Saturday, January 5, 2013

Mahindra XUV 500

Over the years I have looked at various SUVs and Jeeps and always wanted to get one, but when it comes to family needs, smaller cars or sedan usually take preference. When I had decided to upgrade from my first car, a Santro, I was exploring Scorpio, but wife finally narrowed down to Honda City. Driving it has been a pleasure, no doubt and it has been an absolutely hassle free car.

When Mahindra launched XUV 500 the desire to buy an SUV resurfaced again and the price point and the feature packed alongside where the key pulling factors. But unfortunately for me, the booking closed almost as soon as it started (within 8 days). I went around and looked at loads of other SUVs, but they were either too costly or lacked some of the features. XUV was almost like the ideal combination of price, looks and features. At one point I had almost given up hope of buying it, but then in July 2012 the booking opened again and this time without any lottery and I promptly booked one. They had said 3 months and it came in 3 months. Note that it being diesel will help me save on driving cost, wasn’t what I was really looking at. I wanted a bigger vehicle to manage bigger family needs and always had a passion for SUV, so bought it J.
I am loving it!

I am not going to get into technical feature listing. That you can get from the XUV’s website (http://www.mahindraxuv500.com/), but will share my experience in driving it in city, on highway and long distance to Aurangabad, a distance of approx. 260 kms.

For a tall person like me, Santro had been good to get in and out. Honda City being low in its body, had that bit of an issue for me. XUV on the other hand is higher and takes a whee bit of effort to get in, though it is comfortable with or without the side step (that can be optionally added). Seating inside is very comfortable and there is ample room for me to stretch my legs. Unlike low seating vehicles, where thighs usually don’t get rest (for tall people like me), XUV provided full comfort to thighs and with its multi-adjusting back seat, even back support was good. The long distance drive to Aurangabad was done without any sort of back or leg pain and I got down as fresh as I was when we had started the journey.
Needless to say XUV is heavy, not that you have to lift it, but it feels heavy and hence a bit difficult to maneuver. You obviously cannot expect to handle it like a small car or even a mid-size sedan. As compared to XUV, I could push my Honda City to high speed even in city roads or deftly turn it to zig-zag in between crowded places. You cannot do that with XUV (maybe you can, but I cannot). If you are into in-city driving most of the time, this may become an issue with congested roads and smaller parking spots. Ironically for us at this time Honda City has become that smaller other car that I use in such congested places J.

On bumpy roads or roads with pot holes, it can become a bit of challenge. Being with higher clearance, it shakes lot more than does your typical small cars or sedans, which have lower clearance. What is lacks on such roads it more than makes up on smooth roads where driving XUV is an absolute pleasure. It just zips past and you don’t feel a thing. The vehicle is extremely stable.

There is ample leg room in middle seat and it also comes with 2 level inclination allowing the people sitting in the middle to also relax a bit on long drives. The back seat, is fairly comfortable, though on long distance it is probably best left for children or thin adults. Because the seats are all parallel, getting the back seat is surely not the most convenient as you need to climb and shrink past the middle seat, which is buckled up to make space. Getting in is relatively easier, while getting out requires bit more dexterity and hence adults will find it difficult to perform this task. Once in the seat, it is manageable, so if you discount the few minutes of trouble of getting in or out, the rest is fine. It would have been surely lot better had XUV also had options of perpendicular seats at the back like Scorpio or Xylo has, but then people say that in long drives, the parallel seats tend to be more comfortable rather than the side facing.

There is loads and loads of space to keep things, something that thrilled my daughter. She was excited now that she could carry lot more things with her. All doors have good sized place holders, with specific place for keeping bottles. There is even an AC controlled cool box which can be used to keep those cold drinks on long drives.

The spects/goggles holder is convenient but a bit tricky to manage while driving. I did use it a lot during the Aurangabad trip to keep my Ray Ban. There is what they call as Conversation mirror which can be used to look at people in rear seat during conversation, while staying focused on the road ahead. However I didn’t find this very useful. I could anyway see the people more clearly in the rear view mirror itself.

A feature that I had missed when being explained, and hence came as a surprise is what is called Static bending projector headlamps with LED parking lights. In simpler terms, when the vehicle is turning and the headlights are on, additional pair of lights light up, that are placed at an angle, thus providing wider lighting and hence less chance of missing some hidden object on a turn and hitting it.

There is an additional feature where by XUV enters what is like a stand-by or sleep mode when it is stopped (say at a traffic light). The engine is practically off. As you push the accelerator, the engine comes back to life again and you are ready to drive on. This feature is not present in W6, the model I bought.

Follow me home is a feature that is interesting, but I always keep suspecting it. When you park your XUV (and it is dark) and lock it, the headlights come on and stay one for about a min. This allows additional light till you get into your home. If you have a garage, this may not be useful, but in building parking like mine, this is helpful as it allows me to easily reach the building lift when the parking area lights aren’t on. I keep suspecting it as that approx. 1 min seems like eternity and I keep feeling that if the headlights don’t turn off, it will drain my battery, but they always do, so I fear in vain.

XUV is filled with lights inside and every seat has like a personal light. So I guess if during night driving, someone wants to read, like in Airplane, they can use their personal light. These lights can also be turned on in the lounge lighting mode, which is good, but I would have liked it more had they used some color other than red. I guess blue would have been good.

A feature that my wife likes is that as she opens the vanity mirror another small light right above lights up, making it easy to see and use the mirror.

One little but important thing. You always need to keep coins handy. Not that everywhere you go beggars will be there, but because the spare tire mounted under the back side opens up with a coin which needs to be turned in a small groove. 

While XUV is feature rich, Mahindra seems to have done a bit of compromise on internal plastic quality. There is a bit of cheapness in the looks. The various storage compartments in the front panel have lids on them that either don't open easily or close easily.



Lastly the gear aren’t as smooth to change as I could in my Honda City, especially the first gear and reverse gear. It sometimes takes that extra push to get to change the gear. Fortunately both of these are used mostly from stop to start and rarely while already driving, so it doesn’t impact the driving much.
So in summary except for those small lanes and by-lanes (where I hesitated taking my Honda City also), driving XUV has been a pleasure so far. I am very happy with my purchase.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Rest in Peace Nirbhaya... or Can You?

When I had watched the female feticide episode of Satayamev Jayate, I had felt anguish within. Why would someone do this and I had shared some of my thoughts here. However with the recent rape incident of the 23 year old girl in our capital city and her tragic demise, I suddenly cannot help but wonder if it is worth bringing girl child in this world? Does a girl deserve this life?

Last few days, having read in papers, watched the news in TV my heart goes all out for this girl (who unfortunately is no more). While news of rape isn’t new, this one caught one and all by the sheer brutality of the incident. We all were shaken from comforts of our ‘chalta hai’ attitude into action and the country almost came to a standstill. This girl showed remarkable fighting spirit till the very end. But it is so ironical that media is still full of more such episodes daily, but then is it really a surprise, for the statistics show that a girl is raped almost every 20 min in India.

Almost everyone agrees that our laws are archaic and systems too slow to react. The brutality in this case is possibly the rarest of rare and hence demand of death sentence is justified, but then where the buck really stops is how fast is the decision taken? We may argue in favor of death sentence but if the case drags on and one in the courts as is the usual trend, what difference does it makes what punishment is put forth in the books of law? The girls/women who go through the ordeal have a lifelong stigma to bear so the other question is why should the perpetrator of such crime be ride of his punishment in a whiff? Isn’t then castration and/or life imprisonment with intensive labor the right punishment?
The various politicians trying to score brownie points at this time forget that their own parties are full of people against whom such complaints are registered. Will all of them agree to be tried in fast track court and be hanged to death if proven guilty?

While we address this, it is prudent to look beyond and see how entangled the entire nine yards are and what does it take to really get the society freed of the grips of such sick minded criminals. Yes, to me, these surely are criminals, though some of our esteemed lawyers won’t agree. 

The most common excuse that our protectors of law and rapists give is the girl was provocatively dressed. Nothing can be funnier than this. This is like saying that I have a knife in my kitchen so I will go around killing people. Has our libido grown so weak that it goes out of control every time some girl walks past in so called provocative clothes? This is nothing but sick mentality that a girl more fashionably dressed is giving out signal that I am available. And what if the girl is your sister? Do these men still get similar signals?
Even if for a second I were to agree that a sexually deprived male got charged on seeing a scantily clad female, how is that true for little kids? Don’t we read in the media about rape of even 2-3 year old girls? Where is provocative dressing there? How can anyone get sexually attracted to such small toddlers? The only feeling one typically gets are of the nature, “Oh! How sweet the kid is”. “What a lovely smile!” or a desire to play with them but definitely not to rape them. The person has to be truly a pervert.

If mere provocation is enough, then I wonder if we will find a line of Vicky donors outside temples like that in Khajuraho? No! provocation is just the easiest of excuse one can give to shift to blame of the crime committed by self to someone else.
Apart from the intention to prove supremacy, I think the basic issue is of not thinking of females as humans, but possessions or objects of desire etc. I would say that to a large extent the way our societies have lived through ages is to blame for it. At the risk of airing personal opinion in public, an act that of date is becoming a reason for putting anyone behind bars, let me share a few examples that come to mind that show that for generations we have treated females as objects that males possess and females have little rights of their own.

If the blame is that one being separated from spouse there is chance of adultery, why only female needs to prove her being still pure? If female is not just an object, how can come someone think of equally dividing amongst men, just because the person who suggested this, didn’t know what was being talked about? Why is that in our history you read of Kings with hundreds of wives, but not one mention of vice versa? Why is that princesses were married off as a way to create peace between warring nations? If females were thought of as humans, won’t their opinion ever considered?
It is a male dominant society, else why would always a girl need to after marriage leave her home behind and go to the boys house? Given that today more families tend to be nuclear so the couple ends up living on their own, but the basic understanding is still the same. Else why would parents think of girl child as “kisi aur ki amanat” and doesn’t ‘amanat’ typically mean object, or property or some such item and not really a person.

They say name is a person’s identity and in relationship building sessions, we are taught that we should people by their names. They like it better that way. If that’s true, why is it that girl need to change their surname and lose part of their identity? And in some parts of India, it is even common to have the girl change her first name as well.  What kind of identity is left then for a girl suddenly after two decades of her life?
So while on one side we have these deep rooted beliefs that need to be shaken and relooked at in this 21st century, on the other side is the law that should protect women against crimes, but miserably fails to do so. Again the issue is multi-fold and starts right from the registration of FIR. It is well known to all that registering an FIR is a pain for just about anything; leave alone a case of rape. The victim unfortunately either isn’t allowed to register (a recent such episode here) or if is fortunate enough to get the complaint registered, will probably live the rest of her life running to courts trying to get justice. If the case ever comes to trial, the lawyers find it so very convenient to character assassinate the woman involved saying that she instigated it (similar statement here) or will go into such excruciating details to recount the incident that it isn’t less than raping the woman again publically.

The current Delhi incident also brought to fore any issue plaguing our society and that is the treatment police gives to well-meaning individuals. Even after being thrown off the bus no one came forward to help immediately, for the fear that they will also end up having to make rounds of police station and keep explaining why were they there and why did they help the individuals. So many people die on road accidents in India today just because they didn’t get timely medical help and this lack of help isn’t because there wasn’t a hospital close by or because the accident happened on remote isolated spot, but just because who wants to get into the tangle of police investigation.
There are measures that are being announced (here, here, here) but what remains to be seen is the true desire to implement it going forward or is it just a face saving gimmick for now and with time things will go back to … cannot call that as ‘normal’!!  just go back to status quo. At the same time, I strongly feel it isn’t just an issue that strict laws, or government or police need to address, but we as members of society need to address as well. True that law may instill fear, but then rape need to stop not just because of fear of punishment but for knowing that it isn’t the right thing to do anyway. The basic attitude needs to change.

This new year 2013, together, let's pledge that we will bring that change both in self and things around us. Are you ready?

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