HondaToyota ToyotaHonda – 3

Third time’s a charm. So for the third time in the last 12 years, I ended up buying another Toyota. This time it was a Prius and it’s been such a joy so far.

As the summer faded away, my procrastinated mind finally settled to buy a car and replace the Camry that was bought nearly 11 years ago. Given that this was a commuter car, I started to look for an AWD SUV. The new Honda CRV was my first choice, given it was redesigned inside out this year. And when I visited a local dealership, not only they didn’t have a CRV in stock but they also didn’t show any salesmanship in trying to persuade me to buy one. The car wasn’t bad at all, except for the weird taillight situation.

Back at a friend’s place, he showed me his newly bought Toyota Prius which apparently was driving at 55+ mpg. So I test drove a Toyota RAV 4 and the Prius. The Prius was hands-down a better car. There was a night and day difference in the driving experience between Prius and other ICE cars. It was smooth driving, relatively quiet and had a quirky personality to it. From then it was an easy decision to buy a Prius because it was the most efficient car in the hybrid market.

So I’ve been driving it for the past few months. What do I liked about it? Everything – The drive quality, interiors, JBL speakers, maneuverability and of course the king of reasons to buy a hybrid – fuel economy. So far I’ve been averaging at 58 MPG despite the dropping temperatures. What do I hate about it? Nothing at all. I’m sure the styling of taillights look obnoxious to guy behind me but it doesn’t bother me at all. That’s probably why the car was rear ended within a week. But that’s another story for another day. The Entune entertainment system needs an overhaul but given that one can operate everything via Bluetooth from the phone, its bearable.

The best feature of Prius is the driving feedback loop. The digital buffet of data that’s available in front of the driver would make every one of us a better driver. There’s a rating for your overall drive, a quick feedback about the fast turn you just made and the lifetime driving average. Basically the data is gamified to the point, one can say its the best real-life car game ever made. It certainly helped me realize how all these days I was overstepping on the gas.

It’s easy to stereotype a Prius owner as listening to Fleetwood Mac or NPR, shopping at the nearby Trader Joe’s and talking about environment friendliness. But it’s also easy to make fun of the geeks. Regardless, they always strike back with their smarts and the latest Prius is certainly a nerd strike-back car.

Previously – Honda Toyota 1Honda Toyota 2

the city

35 days or so in chennai during the midst of a music season was so liberating. Not because I’m some NRI running around in kakkhi shorts and a sporty sandal. Its ironically true and I will explain why.

I was somewhat faceless, like a nomadic traveller. There was no friend who spotted me when walking in Pondy Bazaar, no mael veettu aathi pinnal ponnu who chuckled at me atleast once a day, no paalakaran who asked when I dropped by, no librarian welcoming me like a bakra to his shop. Ok, a distant distant related maama actually found me in some kutcheri and asked me, ” ambi eppidida padippu poguthu?”. Something he should have asked me 10-12 years ago. That apart, I was a literally anonymous in my own city. And I’m grumpy about it but not then.

While I was enjoying the new found anonymity that I never had in Chennai, I’m irritated that Chennai has lost its small cityness. You know what I mean, more places, more automobiles, more people, more everything. This again sounds like a desi rant or cheran’s nostalgic movie episode but its very true.

Anyway, I find travelling so invigorating and its because of this anonymity but not in my own city. No.

And that's how

Picked up a dozen packs of Milk Bikis from the local Indian store. It was in a new wrapper. I was shocked. While tripping in Chennai, I bought a Milk Bikis pack in a totally new packaging and found the design of biscuit completely changed. Instead of Britannia embossed in the middle and surrounded by flower patterns, it had squares all over the biscuit. That wasn’t the biscuit design thats imprinted in me. After all its probably the only biscuit of choice on any given day followed by Bourbon by the same company. Even though it had the same taste, it felt like a different biscuit.

So I was indeed shocked looking at the new pack today. When opened, to my relief, I found it had the same design. Somehow they haven’t changed the design, atleast yet, for the exports. So that’s good. And that’s how I got my biscuit back.

More Biki love, here and here.

Yap Yap

I unable understand the emotion with desis who are gloating over the fact that there are 4 Indians on Forbes Top 10 List of Richie Richs. Well, its defintely an accolade for those individuals but what has it got to do with the national pride. It seems to me that this is becoming the same case as the privately controlled cricket board. While there is a subtle difference between being patriotic to a country’s team and individual country men, I don’t get the yap.

The country has been on a vicious circle path of rich and poor, for who knows how long. And not many have bothered about how the 80-20 rule has been affecting the economy for sometime now.

There are other things, beyond being rich, like giving back. I’m sure Ambani brothers would agree with that sooner or later.

P.S – Here’s a great article, not on getting rich but about giving back.

Indian Ocean performing in San Diego

Association for India’s Development – San Diego Chapter
proudly presents
Indian Ocean – An evening of rich indian music infused with western rock and jazz

Aug 13th Sunday, 5:00pm-7:30pm

East County Performing Arts Center
210 East Main Street,
El Cajon 92020
Google Directions

Advance : $20,$30,$50
At the gate: $25, $35, $55
Donor Tickets: Suggested minimum $100
Tickets available online

Contact :
Sandiego Aid India

Indian Ocean is a contemporary fusion music band of Northern India. Some music critics describe the Indian Ocean music as “Indo-rock fusion with jazz-spiced rhythms that integrates, Sufism, shlokas, environmentalism, mythology and revolution”. Their music blends with different cultural boundaries and echoes the distant folk music that still prevails in rural India. The lyrics celebrate individuals journey to transform the self and collective struggles to change the world to a better place.

Indian Ocean has performed over 250 accomplished concerts across the globe in the past 15 years. In 1999, the band was honoured to perform for the President of India at Khajuraho Millennium Concert. They were selected ” Pick of the Fringe” at 2001 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. They have successfully toured across the globe and have performed at India Festival in Singapore, Melborne Arts Festival, New Zealand International Festival, Folklife Festival at the Smithsonian in Washington DC, Trafalgar Square in London and Indo-Pakistan Amity Concert at MIT.

Indian Ocean, Kandisa, Desert Rain, Jhini and sound track for Black Friday are their recorded albums. Jhini received AV Max award for the Best Produced Album in India. The group also featured as Artists of the Month on MTV in May 2006.

AID is a US based non-profit volunteer movement committed to promoting sustainable, equitable and just development in India. Donations to AID are tax-deductible in the USA where it is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity. For more information, visit

All concert proceeds go towards developmental activities in India.

[Invite sent to me by Capriciously Me].

HondaToyotaToyotaHondaHondaToyotaToyotaHonda – 2

Toyota Camry 2007

Last time around it was a strenuous search for two whole months. And as other fellow desis adviced I ended up with a 90’s Toyota Carolla.

Just today when I was thinking to car shop, I ended up in a Honda showroom. I was looking to buy the post-2002 Honda Accord in it’s magentic grey color. And I found one with moon roof and stuff. So that was a used one and costed more than some of the new ones they had in stock. Confused with the dynamics of US car market, I wanted to really look-out few more places before I nailed down on something. On the way home, I decided to drop into a Toyota showroom.

Driving the Corolla for a year, I started liking the Toyota brand and their service. And they are much flexible in terms of accessories than the Honda guys. But the dark greyish honda accord was mesmerizing me on the another end. The latest 2007 model of Camry was in the showroom. Though I didn’t have a big liking for Camrys, the latest model had some of the best curves and an affordable price tag to it.

So I found a magnetic grey Camry. Unfortunately(!!) it was loaded with some amazing accesories which I wouldn’t like to pay for. It had moon-roof, surrond sound bluetooth, 8 speakers which spilled 440 watts and mp3/wma compatible 6 CD changer. I made no sense to me to have mp3 and 6 CD changer together. Being the latest version, released just over a month back, they didn’t have enough of the metallic grey that I liked. They convinced me with a loan option. What else ? I bought it and drove home listening to Kaathal Ithuthaan Athuthaan Endru Ketkumaa.

Was it a good decision or not ? Let me see what I feel like tomorrow morning.

American Sky

Last night, atleast half of the America public, lifted their heads to stare the twilight sky as 4th of July fireworks drew interesting geometric shapes. It was only then I had myself looking at the American sky for such a long time. The Independence day celebrations at the eastside of Seattle, is one of the popular ones. Its the biggest community gathering in Seattle. Other than fireworks, there was a fair and a live music show going on.

While the fireworks was on, The Bellevue Philharmonic played the theme of Mission Impossible. And yeah, it was so cool. Enjoyed the fireworks, had some elephant ears topped with cinnamon sugar and came back home.

The story of pasta and morunjchaatham

cheesecake factory

I’m the typical south-indian morunjchaatham[curd rice] types. Not very keen on what I get to eat except that I’m a veggie. My wife, on the other hand, is a food junkie – the food channel types – the pastas, the teriyakis, the pitas, the paninis, the calamaris, the polentas and whatever. And she is a fabulous cook who makes sure that I get my share of onion rava masalas and aviyals and vatha kuzhambu and whatever you-get-to-eat-only-in-chennai including rava kesari, puffs, aama vadai and home-made ‘samsa‘[remember pammal k sambandam].

As you land in the US [though that was a while ago], you get overwhelmed by the types of food available. From Japanese to Continental to the typical American food, there is just too much lying around. In the last one year, I found myself saying no to most dishes but still enjoying the vegetarian dishes offered by all each type. I even found myself eating greek food. And it’s called, Kolokythokeftethes which is: Zucchini & Cheese Croquettes. So as I acquired tastes from distant lands, I found myself falling in love with Pasta.

Pasta, the Italian pride is probably my most favorite type of food after the south indian thaali. Just like all great types of food, pasta can be made in different shapes and sizes. The pasta dough can also be made of different flours ranging from Unbleached White Flour to Brown Rice Flour to Mung Bean Threads. Just like a barbie doll, you could decorate it however. Add Garlic and Herbs or dump Strawberry or even chocolate, pasta would still be great to eat.

At first, I hated the word Macaroni. When I had my wife serving plain Macaroni, I preferred to eat Rava Uppuma. Next time she added some Marinara Sauce to it. Since then pasta was my love. Marinara Sauce is made of Italian tomatoes, garlic, basil [the italian tulasi] and oregano [for the aroma]. Now I can eat just about any pasta ranging from Macaroni to Capellini to Spaghetti to Rigatoni to Fettuccine. All I need is a cup of Marinara sauce.

Other than my home which is pasta headquarters these days for me, I also like to have it in the Cheesecake Factory. CC Factory is one famous restaurant chain in the US that dictates the next modern American food. Time had an exclusive coverage on Cheesecake Factory, couple of weeks back. CC Factory truly keep changing their menu regularly and every time your there you find a lovely dish. So here in the US if you want to know if a certain dish is a good one, check to see if CC Factory had it on their menu or not. If it was there, its sure is hot stuff.

Surprisingly its one of the few places where me and my wife love the food. Its usually me who is choosy about food, partly due to my veggie habits. So you could be sure that Cheesecake factory serves food for people on either side of the food spectrum. I heard they serve lovely cocktails too. And some amazing appetizers like the Chilly Cheese Sticks and Bruschetta [Freshly Baked Pizza Bread Topped with Fresh Chopped Tomato, Red Onion, Garlic, Basil and Olive Oil]. Needless to say they have some lovely cheesecakes, one of which is the lovely Tiramisu Cheesecake.

I’m finding myself in an urge to try out such high calorie food these days. But then at the same time, I also buy 2 Gallons of Fat Free Milk from Costco. Just to underline how crazy a desi could get.