Time to Wine Down!

The range and variety of wines that are available these days, allows you a choice for all occasions. From Reds to White, Sparkling to Dessert wines, we are spoilt for choice. A simple barbecue to a formal wedding party or that lazy Sunday at home with friends, having to choose from your favourites can be quite a task. So here’s a list of some major grape varieties and their common characteristics which will help you choose your favourite wine for your next party…

Wine! Because no great story started with someone eating a salad!

Benjamin Franklin once famously declared that wine is “constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.”

Without a doubt, wine is one of the most beloved beverages of all time. It has been hypothesized that early humans climbed trees to pick berries, liked their sugary flavour, and then begun collecting them. After a few days with fermentation setting in, juice at the bottom of any container would begin producing low-alcohol wine. According to this theory, things changed around 10,000-8000 BC with the transition from a nomadic to a sedentism style of living, which led to agriculture and wine domestication.

Wine has long played an important role in religion. Red wine was associated with blood by the ancient Egyptians and was used by both the Greek cult of Dionysus and the Romans in their Bacchanalia; Judaism also incorporates it in the Kiddush and Christianity in the Eucharist.

The first known mention of grape-based wines in India is from the late 4th-century BC writings of Chanakya, the chief minister of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya. In his writings, Chanakya condemns the use of alcohol while chronicling the emperor and his court’s frequent indulgence of a style of wine known as “madhu”.

WHICH WINE SHOULD I CHOOSE?

The range and variety of wines that are available these days, allows you a choice for all occasions. From Reds to White, Sparkling to Dessert wines, we are spoilt for choice. A simple barbecue to a formal wedding party or that lazy Sunday at home with friends, having to choose from your favourites can be quite a task. So here’s a list of some major grape varieties and their common characteristics which will help you choose your favourite wine for your next party:

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White Wine grape Varieties:

1. Chardonnay (Shar-doh-nay):

The king of the white grapes- Chardonnay is one of the most popular grape varieties and you will find its name on many labels. Each winery produces its own individual style based on differing fermentation techniques and use of oak barrels to age the wine. Some winemakers prefer not to use oak aging at all (often identified on the label as “unoaked”).

Unoaked Chardonnay Tasting notes:
Dry to slightly off-dry, light to medium bodied, crisp, clean and refreshing. Fruit aromas and flavours include apple, pear, citrus and tropical fruits.

Oaked Chardonnay Tasting notes:
Dry, medium to full-bodied, slightly rich, lightly refreshing to buttery smooth. The bouquet and flavours may include ripe apple, pear, pineapple, melon, fig, oak, spice, vanilla, nut, butter, cream, honey and coffee bean.

2. Riesling (Reez-ling):

Riesling, one of the finest grapes in the world, is able to retain its acidity as it ripens, and is produced in styles ranging from bone dry to honey sweet. If Chardonnay is the king of the white grapes, then surely Riesling must be queen.

Riesling Tasting notes:
Bone dry to sweet, light and delicate to fresh and clean to rich and oily with age. Aromas and flavours of peach, apricot, citrus, tropical, floral, mineral, and steely.

3. Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris (Pea-no Gree-gee-o or Pea-no Gree):

Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris are the same grape, but stylistically different. Pinot Grigio is a lighter more refreshing style of wine, while Pinot Gris is often a gently perfumed, medium body, slightly rich wine and a typically slightly deeper in colour than most whites

Pinot Grigio Tasting notes:
Dry, light-bodied, refreshing and lively. Green Apple, delicate pear and citrus aromas and flavours.

Pinot Gris Tasting notes:
Dry, medium-bodied, slightly rich and smooth. Aromas and flavours of delicate perfume, melon, pear and spice.

4. Sauvignon Blanc (So-vee-n’yohn Blahn):

If a wine could be referred to as “green” this would be the grape. An aromatic varietal with recognizable “green” aromas.

Sauvignon Blanc Tasting notes:
Dry, light to medium body, with refreshing acidity. Noted for its aroma of grass, gooseberry, bell pepper, asparagus, citrus, herbaceous tones, even tropical fruit, melon and passion fruit in riper styles.

5. Gewurztraminer (Gah-vurts-trah-meener):

Gewurz means perfumed or spicy in German, and traminer is a reference to the town of Tramin in the Italian Tyrol region, where the variety originated.

Gewurztraminer Tasting notes:
Dry, to off-dry, medium-bodied, smooth and slightly rich. Distinctive aromas and flavours of Lychee, fruit, rose petals, rose water, tropical fruit, spice and perfume.

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Red Wine grape Varieties:

1. Cabernet Sauvignon (Cab-air-nay So-vee-n’yohn):

The king of red grapes. A full-bodied, dry red wine, usually aged for many years in oak barrels. Often blended with Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

Cabernet Sauvignon Tasting notes:
Extra-Dry to dry, medium to full-bodied, often aggressive in youth and silky when aged. Bouquet and flavours consisting of Black currant, black pepper, spice, strawberry, oak, cedar, violet and chocolate.

2. Cabernet Franc (Cab-air-nay Frahn):

Rich, expressive flavour, Cabernet Franc is usually blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Cabernet Franc Tasting notes:
Extra-Dry to dry, medium to full-bodied, smooth and fresh to seriously rich with aggressive tannins in youth. Bouquet and flavours of red and black fruit, spice, oak, green pepper, dried leaves, olives, tobacco, earth and herbaceous notes.

3. Merlot (Mair-lo):

Silky with fruity flavours, Merlot is sometimes blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc to soften the muscle of Cabernet. Mellow, seductive and a much-loved varietal.

Merlot Tasting notes:
Dry, light to medium-bodied, silky and smooth, slightly rich. Expect a bouquet and flavours of plums, red berries, blueberry and spice.

4. Shiraz/ Syrah (shee-rahz/ see-rah):

Oak aged for many months, Shiraz exhibits rich, ripe fruit character with a soft, plush mouth-feel, whereas Syrah is extra-dry with youthful tannins, moderate acidity and notes of wood, and red and black fruit.

Shiraz Tasting notes:
Dry, rich, smooth, full-bodied, with almost sweet, ripe fruit flavours and hints of chocolate.

