My web spaces: India Travel | Me'lange | My Flickr | My Photography |



 

EXPLORING INDIA : From Kaziranga to the Himalayas to the desert of Jaisalmer to the backwaters of Allepey to the sun baked coral beaches of Lakshadweep....A first hand account of exploring this beautiful country.



Saturday, July 25, 2015

Ranthambhore diary

Share

Mismanagement, corruption and resulting crowd menace at Ranthambhore is increasing every year. It is no more a place where you can watch a tiger walking the forest in peace.  After every visit, I said to myself that this is going to be the last time. But the tigers of Ranthambhore keep bringing me back. We had a sighting of T19’s cubs last year when they were just 3 months old. They were barely larger than a house cat last June (2014). Now they are sub adult cubs of one and half year. And they were treating tourists and photographers to some lifetime’s sighting. They were everywhere in FB – playing in water, chasing crocs, play fighting, suckling. The most magnificent creature in the entire world, the tiger is. - Jack Hanna. So I could not held me back. May be one last time to Ranthambhore before moving out of Delhi. 

Summer is the best time for watching the tiger in the wild. Temperatures in Rajasthan during peak summers can soar to mind boggling degrees. It is not easy to travel in an open gypsy, specially the journey of 3-4km from your hotel till you enter the park, when scorching loo brush you at more than 40km an hour. Yet, more and more people are braving the sun to travel in summers, even to hot places like Ranthambhore. Demand for safari seats have gone up drastically over the years. @Rs.750 per seat or @Rs.4500 per gypsy, safaris do not come cheap. Most regulars to the park knows which zone to visit to get maximum value for their money. Booking a safari online in your desired zone is tough, in fact near impossible these days. The controversial online safari booking process has grown in notoriety this year. Supply is as short as just 3 gypsy in each zone as against a train full of crowd clamouring for it. There is sheer madness for online booking. Imagine a situation when you land there without any booking! You will have to shell out 1000-1500 per seat in gypsy depending on the day of the week. Or take a horrible ride in canter with a motley crowd of 20 others, that too at a hefty rate of about 600 per seat.


Tiger - Ranthambhore (High resolution image for professional use is available for sale at Getty Image)

The prime attraction this summer was T19 with her three sub adult cubs roaming in zone 3. So everyone who are familiar with Ranthambhore wants to be in zone 3. There were only 18 seats available for online booking in every safari session for zone 3 (or an equal no in each of the zones). Supply was so short that the demand for zone 3 was unimaginable. Thanks to a friend, I had to acquire special skill to beat it and manage booking for zone 3. This happened after failed attempt over 4 nights, with even money getting deducted on two occasion. Finally I got lucky on fifth night. Once I had managed zone 3 booking, planning the trip for other zone over 3 days was cakewalk. For all those unfamiliar with this zone business may refer some of earlier posts on Ranthambhore. Tiger dynamics changes every couple of years. Therefore, even after ticking all boxes right in your trip plan, sighting a tiger is a matter of luck.

This year’s trip to Rnathambhore was my longest till date, with 6 safaris spanning over 4 days. Ranthambhore was rocking this year. Baring the first safari on Sunday afternoon, which was actually booked to fill the spare time, we had ‘photographic’ tiger sighting. As a wildlife photographer, and someone who had seen many tigers in wild, a ‘photographic’ sighting is all that matters. Even one photographic sighting out of 4 or 5 I generally do in a trip, sooths the soul. Here we got super sighting in 5 out of 6 safaris this year.

However it did not start off that well. My first safari in zone 4 was actually more of an afterthought or ‘fill in’ kind of arrangement to utilise my spare time after arrival in Ranthambhore. Safari in Zone-4 is a bone rattling experience because of rocky roads. Though I had fond memories of zone-4, this time I had no hope and hence I did not even carry my camera expecting nothing to see. My only sighting of legendary Machli was in zone 4 and we had a close encounter with elusive T41. Sultan had also reportedly moved into zone 4. Even though jungle always throws up surprises, expecting to see any of the tigers was a farfetched hope. As expected it went blank. However as were exiting the park, a disappointing piece of news passed onto us was that T19 had moved with her cubs into adjoining zone previous day, and has not been seen since either in zone 2 or 3. They might have made a kill deep inside and hence were not coming out. It was enough to plan a seed of worry in my mind.

