Sunday, July 27, 2014

Zest Up Your Life: The Goan Experience

It started with a simple e-mail one Monday morning. A very nondescript one that said, 'I want you to be a part of something exclusive'. Having seen mails like this before, I was almost tempted to pass it by, but I noticed that the sender was Blog Adda and was curious to read further. And am I glad I did that.

The mail said that they were selecting 50 bloggers from across India  to experience an all-expense paid weekend at the luxury resort The Zuri White Sands in Varca, Goa, where we would have to drive around and review the new Tata Zest and live blog about it from the event. I blinked once, rubbed my eyes twice  and pinched myself hard in disbelief to make sure that I was reading this right. Well, they didn't need to ask me twice. I was going to Goa! Read my review of the car here!

Saturday dawned early for those of us leaving from Bangalore (10 in number, just see our smiles!) and we reached the airport all ready for the exciting journey ahead. 

The entire journey was pretty relaxed and comfortable, including our very brief stopover at Chennai. We landed in Goa to be welcomed with this sign from Tata Motors and a shuttle bus to ferry us to our destination.

A pleasant drive across Goan fields and scenic, winding roads brought us to the Zuri White Sands Goa Resort and Casino, where we were immediately whisked away to a sumptuous lunch. All through the event, Blog Adda ensured that we were well taken care of, whether it was regarding our rooms, the agenda for the weekend, the test drive across Goa or the slight hitches that cropped up with network connectivity during our live blogging sessions. I must especially thank +Ankita V and +Harish Krishnan  from Blog Adda for their patience in handling all our queries. It cannot be easy to organise an event of this scale, at such short notice. But , they pulled it off with style and a smile all through the event. I can honestly say that I never once saw them lose their cool or their control on the situation. Hats off, guys!

Even little touches such as the Blog Adda tee-shirts or the personalised badges made a difference to every single blogger who had traveled from across India to be a part of this weekend event.

We were there for an event but that didn't mean we couldn't have fun of our own too :) Bloggers were found snapping pictures away from every angle possible. There were heads bent over smartphones and tablets, tweeting away with the hashtags #ZestUpYourLife and tagging +BlogAdda and +Tata Motors almost by the second! But, we also knew how to put those gadgets away when it came to networking in person. It is a special thrill to meet the people whom you admire for the power of their words and what better way than at a Blogger's conference!

Yes, that's +Shailaja V (yours truly) with +Vidya Sury and +Ritu Lalit !

Blog Adda has always been proactive when it comes to contests, events, reviews, their weekly features such as the Tangy Tuesday Picks, the Spicy Saturday Picks and the Write Over the Weekend initiatives (WOW). They were also the first to organise a Blogger's Conference in India in February 2014, where the top bloggers from across India were awarded at the WIN '14 ceremony! This blogger was also proud to be nominated in the Top 5 Parenting Blogs by Blog Adda.

Blogging has always been an intensely personal and emotionally satisfying activity for me. Any form of recognition- a warm, heartfelt comment or a notification that your post resonated with a group of people- is very wonderful to hear. So, to be chosen for the special honour from across so many incredible bloggers in India was very gratifying indeed.

So, a big thank you to Blog Adda and Tata Motors for this wonderful opportunity to be part of this amazing and once-in-a lifetime experience.

Zest it up: The Tata Zest Review by @shyvish

               Today, I come to you with a very special review and it's LIVE all the way from the Zuri White Sands and Resort in Varca, Goa! Yes, you heard that right. Along with 50 other bloggers, I was flown here by Blog Adda and Tata Motors, to be a part of an exclusive two-day Live Blogging and driving experience. If you want to read all about the Goan experience, that's up for your viewing here! Go check it out for some cool photos!

Image credit: R Senthilkumar

Day 1:

On Saturday evening, we had a detailed presentation by the team from Tata Motors who walked us through the entire engineering and design experience behind the Tata Zest.  We had Minari Shah from Tata Motors talking about the four-pronged approach of the Zest team: Design Next, Drive Next, Connect Next and Horizon Next.

This was followed by the engineering team who did a wonderful job of outlining what goes into the making of a car such as this one. The fact that 250 engineers spent three years making this car what it is today was a jaw-dropping revelation.

The cream on the cake, so to speak, was the surprise guest appearance of India's superstar racer, Narain Karthikeyan, who regaled the bloggers with his views on the car and the fluidic experience of speed that he is so used to. That surely made all of us sit up and piqued the interest in the car to a new level.

