Cost of living in Bangalore

Cost of living - WHere money goes?I have lived in Bangalore for more than three years now, so I think I have a fair idea on what are the kind of expenses one has to take care during one’s stay in Bangalore and with what frequency. I will just lay out the approx costs I had to bear in these years I was here in Bangalore. This is based on my lifestyle, and the spend on certain heads can change for different people, but the expense heads remain the same.

One Time Spends

  • Deposit – One of the first expenses for the people moving to Bangalore if they want to find a decent place to stay. I had to shell out 20000 rs for deposit as I chose to stay in a shared apartment by SimplyGuest.
  • Home Setup – The approx cost of the setup comes to about 80000 if you optimize the value and manage some second-hand things to have your house fully furnished. I didn’t have this kind of money, so I chose a fully furnished place with SimplyGuest. They took care of everything, and I just had to pay the monthly rent. So, my cost was 0.
Total one-time cost for me = 20000

Monthly Spends

  • Rent + Maintainance – For me, it was 10000 for a sharing room as I was staying in BTM stage 2 very near to silk board and it is a nice serene and calm locality. I am still staying here 🙂
  • Cook – We started with paying 1100 for lunch and dinner but as of today we are paying 1700 for breakfast lunch and dinner and out cook is great and we don’t miss home.
  • Cleaning Maid – This is another 1000 rupees for cleaning of dishes, kitchen, and general housekeeping. This cost is after sharing it with flatmates.
  • Groceries – We don’t put any restrictions on the kind of groceries to order. It generally adds up to 4000 per month.
  • Petrol – I have a field job, and my petrol bills are not reimbursed, so I end up spending about 2500 in petrol or travel cabs in case it’s raining.
  • Bills (Mobile, Misc, etc.) – It adds to about 1500 rupees a month. Can be optimized if someone chose not to have certain things.
  • Weekend Spend – I generally watch a movie every alternate weekend and have food outside on Sunday as our cook is on leave. This adds to about 2500 on food and 2500 on movies
Total Monthly recurring Spend = 25700

Periodic Spends (twice or thrice a year)

  • Small Holiday Trips – I save a bit every month to make sure that I at least have a trip every three months. This amounts to about 10000. This purely depends on your preference. So the yearly spend amounts to about 50000.
  • Tip to Home – I am from Rajasthan, and a return ticket is about 11000, and I travel to the home twice a year. When you go home, there are certain other unavoidable expenses which amount to about 10000 per trip. So, the total yearly expense comes to about 45000.
Total Leasure/ Travel cost per month = 9000
Now, let’s calculate the effective per month expense = 25700+9000 = 34700
Cost of living in bangaloreOver and above this there are other expenses like shopping, nightlife but those things I have left to people as the expenses are very very subjective.
Hope this gives you a fair amount of idea on how much money is needed to survive in a city like Bangalore. I completely agree that a lot of these heads can be optimized and the cost of living can go down significantly but that’s a function of one’s lifestyle which cannot be generalized. So, you can use the heads and change value according to what you think is the fair value and find out your cost of living in Bangalore.
[This is a version submitted by a SimplyGuest tenant as a part of experience sharing campaign on life.simplyguest.com ]
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Getting your vegan fix in the city of Bangalore

vegan

India is famous for its vegetarian traditions. Vegetarianism finds a place for itself in the historical as well as the modern spheres of India. In fact, some reports go so far as to claim that our country has more vegetarians than the rest of the world put together. And yet, we weren’t among the first nations to promote the now globally popular philosophy of veganism. Be that as it may, several Indians are now opening their doors to a lifestyle that is completely free from the consumption of any form of animal product, and the restaurant market is catching up with them, as it is bound to.

Some people go vegan for health reasons while others are motivated by the desire to live a “cruelty-free lifestyle”. Whatever the case, one can’t deny the increasing demand for the cuisine. Unfortunately, while Bangalore does not have too many vegan-only restaurants yet, there are several vegetarian restaurants offering vegan options that are nothing short of delectable. Here’s my pick of the best places in the city to fulfill your vegan cravings. Whether you are already a hard-core vegan or you just want to experiment with the idea, you should give these places a try.

Carrots

Possibly the first all-out vegan restaurant in the city, Carrots is a breath of fresh air in the midst of all the bars and barbecues in Koramangala. It was where I first tried vegan food, and I’m glad I did because more often than not, the right introduction sets the tone for the way anything is perceived later. Whether you’re looking for a refreshing drink, a quick snack, a meal of several courses or even a rich, creamy dessert, Carrots is up for any vegan challenge that you put before it! My pick from their menu is the Kurkur Bhindi Chaat, although I’ve heard great things about their soups and salads as well!

Find them on Zomato here: https://www.zomato.com/bangalore/carrots-koramangala-6th-block

Green theory

What I remember liking the most about Green Theory was where it was located. If you aren’t careful, you might almost miss it, but the hunt for the quiet spot on Convent Road – off Residency Road – is well worth it for the peace and calm it offers. Whether you want to go as a group and play a bunch of fun board games before your meal arrives, or you want to enjoy a healthy date outdoors among the plants, or you just want to relax by yourself with a book from the collection they have at the restaurant, Green Theory is certainly something for everyone. Most of their dishes are available in vegan-friendly versions; just make sure you specify your preferences. You could also check out their other restaurant – Little Green Café on Church Street – which is also rumored to have good vegan options.

Find them here: https://www.zomato.com/bangalore/green-theory-residency-road

JustBe Café

Calling itself the first plant-based whole foods restaurant in Bangalore, this place in Sadashivnagar has consciously-created, locally-sourced options for vegetarians as well as vegans. JustBe Café is a brainchild of Nidhi Sogani Nahata, a pioneer in the vegetarian and vegan movements in Bangalore, as well as a leader of the initiatives of the NGO Sharan, that seeks to achieve disease reversal through proper diets. I remember being particularly inspired by her ideas as a panelist in a discussion on conscious living recently conducted in the city. So head on over to JustBe Café and kick-start your vegan living in style.

Find them here: https://www.zomato.com/justbecafe

Vegan Heat

While Vegan Heat is a delivery-only outlet based out of Koramangala, most of their customers find their service exceptionally good. Their menu stands out for its unique options, such as the Tempeh Quinoa/Millet Masala Dosa, the Quinoa Cumin Crackers with Beetroot Hummus, or their probiotic burgers and pizzas among others. If you aren’t up to experimenting yet though, you can always go for something you recognize. An added bonus is that they seem to be very responsive to feedback, so if you want to give them your opinions or suggestions, just leave them a comment on their Zomato page and they’re sure to get back to you.

Find them here: https://www.zomato.com/bangalore/vegan-heat-koramangala-1st-block

Jumping Beans

If you’re a vegan complaining about the lack of Indian – specifically North Indian – options in the vegan scene in Bangalore, head on over to Jumping Beans on Old Madras Road. While the travel is a bit of a downer especially if you’re put up in South Bangalore like me, the effort is well worth it for the number of options on the menu. The restaurant specializes in “mock chicken” dishes, so be sure to give that a try whether you’re vegetarian or not. Just be sure to specify your vegan preferences because while the place is vegetarian only, the menu has several non-vegan items. Oh, and the icing on the cake? It’s a pet-friendly place! So get out there with your buddy and give yourselves a well-deserved treat!

Find them here: https://www.zomato.com/bangalore/jumping-beans-old-madras-road

Hwealth Café

With two outlets in Koramangala and HSR, Hwealth is fast gaining popularity not just as a place for healthy food, but also as one with several vegan offerings. The place is also ideal for you if you’re the only vegan in your group because it has enough (healthy) non-vegetarian options to satisfy your friends’ meat cravings while you lose yourself in that Veggie/Fruit Detox Juice or Tabbouleh Salad. The best part is that the food tastes so good, you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything by choosing a salad over a bucket of deep-fried chicken. It’s definitely the place to start if you’re trying to ease your way into a healthier lifestyle.

Find them here: https://www.zomato.com/bangalore/hwealthcafe-koramangala-5th-block

Enerjuvate Studio and Café

Enerjuvate is loved by its patrons not just for the food that lacks for nothing, but also for its décor and its fun vibe. With a new outlet in Koramangala apart from the original in Jayanagar, Enerjuvate is clearly becoming a favorite with many! Much like the décor, the menu itself is eclectic and quirky offering enough and more in various cuisines. Whether it is the Coco Mojito (coconut water with pineapple and mint) or the vegan “ice cream” in the flavor of the day, Enerjuvate is going to leave the vegan in you asking to come back the very next day! The food is always cooked fresh and is naturally flavored with no added preservatives, leaving you light and energetic true to the café’s name. So gather your friends and head on over to Enerjuvate for an afternoon of board games and a guilt-free indulgence!

Find them here: https://www.zomato.com/bangalore/enerjuvate-studio-cafe-koramangala-4th-block

Do let us know where you like to get your vegan fix in the comments below!

 

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A Taste of Kerala in Kochi

~by Nirupama Rajan

It’s been just about a year since I left the sultry, languorous afternoons of Kochi behind after a month-long internship there. Nonetheless, in typical Kerala fashion, the place has become a sort of permanent fixture in my mind since then, often drawing me into memories of some great times I had that summer on the Malabar Coast, and inviting me to pen them down.

I have often noticed that just as visiting a place for a short while makes one enthusiastic to experience everything that it offers within that limited time span, if your stay is a prolonged one, you tend to lay back and let the place come to you instead. And so, very often, tourists often end up knowing a little about a lot more, while residents usually know a lot about very little. This was the case with me as well. While I initially set about making plans for every weekend so I could see for myself as many of the things that I’d read about Kochi, I quickly became very content with the pleasures my neighborhood and its vicinity offered me.

So if you are looking for a List of Things to Do in Kochi, you won’t find that here. In fact, I don’t even intend to write about all the places that I visited or all the things that I did while I was there. What I’m attempting here is to create a curated set of experiences that have stayed with me, for whatever reason, even after a year has passed by. I hope that this will encourage you to visit these places so you may see for yourself why I’m partial to them.

I’ll start with a place on the Ernakulam side of town that I would visit every day if I could- Subhash Park. Located beside the Marine Drive and overlooking both the Kochi Harbour as well as the backwaters of the Vembanand Lake, this park is a treat for the senses. Whether it was to simply lie on the grass under the many trees there in the afternoons, walk around listening to the park’s brand of music in the late evenings or just sit down on the concrete ledge that separates land from water and gaze at the ships in the distance, Subhash Park became one of those places that defines the city of Kochi for me. A bonus is the great raw banana bhajjis and the ice-cream sticks (so reminiscent of childhood days) that you will find being sold outside the many entrances to the park.

Kerala is a whole other culinary world, especially for a vegetarian from Bangalore like me. The blanket term of “South-Indian food” applies to almost nothing here. All my fears of not finding satisfying vegetarian food in a town famed for its seafood culture were banished the second I tasted my first puttu. In the weeks that followed, I gorged on other local delicacies. My picks of the lot include the cutlets at Indian Coffee House (which is a stone’s throw away from Subhash Park), practically anything on the menu at Gokul Oottupura (though I’m very partial to their kothu parotta), puttu-kadala, idiyappam, parotta-kurma – honestly, anything local and vegetarian tasted great to me! And as far as my meat-eating friends were concerned, the seafood there is apparently some of the best you’d find anywhere in the country.

The bhajis and bonds sold on street carts stood out particularly not just for their flavor but also for the cleanliness and hygiene evident in their preparation. Another local haunt that I found myself praising plenty was Milano on MG Road. Run by an Italian family, their gelato is exquisitely handcrafted and outdoes the stuff you’d find in most of your big cities. Make sure you try their hazelnut while you’re there. Finally, stock up on the local chips – jackfruit, tapioca, and banana – that you’ll find being made fresh in several street-corners. Non-vegetarian or not, you’re very likely to come back from Kochi a lot heavier!

In my experience, Fort Kochi is almost always the first thing that props up in any conversation involving Kochi, and for a good reason. While you can take one of the many buses plying to Fort Kochi from Ernakulam, my preferred mode of transport is the local ferry that covers the distance in about 20-30 minutes if memory serves me right. Once there, avoid autos and use your feet instead. It is truly a joy to walk around the streets of Fort Kochi – each of which is steeped in centuries’ worth of history and culture. The many churches and other edifices that are scattered around the area take you back in time to when the Portuguese descended upon the west coast of India all those years ago.

The most famous structure here would have to be the Paradesi Synagogue in Jew Town. Built in AD 1568, it is the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth nations. Knowing almost nothing about synagogues, I went there expecting a dark, looming structure similar to the ancient churches you’d come across in Goa. Imagine my surprise then, when I stepped into a bright, ventilated room with sunlight streaming in through the windows and reflecting off the chandeliers and hand-painted tiles. The synagogue is also home to some very treasured artifacts, such as scrolls containing the first five books of the Old Testament. I’d recommend visiting the historical exhibit inside the synagogue premises for a crash course in the Indo-Portuguese history of Kerala.

The other historical site in Fort Kochi that has stayed with me is the Mattancherry Palace. While originally built by the Portuguese and still often referred to as the Dutch Palace, it is today a museum chronicling the lives of generations of the Rajas of Kochi. While it is very normal to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information and artifacts available there, you can as easily choose not to read every plaque or examine every old coin on display. In fact, even if you look around inside the palace and appreciate its ancient aesthetic and interiors, that itself would suffice as a history lesson. In fact, my friend and I just sat down on a ledge by a rustic-looking wooden window overlooking a little pond and enjoyed the natural breeze wafting into the corridor.

Fort Kochi is also a great place to do some street shopping. Whether its earthy homemade perfumes, fine Pashmina shawls or delightful little wooden toys, there’s something for every kind of shopper on the streets of Fort Kochi. Keep in mind, however, that the prices are usually marked up because of the number of foreign visitors to the place. And while you’re walking around, do have a look at the few Chinese fishing nets that are still in use there.

If you’re hungry in Fort Kochi, hit up the Seagull restaurant. While the food and drink in itself are pretty fantastic, it has often been cited as one of the top restaurants in Kochi because of its ambiance. From the looks of it, it seems to be a docking yard that has been converted into a restaurant, meaning you could be sitting there sipping on a cold beer while the waves of the ocean crash repeatedly on the other side of the low wall that you’re leaning on. There’s also a section of the restaurant that’s right on top of the water, but as its uncovered, you can only sit there once the sun goes down a little. Other eateries favored by tourists include Kashi Art Café and Dal Roti, a North Indian restaurant located on a quiet and quaint street in the interiors of the fort. I’d also recommend the wood-fired pizzas at David Hall.

