September 30, 2013

Mee and Tata Safari Storme

Mee was driving along the Arter Road IV. She was summoned by her Uncle Soul who seemed very distressed. She knew that Uncle Soul had lately been having difficulties ruling his Kingdom Bodos. Kingdom Bodos was once a thriving kingdom with the finest of roads, 24*7 water supply and people living prosperously. All that changed when Soul made General Mindus the head of Bodos army . General Mindus had secretly nursed an ambition to rule kingdom Bodos after his late father Bryan Mindus was put away in prison, charged with treason by Soul. Soul didn't want to deprive Mindus of this position which he had earned on merit and also secretly hoped that Mindus wouldn't keep any ill-will inside him.

 During the initial duration of his term, Mindus did not do anything untoward, but soon that changed. General Mindus started creating silos in villages of Bodos, where he wouldn't allow the local produce of Heamos and Plateletos from reaching other parts of Bodos where this was not produced. This created severe nutritional deficiencies in small kids in other villages resulting in increase in cases of malnutrition. General Mindus also started a parallel economy by constructing a new road network across the kingdom and named it after his son Veinus. These roads were made of inferior quality material and were used to transport ironless Haemos grown in the fields owned by Mindus. The health of the people from different parts of Bodos started deteriorating but they still hadn't realized this as the deterioration was slow and Mindus was selling this produce as low cost produce to gain the support of the people.

Through the vast army of sycophants who were under his control he was successful in convincing the farmers about the margins they stood to make with this inferior quality Haeomos and Plateletos. In areas where the land was not fertile, he would use the vast media empire he owned to sell these produce as part of Subsidy
program from the government.General Mindus was very successful in creating a perception that all the ill-wills in the kingdom was because of King Soul and he was striving hard for the people. All these resulted in popular support for him from the people of Bodos and indifference and diffidence to King Soul though he had ruled his kingdom very well.

The authority of King Soul slowly started to wilt and General Mindus was calling the shots.It had been 8 years since General Mindus had taken control of all the major administrative work in Bodos. King Soul had trusted him enough to give him a say in most matters involving the kingdom. Though some of his close advisers like General Heart had warned Soul over the way General Mindus' influence was increasing, Soul rubbished all these concerns attributing them to the jealousy of Mindus' peers.

Mindus used to run an annual competition for the best drivers of Bodos along the different roads in the Veinus highways. The winner would receive the grand prize of 10,00,000 RBCs which he could then use for the betterment of his/her family or village.

This time the competition was different, and the repercussions would resound for generations for Bodosians. General Heart's warnings had finally managed to breach the stubborn ears of Soul. He had sent out some of closest aides from his Secret Force and to his shock realized that all the warnings and foreboding of his men were actually true. Mindus had destroyed the economy of his once flourishing kingdom and had put in place a black economy which made profits only for a few and put lakhs of Bodosians into poverty.

Soul asked for Mindus to be present himself to the court and answer all the questions put forward by the jury regarding his illegal actions. Mindus bluntly refused and called on the entire army to seize the court, the king's key aides including General Heart and other influential aides. Mindus declared emergency in the Kingdom and wanted to throw King Soul into prison. It was the timely intervention of his key aide Major Epiglotia who said that doing so would result in people of the kingdom uprising against him. So Mindus asked for his men to escort King Soul to his military home.

Mindus gave Soul two weeks deadline to leave the Kingdom to seek refuge in a neighboring country. Soul found it humiliating to face the potential of being banished from his own Kingdom. He asked Mindus to give a chance for a fair fight. Mindus did not want to go to the people as he was not sure which way the people would vote. Of all the things Mindus was known for, he also made decisions in haste many times. He agreed with the condition that King Soul or one of his nominee had to win this year's race. If he did, then Soul would continue to be King and Mindus would take the land east of the River Intestine and would no longer interfere in the affairs of Bodos. If he lost then he would immediately be exiled to a neighboring country. King Soul agreed as he had to use this last lifeline. Mindus' aides warned him against such a hasty decision but Mindus had a mind of his own.He would design the race in such a way that only his best racer-Cancerus could win.

Mee was the only person Soul knew who could represent him in such a race. Though there was already talk in the kingdom that no one had won a race against Cancerus in the last 5 years partly due to his driving skills and partly due to the support he received from his Evil Tumor buddies who lived high up in the hills which lined the several Veinus roads. Mee knew what she had to do. She had her Uncle's pride at stake and all the racing competitions she had won against very famed racers in various international competitions would come to naught if she didn't win this race.

