Ertiga: Spaciousness in Spacelessness

To me, this picture represents the main reason why the Ertiga has been such a huge hit in India, crossing over 12000 bookings in two months since its launch. After the Ertiga has been launched in India in April 2012, people have finally realized that they were being taken for a royal ride all these years, by cars which occupy costly real estate, often as expensive as downtown real estate, without any real utility of space at all.

The Ertiga cleverly utilizes every inch of space it occupies, to easily fit 5 adults and two or more kids in exactly the same space that a small sedan occupies on the road.

Just look at the third row of seats in the Ertiga, and the kids reclining there royally! Imagine this same space in the typical middle class Indian aspirational model, the ‘Sedan with a boot’. The ‘dicky’ is a total waste of space, if you ask me, 99% of the time.

People have realized that they were being taken for royal ride, or rather being given the boot without any use, by car manufacturers eager to pander to their so-called ego’s.

Indians have woken up to the fact that if they are buying a car, they might as well buy one that gives them the maximum utilization of that most precious commodity, space!

They have realized that a car with just a boot, is practically of no value at all in real life, but being sold in India because Indians have not matured enough to realize that cars with boots are being sold only in markets like India.

Take for example the Toyota Corolla. It is being sold as a hatch back in most developed countries. Why? Because people out there also buy cars for what they really need them for, not to show off to neighbors. But in India, Toyota has not yet done so. They want to sell their overpriced, environmentally more hazardous sedan’s rather than market the more practical hatchback version, because for them profit is more important than the environment.

Maruti Suzuki has been spot on in designing the Ertiga. In the space that would have been otherwise wasted in a boot, they have literally worked magic and created a third row of seats that can seat 2 adults or three kids if needed, or folded down flat to hold luggage. Maximum space in minimum space.

The Ertiga is not only practical but also quite luxuriously appointed too for the price. There are a few comforts, like height adjustable seat belts for the front, and a rear AC for the second and third row combined in the roof.


All in all, the Ertiga is a winner, and just goes to show that the Indian market is maturing. High time other car manufacturers woke up and put customers first, not their profits.

Tablets are not drugs!

Once upon a time, apples and blackberries were understood to be fruits enjoyed by many.

How the world has changed since then!

Since the last 10 or more years, there has been a rise in the number of gadgets that have managed to get into our vocabulary too! As I am writing this, in the year 2012, the Apple iPad has managed to position itself as something indispensable to those who are on the move; those who want to maximize their potential, and ofcourse some who wish to flaunt whatever is trendy at the moment.

There are ofcourse other similar gadgets now available, called Tablets in general. Nothing to do with what you pop into your mouth though!

What are these gadgets, and how do they manage to help us live our already complicated lives?

Samsung Note, Apple iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab

Tablets basically do the work of laptops, mobile phones GPS navigators, Diaries, and a host of other devices, in one compact handheld device. That is the main reason for their popularity currently.

How do the various gadgets score against each other?

I have been using the Samsung Galaxy tab, the Samsung Note and the iPad 2 for some time now, and here is what I found out.

Ease of use:

I found it to be much easier to use the Samsung Galaxy/Note than the iPad2. Why do I say that?

For a start, it is much more intuitive, the layout and buttons are far easier to understand, and the Galaxy is smaller and easier to hold in my hand.

Ease of syncing with your PC or Laptop:

Here again the Samsung wins hands down. I use Windows OS, and the Google android OS found in the Samsung Galaxy gadgets are intuitive, easy to link up with my laptop or desktop running Windows, and it is much more user friendly too! Want to copy some files from your PC to the Tab? Simple, just copy and paste! If you want to do the same with the iPad….it is like learning how to fly the space shuttle!


While the iPad 2 has a great display, the Samsung Note beats it hands down, for sheer brightness, detail, and clarity. Ofcourse, Apple is coming up with another iPad which it promises will take the battle ahead…so watch out!


There are useful applications for the iPad and for the Google android phones, and in this matter the preference is highly dependent on what you aim to use your gadget for. Personally I have found very useful apps for my use on Google Market and the good part is most of them are free! Not so with the iPad.


While initial costs are almost the same, the iPad owner will soon discover that he has to shell out a substantial amount of money in small bits and pieces for every application he wants to use. Not so with Google apps yet!

So the verdict for me?

