Touring Rajasthan – Part 1

I have lived in the US for the past several years now. I visit India roughly once a year, but vacations are always short, and I don’t venture outside Chennai. Mostly, I fall sick by the end of the first week, and recover just in time to catch my return flight 🙂 Hey, got to keep your immune system strong!

Anyway, so this time I decided to do a longer 3 week vacation, and I have badly been wanting to visit many places in India. Primarily hikes in the Northern part of the country, but there’s so much to see in India. And these days, it is not hard to find other like minded people doing similar activities. Long distance bicycling, hiking and even Ironmans have become fairly mainstream – which is great!

After some looking around, I decided November is as good a month to visit Rajasthan as any. Originally, I also wanted to fit in Delhi and Agra into the plan, but after some pondering, I decided to skip Agra for another time. While I was researching Rajasthan, Agra, and Delhi, I got into the history of the Mughals, the Rajputs …etc. Fascinating. I’m sure some of this was learnt in school – but I don’t remember it ever be as engaging as when you can look things up online, replete with visuals, neutral accounts, web forums with amazing discussions …etc. Anyway, it was good to revisit some of the history – this is also important to understand the significance of the many historic places, and help in narrowing down on the places of significance to visit.

Tour guides make for fantastic places to start, but after speaking to a friend of mine, who had visited Rajasthan recently, I decided to start broadly, on the logistics, and then narrow down on what to see around places. Within city transport, either with Taxis, local buses, or cabs could all be decided later. (I like to make detailed plans to a fault 🙂 )

Anyway, when it comes to broad planning, Google Maps is a great resource. I decided I would book my transport, and accommodations first. Google Maps also does a decent job of showing you things to do in a place. Even better, the Google Trips App on Android! (downloads local data)

I have mostly had good experiences on Indian Railways – so I decided I would take trains wherever possible – and also if possible, take late night trains – that way,  would get to spend the day time in cities, and get to sleep in trains. That’s one of the great things about trains – you can go from point A to B while sleeping 🙂

Also, I have never traveled by anything other than Sleeper Class in the past whenever I have booked tickets for myself. AC tickets prior to 2011 for me, did not seem like a wise way to spend money. In spite of my parents recommending traveling by AC many times, I had doggedly refused to do so – always taking Sleeper trains even in the middle of summer. My grandfather used to work for Indian railways, and back when I was a little kid, we have traveled by AC trains of course – but I have a very faint recollection of it.

While we are on firsts, here’s another – I have never taken a single local/domestic flight in India. 🙂

Booking tickets:

I was able to pay on Yatra with my Paypal account, where I chose to pay with Paypal credit, to avoid any foreign transaction fees. I operate a couple of accounts in India, and have debit cards of them. However, this is how ancient my accounts are – one of my debit cards does not have a CVV code on it. And, the other insists on sending an OTP. Now, my mom’s number is the number registered – and it would all work fine, if she wasn’t visiting the US herself. 🙂 She was still getting messages, but the bloody websites timed out faster than she could send me the OTP code. Dang! Thankfully, even IRCTC allows you to use an International Credit Card to make transactions – which was wonderful. At this point, at the risk of sounding like I have become accustomed to the USD, and INR seems cheap to me, train tickets in India even in 2AC is ridiculously cheap! And I don’t mean that in the sense of, oh it was only $15 – I mean it in the sense of – wow, it was only Rs. 1000 or 1500. Having visited Chennai the last several times, and feeling like a poor person when I saw others pay Rs. 300 for movie tickets, I felt like the Railways is really operating things for cheap here! A night’s lodging and travel for Rs. 1000 !! What ?!!

Anyway, after some very preliminary, planning, here’s what I came up with

Day 1-> Fly from Chennai to Jaipur (unfortunately, the earliest cheapest option only landed in Jaipur after noon.)

Day 2-> Jaipur. Take a night train to Jaisalmer. (As of this writing, both my 2A and 1A tickets are waitlisted, although the 1A ticket is WL1 – so I am feeling reasonably confident, I’ll get a seat on the train.)

Day 3,4 -> Jaisalmer. Take a night train from Jaisalmer to Jodhpur.

Day 5,6 -> Jodhpur. Take a night bus (unfortunately, there was no train) to Udaipur

Day 7,8 -> Udaipur. Take a night train to Ajmer.

Day 9 -> Ajmer/Pushkar. (I know a day is probably not enough). Take a train from Ajmer to New Delhi.

Day 10 -> New Delhi. Take a night flight to Chennai.

Other things:

It looked to me like, I would need a place to take a shower in Ajmer. Instead of booking a hotel, I just booked a retiring room in the railway station. Now, after the fact, I learnt that 1AC has showers! and the delta I would have paid would have been the same as booking a retiring room. Well, you learn something every day. 🙂

At New Delhi, I booked  lounge for I believe < Rs. 200. Apparently, it is another 150-200 Rs for a shower, but I think that’s ok. I could also go without showers if need be – I mean, when I go multi-day backpacking, I just carry wet wipes with me, and towel myself down.

Screen Shot 2018-11-04 at 10.01.35 PMScreen Shot 2018-11-04 at 9.59.41 PM

Now, onto some micro-planning on things to do/see.


Road Trip-Thanksgiving 2014 – Post 1 of 8 – Drive from Austin,TX to El Paso, TX and drive from El Paso, TX to Phoenix, AZ

This is the first in a series of 8 posts, not including the introductory post.

1. Drive from Austin, TX to El Paso, TX and drive from El Paso, TX to Phoenix, AZ (Day 1,2)

Day 01- 11-21-2014 -> Austin, TX to El Paso, TX

I had already fueled my car and packed my stuff the day before and loaded it into my car. So I was prepared, and wanted to leave early in the evening directly from work to save some time, and to try and miss the traffic on Loop 360 in the evening. I managed to leave around 4:45 pm.

My Destination was a motel in El Paso, TX and according to Google maps, it was 567 miles away and would take me ~ 8 hours to get there. I would have expected to reach around 01:00 am Austin time, which I found out was 02:00 am in El Paso, TX.

The route was to get to RM 2224/ Bee Caves Road, on to 71, on to RM 3238, 12, W Hwy 290, 281, 290, I 10 and keep driving on I-10 till you reached El Paso. Google Maps was doing some crazy things right after I started where instead of showing 8 hours, it kept saying 10 hours. I was’t sure if it had the right route, so I had to stop at a Chevron on RM 2224, and make sure I had the right route before I headed on. With 8 hours, and sun going to set pretty fast, I didn’t have any plans of seeing any thing on the way. Also, since I had to do the driving duties, I didn’t have the luxury of sleeping less and visiting more places, or the time before hand to plan properly to stop at National Parks/ State Parks/ Historic Sites …etc. I think I’ll have to keep that for another time.

By the time I hit Hamilton Pool road (RM 2238), it began pouring suddenly, and pretty heavy at that. My visibility was pretty badly reduced. It rained for the next one hour or so – not the ideal way to start on a road trip. 🙂 The Lyndon B Johnson State Park and Historic Site on Hwy 290 would be something I’d like to visit – but it’s close enough to Austin that I should be able to do it on any weekend. Fredericksburg was also pretty interesting to see – again close enough to Austin to do any time, so I’ll not feel too bad about not stopping there.

Other places I might have been interested to stop at: South Llano River State Park, Caverns of Sonora and McDonalds Observatory. Big Bend seems out of the way, and too close to Mexico, but I’d want to do it some day.

The MobilyTrip app crash caused the data to get wiped out, so I’ll have to look for the fuel bill or a photo I took to see where I was stopped. Found it from a photo to be Fort Stockton, TX. Interestingly at the gas station, the gas was just being filled as I got my coffee and came back out. It’s amazing that gas stations can run out of gas – good thing they don’t need to go anywhere 🙂

Near El Paso, I 10 runs pretty close to Mexico. But like someone remarked about the drive, it was pretty uneventful, boring long stretch – the only exciting thing about which is the high speed limit. I guess I didn’t lose much by driving after sunset – no views, vistas …etc.

Transcript from Journal Entry recorded on Voice Recorder 01:11 am Mountain Time:

05:30 pm rain stopped. 06:30-06:45 pm, reached Fredericksburg, TX. 07:30 pm hit I-10. Speed limit was 80mph. Decent amount of traffic – not alone on the road. Dead carcasses of animals on the sides of the road. Already dark. Deer carcasses on the sides. One wolf like animal crossed the road in front of me. Should have been able to stop if it had stopped on the road. Another animal came out from the left side, (i.e., the median side) peeked out and then went back in. I was a little surprised to see animals come from the median side of the road. Good thing I was driving with high-beam on. 08:00 pm had a bread slice from morning left in the car. 09:15 – 09:30 pm stopped for gas and Subway. Subway was closed. Google maps was giving wrong directions to the open Subway. Had to check with someone, who was able to direct me to the right place. Fueled the car, and got coffee. Maybe started around 10:00pm – search for Subway cost me some time. Half an hour’s stop including the fueling and dinner. Had half the sub. 270 miles left to El, Paso. On reaching Ramada El Paso, check in clerk took his own time to get me checked in. He did make a remark about how he has interestingly never been to Austin, but been to California instead. When asked where he was from, he was from El Paso. Pretty funny if you think about it. He also made a remark about not stopping at any of the smaller towns on the way and how they could be dangerous. I should read up on that. Went to the room, wolfed down the remaining half a sub, and hit the bed. The room itself was pretty ok – nothing fancy. But I was tired and just wanted to sleep.

Some research on animals one can spot on I-10:

Can’t really say what animals I spotted apart from deer. There were at least a couple more.

 Day 02- 11-22-2014 -> El Paso, TX to Phoenix, AZ

This was a drive I undertook eagerly, since I’d get to be back in Tempe and Chandler, where I have lived for the past 3+ years. The only small disappointment was when I found out that El Paso was also on mountain time, and I wouldn’t gain any time magically when I arrived at Phoenix. The breakfast at Ramada was alright. They had boiled eggs, bread, cereal …etc and the quality of food was pretty ok. I took some coffee to go for the road.

To Do: Add More on Day 02, check to see if there is a recorded journal – add it’s transcript. Add some photos.

Road Trip-Thanksgiving 2014

I was about to start on a post, and then realized that I had a draft saved off – phew. Saved me-self some work.

The Plan

Written on 11-21-2014

I have a week off at work for Thanksgiving. Most people generally have 4 days off, (Thu,Fri,Sat,Sun) but I’m lucky to have a 9 day break instead. (Sat-Sun) I wanted to do a Euro-trip, and was really hoping that this was the right break and the right time, but due to my Visa related reasons, I couldn’t. Bummer!

I had a long term dream of Bicycling from San Francisco to San Diego, but then had totally forgotten about it. It’s apparently supposed to take 5-6 days, and would have been wonderful. (Can’t remember where I bookmarked the post I read. I did find others, but want the original article, since that is what inspired me to do it.) If I had remembered this well in advance, I might have done this, but this is something I recollected only after forming other plans. So, this is something that’s going in my bucket list as well. (apart from the Europe trip)

Finally, I decided I’d do a road trip. Nothing extremely crazy, but still hopefully crazy enough. Here’s my rough plan as of now (some plans will evolve as I go.)

High Level Summary:
TX -> AZ -> CA -> UT -> AZ -> TX.
9 Days
Meet Friends, Hike, Run.

More Details:
Fri – Leave from Austin, TX by evening and reach El Paso, TX by night. Night cap at El Paso, TX.
Sat – Leave from El Paso, TX by early morning and reach Phoenix, AZ by afternoon.
I have a few friends in the Phoenix area I’d like to meet. I also have some belongings of mine in my old house that I need to pick up. (Assuming my friend hasn’t thrown them out. 🙂 )

I also hope to do a couple of runs or hikes. I originally wanted to carry my bike on the trip, but that might be a bit much. I really miss the canal paths of the Tempe/Chandler/Mesa area though.

Let’s see – if all goes to plan, I want to run on Tempe Town lake. I also want to hike Squaw Peak. (Piestewa Mountains).

Sun – In Phoenix, AZ. The hike might have to happen on Sunday instead of Sat.
Mon – Leave from Phoenix, AZ by early morning and reach Santa Clara, CA by early evening. Might get to catch up with friends.
Tue – In SFO. Might want to run somewhere, or hike Mission Peak.
Wed – In SFO. Might want to run somewhere, or hike Mission Peak. The coastline near Golden Gate is a wonderful place to run.
Also meet friends and family.
Leave Santa Clara, CA by early evening. Destination (needs syncing with other friends)
Thu,Fri,Sat – Somewhere in the mountains of Northern AZ, Southern UT. (plan needs syncing with other friends.)

Sat – Leave from “X” by evening, and reach Phoenix, AZ by night. Night cap at Phoenix.
Sun – Leave from Phoenix, AZ by morning. Drive to El Paso, TX by lunch. Take a break. Drive back to Austin, TX by late evening.

I’ll try and log more details, trip times, photos …etc.