Day 2:
Next morning, leaving our can of worries behind in hotel, we set off our next safari in zone-3, touted as sure shot sighting zone. It took me 5 night’s attempt to get zone 3 booking. The bad news of previous evening was confirmed barely minutes into the safari. The T19 family had not returned to their lakeside palace. After checking the area around Padam talao for sign of T19 families return to the lake, our guide decided to explore upper areas where another tiger T64 is occasionally seen. We went up and down, but could not track down any tiger more than one hour into the safari. This was supposed to be sure sighting zone! Everyone was clamouring for it. I too had come only after getting zone-3 booking. It was rocking for last few months with 4-5 tiger regularly roaming the scene, and here, we are yet to find even a single tiger. I know that despite ticking all boxes right in your trip plan, sighting a tiger is a matter of luck. Best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray’. That day, we were in zone-3 and the tigers were in adjoining zone-2. We would be going to zone-2 next day, and what if tigers return to zone-3 that night. The thought was frightening. The ghost of not sighting a tiger in any of the safaris in this trip started haunting me. Couple of my friend had this misfortune once. In that trip together I beat them by the barest margin of just a single tiger sighting in four safaris. You have to be extremely unlucky not to see a tiger in 4-5 safaris.
 A tiger amidst dust cloud at Ranthambhore. Image courtsey my daughter Swathi.

With an ever increasing bag of woes and the sun over our head getting hotter by minutes, we came back to Rajbagh area, expecting against hope for one of the T19 cubs to return. We had about two hours of safari time left with nothing to do but to wait in hope.  “The miserable have no other medicine but hope.”  Then came the moment which was change the course of our fate in next 48 hours. We saw a gypsy hurrying onto the dirt track we were standing. In one of them was the national award winning wildlife film maker S Nallamuthu. I know him for quite some time now. On seeing me, he informed that tiger is reported at a spot called platform. We too hit the dusty trail left behind by Nalla’s gypsy. And there he was.  T64, the male cub from T19’s last litter was cooling off majestically in lake, with the Ranthambhore fort and Rajbagh hunting palace as backdrop. It was a dream backdrop for a Ranthambhore tiger frame. T64 took the opportunity of T19’s absence to visit the area where he grew up. We were looking for him up in the hills, but he was sleeping by the lake. T19, though his mother, no more tolerate T64 in lake area for the safety of her new litter. The sighting soothed our frayed nerves. Now we were relieved that we had a tiger sighting and the trip will not go blank. I cannot express this sense of relief in word.

More importantly, this was the moment that had changed our luck. In the afternoon safari, we caught up with T64 again, before he went up the hill to cross over to zone-4. My two safaris in zone-3 was in expectation of T19 and three cubs. But they were zone-2 that day. Now I have full day booked for zone-2 next day. What if T19 moves back to zone-3 that night?  And, with T24 no more there to give a darshan, what if we do not get to see a tiger tomorrow. Many IFs remained unanswered that night.

Day 3:
Next morning we entered zone 2 with an air of uncertainty. Barely half kilometre into the park, there were they – the T19 family. Partly hidden behind tall grasses, they were lying by a dry nullah. We were informed that all 4 of the family were there. As cavalcade of gypsy’s started arriving one by one, T19, the mother of the cubs got up and started walking. Two of the cubs also got up and followed her. We did not find the third cub though. As the tigers started moving, the madness of vehicle started. Fortunately the mother and the cubs went different way. Therefore the drivers and guides of the vehicles were making choices on the tracks to hit.

As the commotion continued, the cubs sat down to became invisible, while T19 perched herself up in almost open. Few canters arrived by then and join the hordes of gypsys already there. Officially there is supposed to be only 5 gypsy. But there were too many. How and why is known to most regulars to Ranthambhore. We got caught up in traffic jam. I hate Ranthmbhore for this madness. If we give tigers more space, they will be more relaxed. What is required is an open view, not close view. Unfortunately most people do not have long lenses like photographers. Instead of enjoying the moment, they too would like to click with their PS or mobile or whatever they have, without realising the banality of it. If vehicles are parked sparsely, rather than crowding around the tiger, everyone will get a good view. I will love if one of the tiger of Ranthambhore turn charger. But then they may send him to zoo like Ustad.