I prefer Google android OS gadgets over iOS based iPad like systems anyday! Personally I am growing to like the Note since it fits into my pocket with ease.

So here is what I feel, and I hope you take your decision based on what you really want rather than what the advertising and media gurus’ project. Let your decision not be based on the glamour quotient, because outer beauty fades or changes, but the real beauty of a person is inside, and that is priceless!

Indians driving abroad

Would you like to drive abroad? Are you an Indian who has been driving in India all these years and have always wondered if you can drive on roads abroad? Does this sound like a dream for you? If so, you have come to the right place!!


Let me assure you, you can drive abroad, and the experience will be one of the most memorable and enjoyable moments in your vacation. [Especially if you are a guy who loves to drive!]

A little bit of background here first: I have driven in Mumbai for the past 20 odd years, and have lately been enjoying driving by relaxing in the back seat. I stay in one of the rare places in Mumbai where there is no traffic jams when I commute. Do not be jealous! J

So, what do you need to do before you actually plan that driving vacation?

Plan ahead.

Here is what you need officially if you want to drive abroad:

A smart card driving license with the address exactly the same as on your passport.

I assume you have a passport!

An International Driving Permit [IDP]


What should you do to get the IDP?

You can directly go to the RTO covering your area and get it, or go through an agent, who takes you through many dusty and dirty offices to get your papers signed by indifferent officers in uniform.

Anyway, one visit to the RTO is a must to get your IDP. It is a small booklet actually, with your photograph and visa number etc, and has a validity of usually 6 mnths to an year from the date of issue. This site has some more details on the nitty gritty of getting an IDP.


Ok, so now you have your IDP in hand. Congrats! What next?

Now is the time to plan the other bits to complete your memorable experience.

  • Which vehicle?
  • Which Road/route?
  • What to carry?


  • Which vehicle?

The vehicle you will be driving depends on how many of you are going to use it, and then on what you would like to drive.

Your IDP will also specify the class of vehicle you are permitted to drive. Your choice also depends on whether you are going to rent out a vehicle or use a relative’s. Among Rent a cars you can get a wide range of options and also optional accessories.

  • Which Road/route?

Nowadays, with Google earth and the internet, it is really a pleasure to see where you will be travelling and know what the highlights of that area are. The more time you devote to this, the better you will be able to enjoy your trip. Try to involve your family members if possible in this planning, as you visit the various places online and on Google earth, and the trip will really become a memorable one for you. Plan the places you would like to visit, check out the timings of the various attractions, as in some places in Europe the closing time can be as early as 5 PM, and they can be very strict on the timings too!

  • What to carry?

A GPS is most important! I use my Nokia phone as GPS and am extremely satisfied with its ease of use and accuracy.

I download Hindi and English with Street names language pack to hear the phone speak out every detail I need to know while driving, including warning me if I am going over the speed limit, and also of traffic cameras ahead J.

I find my Nokia 5800 and similar phones are much better than MapMyIndia GPS, and have used it extensively in Europe and India. If you have a Nokia phone with Ovi Maps, make sure that you download the map of the country you will be visiting by using Ovi Suite after connecting your phone to the PC using a data cable. These maps are invaluable, and free when you do it at home! If you use your GPRS or 3 G connection while abroad to download the maps as you travel [which the phone will do as it updates your position and finds no map data there], it will prove to be an expensive affair, as you will be charged for every Kb you download!

If you do not have a Nokia phone, you can get a GPS on rent from the Rent a car outlet. Make sure you know how to use it before you start driving!

It is always safer to pay extra for Insurance, and Child/Booster seats depending on local regulations which you can find out online. Also do check if you will need Snow tires depending on the weather and Toll Pass stickers.


Another important thing you must do is know the rules of the place where you are going to drive. In most places it is considered impolite to honk, so beware! Also, driving on the right side of the road can take a bit of time getting used to for us Indians! Other things like Lane driving, Stop sign, Speed limits, traffic signals, Round about rule, Parking, etc must also be studied properly.

While you are driving, if you miss a turn or an exit, do not panic! The GPS will recalculate and tell you where you have to take the next turn. Never back up or go in reverse on the highway or any of the roads. It can lead to a disaster.

Once you follow the rules, you will find that driving abroad is really a pleasure. Then you will also appreciate the needless tension that driving in India puts on you, often unconsciously, as you never know who or what will jump in your way as you are driving.