Syrah Tasting notes:
Extra-dry to dry, medium to full-bodied. A bouquet and flavours of spice, black pepper, oak, earth, red and black fruits.

So go ahead, pour a wine that encourages heartfelt conversations and laughter because it is said that You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy wine & that’s kind of the same thing!”

Please get in touch with us for personalised wine tours on the email id below.

Email: wanderers.outventures@gmail.com

 

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Here comes the New Ciaz…

The Ciaz from the time it was launched has developed a loyal following. Having sold 2 lakhs plus units so far, the car has become a key player in the mid-size sedan segment.

The new Maruti Suzuki updated Ciaz has arrived on our shores. Last week Maruti launched the latest offering of their most premium model. Priced between Rs 8.19-10.97 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the Ciaz brings some more equipment, cosmetic upgrades and a spanking new petrol engine.

The Ciaz from the time it was launched has developed a loyal following. Having sold 2 lakhs plus units so far, the car has become a key player in the mid-size sedan segment.

Good looking with enough styling changes make the Ciaz impressive to look at. The front and rear bumpers along with the grille are all new. I particularly like the new shape of the headlamps. The higher variants in the model range i.e. Zeta and Alpha will get LED headlamps, taillamps and chrome on the grille. The Alpha version also comes with LED DRL’s and 16-inch alloy wheels that are completely new in design. The instrument cluster comes with a new colour display. The other elements inside are like the previous model Ciaz.

 

Maruti has given the safety aspect a major upgrade. The dual-front airbags, ABS with EBD were part of the previous generation which are carried over to this model. The new model of the Ciaz also gets rear parking sensors. A speed alert system starts beeping when you touch 80kmph. The beeping then becomes continuous when the car hits 120kmph. This is in conjunction with speed alert regulations that the government is going to make mandatory next year onwards. The idea is to deter drivers from speeding. But will this help.? Unfortunately, I don’t think so. Knowing our penchant for “jugaad” its only a matter of time before local mechanics find a way to de-activate this.

There are seat-belt reminders for the driver and front passenger, a standard in most cars today. The new Ciaz also comes with the Isofix child seat mounts that are standard across the whole range. Big thumbs up for promoting child safety which we at Outventures and Rotormouth fully support and welcome. The top-spec variants come with cruise control, automatic headlamps with an auto-levelling functionality.

New Petrol Engine Introduced…

The new Ciaz introduces the new Suzuki’s K15B motor for the first time. This replaces the previous K14B 1,373cc, four-cylinder petrol engine that made 92hp and 130Nm of peak torque. The K15B 1,462cc four-cylinder engine makes 105hp and 138Nm of torque. The transmission option on the petrol engine is unchanged with a 5-speed manual offered as standard. The automatic comes with a 4-speed torque converter.

The diesel Ciaz remains the same as before. The specifications of offer are 90hp, 1,248cc, four-cylinder motor which produces 200Nm of torque with a 5-speed gearbox.

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 The Ciaz has always been the most fuel-efficient mid-size sedan in its class…

Nothing changes with this model. While the diesel gives you ARAI rated fuel efficiency figure of 28.09 kpl, the petrol gets a pretty significant bump in fuel efficiency, even though engine displacement size has become bigger with this model. The rated figure is now 21.56 kpl for the manual and 2.28 for the automatic. The increase respectively is 0.83kpl and 2.44kpl for manual and automatic. In India where fuel prices determine buying choices this will be welcomed with open arms.

The reason behind the improvement in fuel efficiency is…

The mild hybrid system that comes with the K15B uses a lithium-ion battery which is mounted under the front passenger seat. This helps to run start-stop function as well work with torque assist. The battery gets charged via brake energy regeneration. No other car in this segment offers this feature.

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So how does the Ciaz drive?

I spent 2 days driving the car over almost 200 kms across great highway roads, congested narrow by lanes. Conditions of the road went from super to bad. How did the Ciaz fare? Let’s find out.

Get into the Ciaz one gets a sense of comfort and familiarity. Start the car and put it into drive mode or 1st gear and the pick-up is smooth and swift. The 1st day I drove the automatic over 80 kms. The engine is responsive; the 4-speed torque convertor works very well, there isn’t any sort of lag and makes for very good driving dynamics. Handling and braking are sharp. The suspension is well designed and tuned for our road conditions. Once we got off the highway the road conditions went through a sea change in terms of quality. The bad roads didn’t affect the drive quality of the Ciaz.

Next day we drove the manual on the Bengaluru – Hyderabad Highway. Oh! What fun that was. Nowadays most of us prefer driving automatics considering the appalling state of traffic in most cities. The manual was a sweet reminder of how much fun it can be when driving is stress free. Fast, responsive engine and gearbox with super handling is what one experienced during the drive. The safety beeping that accompanied us every time we touched 80kmph and beyond was a reminder of how regulated our driving is becoming now. Welcome to driving in the 21st century 😊

If driving in comfort, style, good features and performance is what you are looking for at a killer price…Then the Ciaz is the perfect mid-size sedan for you.

Location : The Taj Bangalore
Picture Credits :Kartik Sadekar

Between the Lines

I think I need to author a procrastinator’s handbook because I add so many reminders to my devices and recall things without the reminders. I am afraid the reminder will go off any minute like it’s a real breathing organism. Just like I was constantly worried I didn’t give my ‘2 piece’ article on my 1st stint at track school to Sanjeev (of Rotormouth fame).
What irony eh! Where here it is!

Having tasted motorcycling like a lion cub tastes blood, I was suddenly that person with ‘eyes are bigger than the stomach’ syndrome at the buffet – the buffet in question being everything motorcycling. I wanted to try different styles of bikes, ride every terrain, wear every gear, mess with every template and just dig my paws into it all till I figured what I fancied and what didn’t fancy me back. Track experience, up until a year ago, was something I admired from a distance but didn’t think was possible. I imagined it to be something for the media or elite exclusive or that one needed some serious pizazz in the bank to show up at track school – like that frumpy 1st timer at a huge fashion show.

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Eventually, social media played a key role in nudging me to consider exploring one. It was showcased as cost effective, gear and equipment were arranged if you didn’t have either and it was all in a controlled, safe and learning environment with abled trainers. I went about doing my research, called folks, asked 50000 questions and simultaneously saved ₹₹.

