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Manipulative Banking – The new norm

I now and then miss my payment due date. Yes, the bank will be fast enough to slap a fee on me. I usually call them and they reverse it for me as they can see from my history that I am good with payments and mistakes happen. But I just realized how out of control credit cards and other loans can get in the era of technology and fine prints.

In the era of technology, people who are not comfortable with online banking, people who don’t have any alerts (phone or email) set up for “fee slapping” will miss out on the action and their credit report will start reflecting this fee even before these people know that there was a missed payment. This is also the era of lack of self-control from the end of customer and the era of art of manipulation from the end of the banks. Every bank wants to give you a credit card so that you lose track of your shopping habits and payment deadlines. The sooner and more often this happens, better it is for the bank, as they can start preying on us. A legislation should protect people from being manipulated. Even the constitution should be amended to say that “bankers will not manipulate people”. Manipulative banking is violence.

I have eight credit cards. I am going to bring them down to four by this month end – one Visa, one Master, one Discover and one American Express. I am extremely good at keeping track of payments and even then I miss deadlines once in a year or two as I get busy with other things in life. I am now thinking of what old people, people who are not good with technology endure in this era of predation. Mint.com has been extremely helpful in tracking my expenditures and incomes. I strongly recommend using mint.

I have realized that the best way to cut down on debt is to keep all my cards locked away. I carry one card with me. I use mint and go through my transactions everyday to keep myself aware of my transactions. This has considerably reduced my expenditures.

Is it the distance?

I claim myself to be a considerable, sensitive and rational person. But that claim seems dubious when I realize that I don’t really care as deeply as I should about some of the important issues that are affecting the larger society. I have thought about this contradiction and here is my hypothesis – I think it is my distance from these issues that makes me think about them less deeply. There seems to be a armour of impersonality that chokes the flow of emotions between two creatures.

I don’t fret about large dams.  I am fine with over consumption and unsustainable management of resources. I continue to consume water and electricity harnessed at a far away place without really thinking about any local solutions such as rainwater harvesting or solar power. The reason for my insensitivity could be that I don’t have to personally go and push people away from their villages to submerge their lands. I am emotionally involved in the issue as I have recruited the Government to be my agent! I am not seeing any immediate harm. I have vested my government with all the powers to commit the necessary crime and coercion, induce the misery on my behalf!

I no longer get singled out for the crimes I am committing on nature and hence on the people and animals who are dependent on it. Now there is a system in place, supported by corporate and media, which worships and encourages reckless consumption. The abstractness of “class” makes it difficult to pinpoint the victim. There is strength in numbers. I want others to drive less and consume less. I am upset with everyone else except myself. When I scorn at this ugly world, I forget that I too am part of that world and most of the times that scorn should be directed inwards as I have played an important role in bringing this world to this point!

Only when interactions get personal can I learn to think and feel about the world deeper than I do now. People ask me, why is it that some Indians worship cow and don’t eat it? For the same reason that you don’t treat your dog as food! Admittedly, dog meat may not be as tasty as beef, but it is not a practice for people to kill their dogs! Why? Because dogs are part of the family. They are closer to your heart. Cows have supported families in India by providing them with milk and dung. Milk provided the necessary calories and nutrients in the form of food while dung was a source of fuel.  It is easy for people to be emotional and spiritual when it comes to cows because that is the kind of interaction they have had with cows all these years. The relationship with livestock is not purely economic. Now a days, there is a distance between our life and the consequences of our lifestyle! I no longer have to worry about the cows or any other animals. I have outsourced these interactions and hence in a way has fuelled all the cruelty.

My interaction with nature these days is completely impersonal! Hence I have no real connection with people, animal, trees, insects and other natural beings around us! This lack of connection is hollowing me out making me all shallow and self-centred! I am distant from the activities that are needed to make me feel connected to the world. I don’t grow my own food own – hence rains piss me off! I don’t build things these days! I just buy stuff. Hence there is no attachment to save it or make it work! I have no idea of what goes into resource mining and where all the waste ends up! A world without emotions is purely mechanical, metallic, toxic! Now a days, I wonder how many of us really enjoy the basics of life – food, friendship, and love, when the media is constantly reconditioning us how to live, love, buy, and be unhappy all the time! At the risk of sounding like a hippy, I want so say that world’s problems can be solved only if we re-establish the connection with the natural world! And yes, that does not mean camping in Yellowstone or backpacking in Yosemite!

