plot, showed signs of leaf drop and drying out; no rain for four months. But some of the greenery hangs on in there and the trees start to flower, butterflies come in increasing numbers, winter-silent birds emerge.
It’s a peaceful escape to take a few minutes to break from household chores and dealing with business and just look closely. Today, for instance. A black-shouldered kite was watching me intently from a branch 10ft away. He looks much more like a hawk than a kite and very pale. A full minute passed while we gazed at each other and when he’d had enough he just ghosted off. The red-eyed, noisy Koels still exchange their crescendo of calls, allowing the occasional glimpse. The clumsy, glossy, long-tailed coucal shows himself as he stalks on the ground and in the trees for grubs. Both the latter are cuckoos the former parasitic and the latter non-parasitic. Tree squirrels are noisy and colourful small birds are in the garden for the flower nectar.The kingfisher, halcyon-smyrnensis, darts around shrieking as he captures a lizard.

Halcyon Smyrnensis

Election result

March 22, 2012

Not a bad result for Goa. Congress which has been the in-charge for 5 years and generally hog-tied because of the alliances it has had to make to stay in power has been thrashed out of office. The BJP, which has moderated its communal aspect, has scored enough to form a government without having to make dodgy alliances. Well, that said, they had to make some alliances with some doubtfuls before the election.

One of the family empires got a severe mauling all four members booted out of their constituencies.The constituents had had enough of the corruption. Another smaller family empire got routed and the other two managed to hang on in there by forking out fortunes to their constituents. The ex- Chief Minister got re-elected but he didn’t allow anyone of substance to stand against him Margao. Still can’t work out whether he is a good guy or a bad boy.
So all in all good for Goa, but we don’t expect to see much change in the near future and we hope that the stabilising period doesn’t last for more than nine months before they start getting things fixed.

(Again the above blog is a month in arrears)

We read today that the popular greenish Tourism Minister inconsiderately died on Wednesday. No speculation as to his replacement in the press as they appear more interested in eulogising the fellow. Just hope that at the by-election a BJP candidate gets in.

Election update

March 22, 2012

So after five years of blatant political corruption and a very dirty campaign, we await the outcome of this Goan election. After ten dry days (pubs, bars, off licenses etc under strict police control, except those the politicos want to use) the voters have done their business whilst being granted a public holiday. There’s been a very high turnout this year, without much in the way of violent outbreaks.
Will they have voted in the big four family MLAs or gone for less corrupt independents. Reports tell us that some big names are clearly rattled. We have a sneaking suspicion and fervent hope that a few of the latter will get the boot. If so, and we end up with a mish mash of parties, it may be impossible to form a government and we will have a period of President’s Rule and then another election to clear any remaining no-goods.
(This blog is at least a month passed its sell by date)

Villager stoned to death.

March 22, 2012

‘Gaondongrim local stoned to death.’

It should be headlines in the media but here in Goa, the size of Cornwall, the ‘incident’ merits the same level of attention as ‘Locals teach tattoo parlour owner a lesson on waste’.The culprit was forced to clear all the garbage from where he dumped his. And ‘Navelim farmers protest construction of concrete wall.’ (A small gathering upset by the result of zero application of planning laws.)

Surely a human being being stoned to death merits more media attention than this? We do wonder about values here sometimes.

A Somali stoning

A frustrating day… except the eagles

March 20, 2012

Martin is still managing to get ripped off. This morning it was at a filling station. His usual station had run out of fuel. Reason for ripoff:failure of attendant to reset the counter to zero; despite Martin immediately pointing this out, he was told that the previous customer’s bill was Rs200/- and would be deducted. It was only later that Martin realised the bill was Rs300/-. He blessed the money anyway, the pump attendant needed it more than Martin.But it still niggles.
Next up the phone bill. Our provider had failed to send out a large number of bills last month and ours remained unpaid. A rare phone call on our landline was an automated message saying we’d be cut off if the bill wasn’t paid within two days. No problem, we pay it online. But, when we made the attempt the message came up that we couldn’t because the pay-by date had passed! Only in India. So,go the the offices to join the line and pay. No good, as there were about 300 people all trying to do the same thing. So back in the early afternoon. Good! Only ten people in queue. Hold on, they’ve all got cheques. Forgot that it’s cash in the morning and cheques in the afternoon. Back home, write cheque, return to offices, queues 15 long.
In between trying to pay the phone bill, I managed to arrange a meeting with our company secretary in Panjim, one hour up the road. Not necessary to see him as the matter could be done on the phone or by email, would be in the UK, but no!, nearly everything in India has to be done face-to-face,particularly if there’s conflict, which there is on this matter. On arrival Martin is told that he’s gone out and won’t return till the afternoon. A short, irate phone call ensues. Matter partially resolved.
Next up a special appointment for a new patient, already re-arranged twice. Guess what? No show.
But the eagles put on a good show. A pair of tawnies has arrived at the college and set up home. They look down on us imperiously and put on superb flying displays. Made Martin’s day.

