The Fiat Abarth Punto – Budget Sports Car?

I was skeptical while I watched my beloved Maruti Ritz drive away. The Fiat Abarth Punto that was to replace my Maruti would arrive within the next two days, thanks to an amazing exchange offer from Fiat CAI, Coimbatore. The Punto Abarth, being the car that it is, is not available at all Fiat outlets.

Moving to flashback mode:

Rewinding to one week back: Hailing from Trichy, Tamilnadu, India, I watched out for the Punto Abarth at Fiat showrooms for three successive months, then visited ashowroom personally, only to be told that it might not arrive in Trichy. The next step? A call to Coimbatore from one of the Fiat representatives in Trichy, helped me to take the next step to book the car from 200 plus kilometers away. For all those who do not know what ‘Abarth’ is, it is the same for Fiat, as ‘AMG’ is, for ‘Mercedes’.  In other words, ‘Abarth’ is the performance division of Fiat. The test drive vehicle soon arrived – it was white, with red stripes, not my favourite combo of colours, but all that took a backseat when I drove it – the result of which, made me finalize my decision to part with my Ritz.

 

Fast – forward to present time: though I continue to harbour fond memories of my smooth Maruti Ritz, the Fiat Abarth Punto has now definitely taken the main rank.

THE EXTERIOR:

In shining black armor, with red stripes, with scorpion logos on the roof, alloy wheels and abarth badges, the car exudes Italian taste and design, which is literally mouth – watering for car enthusiasts who spend a huge chunk of their wallets modifying their cars to look this way, after getting bored of their stock versions.

The alloy wheels sport 195/55 R16 tyres, which may be disappointing for enthusiasts who like wider tyres. Research and feedback from the staff at Fiat reveal safe exchange for 205 section tyres, for the same alloys. So, if you own an Abarth or a plain Punto, you now know what is safe for these alloys to work. What may spoil the ‘race – car – appeal’ is the massive gap in the wheel arches. Though the ride height has been dropped by a huge 30mm to 155mm its’ a real shame because there’s still too much blank space above the tyres. Its’ better in a way though, because reducing it further would make the underbody vulnerable on Indian roads.

The lights on the bumpers, with surrounding red stripes look elegant and pronounces the presence of the already sporty car. The exhaust pipe, sticks out a little bit, and may be a negative for some, though I really don’t care much for it.

Brands such as Fiat, Ford and Volkswagen celebrate the solidity of their cars, and the Abarth Punto lives up to the reputation. After being used to Marutis, the doors feel as heavy as a battle tank’s. The reassuring thud on closing the doors, and the warning when not closing them properly, further ensure you have a safe drive.

 

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THE ENGINE:

The  4 cylinder, twin-cam 1.4-litre engine has a turbo mashed into it to elevate… the ummm… glamour. With a peak power of 145 PS and 212Nm of peak torque, it is definitely engines like these that shows us what the ‘Fiat’ legacy is truly capable of producing.

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THE INTERIORS:

The inside of the beast, is very much that of the humble 90 bhp Punto Evo, except for a few tweaks. The clocks in yellow, lightweight racing pedals, the Abarth logo on the steering wheel are good additions. It would have been awesome to have slightly sportier seats with a more prominent stitch and an embroidered Abarth logo to make this cabin look complete. You get similar creature comfort levels as the Punto Evo. You get air bags for both driver and for those riding shotgun.

The stereo system from Fiat is pretty good, with Bluetooth and USB functionality. Reverse parking sensors are available from Fiat, and can be installed safely. But if you are looking for rear – view cameras and electronically adjustable wing mirrors, you are out of luck.

The seating is a bit awkward, with a steering that doesn’t adjust for reach, and shifting the seat forward to get better accessibility to the pedals, may end up getting the steering in your face. It takes a few days to get the seating position in an ideal manner for long – term comfort, which may be irksome for few.

The dash is pretty cool, with regular info on distance covered, average fuel consumed per 100 kmph, etc. Steering has audio controls and features for Bluetooth connectivity to attend phone calls via the car’s audio system.

The rear seats are decent with adequate leg room, but could have done superbly with airbags.

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The boot sports a capacity of 280 L, which is higher than the Maruti Ritz’s capacity of 236 L and the Maruti Swift’s hilarious 204 L. This car also comes with foldable rear seats to accommodate more luggage, just as with the Marutis.

Maruti, Honda and Hyundai users may be disappointed with the lesser no. of cubbyholes and practical utilities in the cockpit. But then, bear in mind, if you are thinking of buying this car, you have to get rid of the ‘practical mindset’. This car is purely for the enthusiast, and not for people who like driving fancy cars with gadgets at a budget rate.

THE DRIVE:

But forget all that. We all know why you are reading this article. How does the beast ride? How does it fare on the road? Does it perform like a budget sports car, or just like a fast peppy car that ‘economical’ brands build?

The key, offers facilities for central locking, unlocking and also for opening the boot. For someone who had a humble Ritz, the key looks pretty stylish to me, especially with the cute Abarth logo on it.

I start the engine, and am surprised, though not totally disappointed with the refined note, rather than the expected roar from a 145 bhp beast. Most racers would complain sorely about this, but I personally prefer riding in a car that will surprise others with its performance, rather than the noise from the engine. You know the proverb – “Empty vessels, make more..” – you get the drift.

The transmission, is thankfully manual, and responds well, but feels a bit rubbery with longer throws, to which one can get adapted with time.

The car moves forward pretty quickly in first gear, and for those who are used to slower hatchbacks, this may be a disadvantage when driving in traffic. Exercise caution – keep your foot readily hovering near the brake pedal. Slot the car into second gear, and you can sense mild turbo lag up to 1800 rpm, after which it rockets forward, putting all other hatchbacks within the 10 lakh range to shame.

Though Fiat claims an 8.8 second climb to 100 kmph from 0, my drives so far have best produced a decent 9.45 second ascent, to the peak, which is the best among all the budget hatchbacks at present. The Apollo Alnac tyres hold surprisingly well, with front wheels scrabbling to put all the power and torque down. If you are going to be drag racing, do not be overwhelmed when you hear the tyres screeching for grip, when you take off from a standstill on the runway!

The short, lower gears offer no let – up in power, thanks to the well spinning turbo. The 6,500rpm rev limit comes up in no time and each upshift placed correctly, takes you to powerband nirvana. The car easily touches 170 kmph on highways with relatively less traffic.

The steering is nothing short of amazing. From the moment you grip the wheel, you know you are in safe hands – as long as you keep your presence of mind, and concentrate on driving! The absence of traction control, puts the car entirely at the driver’s hands – this is not at all worrying, since the car grips the road well, and takes each turn with grace and precision, without giving any feel of insecurity. Though there is a bit of under – steer due to the massive amount of torque, this can be avoided by braking early, lowering the power while approaching the turn, then accelerating through it, while gripping the corner. Following the above tip, will give you excellent results, especially in winding ghat roads.

The brakes are absolutely smashing, and even bring the car to  a safe standstill from speeds as high as 140 kmph.

MILEAGE: If you are thinking of buying any hot hatch, you should probably ignore this factor. BUT, the Abarth performs surprisingly well, delivering as much as 11 to 13 kmpL. This is possible, because the car can potter around at 40 kmph even in fourth gear, and shifting to fifth gear for extended 50 kmph drives gives even better results.

PRICING & SPECS:

The car costs RS. 10 lakhs plus, on road and is available only as a singular model with petrol version.

Engine

Fuel Petrol
Installation Front, transverse
Type 4-cyl, in-line, 1368cc DOHC turbo-petrol
Power 143bhp at 5500 rpm
Torque 21.57kgm at 2000-4000rpm

Transmission

Type Front wheel-drive
Gearbox 5-speed manual

Dimensions

Length 3989 mm
Width 1687 mm
Height 1505 mm
Wheel base 2510 mm
Ground clearance 155 mm

Chassis & Body

Construction Four door hatchback, monocoque
Wheels 16-inch alloy
Tyres 195/55 R16

Suspension

Front Independent, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Rear torsion beam, stabilizer bar

Brakes

Front Disc
Rear Disc
Anti-lock Yes

CONCLUSION: This car is definitely a sportscar, well within the budget range. Those who say that its’ too expensive for a hatchback, probably have not driven it.