Without naming names, I was keen on attending 1 particular school. Saved the dates and the money for it. Unfortunately, that $%&@ named corporate slavery showed her manipulative face now and again and I didn’t make it to any of the trainings. The good thing about track school is they are all 1- or 2-day programs (L1 and/or L2) over weekends and happen frequently. The usual suspect venues are Kari Motor Speedway (Coimbatore), MMRT (Chennai) or BIC (Noida). There are more tracks in India but these 3 stood out. I would love an opportunity or at least a run at BIC but costs go higher and I definitely wanted to have more experience under my belt to truly tear that track up on a ~1000cc bike.

Somehow, I managed to make time and money for 1 school at the advent of the monsoon season (won an insta-contest for 30% off the whole fee). I was sure that if I didn’t start now this resolution would move to 2019. Unfortunately, said school did not accept my helmet for training even though other academies did. I poured over the FMSCI rule book for the 1st time and it did not have a clause for my helmet. But I respect all academies and when it comes to safety its foolish to argue. So, I let it pass and soon enough through a friendly nudge I signed up at Rajini Academy of Competitive Racing (RACR) for an L1 session. It fit my tiny pockets but was just for a day. Rented the suit and bike from them. Invested in a pretty decent pair of track boots, stole some gloves and got my helmet all set up. Then came the wait for 15 July 2018 at Kari MS.

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I flew in a day earlier, settled in and tried to rest as much as possible. Made a few friends as we all stayed within walking radius of each other and figured a ride together to the speedway the following morning. Folks came all the way from the north and I was able to put faces to the names who had pinged me on WhatsApp once we all signed up and were added to a group a month prior. I was tad nervous but not as wrecked as I imagined myself to be. We skipped breakfast and that was mistake #1. To be fair nothing was available at 6am and the route to the track had not woken up. Last thing I wanted was to go riding dead hungry. As people poured in, we all registered, got our gear, paid the final amount and started becoming a noisy bunch. If you rent a suit, you wont always get the best fitted one and certainly not a sparkly one. Hence, setting the reader’s expectation right. There was gear from BBG, Furygan and Taichi to name a few. We all pretty much fit in. I found my 1st experience with a 1-piece racing suit to be a challenge. It was heavy, bulky and not ‘fit’ although pretty manageable. It did its job. I carried wicking material inners. Even though the day started out cool and breezy, the suit got difficult to keep on as the day progressed. I was fidgety, and the suit felt clingy as morning turned to evening. Let’s just say, thank god it wasn’t summer, and it takes some conditioning to get used to – for me at least. The rest of the gear was perfect.

Walking on the track was a great experience. I finished my registration early and spent my spare hour staring at the track, looking at the bikes (150cc categories), just recceing the space I was to spend the majority part of my day. A trio that had ridden down from Bangalore the night before on their KTMs became fast friends and were super kind enough to make a breakfast run and get us idlis from a local joint. God bless them souls. We all connected and figured out the noobs versus the veterans. Most folks had just come for the experience whilst many asked questions about how to get to the racing bit. I directed all such questions to the RACR team and when asked if I was getting into racing (which apparently seemed like an obvious reason to invest in track sessions), I simply said I had no idea – which is indeed true. Never say never!

 

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The sessions started with introductions to self, team, trainers and the track. We were divided into batches of ~10 or less and assigned instructors. The noobs were separated from those who were back for repeat doses and those who rented bikes versus using their own. A total of 5 classroom sessions followed by 5 track sessions were planned to alternate each other. Basically, classroom instructions, get on track, apply it, get back to the pits, gather your feedback, get into the session again, learn something new and repeat. I won’t break down each session and describe it because it takes away from the actual learning one goes for. But to sum up MY experience here goes:

I started nervous on the track. 1st round involved getting used to bike (Honda 150), the suit (BBG) and mentally regurgitating the instructions. I watched for the instructor, stayed back as much as possible and let the others zoom past me. I was adamant about going slow and easy and not looking to become a total squid in the 1st round. To be honest, I just didn’t want to fall at C3 and C4 (track speak for corners). Through conversations with friends’ months ago, I was quickly able to determine the crosses that indicated entry, exit and apex of the turns and that made me smile under the lid. After round 1, the one and only totally expected feedback was to get my speeds up and increase pace. At this point I informed the instructor that corners were always a problem for me and THAT is exactly what I wanted to focus most on. He was receptive. As the day progressed, with each restriction and instruction, my confidence grew, and I looked forward to getting on the track. I did noticeably 1 or 2 lesser laps than my batchmates. That didn’t bother me at all. Learning and getting my technique right was what mattered. The instructor too figured what I was up to and didn’t push me which I greatly appreciated. Rather he watched out for what I was doing right and was super encouraging when I got corners and technique on point. I noted that at each session after a bunch of laps with the boys, he would fall back a wee bit and give me a thumbs up sign. A positive visual cue works wonders and that just made me pick things up faster.

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We had a lunch break in between (included in the package) wherein we all feverishly discussed our excitement and experiences. I had a brief connect with my instructor who wanted to understand my riding experience and my day so far. I enjoyed the neutral and relatively calm atmosphere. Nothing felt judgemental, pressured or wanting to make me run away. I just kept looking forward to more. The 2nd half of the day moved faster than the morning. It was at that point I realized that 1 day was just not enough – this was my cue to take up a 2-day training in the future. It would be remarkable to test muscle memory from the day before not to mention get additional time on track. This point forward I was less afraid of speeds and had established C8 as my favorite. I did have a near miss at C7 (almost ran off track but managed to recover myself well) and scraped my boots at C8 – this meant I leant enough but also, I needed to correct my footing. During the 3rd or 4th session we did body positioning basics. In theory I was convinced to be failing it, but in practical it was easy. This session highlighted the 1 neglected aspect of my personal self over the past year–health and fitness which were grossly overshadowed by work. Getting on the bike and riding it is just a fraction of the work. What is undermined is sharp vision, good reflexes, a strong core and awareness of your muscles and how to make them work smart. Let the bike work too; its not a stupid machine and engineering counts for something. Together both make for an undeniably smooth flow. I tried it and it felt beautiful. I think I was mentally lost after a few rounds cuz the laps became easier and more natural session 3 onwards. The trainings were fun, interactive and full of laughter. There was a bit of rain but thankfully the track dried up in time and we did 1 or 2 sessions on semi-wet tracks.