So enjoy your drive, and when you do come back I hope you are motivated enough to be the change in your local area towards a better driving experience in India!

Do let me know your feedbacks too:


Indian homeschoolers, the Journey so far

This is a synopsis not only of our personal journey into homeschooling but also of the Indian homeschooling scene and our experiences over the past few years.

Personal journey

When we started homeschooling our daughter Grace in 2005, we could count on our fingertips the families who were homeschooling. We heard about homeschooling from a Christian family that came to India from California to talk about Scriptural challenges to successful Parenting, and at that time our daughter was in a Christian school, where we wanted her to have a sound foundation in the important basics of life. These ‘basics’ were what we as parents did not receive when we were growing up, resulting in one of us believing in the Theory of Evolution and the other not knowing what was the purpose of our existence.

We realized as we grew and matured, that there is indeed a God, a Creator, who loves us and cares for us as it is written in His Word. We had this desire to see that this fact is taught to our child right from the beginning.

When we heard this speaker talk from Scripture about the responsibility of parents to train up their child, it spoke to our hearts and both of us agreed that ‘Homeschooling’ it is going to be.

Indian scenario of institutional Education

In India, the majority of middle class or upwardly mobile parents wish to give the ‘best’ education for their kids, believing that this will ensure a sound future for them. Banking on this great desire, educational institutions have sprung up like weeds all over the cities, and many of them do not have any value system to speak of, while promising to teach the children admitted under their care ‘international’ standards of education. The result is mindless competition, endless anxiety for parents, with immense pressure to perform, both on the teachers and the helpless kids.

The kids who pass through Institutional school are trained to believe that their value in life, indeed their whole existence, is based on how they perform in the school exams. The ‘objective’ results will determine the child’s career, future, and status in life. Sadly, we have evidence to show that the product of this educational system seldom understands even the basic concepts of subjects in which they have supposedly excelled.

Indian homeschoolers

The community of homeschoolers in India is a varied lot. Many of them are homeschooling because they are fed up with this educational system, and wish to bring up their kids without any pressure to perform at all. There are different degrees of homeschooling, with some following a structured curriculum based on either the state or national boards, or on some international board. There are some families that do not wish to impose any structure at all on their children’s education, but rather would let the child follow his or her own curiosity. Here the parents act as facilitators for their children, believing that the children are mature enough to make choices regarding what to learn. These would be defined as unschoolers by the global definition of the term. In India the term Homeschoolers is used to include all those who are teaching their children at home, in an open environment.

The Indian Government

As of now the Government if India has not yet directly addressed the issue of Homeschoolers in black and white terms. Waking up after a gap of more that 50 years, the Indian Government declared education a fundamental right of every child in 2010. Surprisingly what came out of this delayed response as the Right to Education Act turned out to be a Right to Schooling Act, which envisaged that every child from the ages of 6 to 14 will have to compulsorily attend ‘school’! Little do the bureaucrats realize that Education has long since moved out of these so called schools!

In a letter addressed to the HSLDA in Jan 2011, the Human Resources Department did mention that as of now parents opting for homeschooling may continue to do so, and the Government is asking the National University of Education planning and Administration to look into how homeschoolers are coping with ‘real’ life.


Using Facebook, Emails, Yahoo groups, and the Mobile and telephone, we homeschoolers in India have been linking up with one another over the past many years, and now we are planning to form a National Body representing all Homeschoolers in India. We feel at this stage that it is better for us to be collectively united as part of a National Body so as to best represent our rights as parents to educate our own children in the best way we can.

It has been an exciting time as we have met with other families in and around Mumbai, and even from the country in the past few months. We have had meetings at Paushyam (a friend’s office at Bandra, suburb of Mumbai) to discuss the formalities of forming a National Body. We have also had picnics to gushing streams during the rains, organized birdwatching trails in the National park, seen the lunar eclipse from a terrace, visited the planetarium and science museum, organized a bazaar where Homeschooling kids sold their creations, had a bonfire and visited farms to learn about alternative lifestyles.

Here are some photos which will help you to get a feel of what is going on in India.


Homeschool kids enjoying a day out at the National Park in Borivli, Mumbai


Homeschoolers meeting at Paushyam, Bandra


Birdwatching at the National Park


At the Nehru Science Planetarium

At Supriya’s terrace watching the Lunar eclipse

Total lunar eclipse


Kids selling their own creations at the YOLA (Young Open Learners Association) Bazaar at Nikhil’s place in Mumbai

Young Open Learner’s Bazaar winners

Marshmallows over a bonfire at a Homeschoolers Meet in Mumbai



National Learning Societies ‘unconference’ at Hideout near Mumbai March 2012

It is an exciting time to be an ‘Open learner’ in India. We pray that we parents continue to have the freedom to choose the best means of education for our children now and for the future generations to come. Thank you for your interest and please spread the word around.

Dr. Mathew S P and Dr. Vinita

Grace, Mark and Nancy



Farm outing to the rural health & training centre

Here is a brief glimpse of what you will be seeing at the Farm which we are planning to visit. This farm is located in what is called the rural health & training center known also as the Ramakrishna Mission.

It is situated a short drive down the beautiful and smooth Western Express Highway towards Gujarat.

This farm is located to your right as you go towards Gujarat, around 80 kms from Mumbai.

Here we can see many plants and trees growing in their natural style, without any harmful pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

Spread over 8 acres, it also houses a few buildings including hospitals, a Goshala where cows are looked after, and many plants all growing with the rich organic manure made by mixing manure with other organic ingredients.

The photographs here were taken in March 2012 when we dropped by on our way to the Learning Societies unconference further north.

An interesting fact that we discovered was that most of the energy needs here are met by Gobar gas produced by a state of the art all steel Gobar gas plant as seen in the picture below.

The gas is converted to energy by a slightly modified diesel genset.

The lush greenery here makes for an inviting break where we can refresh our minds and bodies.

It is a great place for a day trip, where the kids can work in the farms, and enjoy robust physical activites in the lap of nature.

If you would like to join us, we are planning a trip there soon!

See you all!

The rural health & training centre


Homeschool Creativity Meet

Nikhil hosted this event at his open-to-sky terrace flat in Santacruz today the 5th of Feb 2012, where some of us Mumbai Homeshoolers met for a wonderful time of fellowship and fun.

We started at 4 30 pm with some games designed by Supriya. They were enjoyed by one and all.

Each person was blinded and asked to identify the person amongst the group who told/whispered the sound ‘Ding Dong’. This was a fun session with almost everyone missing the mark!

After this we had another session of an escalating dialogue with emotions, which proved to be a learning experience for one and all.

We also had a lot of other fun and games, which also proved to be an icebreaker for many, like thinking of creative uses for a Hair clip.

Then we had a short talk on six hats thinking by Supriya,

and a lot of informal discussions on various things homeschooled kids enjoy, like wind surfing, para sailing, mental mathematics etc.

Grace cut her cake for her thirteenth birthday, and then we had snacks, followed by even more activities.

More creative sessions followed like three hand skit, moulding and camp fire.

Nikhil explains the details to a rapt audience

Using fevicol to smoothen the final mixture

Delicate patterns emerge

The finished products waiting to dry!

The finale was candle-light dinner served around a real log fire! We baked two potatoes in the fire too.

All in all it was a wonderful evening, cherished by all those who came, and missed by those who could not. We hope they will be able to make it to our next meet!

Here is the link to more photographs:

What does a college education provide?


‘Only 10% grads are employable’

Higher Edu Must Be More Flexible, Says NAAC Chief


Pune: Chairman of the National assessment and accreditation council (NAAC) executive committee, Goverdhan Mehta, has called for an innovative approach to raise the employability of graduates passing out of universities with traditional arts, commerce and science degrees.


Useless degrees?

“We need out-of-the-box thinking to tackle the issue, considering that barely 10% of the 30 lakh students, who pass with these degrees every year, are considered employable in today’s competitive world,” he said at the 105th convocation ceremony of the University of Pune (UoP) on Saturday. Officiating vice-chancellor Sanjay Chahande presided over the ceremony.
Mehta, also a noted scientist and former director of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, said emphasis needs to be laid on blending skills with education for employment, entrepreneurship development, knowledge and creation of wealth.
“The prevailing higher education system needs to be more flexible in terms of adapting to the modern-day changes,” he said. “Promoting liberal education can be a good alternative in this direction to help the system come out of an age-old structured format,” he said. “Inter-disciplinary studies should be taken up by students instead of going for traditional studies,” he added.
Earlier, Chahande said the university is making efforts to promote value-based education, which is critical to the development of students.