Amtrak Passenger FAQs

Answers are from my own personal travel as of December 2013

  1. Where should you sit if you are taking California Zephyr?
    The scenery switches a lot between left and right side. Also, what you see depends on whether you are travelling from or to Chicago. I sat towards the Northern side (left side of the train) and enjoyed the scenery a lot. I would say, if you can, sit to your left on first day and to your right on the second day (if you are travelling form Emeryville to Chicago)
  2. How comfortable is coach class on California Zephyr to sleep?
    I found it to be very comfortable. Carry your own blanket and pillow. People around you might snore (I snore, fyi) and hence it helps to carry ear plugs.
  3. Are there electrical outlets in coach class?
    Yes. One per seat. But I carried a multi-socket strip with me as I had multiple devices to charge (laptop and my phone).
  4. Can I sit anywhere inside the coach?
    Yes. There is also an observation dome to better experience panoramic views.
  5. Is there a shower facility inside the train for coach class travellers? No. Carry some shower wipes as an alternative. And yes, deodorants help.
  6. Is there a microwave available for coach class travellers?
    No. Pantry car does have microwave ovens but the panty car people will politely reject your request by stating some FDA regulation related to food safety.
  7. Is there any kind of refrigeration system available for coach class travellers?
    No. But you can get ice to keep your medications.
  8. How many times can I change my reservation if I have a USA rail pass? Rail pass is for coach class. You can change your coach class reservations as many times as you want. But if your upgrades and other reservations might incur a cancellation / change fee.
  9. Will I be charged for ticket changes?
    I changed my tickets a few times and I had a USA rail pass. I was not charged for any of those changes.
  10. Why is it that I don’t see my rail pass booking on Amtrak website? Only bookings made through the website are available for online access. Though you may buy your USA rail pass online, you have to call Amtrak to make your reservations. Hence you will not see your reservation details online.
  11. I lost my booking information email. What should I do?
    Since you cannot retrieve your booking online, you have to call Amtrak and they will resend your email.
  12. Can I carry some personal stash of alcohol?
    Many people did and many people drank alcohol at their seats.
  13. Is there internet access in California Zephyr?
    No. Long distance trains don’t have internet. Only some commuter trains along the eastern corridor have internet.
  14. Why shouldn’t I board at Berkeley?
    Berkeley is a local station. If you are taking long distance trains, boarding at Emeryville or Richmond will save you a stop (changeover in Sacramento) and hence a segment on your pass. Also, since Berkeley is an unmanned station, you cannot check your bags in.
  15. When should I print my tickets? Two days before your journey day. That way you can save on rail pass cancellation charges if you decided to cancel your trip.
  16. What food should I carry?
    YES! The train food served on-board is expensive and is tasteless. If you are a vegetarian, you have even fewer options. During later part of my train journey, I learnt that it is better to pack two meals from places like Chipotle so that you can eat them during your journey. Of course, dry fruits and packaged food will also be very useful.
  17. What are the important things that I should carry when I travel long distance?
    If you are travelling coach class, carry a blanket, ear plugs, eye mask. It can get quite cold during the night.

Across America on Amtrak

I have to attend a research workshop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 16 December. By then, I would be done with my Ph.D. qualifying exam. I have to be in USA till mid-January to get a cheaper ticket to fly back to India. Since I don’t have any family in USA to visit during Christmas, I have decided to visit my friends in north-east and north-west of USA. As I have plenty of time, it is time for me to explore USA through its trains. After some research, I decided that 30 day, 12 segment USA rail pass is the best option for my travelling during the month of December and January. I bought the USA rail pass on October 16 and made reservations.

The exciting part is, I will be saving a ton of carbon, exploring some of the remotest parts of USA, travelling comfortably while it is snowing outside, experiencing the train culture of USA, getting to know what it is to live in the northern parts of this country during winter. It has been more than three years for me in Berkeley. In summer 2011, I travelled across the country in a car with my parents. I was busy and tired driving. Yes, driving in certain parts of this country is a great experience but I have always been a huge fan of travelling by trains and there is nothing like peering through a window into the remoteness and vastness of this country.

I’m looking forward to the journey with excitement and anxiety. I’m travelling coach class. I know that it is not very comfortable to travel for 84 hours from Emeryville to Philadelphia. But the sleeper class will end up to be thrice as expensive. Also, I don’t want to spend a lot of money buying food on the train. I have to figure out how to optimally carry food for four days and if possible, some alcohol, so that I can get some good sleep during the night. I will soon be writing another post which will list all the questions that I had in my mind and the answers I found through different websites and my own personal travel experience. Stay with me!

Train Name Departure Station Arrival Station Duration States (26 States in all)
Emeryville Chicago
California Zephyr Dec 12th 9:10am Dec 14th 2:50pm 51hr 40min CA, NV, UT, CO, NB, IO, IL (7 new)
Chicago Philadelphia
Cardinal / Hoosier State Dec 14th 5:45pm Dec 15th 8:20pm 25hr 35min IL, IN, OH, KY, WV, VA, DC, MD, DL, PA (8 new)
Philadelphia Newark Will be in Philadelphia for 7 days
164 Northeast Regional Dec 21st Dec 21st 1hr 10min PA, NJ (1 new)
Newark Boston Will be in Newark area for 5 days
170 Northeast Regional Dec 27th 7:57 am Dec 27th 12:44pm 4hr 47min NJ, NY, CT, MA (3 new)
Boston Chicago Will be in Boston for 3 days
449 Lake Shore Limited Dec 30th 12:00pm Dec 31st 9:45am 22hr 45min MA, NY, OH, IN, IL (0 new)
Chicago Seattle Will be in Chicago for 3 days
7 Empire Builder Jan 3rd 2:15pm Jan 5th 10:25am 46hr 10min IL, WI, MN, ND, MT, ID, WA (6 new)
Seattle Emeryville Will be in Seattle for 4 days
11 Coast Starlight Jan 9th 9:35am Jan 10th 8:10am 22hr 35min WA, OR, CA (1 new)

Remembering Ajji!

I am reading William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” for last two days. In chapter 24 – Writing family history and memoir, Zinsser talks about the value of documenting family memories. As he says, writers are the custodians of memory. Their responsibility is to hunt those stray memories and bind them to the books with the help of words. The book has made me nostalgic.

Ajji – The master storyteller!

Today I am thinking a lot about my maternal grandmother I lost three years ago. She was the only grandparent who was alive to tell me the enchanting stories from Indian mythology all through the night, place rice morsels in my hands while I sat under the moonlight in the courtyard, give me money to buy those tiny toys and toffee which my parents refused to buy for me!  I don’t remember my grandmother hurting anyone in any way. She radiated warmth and personified tenderness.

In the age of television, the art of storytelling is lost to the blaring media! I was fortunate to have a grandmother who has left me with a part of herself through the stories she conjured for her grandchildren! I know that she is not up there in the skies, residing in the heavens, watching over me because she is right here in my heart, in my memories, and in my name. Yes, her name was Sharada.

If your grandparents are alive, run to them…! Ask them to narrate their struggles, their joys, their hopes! Take pictures of your grandparents, record their voice, if you can. My friends, memories are tricky! Freeze them before they flow out of your lives and vapourize!

I want to sitdown with all my maternal aunts, hear their journey. I want to go back to that house in Tumkur where my mother grew up and see what remains of the place!

It’s a shame!

I always thought I can get by with my Hindi in Nepal.  Nepal, though a small country, is culturally rich and Nepali is very different from Hindi. I can understand few words here and there when people speak Nepali. People do respond to me when the interaction is limited to buying things or asking for directions. People involved with commerce know Hindi more than other people. My interaction is with farmers and septic tank cleaners. They don’t seem to give a damn about Hindi as my interaction is about my research related to water and sanitation. Knowing local language not only helps me with my research, it helps me connect better with local people! I am sure any human being will appreciate the effort one puts into learning a local language! Also, Nepal is a country I will keep visiting my entire life! The country and its people are simply wonderful!

I was listening to David Sedaris’ book “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls” where the author talks about his travel experiences and mentions Pimsleur, Michel Thomas, and Lonely Planet phrasebook. He makes an excellent point – these days we don’t even give a second thought to the fact that English is not an universal language. We expect people to speak English everywhere, which I would like to call it as linguistic oppression! When people of the new country do put in an effort to communicate in a language which we know, we rarely complement them by saying “Your English / Hindi is good”!

It is time for me to start a new venture – Learn Nepali! Yes, after my fugacious affairs with German, French, and Spanish, it is time for me to pick up a bit of Nepali. Nepali script is same as Hindi and Sanskrit i.e. Devnagari. There are many common words shared between Hindi and Nepali. I am hoping that Nepali will not be as difficult to pick up!