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All in all, it was one of the most productive weekends ever. I am always always looking to learn something or gain an experience. I did both on this Sunday. I started with “I’ll just do this 1 track day” and ended up with a plan for an encore. Made some amazing new pals with varied experience and backgrounds. Not to mention our youngest batch mate Kavin (instagram: @kavin_9310) – all of 13 years old asked a zillion questions like a sponge and put us all to shame on the track. Of course, once done, we all looked forward to our certificates and ‘graduating’ the session, making elaborate plans to meet again and hounding the poor fotog Akhil for our “imaginatively” MotoGPesque pictures. I tried speaking to as many folks as possible in this time just to connect and was more relaxed at 6pm than I was at 6am. I know for certain that my next stint will be a more enjoyable one. Rajni was humble, approachable and very organized. He spent most of his time training the aspiring batches and those who had prior track experience (understandably so). But I have to mention that during my 1st gear check, my boot zipper wouldn’t go all the way up over the leather. Rajni sir personally zipped it up for me and that made an impression on me 😊 There was gear and bike check prior to EVERY track session. The helmet clasps, gloves, boots even my braid was checked and tucked in. One wouldn’t feel lost in the crowd is what I gathered.

If one hasn’t done a track session and always wondered how it felt, DO IT SOON. We now have academies, accomplished instructors and the infrastructure to fulfil those wishes. I wish I had done it sooner or all of these opportunities were available a few years ago. Most of the instructors have radiated out of long standing parent schools who’ve been around the block and produced the best of the pool we have AND designed the learning modules. If time and cost aren’t a factor, 1 can even consider the enviable CSS. Heck the biggest question I ask myself is why the $%^@& did it take me so long to start riding. Well… #neversaynever! 😉

 

 

 

 

The World in My Soup!

THE WORLD IN MY SOUP!

The word soup always takes us back to wintry chill of an evening spent on a holiday, those rainy afternoons, or just remainder of the homemade tomatoey “maa ke hath ka soup” nurturing a bad cold. Whatever the reason, a bowl of piping hot soup is all about nostalgia, where only one word defines it, that it is “COMFORTING”.

Soup, according to the dictionary, is a liquid food derived from meat, poultry, fish or vegetables. This definition is alright as far as it goes, but there is a lot that it doesn’t tell us. Is a stock, straight from the stockpot, a soup? Is beef stew liquid enough to be called a soup? Stock and broth are very similar: water simmered with meat and/or bones, and usually some vegetables and aromatic herbs, then strained. (Though in the case of vegetable broth, meat is not used.) They’re both utilized as a base for soups, sauces and gravies. And, truth be told, some chefs use the words interchangeably.

Evidence of the existence of soup can be found as far back as about 20,000 BC. Boiling was not a common cooking technique until the invention of waterproof containers (which probably came in the form of clay vessels). Animal hides and watertight baskets of bark or reeds were used before this. To boil the water hot rocks were used.

In 1975, a Parisian named Boulanger began advertising on his shop sign that he served soups, which he called restaurants or restoratives. (Literally, the word means “fortifying”.) It was an antidote to physical exhaustion.

The word soup comes from the French soupe (“soup”, “broth”), which comes through Latin suppa (“bread soaked in broth”), from a Germanic source, from which also comes the word “sop”, a piece of bread used to soak up soup or a thick stew. Indians are more fascinated with the Chinese varieties — hot and sour, sweet corn or Manchow. But the plain dal or sambhar or thukpa also fall under the soup category.

The popularity of soups today may be due to increased nutrition consciousness, to a desire for simpler or lighter meals, or to an increased appreciation of how appetising and satisfying soups can be.

Here are a few of my top picks of noodle soups from around the world…

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Pic Courtesy: postmates.com

1) Pho, Vietnam

Pho is to the Vietnamese what pasta is to the Italians. In cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, you’ll find locals slurping up steaming bowls of this noodle soup, every hour of every day. The dish is made of a beef or chicken broth, linguine-shaped rice noodles and a host of spices including ginger, star anise, and coriander seeds. The best part of a bowl of pho are the garnishes, which turn it into a kind of ‘build your own’ meal: Fish sauce, hoisin sauce, Thai basil, cilantro, mint, scallions, chillies, bean sprouts, and lots and lots of fresh lime.

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Pic Courtesy: pinterest.com

2) Laksa, Malaysia or Singapore

One of the most enticing things about laksa is its unmistakable bold orange colour. This curry-based noodle soup, which uses vermicelli rice noodles, usually has a coconut or tamarind (known as asem laksa) base and is utterly delicious when served with shrimp. The dish can be found across Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore.

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Pic Courtesy: istockphoto.com

3) Ramen, Japan

This flavourful bowl of soup and noodles has become so popular around the world that almost every Asian-style restaurant now has a take on it. But even when it comes to traditional ramen there are many, many variations—whether its shio (meaning ‘salt’) ramen or the shoyu (meaning ‘soy sauce’) version.

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Pic Courtesy: lostrecipesfound.com

4) Ash Reshteh, Iran

This thick and hearty Persian soup is real comfort food, ideal for winter. Made from linguine-shaped reshteh noodles, khask (Persian whey like sour cream) and a variety of wholesome ingredients including spinach, lentils, chick peas, turmeric, and parsley, this vegetarian soup is brimming with flavor. The soup’s noodles are believed to bring good fortune, which is why this dish is often eaten before the Persian New Year, Norouz. Ash reshteh is incredibly common in Persian cuisine and it’s likely you’ll find people pouring out of soup cafeterias or local eateries during their lunch break, slurping up bowls of vegetable goodness.

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Pic Courtesy: picturetherecipe.com

5) Khow suey, Burma

In Burmese cuisine, Khow suey, is a noodle dish that comes from the mountainous Shan state. It is a one-dish soup meal made of egg noodles and curried beef or chicken with coconut milk, served with a variety of contrasting condiments.

