Thursday, February 18, 2016

The 12 days of Uber, Bangalore gave to me.....

There was a time, when I was a happy man; Living life, having to just commute 3 kilometers to work everyday over what was just a matter of 15-20 minutes. Then,....... I got married. Life changes after marriage they said. There would be sweet and bitter battles they said. The biggest battle of them all will be traffic, is what they did not say.

It all started that fateful Thursday evening as I was driving home on my daily 1 hour commute across Bengaluru city. Inch by inch, the mass of metal creeped forward unable to move in any other direction. There were moments when I thought, Lets just get out and walk. As I assessed various methods of time pass, various excruciating ways of torture, I thought, maybe I should share this pain with another person. What better way to enjoy this than to watch another fellow passenger go through the same rigours of daily commuting in Bangalore. *Evil grin*. Thus began my hunt for the carpool mate.

My hunt ensued on Social Media and various platforms(The shaadi.com equivalent of carpooling apps) and I found some matches. I am serious, there is so  much one has to look at; Good timings, direction, personality, well groomed(I don't want the person to stink up my car) social preferences( talks a lot, stares in silence etc), acceptable dowry.... (:P). In the end I got one regular agreeable carpooler whose timings worked out to match conveniently on most days and we had a carpool agreement going on. However, given the work schedules of each other, there were still days when I'd be driving alone and wishing I could find another soul to torment on this rather lonely intergalactic journey towards the end of the universe. I mean, err drive to work and home. There were days, I used to wonder, ' What if I were a cabbie?' Looks like, Uber heard me.

Voila, Ubercommute. Ubercommute is a concept, where a regular commuter can take fare paying passengers who are travelling in the same direction as them. Uber does the matching, once I enter my destination. Of course there are caps, where I can only do two trip s a day, i.e. to work and back and the passengers are those who opt to Uberpool, which is a sharing trip. According to Uber, the passenger pays substantially lesser than what they pay on Uberpool and the whole component comes to me. Sounded like a fair deal, so I signed up. 

Day 1: The typical Bengaluru ITzen

My first passenger was a rather confused soul. Sceptical would be the right word in fact as our conversation was on these lines:

Pass 1: Hi is this Uber?
Me: Hi, err, yes I've reached the pickup point.
Pass 1: Oh, I'm right outside I don't see you. (He was standing right behind my car)
Me: I'm in this Blue i10 with the hazards on right in front of the building.
Pass 1: Oh, err (Stares at my car for a minute and then treads slowly towards it), haan, i'm coming..

As he got in, his first question was, " I didn't know you could drive with private plates for Uber??" and a cynical " Are you a criminal??" Look. My silly grin clearly didn't help either because his next question as I continued to explain what Ubercommute was, was "I hope you're not a serial killer?". I did point out that I wouldn't mention it even if I was. He did remain a tad quite for a while after that until we reached some traffic. :P However we did have a conversation going after that and I soon got to know that he was a (guess what??) a start up entrepreneur educated in an (again guess what) IIT. Dime a dozen in Bangalore. Pfft. We got chatty, exchanged visiting cards and he even invited me to join him for a beer as he was meeting his friends. I of course politely declined and got on with my journey while mildly surprised and happy that this was beginning to sound like a very interesting way to meet new people.  Passenger number two however was just waiting a few days away, to completely change my opinion.

Day 2: Uber Taxi

Another workday evening and I was cruising along home when my usual carpool buddy hopped off a couple of stops early to grab a bite. I thought, "hey why not" and switched on the Uber app. Viola! A passenger said Ola!. :P The pop up indicated that it would be a girl and from the name, I was guessing a reasonably cute one at that too. (The devil inside arose with an evil grin while the other half of the brain went into Mayday Mode shouting 'Aswin! you're Married now! BEHAVE!!!' ) . Anyhow, after calming myself down, I wait at the designated pickup point and Passenger Number 2 arrives shortly thereafter. She gets into the rear seat and says" lets go". I turn into my "transporter mode" and proceed to deliver the "package". However I realised shortly that this package was not the talkative kind; Atleast not to me. I asked two questions, got single word answers and then dead silence. A minute later, I hear "Hellooowwww.....What'cha doin..." and a rather long flirty conversation ensues,......on the telephone; All the way to the destination. That day, I truly became, just a cabbie. :/