Nepal Course book and Kathmandu Map

Learn Nepal and roam around Kathmandu!

I went to Saraswati book Center (north of Pulchowk, west of Krishna Galli) and picked up the above book “Nepali in context, a topical approach to learning Nepali”. Nepal has very good maps. Since it is a country whose economy is very much aided by tourists, the options for maps is numerous! I just decided to start with a pocket map of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. Though there were several options, I decided to go with this “Sadhu smoking Ganja” version! There are many Nepali radio channels to help me hone my language further! The adventure is about to begin! Stay tuned!

This photo is edited!

“This photo is edited!”, “Did you make any changes to the original?”, “The photo should be termed fake since you used Photoshop!”, “I appreciate truth more than illusion”! Yes, my friends sound like philosophers, activists, and art connoisseurs! I want to use this blog post to answer their questions. The answer may not satisfy the people who raise those questions, but this post is an effort to make people aware of my perception of the genre of photography I am into.

I am not a journalist, a reporter, or a documentary photographer though I admire all of them. My interest in photography is, to a large extent, limited to capturing the beauty of the interactions between humans and their surrounding environment. Ideally, I want to be a photographer who captures the dialectic nature of human-environment relationship – the way humans alter their surroundings and how those surroundings respond back to that change. But for now, all I am doing is, having fun with light! I am very new to photography and I am figuring out what type of images drive me! I will not be a great photographer, but my effort put into learning photography will help me appreciate what goes into creating good pictures! (if you want to know the answer, it is money!)

Photography is an art. Just as an artist chooses the type of paper, color, brush, texture, perspective, and the subject, photographers also make decisions on the type of lens, focal length, aperture, shutter speed, composition, light, and subjects. To print a photograph in colour or black and white is also a conscious choice! Photographers have to manipulate different elements of photography, blend the science and art of photography to evoke the emotions they felt when they witnessed the scene! Yes, photographers are selective. They want to show the world what moves them. Since a photograph is usually viewed in the absence of the photographers, it is very essential for the photographers to guide the viewers to the message in the photograph. Many a times, the message may not carry the same intensity that the photographer felt! When the valley is viewed from the mountain top, the sheer energy it takes to climb the mountain adds to the experience. The exhaustion is not easy to factor into the gorgeousness of the photograph!

Part of the novelty comes from introducing a different light, increasing the vibrancy of colours, changing the point of view! Instagram is a success because it introduces elements that make us nostalgic! The deliberate distortion of the reality, if we may call it so, is part of the real deal! Ansel Adams introduced new printing techniques to create better photographs which have not been termed fake or misrepresentation of reality! Light whacking, light leaks, lens flares and tilt shifting are hardware based, with software alternatives, light manipulation setups to create novel photographs. Wide angle lenses, telephoto lenses, macro lenses, fish-eye and almost every lens other than a 50mm prime lens should be discouraged if photography is all about depicting reality! Even then, a camera will not be able to capture the reality, the objective truth we are seeking – the pursuit is so esoteric that a camera, a photograph or the photographer will not be able to complete it!

Almost all of my photographs are post-processed using Lightroom, Photoshop, or Photmatix (only for HDRs), sometimes a combination of these tools. I will continue to use these post-processing tools as they will help me correct the limitations of cameras and also apply my creative thinking, however primitive it could be! Photography, according to me, is quasi-discursive! Just as we choose a set of facts to construct a story that appeals to different people, photographers use a set of tools to construct a reality (yes, we all construct realities that suit us, realities that help us defend our behaviours and personalities!) seen through their lens and mind. Even documentary photographers cannot be objective. What they frame and don’t frame is very subjective, and for many, this choice of framing can be obfuscation of truth!

Part of the inspiration and substance to my understanding and belief in post-processing of photo comes from David DuChemin’s book – “Vision and Voice”. I love the introduction where the author says:

We’ve grown up being fed the lie that the camera never lies. So if “the camera never lies,” is our starting point for objectivity that any manipulation of the negative can only introduce corruption into the process? But that’s the problem, isn’t it? The camera tells any lie we ask of it. Or any truth, for that matter. It’s a tool, no more objective, really, than a microphone. Wielded by Martin Luther King, Jr., it’s a tool of truth and justice; wielded by a corrupt politician, it’s a tool of spin and propaganda. A tool. No more. No less.

The deeper my forays into digital photography, the more I am sure that there are three images that make a final photograph: the one you envision, the one you shoot, and the one you develop.