WHO IS THIS CAR FOR?

  • THE DRIVING ENTHUSIAST
  • Those who want to compete with the likes of BMWs and Audis, but are cut off by a budget of 20 lakhs
  • Those who earn enough money to pay for petrol three or four times a month, without needing to own a fuel bunk.
  • Those who are interested more in driving than additional car gadgets and accessories.
  • Those who look for adrenaline rather than practicality.
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Quest Leh & Ladakh – Days 4 & 5 – MARATHON TIME – The Grand Finale

Day 4 came, and with, intense laziness at 5 AM,. I sat down, and contemplated my condition. I had gained 8 kg after my iliacus muscle tear, I was to run in an area which was 15000 feet above sea level, and to make things adventurous I was already a known patient of allergic bronchitis. I knew I had a capsule of acetazolamide last night, but I just took another in the morning for extra measure, reminding myself that I had to stay hydrated, or the medication would definitely cause severe cramps. I packed my steroid tablets as preventive measure against cerebral involvement in mountain sickness praying that I would not need to use them. My asthma puff was a life – saver, and I kept it in my pocket immediately.

We got ready, then headed down to the car by 545 AM, to take us to the starting point of the marathon. Unfortunately, they started turning away cars half way through, and I sent Sanju back with the car, while I walked in my tshirt, shorts and thermal wear, complete with beanie and marathon bib (which I had gotten at the end of day two from Rimo Travels, who were the organizers of the event).

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The chill was not as bad as I expected, and I walked briskly to the start point. Here was a grueling one hour wait, during which I was forced to kneel down after decades by the military who did this as a measure of preventing people from pushing forward to initiate the start of the marathon! When I guessed this was going to happen a second time, I slipped out of the crowd and headed back to a peaceful area, till the marathon started.

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The chill was penetrating to the bone, but with some brisk warm – ups and dynamic stretches, I trained my body to get used to the jarring cold. Soon the race started, and everyone were on their way.

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The first notable scene we passed was this:

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By this time four km were up, and things were actually looking easy. No sooner had I thought this, than I experienced a tugging feeling in my ankle. The extra ‘diamox’ had prevented me from getting sick, but was interfering with my muscles! Realizing I had better be careful, I hydrated myself well with gatorade at the refreshment point (this was one of them, and there were one for every three km)

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After crossing six km, I started using my inhaler for periodic puffs, and by 8 km, I had slowed down from 8kmph to a speed of 7 kmph. After I crossed the ten km mark, I stopped feeling ashamed of myself and settled for a brisk walk of 6 kmph, still managing to cross a few people and kids who had stopped running and were panting with their hands on their knees. Here were a few wonderful sights I crossed

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The last 7 km were perhaps the most grueling I had ever experienced in my life – it was a steep uphill road, and almost all the participants had resorted to walking. I realized if I kept this up, I had every chance of collapsing, even though I didn’t feel like it right then. I hailed the ever present ambulance, and used the oxygen mask twice, taking time to recuperate before beginning to walk again (Thank God for giving me this knowledge as a doctor, instead of blindly plunging on ahead like the others). Sanju, by this time, was at the finish line waiting for me and had taken the following awesome pictures:

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I managed to keep up the pace, and pushed my calves, practically pumping my rubbery legs to move forward at the last fifty meters. The result was a rather feeble jog and I ended up finishing in 3 hours and 22 minutes, which was almost half the time extra compared to my previous half marathons which I had completed before my muscle tear. I settled for the accomplishment of completing this event at the world’s highest rooftop (Leh). The award distribution function had its own perks, but after such a nerve and muscle wracking race, all I could think of was rest, rest and more rest. I took some more oxygen from the resting area, then Sanju & I took a ride back to our hotel, courtesy of Sonam. We slept after a meal from the restaurant, then took a walk, following which we rejoiced in our room after collecting the participation certificate and the medal from Rimo Travels.