Day 2:

Sunday morning began with a quick rundown of the things we would need to do before we set out on our drives. The bloggers were split into groups of three and assigned a petrol as well as a diesel variant to drive for a 26-km stretch. I was paired up with Shilpa Garg who blogs at A rose is a rose is a rose and Pranay Nigotiya who blogs at Pranay and we began the quest with the manual Petrol variant of the Tata Zest. This was followed by the AMT Diesel version.

Car experience

Human Machine Interface:

This refers to the very stylish and sleek console of the car in  the front panel which houses the Infotainment system, sporting a touch screen and some pretty cool add-on features that we were happy to try out when we set out on our test drive across the verdant and winding roads of Goa.

Chief among them was the Bluetooth connectivity and the Voice Command Recognition (VCR) feature. The Bluetooth in the car  can connect to two devices simultaneously inside the car and allows users to answer/ make phone calls in hands-free mode. The VCR feature is particularly good since it detects Indian accents effectively and had zero- error functioning on our 2-hour long drive.

Gear Performance: (Petrol)

The switching of gears happened pretty seamlessly and the car responded pretty well to the pickup, especially on long, straight stretches where we could really test the limits of the speed.

Gear performance: (Diesel)

The fact that it was an AMT (Automatic Transmission) was very intriguing, since this will be the first-ever Diesel AMT in this class in India. The pickup was much better when compared to the petrol variant, probably due to the fact that the gear switching happens on auto mode.

Steering wheel:

The wheel size is comfortable and designed in a very innovative way, keeping the needs of the driver in mind. Power steering is effortless and the car handles very well on winding roads.

Seating space:

The leg room in both the front and back seats is not just sufficient but roomy. Pranay, who is 6 feet tall, admitted that the leg room at the back was sufficient enough for him in the rear seat. So, that's a definite win in my book!

Personal Notes:

As a family who drives everywhere for recreational purposes, this was a wonderful thing to do for me. In 2012, my family and I drove all the way to Goa from Bangalore, in a Tata Indigo. The car performed spectacularly under the onslaught of the Indian roads and weather conditions. This is no mean feat and one that I have always admired about any TATA car.

I do wish that the boot space in the car could have been a little more, but for a small family, it wouldn't be a very big constraint. The other thing which I would have appreciated was the availability of bottle holders in the side pockets of the front seats. There were a couple of cup holders in the gear box area, but these would not be sufficient for long drives.

Now to wait and see how the pricing of the car will lure buyers in :)

During the drive organised by Tata Motors, I got to chatting with fellow bloggers  +Shilpa Garg and +Pranay Nigotiya. It was such fun to exchange notes on blogging, our interests, how our lives revolve around our blogs and the fact that we were really enjoying the weekend at Varca, Goa. Hey, we even got time to click a blogger 'selfie' as part of the drive!

Overall, the TATA Zest experience was a very satisfying one. The Tata team as well as the Blog Adda team were very proactive when it came to organising this event. They had volunteers standing with large sign boards at each point/ turnoff to guide the bloggers across their journey. In addition, each car had a volunteer from Tata Motors who patiently explained any queries we may have had about the car or the driving experience.

So, if you are looking for a family-friendly car for long drives, with everything possible available at your fingertips, look no further than the Tata Zest. When that launch happens in your city, wait no longer. Go out and get a test drive done right away. Believe me, you'll thank me for it :)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gratitude in a Tin

Thoughtful Thursday is here again and what better subject to talk about today than the overwhelming deluge of gratitude that has flooded my Facebook wall these last 5 days? And it was all thanks to the Positive Challenge.

What's that, you ask?

Well, it's pretty simple. Last Friday, my very good friend, Vidya Sury, tagged me on Facebook to list three things that I was grateful for on that particular day. She mentioned that it was a 5-day challenge and that I would need to list three things on each day. The very next day, I was tagged by Aditi Kausiva too!

I never realised the sheer power of that simple task! It was with all gusto that I started out with the challenge and it is amazing how much goodness I could see, if I chose to do so. Even in the midst of a seeming catastrophe, the fact that there is a good side to everything, kept firing me up to maintain the challenge!

What made it even more fun was the idea of tagging three people at the end of each day's update, to carry the torch of Gratitude forward. Fabulous idea! It brought so many good things tumbling out of friends' minds. It flooded my wall with posts of happiness. It filled my soul with the warmth of reading each person's list and counting my blessings that they have all touched my life in one way or another!

Here, in quick recap ( and one single place) are my 5 updates with 15 things that I was grateful for.

