Sunday, November 20, 2016

Skyfire by Aroon Raman - Book Review

Skyfire” is set in 2012. India is hit by a series of freak weather incidents and startling epidemics that are bad news for the country. At the same time, children are disappearing from slums in the country’s capital and no one actually seems to care. 

To the rescue – journalist Chandrasekhar and historian Meenakshi Pirzada (from Aroon’s earlier books) make an entry! This is also an operation which is hand in hand with intelligence over Syed Ali Hassan and what they uncover has its roots in the high offices of Delhi, ultimately leading them to Bhutan.

After the last few chick-flick rom-com books I had read, this was a 360 degree change in every way - the style of writing, the fine details, the plot everything. I have not read 'The Shadow Throne' (reference for which is there quite a few times in this book also, and I must check it out soon), it did not feel as if I am missing out on a lot of previous facts.

The book is present time based, almost, set in 2012 (Ironically the time when the end of the world was prophesied), with references of eCommerce sites and other relatable things. Children going missing, major disaster and the turn of events will definitely send chills down your spine. It is almost movie like, except for the fact that a book has a lot more fine-tuning and detailing. I did find it a little slow and dragging in the beginning, but the pace soon picks up and then you don't want to put it down till you have reached the end.

I did get a bit lost when too many scientific terms were used, but the on and off romance between Chandra & Meenu (Spoiler Alert: Yamini is back) balances that out. I had a slight inclination of who was the bad guy here since almost halfway through, so it did not come as much of a surprise, it had become obvious, Aroon, he was too good to be true (No, I won't give this one away too).

If you're into scientific thrillers, you definitely must read it, I am sure my dad (who I will pass on the copy to) will love it. And I can so visualise a Akshay Kumar's Baby or Holiday kinda movie made out of this!

The book is available to buy on Flipkart and other leading stores.

Breaking a Guinness World Record with #PumaWomen. #DoYou

My Zumba instructor Radha had posted a message on our group about registering for the #DoYou planking attempt to break a world record. Fortunately, I know what planks are and the correct way to do them, because my Zumba instructor would occasionally make us do them in our class. But I was very skeptical about pulling it off for 60+ seconds. The best I had done till now was 30-40 seconds, that itself took a lot of efforts.

What is a plank? (As stated in Wikipedia)

The plank (also called a front holdhover, or abdominal bridge) is an isometric core strength exercise that involves maintaining a position similar to a push-up for the maximum possible time.

The most common plank is the front plank which is held in a push-up-like position, with the body's weight borne on forearms, elbows, and toes. The arms should be directly under the shoulders, with the entire body in a straight line (from toes to head) and the back completely flat, neither arched nor rounded. Many variations exist such as the side plank and the reverse plank.The plank is commonly practiced in pilates and yoga, and by those training for boxing and other sports.

So basically, since your whole body's weight is borne on your forearms, elbows and toes; I believe that the heavier you are, the more difficult it is initially. And post delivery, I have not really managed to lose much weight. Hence planking has been a challenge.

I was not going to go, since I thought I could not attempt. Then I got invited to cover the event as a blogger/influencer, this was a sign, that I had to go. We did a couple of practice sessions at Zumba, and I managed 50s. Your whole body vibrates as a process of strengthening your core.

On the day of the attempt, we reached the venue - Jio Garden, BKC around 1.30pm. I had taken my sister-in-law along with me, since she is into fitness and is a huge fan of Jacqueline  Fernandis, who was supposed to be there. 4 of my Zumba peeps, along with my instructor were also there. We got a tank top upon registering (I got my media badge in addition), and there was to be a screening test next.

It was a smart thing, screen first so that while the actual attempt happens, there aren't too many disqualifications. I was a little nervous, but nevertheless went for the screening. Surprisingly, I completed the 60s test easily, without too much of an effort. I don't know if it was the adrenaline rush, the vibe of the place or the determination that I had to be a part of the attempt that made me push my limits.

We got our 'golden band' and proceeded further. There was a photo-booth which we queued up for, but after waiting for almost an our we reached and they shut it down because it was almost time to start gathering for the 1st attempt. :(

It was crazy, all of us excited and nervous...there were small girls and there were old ladies, all taking part, it was commendable! We had a lot of celebs amongst us - RJ Malishka & VJ Anusha were hosts for the day. We had Sakshi Malik, Kalki Koechlin, Jacqueline Fernandis, Tashi & Nungshi Malik - first twins to climb the everest, Ujwala Raut, Anushka Manchanda and Sucheta Pal, to name a few.