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Pic Courtesy: www.vegansandra.com

6) Thukpa, Tibet

Thukpa is a common Tibetan noodle soup which originated in east Tibet. This healthy noodle soup originally comprises of homemade hand pulled noodles and winter vegetables.

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Pic Courtesy: cocina-casera.com

7) Sopa De Fideos, Mexican

A traditional Mexican tomato soup with noodles. Perfect for rainy days and whatever ails you!

Hope you enjoyed reading this post. Do leave your comments. Cheers!

Driving down memory lane with Srinivas Krishnan

My first memories of cars and bikes in the family starts with trucks, actually. Transportation – cars, trucks, buses and driving – was always in the blood, as I am the third generation of a family which had a business in bulk and passenger transport, with our headquarters in Mettur Dam near Salem, in Tamil Nadu. So, the very first memories are of a GMC truck with our company logo on the doors: the letters MKS stylised in a circle. MDY 3758 was purchased second-hand from Mysore state, sometime around 1958. This historic truck with which my grandfather started the transport business was like the venerable grandpa among the other Tatas and Ashok Leylands. It stood apart even when I was a child – so it’s no wonder that it’s imprinted in my mind. Among cars there was a dark blue Plymouth Savoy which too was purchased second-hand. Exclusively driven by the cantankerous, lungi-clad Abbasbhai, the Plymouth inevitably received a diesel engine transplant in our spacious workshop in Mettur. It was the special car compared to the other chubby Ambassadors around.

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The one we had in Mumbai was a Hindustan Motors Ambassador Mark II, stylishly finished in a green-and-cream dual tone. MMB 4856 was the first one we had in the city. I remember being ferried around in Chembur – where I have been staying all my life – sitting on my dad’s lap while he was driving. Today, when I see other dads doing the same, I dissuade them – it’s so dangerous. But in those days…

I was caught by the cops while learning to drive. Because I didn’t have a learner’s license. And why didn’t I have one? Because I was only thirteen years old. In my defence, I was not driving alone – my driver was teaching me to drive in MMB 4856. It so happened that I couldn’t get the hang of shifting gears and stalled the car on the road near Deonar. It came to the attention of some cops who were passing by. I think they took the driver’s licence away and my father had to pay a fine. I think it was around 750 bucks, which was pretty hefty in those days. My father also told me that I was going to be thrown in jail. I protested, saying that he was the one who allowed me to go! So, the point I am making is that: 1. I was underage, but I was ‘officially’ allowed to learn to drive.
2. As mentioned, it was in our blood. Even if my father didn’t allow me, I would have sneaked out with the car – driver or no driver.

I added the finishing touches to my basic driving skills in the car that replaced the faithful Ambassador. Sorry, not car, but jeep. It was a Mahindra Commander. Which was just as well, because column-shifts were giving way to floor-shifts. And SUVs would eventually become trendy (after two-three decades, of course, but it’s nice to think we were ahead of the curve). Well before the time I turned 18 I was pretty competent in my driving skills and giving the driving test was just a formality. In fact, the RTO officer actually complimented me on my driving and familiarity with all the road signs – unlike academics, it was the one of the few tests I passed with flying colours.

However I would like to add though we may think of ourselves as expert drivers, learning to drive never ends. Each day is different, as driving situations change every single time you get behind the wheel. Though I am lucky to have attended advanced driver training schools as part of my motoring journalism career, one should never take one’s capabilities for granted. Always exercise a sense of caution, especially on the unpredictable conditions of our Indian roads.

My first wife is Miriam, my 1960 Volkswagen Beetle and she is also my first car. I knew it all the while that my first car had to be something special, something different. So Miriam has been part of my life over the last twenty-plus years. I shall shamefacedly admit for half of that time, she was either parked in my building stilts or in a garage. But now she gets out more frequently, at least once a week. Though she is not in great condition, she at least starts quickly and runs on her own power. And she wears the brightest yellow on the planet – a paint scheme that is luminous even after ten-plus years, so she is pretty hard to miss on the roads.

Srini-Pic-with-Miriam

For a daily driver, I have a 1.3 Suzuki S-Cross. It fits my needs perfectly – it’s of the right height so that my parents find it easy to get in and out. Also it has a massive boot so that Aditya Bengali – that crack photographer – can comfortably take tracking shots of me driving other old cars. While on the inside, three adults can sit comfortably abreast in the rear seat, and with good leg room too. I could have done with some additional torque and horses, but other than that, the S-Cross drives well, build quality is good and it is easily the best Suzuki in the market today when it comes to ride quality.

There is no doubt that, I would give little parts of my body to own a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing. To me, no car comes close to it. It is the pinnacle when it comes to my automotive desires, though I wouldn’t pass up the offer to acquire the legendary Uhlenhaut coupe if it was possible (only two were produced). The Gullwing is like one of God’s creations because everything about it was functional but that’s exactly what made it so visceral in appearance. Like a shark which is designed down to its dermal denticles to be an apex predator, the Gullwing was designed to be the most affordable way to get closest to breaking the speed of sound back in the 1950s. Well, you get what I mean. And here’s my favourite factoid about the 300 SL – the road-going car that customers could buy was even more powerful than the thoroughbred race car it was based on! Other than my Beetle, it has also the best butt in the business. Oh, I could go on and on…

Here’s what’s interesting about my relationship with the Gullwing but, it’s a bit of a soppy and sentimental story, so if you want to skip it, please do…
When I started life as a motoring journalist, I had decided that if I ever get the chance to drive a Gullwing, that would be my acme. I will have no reason to be a motoring journalist anymore because that would be my singular achievement. Well what do you know, it took 15 years to realise that dream. Yes, a decade and a half. So on June 30, 2012, the exact day I completed 15 years at Business Standard, I drove the Gullwing. It happened during the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and I must thank Mercedes-Benz for that. And also Autocar India’s rough diamond Shapur Kotwal – a slightly unhinged but supremely knowledgeable petrolhead (aviationfuelhead and metalhead) – for making it happen for me.

It so happened that in the morning leading up to the drive, I was all excited that my dream was going to become real. But as the day progressed, the chance seemed more and more remote. Several Japanese journalists commandeered the most iconic cars of Mercedes-Benz’s historic fleet and wouldn’t let go of the Museum’s road-worthy Silver Arrow. Seeing me coming close to committing hara-kiri using a sword forged in the hottest flames of disappointment, he decided to take them on to ensure I got around driving the what was arguably world’s first supercar. He abused the Japanese media and the Mercedes-Benz Japan PR in the choicest language only rabid Bawajis can summon and was just about prevented by other media persons from punching them. I do think however that he managed to land a blow or two.