T19 decided to excuse herself of the scene and went down a deep nullah. Meanwhile one of the cubs came out to a waterhole by the road. Vehicles started to converge there. One more cub joined in after some time. Despite of the crowd, I managed to get some pleasing frames. The overcast sky lent lovely diffused light for the scene.  As I had only half the gypsy, it was not easy to manoeuvre my heavy 400mm lens. My daughter would not allow me to use her 70-200. I missed my old warhorse 100-400. In Corbett, I generally use to hire a full gypsy. But in Ranthambhore, it is very costly @ 4500/- per gypsy. That too when you are doing 5-6 safaris. I was happy with the frames, given the limitations of sharing the gypsy with 6 persons. After full three hours of tiger sighting, we returned to hotel, all sporting smug smiles.

The good news for the evening safari was that the cubs decided stay back where we had left them in the morning. Therefore, we had another round of super sighting, but in different light conditions in the afternoon safari. After spending about an hour with the cubs, cooling off in the waterhole, our guide opined that we should go up and explore other areas and look for other tigers. We had enough of the cubs for the day. Two gypsy were ahead of us as we hit the road winding up a hill. On turning a bend, we saw the two vehicle ahead of us reversing. Our guide immediately realised that a tiger is coming straight at us on the road. When a tiger comes your way, you are supposed to reverse and give way. But then the inevitable occurred.

Another gypsy came behind us and its driver was shouting at us. He was telling our driver that ‘tera tanki phut gaya’. Your petrol tank had ruptured. As the tiger was about hundred meter away, our driver checked and found petrol leaking through a big crack. We all felt the vehicle hitting a rock while crossing a stream some 50 mtrs downstream. It is quite usual in safari. What is unusual is a ruptured tank. ‘There is no such thing as accident; it is fate misnamed.’ Driver had the means to stop the leak, but as the tiger was approaching us, he could not get down. Now he was worried that we might have no fuel left by the time tiger crosses us. As the vehicle ahead of us were shouting us to go back, our driver managed to bring the vehicle to a point where they could barely cross us. Then he positioned the vehicle in a downward position as the hole was towards the rear of the tank. Keeping it downward will drain the petrol slower.
Majestic T19


By now the tigress T19 had almost reached us. She was surprised that we have not moved back. She stopped about 15 feet from our gypsy. She looked at us and then stood up holding a tree by the road, picking up scent left by her kins. May be smell of petrol leaked was confusing her. Her behaviour was clearly indicating that she was expecting us to give way. But we were stuck. Could not tell her ‘tanki phut gaya’. Our gypsy was parked tightly by the hill, leaving barely 4-5 feet of space on the road. As we were not bulging, she explored the possibility of going down. But it was steep gorge on that side. Finally she decided to cross our gypsy, walking by almost the edge of the road. We were told to sit tight and not make any sound or movement. She should not feel threatened at all while crossing us. Trepidation in all six occupants of the gypsy were palpable. ‘Do not blame God for having created the tiger, but thank him for not having given it wings’. As she walked passed us, she kept an eye on our vehicle all the time.

As the tense moments passed, and the tiger had reached a safe distance, our driver to get down and managed to plug the leak with soap and cloth. However, almost all the fuel has drained by then. The driver and guide said that in their career spanning over 10-15 years, this is the first time that such an incident had occurred. What an experience for us too. We will never forget those minutes. I had couple of tyre punctures during safaris earlier. But never something like this. The driver decided that as we would be going mostly downhill, we would reach the Jhalra gate if we make a dash. There they could get some help or a replacement vehicle.

The driver managed to turn around in whatever space he had and then made a dash. Soon we faced the road block of vehicles still flocking the cubs by the waterhole. Our driver shouted at them to give way, else if he stops all might get blocked. We managed to wade our way through the crowd, and finally even out of the Sherpur gate. Thanks to very skilful driving by the driver. Even the last drop of fuel was consumed and the vehicle come to a halt. Our safari ended one hour earlier that day. But it was a safari we will never forget.