If you have a few days to spare, see if you can rent a bike or car and go up to Kottayam. While Kottayam would require several days to explore truly (thanks to it being home to some of the country’s oldest churches and mosques, as well as for its contribution to the history of the Indian print industry), the ride there itself is more than worth it. The route goes through some of the most scenic backwaters of Kerala and with a few slight detours, you can also visit some of the most serene and secluded beaches on the country’s coast. You will also pass through the Kumarakom bird sanctuary en route; even if you aren’t inclined to meet its avian residents, you should try the kappa (steamed tapioca, typically served with fish curry) and toddy that Kumarakom is famous for. The restaurants on the backwaters may seem shady, but sitting in a wooden booth with water running underneath while you sip on some heady coconut-toddy is an experience you shouldn’t miss out on!

At the end of the day, this barely scratches the surface of the wonder that is Kochi and its neighboring towns. If you are into art, travel to Kochi when the Biennale is happening. Unfortunately, I only arrived there after it concluded, but several people I know highly recommend being there for it, at least once. My advice to you is to go to Kochi with enough time to spare, so you don’t have to rush through anything. And if you can’t do that, don’t try to squeeze in as many things into your itinerary as you can; instead, fully relish the few places that you do visit.

Do let us know what you like about Kochi in the comments below!

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Travelogue: Highway to Hyderabad

Nirupama Rajan

At around 5:45 am on 26th January, my friend and I set out from Bannerghatta Road with a goal that seemed slightly impossible at the time- to reach Hyderabad by the end of the day on our Honda Activas. In fact, I think secretly, neither of us really expected to get all the way there.

Life at SimplyGuest - Travelogue: Bangalore to Hyderabad

It all started a couple of days before when we realised that all our friends were traveling out of the city for the upcoming weekend. With nothing to do, we thought we’d take our scooters out for an early morning ride on one of the days. Until then, all our long rides had been shorter than a hundred kilometres, simply because we were riding scooters and not motorcycles. So, our plan initially was to just do one more of these – leave early morning, ride for a few hours, explore some town or village on the way and get back to Bangalore latest by lunch.

Our friend overheard us and began telling us stories of how he used to ride his TVS Jupiter to Chennai. The again, he was far more experienced than either of us so we weren’t surprised. We’re not sure how it happened – either we were inspired by his stories, or maybe spontaneity slowly crept into the conversation – but somehow we ended up deciding on an overnight trip. We figured we’d take the Mumbai highway, ride for as long as it was comfortable, halt for the night wherever we were and return the next day. Even then, we definitely weren’t considering anything like 600 kilometres!

That was around when we heard reports of the disturbances happening in North Karnataka over water issues, and we figured the Mumbai highway may not be our safest bet. So we decided to take an equally great road- the one to Hyderabad. We were on the phone that evening figuring out our action plan when I said, “Imagine if we actually made it to Hyderabad.” Both of us laughed it off then, but about five minutes later, we realised that’s exactly what we wanted to do.
We didn’t tell a lot of people about our goal because one, we didn’t know ourselves if it was possible, and two, we knew most people would just laugh at the very idea like we did initially, and we definitely didn’t want anybody dampening our spirits. Nevertheless, amidst nods of encouragement and expressions of concern – from friends who were either very ignorant or very experienced – we set out on our journey.

We had prepped ourselves and our vehicles as much as we could in one day (read my previous post for more information on the subject); I was riding an Activa 125 and my friend was riding an older version of the Activa (109 cc). Our first target was to reach Chikkaballapur, a town on the outskirts just after Devanahalli.

About ten minutes into the ride, we were struck by the realisation that it was much, much colder than we’d anticipated. Still, the very idea that we were able to be out on Bangalore roads at such high speeds thanks to the empty roads made the experience worth it. After picking up a helmet from a friend’s place (yes, that’s how last minute it was), we took a beautiful little inside road from there that would connect us to the Hyderabad highway at Devanahalli. After that, we figured it would just be one straight road to Hyderabad.

We hadn’t been on the highway for more than ten minutes when we took a diversion by mistake and got lost inside Chikballapur. For quite a while, it didn’t even strike us that it was a little strange to have so much local traffic on a highway. (I blame this on the cold-induced numbness of our minds). Anyway, long story short, we somehow mapped our way back to the highway, looked long and hard for a U-turn and were finally back on track.

By the time we finished breakfast at what seemed to be a highly popular joint near Bagepalli, it was around 10 am. We were honestly quite taken aback by how quickly time had flown by and started discussing the idea of stopping our journey at Kurnool by the end of the day – which would have been about 200 kilometres before Hyderabad.

The morning half of the ride was absolutely amazing. As the sun climbed higher into the sky, it grew considerably hot and our layers kept coming off; still, the fact that we were out in the middle of nowhere, with rocky hills surrounding us and an endless road stretching ahead as far as our eyes could see kept us in high spirits throughout. Well that, and all the Gatorade and Snickers we had on us.
By the time we crossed Penukonda and reached Anantapur, it was around lunch time. However, we figured we’d hold off on the longer breaks for when we really needed them and settled for a quick scoop of Belgian chocolate ice cream at a highway Thanco’s instead. Besides, a truck driver also on his way to Hyderabad had duly informed us at our previous rest stop that it would take us at least till 7 pm to get there; even though we had discussed stopping at Kurnool, I guess both of us really wanted to make it all the way to Hyderabad even if it meant riding late. Besides, by then, we’d spoken too much about Hyderabadi Biryani and Khubani ka Meetha to even consider not being able to gorge on these later.

From Anantapur it was on to Gooty and then Kurnool. This stretch was quite taxing because of the afternoon heat coupled with the fact that it was all barren land with not a tree in sight. My eyes were begging for something green and soothing to look at. In fact, even when we stopped to rest, we were both quite silent, preserving our energy for the ride. By the time we got to Kurnool, it was around 4 pm. We went off the highway and into the town because we both wanted a longer break and good lunch.

After scouring the streets for a while, we came across a big hotel with an attached ‘A/C Restaurant’ and figured that would be our best bet. After going to all the trouble of parking inside and everything, we were told that the restaurant had just closed because lunch time was over. Neither of us had the energy or the inclination to go out and look for another restaurant. So, we assumed the best ‘tired and pitiful’ expressions we could, and told the staff all about our “long and exhausting” trip, and how we’d practically eat anything they’d give us. I guess it worked because ten minutes later, we were sitting on couches in an air conditioned room – empty except for us – eating the best curd rice and mango pickle that money could buy. Sure, it was a lot of money, but hey, it was an exceptional circumstance.

The question that was hanging in the air was whether we were going to stop there (I mean, we were literally in a hotel- all we had to do was book a room) or go on to Hyderabad. It was risky, because we had a good 200 kilometres to go and the sun had already begun to set, but perhaps it was the curd rice that put us in such a good mood, or maybe it was the fact that we’d already come such a long distance. Either way, there was really no going back now. And thank god for that decision because right after Kurnool, we crossed the Tungabhadra river into Telangana (we stopped on the bridge for a quick victory picture), and from there on until it finally got dark, it was one of the most beautiful stretches of land that I’ve ever laid eyes on. We rode with the sun setting behind us, casting an orange glow on green hills and luscious paddy fields interspersed with scrub forest every now and then. It was so refreshing, we entirely forgot about our fatigue- it was like the start of a new ride!

Nirupama en route to Hyderabad
Nirupama en route to Hyderabad

However, all things must come to an end and this did too, when the sun finally went down under and nightfall was upon us. It was almost 7 pm by the time it got dark, and we still had 80-90 kilometres left. Having left the last big town behind us, we had no choice but to push forward until we got to our destination. It was scary and exhilarating at the same time – we weren’t able to see the poorly lit trucks in front of us until we were just behind them, and at one point our visors were severely attacked by a horde of insects attracted by our headlights, nearly cutting off our vision entirely. Still, we rode slowly and carefully and the first city lights came into view at around 8:20 pm.

We didn’t really have time to celebrate then, because as jubilant as we were, all we really wanted to do was get to a bed and get some rest. This wasn’t to happen for a couple of hours though, because we were going to stay at a relative’s place that happened to be on the other side of town, and by the time we adjusted to the city traffic, lost our way a few times, and made it there after more than sixteen hours on the road, it was 10:30 pm. Without thinking much about what we’d just accomplished, I cleaned up, ate and went to bed. It was only on the next morning, when I woke up to the light of a different city streaming in through the window, that it really hit me. To be honest, I still don’t have words to describe the feeling.

We made the most of our one day in Hyderabad- which essentially meant that we ate everything we could get our hands on, even though our original plan was to eat light so we could ride back comfortably the next day. But when again were we going to get the chance to stand outside an ‘Irani Café’ and sip hot chai from a saucer while simultaneously wolfing down freshly baked Osmania biscuits? And with similar thoughts in our heads, we ate tawa bondas, Karachi biscuits, biryani (although I was constantly reminded that my veg biryani was not actually biryani) and of course, the Khubani ka Meetha that we rode all the way to Hyderabad for! We finally ended our day with a slow drive by the Hussain Sagar lake and by the time we got home, I was already fast asleep in the car.

The next morning, we were up by 5 am and out on the road by 5:30; we wanted to make it back to Bangalore before it got dark. Once again, fuelled by the cold creeping into our bones, we rode at top speed, stopping at petrol stations to soak in the warmth and shiver a little! The journey back was quite similar in that it was the same mix of barren land and stunning views, sweltering heat and freezing cold, and as always, absolute exhilaration. We also had the best ghee idlis ever in a food plaza somewhere between Hyderabad and Kurnool. We met a large group of motorcyclists on Avengers around afternoon, and were later trailed by two random guys on a bike for a short distance, although we soon left them far behind (this was probably the only slightly scary incident of the whole trip).