Puppy jumper

March 17, 2012

He’s on his feet reasonably well now, but the sole survivor of a litter in the wasteland behind us has caused us some trouble. As his siblings died off, the dam was able to supply him with more than enough milk. Hence he grew fast and big, but too fast for his legs to hold him. He was weak, too. Infested with fleas and living next to a pile of cement dust thrown over the wall following some building work at our neighbours block, was the cause of the weakness, we guess.
One night we were disturbed by his feeble but persistent whimpering. He’d fallen about ten feet off the wall into the neighbour’s yard. The dam eventually collected him. Two nights later, the same apart from the dam not being able to collect as the other dog’s wouldn’t let her on their territory. Cue Martin. It’s 2.00am. Martin thinks ‘Why isn’t the guard stationed outside our building sorting it out?’ The guard is sound asleep and only woken when Martin prods him.
They go round to the yard, Martin goes to pick the little fellow up. The guard feels that is his duty to the job, gingerly picks him up with his fingers and rapidly lobs him back over the wall. Martin will not involve him on the next rescue three rescue expeditions.

Madam is Ambi 4000

March 17, 2012

 Aswe have a white skin we are often assailed by taxi drivers as we walk around town, not so much in Margao now, we are familiar faces. It used to be a nuisance and the approach always felt  a little aggressive. Not anymore, as we often don’t acknowledge the approach and this without feeling rude.

Alison was walking in Panjim and accosted by a driver. His mates immediately admonished him with the words, ‘Not this one. Madam is Ambi 4000.’

To travel to Panjim for her Monday clinic she uses our tame taxi driver, Prakash. His normal run is more like a bus service and he crams as many people in as possible (up to nine) and ferries them between Margao and Colva, about 6 kilometers.His car? An ancient battered black and yellow Ambassador, affectionately known as an Ambi. Registration number? 4000.

Motoring update

March 17, 2012

At the Royal Enfield, very modern showrooms, I was trying to buy a throttle cable. It had broken earlier in the day. 15 minutes late opening, three people to locate the throttle cables (a very common failing on Enfield bikes) and then not able to supply the correct one for Hari Enfield. Never mind, I fiddled and fitted it and it works.
The partial engine rebuild has worked very well; improved pulling power and higher speed probably 70 mph tops, but speedometer has never worked due to no standard front forks, so I don’t know. But the irritating clattering continues unabated making Hari sound like like a bag of nails, at least from the rider’s position. Not so bad for pillion or pedestrians, apparently. So he’s back after another week away while a fourth specialist mechanic has had another go. Better for the first 5ks, but the clatter is returning.

Appalling driving continues to worsen as do the deteriorating roads. New vehicles are selling like hot cakes, but no new roads or parking provision for them. The police still do not, cannot or will not enforce even the most flagrant lawbreakers. The most recent horror story is of a bus rolling down a ferry slipway into the river resulting in six deaths. Reports tell us the conductor was driving. The government cancelled the Goa Carnival which is enjoyed every year by thousands of tourists and locals. This current government is in for a hiding at the upcoming elections and they hope for a sympathy vote by cancelling the carnival. That’ll backfire.
In Delhi, a young businessman managed to kill himself in a high speed Lamborghini crash, door ripped off, no seat belt.


March 17, 2012

Shopper. Clear buttons like this,please. Response. Sorrowful headshake. No clear buttons in stock. Pause. But we have these, while producing a box of near identical.
Iqubal’s superstore. Smart glass doors with instruction to pull, but there’s no handle.
Tata Indicom Rs 1,000 refund due since Oct 2011, only one staff and usually not less than ten patient queuers; 6 visits so far.
Computer repair. Problem intermittent shut down, last visit 18 months ago resulted in complete success, five minutes and no charge; problem resolved by removing accumulation if Indian detritus and preventing overheating. This visit, for similar problem , resulted in ‘Not possible, no problem’, no charge and no repair after four days away. We decided that we’d do the job ourselves…. 30 minutes of research, five minutes with screwdriver and brush, problem solved.
250 grams of Yoghurt from local store, spoon out of refrigerated box, normally no problem, but today unwilling to serve less than a kilo. A few minutes of discussion and storekeeper condescended to sell a half kilo.
Parikh’s Popcorn occasionally available at a suoermarket store; when in stock we’ll buy three months supply. Been unavailable for six weeks now; latest reason is because the company has been on strike in Delhi. Other Parikh’s pulses and grains seem to be replenished on a regular basis, though.
Virginkar’s shops sell assorted household supplies. Trying to get toilet cistern spares. Locate correct shop, make mistake of asking for plumbing spares and specifying rather than showing, get re-directed to their shop at the other end of the street. There on producing the items’No sir, go to shop at other end of street’. Trudge back through the dust, the heat and the fumes and try again. Greeted with a big smile and handed over to a ninety year old assistsant. He guides us to ancient wooden bins, goes from one end to another delving into unlabelled plastic bags, returns to the first bin and produces what looks to be about the right item. Of course, when trying to fit it twenty minutes later…it’s not the right size. Back to square one.