Day 4:
It has been an eventful trip till then. We were pretty happy with the sightings. Therefore we set out for our 6th and the final safari to zone 3 on morning of day-4 without any expectations. And best things happens when you have no expectations. May be.

Within minutes of entering the gate, we noticed a couple of gypsy. The behaviour of the occupants clearly pointed to presence of a tiger. We reached the spot in no time. There she was, crouching behind a scrub, lying in wait for a herd of wild boar. One of the female cubs of T19 had moved into zone-3 overnight. The barren landscape provided a great viewing of the stalking. Due to her inexperience, the hunting attempt failed. The cubs are still learning. Then she went onto give us some wonderful sighting and photo opportunities that morning. She walked couple of kilometres around the Padam Talao, scent marking, chasing deer, before finally disappearing over the dhonk trees up in the hill. This female cub had grown very bold and have started to stay alone of late. She has the blood of Machli. May be another Machli is in the making.

With the lone tiger of zone-3 gone for the day, the activities had now shifted to Jhlara as news of other tigers attempting to cross over to zone-3 were pouring in. There is a nullah by choti chatri, where brethren from zone 2 and 3 exchange information. However we got to see only one more of the cubs before our time was over. A happy ending depends on where one decides to stop. It was time to end our journey this year, on happy note.

Closing report:

The controversy over Ustad aka T24 had not died down. T24 had gone to jail. With it went to dust the reputation of some well-known people or so called tiger ‘experts’. Everyone has an opinion in the matter. My 13 year old daughter also had her view against this jailing of T24. Keeping in mind the sensitivity of the issue, I told my family not to raise the topic to any driver or guide, as they may differ our point of view. However, each of the 12 different guides and drivers, I met in the 6 safaris, voluntarily offered their view, blaming these few people for the debacle. They were all against the shifting of Ustad. They were not scared to name these guys and shower few abuses on them.  Even if I do not name those few people, all familiar with the issue knows who they are. We missed you Ustad, in this trip, and in all the trips to come.

Labels: , , , , ,

posted by Rupankar Mahanta at 2:02 PM | 2 comments

Please DO NOT post comment with url. If you have an url, then you should request for a link exchange.


Translate this post into:
Français/French Deutsch/German Italiano/Italian Português/Portuguese Español/Spanish 日本語/Japanese 한국어/Korean 中文(简体)/Chinese Simplified




Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Delhi-Sariska-Ranthambhore-Bharatpur-Delhi wildlife circuit

Share

Peak of summer in Rajasthan. An angry sun looking down in contempt for the scars human folks had etched on mother earth, letting the temperature soar above 45 degrees. The barren landscape, generally devoid of green, appears more desolate. I was on my annual pilgrimage to Ranthambhore, located near Sawai Madhopur, driving down almost 450 km in these conditions from Delhi. The searing heat will boil the tin box you are travelling into an oven. At times you will barely feel the existence of the air conditioner. One needs to get out of the car to feel that the AC is actually working. I had done this trail for last three years without fail. Every time I did it, I said to myself that this is the last time. But the tigers of Ranthambhore keep bringing me back.
Emergence : A tigress from zone 7 in Ranthambhore

Summer is the best time for watching tigers in the wild. More and more people are braving the sun to travel in summers, even to hot places like Ranthambhore. Demand for safari seats have gone up drastically over the years. Booking a safari online in your desired zone is tough, in fact near impossible these days. The controversial online safari booking process has grown in notoriety this year. Supply is as short as just 18 seats as against a train full of crowd clamoring for it. There is sheer madness for booking. Thanks to a friend’s coaching, I could acquire special skill to crack the booking conundrum and manage full days booking for zone 3 and 2. Therefore I am back in Ranthambhore again.