Riding back is always easier and that was evident by the fact that we made it to Bangalore city limits in about 12 hours. By 5pm, we were already battling the evening traffic near Devanahalli, which is where my riding partner and I parted ways after spending three of the most exciting days of our lives together. Even as my legs turned to jelly out of sheer exhaustion and I practically hit every bump at top speed because I was still adjusting to the slow city traffic, all I could think about was where my next long ride was going to be to! Admittedly, as much fun as this was, I’m hoping that the next time is going to be on a motorcycle, simply because they’re better suited to long-distance riding. But whatever the case, one thing is for sure- this was only the very first of the many, many long-distance rides that I plan to take through the rest of my life. Once you feel that riding high, you’re going to keep going back to it!

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On scooters and long-distance riding

By Nirupama Rajan

On scooters and long-distance riding

The idea of getting out of the city on a weekend for a long ride or drive is a very appealing one for most people. The grey stretches of highway that don’t seem to end even as the sun crawls along from one side of the sky to the other over your head, with only your vehicle for company – that is how I’d like to spend all my holidays. But while cars and motorcycles are usually the favoured modes of transport for such journeys, it’s not too often that you hear of people attempting to do the same thing on scooters.

Last month, my friend and I (both women) took this up as a challenge and attempted to ride the 600 kilometres from Bangalore to Hyderabad in one day on our Honda Activas. Not only were we successful in getting there, we also rode back all the way after a break of just one day in Hyderabad. And yes, our Activas were perfectly fine, and so were we!

I will be writing a follow-up post on the experiences of this particular trip, but before that, here are a few tips and ideas if you want to attempt something similar on your scooter. Keep in mind that these are just based on my experience as an amateur long-distance rider, and you should definitely talk to someone more experienced if that would make you more comfortable before you attempt to take your scooter out on the big roads.

Prepping your vehicle

This one is pretty basic. Make sure your breaks aren’t loose, and that your tyres aren’t balding or anything. If you use regular air in your tyres, get them emptied and filled with nitrogen. Punctures on highways usually are a result of tyre overheating, and nitrogen is a good way to reduce the chances of this happening. Speaking of punctures, while we faced no such issues on our trip, it is always safer to get a basic puncture kit and learn how to use it. If you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere with no spare wheel or mechanics nearby, it will take a while for you to get any help- and you won’t even be able to reach your destination. Ideally get your scooter serviced a few days before the trip. That way, you will be able to figure out any post-service issues well before you get out onto the road. Make sure all your lights are working well, because you might need them to communicate with your riding partner. Buy some reflective tape if you think you might have to cover some distance in the dark. Finally, make sure you’re carrying at least 1 litre of extra petrol on you; there are often long stretches without any fuel stations and you don’t want to run out in these areas.

Prepping yourself

As far as riding apparel is concerned, I’d recommend wearing layers that aren’t too heavy. That way, you can keep warm in the early hours, remove a couple of layers when the day gets warmer, and put them back on in the evening. Make sure you’re wearing full sleeves and full length pants to prevent sunburns (also, do not compromise on the sunscreen). Wearing a neck warmer (I just wrapped a cotton scarf around my neck) definitely makes dealing with the morning cold easier. Comfortable shoes are obviously advisable. Wear a balaclava, bandanna or something similar under your helmet because you’re going to be wearing it all day and your hair will definitely bear the brunt of that otherwise.

If you think your helmet visor isn’t enough, carry a pair of sunglasses to help with the glare from the sun when it’s in front of you. Hand gloves are a must, in my opinion. Get light ones that won’t get uncomfortably warm, but will still keep the skin on your palms and fingers intact.

Also, scooter seats aren’t exactly engineered for long distance riding. To steer clear of seat burns, I simply placed a cotton cloth folded several times over between me and the seat. You could use towels, dupattas or anything like that.

To be able to really enjoy your ride, you need to be comfortable throughout. And for that, it’s important to know yourself and your body. Everybody has different needs and you should be prepared for these. For example, I know I have weak wrists, and coupled with the lack of cruise control on Activas, I could have had a very tough time riding without wrist support. For someone else, it could be weak knees. So assess yourself and cater to your individual needs. Even if you don’t know what you require, you can always explain your condition to the people at a sports store (I favour Decathlon) and they can help you out.

It can get quite difficult to judge speeds accurately on the highway
Photo by Jake Blucker on Unsplash

With regard to food and water, take high-calorie items that don’t occupy too much space and won’t spoil. Energy drinks, nutrition bars, biscuits and chocolate are good options. Chocolate especially- my bars of Snickers kept me going every time I felt even a little tired. Make sure you have at least 2 litres of water with you, and keep refilling these whenever possible. Equip yourself with sanitizer and tissue (wet or dry) as well- you never know when these will be useful when you’re travelling. Most importantly, carry a well-stocked first aid kit as well as your personal medication, if any. However, store all items under the seat, in front, or figure out a way to secure it to the back of your seat- even if a backpack seems light initially, it can strain your shoulders later on.

Other things to keep in mind on the road:

Scooter engines tend to get overheated with continuous use at high speeds; so it’s recommended that you don’t exceed a speed of 65 km/hr., as much as possible, however tempting it might be to break that rule (on the highway, even if you’re speeding, it can feel like you’re crawling at a snail’s pace) More importantly, stop for about 10 minutes after every 80 minutes or so of riding, at least. Try to take these breaks at fuel stations so that your vehicle can recover in the shade and so can you. Rest your eyes well while there.

Apart from almost always having functional washrooms, an added bonus is that you can get a lot of information about the route ahead, the nearest restaurants or towns and such from the employees at the petrol stations.

Even if you don’t want to plan out the nitty-gritties and want to just “go with the flow”, I would still recommend that you note down the names of the major towns en route and their distances, especially if it’s your first time. This can come in handy to figure out your food breaks, as well as to handle unforeseen emergencies.

Be careful when you overtake vehicles or when vehicles are overtaking you. It can get quite difficult to judge speeds accurately on the highway- and this is especially true for cars, but also for speeding trucks. Trucks in particular can be quite troublesome at night because several of them don’t use quality reflective tape and you don’t realise their presence until they’re right in front of you. While on the subject, avoid riding in the dark as much as possible. If there’s no other way, be alert (keep in mind that if you’ve been riding all day, this can be quite a challenge), reduce your speed and ride straight. Align yourself by watching out for the markings on the sides of the road.

Being aware of the sounds and smells coming from your vehicle can help you figure out if something goes wrong. Ride with your visor down as much as possible, and if it gets covered with insects around the late evening, you’ll only make it worse by trying to wipe it with your hands. Stop somewhere, and clean it with tissue and water. Be watchful for people trailing you – unfortunately, this is quite commonplace if you’re a woman rider in India (speaking from my experience as well as others’). There are emergency phone booths at very regular intervals on the highway, and it would also be sensible to make note of the emergency numbers listed on the boards en route. Once you reach your destination, it can be quite difficult to suddenly adjust to the traffic and the lower travel speeds, so be alert and ride with extra care.

If this is your first time, get somebody else to come with you (for safety and for company). Ride on separate vehicles though, preferably. Keep hydrated and calm, and follow lane discipline along with all the other traffic rules out there.

Honestly, motorcycles are definitely more comfortable for such long journeys, but if you can’t get hold of one, having only a scooter shouldn’t stop you – your vehicle is capable of more than you think! At the end of the day, it’s perfectly alright if you don’t make it your destination. Your safety is your highest priority; you can always stop at the nearest town if you’re tired or if it gets too dark, and start your journey again the next day.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions on this subject; if I can’t answer them, I’ll direct you to someone with more expertise. Be safe, and happy riding!

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House Party this Weekend ?

House Party

Living in Bangalore means engaging in house parties. Whether voluntarily or out of sheer peer pressure, every Bangalorean is bound to host a house party at some point during their time in the city. I have organized parties at home about 3-4 times in the last two years here.

Every party you host will feature one or more of several characters including but not limited to Quiet-Corner-Buff, Music-Buff, Drunkard, Story-Man, Designated-Driver, Gaming-Guy, Maker (of drinks or smokes) and so on. Each of them has a unique role to play in making the party a hit. The Maker, for instance, sets the mood. The Story-Man keeps the night interesting as it progresses. The Music-Buff will take care of the ambiance, and the Designated-Driver ensures that everyone has a safe and pleasant time even after the party.

But while this may be all fun and frolic, hosting house parties brings with it plenty of challenges, especially if you are a bachelor like me, and there are several things you must take care of before you let all your ‘kaminey’ friends into your house. As a host and as a resident in a shared space, you need to show your friends a good time and keep the house safe simultaneously. While this may mean more work for you for a few days before the party, remember that it’s all for a good cause!

So here are a few things to keep in mind when you decide to host a house party:

  • Keep good speakers and an even better playlist on hand to set the right party ambiance.
  • Place a mattress, carpet or cushions in empty spaces around your house, so your guests have plenty of places to sit and chill.
  • Make sure you have enough food and drink to last the night.
  • Keep a shoe-rack outside your door to encourage people not to bring their footwear inside.
  • Keep lined dustbins in every room to minimize trash on the floor.
  • Ensure that you have doormats in every room as well.
  • As there are food and drink everywhere, it makes sense to leave plenty of napkins and newspaper around to minimize damage control after the party.
  • If any area is out-of-bounds to guests, make sure to lock it beforehand as you can’t prevent people from moving around once the party kicks off.
  • Most guests typically bring along people that you may not know, so keep all your valuables safely tucked away before the party.

As the night progresses, your guests will slowly settle into their roles and carve their space for themselves. As long as you’ve taken all the necessary precautions and stocked your house with enough food and drink for everyone present, sit back, relax, and let the party take its course- you never know just how exciting your night could turn out! Remember, however, that most often, the host ends up having to drive everyone back home safe and sound- so be prepared for that. But otherwise, this is your party too, so go ahead and have a great time!

What do you think is your house party character? Are you a Story-Man or more of a Gaming-Guy?

Let us know in the comments!

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Going Green in a World of Grey

If you really get down to it, almost every one of us has the innate desire to do something for our environment and for our health- often, the two go hand in hand. Living in a city, however, comes with its fair share of environmentally unsustainable practices – from buying packaged food at supermarkets to driving on congested roads – and doing your bit for the planet might seem like a rather unattainable idea. Fortunately for those of us in Bangalore, there are some hardworking citizens out there who have created innovative and fun-filled platforms for us to go and engage in discussions and activities that promise to make our urban lifestyles more responsible. Here is a list of some regular environmentally-oriented events that happen in Bangalore.

Earth Friendly Choices

This is an event conducted once every month – usually on the first Saturday – by Aikyam Community for Sustainable Living. It is a space for anyone who wants to know more and do more about reorienting our urban lives in a sustainable manner. Every session sees a few experts from different areas of sustainable action, be it waste segregation, fair trade, tree plantation, lake restoration etc. come in and share their stories with the rest of the audience. This is then followed by an interactive session where everybody present can ask questions, clear doubts or share their own experiences and information.

The objective of the event is implied in its name- it is all about getting citizens to make more responsible choices because ultimately, it is each individual’s choices that have the potential to reshape the future of our planet. Whether you want to further engage in environmental volunteer work, or listen to success stories directly from the mouths of the people who created them, Earth Friendly Choices is the place to be for you.

You can follow the Aikyam community and find out more about their activities here: https://www.facebook.com/AikyamCommunity/

Sustainability Drinks Bangalore

With nine editions to their name so far, Sustainability Drinks Bangalore is conducted by Ecofolk on a monthly basis at The Humming Tree in Indiranagar and is another platform for exploring innovative ideas in the field of sustainability. Just like Earth Friendly Choices, it is a space where you can listen to and interact with interesting speakers and learn all about how we can, as a community, create a cleaner and greener future for the city and the planet.

The aim of Ecofolk is to generate more awareness around conscious consumption among people. If you’re interested in more of what they do, you can find them here: http://www.facebook.com/ecofolk.in

Organic Terrace Gardening Workshops

The idea of growing by yourself the food that you consume is an extremely appealing one; when you grow your own food, you can be sure of what goes into it and you can keep all those harmful chemical pesticides and fertilizers away. That said, in a busy and rather congested city like Bangalore, most of us live in matchbox-sized apartments with just one balcony in the name of outdoor space and maybe a terrace if we’re lucky. And so, most of us are living under the assumption that fruits and vegetables can only be grown in a nice big garden or backyard.

The team at My Dream Garden is here to dispel that myth and show you how you can grow a significant portion of the food you eat in your own house. Their workshops happen about once a month, and they also provide you with a terrace gardening starter kit. My Dream Garden can also assist you in setting up your own terrace/balcony garden and can provide you with all the material that you would require, including seeds, potting soil, organic fertilizer and pesticide as well as innovative space-saving planters. So start small, but get those green thumbs working!

Find out more about My Dream Garden here: https://www.facebook.com/itsmydreamgarden/

Oota from your Thota

If you’re still convinced that you don’t have the space to grow your own food or if you aren’t able to grow everything you want but still want to consume healthy, sustainable and fair priced produce, go to an Oota From Your Thota event. Literally translating to ‘food from your garden’, OFYT is basically the urban environmentalist’s version of shopping festivals like Soul Sante and other flea markets.

OFYT happens once every few months and offers everything that you would want to lead a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, including organic fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, oils as well as seeds and home gardening solutions. Often, there are also composting and gardening workshops for children and adults alike, as well as numerous food stalls selling some delectable sustainable cuisine. It is also a space for organic terrace gardeners from all over Bangalore to come together and exchange their surplus produce.

So be on the lookout for an OFYT announcement, take a Sunday off and come celebrate an organic lifestyle with the rest of the community!

You can find them here: https://www.facebook.com/Oota-From-Your-Thota-1403570923190949/

The Ugly Indian Spot fixes

With more than one event every week, the spot-fixes organised under the banner of The Ugly Indian are one of the most popular events in the city that bring together people of all age groups and from all walks of life for a good cause – to clean up the garbage that is mindlessly scattered all over the city and to make its nooks and corners cleaner and more beautiful with every session.

The main principles that The Ugly Indian operates under are anonymity and the act of actually “doing”. They are all about going out there and just getting the work done without wasting time and effort on technicalities. They also emphasize not looking for personal rewards for your actions. The impact created by The Ugly Indian is visible all over the city- they clean and restore black spots, pavements, underpasses, flyovers and practically any other space that could use restoration. The work done in their name is a clear testament to the responsibility and power that individual citizens have in making their city a better place. So go get your hands dirty, explore your painting skills and help eliminate Bangalore’s garbage problem- one spot-fix at a time.

You can check out some of The Ugly Indian’s wonderful success stories as well as find out about upcoming spot-fixes here: https://www.facebook.com/theugl.yindian/

Whether you want to pick up a shovel and dig up some soil or clear out some garbage, there are actually innumerable ways in which you can contribute to making this planet more habitable for future generations as well as for your own, even with your busy city lifestyle. The important thing is to actually take that first step. So go out there, talk to others who can help you get better at being environmentally responsible and start living a better life today!

If you know of other events in the city that operate along the same lines, let us know in your comments.

 

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