We soon took our positions and they counted the total people and gave us instructions for the attempt. If at all we failed the first attempt for any reason, we would get a second chance. The previous record was set in HongKong where around 1400 people (men and women) had taken the challenge. It was a proud feeling that we were all women attempting this.

The moment was here and I was very queasy. Because I wanted to pee, and because I was hungry (had a late breakfast and no lunch) and I was nervous ofcourse. We all attempted, it was a sight to see - the sea of tangerines. Honestly, it was very tough for me. I wanted to give up, fall down, I kept telling myself that I could not disappoint everyone now, I could not disappoint myself, my Zumba instructor now. And then they announced that the time was up. We were all pretty thrilled, we were positive that we must have done it and there wouldn't be any need for a 2nd attempt. Honestly, I wasn't so sure if I could survive a second attempt. I should not have exerted myself earlier.

In the interim while the Guinness team scrutinised their recorded videos and we waited for the outcome, we had a Zumba session by Sucheta Pal. I was really hungry, but did not eat because what if there was one more attempt to be done?

After around 45 minutes, it was time to know how did we fare. The minute the Guinness representative announced we had broken the record, everyone literally ran towards the certificate collection point. We were 1623 people, after around 76 disqualifications It took some time, depending on your initial. Finally we had our certificate, collected our bags from the baggage counter and left to go grab a decent meal after the tiring yet awesome day.

The event was very well organized by the Puma team, it must be difficult to manage around 2000 women! I now know the importance and benefits of planking, and have vowed to get better with a target of being able to pull it off for 2-3 minutes eventually.

On 11th October’16, on the occasion of International Girl Child Day, PUMA had launched DO YOU – a movement with women at the core of it. Launched internationally last month, the campaign aimed to inspire confidence in women across the Globe to do what they want to do. “#DOYOU” is all about expressing your core strength that stems from your inherent beliefs and individuality. Through this campaign PUMA encouraged women to follow their instincts and find their best self, to DO YOU and be who YOU are, unapologetically. 

Follow @PUMAWomen and @PUMA for the latest news on the campaign. 💜

Friday, November 18, 2016

Visit to the Volkswagen Chakan Plant

I have a special guest blogger, my younger bro Chirag who went for a one-of-a-kind blogger event hosted by the nice folks at Volkswagen. Here is his experience, written in his own words:

I had recently been to The Volkswagen Plant which is located at Chakan, Pune. I would love to share the experience which was one of its kind. Our Journey began with a hearty Breakfast with Mr. Michael Mayer (Director, Volkswagen India) at DDB Mudra where he shared his 25 years’ insights of the automobile industry which was quite intriguing.

We left for the plant at 9:30 am and I got my hands on the wheels too! Drove the Volkswagen Jetta all the way to Pune! We reached Chakan at 12 noon and were provided refreshments and were ready to witness the birth of beautiful German cars. We were provided Senheisser headsets which were necessary because there was quite some noise inside the plant.

Exclusive VW Pune Plant Pictures
Here are certain facts about the Chakan Plant:

1. A workforce of over 3,500 people was engaged in building it during its peak construction stages.

2. The plant was built in a record time of 17 months.

3. It had an Initial Investment commitment of INR 3,800 Crores by Volkswagen India Private Limited and INR 5,000 Crores till date.

4. The Pune plant is one of the most modern in the Volkswagen Group. It has a high level of vertical integration and a large share of local suppliers. The facility is the only production plant operated by a German automaker in India that covers the entire production process, from press shop through body shop and paint shop to final assembly.

Checking the mean-machine out.

5. The facility uses futuristically designed state-of-the-art equipment. For example, the body shop uses the Diode Laser Brazing (DLB) technology, whereas the Roof & Side Framer laser technology is used for welding the roof to the body of the car. The facility is also one of the few environment-friendly manufacturing plants around the area. For instance, the exhaust of the paint shop is re-burnt and the resultant heat and energy is reused.

6. 130000 Cars take birth yearly i.e 31 Cars/hour

7. There have been 50000 Visits in 5 years

8. Each car has 4300 Welding Spots which make the car strong and rigid

Main components taking impact are marked or coloured in red – Safety patch

Safety measures in the VW cars:

1.     Seatbelts
2.     Child lock doors (Only Via a key)
3.     Airbags
4.     Anti-Lock Brake System
5.     Electronic Stabilisation Control (ESC)
6.     Traction Control System
7.     Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD)
8.     Parking Sensors

Standing Height Order Wise :p

It was a great learning overall, specially because I have a nephew I was quite interested in knowing the Kid's safety, which was their theme for Children's day.

Thanks for the goodies VW!