Mindus got the best race designers to design the track of the race.The roads were the most rough, with his Evil Tumor buddies blocking these roads at various checkpoints just to eliminate competition. They would inflate themselves into gigantic balloons and block entire roads.Major Gall Blader would suck out all the water from River Bile and in its place would remain only thick crystallized stones which made driving over them extremely tough and dangerous. Cancerus would also during the course of the race multiply himself into thousands of identical racers in order to confuse Mee. When the racers would reach the Bridge Medula Oblongata, Mindus would drench it with alcohol so that the bridge would swing wildly and make driving potentially life threatening.

Mee was told my Soul what she would be up against. It was not only Mindus that she was up against buy also her brothers who had chided her for being a girl who participated in car races, a male bastion for long. Her repeated wins had not managed to convince them she, a girl, could be successful at a man's sport. Looking at Mee's worried look, Soul asked her to go and meet General Heart's brother- Courage. When Courage saw Mee at his doorstep he could tell that the young girl had lost her bearings a little while trying to ponder over what could happen in the race. Courage sat her down and showed her a design of a SUV he had made long back. Due to lack of resources and other things that kept cropping up, he could never fulfill this dream of building a SUV for himself that could be driven on any road.

He asked Mee to take the design and start building on it. With the King's last few resources left, Mee got her friend Pulmonus, known for huge interest in vehicle building to jointly convert this design into reality. Ten days prior to the race, the car was ready and Mee was ready to take on Mindus' men. Mee christened it as Tata Safari Storme after her late father Tata and mother Safari.

On the day of the race, Mindus chided Soul for giving a girl the baton of responsibility of winning back his kingdom when he knew that the competitor would be none other than Cancerus. Mee was determined even more after hearing this comment. The race started and Mee was making good progress driving her Tata Safari Storme. The roads were very slippery due to rains from the previous night but Mee felt in total control because of the anti skid tyres of her Storme. Then the Evil Tumor Buddies showed up and wanted to take Mee out of the race.They blew themselves into huge balloons and tried to block the roads. Mee could see that the road ahead of her slowly blowing up. She had to believe in the strong metallic bodies of the Storme to take the shrill noise and heat emanated by the Tumor Buddies. She could see Cancerus trailing off ahead of her. The hydraulic lash adjusters and Roller finger followers made the noise and heat less harsh. Her fully electronic controlled fuel injection system resulted in higher pressure which allowed her to speed up to maximum power and speed which helped her in crossing the Tumor buddies.The shock absorption springs put together in the car allowed her to safely cross the Stones left over after River Bile was sucked dry. Major Gall Bladder suddenly opened up the Glucose vents which filled the River Bile. However Mee was able to drive through the river owing to the high water wading capability of Storme.

Cancerus was taken aback by the advance being made by Mee He decided he had to use the last trick up his sleeve to prevent Mee from surpassing her in the race. He multiplied himself into thousands of clones which confused Mee as to how many people she was racing. Mee understood that this was a tactic to slow her down. Instead of playing into the hands of Cancerus she shifted to top gear and heated up the Storme to 160kmph. Cancerus was dumb stuck by the manner in which Mee raced past him. Close to the finish line, Mindus got his men to slip the huge boulders from their positions atop the hills so that one of them could crush Mee before she reached the finish line. A mirage of Soul was created at the centre of the road which confused Mee who tried to take corrective action by pressing the brakes very hard. Though the Storme skid a bit, Mee was still in control of the vehicle. However, in the midst of this, what Mee couldn't avert was a boulder hitting the car. But the Storme was built such that, apart from diverting a little from its path of activity due to the impact,its body remained intact. Mee crossed the finish line much ahead of competition. Mindus knew he couldn't play any more games. Before the Kings Secret Force would get their hands on him, he fled the scene. Mee was declared a hero by Soul and all the illegal activities of General Mindus was made public.

For Mee, it was a personal victory for her against the thought process of her brothers. She kissed her Tata Safari Storme for being her trustworthy companion, at every turn and on every road. King Soul took his kingdom back and worked on putting back Bodos on the path of progress.

The alarm rang and I suddenly woke from my dream. I put on my glasses and looked for the magazine that I was reading the last night. I flipped to the page that had the car of my dream- the Tata Safari Storme. With a car like that, life will surely be one helluva adventure, not just in the dream, but also in reality.

The post is written for the I am Explorer contest by Tata Safari on Indiblogger. 

