GT Academy may be a dream come true

Car lover and student, Amitav Haldipur writes about a great interest of his, for all the motor enthusiasts out there.

Shantanu Kallianpurkar, 33, is a graphic designer from Hubli who made it to the top 12 in the National Finals of the Nissan GTA this year, out of a field of 6000. This is his account of the journey.

Motor Racing was my passion much before I learnt to drive a car. But the costs involved meant that dream never had the chance to materialize.  When Nissan announced the GT Academy in 2008, I could finally see myself making the transition from gamer to racing driver. But sadly, India was never included till earlier this year.

The qualifying rounds for the Academy were split into “Live Events” and “Online Events”.  The 14 fastest drivers from each would make it to the National Finals. The qualifying rounds began with the Live events, held at Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai. Participants were given the opportunity to try their hands, at driving a 530bhp Nissan GTR NISMO GT3 N24 Schulze Motorsport around the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit

The online qualifying format was very different, consisting of 4 rounds. The initial 3 were mock rounds, designed to let you get a hang of the game and also compare your laptimes with gamers around the world.  The online qualifying round lasted 14 days. It took them 4 days to announce the final rankings. I was glad to learn that I was among the top 14 qualifiers for the National Finals.

The National Final was held at Fairmont Hotel, Jaipur from the 28th to the 30th of June. After a day of orientation, the 29th saw us hitting the simulator pods, for a series of elimination rounds. We took three tests—each involved driving a Nissan R35 race car around the Silverstone International circuit according to increasingly tougher rules– and ten people were eliminated at this stage. I made it to the final 18, but there was no time to celebrate as the next round was set to start in a few minutes. 

In Round 2, the car was retained but the track was switched from Silverstone to Monaco. Having to drive around a narrow city circuit meant that one had to be precise to the millimetre, making sure no part of the car touched the barriers. And if that wasn’t bad enough, we had to put in 10 consistent laps. I was one of the first ones to go and managed to set in some good lap times. But I had still had to wait and see how the other 17 would manage. After a few tense moments, I found that I had qualified.

The Media Round tests how comfortable contestants are around cameras. We were split into 3 groups of 4 each and quizzed about motorsports and the academy by a panel of journalists from various Auto Magazines. Once that was done, we were asked to return to our rooms and prepare for the driving and physical tests for the final day.

With the sim rounds behind us, we had to now prove ourselves in real-world conditions–with a Nissan Micra. Not exactly what we had in mind, but considering that we were supposed to drive around a tight course, laid across a small polo ground, it made sense. It consisted of a slalom, a long right hander, 2 roundabouts and a stopping area. Jonathan, a driving instructor from Silverstone, did a few laps and set a benchmark time of 39secs. We were then given 3 practice runs, after which we would get just one shot at posting our fastest time.

During the practice runs, three of us managed to clock a 38 sec lap–a proud moment for us, considering we were 1 sec quicker than the benchmark time. For the final lap, I decided to play it safe and avoid penalties for hitting the cones. I ended up posting a 39 sec run which was matched by only 3 other finalists.

This was followed by the Fitness Round, an arduous 4-stage test of core strength and endurance. When the top six names were called out, I understood that the top 12 was as far as I would get this year. But given that there were over 6,000 entries this year, the top 12 doesn’t seem like such a bad place to be. The top 6 will now be heading to UK in August, where they will have to fight it out with 6 winners from 4 other countries—one of them will go on to a sponsored racing career and become the next Nissan Nismo Athlete.

With 12 months to go before GT Academy 2015 begins, I’m pretty confident I’ll be much better prepared next time not only for the National Finals, but also for the International Finals, in UK.     



Raja Deen Dayal, creating an impression at NGMA

Chris Thomas writes about his pleasantly surprising visit to the National Gallery of Modern Art.

My disconcertment about going to a photography exhibition turned into awe and appreciation the moment I entered the National Gallery of Modern Arts; this maiden visit to the gallery would soon be etched into my memory. I had purchased passes to view the Raja Deen Dayal photography exhibition with Renée, but we wandered off into a section of the gallery displaying paintings by artists of the like of Thomas Daniell and AE Harris. Wowing over the detail of Sher Shah’s Fort by Daniell, we were soon directed to the venue of the photography exhibition.

Ushered into the well-lit gallery along with another group of art enthusiasts, I immediately felt a sense of serenity taking over. I noticed a young couple gazing intently at the one of the pictures captured by the famed 19th century photographer Raja Deen Dayal. As they moved on, we stepped up and was at once amazed by the quality and genius of the photograph: it showed the Nizam of Hyderabad in a shikhar camp; he appeared to be posing for a picture with his son, but the distance between them suggested that the child had wandered into a set intended for a portrait.

Deen Dayal, a civil engineering student from Thompson Civil Engineering College in Roorkee, soon entered the realm of photography art, opening a studio in Indore. He went on to serve as official photographer to several viceroys including Lord Dufferin and Earl Elgin. In 1887, he received the Royal Warrant of appointment as photographer to her Majesty, the Queen Victoria. The sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Mahboob Ali Khan, appointed him as court photographer in 1885, where he worked till his demise in 1905. The title ‘Raja’ was bestowed on him by the Nizam in 1894.

The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) acquired the Studio Archives of the Raja Deen Dayal in August 1989, and has since exhibited the photos in seven venues, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bhopal, Guwahati and Kolkata. Over the last month, from June 22 to July 20, the National Gallery of Modern Arts exhibited over 150 photos taken by the iconic photographer.

The Anti-Ragging Law: Think before you rag!

Journalist and college student, Anupa Sagar Kujur explores the anti-ragging law.

The Act consists of rules under the section 3, section 7 and section 9. Section 3 specifies various actions that can be termed as ragging. It includes several aspects of ragging such as psychological, social, political, economic, and cultural and academics. Extortion or forcing expenditure for lunch or a party from a junior can be more costly to senior comes under economic dimension of ragging. Any kind of physical abuse or actions that has a bad affect on mental health and self-confidence is also a part of ragging.

The institution also plays an important role in preventing ragging. The Act mentions the immediate responses from the Head of the institution in Section 7. Under any complaint of ragging, the Head of the institute must immediately file a case in the court as it is a criminal offence. Also, if the student is found guilty of actions declared under section 7, an authorized member of Anti-Ragging Committee, within the institution, should file an FIR (First Information Report) with the nearest police station. The institutional authority shall also immediately inform the Inter-Council Committee under University Grants Commission (UGC) about the incident and actions taken.

The Anti-Ragging Committee gets to decide the punishment to be awarded to the student found guilty. Depending upon the nature and gravity of action as established by Anti-Ragging Squads, The committee can award one or any combination of punishments recorded under Section 9 (b). These are selected group of people from Head of the Institution for maintaining vigil, oversight and patrolling functions. They can make surprise raids to hostels.  Punishments varies from cancellation of admission, suspension from attending classes; expulsion; rustication from college; debarring from examination, entrance tests or any regional/ national/ international meet; to withholding scholarships and other academic facilities.

Also, the law states that if the person committing or abetting the act of ragging is not identified, then the institution shall resort to collective punishment. Although, the ‘collective punishment’ in this context has not been clarified by the law.

Seven-loving man surrounds himself with red and white

Melvin Mathew spent an afternoon with a white-and-red-loving man and wrote all about it.

When people talk about real-estate agent Sevenraj, there are certain things that simply pop up. A colour scheme and the number seven. When I entered his house, I found two colours everywhere. The wall is red, the sofa is red and the chequered table cloth is red and white. His mobile phone is red, his coat is red. Red & white pencils, red lip-shaped receivers, the drawing-room ornament is a dancing couple frozen in red and white, as also his shoes. The only thing that doesn’t fit into this scheme is the television.

Let us rewind to the beginning. I googled his number, called him up and fixed an interview, confident that I just had to walk to the red-and-white house near our college. Next day, while I was sitting in the PG canteen, overlooking the red-white house and drinking my coffee comfortably, Krishna asked where I was meeting him. I travelled the entire universe in a second. And when I landed, I was holding my new Moto E and dialing Sevenraj’s number. Tragedy! He lives in Domlur and the fancy-looking house is only his office. We will skip the half-hour of agonized running around that followed.

I sat on the red sofa, beside this tall and imposing man with a thick moustache. Pressing down my shivering hands, I opened my interview with the question “How did all this happen?”. That could be the most insulting of all questions that I could have asked. The kind man understood the frights that were killing me. So you want want to know about me, he said, and then we began to journey.

Sevenraj is part of a society called Sidda Samaj, where wearing white is compulsory. The reason behind choosing red is what he keeps deflecting. ”I had a childhood dream of being unique and was highly inspired by MGR” says a proud Sevenraj. He wants to become a brand ambassador of Airtel or Vodafone. There have been times when passengers in Kingfisher Airlines asked him where their seats were. He keeps pointing at the necessity of simplicity while holding an i-phone in his hand.

Sidda Samaj has three major principles. No religion, no smoking and no drinking. “It is hard to be a teetotaler these days,” says a beaming Sevenraj. His father didn’t want him to be known by his religion or his caste, and named him Seven because he was the seventh child in the family. His father once told him that if a person learns one word a day, he can learn 365 words in a year. He was so inspired by all this that he managed to learn to speak in seven languages while only a child.