Despite the convenience of trains, I prefer driving down to Ranthambhore. Reason number one is that carrying my heavy camera gear is easier with car. Having a car at disposal also helps you get safari permits released by self or get a chilled beer from shop at half rate than your hotel. Of all the combinations of routes out of Delhi, the Gurgaon-Dharuhera-Bhiwadi-Alwar-Sikandara-Dausa-Sawai Madhopur is the shortest route from Delhi. From my residence close to East Delhi, the distance via this route is about 400km. Most part of this is tolled highway and hence drive is generally pleasant. However hold up is common on NH8. The perpetual road work on NH8 was seen creating long jams on opposite carriageway at two places. Fortunately it was not our carriageway and we were spared with a 15-20 min hold up at Manesar toll both.

As my first safari was scheduled for a Sunday afternoon, I had a Saturday to spare. I decided to utilise it to take a small diversion en-route to Sariska. Besides sparing me the pain of driving down 400 plus km on a single day in this heat, this diversion would also allow me to explore the recently opened Sterling Tiger Heaven Resort. I have a Sterling Holidays membership, and Sariska at 200km is the nearest resort from Delhi. Thus on day 1, I drove around 200km to Sariska via Alwar and then next day, I covered about 250km from Sariska to Ranthambhore (via Sikandara). I had started from Sariska around 8am after breakfast, yet I had reached Sawai Madhpur well on time for my afternoon safari at 2pm. Road condition is mostly excellent, and at worst drivable. The drivable section referred to is the 38 km stretch of Alwar-Sariska road.

My three nights stay at Ranthambhore this year has been my longest till date. Ranthambhore was rocking this time of the year. Baring the first safari on Sunday afternoon, which was actually booked to fill the spare time, we had ‘photographic’ tiger sighting. As a wildlife photographer, and someone who had seen many tigers in wild, a ‘photographic’ sighting is all that matters. Even one photographic sighting out of 4 or 5safaris, which I generally do in a trip, sooths the soul. Here we got super sighting in 5 out of 6 safaris this year.

On the day of my return, I did morning safari that would end around 10am and hence was not expected to check out before 12am. This means that I would be reaching Gurgoan around 6pm and then would be meandering though peak office hour traffic all the way to Ghaziabad. That would be too much taxing after driving 350km for 5-6 hours. The perpetual road work on NH8 and possibility of jams was also a deterrent. So the idea of trying out a different route dawn on me. The alternate route is via Bharatpur-Mathura-Yamuna Expressway-Noida. This would complete the full cycle of Delhi-Sariska-Ranthambhore-Bharatpur-Delhi wildlife circuit. With this route, I would emerge at Noida, close to my residence in East Delhi, thereby avoiding traffic nightmare via Gurgaon.

Keeping the new route in mind, we started from Sawai Madhopur around 12 noon. In any case, we had to travel 150km to Sikandara before taking the call. The attendant at the Sikandara toll both on Jaipur-Agra NH11 estimated the distance to Bharatpur as 60km. I had done 150 already, plus 60 more, and Bharatpur to Delhi via Yamuna Expressway is about 200km. This comes about 410, almost the same as that of Alwar-Gugaon option. Therefore I decided to continue straight to Bharatpur, instead of turning left for Alwar. But the very next road sign I came across announced the distance to Bharatpur as 85km. This added 25km to the journey to make it almost 435km. I was already in a state of no return, and hence only option was to continue driving ahead. However the saving grace was the excellent road condition and very little traffic. Unlike NH8, which is always full of trucks, there were very few trucks on NH11. On reaching outskirt of Bharatpur, we exited NH11 and took the Mathura by-pass to avoid the town. This road is familiar to me as I have been to Bharatpur many times. Passing through Mathura, we reached Yamuna Expressway without any held up. Soon after crossing Jewar toll plaza, we took a break, the only one of the trip, after 5 hours of non-stop driving. Being a weekday, traffic on expressway was also low. We hit Noida almost on the stroke of evening. The drive of almost 400km upto Noida was very pleasant, mainly because of very low traffic en-route.

Finally we got stuck in office hour traffic at the Akshardham junction to NH24. But it was nothing as compared to what I would have to endure via Gurgaon at those hours. Thus the decision to return via Bharatpur turned out to be a prudent one. The extra 35km and additional Rs.120/- toll paid was worth it. In fact, if one is travelling from East Delhi / Ghaziabad / Noida, then I feel that this route should be preferred. Those living around South or West Delhi and Gurgaon, have only one option via Alwar. Total toll via Alwar route was Rs.280/- and via Bharatpur was Rs.400/- (including 240 paid for Expressway use).


With this trip, I had completed the full cycle of Delhi-Sariska-Ranthambhore-Bharatpur-Delhi wildlife circuit. Total distance covered was about 950km. I had now explored all possible routes to Ranthambhore viz. via Jaipur-Dausa, via Alwar-Sikandara-Dausa and via Bharatpur-Dausa. You can explore my blog for my earlier write up on these other route options.

Labels: , , , ,

posted by Rupankar Mahanta at 9:46 PM | 1 comments

Please DO NOT post comment with url. If you have an url, then you should request for a link exchange.


Translate this post into:
Français/French Deutsch/German Italiano/Italian Português/Portuguese Español/Spanish 日本語/Japanese 한국어/Korean 中文(简体)/Chinese Simplified




Saturday, May 30, 2015

Indian Railways : few interesting facts

Share


Sharing some interesting facts about Indian Railways (source: TOI)







Labels: ,

posted by Rupankar Mahanta at 10:19 PM | 5 comments

Please DO NOT post comment with url. If you have an url, then you should request for a link exchange.


Translate this post into:
Français/French Deutsch/German Italiano/Italian Português/Portuguese Español/Spanish 日本語/Japanese 한국어/Korean 中文(简体)/Chinese Simplified




Sunday, May 24, 2015

Domestic travel insurance: what is covered and what is not

Share

I have been habitually purchasing insurance for domestic air travel with the expectation that I will be able to buy ticket for another flight on spot in case any flight gets cancelled and thereby, I hoped to prevent the entire trip getting jeopardised. I thank my stars that for all these years I never had to invoke my rights for an insurance claim, until my recent trip to Andaman in end January, 2015.

Traveling out of Delhi in peak winter season of end Dec to mid Jan, which unfortunately is also a peak tourist season, is always full of uncertainties due to fog. Both flight and train schedules go haywire as fog plays havoc across north India. To minimise possible impact of weather, I had planned my trip with return from Portblair on 17th Jan, 2015. I had booked tickets with MakeMyTrip who were offering travel insurance by Apollo Munich. It cost me around 169 per person per ticket. While travelling abroad, I had purchased insurance for a period covering my travel. But somehow domestic travel insurance is linked to a ticket, not for a period.

Apollo Munich domestic travel insurance certificate
In last few years, there has not been serious fog issue after 15th Jan. But when nature decides to play truant, you can only be mute spectator. Fog came late this year, and stayed late, well past 18th Jan, 2015. Waiting in the lounge for a whole day at Portblair airport, with bright sunshine all around, we realised that the world is so interconnected that fog in Delhi is sending flight schedule go haywire across India, even at places as remote as Portblair which probably have never seen fog. The day I landed at Portbalir, the temp was 23 or so, as against 6 degree of Delhi.

There are 3 daily flights between Portblair and Delhi via Kolkata. My ticket was with Jet Airways. Against all odds, the flights that were least expected to arrive that day, Spicejet and Go Air did landed, though quite late, and returned to Delhi or Kolkata. But the Jet Airways flight, which was the only full fare carrier, and which was most likely to arrive did not come that day leaving us all stranded at Portblair. We came to know that due to fog the flight took off quite late from Delhi as against scheduled departure of 0930 hrs. By the time it had arrived at Kolkata for stopover, it was too late for them to attempt a trip to Portblair, which is a military airport and hence night landing or take off are not allowed. The last hours by which a flight has to depart was 1630 hrs. This means the flight from Kolkata has to take off latest by 1400 hrs so that it can land by 1600 hrs and return by 1630 hrs. Apparently both the Kolkata – Portblair and Portblair-Kolkata-Delhi flight were reasonably full, and hence Jet Airways did not cancelled and dumped all passengers. Rather than refunding fares or attempting a risky trip and then getting struck at Portblair for the night, Jet Airways had arranged for an unscheduled flight next morning. The airport staff had written on ticket that due to fog delay at Delhi, flight is cancelled and passengers to report tomorrow at 7am. They had a discussion with CISF at stamped the tickets so that passengers are allowed in next day. Now came the issue of accommodation. Full fare airline is supposed to provide accommodation in case of flight cancellation and Jet Airways is one of the few remaining full fare airlines. But the shock came in the form of their declaration that accommodation is not provided in case of fog delay. We all had argued in vain. I thought that my travel insurance will come in handy for the first time. I decided to call their helpline from airport itself to find what is admissible.

Call centre line was not busy. Responding to the customer care executive’s greeting of how he might help me, I announced about my policy details and said that my flight is cancelled. The voice over responded that flight cancellation is not covered. Note this first catch - flight cancellation is not covered. Thus my very first reason for purchasing travel insurance went up in smoke. You will not be able to buy an emergency ticket in case your flight gets cancelled. So what next? I changed track, and told him that even though my flight is cancelled for the day, it is rescheduled for next day. Then the executive read out to me certain clauses of insurance I had not access to earlier. He told me that flight delay has to be more than 6 hrs, and reason for delay is either due to bad weather or technical fault with aircraft. Strike by staff not covered. I will have to obtain a travel certificate from the carrier mentioning total delay and cause of delay. Further, I was advised to retain all bills and vouchers of expenses. The maximum amount reimbursable is Rs.2000/- per person. As I have 3 tickets for the family, the potential claim amount of Rs.6000/- would be enough for one night’s additional stay in a decent hotel at Portblair. At that point we were more worried about daughter missing her unit test at school scheduled for next morning.

We reported at Portblair airport next morning and were happy to see Jet Airways staff arriving. We were relieved to be informed that aircraft had departed from Kolkata. The Jet aircraft indeed came from Kolkata in an unscheduled flight. But it was now informed that the aircraft would now ply between Portbalir and Kolkata. The Jet staff at Kolkata will arrange to send passengers to Delhi at the earliest available flight. The other option was to wait till evening for that day’s regular Delhi bound flight to arrive. The manager of Jet Airways team opined that there is no point staying stuck at Portblair. Fog was reported from Delhi on that day’s morning as well and flight had been delayed. Hence one cannot be sure of when flights from Delhi will arrive. Once you reach mainland, there will be various options for further transit. There was merit in his comment. So we boarded the flight and reached Kolkata at 1130 hrs. It was another ordeal at Kolkata as all flights were full. Finally we were handed boarding pass for a Kolkata-Delhi flight at 1830. Therefore my total delay had actually crossed more than 24 hrs.


Travel certificate by Jet Airways
After reaching Delhi, I had downloaded forms and couple of other documents from Apollo Munich’s website. The claim is to be preferred within one month.  I tediously filled up claim forms, separate forms for each one of us, claiming a total amount of Rs.6100/- as against admissibility of Rs.6000/- (@2000 per person). The travel certificate issued by Jet Airways, Portblair says that flight on 17th Jan was cancelled and passengers were rebooked on flight on 18th Jan. This along with my boarding passes covered my total delay clause. The ticket also had Jet Airways’ stamped statement that due to fog delay flight is cancelled. This covered weather delay clause. I did not want to send original bills along with my claim, and hence sent photocopies. I wanted to ensure that my claim is acknowledged first before I part with my original bills.

After about a month of preferring the claim, I had received a letter from Apollo Munich saying that they are in receipt of my claim and have provided me a claim id. They requested to submit all bills in originals within 15 days. Assured that my claim has not been put into dustbin, I sent all original bills through reputed courier so that receipt can be verified.

In another month’s time, I had received a confirmation from Apollo Munich saying that my claim had been settled for Rs.4660/- with reasons for rejecting balance amount. They did not pay cost incurred in additional to and from trip to airport. This amount was good enough as I had recovered 90% of cost I had incurred.