September 14, 2013

The Future of Shopping

There was a time when Amma would complain about how Dad would stand aloof in the store, while she would go saree hunting. Or how he would lose patience when she would want to compare the prices between two shops before buying. Then, once we grew up, we were her perfect companions- for both window shopping and actual purchases.
Then came the revolution in our lives, a few years back, in the form of online shopping. The newly acquired credit card was pulled out of the wallet and the first online transaction was made. I checked and rechecked my credit card statement to make sure that there were no further transactions reported and that my card was secure. And the happiness when i got the call from the mail room about a courier that was waiting in my name, well, that is something that i really cannot get down to describing! After that, i was a regular visitor to the mail room and i was sold to the concept of online shopping. Not just buying stuff for myself, online shopping helped me buy things for my loved ones and surprise them with a courier that reached their address. Tracking pending couriers became a favorite activity! Books from flipkart, electronics from ebay, clothes from one of the numerous lifestyle websites were ordered left, right and center! And well, why would you not when you are getting branded goods, for crazy prices from people who save on showroom, air conditioning, sales persons and operate with a warehouse and a website.
When my mother was describing to a neighbor about my compulsive online shopping and how one can get anything online, what she had to say was- "amma-appa vittu verai ella kadaikum" ( you can buy anything online other than your mom and dad!) . True, isn't it, in a time when you can even find your soulmate (sic) online!
Where do i see this heading? Well, we already have "try and buy", where you can get two sizes of clothes or shoes at your doorstep and pick the one that fits you the best! You can compare prices of products on multiple websites, apply coupons, get freebies and get the best bloody deal possible. You go to the store  to check actual goods, only to go back and order it by clinching the best deal there is on the product. It has become so prevalent that there is a new term for this activity- Showrooming :D
In a decade or two from now, i do not see how the brick and mortar stores are going to survive at all. Lack of time, travel constraints, expensive rental spaces are all going to result in the online way being the way to shop.
What i envision the online shopping scene to be is something like this. Login to a website by facial recognition- no hassle of maintaining usernames and passwords.
The website maintains the data of all your previous purchases, the addresses they were delivered to, size details of your friends and family for whom the purchases were made.Next time you wanna buy something, click on the person you want to make the purchase for and default sizes are already selected.
Selecting a product will give you a 3D image of the product, which you can view from all angles. If it is clothing or accessories for yourself, you can see what it looks like on a 3D model that looks like you. 3D projections outside your screen will let you sense what the product may appear like, how big it will be et al- you can see if those pair of shoes fit you like a dream,  if they make your feet look prettier and order the right size only if you are convinced!
Or if it is jewelry or a watch, see how it looks on you when you adorn it on yourself and then only shell out all the big monies on it.
Today, you get product recommendations based on your browsing history or past purchases. In future, you probably will be getting recommendations based on what a close friend or a family member has purchased. You could even be able to subscribe to updates about what someone you know is buying if they are using their social media profile to make the purchase.
Or if you are the window shopping kind who just likes to browse through what the numerous stores in a mall can offer, you could get a virtual tour of a mall space, where you stroll through passageways and choose which stores you want to browse. Once you are done sifting through the virtual racks and checking out their latest merchandise, if you feel like it, you could add products to the cart. Or simply walk into the next store. All this, without hurting your feet, without spending your car fuel or worrying about parking and within the comfort of your home.
And well, lest you should worry about missing out on the social aspect of shopping, where you can stare at the lady in red with the pretty shoes or at the book that the person next to you is browsing or bumping into a friend in the mall, what the virtual shopping experience will offer you is that a simulated version of you walks in the mall and can bump into a friend or a colleague there! And do all this, without the husband in tow cribbing about how much time you take while shopping!
What would also drastically improve in the coming decade is the delivery time. Now i have to wait for a week or so for a shipment to be sent if the seller is in Delhi and i live in Bangalore. In future, when the brick and mortar stores are done away with, what will remain will be warehouses all over the country. That way, all you need to do is place an order, and the warehouse nearest to you will deliver it to you in no time- more like how the grocery delivery happens these days.
Goes without saying that buying online is already the way most people are buying today. In the next two decades, when the penetration of the internet will increase manifold and when people become less wary of online transactions and identify how convenient it is, online shopping will be able to link every artisan, every craftsperson and everyone with an ability to provide a product or a service with the person who has the power to purchase.
This is my entry for the future of shopping contest by Though i am not sure whether what i envisage will be what the online shopping scene will be like in 2030, but the new ebay check extension for chrome is something that you should check out if you are an online shopper!