The complete introduction can be read on Amazon’s website. Click on “Look Inside” icon and scroll down to “Introduction”

Here is a photo my friend took:

Unedited

And here is my post-processed version of the photo:

Edited

Fixing Things

I wonder how many among us nowadays really have the patience to find a place, if at all it exists, to fix a broken zipper in your jacket, to get the backpack restitched, find a new sole for your worn out shoe? When the microwave oven stopped working in my previous house in US, the landlord asked us to chuck it and said that he would buy us a new microwave for the house. Yes, buying a new one is cheaper in USA than getting it repaired. But when industrialization with automation and outsourcing makes it cheaper to import a goods from China cheaper than getting the goods repaired in the same town and helping your neighbour make a living! I am also living in an era where the commodities that I buy don’t carry the real environmental cost – I just pay for the processing cost and the profit. So when I chuck it, I create the need to dispose the stuff and also the need to mine for raw materials needed to make the new stuff. This action has only one consequence:  I help corporates accumulate profit while passing on all the environmental costs to poor people in poor countries.

Fortunately, I currently live in Nepal, a country where people still fix things instead of chucking and buying new ones. Stitches on my backpack had come off – a $30 High Sierra backpack. I went to Mangal Bazaar near Patan Durbar. I kept missing this shop. People had directed me to look for this shop which has a board clearly indicating that it is a bag repair shop. The shop also fixes leather jackets. I enjoyed walking in that narrow alley, getting distracted by beautiful doors and windows. After walking back and forth, I finally found the shop.
The shop was not to the main road, but slightly inside. That’s why I kept missing it. It was a cavern with wooden frame entrance painted in brown. Bags and suitcases were hung outside to give people an idea of what all things are repaired in that shop. A board in Nepali announced that it is a leather jacket spray repairing center. I walked into the shop to find a lady who was getting her purse and black jeans fixed. She haggled down the price from 40NPR to 30NPR giving this look of “are you crazy or what?” in her tone during haggling. The front table had zippers, runners and all sorts of bag related teeny tiny things strewn all over. I gave my bag to the tailor explaining the problem. He in turn handed it over to a guy who appeared to have hairs dyed with henna. In 10 minutes my bag was fixed and that too for $0.3! The tailor earned a living, I saved money, and together we worked conserved a tiny bit of environment for our own good!

 

Why should roads be wide and linear?

If you travel by foot on the streets of any of the old cities of India, say Varanasi or Old Delhi, you might feel claustrophobic because of the narrow roads, with houses standing tall on either side as if they are people watching your every movement. If you look a little further along the road, you might see those houses closing in on you. You might feel flabbergasted and to some extent frustrated by the twists, turns, and abrupt endings of the roads. Roads in these places are not named or  paved, sidewalks, if they exist, end into surprise potholes,  neighbourhoods are not clearly marked, and there is no logic behind the house numbers.

Postal addresses usually consist of the name of the addresses, care of (C/O) some prominent person in the household (who has lived there for such a long time that the postal worker or neighbours can easily recognize the name), house number, name of the house (yes, houses in India usually have names), cross and main (if it exists), a landmark close to the house (mostly in the same lane), a temple, mosque, church or other landmark in the neighbourhood, name of the neighbour hood, Stage / Phase or Block number, name of the city, state, and a PIN. Some addresses may need two envelopes to write them fully 🙂 In few cases, number of words in the “from” and “to” addresses written on the envelope might exceed the words the in letter the envelope is carrying!

Asian cities have survived because of the long-standing co-operation among its people. The human interactions built these cities and now these cities are in turn facilitating those interactions further. The lifestyle is built upon the personal connections between people – the grocer, the milk man, the vegetable vendor, the rickshawwallah, the neighbours… I remember the days when we shared newspapers and magazines, we used our neighbours fridge to make ice-creams, watched Ramayan and other mega tele-serials with everyone on our street on one and the only colour television in the street, learnt to ride a bicycle and motorcycle from our uncles, borrowed bicycles from not so well acquainted people!

I like the way my friend Ayan Ghosh puts it:

I think the reason I love old cities is they have more crosswords. Each crossroad asks questions, makes you stop, take a decision and stick by it. In every lane we discover new things and think what did I miss on the other lanes? I must come back. I must give more time. This is why I have never enjoyed planned cities. They are too linear, too defined. You just walk from one end to the other and you have seen it all. But life is more like an old city than a highway.