If you closely examine Domestic travel insurance policies, it is not difficult to understand that it actually is a medical insurance with some elements of travels fitted in. It is offered by airline or travel portal in association with an insurance company. Therefore insurance certificates are mailed to you separately after tickets are booked. For any claims, you have to deal directly with the insurance company, not the travel portal. The policy issued shows elements covered and the max amount payable against each of the clauses. But it does not say anything about situations under which you are eligible for claim. Therefore, you should visit the insurance company website for detailed clauses. Here are relevant clauses from the detailed document of my policy.

Detailed clauses-1

FIner points of detailed clauses
Going through the detailed clauses will make you understand what is covered and what is not. I would suggest to call their helpline to understand fine points. Always keep their helpline no ready. You do not know when you may need it. Insurance is meant to cover uncertainties. And, uncertainties arrive without calling. This was a good lesson in travel for me. For me it ended on a happy note. I hope that my sharing of this experience will help you stay informed to travel smart.

Labels: , ,

posted by Rupankar Mahanta at 10:30 AM | 1 comments

Please DO NOT post comment with url. If you have an url, then you should request for a link exchange.


Translate this post into:
Français/French Deutsch/German Italiano/Italian Português/Portuguese Español/Spanish 日本語/Japanese 한국어/Korean 中文(简体)/Chinese Simplified




Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Bursting the online shopping myth- Part-II

Share

Continuing from my earlier posts, here I intend burst another myth on online shopping. The diaspora tends to believe that items are cheaper online. But is it really cheap?

Well, this may be true for those living in second or third tier cities. But certainly not for metros where there are stiff competition, it may not always be true. While online may be cheaper for items like mobile phones, but not for many marchandise. So onee should explore before making the purchase. I am sharing one of my recent experiences to burst this myth.

My wife was looking to purchase a pair of sports shoe for her gym outings. Therefore when Myntra.com had announced a hyped sale with a full page ad on the TOI, we decided to explore it. We shortlisted a Nike shoe with a MRP of 3596. It was on offer @30% discount for that day. Thus the price indicated after discount was 2517. When we added it to the cart and proceeded for payment, the surprise element popped up. VAT Extra. How much VAT? Rs.431/-. How it was calculated. @12% of MRP, not on the discounted price. So final price I need to pay after adding VAT was 2948. Thus effective discount got reduced to a mere 18%. As most of the shops in malls gives a 20% discount during sale season, we decided to try it out at a shop rather than buying online. In shop purchase resluts in lower post purchase disonances as you can try out various options on spot.

Item on sale with 20% discount on a hyped sale

Notice the extra VAT amount when you add the item to your cart


Out of curiosity, I decided to visit Myntra.com again next day. The hyped sale was over as it was only for a day. Hence the same pair of shoe was on 10% discount only that day. To check VAT applicability, I added it to the cart and proceeded for payment. To my surprise there was no extra VAT that day. This means that customers are taken for a ride in the name of sales. One is made to feel like getting an extra 20% discount in sale, whereas he was actually getting just 8% extra discount.

Same item when not on sale.

Notice no VAT extra on background. Coupon codes never applies on such items.

Now that there is a Nike factory outlet in one of the malls not very far from my home, we decided to visit the shop. This being the end of season sale period, everything was on flat 40% in the shop, including the model we had checked online. And to the top of it, there was no extra VAT. Therefore we got that pair of shoe for 2217 from the Nike outlet whereas the price on hyped sale was 2948. To make you all understand how we are being taken for ride by these online sale, I have decided to corroborate this with screenshots I had retained. Unfortunately I did not save screenshot of the sale circus with extra VAT. But the images below clearly shows that the offline purchase from outlet was cheaper by almost 22% than the online price. I however have retained images of a much lower scale sale @20% off, which also attracted extra VAT.

Same shoe purchased from Nike factory outlet

Bill showing actual price from shop which was much lower than online sale price, And no VAT extra.

It reminds me of the famous quote – You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. So next time you see another full page ad of an online sale, make sure to compare before you buy.

Labels: ,

posted by Rupankar Mahanta at 9:40 PM | 5 comments

Please DO NOT post comment with url. If you have an url, then you should request for a link exchange.


Translate this post into:
Français/French Deutsch/German Italiano/Italian Português/Portuguese Español/Spanish 日本語/Japanese 한국어/Korean 中文(简体)/Chinese Simplified