Actual Execution

Written on 12-01-2014

Most of the plan stayed the same with some exceptions. Utah got thrown out of the picture. No hikes/runs either in the bay area or in the Phoenix area. I had wanted to run on/near the Golden Gate bridge, do the Mission peak hike, and the Squaw peak hike. Among other things I had wanted to do but forgot or didn’t have time to do – have Matcha Green Tea Frappe at Pete’s Coffee and visit the Apple store at Cupertino. Had to make do with walks instead. Also, left one day early from Kingman, AZ (marked X in the plan above.) and reached Phoenix on Friday night instead of Saturday. Drove back to Austin a day early (Sunday – 11-29-2014) to have enough time to rest and recharge before office on Monday. (12-01-2014)

I think I’ll break the post into multiple smaller posts as it would be an awfully longer post otherwise. Also, I think some sections of the trip need more details than the others – so it’s justified to have their own posts

1. Drive from Austin to El Paso, TX and drive from El Paso, TX to Phoenix, AZ (Day 1,2)

2. Phoenix, AZ (Day 2,3,4)

3. Drive from Phoenix, AZ to San Mateo, CA (Day 4)

4. San Mateo, CA (Day 4,5,6)

5. Drive from San Mateo, CA to Kingman, AZ (Day 6)

6. Drive from Kingman, AZ to Supai Hilltop, AZ and hike down (Day 7)

7. Hike to falls, and drive back to Phoenix, AZ (Day 8)

8. Drive from Phoenix, AZ to Austin, TX (Day 9)

I used an app called MobilyTrip to try and track my journey. The app was not very intuitive, and I did not take enough time to try and experiment with it or familiarize myself with it. I need to see if it has any sensible data on it, and can show any good trends, and data like when I stopped where, how long I took to drive a section, how many miles …etc. I did occasionally forget to turn on the app, and it crashed on me once. I also tried taking photos of the trip meter and things like that at regular intervals to have some reference of time and distance, but I guess you need a small notebook and a lot of discipline to meticulously note down details. I did try recording some notes on my phone’s voice recorder – but will obviously have to pore through that to get meaningful details out. I also managed to get some good photos along the way. My hope is to pen down my experience driving, and note any interesting details. I always have an eye for numbers, so that’s something I’ll try and add as well.

My take on Justice Katju’s take on Learning Hindi

A good friend of mine, posted a link to this article on Facebook, and being vetti, I went ahead and read it. Now being the kind of person who has a very strong point of view on most things in life, I certainly do not agree with Justice Katju. While I could be juvenile, and dismiss him off as an idiot, like many others do in the comments section, I think the more appropriate thing to do is, think openly about a few things.

  • “I advised Tamilians to learn Hindi”

Absolutely nothing wrong with it. But everyone should decide on their own on what they want to do with that advice. After all, if everyone listened to every other stupid person’s advice, Sachin Tendulkar would have retired ages back. 😉

But saying that, I leave it to you – you decide, and then constantly nagging, trying to justify what you said over and over again, it not letting you decide freely – well, that is compellingly compelling.

Person 1: Do you want to ice-cream or a cookie ?
Person 2: I’ll take the cookie
Person 1: But the ice-cream is really good.
Person 2: No thanks, I’ll still take the cookie.
Person 1: Are you sure ? the ice-cream is nice and cold.
Person 2: Can I please have the cookie ?
Person 1: Well, it’s your choice. All I am saying it, the ice-cream is a better choice over the cookie.
Person 2: $%$# you. Do me a favor and stick both up your rear en*!!

Do you see how annoying that is ?

  • “the number of Hindi speakers would be about 15 times that of Tamil speakers.”

My dear Justice Katju, let me point out to you that the majority of the world’s population speaks Mandarin Chinese. Why don’t you learn it ? Maybe you already know it. So why don’t you advice people to learn it ?

Let me make my point more clear – it is not to heckle poor Mr. Katju. Have you heard the proverb “While in Rome, be a Roman” ? Yes, it makes sense to learn a language if you are going to be visiting a place where the language is used predominantly or solely. Let’s say you were going to go on a short/decently long trip to Spain – don’t you take trouble to learn at least a few common phrases of the language ? But do you sit home and learn Spanish, so that if Spaniard tourists were to visit your city, you can give them directions ?

Same with Hindi.If you expect to be posted/travel to a place where the majority of the population speaks Hindi, then by all means buy the “Rapidex guide to learning Hindi in 10 minutes” book :)- more seriously, learn the common phrases, learn what will get you by your day to day life at the very least. But, should you learn it on the off-chance that might happen ? Maybe not, for the same reason that you will not learn Chinese on the off-chance that you will travel to China.

See my gripe stems from the fact that, Mr Katju doesn’t advise Hindi speaking populace to learn Tamil when they visit Tamil Nadu. While in Tamil Nadu, speak Tamil. The problem stems from the fact that “Northies” coming into Tamil Nadu, expect to be spoken to in Hindi, served hot Parathas at Kaiyendhi Bhavan, and want the crappiest of Hindi movies to be released ahead of Tamil movies. They will also walk up to a shop and inquire in Hindi ‘you don’t know Hindi’ ? The Germans and French don’t respond to people who talk to them in English even if they know English. Did you know that ? You would be very unwelcome if you constantly tried to force them to converse with you in English.

Mr. Katju, being the literary expert he is, also also disregards Urdu,

  • Pakistanis (who number about 200 million) also speak Hindi, though they call it Urdu” he claims blatantly. Any dimwit with half a school education should know that Urdu is not Hindi.
  • “Anyone coming from Tamil Nadu to other parts of India will realise this. Without knowing Hindi he will experience great difficulty”

This, I agree with.

Back to the point of, When in Rome – be a Roman.

  • I fully support the demand that lawyers in the Madras High Court should be allowed to argue in Tamil (except before judges who have come on a transfer from other States

Why should judges who come from other states not learn Tamil, in the same way anyone from Tamil Nadu going to other parts of India should learn other languages ? This is very simply and definitely double standards.

Mr. Katju, your suggestion is absurd and inconsistent. I have considered your suggestion. It doesn’t make sense. I reject it. Thank you. Maybe you should sit down and “think rationally about this, and it would make sense”.

For those who feel strongly against the Justice Katju’s article, Although not entirely on the same matter, 🙂 I suggest reading this slightly old other post.

Edit : 16-Dec-2012

It would be unfair to leave out a few details here. I generally do not talk about myself on my posts or my blog. (At least not the relevant details.) However, some things need a special mention. As a student I studied Hindi in school, till I ditched it in favour of French for my last two years in School. I did Tamil as a third language, and learnt to read and write. I can already talk Tamil well enough. Now, why did I learn Hindi ? Well, it’s hard to say that as a kid that I had a choice in the matter,but I can say with confidence that if I were asked today, I’d pick the same. Why ? Why not ? Do my actions need to be justifiable ? No, not as long as they don’t affect others. But I’ll say this – I’ll do whatever the frig pleases me. And I will not have someone tell me I cannot learn Hindi if I want to – just as I will not have someone tell someone else that they should learn Hindi even if they don’t want to, and shove it down their throat.

Do I fell I can communicate and bond with people better because I know Hindi ? No. I in fact converse in English when the other person talks to me in Hindi or Tamil (unless they are already close enough, at which point, it makes no sense any more.) I don’t let anyone “arey yaar” me into giving them my homework just as much as I don’t let anyone “enna machi” me into doing the same. There are no favours. Well, but that’s just at the student to student – colleague to colleague level. In those circles, if you can’t talk to me in English, get the hell out, and do me a favour by not talking to me. Would I treat a ‘rickshaw wallah’ or an ‘auto kaaran’ the same way ? Of course not. I would try my best to get my message across in a tongue they understand.

Enough about me already. The other important thing is, this post is not about whether or not you should learn a language. This post is about one man, trying to force his ill-formed opinion upon others in the name of advice. So, I did my research on Justice Katju – I thought he didn’t know Urdu. So I listened to an interview on ‘Walk the Talk’. He quoted Urdu poetry effusively, and I thought to myself, my God, did I make a mistake in thinking this guy was cuckoo ? But then it dawned on me that if he knew Urdu and made a statement that went “They speak Hindi too – they just call it Urdu”, he was not an ignoramus. He was being a Machiavellian. He was purposefully misleading or misguiding people. Also, if you take the trouble of watching the video,

you will find it rife with self-contradictions, and inconsistencies in his stand. The guys is not even sure of what he represents.

You should also read the following article, which does a much better job of putting Katju in place –

Oh shit, I am running late

So, I had a flight to catch this last Friday morning at 7:35 in the morning. Spring (not that there is such a season in Phoenix AFAIK) break meant the University was closed for a week, and I thought it might be a good idea to visit my sister.

So, I had decided that starting from my place at 6:00 am, should be good enough. It would take ten minutes to the rail station by walk, a five minute wait for the train. The train would take fifteen minutes to reach the station. From there, the airport shuttle would tale ten minutes including the wait time. There is hardly any queue for security checks in Phoenix, so the boarding pass and security should not take more than five minutes put together. That added up to 45 minutes. All going fine, I should have been at the Gate with plenty of time to spare.

The trouble started the previous night. After a late project meeting, I came home only at around 1:30 am in the morning. By the time, I had packed, and decided to go to sleep, it was 3:00 am in the morning already. Generally, if I don’t sleep by 3:00 am for a 7:35 flight, I don’t sleep. Last time over, I watched three movies back to back to stay awake, and managed to board the flight. This time over though, I had not slept well in a few days, and I was not able to keep myself awake. After all, I should be able to wake up I thought – I had set my alarm, had called my brother in London to wake me up, my brother in law in California to wake me up. See, I even had a backup, and a backup for the backup. 😀

So, I get a call in the morning at 5:30 am from my brother, asking me to wake up, and wishing me a happy journey. Little did he know that immediately after he hung up, I was not able to so much as lift my head from the pillow. So, I continued sleeping. What happened for the next hour I have no idea of. I did not hear the alarms. I did not hear my brother in law’s three calls. Finally, for some reason, I woke up at 6:30 am and checked my clock. Shit!!!!  In the next eight minutes, I was able to shake myself out of sleep, managed to finish my morning bathroom duties, brush my teeth, get dressed and get the hell out of the house. I walked as fast as I could towards the rail station. I was constantly wishing that I didn’t see a train leave just as I was approaching the station. As soon as I reached the rail station, I tried hurriedly to get myself a ticket from the vending machine. And what do you know, it will not accept any of my cards. I am not ashamed of saying this, but I generally do not carry any cash with me. None at all. Thankfully, this morning I had a 5 dollar bill in my bag. I quickly bought myself a one ride ticket, and was hoping the train would be in the station any minute. It was 6:50 am already, and I was panicking. The train arrived somewhere in the next few minutes, and took an eternity to reach the airport. When I checked the time on reaching the airport, it was 7:15 already. I was hoping I would still be able to make it. After all, it should only take another 15 minutes tops to reach the gate. And even then, I would have 5 minutes left. Now, see this is called cutting it very very fine. If you were in certain businesses, this would be a remarkable skill to have. Not when you are trying to board a plane, I am afraid.

So, I rush towards the Airport shuttle, and there is one waiting. I get on it, and wish that it would move. Wrong! There is no driver in it. I wait a full five minutes in agony, knowing that now it would be very very fine indeed. The driver gets in, and finally the shuttle moves. I reach the terminal in about seven minutes, hoping to get through security and run to the gate. This is when I am in for the second shock. As soon as I enter the terminal, I see swarms of people waiting in queues to check their luggage in. I am generally very composed, and it takes quite a bit to get me ruffled. Well, a combination of drowsiness, weariness, panic collectively achieve that. I stood frozen for almost a full minute. I finally managed to find the kiosk to get the boarding pass. Whaddayaknow!! There are four people in queue in front of me. It was 7:25 now. See, if there had been more people I would definitely have spoken to them, and made sure I got my boarding pass ahead of the others. But 4 is the kind of number that makes you wonder if its worth talking to people to get ahead of them. I mean, you might end up spending more time explaining the situation to them, than if you just waited your turn. I mean, what if someone wanted you to explain again, and worse still after all that trouble, would not let you go through ? So, I waited my turn cursing myself under the breath. The next shock was waiting for me in the form of a long queue in the security area. There were at least 15 people ahead of me. This time over, I was just bogged down. It was 7:28. I couldn’t possibly explain to 15 people that I was running late for my flight. So I waited, knowing that I was doomed.

I was finally done with the security screening and reached the gate at about 7:35, give or take 30 seconds. I asked the gentleman at the booth, if I had missed my flight, and he was only all too cheerful in replying that indeed I had. It was a moment of helplessness. I am sure there are a thousand things I could have done right to make sure I had been on that plane – something as simple as tell someone at the Southwest booth that they ask the person at the gate to wait just for a minute. Even Americans are not that punctual. But I hadn’t. Thankfully for me, the gentleman was able to find me a seat on the next plane that was to leave in an hour. I called my brother in law and told him I was going to be late.

Cramster Turtle-Magnetic Tank Bag-Reviewed

I recently bought myself a “Cramster Turtle” – a magnetic tank bag. I thought I’d write a review of it, since the original Website itself has missing information, and most other sites where I searched before buying the bag, had the same information copy pasted there – verbatim. Well, that’s not a review.

For the basic information, you should check out the Cramster website. I have no intentions of re-posting whatever information you can already find there.

I have a few cribs with the “Cramster” folks – not with the product itself. I am really really happy with the bag. They simply don’t have enough information and photos on their website – which is really sad considering that they have a good product lineup and good products.

Basic Information:

  • Cost: ~1500 Rs. I bought it on ebay and was charged a shipping of 100Rs I think.
  • Color: Black (although other colors are available)
  • Has Scotch reflective material in some places.
  • YKK Zippers. (Well, brands like Louise Phillippe and Allen Solly use it too. So, it must be good I guess.)
  • It has a sling, to put on your shoulder. (detachable of course)
  • There are also four pegs at the extremities of the bag – just in case you want to secure your bag to your bike with say ropes, maybe you could do that too.

Dimensions, Pockets …etc:

  • Dimensions (Before Expanding): 13.5″ l x 11.5″ w x 7″ h
  • Dimensions (After Expanding): 13.5″ l x 11.5″ w x 9.8″ h
  • (Some space is taken up by the rain cover which is inside the main compartment.)
  • Map pouch Dimension: 11″ x 9.5 ” (Has a transparent sheet, and a zipper) The map pouch is present on the inside of the flap.
  • Mesh Pouch Dimension: 9.5″ x 9″ (tapers towards the end – 9.5″ x 8″) The Mesh pouch is directly below the flap. The flap sticks to the bag using Velcro.
  • There’s also a key holder between the Map pouch and Mesh pouch.
  • Side pouches (x 2 on either side)Dimensions: (8″ l x 3.5″ w x 1.5″ h ) Tapers Downwards. Should be enough to fit sunglass cases, spectacle cases, a small water bottle (500 ml), a digital camera …etc.
  • You could also put knick-knacks inside the rain cover pouch.
  • Has a rain cover, which has elastic lining, and covers the bag fully. Not sure how effective it would be during rains.

Where Do I Plan on using it:

I own a Honda CB Unicorn Dazzler. As anyone might know, motorbikes have issues with storage, compared to the scooters. Mine has a tiny compartment under the seat which can all but hold the first aid kit, the toolbox and the bikes papers.

I do a fair bit of travelling on weekends, and on the weekend that I don’t go on trips, I go shopping – for essentials of course. I love my Samsonite backpack, and it mostly suffices be it trips, carrying laptops or even bringing back juice cartons and biscuits. But sometimes, it cannot hold everything on the weekend shoppings, and on the trips, if you have a pillion rider, then your backpack is an issue. I find wearing it on the front cumbersome, and even slightly risky to be honest.

Welcome the Cramster Turtle. It looks stylish and snazzy to be carried around malls. It managed to get a few stares – not what I bought it for, but still, pretty cool, eh ? 🙂 It also fit in all most of the stuff I bought, and was really easy to ride back home with it mounted on the tank.

Note: If you are that person who is used to hanging covers from the handlebars, then you should really consider the Turtle. Not only are the plastic bags irritating – they are also risky! I find my control on the bike compromised, when I hand anything from the handlebars.

So in short, I plan to use it for,

  • To office maybe (when I have to carry some small stuff, and my bikes cover)
  • To the mall – when I go shopping
  • On trips, where my pillion will not complain. 🙂


You should first go through the FAQ’s on the Cramster website.

The below are based on my experience so far, and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies. If you do find inaccuracies, do comment, and I shall have it taken down.

  1. Does it fit well on the  tank ? At high speeds will it hold ? A: It fits very well on my bike. You need a metal tank of course. I did decent speeds of 60-70 in the city, and didn’t for one moment think it might come off. I’ll report back after my trips where I expect to do more than 70 😉
  2. Is it roomy enough ? A: Yes. In fact I think it is roomier than maybe required in most cases. You can also expand the bag by approximately 2 and a half  inches of height. I always like expandable bags – like my Samsonite backpack. Only, in this case, I would have liked the expand to be like say 2 – 2.5 inches and the normal height of the bag to have been a little lesser, so that it appeared sleeker.
  3. Will I have problems controlling the bike with the bag mounted on the tank ? A: Most probably not. On my bike, I did not face any kind of discomfort, and I had it fully loaded. Also, the handlebars do not really come anywhere near touching the bag, unless when titled to the maximum on either side (see pics below.) – which is not all that much of a problem, and even lesser so since you don’t expect to turn the handle to the extremity all that often.
  4. Can I see the Instrument Panel, when the bag is on my tank ? A: Well, I could while driving. It did not come in the line-of-sight at all. But then, I am not sure if that might be an issue with other bikes. Some bikes like the Avenger have the fuel level indicator on the tank itself, and you might not be able to see such things. My room mate has an Avenger. Maybe I could try it on that, and see if it hampers visibility.
  5. Will it affect aerodynamics ? A: 🙂 Well, if you are really into aerodynamics, and are calculating the solution to some problem, maybe yes. I didn’t feel it adversely affect the aerodynamics.

Photos (Off the bike):

a little later

Photos (On the bike):

Minor Cribs:

  1. I feel – and just my opinion this, that the bag is a little bigger than maybe required in most cases, unless you are into serious touring of course. As mentioned above in the FAQ’s, I would have liked the bag to have been a little sleeker when the ‘Expand zipper is fastened’
  2. It would have been very nice if the bag also came up with some kind of a provision where it could have been used as a Backpack. Yes, I know it’s asking for a little too much. Plus, it’s probably for the best – most people might already be carrying a backpack, and wouldn’t want this to serve that purpose as well.
  3. The material feels a little thin. While I am sure it would be durable, I would have liked it to be just a little thicker.
  4. They could have had one extra compartment, or a place to put small things like say strips of medicines, your pens…etc. Most backpacks have this.

Your Say:

The poll should have read – “What do you think of the Cramster Turtle

I also bought a pair of Twister Gloves, the review of which I plan on writing soon.

A Drained Cell Phone battery and a Life Saved

This is in a way a continuation to my previous post. But I figured, this deserved a separate post. Well, coming close to missing a train is something, coming close to dying is another.

I am a freak when it comes to being organized. I make a checklist of things to take and things to do before I leave home on a trip. 🙂 So, before I left home on 18th, I made sure that my cell phone had full charge. 100 percent. And knowing my phone and the awesome battery it has, if I don’t listen to too many songs and if I don’t talk all that much over phone. (Neither of which I planned on doing), the charge even lasts 2 days.

But hey, like a true Indian engineer, I did not take something else into account. The cell phone reception in this side of the country is not so great. Before I know, the charge is fast depleting. By 10 PM, my cell phone battery is squeezing out every little drop of energy it has, just to search for a damn network!! And soon, the battery is almost done.

Indian railways has come of age. Now, even the sleeper class compartments have a couple of cell phone chargers. It’s another thing that the plug points are the safety type, where if you have a two pin charger, God alone (or, if you have a pen and know how to use it) can save you.

I am in a dilemma. The charger is to the other end of the compartment and I am not sure if I should leave my bag unguarded. I finally decide to take the chance, because, without the battery, reaching my bro’s college was going to be tough. Plus I didn’t know anyone’s phone number by heart and I’d be lost without that.

So, I go to the other end of the compartment to get my phone charged.

Now, I can’t really say if I have had any near death encounters before, but this sure as hell wasn’t one. Not for me atleast. Well, but it could have been for someone else.

I am standing there, charging my phone, when this guy is trying to get up from the side lower berth, but is unable to get up. I look more closely, and find that he is fully drunk. By fully, I mean fully!! By now, my brain registers the sensation in my nose. This bugger is reeking of alcohol. He somehow falls down, manages to get up and all. I just stand clear. Who wants to get into an altercation with a drunk fellow ? What’s more, I am pretty sure, this guy had pissed all over himself. Disgusting, filthy animal. He was trying to head to the loo. I stay as far away from him as possible and he doesn’t pay me any heed either. Phew!!

Then in two quick strides, he heads to the train door and is trying to pull it open. Shit!! I tap him on his shoulder and show him the bathroom door. Thankfully, the train compartments door was tightly shut. This guy then falls to the floor in between the loos. You know, how they are facing each other. Now, I am not sure what to do. I sure as hell don’t want to witness someone jumping off a train. At the same time, I don’t want to try talking sense into a drunk man who has pissed all over himself.

I stand there for a while, just to make sure he doesn’t try jumping off the train again. And this guy is sleeping peacefully lying on the floor of the train. Finally, my phone charge reached 75% and I am also extremely sleepy. I check the bolt on the train door, and go to sleep.

Next day morning I headed to the same place. My phone battery was drained again. I see this guy sitting and talking with people, like nothing happened.

Well, if it hadn’t been for my cell phone battery, I am sure this guy would have been history. I simply don’t get why people have to drink so much that they have absolutely no control over what they are doing, going as far as to risk their life.

I think that’s more reason than enough for someone senile never to get drunk. Well, at least  not on a train.Phone Charger on a train