Sometime later, I was drowning my sorrows in scoops of Blackforest cake when a discreet tap on my shoulder indicated I should step outside with Shapur. At a corner of the Goodwood estate, just where all the big rigs were being loaded to take the cars back to Germany, the Gullwing was standing there. It was for me to drive, and the truck was being held back till I finished with it! The instructions being told to me by the car’s caretaker were all a blur as I eased myself inside via that iconic high sill.
It was the quickest minutes of my life (read about it here). I got out of the car and watched it being loaded onto the car carriers. It happened. I think there were two or three people who spotted a grown man sob silently in Goodwood.

I think being a motoring journalist gives you the opportunity to drive on roads others can only dream of. So, I consider myself lucky as a well as been given the privilege to have driven in some of the most fascinating ribbons of tarmac around the world. And in some cases not just tarmac, but packed ice, desert sands, rock-strewn rivers and slippery mud. So rather than tell you where I have already been to, I would like to put out my wishlist: Iceland, the roads of New Zealand, the route of the Carrera Panamericana, Mille Miglia and Targa Florio and of course more of Ladakh, Ladakh and Ladakh.

My Weekend with the Compass

An invite to attend a celebration of my closest friend’s commitment ceremony in Alibaug was what got this party started. What made it even sweeter was driving there in a Jeep Compass

Now this is a SUV that has got the maximum eyeballs in the press since its unveiling last year. The kind of impact the pre-launch and launch generated is exactly how Jeep India would have envisioned it. And selling 19000 of them since the launch has made the Compass a resounding success.

The fact that it impressed everyone at the technical immersion in April last year is an understatement. The build-up and hype surrounding it leading up to the launch added to the allure of the Compass. Jeep India didn’t disappoint. The pricing was extremely competitive and now the Compass had truly arrived.

So how is the Compass to drive and live with?

On entering the car, the first feeling you get is how Jeep has merged style with comfort. The seats have very good lumbar support, with easy to use seat adjustment levers. As you start the car the infotainment screen pops to life. It comes with an array of features such as Bluetooth, radio, navigational compass. The steering wheel comes with a leather wrapped cover and the usual array of controls that have become standard amongst modern cars.

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The Compass I drove was a 6-speed manual. As soon as you put it in gear one the refinement of the gearbox becomes obvious. I drove it around my house in Lokhandwala late in the night on empty roads the first day and one couldn’t stop and marvel at the ease of comfort the Compass drove with. Not the way one generally describes a SUV! That’s actually a compliment to the detailing and thought that has gone into the design of the Compass.

Next day we left for Alibaug before the crack of dawn. Driving in Mumbai at that hour is such a pleasure. My wife and 2 friends travelling with us were each carrying individual sections of the wedding cake. Lots of instructions were flying back and forth on how I should drive avoiding the potholes etc.

 

Getting out of Mumbai before 7 o’clock has become the default motto for out of town road trips. We did encounter little bit of traffic near Chembur but nothing that delayed us for long. Once we got past Vashi, the roads widened and that’s where I got to experience the full power of the 2.0 Multijet II Turbo Diesel engine. Go past 3000 on the rev metre and the Compass springs to life making you forget that one is driving a SUV.

So far, the journey was on good roads hence the suspension of the car wasn’t really tested. That changed the moment we got off the Expressway. When we checked how far we were it showed 50 kms from our destination. Not much of a distance if the roads are good. But the roads just went from good to worse in a matter of a few kilometres. It was like we were transported 20 years back to a time when India still didn’t know the concept of expressways and good roads.

This is when the superior drive quality and suspension setup of the Compass kicked in. The Compass comes with the Jeep brand’s famous FWD capability called Jeep Active Drive, which is equipped with Selec Terrain Traction Management System.Though we were travelling at very slow speeds not once did anyone in the car complain of discomfort. The Active Drive 4×4 System that seamlessly switches between two-wheel and four-wheel drive made this a walk in the park for the Compass.

It also offers the Electric Parking Brake (EPB) across the range in 4 modes. This is the only SUV in this size and classification to offer this. The Compass comes equipped with Frequency Selective Damping (FSD) a technology that provides variable damping that adjusts to road undulations. This is usually only available in performance and luxury vehicles. The adaptation to the Compass makes it stand out in ride quality.

50+ safety and security features make this one of the safest SUV’s in India. These features are Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Dynamic Steering Torque (DST), Hill Start Assist (HSA), Adaptive Brake Lights, and Panic Brake Assist amongst many more that will be standard across the range. Six airbags with dual stage passenger airbags are on offer as well. It is being manufactured in 50 different trim, powertrain, transmission and colour combinations so Indian customers have an extensive range of options.

When we finally reached Alibaug after 4 hours I realised that the Compass is extremely fuel efficient. The Compass comes with Driveline Disconnect Technology (DDT) which disconnects the drive that goes to the rear wheels automatically when not required. This helps in fuel saving and assists safer driving. The air conditioning is top notch. The fact that the cakes arrived in fully edible condition is testimony to how well it works J

The next day and half that I spent driving it in Alibaug on empty roads was extremely enjoyable. The Compass enjoys the twisties as much as the straights.

Is the compass the car I would buy? Definitely but would look at the automatic considering our traffic. Highly recommended for someone looking to a buy a sub 25 lakhs rupees SUV.

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Pic Courtesy: http://www.jeep-india.com

 

 

 

 

Quinoa v/s Indian Millets… An Urban Perspective…

Millets have been the traditional component of the Indian food basket for ages. They have been a huge part of our grandparents’ staple diet; as well as a preferred cultivated crop for Indian farmers. They are a rich source of protein, vitamins, fibre & minerals, making them an ideal & healthy food option. Studies show that a regular consumption of millets can have a beneficial influence on many lifestyle diseases – as they are highly nutritious, gluten free, non-acid forming and are soothing and easy to digest.

glossary millets

 

Inspite of all their benefits, the past few decades saw a decline in their consumption. Reason, urbanisation of the Indian market! Even the earth rotates from west to east but our Indian mindset keeps turning to the West for all latest food trends.