In 2008 I travelled around  India for 12,000 miles on a motorcycle without a GPS, just a road atlas. I had to stop at major intersections, talk to people, watch out for diversions. It made me develop a deeper temporal and spatial awareness. In US I travelled with my parents for 9,000 miles without asking for any directions, without speaking to a single human. I never had to bother about the surrounding. Technology disconnected me from my surroundings. Of course, nobody forced me to use the GPS, but sadly there will not be any human soul around to give me directions if I get lost! Today’s technology can easily isolate people if we don’t know how to wield it properly and fall head over heels in the name of individuality. We like the pictures and status updates of our friends instead of having a chat with our family members who are right next to us. The age is of video games and not of the games that teach us to interact with real humans and build sportmanship!

Roads don’t have to be wide if all can walk to our workplace, to our schools, and to the market. Roads don’t have to be linear,if the towns are small enough! Roads don’t have to connect every place on earth if we don’t develop the greed to over consume – everything needs to be big – airports, roads, hospitals, schools, and office spaces, when we lose track of life and indulge in a lifestyle that focuses on money and exotic and extravagant consumption! We have fallen for the definition of development which epitomized – concrete roads. Concrete or asphalt roads don’t have character – one doesn’t see the colour of the earth beneath, smell the soil when it rains, feel how slushy the road gets when it absorbs water, experience the crumbly nature of the road when it dries up! Paved roads, when badly designed, which they usually are, reduce water percolation and thereby deplete groundwater reserves. Wide roads are for a society where a huge SUV is occupied by just one person, linear roads are for people who are not interested in talking to other people in the society, door numbers is for a society where people don’t want to spare time for each other! Wide roads are for people who are in a hurry to reach the workplaces where they don’t want to be, to do the work they don’t like to buy the stuff they don’t need!

Small is beautiful!

A Walk in Kathmandu


EveryTrail – Find trail maps for California and beyond

Motorcycles in Nepal

Automotive industry is not well developed in Nepal. Almost all vehicles are imported. Insurance and hefty road tax add up to the import cost and make owning a vehicle in Nepal very expensive. I am planning on buying a motorcycle in Nepal and here is a small report on my finding.

  • You get almost all the motorcycles that you can buy in India
  • Royal Enfield bikes are in huge demand
  • Motorcycles in Nepal are 2.5 times as expensive as they are in India.
  • You can ride your motorcycle from India to Nepal but have to pay tax to the government daily
  • If you want to buy a motorcycle in Nepal, you need a no objection certificate from your embassy in Nepal
  • You can use Indian licence to ride a motorcycle in Nepal (a motorcycle rental company gave me this information)
  • Because of the bad roads, motorcycles in Nepal need frequent repairing

I am planning on buying a used motorcycle. I tried asking my landlord and my colleagues to see if anyone they knew is selling a motorcycle. When that did not workout well, I tried Hamrobazaar (meaning our market), the craigslist of Nepal. I am not sure how reliable the sellers are, but the site is very popular among Nepali people (and hence reliable?). The site has a good listing of used motorcycles. Also, one can find many dealers of reconditioned motorcycles in Kathmandu. This is not a common sight in India. These dealers usually provide you two weeks of warranty. If anything is wrong with the motorcycle, they will fix it for you. They will also get the paperwork of insurance, transfer of registration (a blue book in you name), and bank loan done for you. Of course, buying from a dealer is more expensive. But you will save a lot of time and hassle as you can check out many motorcycles at once. I am planning on getting either a Bajaj Pulsar 150cc or TVS Apache 160cc.

The value of the motorcycles in Kathmandu is a function of following parameters:

  • Lot number (usually corresponds to a particular year). I believe the current lot number provided by the department of transport is 52.
  • Number of kilometers on the bike – many people get the meter changed – so this is not a reliable parameter anymore
  • Accidents – whether the vehicle was involved in any accidents
  • Overhauling or reboring of the engine – a good mechanic should be able to help you with identifying this.

When you get the motorcycle, check for the following things :

  • Cosmetic damages
  • Brake pad / shoe wear
  • Tire treading
  • Battery – keep the brake light or headlight on for ten minutes and try starting the engine.

It is hard to judge the quality of the engine but the quality of the clutch play, acceleration, and brakes can be judged by riding the vehicle for 10-15 minutes. I came across this page which you may find very useful – http://matadornetwork.com/trips/how-to-travel-nepal-by-motorcycle/

Happy riding! God speed!