Tag: mumbai

The 106 Ladies at the Auto World Vintage Car Museum

The 106 Ladies at the Auto World Vintage Car Museum

I was in Ahmedabad for a meeting earlier this year. Had to visit the Auto World Vintage Car Museum before getting back. With 106 cars there, it is a car-lover’s heaven. The cars are owned by Mumbai-resident Pranlal bhogilal Patel. A must-visit if you find yourself in the city.

Reached the museum around 1:30 pm on a May afternoon. Was probably about 42°C, and the open place just had roofs over the car halls. Had planned to get at least a picture of each of the 106 cars. Hope I did. The phone screen felt like it was on fire, but thankfully it held.

You might want to keep your laptop or phone a little away from you so you don’t drool all over it.

Click the link here to see them all. Enjoy!


Look forward to your views. And if you liked this post, do follow or subscribe to my blog (top right of the page) for similar topics that encourage reflection and discussion. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

Does Your Fire Escape Plan Work?

Does Your Fire Escape Plan Work?

Early hours of 29th December saw a horrific fire at a rooftop restaurant in Mumbai. I could hear a continuous stream of distant sirens just before going to sleep. I couldn’t have imagined the extent of death and destruction. The restaurant is a breezy rooftop one, with plenty of bamboo and plastic on the premises. And the staff, towards making the experience more memorable, had a fireworks show on. A possibly illegal structure. A common, narrow exit for 3 restaurants. The result, 15 dead, including a girl who was there to celebrate her birthday. A very tragic, and avoidable mistake.

Many of those who died, were huddled up in the bathroom, after having mistaken it for the exit.

While the media was quick to blame the owners and management, it seemed like the municipal corporation managed to slip out of the spotlight. They are responsible for enforcing safe design, entry/exit criteria, and even ensuring collective safety of an area, as they have a birds eye view of it. However, I have seen numerous restaurants and bars over the years, springing up right next to each other in this seemingly haphazard layout. And as per different sources, many of the establishments are illegal.

A social media friend of mine had a great idea of having Google encourage users to share the Fire Exit plan of establishments and hotels, so that those planning to visit can get a sense of  the exit strategy beforehand.

While it would certainly help, I think establishments need to rethink their Fire Exit Plans themselves. Over the years, at several places, I have seen Fire Escape Plans stuck upside down at premises.

While I was pretty savvy with survey maps in school, an earlier role of mine involved numerous meetings in sprawling industrial areas, and I’d use their map to navigate from company to company located there. And whenever I had colleagues with me, I saw how they struggled to understand and guide me while I drove around. And these were amazingly clear maps that I felt one could figure out, no matter from which direction they looked at it. If those were tough to understand, imagine expecting someone to try to understand a floor plan in the urgency of a burning building.

This is what an average Fire Escape or Floor Layout plan looks like.

Image: source

However, maps need to be better designed to serve the purpose of guiding people both in normal times, and in emergencies.

Which means, the layouts need to be layered, using appropriate colours, to allow for prioritized access of important information. How this can be done, is by using a slightly lighter (possibly grey) colour for the more detailed schematics, and bright colours and simpler steps to direct people in an emergency.

For instance, let’s consider the following map.

Image: source

This is the kind of floor/escape plan you see at many places. However, it can be extremely confusing to understand in the panic of an emergency. These plans are on walls to serve a purpose, emergency exit! Which means, users don’t need so much information. A map must offer the entire schematic in a slightly light colour. This way, in regular times, people can take a moment to stand close and figure their way out. Bright colours should highlight the shortest paths to be taken in emergencies. And this information should stand out in a glimpse. And maps should be customized for each section of every floor. That way, such important information should be rapidly accessible when the need arises.

For smaller establishments, a map near the entrance will give people an idea about available exits, as they walk in.

The objective should be for information to come out in stages, depending on the urgency. For those in a hurry, just the fire exit. For those working in their way around, a few more moments to understand the layout.

Restaurants in the area were quick to bounce back after this incident. Hopefully the tragedy will remind businesses to put people before profit.

On reading this post, Dr. Patell, a great buddy of mine, sent me some valid points that could really save lives, if factored in. Here they are:

A few thoughts on Fire Safety in view of the recent fire in pubs/restaurants. From what I have read or seen on TV fires in pubs/discos are disastrous all over the world because of the numbers packed into the area, compounded by the fact that these P/D tend to restrict entry/exits to prevent gate crashing. This itself is a deterrent to rapid exodus in case of an incident. In the recent fire what was observed was the following:
a) A very narrow Fire Exit passage leading quite a distance to the fire escape door
b) Mistaken entry into toilet door as a possible escape route
c) A fortunate door separating two areas which was locked
My thoughts firstly on these three:
a) I do not know if there is any norm for distance to the actual Fire Exit to the width of the passage. In my opinion, if the passage is about 20 ft long, from the door of the premises to the actual Fire escape then the width should be at least 25 to 30 % or say at least 5 to 6 ft wide. The door at the end of this passage must be equally wide to avoid interruption in the flow of people. This is perhaps utopian, but can there really be adequate exit for say 300 to 400 persons being packed into the P/D. One must also consider that many of these are on higher floors of a building. Such long passages must be avoided and in the planning the Fire Exit must be as near as possible. Additional Exit at the other end on large premises must also be provided.
b) Here also the following may be considered. The door is usually labelled Gents/ Ladies Perhaps an additional board, in luminescent sign, saying NO EXIT could perhaps help in not mistaking the door in an emergency.
c) Where there is fortunately a door separating two areas, which are independent of each other, this must be kept accessible in case of emergency. If, for security reasons this needs to be locked to prevent unauthorised entry, the following could perhaps be thought of as a possible solution. The door should be locked by a key lock. Both sides should place one key in a small box with a glass front, as is used for the fire alarm. In case of emergency, the glass is broken, the key accessed and the door opened. Of course, there will always be apprehension, that this may be misused. Now several systems are available where an alarm sounds once the contact is broken on opening the door. This could be placed on either side.
These are possibilities for what came to mind on seeing the tragedy. The very main systems for such establishments do not seem to have been in place. Were there smoke alarm systems, what about a well designed sprinkler system. The pyrotechnic display would have triggered the system and hence may have been avoided. Was there adequate water supply storage for such sprinkler systems. Portable fire fighting systems, and were the staff trained to use them, or were their skills only tossing booze bottles. Has any authority calculated, how many persons would be in each restaurant at any given time including peak occasions. Are systems in place to a) take care of one such establishment and b) all in that particular area. I am sure there are experts in this field, who could advise. But ultimately their advise must be scrupulously followed.


Look forward to your views. And if you liked this one, consider following/subscribing to my blog (top right of the page). You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

Drivin’ me Nuts.!

Drivin’ me Nuts!

You are driving one morning to work. Nice weather, relatively low traffic. ‘I’m finally going to reach well before time’, you think to yourself. Just at that moment, a speeding cab whizzes to your left and cuts you without a signal or warning. You snarl, and then immediately think that it feels like a really great day, full of positives. So you wouldn’t want to ruin it by getting into a foul mood over a crazy driver. You near a signal, nearing a car in the next lane, who appears to be somehow drifting towards your lane. So you honk lightly. You think he’s getting back into his lane but just as you’re real close to his car, he honks back and swerves in your direction. your brakes screech the car to a halt, and your still wondering if that actually happened.

Grrrr..!! that does it. That driver’s going down, you tell yourself, as you floor the accelerator and veer into the last lane and align yourself in perfect striking position. Then you suddenly realize that you’ve rattled the nerves of that middle-aged lady whose trembling hands just about managed to swerve out of the way of your car screaming through. So you slow down, and try and get back your cool. Though its not happening. the music playing doesn’t seem to work its magic either. You get to work, your mind imagining you perhaps strangling the driver who dared to cut you.

I’m sure you can relate to at least most of that.

I got my driving license sometime in 2001 i think, though I’ve been crazy about driving well before I could pronounce “car”. As a toddler, I’d sit on my dad’s lap while he’d drive, and I’d hold the steering and pretend to drive.

Then, when i was halfway through school, I’d change gears on my relative’s jeep, while the driver drove and took care of the foot pedals.

Anyway, almost soon after i learnt how to drive, i came to realize that the way people drive has a strong correlation to their personality and behaviour patterns, and also the peculiarity of people in that region.

For instance, in Mumbai (India), where I’ve driven the most, cars on the road tend to make maximum use of the road. Three lanes could accommodate up to 5 rows of cars and still have place for a bike with saddle bags on either side to smoothly ride through.

Now while I say this after driving/ observing only certain parts of India, am sure if anyone paid enough attention, a pattern would emerge for the population at different locations, across the world.