 

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One such trend that took our super markets by storm in the recent years was the entry of many international grains and the star performer of them all was Quinoa. All major supermarkets had isles filled with this super grain and its varieties in the form of chips, biscuits, flours as such and every trendy restaurant had Quinoa preparations featuring in their menus. I too was so taken in by the Quinoa trend myself, that I had literally begged my cousin, who was traveling to Kuala Lumpur on a work trip, to bring back 4 packets of all the different kinds, like white, golden, red variety of as if it was some kind of food treasure.

There’s no doubt that Quinoa is a healthy food option. This Peruvian grain, originated in the Andean region of north-western part of South America. It is gluten-free, rich in protein and contains nine essential amino acids. It is also high in fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and various beneficial antioxidants.

Now coming to my question…

Do we really need grains like Quinoa in
our regular diets to stay healthy?

My answer to that is a big NO!

Although Quinoa is very healthy and has numerous benefits, the fact is that like any other imported international grain lands in your shopping basket – first it travels a long period of time to reach our country, then it sits in distribution centers, then on the supermarket shelf from where you purchase it. This long process causes the grain to age considerably. On the other hand, the locally grown Indian grain spends a much shorter time from its harvest to getting your dining table making it less likely for its nutritional value to have decreased. Eating home-grown & local varieties is good for both our environment and the economy.

There’s a common saying, “What grows together goes together!”

Here are a few ideas…

on how Indian millets can make a comeback as an option by choice in our daily dose of urban recipes, and can be used in a creative and modern way to break that mindset that Indian Millets can only be prepared in Indian style of cooking.

Just to get you started here’s a quick and easy recipe of the quintessential modern breakfast pancakes made with apna gaonwala ka Anjeer and Jowar or if you like it to sound more Western…

Date & Fig Sorghum Pancake

date and fig sorgham pancake

Ingredients:

Sorghum Flour          –           200g
Brown Sugar              –           20g
Baking Powder         –           2tsp
Baking Soda              –           1/2tsp
A pinch of salt
Milk                            –           350ml
Chopped dates         –           20g
Chopped dried figs  –           20g

Recipe:

– Blend the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt well and keep aside.

– Pour milk and whisk into the above mixture ensuring no lumps are formed.

– Fold in chopped dried figs and dates.

– Cover & leave to rest for 10 mins.

– Put a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Lightly coating it with ghee or oil.

– Once hot pour a ladle of batter on to the pan and spread slightly.

– Cook each side for 1-2 mins, till golden brown.

– Serve immediately with honey or any other topping of your choice.

Hope you enjoyed my take on Quinoa versus Indian millets keep watching this space for more about the goodness of home grown & local Indian food options. Do leave your comments… Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Racing the Ameo

Racing as an activity is as old as mankind itself. From the time man discovered and created vehicles they have always raced. Wooden chariots to modern day F1 cars all have one thing in common. They provide man with the chance to be the fastest in a race where the competition is amongst the best one finds in that year, country or era.

“Racing is meditation on speed”- Anonymous

But racing cars on a racetrack in India is not easily done. Primarily as there are only 3 racetracks in this country and the cost to hire them for a track day is not cheap and easily accessible to an individual. Combine that with modifying a car, buying special track tyres, having a support crew on hand and this becomes even more of a dream.

So then what does a youngster who wants to train to become a professional race car driver do in India? He/she applies for the Volkswagen Motorsport Programme. This programme started 9 years back. Every year from 2010 through the various cup competitions that they have organised and held VW Motorsport has unearthed the best talent that is to be found in this country. Starting with the Polo cup to the Ameo Cup the VW race drivers over a period of 3 odd months race with the same competitive spirit and ferocity one experiences in any touring car championship worldwide.

This has been helmed by Sirish Vissa who has been involved with the programme from its inception. He took over as head of the programme in 2014. In my interaction with him the one thing he always wanted to do right from the beginning is develop the race car start to finish at the Pune facility. That became a reality with the Ameo Cup Race car which is designed and developed totally in India.

Sirish says “This is a car that is designed in India, developed in India and tested in India.” An excellent example of Make in India as any!

Volkswagen India was kind enough to invite Rotormouth along with other media personnel to experience and participate in the media race weekend.

The prospective drivers go through a very detailed selection process which starts with them racing in go karts at various tracks across the country which culminates in the finale at the Indi cart Racing track in Pune. The people who get to the final are amongst the fastest in all the regions in India. Then starts the rigorous training schedule which involves all sorts of fitness routines, driving techniques, learning race rules and lots more. Sirish believes in using a holistic approach to the whole process. This leads to them learning the whole process towards becoming a professional race car driver. For this year’s season they have shortlisted 19 drivers.

Apart from learning and honing one’s skill the drivers are taught how to market themselves to sponsors for the season. This is crucial as in the cut throat world of motorsports having a sponsor behind you makes a huge difference to your career prospects. They learn what it is to work with a team who is always suggesting and expecting inputs from you to extract the maximum from the car for a top 3 finish every race. The drivers learn that camaraderie in the pits doesn’t buy you any favours on the racetrack. They learn how cruel and unforgiving the race track can be to the smallest of mistakes.

So, what did I learn from all of this? I learnt that I was nowhere as fast and skilled on the racetrack as the professionals. I learnt how sharp and decisive one must be to race on a track. How unforgiving this car is if you don’t treat her right.

Rayomand Banajee 8-time national karting and racing champion and founder of Rayo Racing and Indy Karting gave us our first briefing before free practice. Here we were taught the meaning and importance of the various flags the marshals would wave depending on what they wanted to communicate to us regarding what’s happening on the race track. It could be anything from an accident that has occurred, an oil spill, safety car on track. We were then instructed and shown the racing lines we should follow to extract the best time and performance in each lap. Post this we were given our racing gear.

Once in the pits we sat in our respective cars where the support crew did our final seat adjustment and explained the various buttons and the respective roles they play. This Cup car shares very little with the Ameo. Everything inside the cabin and under the hood is prototyped for racing.

 

Now we were ready to practice. The roar of the engine when I started the car was unlike anything I have heard before. It was loud and brutal. As we exited the pit lane and went out in track the first thing I felt was the kind of torque and power that a 205 HP engine brings to the table. Weaving into corners and on straights the first few laps I had a tough time figuring out the racing lines. Towards the end of the session just when I was coming to terms with the coming into the fast-right hander which leads to the start finish straight I went off track momentarily which was all it took to lose control. Next thing I knew I spun around and went into the tyre wall. I was unhurt which is testimony to the safety aspects and measures taken by VW Motorsport which adhere to the highest standards in motorsport today.

collage

On my walk back to the pits I realised the level of commitment, discipline and single-minded focus a racer needs to succeed at the highest level. Motorsports is the best example of teaching one the importance and value of having a great team. Next time you see your favourite driver win a race, please take a minute out and salute the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes.

Sirish Vissa and VW Motorsport are doing a phenomenal job with this programme. Our country needs more programmes such as these to support and unearth the racing talent lying dormant across the length and breadth of our vast nation.

See you at the track…

The Baadshah amongst Bikes

The Indian Chief Vintage…
a motorcycle designed like a vintage piece of art….

The last decade has seen the entry of all the top motorcycle brands in the India. The motorcycle enthusiast responded to this like a person who finds an oasis in the desert!
For people who grew up in the last century the thought of buying a premium motorcycle came fraught with a sense of lunacy and madness that you would associate with a B- Grade masala Hindi film! One had to deal with shady motorcycle dealers, mechanics and an errant government mechanism. And with no financing options available then, one had to be a rich man’s son or daughter to buy such a motorcycle. But the drama didn’t end there. Post purchasing the bike you had to always keep a lookout in the papers hoping that Mr. X who you bought it from wasn’t in jail for vehicular fraud!

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That is all history now! Name the bike and it yours for owning, courtesy financing and leasing options being available. Premium motorcycles from the range of 6 lakhs to a crore are available to such an enthusiast. I have been lucky that I have owned a few 400cc motorcycles in the past and have ridden multiple liter class motorcycles. But nothing has come close to a day I spent with the Indian Chief Vintage. Before we get to that let’s look at the history of this company that designs motorcycles like art on wheels.

Indian motorcycles were first produced in Springfield Massachusetts at the turn of the century from 1901 to 1953. In that period, they went to become the largest manufacturers of motorcycles in the world, took the first three places in the 1911 Isle of Man TT trophy, riders set world motorcycle speed records. Having manufactured and supplied motorcycles to the US Army during both the World wars of the 20th century it all ended in 1953.

Post that the company saw a chequered run in terms of people trying to make unsolicited claims to the brand, trying to set up a consortium to revive the brand, but it wasn’t anything permanent or long term. Finally, in April 2011 Polaris Industries Ltd the off-road and leisure vehicle maker and parent company of Victory Motorcycles announced its intent on acquiring Indian motorcycles. With this move the production facilities were moved to Spirit Lake, Iowa. Production commenced in August 2011. In March of 2013 they unveiled the new Thunder stroke engine and the motorcycles based on that went on sale in August 2013.

In 2014 Indian motorcycles entered the fast-growing premium motorcycle industry in India. And right away one could see that this is a motorcycle which is designed like a vintage piece of art. A motorcycle that harks back to a time gone by when riding a motorcycle was as much of leisure as a discovery of new places and adventures.

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Here’s my story with the Indian Vintage:

It’s not every day one wakes up and rides an almost 400 kg classical cruiser. Well I know lots of friends who do that regularly and that explains the joy they have plastered over their faces.

This happened to me one autumn morning. My first sight of the Indian Chief Vintage was one of awe. It’s such a majestic looking motorcycle which is as regal as they come. Old world charm and style is what this motorcycle signifies. The Indian Chief Vintage’s design is completely retro paying an ode to motorcycles from the 1940’s. Whitewall tyres, teardrop fuel tank, wide floorboards, leather saddlebags embellished with leather fringes add to the classic appeal. A large headlight along with two smaller aux lamps come with a chrome finish. An adjustable windshield also comes on this motorcycle which is extremely useful on long rides. Walk around the bike and you notice how the classic design showcases itself in the fenders, the fuel tank which has heritage font of the iconic “Indian” brand embossed on it.

The instrument panel has an analog speedometer and fuel gauge with a multi-function digital display. The ergonomics are spot on. The controls feel very good, the handlebar falls into position perfectly, the switchgear is top draw with the buttons positioned just right. The leather seat is extremely comfortable with the option of having a backrest to help those long hours in the saddle on cross country road trips. Another nice feature is this bike is keyless ignition. The key just needs to be in your pocket and bag for the bike to start. But the moment you more than 3 metres away this becomes disarmed.

Press the starter and the Thunder Stroke 111 engine comes to life. You get to hear a loud bass and throaty grunt of the 1811 cc V-twin engine that makes 138.9 NM of peak torque at 3000rpm. Now I am a good and experienced rider but that didn’t matter to the Indian. I managed to stall it twice before gathering my senses and getting it to move. The Indian weighs close to 400 kgs which becomes very apparent when you are stationary at signal lights.

The bike has plenty of grunt to accelerate cleanly from lower speeds at a higher gear. You can comfortably amble away at 70kmph in 6th gear on the highway and pass another vehicle without having to downshift. All it takes is a twist of the throttle and the enormous torque comes into play. The engine is very smooth and extremely refined at any speed. Even when you go past 100kmph there is a relaxed sense of comfort due to the stability this bike offers making you confident to push it further.

This is a motorcycle that needs to be ridden on long and empty stretches of highway. The one thing that happened very frequently on my trip to Pune and back is the kind of attention this motorcycle attracts. At rest stops, traffic signal, even while riding on the highway strangers would come up to pose for pictures and ask how much it costs.
Get ready for all this attention and more when you ride the Indian Chief Vintage!
This is by no means a reasonably priced cruiser. At 26.83 lakhs this is a full bodied premium heavyweight cruiser which could be termed as “old-school cool” but still comes with the latest and modern tech.

If riding on weekends in leisure and style is your calling, then the Indian Chief Vintage is the motorcycle for you. So, what you are waiting for. Go test ride it today!