Day 1

1/ My job, which makes me feel wonderful and the fact that in some small way, I am able to contribute to the education of children.
2/ The weather, which always reminds me why I love living in this city!
3/ My close online friends, whom I chat with almost every day, on pretty much any subject on earth. You know who you are 

Day 2

1/ My extended family whom I met today,with whom time spent is never time wasted. So much love, warmth and happiness that my heart overflows with gratitude when I think of them.

2/ My mother-in-law, who is quite possibly one of the happiest souls on earth! Everyday, I thank God for adding her to my life. A cooler, smarter, more wonderful in-law you won't find, I guarantee it!

3/ The Indian saree  Yes, it always was and will be my favourite attire. The comfort and grace it provides, I find in nothing else. 

Day 3

1/ Walking in my apartment complex this evening as I watched my daughter play dodgeball with kids, getting down and sandy in the community park. As I grow (and so does she), I have learnt to let go of the little niggling issues like sand in one's shoe, muddy feet and dirtied clothes. Instead, I now look at the flushed cheeks, the sweat that comes from an hour of carefree playing and the smiles that emerge after rolling around in the sand. 

2/ My day off from work. After a hectic weekend, which was also loads of fun, I could really use the break and catch up on some blogging and reading after nearly 10 days! 

3/ A note from my daughter's school that covered a series of points on safety concerns, which also included reference to a session which will be conducted on CSA by a reputed organisation.

Day 4

Picture courtesy: Pinterest

1) My variety of support groups on Facebook/ Whatsapp: The blogger group, the parenting group, the fitness group, my alumni group, my spiritual group. My life is a medley of all of the above and I wouldn't have it any other way!

2/ My dose of happiness thanks to The Big Bang Theory. Such laugh-out loud humour is my ideal way to start the day 

3/ My daughter's face this afternoon when she came home from school and proudly told me how she had brought home all her homework books and an extra book as well, thanks to a Post-It note I had stuck on her diary. 

Day 5

1) Despite the fact that my phone blanked out and refused to turn on this morning  I was grateful for the fact that there was a spare phone lying around which I could quickly use.

2) My daughter. Every day, I find new reasons to love her more. Today, after an unreasonably long lunch, which caused me to get irritated, she still came and hugged me before leaving for her tennis class. Children are the best instances of the term 'Unconditional love'. How much we can learn from them 

3) This entire exercise of looking for the 3 positive things each day. Without it, I would have lost my cool this morning when the phone conked out, I would have yelled my head off at my daughter and I would have had a headache. Instead, I sit here, typing out my gratitude. This is the kind of thing I should do everyday.

BONUS! Day 6

Technically, the challenge was done, but since Rekha tagged me for Day 6, here are my three reasons to be thankful. 

1. Having a tech guru at home who effortlessly fixes my 'broken' phone in under ten seconds is a sheer blessing! Thank you, Vishwanath 

2. Having a daughter who insists on my waving to her continuously until the bus leaves my sight is so endearing!

3.  This red flower growing in my apartment always makes me smile!

Guess what! I aim to keep this going. Inspired by Vidya Sury and her Happiness Jar, I just made my own Happiness Tin! It's an old chocolate tin and you KNOW that chocolate can make us happy! Oh yes! It sits happily perched on my daughter's table. When I feel that gratitude coming my way, off it goes into the tin, preserved there for me to read on a day when the clouds seem darker and the sun doesn't want to come out and smile at me.

So, the smiley is a bit crooked and my handwriting is a bit crooked (okay, very crooked), but that's what life is about, right? We look for the happiness in Life, even if it is flawed or bent out of shape.

Will you do this with me too? Will you start sharing your moments of joy and watch the chain of goodness spread all over your circles? Just imagine, a world connected virtually by love and gratitude for the little things. That is a Paradise we can surely aspire to on Earth :)

Did you write a Gratitude Post today? Then, you're in luck. Head over to Laurel's page and link it to the Gratitude Linky which is open for the next 10 days :) Share the love, spread the word!


Welcome to my weekly feature: Thoughtful Thursdays

Do these tips help you?

Do you have any ideas to add to the ones above?

❤ Feel free to share your valuable comments and suggestions.

Thank you! 


Thursday, July 17, 2014

A special kind of 'Blogversary'

Today is a wonderful day. But then, isn't every day?

Specifically though, there are two reasons that today is special:

  • It is a celebration of my blog's existence and by that, I mean the reason for this blog. Yes, it is Gy's birthday today.

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