A foreigner visiting India had observed that Indians, while driving, make full use of the road. So if there were no road dividers, cars would “expand” to the opposite side of the road as long as there was no on-coming traffic, and then get back into their side of the road while some vehicles whizzed past from the opposite direction, and then get back to using part of the opposite side again. Talk about adjusting to the surroundings.!

I noticed another interesting habit in the town of Mangalore, and in the city of Bangalore, and am quite sure it must be highly prevalent. If one wanted to turn right at a crossroads which had a small circular garden or something similar at the centre, they would normally be expected to drive around the circle in a clockwise direction to get to that particular turn. However, most of our great people would instead find the shortest path… making the right turn just before the circle…I mean who cares if you’re staring at a bunch of alarmed drivers coming head-on.

That reminded me of this joke i read sometime back. A man is driving on NH1 when his wife calls him. “darling, be careful”, she says frantically, “I just heard on the radio that there’s a madman on NH1 driving in the wrong direction. Please be careful.” Her husband replies, with a hollow laugh, “your damn right about that, but it’s not one madman, but hundreds of them!”

Another strange driving habit, very similar to our corporate circles, is people’s reaction when being overtaken. Some people drive at a slow 25 kmph. And with a gap between them and the vehicle in front being big enough to fit an A380 (Airbus). Now you are somewhere between these two cars, in the next lane. You have turned on your indicator to signal you’d be moving in between the two cars.

Soon as you’ve given the indicator, the car behind you and in the next lane, rockets to 60 kmph. The driver desperately tries to keep you from getting into their lane. You barely manage to save scratches on your car, wondering if the driver left his senses back home that morning. Its very similar to the behaviour of crabs in a bucket. Even if they aren’t trying to get out, they’ll do everything they can to prevent others from getting out. If you’ve driven in India long enough, you’d know over 85% of the people never use indicators.

I assume its for one of two reasons; first being, ‘why bother signalling, if the other driver loves his car, he’ll slow down anyway’, or, because he/ she’s dead sure the car behind will speed up, so instead, its better to suddenly cut lanes while no one’s expecting it.

Nothing’s more horrifying that a parked car suddenly darting into your lane on what seemed to be an empty lane till then.

Ok, maybe that’s not horrifying enough. Try this instead. You got that same parked car suddenly taking off on the extreme left, going 0-30, and darting to first lane to make a U-turn. These drivers expect everyone else to be driving at 20 kmph with a foot ready on the brakes. Or they consider themselves immortal. And you thought Milla Jovovich had a hard time in Resident Evil.

All these trends/ characteristics associate closely with what Indians have been known to be like. Now I’m not generalizing. And while I take pride in being an Indian, am just pointing habits/ behaviours we must strive to change.

And while your at it, try get hold of the book “Games Indians Play – Why We Are the Way We Are” by V. Raghunathan, to get some more perspective on the general attitude.

Anyway, I’ll get back to what I was talking about (I tend to deviate from topic quite easily).

Indians (me obviously included), are always in a rush to get somewhere. So much so, we tend to cross the zebra crossing, or stop over the crossing, while waiting at a signal. Every second counts, I suppose. The closer you are to the starting line, the quicker you can leave on green. Then it doesn’t matter if you continue to drive at 25 kmph in fast lane from there on. We’d still prefer to be right there, first car to move, when the light goes green.

I’ve seen cars literally squeeze through gaps between cars. Some drive halfway up a sidewalk, or drift to the wrong side, just to be first at a signal light. However, after the lights turn, somehow, they don’t bother getting even close to the 50 kmph speed limit. They’re driving at their pace, with not a care in the world, even at 9 am on a weekday. Brings me to wonder why then, do they take all the effort to get to the front row.

Now this one absolutely takes the cake when it comes to driving in India.

Recollect how some cars try to get to as much in front as possible, while waiting at a signal?

There’s another really funny trait among many of our drivers here. Some people end up going so far ahead at a signal, that the signal is actually behind them. I mean, “what the ****!!”. So when the lights go green, they depend on a car behind to honk, to let them know that they can move. So if the cars behind weren’t in a hurry, cars could be waiting for as long as 10 seconds, before moving. Believe me, its a hilarious sight to see.

Imagine something like that happening in Formula 1. An over-eager-to-win F1 driver driving past the racing lights and stopping, before the race started. All I can do is hope we all drive a little more responsibly. And be a little more accommodating, on the road, at work, at home, everywhere.



Look forward to your views. And if you liked this one, consider following/subscribing to my blog (top right of the page). You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

%d bloggers like this: