Pet friendly trips

“Happiness is a warm puppy” ~ Charles M Schulz

Every animal lover knows what this means. The unconditional love from our furry friends gives us humans a lot of happiness and for most pet owners their pets are like their children. Is it any surprise then that when families travel, they would want to do so in the company of their beloved pets? Pet boarding is not always an option pet parents can go in for. It’s not very easy finding one that suits their dog and the pet parent would constantly worry about their pet. And even leaving them with a friend or someone else in the family is also heartbreaking. Our pet (like most others) used to stop eating whenever that would happen.

European countries have always been way ahead of us in terms of pet friendly services. When I lived in Finland, It was very strange for me to see that pets were allowed everywhere, on all modes of transport. So one could see them in trams, trains, boats & buses. Watching a pet climb down an escalator is not a rare sight there at all! And pets are also allowed into hotels, cafes, restaurants etc and are an equal part of public space. So why then do we not have more pet friendly options in India? Hopefully things will change soon.

Currently the ease of taking pets on trains/planes in India is almost negligible. It is a tough process and there is not much help around the actual implementation of it, even if one wants to follow all rules and take one’s pet aboard. Right now Indian railways allows pets on board but ONLY in first class or first class AC compartments, so you can’t travel with your pet in any of the other AC classes or even second class. And you need to buy all 4 tickets or 2 tickets for all 4 berths in that area or you need to have people in those berths (basically family) ok with your pet. Because one complaint from anyone in the entire coach and your pet can be shifted to the luggage compartment!

As for airlines, not all airlines operating in India take pets. Only some do, and only on certain sectors on certain days and they have only a certain number of pets that can fly on that particular day. So one has to do a lot of advance planning. Sometimes even airline staff is clueless about the process and documentation involved. Moreover most pets (beyond a certain size which is very small) travel as cargo and it’s pretty traumatic for them. So the safest and most convenient bet would be a roadtrip where the pets are constantly under your own supervision and things like other passengers and air pressure or temperature of cabin are not things you need to worry about. 

 

Now coming to where pets can stay with you during your vacation, we are just *beginning* to get into the realm of pet friendly hotels. When I search for hotels near me that are also pet friendly, most of them are accommodation sharing rentals, like airbnb and oyo rooms, which are ok with lending rooms to pet parents with extra charges. Some big hotel establishments are also getting there, but we definitely need more of them. We also need facilities like walking/playing areas etc for pets at the hotel. Keeping all this in mind, Pet friendly trips anyone?



India’s first Internet car – MG Hector!

On 2nd April 2019, MG Motor unveiled India’s first Internet Car which has futuristic car technology called iSMART Next Gen for connected mobility.

 

I also attended that launch of MG motor’s new superb internet enabled car – MG Hector, which was developed along with its strong consortium of global tech partners that includes Microsoft, Adobe, Unlimit, SAP, Cisco, Gaana, TomTom and Nuance. The event was conducted at JW Mariott, Aerocity and the atmosphere felt very energetic, what with the large audience completely full of excited people. The stage was set like the inside of MG hector complete with a steering wheel.

Finally the event started and it started with a few statements about fire safety, earth quake proof building and what to do in case of an evacuation. I really liked it, because generally in events at hotels – NONE of this is ever focussed upon! It’s something very important and everyone could do with such information.

Finally, the event started with much glitz and we were shown the endorsement video of the brand ambassador – none other than Benedict Cumberbatch. <3

 

The brain of the iSMART Next Gen will be housed in a 10.4” Head Unit. The screen is designed with a vertical interface that allows the driver to control the entire car system with just a touch or voice command. The Head Unit is built to withstand extreme climatic conditions of India. It comes pre-loaded with entertainment content. This was replicated outside the hall at various points for demo of the technology and voice activated features.

After we were explained a few more features, we got to see Benedict Cumberbatch again, giving the voice command to “open sunroof”. I couldn’t stop looking at his blue eyes that perfectly matched the blue MG hector he was sitting in! <3

MG Hector comes with an industry first embedded M2M sim that ensures that the car remains connected. This seamless connectivity enables the users to receive real-time software, entertainment content and application updates. Imagine – connected with a SIM! This is like your car is a smartphone! The mind – it just boggles! This makes MG the first few among the global leaders and the first in India to bring the revolutionary Over The Air (OTA) technology to cars. Shock and awe, that’s what MG motor has done! Look at Benedict 🙂

The most stunning feature of the MG Hector is Voice Assist. It is a powerful voice application that works on the cloud and head unit. Developed by Nuance for MG India, it has been specifically designed for Indian accent learning. As a result of built in AI and Machine Learning (ML) algorithms, the system will learn and get better every day with usage. Activated with ‘Hello MG’, the voice assist allows over 100 commands, including opening and closing of windows and sun roof, ac control, navigation etc. and works even under poor connectivity.

MG iSMART App is feature-rich like none other in the Indian market. The car gets scanned each time the App is opened, and information includes location of car, tyre pressure, or if the doors are locked or not. Owner can use the remote app to directly lock or unlock doors, turn on ignition and switch on the air-conditioner. This is very useful in extreme weather conditions of India. It would also allow owners to schedule a service and keep track of service history.

MG with iSMART ensures that its customers remain protected against advanced threats while enjoying the benefits of technology. MG car owners can locate their cars remotely and geo fence it, so the car cannot be taken out of a predefined zone, thus enhancing the safety of the passengers. The App uses driver analytics data to help people drive smarter.

Here are some of the features the user can carry out using the iSMART app

  • Vehicle scanning to check pre-defined parameters
  • Fuel level & vehicle range
  • Lock/ unlock status
  • Lock/ unlock the vehicle remotely
  • Remotely switch on the Climate control on a hot day when the car has been standing in the sun
  • Find my car [Honking/Lights blinking/walk or drive to car]
  • Set geo fencing. Most useful when loved ones are travelling in the car.
  • Security alert
  • Abnormal tyre pressure notification
  • Vehicle Management
  • Create travel plan & Push it to vehicle
  • iSMART Smart Drive helps users to drive smartly
  • Speed Alert
  • MG Network information
  • Departure Notification

Is this mindblowing or what! Benedict Agrees!

MG has set up a first of its kind customer management service centre called the Pulse Hub. This will enable eCall emergency response in all MG cars. If a car’s airbags are deployed under an emergency condition, automatic messages are sent to the Pulse Hub and the registered phones along with a series of emergency response actions get activated instantly.

Likewise, SAP has built one of its kind Dealer Management System – ‘Magnet’, and connected apps. This system would host all information from company, dealers, service centres and customers at one place. This would make sure the customer can seamlessly be recognised and offered services at pre-sales, sales and post sales phases.

MG vehicles were much sought after by many celebrities, including the British Prime Ministers and even the British Royal Family, for their styling, elegance, and spirited performance. The MG Car Club, set up in 1930 at Abingdon, UK, has more than a million loyal fans. MG has evolved into a modern, futuristic and innovative brand over the last 95 years. MG Motor India has commenced its manufacturing operations at its car manufacturing plant at Halol in Gujarat. The first of these modern MG cars – “HECTOR” will be made available to the Indian customers in the second quarter of this year. The second car from MG Motor India in 2020 will be a pure electric vehicle – eZS. The company aims to launch two new cars every year.

And I am super glad to learn that at MG Motor India, women workforce stands at 31% where traditionally automotive sector is a male bastion with only 5-10% women workforce in other Auto Companies.

 

So here’s waiting for the first MG hector cars to appear in India and I am really looking forward to test driving one!


My most memorable selfie

Much as I don’t like this word “selfie” and prefer the original and very elegant word used by photographers – “self portrait”, no one can deny that it has become second nature to millennials and many others alike. At the same time, sometimes when one is alone and there’s no one to capture a particular moment, the “self portrait” tool on phones, or the “selfie” comes most handy!

Since this post is about my most memorable selfie, there’s one that captures one of the most thrilling moments of my life. As we all know, India and Pakistan share a border at many locations. Wagah border at Amritsar is one such location and there is much fanfare at the beating retreat everyday over there. There is a high level of security as well, understandably. I’m a partition grandchild. Both sets of my grandparents migrated from Punjab’s portion in Pakistan, much like almost all Delhites’. In May 1947 my paternal grandfather had got a brand new Haveli constructed that they had to leave in a tearing hurry in August 1947. My maternal grandparents had a similar fate. As a result, even though we share a bitter sweet relationship with our neighbouring country, I have always wanted to visit Pakistan and retrace the steps of my grandparents. I don’t know if THAT is possible at all, but I always wanted to be as close to it as possible and took the second best thing – visiting the borders of our country.

 

So a few months back I visited Wagah border at Amritsar. Of course once there, one realises borders are merely a man made construct for our own consumption. Humans are more tied down with this social construct and relatively animals and birds cross them freely! I could see stray dogs and birds cross from India to Pakistan and vice versa, throughout the time I was there. But of course us humans have no such luck!

Then came a point, when through special permission I could get to a specific portion of the wagah border where there’s absolutely nothing except for a short fence. Both Indian and Pakistani rangers stand side by side protecting it and patrolling this area. Beyond this all one can see is greenery and wheat farms. It’s the complete opposite of the heavy gates just a few metres away. 

Much to my excitement a Pakistani ranger was standing right there within touching distance! Of course I didn’t try to touch him, but I could just not believe that if I stretched my arm, it would be in Pakistani air space!

 

 

It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life! And Without much ado I quickly captured a selfie with the Pakistani ranger in the frame! However I had used my trusted old ipad3 for this selfie and Sadly as you can see I would have liked to capture my full face as well as more of the border, the beautiful wheat farms, the green lawns & lovely lillies on the Pakistan side. And well, some birds flying across both countries would have been “sone par suhaga”. I think if I had had a good selfie camera phone like Mobiistar with its dual selfie camera that captures a 120° wide-angle shot, I may have had some shot at my desired image! However I was and will always be very excited that at least I got to capture one of the most thrilling moments of my life. Of course, if possible I would love to revisit this location with a better selfie experience phone and capture many more shots at this location with a lot more in view.

 

Which is your most memorable selfie? Do share in comments.