Day 3: The Delhi guy ( No offence, but you know where this is going)

Having experienced the wrath of the silent " I don't want to talk to my cabbie" female passenger, I thought it would be prudent to stick to accepting only male passengers going forward and I did. I happened to meet a young(er than me) chap who happened to work in that big big AtoZ company in my building :P and was looking to catch a ride to a pub after work. He was passenger Number 3. The conversation started with 'Bhaiyya where are you' and ended with 'Sir where are you' as I dragged the conversation from Hindi to English. We slipped into easy conversation once he understood what I was doing and we had a friendly chat about how it was something actually fun and meeting new people. I started sharing my two experiences and talked about how I picked up a girl passenger and had 20 minutes of silence in my car. Silence which I don't have even when i'm alone. His next question was "Can you pick up girls like this?" I gave a matter-of-fact reaction,"yeah, sure, there is no gender bar for passengers, you can pickup guys and girls". 

Gives myself a minute. Then the light bulb worked. "Duuuuude!! Nooooo. I meant pick up a female PASSENGER. Not hit on them!!!". However, my shock and reaction didn't seem to work on him much as he started scheming on how he'd approach women as a cabbie.The Title of this section says it all I guess. :P


Post that, I had some non-eventful trips driving to work and back and met a few interesting people including a female who was rather willing to have a nice conversation especially once she realised that I work in her building and was not a driver. Therefore I concluded that Days 4,5 and 6 went along comfortably well.


My regular carpool mate once told me a story of his colleague in Delhi, who used to work late shifts that end around 12 a.m. He'd book a cab at 11.30 p.m. and every time the cab guy would call, he would say "Bhaiyya 10 minutes", "Bhaiyya 5 minutes" and inevitably delay the process every 15 minutes for so long that the driver would have snugly settled himself in for the night by the time this guy was ready to board the cab. I thanked my stars I had no such experiences, until that fateful evening....

Day 7: The 'Bhaiyya 5 minutes'

I found a trip request, from a point midway to a destination just a street away from my home. I decided to accept it. Oddly, it got cancelled a minute later while I got stuck in some minor traffic. I should have left it that. However, the same request came up a minute later and I decided to accept it. Little did I know that it would be my test of patience.

I reached the pickup point and called the passenger. The name was not clear since this particular person seemed to have only given the initials. Turned out, it was a girl. She said 'Bhaiyya, 5 minutes". I should have known.

Fast forward 10 minutes: I call her up again and she says, " Bhaiyya, just coming". I sigh and wait.

Another 5 minutes: A bunch of girls walk out of the office block toward my car. They look like college kids so I think its not them. However, one of them stops right next to my car, opens the rear door, puts her bag in and continues to talk to them. " err, hello, are you the ride sharing person?" I ask. She says, 'Yes Bhaiyya, 2 minutes." 10, to 5, to 2. I'm looking at 30 second extensions now. another 3 minutes later, I ask, a little impatiently "I have places to go can we move?". I think until that point, she hadn't realised that she was on an ubercommute and was thinking I was a regular cab driver. Never again, I tell myself. The horror, of the "bhaiyya 5 minutes".

Days 8,9,10 went along uneventful with me meeting another a bunch of new interesting people and even had two different people headed in different directions on the same trip.

Day 11: The pool that wouldn't end

I learnt my lesson the hard way. I shall carpool only with one Ubercommuter. Why? because the Uber app is stupid.
Scene: A regular evening off from work. Carpool buddy is working late. I switch on Uberpartner.

I get a commuter heading to a location 1 km from my house and starting from WTC. Excellent I think. I accept the ride and after the customary conversation of "Hey this looks like a personal car and yes, this is ubercommute not cab etc etc" we settled into the long commute ahead of us and talked about work and Bangalore and such. The app buzzed in the distance, suggesting a pool. However, it's such a  cranky app, that it thinks I shouldn't know the pickup or dropoff points. Basically a 'Guess the locations' game. I decide to try my luck and accept it. Turns out the pickup point was just further down the road. Not bad so far. I pick up the two people and ask them "Where's the drop off point?". The next two words I hear, are the biggest, baddest, meanest combination of words that give horrible horrible nightmares to any Bangalore motorist: Marathahalli Bridge. What ensued, was an extra hour on the road and an exhausted me. No more, No more I said.

Day 12: How I possibly pissed a lady and a handicapped person on the same day.

Off from work. Carpoolbuddy ditches again. On comes the app. Another request. The location looks fuzzy on the map but reasonable close to home, so I accept. After I accept, it shows a location about 8km away from my house! What on earth Uber?? Am I carpooling to the moon now?? You sneaky App, you. I call up the passenger, a lady with an insanely long name I'm not even sure how to pronounce it. " Hi, I'm calling regarding the ride share. I'm at the pickup point". "I'm coming" she says. She promptly arrives too. Well and good. I point out the location is far off and I'm not sure if we should carpool on this one and she gets all agitated "I've been trying to find a ride for more than 30 minutes, can we start now?" I think, oh well, I understand it can be tough and lets not get on her bad side yet(Worst case scenarios running in my mind), So we start off. I keep asking for directions and she goes, "Can't you use navigation?". Hmm, why didn't I think of that? I shut up after that, but manage to explain that this is Ubercommute and I'm not a cabbie. She goes" Oh". and then radio silence. I drop her off, and think "Finally, this is over", when I get another request, matching my final leg of the journey. I think "How bad could it get?" and accept it. Standard pickup; I call and await; He calls back and says he can't come out and asks me to come inside the campus. I'm not sure how to get inside and after a few attempts at explaining my location he says, "okay wait a bit, I'm coming". I'm thinking, " Why is this guy so lazy? Can't he walk a 100 metres??", as I wait. The call isn't cut and I hear him walking, a continuous "Swoosh....Swoosh...Swoosh"like noise emanates; A bit like one  of those zombie movies where its a tense scene with the lead character hiding behind a wall and waiting for the zombie to walk past. That sort of noise. Finally the person comes round the corner and I think "Oh crap, Aswin, you are going to hell for comparing this guy with a zombie". Turns out he was slightly handicapped and had issues walking. So much for being a nice social person and meeting new people through this way. Sigh.

Past day 12, it's been a bit quiet. Some interesting things I've noticed are that the men have been faster to catch up on the fact that I was not a taxi driver and that my beloved Toothless was not a cab. To be honest, I'm surprised that none of the women had any suspicion given it was a white-plate, nice blue car and a ahem ahem, well dressed English speaking driver listening to Radio Indigo.  I mean, how many of us could there be? On the other hand, all my passengers(Atleast the ones that I could have a proper conversation with), be it male or female, understood the concept of carpooling and what I was doing here. Some were aware that Uber had this option and some were not; Again a 50/50 split on the genders there. I guess it did more to do with the techsavvy attitude of the person rather than the gender there.

Most of them didn't notice that they had chosen a carpool ride either until I pointed out to the SMS they received from Uber that specified that I was a commuter heading in their direction and not a driver. having gone through all these , I shall still try to Ubercommute on days I'm driving alone, just for the heck of it. The good or the bad, it has been an interesting experience and like I said, I get to share some fun moments and wade out the pains of commuting cross country. Across Bangalore, I mean. Maybe I shall see you on the road too, Comrades.








Sunday, July 14, 2013

310 days on the run. 3000 Points to ponder. 36,000 feet up in the air.



In February 2010, I was in a cold leather seat in Satyam Cinemas, Chennai as I sat mesmerised by the world of Ryan Bingham. Who is this Ryan Bingham you say? He was a high flying specialist, on a mission that spanned the Length and breadth of the Stars and Stripes nation. A corporate downsizer, he lived the motto of 'What's in Your Backpack?'. That movie defined the world of a travelling professional to me. Living out of a quickly packed suitcase, quick reflex movements as you clear airport security and the plastic, oh the love for plastic. That was what I wanted to be.

Life interestingly gives you things in ways you don't expect. Oh, I'm not a Jet Set professional chalking up frequent flier miles as if they were bonus stars in a Nintendo game as I headed off to save the princess. Nor am I swiping plastic at every nook and corner buying Omega or Seville Row. Yet, in the last 10 months, starting from the 7th of September 2012, I have managed to live in five different cities/towns/villages, packed and unpacked a dozen times, met a million new people (made new interesting friends) taken every mode of transport known to man(Except a bullock cart perhaps) and slept in buses/friend's couches/in the comfort of home as well, all in the pursuit of that one elusive thing. What is that thing you may ask. 'I'm not exactly sure' would be the appropriate answer most of the time. 'I'm looking for a career opportunity' would be vaguely accurate, but not completely to the point.

I sit in the relative comforts of a jet turbine powered aluminium can, 36,000ft up in the air, Anoushka Shankar playing the role of invisible companion. I ask myself these questions as I head home, from another home 3000km away. What now? What I'm looking for is probably an answer. Obvious right? Are you sure? It's an answer to numerous questions that themselves are not sure what they should be asking, so how can you be sure that is what I'm looking for? Not sure of what to say? Yeah, I thought so.

To your right is an emergency exit. Please pull the cover open and then release the lever to open the hatch. Please keep the pathway clear at all times. The Silken Maiden in Green looked at me till I feigned understanding, then gave a quick smile and left, her orange tresses wavering. Where did that breeze come from just as she walked away gently caressing her hair? Inside a pressurised can that too. The instructions pre-flight come to mind as I spot the hatch by my side. I wonder if she'll disapprove if I did a mock drill while in mid air. Suppose she secretly did want me to. To end it all. Maybe that's why they're called Sirens. I look around, a pot belly deep in slumber. The hatch sounds more enticing. Another aisle down, a cherub is asleep cutely and comfortably. But perhaps, it's in everyone's best interests if I left the hatch alone. 

Another Orange Silken maiden strolls past, curious as to why I'm staring at the Smokey bowtie that lights up now and then in the sky above. The visual still remains a bit of a blur, but I'd have to guess tresses was not the Orange Maiden's thing. Back to that middling cursor that keeps blinking on screen. Nope, still no answer to those questions. The detour into Luka's view of the world did not help. Note to self. Consult Calvin's doctor before the black bag that I've comfortably had sat in the seat next to me and even buckled up during take-off starts talking to me. Just a second, he wants a blanket. Hmm, I might be a tad too late on the doctor front.

Oh well, enough pondering. Enough of your pseudo intellect and supposed knack for untold fiction. The Overlord called. He wants his contraption back. So, It's time to put the seatbacks upright and the trays back into position. it's time to land back to reality. And just to put the reader at ease then about my mental abilities, so, who am I and what should I be doing? Well all I know for now is, I am Aswin, and I shall just continue living the life I'm meant to live.

P.S. PFA a copy of my resume. Please review my profile and advise on any suitable vacancies that you may be hiring for. If you're not a part of the Human Resources team, please refer me to a suitable Human resource person. Your help is most appreciated.

P.P.S PFA-Please Find Attached - Tech Jargon is a necessity to enter the world of management. Or so they say....

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Dream of Perfection



The Great Gatsby. The only thing on my mind after the movie, at home as I write this is, Lana Del Ray, the mist and a green light in the distance. 

A period movie set in the Jazz Age acording to Fitzgerald, it has this elegant combination of Old world charm vis-a-vis the settings and a modern era twist in term of music. This combination is a killer. It has dubstep party beats mixed to Jazz elements and... right, I'll stop here about the music. Credit to Jay Z and the various artists though.


If you've read the novel, you know what you're in for. A cinematic adaptation of what is probably one of your most favourite novels. Now wake up. The movie will never be as good as you expect it to be. Leonardo will be more understated than you expect and may not play the 'passionate, naive and in his own ideal world' Jay Gatsby as well as you want him to. This will definitely disappoint those ladies who go in expecting to come out in tears. But for the record, Jay did get some from the female fan base when I was in the theatre. Tears I mean. ;)

But walk in like me, a person who has heard of The Great Gastby but is as clueless as a, err clueless person can be about it, and you will come out overwhelmed. The movie tugs to your emotions as you hear, see and get to learn bit by bit, a little more about the Mysterious Jay. You know there is a deep dangerous past coming, you can see it in his eyes and when it does, boy does it take you away bit by bit of course. Like I mentioned earlier, Lana Del Ray definitely has something do to with it too. 'Young and beautiful' left my earlobes spent and wanting more. Again and again. 

The thing about this movie is that, they could have gone on and shown more of the 20's; Extravagant dancing, partying, wall street et all were there, but the director could have drooled on and on, romanticising the Era. But he didn't. They made it crisp and more about the characters, With DiCaprio's outwardly happy, hospitable but inwardly romanticising Jay, Carey's Daisy and even Tobey as Nick. Fitzgerald would probably have beeen proud of this piece of work. Gatsby's idea of perfection, his undevoted love and his dream/ambition of making the future can unnerve you. A little shiver down your spine as you wonder whether your orgastic future will be that.

Walk in. Get enchanted by Jay Gatsby.

Come out. Riveted by The Great Gatsby.

Oh, and what do I do when I'm depresssed?
I write.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Upon Thames.....

The hunt for the neverending source of wealth resumes as I shift to glorious London in pursuit of a career. While I camp here, I've decided to revive my blog with some bits and pieces about the mini trips I make out here. To assist with that I've got two trusty assistants. First is my well known canon sx20is. The new addition is the Vertigo Rockface bicycle that I just bought second hand. At 35 quid it was a simple no brainer deal for a year old set of wheels. So keep watching this space for more!!!!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Cocktail

You know how some movies just make so much sense, have perfect storylines and engage the audience to such an extent that they feel like they are part of the story as well? 

Well, this just isn't one of them. It had me almost bored in the first half but I saved myself from boredom by playing 'guess the next scene' for the second half. Guess what? It was my lucky day. I should have gone gambling in fact now that I think about it. Okay, back to the movie. 

Cocktail like it's name, supposedly has a melange of characters being thrown together into a glass that's called life. About the melange of characters; well they are a varied lot alright. Deepika is hot and spunky as usual, Diana is pretty and demure and Saif, umm, is just too old. To add to that you've got the support crew of Boman Irani and Dimple Kapadi who all play their roles quite well. Roles that are not new to Indian cinema though. 

The dialogues are too cheesy despite what other critics might tell you about how some of the dialogues are straight-forward and the characters are more open in thought of mind and speech; apparently a new realm in Indian Cinema. Seriously? You can kind of figure where the script is going and well, it's just regular bollywood fanfare.

The plus side? Good music. Hot Deepika(Drool). Pretty Diana. I can't really think of anything else and if you're a girl, nope. No hot bod's for you to drool at either ladies. :P

The Final Verdict??
It's perfectly fine as a timepass movie for the multiplexes of India (which if box office collections are to go by, stand true). But if you plan to spend something in the range of 7-8 GBP or 10 USD/AUD/SGD, be warned, you better have a good group of friends to go with or have someone treating you(like in my case :P)

P.S.: The UK isn't as awesome as they portray in the movie. Seriously.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

An Ode to Chilver 360!

Chilver 360 thy be named, 180 odd days of you a home I made.
 
Free from chaos and the insanity of the world, but limiting me to the gateway of LAN and CMA World.

Yet a home away from home you gave, oblivious to which, your keys, away I gave.

I choose a path that befuddles the grey,   

 From the green expanse of the West Road view, To the mystery maze of the Mitchell rue.

No more a self-catered kitchen to raid, it shall be only a BLD parade.

From the comforts of the Ensuite showers and few,  

to the communals of Mitchell Penitentiary with like crew,

It shall for sure be a downward trade , All in the name of saving I'm afraid.

Adieu my beloved Chilver block, as I vanish into the Bermuda that is Mitchell block.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

CPR!!!

I know, I know. it's been ages! before it dies out completely, I shall post something!

Oh wait. I just did. :D

Well whatever is left of my readership, I have some good news. I shall soon post something!!! Keep watching this space as I fight boredom, crazy weather and a busy MSc course to come up with witty content for my once flourishing space on the internet!!!