His son and daughter are supportive. His son, Gaurav, remembers his younger self getting embarrassed whenever his dad used to come to school. He later came to respect his father and defended him in front of his classmates. His daughter has so many fans in her school. His wife keeps quiet through all this.

After the interview, he asked us if we would like tea. His wife brought some biscuits and tea, but we were disappointed to find brown biscuits and regular tea. After a sip of tea, we revealed our home towns and he began comment on Malayali. He was sad that Malayali associations never reported about him favourably. He thinks that foreigners are able to accept his different ways more than Indians.

In future, Sevenraj dreams of building a ashram in red and white devoted to the number seven. He also plans to take up meditation once his children are settled.

Run for the animals

Pavithra Ashok Kumar, on the event for a great cause one Sunday morning.

The cool morning of 6 July was ideal for an event like the Wild Esperanza.

The 5K run/walk was organized by the group Special Events. They had volunteered their time for the Indian Wildlife Rescue Trust’s (IWRT) attempts to raise funds for their ‘Ambulance Service’. “The ambulances will be used by the members of IWRT to transport urban wildlife, and also to raise awareness about urban wildlife,” said Murali Rao, partner at Special Events and a member of IWRT.

The registration desk near NMKRV Women’s College, Jayanagar was well-manned by volunteers including Manjula Chandramouli and the volunteers dealt with the participants efficiently. The registration fee of Rs 250 was subsidised to Rs 50 for students and senior citizens, but the best part was if you brought five people with you, it was free.

The bibs counted up to more than 70 when everyone had finished registering. The participants were eager to start off before the traffic and temperature increased; this was delayed by the usual 20 minutes due to the speeches made by members of the BBMP about “Our Bangalore, My Contribution!” We set off just before 7 am and the thrill of the run got into many of the participants, but by 500 metres, only the regular runners were moving at a jog, and the rest were speed walking.

The intermittent drizzle which started around my first km was only mildly irksome, but the parts of the road narrowed by the Metro construction were a real thorn in some people’s sides. The well-marked chalk signs and the volunteers at the turns ensured that no participant got lost, and the straight track along Elephant Rock Road certainly helped.

The national level runner Krishna Murthy V completed the run first in around 16 minutes, as conveyed by his friend, Arun Kumar, a state level runner. “It was organized very well, especially for the first time,” Krishna said. The largest group of runners, consisting of 10, was led by Prof Nagesh R of the Government Engineering College (SKSJTI).

The IWRT’s Bangalore group was founded by Vallish Vasuki in 2013. He said, “There was nobody to look after these animals”. The IWRT works with wildlife like monkeys, snakes, birds, deer, squirrels and any other undomesticated sick or injured animal. At present, they work with the Bannerghatta Rehabilitation Shelter and other animal care facilities, but the trust hopes to have its own permanent animal shelter.

As part of the afforestation attempt of the IWRT, there was a plan to sell plants at the event.” Nobody wanted to buy the plants, so we gave the plants to the participants,” said Murali. The remaining 25 plants were taken to plant at the Commissioner’s Office at South End Circle. An alumnus of St. Joseph’s, Santhosh Nag is the other partner at Special Events, mentioned, “There will be another event, probably in October”.

There were certificates for participants and volunteers, and recognitions for people instrumental to the organisation of Wild Esperanza. The certificates were ready well in time for the runners’ return with the help of volunteers such as Manjula Chandramouli and Revathi Murali. The 30 volunteers who assisted left the empty road after 9 am.

Bangalore in ’Bangalore Days’

Maya Philip shared her take on the popular movie Bangalore Days.

“Bangalore, what a rocking city, man!!” exclaims Arjun (Dulquer Salman) in Anjali Menon’s ‘Bangalore Days’. Arjun’s dialogue resonates in sync with the idea of Bangalore in many young minds, especially among Malayalis. Bangalore as a get-away to freedom is exactly what the movie captures.  “Every Malayali has an image of Bangalore in his/her mind. For some of us, it is not just another city. The city actually prompts you to dream. While in Kerala, you have so many social norms and limitations, once you cross the border you have this feeling that anything is possible, be it in your career, lifestyle or travel. The city can change you, though all may not like the ambience,” Anjali Menon said in an interview for The Hindu.

The story revolves around three cousins Arjun, Kuttan, and Divya who had dreamt of having a great time together in Bangalore. Kuttan, with his rustic innocence, oily haired head, IT job, and nostalgia for home evokes the quintessential orthodox Mallu born and bred in a milieu antithetical to the typical modern. It is mostly through his eyes that Bangalore unfolds. For him, being in Bangalore has only a short term excitement. He upholds “Kerala’s culture” and is shocked by the sight of couples smooching in public. He eventually sticks to his roots and fall back to being the conservative Malayali. This course that a young Malayali in Bangalore follows is pictured in the film. For Arjun and Divya, the city is for enjoyment, escape, and for realising dreams.

Bangalore has been a part in films like Vandanam, 22 female Kottayam, and Thira, but it assumes the shape of a character in this film. The city plays a witness to a metamorphosis from the sluggish if not static rural rootedness of Kerala to the flambouyant effervescence and pace of a pulsating city.  In the beginning of the movie, there are visuals of Lalbagh, Koramangala, MG Road, Brigade, Cantonment, Vidhan Soudha, metro, malls, etc presenting the city as beautiful and seductive . But it fails to show the unhygienic, dirty, and dark Bangalore. “The movie injects a positive kind of mindset in young bloods about Bangalore. But the city has its darker shades and traps that is not given due importance,” says Mohammad Rayan, a student.  It does explore the realm of use and throw relationships and rigid routines of corporate jobs more familiar to city culture. The vagaries of urban life is portrayed more in emotional dimensions than visual. Though the stiff conservatism of Kerala society prompts youth to let go and flee to the freer urban environs, there is still a lurking fear. Many parents are afraid to send their kids to Bangalore owing to its no-holds-barred  western culture. The movie misses this aspect about the city. The film Thira explores that dimension.

The film uses bangalore as a prop, setting well suited to trace a youth oriented tale. Bangalore in the film becomes a mixed metaphor for youth freedom and boredom of a loveless marriage, though finally in a typical commercial film fashion, the complications are resolved. Sure the role of bangalore as a city for enjoyment has its takers, going by the box office success of the film.

BMTC kiosks, a failure?

Veena Carmel sets out to investigate how the BMTC kiosks work.

In February, BMTC installed passenger information kiosks in twelve bus stations across Bangalore, with the aim of helping commuters access information about routes and schedules easily. The kiosks, however, don’t quite fulfill their purpose.They are inconveniently placed and barely used.

Out looking for Passenger Information Kiosks, I asked people at the Shanthinagar Bus Station where I could find them. I was met with confused expressions and puzzled counter-questions. The man at the enquiry desk didn’t seem to know either, and directed me to the adjacent building, the office.

At the office, I was courteously received and escorted to meet the concerned officers. All of them spoke about how the kiosks allowed the user to access information such as bus numbers, bus routes, the number of stops the bus made and where, fares, details about the available passes (monthly, weekly, etc.), casual contract buses, information about the available careers offered by BMTC and much more.

It seemed really impressive. At the office, a staff personnel showed me an article by Vijaya Karnataka titled ‘Kiosk Screen Touch Maaduvarilla’ (Kiosk screen touched by no one). It raised questions about the utility of these kiosks, and the thirty lakh rupees spent on their installation. The article said that the amount could have been better spent on buses, bus shelters and other necessities.

It also raised the question of who would use the kiosks.The target users according to the BMTC fall in the category of people who have no access to smartphones.While ignoring the fact that some people might not know how to use them. Furthermore, the kiosks are hard to find amidst the commuters and various small shops. So, most people resort to asking others which buses to catch.

Undeterred by the sharp remarks made by the article, M Ganesh, junior training officer, BMTC, explains, “It takes time for a certain type of technology to set in and be used as much as it can. Like, when cell phones were first introduced there were few users but now, years later, almost everyone has a cell phone. People aren’t aware of the machines and how to use it. But it is quite simple and easy to use, and will catch on over time”.

In response to the article by Vijaya Karnataka, BMTC authorities sent in a statistical report showing 1,89,093 users between the months of February and June, with the number of users increasing every month. One of the BMTC staff (who wishes to remain anonymous) explained that the kiosks were introduced on a trial basis, and their use would be monitored before their introduction in more bus stations.

Undecided about the kiosk, I walked downstairs to try it. I stood in front of the simple screen mounted on a stand. The homepage loaded pretty fast, showing clearly various options in an uncluttered layout. However, the touchscreen quality was quite poor.

The routes were shown, the buses listed, and maps displayed. Being a person who has never owned a smartphone, I admired the kiosk. It let me check the buses I could take from Shantinagar to Shivajinagar, Kormanagala and other areas. However, the fixed buses and schedules didn’t help when I checked how to get to Kelkere (on the outskirts of Bangalore) by catching connecting buses. At the end of the day, I looked around for a person to tell me which bus I could catch to get home.