Why I Struggle To Join The Electric Car Wave

I first heard of Tesla back in 2008. Electric Vehicles (EVs) were yet to become commonplace like they are today. But Tesla was fascinating to me personally, as a tech lover, and the fact that EVs could look cool. The EVs I had seen till then honestly looked like funny little toy cars.

Of course, I never thought about owning an electric car back then, though I did think if I ever made the switch, it would be to a Tesla. Since it was a dream, affordability didn’t even enter the picture.

A decade later, when we are talking about EVs, global warming, pollution etc, EVs become an important part of our lifestyle. Or they should. Unfortunately, for a common man like me living in India, EVs are still a distant dream.

The look and feel of EVs has changed much in a decade. Reva, the electric car by Mahindra, was India’s most popular EV. But it looked like a little toy car, especially with their bright yellow, which was the most popular one. They’ve been around for nearly two decades or more. One of my college professors owned one, and she was a bit of a joke (not just because of the car). As an adult, I have to admire her eco-consciousness but back then, it just was funny.

Now, as someone who is concerned about the amount of carbon we’re pumping back into nature, I’d love to shift to an EV. But my choices are still limited to Reva, now known as E2O, alone. The car, along with its name, changed the way it looks as well. It looks like a compact little car, and I’ve seen it go pretty fast on the highway as well.

However, E2O comes with a price tag of over INR 10 Lakhs. That’s on par with any mid-sized car in the Indian market. Assuming you are willing to pay the price for being environmentally conscious, is the Indian infrastructure ready to support you.

I live in one of the largest metro cities in the world, and one of the most developed. Yet, I’ve not seen a single EV charging station in the city, let alone on the highway. That essentially means, despite owning a car worth 10 lakhs, I cannot take it out of the city. The E2O has a range of 140 kms approximately.

There have been several conversations about setting up EV charging stations, and apparently the future will even have stations where you can just swap out your battery instead of waiting to charge. Sounds great. But that day is not today and I’m not even sure when that day will come.

In the meantime, I remain an average middle-class Indian citizen who cannot afford to own two cars – which is what would be required if you want to own an electric car and drive out of the city frequently. In simpler terms, this means that being an eco-conscious motorist remains the privilege of a non-middle class citizen, or compromising your lifestyle heavily.

I was keenly awaiting the introduction of non-sedan hybrids, till EVs would develop enough by 2030. We aren’t really that far away from 2030 but far enough. India, however, decided to skip past the hybrid stage.

What this means for me? I’m going car hunting for yet another petrol car.

Advertisements

Women Empowerment

 

Women are supposed to be easier to market to than men. Why? Because women are apparently more susceptible to suggestions. We tend to take things at their face value. If an ad says “use this shampoo and you’ll have awesome hair”, we will go try it out. Is it because we’re trying to constantly aspire for a better body image or we are just fools? I think it is the former.

Because women aren’t fools always. They know how to take advantage of a situation.

Recently, a friend of mine got into a spot of trouble on the road. She was backing out for a legit parking spot, and someone coming in the wrong direction banged her car. She started fighting with the guy and demanded he pay to fix the damages. A crowd collected, and they were pretty supportive of her. But as usual, there were some who were supporting the guy and telling her to let it go.

A plump old aunty came to my rescue, my friend said. She started arguing with the guy much more loudly, and finally threatened him in Hindi “If you don’t back off, she’ll put a molestation and rape case on you. We’re tear her clothes a bit and then we’ll see how you won’t pay damages.”

The statement shut up most people and apparently the crowd dispersed quietly. My friend was too shocked to do anything more than take the now-subdued guy’s number and move.

This isn’t the first time such a thing has come in conversation. Another lady advised a friend to complain about someone who was troubling her (in a absolutely non-sexual way). “Tell the cops he attempted to rape you,” the lady said. The disturbing part was she actually meant it.

How does this India co-exist with an India where women who have been subject to this atrocity kill themselves?

We thought that women being raped as a form of punishment was abhorring enough. Now, we find out that women are filing fake rape complaints to get their way. What makes it worse is that a woman is ready to destroy a person’s reputation and life for something as trivial as a fender bender. Or because someone complained about the dogs in your apartment.

On one hand, we are facing serious issues regarding women empowerment. We are facing issues in getting the cops to take molestation and rape seriously. We want them to be educated and be sensitive towards people who’ve suffered – men or women. And on the other, we have women who are misusing these laws to further to their own agenda.

Cases of sexual harassment have become the norm. And today, I find it hard to believe anything that I read. A comment on a nail polish colour could be construed as sexual harassment.  A opinion about how someone has become fat is considered as sexual harassment.

Is this what women empowerment is?

The Art, the artist & the price tag

Art deserves its due. Every artist struggles to create art – be it a painting, a photograph, a piece of dress or a pot. I completely agree with that.

My tastes lie towards more earthy, hand made products rather than the factory-produced nonsense. And I agree that the effort an artist has put in deserves a good price. A labour of love for a home of love.

In recent times, there has been a vast array of products that are sold on ecommerce sites – either under the banner of ethnic stuff or as ‘by the artisan, for the artisan’. And these products are priced so high that it makes me wonder who on earth is making all this money. Does an earthenware pot truly cost 2 grand? Does a terracota coffee mug cost one grand a piece?

I’ve grown up surrounded by such beautiful things. Handwoven rugs, kalamari paintings, a zari-embroidered pillow cover,  a terracota vase. These were, once, poor man’s decorations.

Today, these are ‘kitsch’ and are sold at outrageous prices. Because they are currently considered cool. I cannot wait for the days when these are not cool again and prices go back to normal. When I can walk into a local store and buy the things I like without having to sell a kidney.

While art does deserve it due, it shouldn’t be unreachable to the common man.

The Media & Our Portrayal

It has been nearly half a decade since I was in a place where I interacted with several people from countries and cultures. Such interactions are always interesting, even if you do not agree with everything you learn.

In recent times, there’s been a general dissatisfaction over the way things are portrayed in the media. I understand, as a former reporter, that “news” is something that is current and notable for its cause alone. But there is a horrible distillation of “news”, which essentially comes down to what is controversial and what is sensational. While some of the news that is spoken about has to be highlighted, it ends up being a one-side story all too often. The other side is rarely highlighted.

One such instance came to light in the recent meeting. I was chatting with a woman from Zimbabwe and I asked her to tell me something about her country that we wouldn’t know from reading news stories. She wrinkled her nose and said “There’s so much! Everyone only writes about how Zimbabwe is a horrible place with so much violence. But we’ve a beautiful city, and one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world.”

Victoria Falls or Mosi-oa-Tunya is considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It is supposedly more stunning than Niagara Falls, which gets a lot of PR and talk.

I had heard about it once upon a time, but honestly, I wouldn’t have recalled it without her mentioning it.

Our conversation continued, and she expressed surprise that I was wearing a dress. She had been worried about India, with much of the international coverage focussing on the horrible rapes in the country. Well, this is an issue that needs to be addressed. But from the sounds of it, India had been portrayed as a horrible country for women. That women were being raped everywhere, and a woman couldn’t walk in the streets in broad daylight alone.

We cannot deny that is entirely untrue. There are enough stories going around about this. Then again, the perception created is of a country that’s similar to the Middle East, with archaic laws. Where are the stories about the progress in India? Where are the stories about our vast growth and developments?

For a country with a population of over a billion, some of the advancements we’ve made are quite commendable. For a population that’s essentially as diverse as the world, some of the laws we’ve changed are definitely noteworthy.

I’m not going on a India-praising spree. I know the shortcomings of our country. But in recent times, some of the comments of international media are getting annoying.

We launch a space program, and they say why aren’t we spending more on removing poverty. We sign a climate agreement, and people ask about trade agreements.

I’m really glad that people from various countries came to India and saw the reality of the country.

The Zimbabwe woman’s parting statement was “India isn’t really any worse off than my country. I’m not sure why media makes it out to be a nightmare, then again, they write about my country as a violent one as well.”

So essentially going back to the question I had when I chose to quit reporting: Who do we believe?

Running from the Digital World

Did you know that your eyes can constantly see the tip of your nose (or more!)? They just learn to ignore it.

We all are aware that our activities are being monitored online. We can see samples of it everyday – the ads that we online, the “add friend” that pops up on Facebook… but like our eyes ignore the nose, we ignore these little things. Sometimes, we install ad blockers, we click on the ‘do not send my data’ or ‘delete my data’ and believe that we are secure.

Recently, while cleaning up my computer, I installed a few tools that analysed the amount of data that was going out from my computer.

Google Chrome showed massive activity. It was sending several packets of information to sites, which on a quick search turned out to be a ‘security’ company. The interesting part about this was I had no sites open at that point. Just Chrome and an empty tab. I shut down Chrome and there were some sporadic things still being sent.