 

This post was written as part of an activity on Indiblogger.in

 

 



The 55″ HOM Ultra HD Smart TV

Around 2.5 years back, I FINALLY upgraded from a yesteryear CRT TV to a high tech state of the art Ultra HD 4K Smart TV with android. That was quite a jump right? Needless to say my content viewing *completely* changed after that and well that was the idea as well. But such TV’s don’t come for anything less than 35K-40K. So what does one do if one wants to upgrade, get a better viewing experience, be able to speak to one’s TV, queue the latest music/movies/series on demand and not spend a bombshell doing that?

Enter :

The 55″ HOM Smart TV

HOM, introduces the 55” Smart LED 4K TV which promises to change your TV watching experience! This is the 1st TV in India to enter the market at the lowest price, making this a must have for every home. HOM provides an immersive experience for their viewers with a wide range of content available at the click of a button – Movies, music, sports, games, online content — whatever you’re watching, whatever the source.

First let’s imagine a 55inch TV to begin with. It’s going to cover a decent portion of any wall and is capable of transporting one to a “movie environment”. Now for the salient features:, it has the following:
  • 4K HD Display
  • Android 4.4
  • 1 GB RAM
  • HD Display
  • Built in Wi-Fi
  • RJ45 (Ethernet)
  • 3 HDMI Port
  • 1 VGA Port
  • 2 USB Port
  • 1 Video Input
  • Smart Remote
  • Weather Update
The features are quite exciting. With an Android Smart TV with Miracast Technology, the sky is the limit to watching content. One can easily mirror one’s android phone on to the TV WITHOUT any cables! After this whatever you can watch on the phone becomes watchable on TV as well! Be it your images, videos or well just whatsapp! And if one combines a voice assistant to this setup , then all you need to do is speak what your heart desires and your TV will play it seamlessly! The TV’s have Inbuilt apps which keep tv watchers entertained (games), active, informed (live updates every 30 mins) and fit (fat burn program).

However that’s just the cake. The icing on top is the fact that this TV is now available in India for under INR 30k! The HOM TV’s would very soon be available at mobile phone stores apart from just regular TV stores. May be that’s why their slogan very aptly says “HOM: Har Family ka member, Mobile se sasta TV”. So if you are planning to upgrade your TV, then instead of waiting for diwali sales, you can quickly headover to http://www.homindia.in/ .

Here are some images that highlight the TV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The TV’s come with a 365 days replacement guarantee (with T&C).

Note : This post was written for an initiative on Indiblogger.


Restaurant Review – After Stories

I recently visited After stories as part of a large group and tried a bite from a number of dishes. It is very close to the IFFCO chowk Metro Station in Gurgaon and is known for its freshly brewed Beer. Here’s a quick review.

Ambience:

It is naturally well lit and has a nice ambience. The interiors looked good and music played at a comfortable volume (where you can hear yourself talk).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food & drinks:

They have multiple cuisines which includes North Indian, Continental, Chinese, Mexican and fusion of these. The Prices are a bit on the higher side but one must try it out. The Service staff was pleasant and knowledgeable about the food.

In drinks I tasted the Apple cider & Kala Khatta (signature drink). Both were quite nice.

For appetisers, I tried :

Peri peri cottage cheese fingers : Paneer was soft, exterior was crisp but needed more of the Peri peri as I couldnt taste it at all .

Tandoori Mushroom with double cheese : Quite nice.

Crispy aloo sabutdana : To be honest it wasn’t too crispy. Potato wedges are usually crispier.

Falafel with pita and humus : Nice and crispy falafels served with pita bread and 3 types of humus – one of them was made with black chana too.

Veg Spring Rolls : Average

Cottage cheese in Schezwan sauce : Crispy on the outside, nice taste. But personally I feel there are just too many paneer dishes.

Chicken jujeh Kebab : was nice and tangy.

Baked filo puff – The pastry was quite nice and flaky but the filling (in the Veg one) mainly tasted of carrots and cheese. Could add some other flavours.

Mexican Style mutton seekh with salsa and sour cream – different flavours from usual punjabi style but nice.

For main course I stayed away from Indian food though others seemed to enjoy it a lot. I tried the pastas which had the right italian flavours and were not their Indian versions.

I also had Mumbai style chicken manchurian served with fried egg and sichuan rice. The manchurian was a bit tough and dry else the dish looked good and tasted good.

For dessert I tasted the Churros with Mandarin sauce and clotted cream as well as the variant with strawberry and chocolate sauce. I found the latter combination better. The churros were a bit dry because they were quite thick. But tasted nice. The chocolate and walnut brownie with ice cream was quite nice and gooey.

Here are some images to describe what one can’t in words!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The food was nice, not too spicy. Main course portions are ok only for one person per dish. They also have interesting events like Cinderella nights on Wednesday, Thirsty nightingale on Thursday (free beer for all & also a karaoke night) , Story teller Sunday and more. It occupies the basement, ground floor and first floor and also has outdoor seating. There is a long flight of stairs that leads up to the 1st floor. There’s no elevator. The parking is free. Overall this place is well worth a visit.

 

After Stories Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato