Think before you speak. This is what is taught to us at school right from when we are proficient enough to be able to make sentences. Different people have different interpretations of this expression but more or less all point to the same direction except for this new dimension added by people like us. I haven't been able to choose a name (#noname) for it partly because of maybe the title of this post but you'll probably get the drift as you read further.

I don't know if you've experienced this or if it's only me who feels this way but we have become very vocal about things. We do not hesitate in expressing our opinion often. We now have opinions about issues which probably a decade ago no one even thought about. We have probably become more aware. We have probably started identifying ourselves with point of views which we weren't exposed to earlier.

Add to it booming access to information, platforms to express, forums to debate thanks to The Internet and especially the social media.

It's all amazing, it's all awesome, it's a positive change but at the same time it is something that has made dialogues highly inflammable. You can never be sure what catches fire when and who all does it turn to ashes. Sports, politics, religion, feminism, music, fashion - you name it and there would sure have been fireworks around it. If not as yet, almost every topic is still highly inflammable. 

Mind you, to start a fire, you don't just need cardboard but also oxygen (in the air). Without it even paper wouldn't burn and with it even logs of wood burn.

While there are topics/issues people strongly believe in and have strong opinions about, but why does it have to be fireworks if someone else thinks otherwise? And why within the #nonames? After all aren't they the more informed, educated, supposedly wiser lot?

Aren't they the be-a-good-listener, respect-other-persons-opinion people? Why does it then quickly escalate to become toxic and end up in a battle won by the side of the opinion that has more supporters? How is it any different from, in this respect, to what it has been forever - Popular wisdom, norms. Majority ne bol diya, wahi sahi.

Isn't it then surprising that the same person questions moral policing on what to eat, what to wear and at the same time aggressively drives down his/her own opinion down someone else's throat? 

Add to it those who may not necessarily believe in or identify with a topic but just stand by it or against it for the heck of it. Because maybe it makes them stand out, maybe it's cool to do it, maybe it's the image they want to project, maybe that gives a sense of belonging to... ummm... #noname2?

Ultimately, it's I am right, we are right, haww how can you say this, this is what you should accept, believe in and say.

Is it not only the topics and platforms that have changed and everything else the same as it has always been? Are we still evolving?

Why does every expression have to become a discussion? And then escalate to outrage? Why does it necessarily has to become a debate? And why does it have to be settled then and there? And why does it have to turn into a violent and ugly war of words? Why does it have to be chalo-behti-ganga-mein-main-bhi-haath-dho-lu?

I believe, that's the kind of speaking we can do away with. Those are the kind of words that one can filter and never get them out.

Let the platforms be clean oxygen that make life comfortable and not necessarily use it for compression for combustion. 

Remember, chewing gum is elastic but you don't have to necessarily stretch it. It just creates mess.

Let us not reach a stage when 140 characters will become way too much for you to speak. 

Let us not be those who merely evolve from Nahi, log kya kahenge to Nahi, log bahut bajaayenge.

On a lighter note, though we did like Sehwag going after every ball, we did sigh on and were in awe of that 'well left' from Dravid right?

Let go. Coexist.

Easier said than done, but I'll make conscious efforts to walk on this line.


In the end, all I can say is that, you probably got the drift of where I was headed but I couldn't write it in the exact same words that were going through my head because you know

Image Credits: david pacey (CC by 2.0)
I was looking for an Uber to go to Nando's for lunch when I noticed something peculiar around the estimated fares and went back and forth on Ola and Uber apps to dig bit deeper into what I saw and then eventually thought about writing a detailed post around The Fare Game.

I'll break this post into 3 parts - 
  1. Advertised Fare vs Actual Fare
  2. Transparency in fare calculation (for UberPOOL and Ola Share rides)
  3. Erroneous calculations
Advertised Fare vs Actual Fare

I hope almost everyone is aware of this fact but still would briefly like to cover the difference between the fare advertised by Uber and Ola as compared to what it actually turns out to be. I will be taking Delhi as an example. Trust most of you know that post the latest rate cut by Uber both Uber and Ola now have offerings starting Rs. 6/km. Even if you're not aware, they are likely to bombard you with the message over the next few days/week. Now, its easy to miss the small '*' next to the advertised fare which, in a way, conceals the fact that the real fare is much higher than what you see and at the same time shields away any legal trouble. And when I say much higher, I mean as high as TWICE of what is advertised or even higher and then of course there is Surge Pricing. 

How you ask?

Here, is the fare calculation for Uber for a 10 km ride.

Fare Head
As mentioned by Uber
Estimated Rupee/KM value
Remarks
Base Fare
Rs. 40
Rs. 4
Rs. 40/10 km
Trip Duration
Rs. 1 per minute
Rs. 3.5
In city traffic, on an average, takes 3-4 minutes to cover a km in my experience
Per KM
Rs. 6
Rs. 6

Total
Rs. 13.5
Would be lower for longer distances and/or with low traffic

Ola has exact same fee structure for Ola Micro and hence the exact same calculations.

UberX and Ola Mini come to around Rs. 18 per km on doing similar calculations.

Bottom line, forget being cheaper than, they are not even equal to auto fares. But yes, you have to give it to them, they are more comfortable and easy to call for.

Transparency in fare calculation (for UberPOOL and Ola Share rides)

Moving on to the second point of transparency in fare calculation. The fare that is calculated for share/pool rides from one point to other can vary greatly depending on 3 factors
  1. Surge pricing on UberGO/Ola Mini
  2. Exact point where you drop the pin for pickup
  3. Time of the day
Point 1 is kind of obvious at a macro-level in the sense that when there is surge on UberGO/Ola Mini then even the pool/share rides will be expensive but I have never been able to see direct correlation.

Point 2 is what I've myself observed many a times. You move your pickup location by a few metres (not kms but barely a few metres which is any way practical because almost always you board the cab after taking a few steps from the actual pickup location that you entered while requesting for the cab). This variation used to be significantly high couple of months ago but greatly reduced now.

Point 3 is what I stumbled upon while digging deeper on the actual trigger that made me write this post. Given below are 3 screenshots taken for Ola Share from same pickup location to same destination at a gap of 2 hours.

  
                     Pic 1                                         Pic 2                                         Pic 3

The distance between the 2 locations as per Google Maps is 11 km. With the source and destination as same and no peak/surge pricing in play (Pic 3 shows that there is NO Peak pricing), how can the fare be so different? Estimated price/km moving from Rs. 17 to Rs. 25!


Total Fare for Ola Share
Discount Percent on
Ola Mini Fare
Estimated
Ola Mini Fare
Price/km
Pic 1
141
25%
188
17
Pic 2
206
25%
275
25

Erroneous calculations

Coming on to the actual trigger behind this post. So, when I was requesting for an Uber to go to Nando's, here is what I saw


UberPOOL would have costed me exact Rs. 162.70 and an UberGO would have costed me in excess of Rs. 193.69. A simple division of that number by 11 km (distance between the 2 places) suggested that the UberGO fare being shown was much higher than the Rs. 13.5 per km that I use for my estimations. Rs. 40 + Rs. 6 * 11 is Rs. 106 and it just cannot take me 90 mins for a 11 km ride on a Saturday afternoon (I frequent this route and I also checked Google Maps)!

Also, Rs. 193.69+ in theory is thrice that of the advertised fare (Rs. 17.6/km vs Rs. 6/km). Something was grossly wrong. Add to it, that UberPOOL was less than 20% of a discount (not good enough to accommodate a co-passenger and add to my overall trip time), I decided to opt for UberGO.

Result - Rs. 157.29 (before promotional discount and credit balance application; distance was around a km more than what Google Maps suggested)


Yes, the actual fare for UberGO was LOWER than what I would have paid had I opted for UberPOOL.

If this was a genuine error by the software, one cannot be sure for how long has it existed, where all has it existed, how many erroneous calculations has it made. All said and done, it's something which is not acceptable from a "technology company".

I just hope that it is not an effort to encourage UberPOOL by discouraging UberGO by showing higher estimated fares. Maybe UberPOOL is a metric of importance for them (Uber's plan to get more people into fewer cars). 

Also, my conspiracy theory loving brain started with calculations and found it to be financially more rewarding (charging a fare similar to that of UberGO on UberPOOL gives them a clear opportunity to earn much more than an UberGO trip in form of a potential second rider). I genuinely hope that this was a one-off error in estimation and doesn't happen again.

Bottomline

Whatever be the real reasons behind these, all I can see is that there is a clear lack of transparency in pricing and price estimations which are likely to make people skeptical. A free first ride and advertisements showcasing messages of Rs. 6/km and 'cheaper than auto' may help recruit a first time rider successfully but is more likely to create dissonance and mistrust in that rider eventually on subsequent trips and could lead to potential lapse. Add to this the perennial debate on how surge pricing works and the mess becomes messier.

PS - Nando's was awesome as usual. Tried the wild herb sauce for the first time and really liked it :)
Some of you would already be aware that I signed up with Uber as a commuter few days back.

And that I completed my first ride just 3 days after that. 

Have been wanting to share my experience but waited to complete a few more rides, which eventually I didn't because of reasons mentioned in the second half of the post. And so I thought, I might as well pen down the experience from that one single ride for now. Before I do so, want to specify that my motivation to sign up for this was purely curiosity and definitely not money. Also maybe the thought that more people can move around using the same amount of fuel which I am consuming by traveling alone.


I commute from Delhi (home) to Gurgaon (work) and back every day and I logged on to the Uber Partner app, ready to go "Online". 

Few things about the app:

  • It shows the map with an overlay of random geometrical shapes in different colours that indicate surge values in the entire area (zoom out to get the surge view of the entire city).
  • There is an option to enter the destination in the app (after I slide a button to go 'Online') and Uber's algorithm then pushes only those pickup requests which are on my way. Not sure if the same option is available with regular GOs and Xs.

What could be a good indicator of demand for rides even with surge pricing is that even in the few seconds lag between me going online and entering my destination, I got 2 pickup requests which I had to ignore (there is no option to reject). Whenever you get a pickup request you see a pin on the map indicating the pickup location along with the address, estimated time to reach there, rating of the rider and type of car requested (GO, Pool, X, etc). So after ignoring these 2 requests (I think driver is given around 10 seconds to either accept the request after which it disappears from his screen and perhaps goes to the next driver). Those 10 seconds were way too less to comprehend the amount of information on the screen (I did want to be sure of the rider rating and had made up my mind to ignore any request with rating less than 4.5), especially when the request comes in while you are driving.

So, once I managed to enter my destination and started from office towards home, I got a pickup request from somewhere close by in less than km of me starting from my origin. I was crawling in the heavy traffic when I got a call. As soon as I received it and before I could say 'hello', I heard "Bhaiya, booking aayi hogi XXX ke naam se". I spoke to the rider and told them about my location and estimated time before I reach.

I took around twice the estimated time that was shown to me because of heavy traffic. The rider sat in and surprisingly knew about Uber Commute. I learnt about the destination and sighed as it was Dwarka, which was off my route as I could no longer take the highway (a problem that occurs even when I choose UberPOOL as a rider myself) but still pepped myself up for this new experience and began driving. Little did I know how tough would the next 45 minutes be. Before I explain 'tough', few things about me and my usual driving behavior.

  • MBTI pesonality test indicates my type as ENTP.
  • I like listening to loud music or at least FM with volume levels anywhere between 15-25. Music/mood also at times dictates how I drive.
  • I do fiddle with my phone occasionally when the car is idle (in jam or a signal) to check notifications, traffic situation on maps, etc.
  • I turn off the engine on signals longer than 40 seconds or when traffic doesn't seem to move at all (habit I have ever since I started driving as it helps save fuel, lesser pollution)

Now in the approximate ride duration of 45 minutes, the rider barely spoke. If I remember correctly it was once at the start of the trip when I was told there is a route from the other side which could help avoid traffic, 2-3 reminders of right/left turns and then once at the end of the trip to stop. Also, to avoid imposing my music (and high volume) preferences, I turned off the music player as well.

I am type ENTP! Though the 'E' here stands for 'extroversion' and not 'extrovert' still this video (at 00:31) perfectly describes how I usually feel - "Insaan kaha hain?"


And here I was sitting next to an insaan for 45 minutes but that insaan barely spoke! Plus no music not even the virtual insaan in form of the RJ on FM (which I eventually couldn't bear and turned on some music, albeit at volume level ONE). And I wasn't even fiddling with my phone because that's most likely to give the impression of being distracted as a driver and that's the last thing even I would want as a rider. 

To top it up further, I was driving cautiously, conscious of the fact that I will be rated perhaps (eventually got 5 star)? Heavy traffic and the knowledge that this trip means I would take more than twice the time I usually take to reach home didn't help either. And my OCD of turning off the engine while idle was being challenged in name of the summer heat that would cause discomfort to the rider if I turned the AC off.

Alas, the 45 minutes got over sooner than I expected and as soon as I heard "yaha left pe rok do", a picture of only a few hundred rupee notes in my wallet flashed in my head and the thought of further activity just in case this is a Cash trip added to my already eventful experience. When I confirmed if I should end the trip, I was glad to hear, "Yes, thanks.. and the ride will be paid through PayTM" #win.

With my car still stationed in one corner of the road, I immediately increased the volume of the music player, reached out to my phone and returned a call which I had to disconnect because I was on trip.

I thought about whether I should stay online or go offline and head home and did the latter because I had been driving in heavy traffic.

Talking about payouts, like has been confirmed by another Uber Commute Driver, the surge amount was passed on to me and Uber charges a 20% commission on ride + surge charges.

Post that first ride, few factors have played on my mind that have prompted me to not go for another trip. And no, my own preferences with regards to music, phone, talking, etc are not responsible for this.

  • What if the next trip is to Dwarka again? That's off my route!
  • Extra ride time. I seldom enjoy driving in heavy traffic. Doing that towards the end of the day post office leading to extra commute time is not very enjoyable an idea. I don't do trips in the morning because I may get late for work.

I've given it a try once while returning from Gurgaon on a Saturday and I did get a trip but it was again Dwarka so I had to call and refuse which I didn't like at all. 

If you look at the larger picture, Uber's intent is simple - more people in fewer cars which according to me is a great initiative. What will really help me particularly and other commute drivers as well is if Uber can display the destination of the rider for commute rides (that's the whole purpose for commute right?). That way I can avoid Dwarka trips and wait for other ones. Today, I just don't log on because I only get to know the destination when the rider tells me and then refusing isn't the best thing to happen. 

Having said that, I'll still give it a few more tries on other non-work travel routes as well (like I just did an hour back though I didn't get any ride requests). As far as my personal preferences while driving are concerned, if not anything, I think such experiences are lessons on patience :)



















I’ll start with saying I am slightly tensed. I don’t know if it’s actually fair calling it tensed but I am certainly not feeling relaxed. There is certain degree of uneasiness that I am experiencing since last night and it is only increasing. The reason of course is the big clash tonight. Even though it’s T20, which many cricket pundits don’t consider as ‘real cricket’ but nevertheless, it is a match on one of the finest cricket grounds in the world, in the biggest T20 tournament and it’s India vs Pakistan in a (sort of) must win situation for India for more than one reasons (present situation and past history).

This is surely not the first time India is playing against Pakistan and this is not the first time I will be watching this contest. In fact, the last time they played in WCT20 in Sri Lanka, I was there at the R.Premadasa Stadium in Colombo watching it with a few Pakistani supporters by my side who I met earlier in the day in Colombo itself. The cover image used on this post was in fact clicked on that day (September 30, 2012). But still, I have experienced something different this time. That is the role of the Internet and all things digital.

Exposure to comments of R.Ashwin comparing this match to “border rivalry” and Waqar Younis suggesting that history can be rewritten and that having lost the first match despite being the pre-tournament favourites, it’s India who would be under pressure was almost instant and recurring every since the comments were made thanks to News websites and their apps and the social media. There is nothing new with pre-match comments from players, ex-cricketers and coaches indulging in mind games but what is definitely relatively newer is fans and supporters indulging in this directly.

 I really appreciated the punctuality of #PakvsInd trending on Twitter as soon as clock struck 00:00 hrs last night. It’s a different story that it changed to #IndvsPak when I woke up today morning but I was amazed to see SIX of the Top Ten trends on twitter in Pakistan being directly related to this match. India has just one #IndvsPak which emulates the Worldwide trends tally. Is it fair to assume then that the Pakistani fans are feeling much more pressure than their Indian counterparts? And I would like to believe that it has more to do with the history of Pakistan not having won even a single match against India in a World Cup that is making them restless, uneasy and abusive too.

There was a hashtag #IndiaRonaNahi trending for a brief period last night and as you might have guessed the tweets on this hashtag were aggressive in nature, some abusive, few trolling and I spotted 3 tweets (from Pakistan twitterati) condemning the use of this hashtag and accusing it of spreading negativity.

Move away from these hashtags and my timeline is flooded with memories/rituals/predictions/analysis of the match. Similar but much subdued is the case on Facebook.

There was also a fake scorecard doing the rounds (of course by the Pakistani twitterati) suggesting a thrashing defeat for India. A closer look at the scorecard and you see that despite receiving flak for his comment of being loved more in India than Pakistan, despite innumerable failures, despite being mocked at for multiple occasions of announcing and coming out of retirement, they see Shahid Afridi as their brightest jewel, the one they believe would create the turning point today. That, honestly, gives me a lot of confidence and also relieves me of a bit of the unnatural, unnecessary pressure I am subjecting myself to just by exposing myself to these digital imprints.



I can’t help but compare this with the good old days when the discussions would largely be in the classroom, school bus, playgrounds or in cases where you hear people discussing it in the market or discussions between relatives, etc. The exposure was so limited and consequently the scope of the discussion and the limited perspectives. And that what the Pakistani fans would be upto in the run up to the event was something that crossed my head rarely and even if it did my canvas of imagination was pretty limited too. But now, the only choice I have to keep myself out of all this exposure (which honestly I don’t want to) is to lock myself in a room with no TV or Internet access. I can only imagine what The XI would go through with the media, Internet, people around, hotel staff, groundsmen and many others all staring at them like those villagers with eyes full of hope looking at Bhuvan! The villagers would’ve had to pay huge sums of money had they lost but what we, the fans and supporters, have here is nothing more than pride and ego at stake and that being amplified to infinity thanks to digital mediums that allow us to have face-offs, emulate sledging and troll countrymen and supporters of the two teams directly, in real-time with just a small handheld device.

Nevertheless, I’ve bookmarked a few tweets which I hope I would get a chance to reply to towards midnight today. Feel free to assist me on framing befitting replies to any or all of these and let’s hope Dhoni & Co. give us the opportunity to be able to post them :)



This is a follow up of post on my quest to find the best Butter Chicken in Delhi. I wrote about this here and to summarise, these were the restaurants in the consideration set

- Minar, Connaught Place
- Moti Mahal, Daryaganj
- Kake Da Hotel, Connaught Place
- Kwality, Connaught Place

Apart from these I had personally tried

- Invitation, Ashok Vihar
- Galena, Gole Market

After I published my last post, I got 2 more recommendations

- Gulati, Pandara Road
- Rajinder Da Dhaba, Safdarjung

Additionally, I also tried a new place

- Above and Beyond, Kirti Nagar

And the top two places to savour sumptous Butter Chicken are

1. Invitation, Ashok Vihar
2. Above and Beyond, Kirti Nagar

Galena would have been third but has unfortunately shut down.

All others except Gulati (which is average) are a waste. The dish they serve in the name of Butter Chicken is anything but Butter Chicken.

One more place I have heard about is Havmore, Pandara Road (next to Gulati's). I sincerely hope it takes the number 3 spot. Would update once I try!

Image source: Gail (https://www.flickr.com/photos/gail_thepinkpeppercorn/3240490130)
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