Then, there was the infamous Windows 10. Windows takes a few years to perfect their products, which is strange considering their bandwidth. Windows 10 tells you that to ensure your security there are certain things they want you to use. I could probably delve into what exactly is being sent out, but hell! knowing the way things work, I know they are tracking quite a few key things.

I decided to veer away from the popular tools – Chrome etc and switch to something that was good but not as popular. Strangely, though the browser has been around for decades, several sites do not support it. I’ve to install different components for this. The one good thing though was I was not automatically signed into every Google product I did – and Google pushed hard. Some sites threw me out, even though I tried to login. Some sites put up a pop up every few minutes tell me to sign in via Facebook or Google+ ‘For a better experience’.

**

We are conditioned to tap on ‘Sign in with Facebook / Google’ for any site. It makes life less irritable and it is one less password to remember. But all of these things add up to your user behaviour. The sites and Facebook show you news that they think you prefer.. so if you’ve clicked on two links about Shah Rukh Khan being detained at the airport, they show you similar links about celebrities. They do not show you more links about racial profiling and the terrorist watch programs at the airports. Nope, you are very subtly directed to read more about the celebs and leave things like violation of privacy behind.

You read about Leonardo DiCaprio making a statement about the environment. The next they show you is a link about his girlfriend or him sunbathing somewhere. They don’t show you links about global warming and what our industries are doing.

The ‘curated’ content or ‘personalized’ experience these sites are touting, including the social media platform will keep you in a cage. Is this intentional? Conspiracy Theorists and some others believe so. Or it could just be the ‘algorithm’. The result, however, remains the same. You remain in a cage that you are not even aware about. You are the protagonist of your own Truman Show.

Most people, including me, do not realise how easy it is to shape their influences. You read what your friends share. You read what your newsfeed says. You read what is ‘suggested’ and rarely venture beyond that. So some issues come to the forefront – the death of a Dalit student, the rape of a 12-year old, cow slaughter. Important topics, no doubt. But what about the other stories that you are not reading about? That barely surface from this nonsense and are buried because they did not get enough likes… simply because it was not written about well enough or simply did not contain enough gore to make it interesting.

And what if, and we go into the conspiracy theory mode here, one day the government decides that there’s too much trouble being caused by a particular topic and they want to trend something else to take away the attention? Do you think this hasn’t happened? Do you think this won’t happen? After all, we are all sheep and we follow the herd. So you are happy reading about SRK’s detention, random arguments about local languages and arguments about pellet guns, while elsewhere, something more serious is happening. And we’ll never know about it… because the only person who wrote about it on a blog has gone quiet and the blog disappeared.

What Happened to Good Writing?

Lazy Sunday Evening. I decided to dig up some of the old blogs I used to follow and see what they were up to in the last five years. Funnily enough, more than half of them do not exist anymore. And the others, they’ve either moved on to being ‘professional’ bloggers or have changed entirely.

The former group of blogs is flooded with sponsored post or obviously sponsored posts but they’ve been paid extra not to mention it. It is all about products – books, phones, baby diapers, make up and clothes – written about because they are paid to.

What happened to good writing? What happened to intelligent content? Who reads this plague of what looks like Sunday newspaper catalogues?

Perhaps professional blogging isn’t the nicest thing that happened to writing.

Funny Short – 2

Dinner should be something fun. Everyone talks about how cooking for one person is so lame and boring and all that, but I totally love it! Of course, most days I end up ordering in because I’m out late or working, or you know, at home on a weekend when all you want to do is binge watch That 70s Show or The Walking Dead.

 

But when you have the time, you should really feed yourself. There was some chicken. Probably from last week, but it was frozen, so that’s good. Perhaps some onions, potatoes.. No, I lent the potatoes to that pretty girl on the second floor. No tomatoes either. Used that to make up some weird drink.

 

I put out the chicken to thaw and headed to the market. I needed the basics. Tomatoes, maybe some green stuff. Chillies. And then some sauces. Damn, I should have checked a receipe at home. I began scrolling through receipes, standing in the middle of the market. Better than going home and figuring out that I didn’t have something right.

 

I would have headed straight home, but I was trying to figure out the differences between Apple Cider Vinegar and normal vinegar when I ran into the uncle from the third floor. He was just picking up frozen food, because he was home alone. You gotta pity a guy staying alone, so I had a couple of beers home. He gave me a frozen pizza to take home. I diced up the chicken and grilled it with the pizza. Pretty nice meal, washed down with a beer.

 

Should do this more often.