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The event was finally over! I sipped on my tea, thinking of our last day at Leh the next day. Our dinner was awesome as usual before hitting the sheets.

Day FIVE:
We used this day to relax before starting our hard journey back. We used the morning to take a walk to town, where I bought an awesome soldier outfit, and a few more souvenirs from Tibetan refugee markets before having lunch.

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Deciding to try something different, we had lunch at a German bakery with restaurant attached right next to our Hotel Omasila. The soup was out of this world, but the steak was rather rubbery. All – in – all, it was a good experience, and we returned happily to our hotel.

And as always, all good things have to come to an end. With sad feelings, but happy memories, we started back to Delhi on day six. After a four hour wait, we got our flight to Bangalore, where our taxi was waiting. Salem invited us with open arms, and we embraced it, with so many wonderful memories of a beautiful, exciting, tiring, but also a mentally relaxing trip.

Quest Leh & Ladakh – Phase THREE (Lake Pangong – An Adventure on the Ice)

It was day three – the alarm from my mobile rang shrilly, reminding us it was five thirty AM. After hurriedly preparing ourselves for our start at six AM, we hurried downstairs to find Sonam, our driver, already waiting for us. We were off to a good start by six fifteen AM. He stopped by the government hospital, and we saw a familiar sign related to ophthalmology that seemed to follow us wherever we went for the past seven years!

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A few more kilometers outside town we came across the Dalai Lama’s teaching grounds

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We then crossed an area running parallel to the Indus, and though freezing in the wee hours of morning, I took the pain to endure the chill winds and rushed to take some pictures.

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We crossed a monastery and a few villages before we decided to have breakfast somewhere near where we started our steep ascent.

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Following breakfast, we entered the area of B.R.O (Border Roads Organisation) , and I really enjoyed posing for this one.

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We crossed a checkpost, then headed toward a rather steep ascent. An hour later, it started to rain, and a little while down the lane of time, there was an alteration in the sound of the rain hitting the windshield, I squinted, and sure enough noticed something that looked like thermocol (polystyrene) bouncing off it. I looked back at Sanju who had never seen snow before and she was smiling. The sides of the roads started to get progressively whiter, and I realized we were at the ice caps which we had seen from the bottom and from the aeroplane. We got out, acclimatizing to the sudden increase in altitude, and had some fun.

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Soon, a victim of a full bladder, I got down at the world’s third highest pass, into shin – deep – snow to use the loo, Temperatures were well below zero now, and it was a miracle I didn’t freeze in the toilet like the way they expressively freeze fluids in animations like “Tom & Jerry”. It was too snowy to take any pictures at the Changla Pass, and hence decided to do that on the way back. So onward we went, crossing wildlife like yaks and wild sheep. To our relief, we started descending, and snow was replaced by beautiful colored vegetation and rocks with streams.

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Funnily enough, we had an otter – crossing soon, and we saw the guy sitting there stylishly waiting for his picture to be taken.

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The landscape of mountains admixed with greenery and rocks took my breath away, and there was just so much to see in that world of stillness and beauty – lines that even the best poet cannot frame, nor even the best writer pen.

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The last picture above was the prelude to a sharp turn, which brought us into view of the crystal blue waters of the magical lake of Pangong, 40 % of which was in India, the remaining 60% being in China. The whole place, being just two villages away from the Indo – China border made it all the more exciting, and the army base there exuded altruistic patriotism, with the Indian colors on the flag waving mightily

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The lake itself was such an awesome sight for sore eyes, and a change from the continuous scenery of brown, green and white. It was so unfortunate that entry to the lake side was prohibited.

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Sonam was courteous enough to take a picture of me and Sanju

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before taking us to the place quite famous in that area nicknamed as the “Three Idiots Shooting Spot” wherein the climax of that film supposedly occurred. This involved visiting the lake at a certain point where it wasn’t prohibited. Sonam took a few sharp turns, ran over some potholes and bumps with ease through the sands leading to the lake, creating his own path, taking us there with skill and precision. There was already a car there, ahead of us (A ‘Nike’ symbol was emblazoned on it) and I realized they were trying to shoot a sports commercial. I whistled to myself – wow, what a location! And, there it was, a beautiful strip of sand running into the crystal – blue waters, surrounded by mountains and blue sky. I got out, completely forgetting the degree of chill caused by the massive body of water. A blast of wind hit my face, and I was reminded of the -30 C cold I had faced in Canada. Though not as worse, it wasn’t possible to roam out here, even in the warmest of clothes. I shoved my hands in my pockets and looked at Sanju, but she had frozen and was shaking. We took a few pictures, walked briskly in a desperate effort to keep us warm, then returned to the car.

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I was a little irritated that we couldn’t spend anymore time in probably the most beautiful place I had ever seen in this world, because of the cold that was haunting both of us. Grinding our teeth, we raised the car windows, and the temperature magically shot back to normal. Sonam took us to a restaurant (most of the small ones in that area were renamed after the ‘Three Idiots’ movie), where we enjoyed a hot bowl of soup and some roti.

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I couldn’t take my eyes off this beautiful location, and took a few more pictures before we were off, back home.

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On the way back, as expected due to horribly rough roads we suffered a puncture, but for an experienced driver like ours, it was ‘no problemo’.

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In just ten minutes, he had the tyre replaced, and we were on our way. We passed a few beautiful sights,

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and were also relieved to see workers from the Border Roads Organisation dedicatedly removing snow and boulders from the narrow roads. We were soon at Chang La Pass, (the world’s 3rd highest) where we didn’t take pictures previously due to heavy snow. This was an apt opportunity for me, and so, Sonam was ready with my camera, and I gave a few memorable poses.

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We raced back to the car, and were soon rushing home at top speed, Sonam driving with ease. We were soon back at Hotel Omasila, the return journey being half an hour earlier than the previous one. Thanking him, we headed back in, for tea, dinner, and some good old rest, before the day of the marathon (the next day). I had asked Sonam to take us to the Shanti Stupa again at six AM, for which I needed a good rest. I closed my eyes, taking in all the sights I had seen that day, and found there were just too many to count. I continued to sleep with a smile on my face. Day THREE complete. Day FOUR – Marathon time!

Quest Leh & Ladakh – Phase TWO (Local sightseeing – Blending In)

Day Two started with a lazy breakfast, complimented by hot tea with spices at our restaurant in Hotel Omasila

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It was a thoroughly splendid morning or so we thought, until our driver Mr. Sonam took us to Shanti Stupa, which was about 300 meters higher from our present altitude above sea level. He fortunately remembered his gracious offer for our sim card, and we got the same for contacting him during emergencies. The sun shone strong, but the chill winds however paid no respect to it. The magnificence of the stupa surrounded by the stillness created an awesome aura.

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We paused for a minute at the worship room, before making our way slowly upward.

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We were feeling slightly more acclimatized compared to the previous day, but we decided to take no chances, and so, there we were, making our way in baby – like steps up a steep slope, toward the top – though this didn’t stop us from taking our share of poses.

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These are more photos around the dome of the monastery, including a sign about Leh Palace and its location, relative to Shanti Stupa.

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sanchi stupa

Our next stop was Phyang Gompa, a monastery 10 km from town. The road was narrow and adventurous. Temperature remained cold, and we were greeted by a beautiful mix of white and red, when we arrived at the scene.

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Since this was slightly higher than the stupa we visited previously, we again took a little time to catch our breaths before climbing even higher to appreciate the view. Unfortunately, and to our dismay, none of the monks were present since they had all gone to town to offer prayers for those affected by the floods at Jammu.

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Though I could have sat at this isolated place for hours just drowning myself in its serenity, I decided to move, and we headed back toward the car, and then to our next destination: Leh Palace.

On hearing the name, we were excited, expecting to see grand architecture and posh furnishing, but instead were greeted by a sight very much like Phyang Gompa which we had seen before, but on a far huger level. There were a few displays of art & pottery – again, though not on a magnificent level, I still liked, for their simplicity, mirroring the life of the royal people who had once lived there.

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The building had TEN STORIES, and most of the people who came stopped by the seventh level. The ‘Royal Apartment’ was also nothing else other than another shabby room devoid of furniture, but on the ninth level (the ascent was done by wooden steps up to the eighth level, then by a ladder, to the ninth.)

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I kept climbing up till the ninth, till I found that a proper passage had not yet been constructed to take me to the tenth level (Dang)

The local tour would not be complete without a visit to the marketplace (and also using the ATM!), and so, away we went. The market was neither too big nor too small, and for a person who doesn’t prefer too much shopping such as myself, it was indeed a freaking delight.

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After this much roaming around, we rushed back to the Hotel for the usual tea and dinner routine. We had booked our driver for the next two days, one day for the journey to Lake Pangong, and the other for the local marathon. Lake Pangong, being closer to the Indo – China border required a minimum of five hours travel. I figured this tough journey to extreme heights will help me to get acclimatized fully for the marathon – and indeed, what a journey THAT was! Onward to PHASE THREE!

Quest Leh & Ladakh – Phase one

I checked and rechecked our med box, after ensuring we had taken our acetazolamide tablets from the previous day to counteract acute mountain sickness. Sanju and I had consumed one of the capsules each starting a day before the big trip, according to established research, to prevent possible catastrophies. The journey to Bangalore from Salem went pretty well, thanks to a taxi arranged via a friend (Prabu Sankar). The only issue was a huge journey from within town, to the Bangalore International Airport (2 hours in itself!) Once there, Sanju and I appreciated the awesome airport which had its own tale of neatness and beauty to tell, complete with gardens and great interiors. We settled ourselves with some iced coffee and later, lunch from Coffee Day.

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After a four hour wait, we shifted toward security checking and our departure gate. The plane was waiting, engines humming as we boarded the craft, which took us to Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi. I yawned and groaned inwardly thinking of the six hour wait there before our next flight to Leh. We shifted from the arrival section toward the departure terminal in Delhi, where I was shocked to see there wasn’t even any space to sit (only around twenty chairs all of which were full) before the security checks (which was to be done only four hours later). We resorted to sitting on one of the decorative stone slabs, dangled our feet and fiddled with our mobiles, taking turns to sleep while watching over the luggage. Finally the time came to drop in our cabin luggage, following which we crossed security and headed for the larger waiting area. I felt the capsule slide its way down my throat, my mind racing over various aspects of the mega trip. We were shocked to see the airport was in renovation, and we could hardly get any sleep over the whining noise of carpentry. Food court was closed (I don’t know what could have been worse) and we had to rely on two small shops for our beverages and snacks.

Six thirty AM arrived (the flight was delayed by an hour) and we were finally en route to Leh. As we neared our destination, boring landscape paved way to beautiful snow capped mountains, serving as a great sight for amateur photographers such as myself.

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As our plane taxied to a stop, we were announced that the temperature was a pleasant 16 degrees C, but it definitely felt colder as cold winds howled around us, and I was thankful for our beanies (aka monkey – caps) and warm jackets/clothing we had taken precautions to wear. The airport was simple, but slightly bigger than I had imagined, though seeing only one belt for receiving luggage made me smile. We found our bags easily enough, and the first thing we did following that was to place a call home. Our mobiles were unfortunately not working, and we called from the airport’s telephone, which the kind lady – in – charge, gave us free of charge. This photo shows (more – or – less) where Leh is situated:

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From here, we managed to find a super – friendly – taxi – driver ‘Sonam’, who took us to our hotel (Omasila) for the standard Rs. 250 – charge. He was quite fluent with English and informed us that only networks “cell one” “airtel” and “aircel” with prepaid connections worked there. He dropped us off at our Hotel (of which I was expecting the worst after seeing a rather dilapidated entrance)

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(view of entrance from inside the hotel grounds)

The sight that greeted us was simple, but awesome however once we entered the threshold!

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Mr. Sonam (our driver) departed after excitedly informing that he would take us for local sightseeing even saying that he would offer his own extra sim card for our personal use during our stay starting tomorrow. We settled down for coffee while our room was readied, and I was impressed with the garden, and the hospitable staff, which gave a feel of family, unlike other commercial places.

Our room was splendid, and we made ourselves at home. The view overlooking the garden and in – general was awesome, and we couldn’t have been happier.

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We settled for an early lunch at the restaurant, and experienced some of the best greens I have ever tasted in my entire life, including some other good stuff.

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We followed the advice we had read online, and resorted to less food, lots of water and lots of rest. A three hour afternoon siesta did a whole lot of good! Tea was awesome, which we had on the portico which we could see from our room.

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Tea session was followed by more rest in our room (so far, we had absolutely no trouble with accomodating to low oxygen levels except while climbing the staircase) Dinner time came, when we donned our warm clothing and made a dash for the restaurant which was separated from the hotel reception by five yards. We faithfully took our ‘Diamox’ tablets (aka acetazolamide) after dinner and headed to bed.

I smiled as I watched our favourite series on Star World – “Blacklist”. OH and by the way – Reaching Leh? – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Just Another Day in the Life of an Ophthalmologist

I woke up, scratched my head, squinted at the shrieking mobile phone – alarm, hurriedly tapped it off and scrambled to get those few precious minutes of extra sleep. Once I was fully awake I decided to freshen myself up and grab some grub, which my better half had fortunately prepared as always. I rushed to the door, said goodbye and ran downstairs instead of waiting for the aged elevator. The Ritz responded to my touch and started up smoothly.

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At seven AM, there I was, entering Aravind Eye Care, Salem. It was “theatre day” and me, Dr. Vinayak and our chief, Dr. Manohar were to take the reins on said day to handle all patients to be operated. We were soon inside the ‘OR’ and patients started arriving, were prepped and placed on respective beds to be operated on. Most of the cases given me were administered topical anesthesia (using only drops to prevent pain during surgery). This gave the patient freedom of movement, which would become a hinderance at times. One such horrendously uncooperative patient ended up at my slot, and decided to roll his eyes around just when I was starting my capsulorrhexis (an opening in the lens bag to remove the cataract). With a rapidly rising heart rate (that was mine and not the patient’s) I completed the case in twenty minutes all the while enduring his ocular excursions, then took a deep breath. Following this came another curious specimen who felt the irresistible urge to empty his bladder one minute after I had started operating on him. I considered the risks of leaving his eye partially open with just a sterile pad and bandage so he could go to the toilet and back, and weighed it against the horrible prospect of endangering the sterility of the ‘OR’ in case he decided to relieve himself right there. I decided I’d take the risk and in three minutes, the cataract was out, the artificial lens slid into the lens bag, followed by eye washing and filling with saline, before declaring the case complete. It wasn’t until then that I realized eighty year old males were capable of leaping with such energy from the bed onto a wheelchair to be wheeled away to the toilet. All – in – all, my ‘OR’ turn was a success with a total of fifteen cases. I breathed a sigh of relief.

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After enriching myself with a small tea – break, I made my way to the Out – Patient Department (OPD), where a considerable number of cases had been piling up in spite of a few doctors who were already there. It was 10:30 AM and I proceeded to examine a few patients who had been waiting for me. Among them was a toothless granny whom I had seen just a week ago and who had been perfectly normal. On further questioning, she revealed she had just come for ‘summa’ checkup (which meant ‘bugger its just like that – you had better give me some eyedrops’). I sighed and gave her some tear substitutes after assuring that all was indeed well with her.

It was soon lunch time, and I drove home. Ninety minutes later, I walked again into the hospital, this time heading toward the septic section of the ‘OR’ to operate on a few lacrimal surgeries, which I had allotted on that particular day. The first case was uneventful and at the end of the surgery, I smiled as the lacrimal duct patency tested was intact and saline injected in the patient’s tear duct near the eye, reached her throat after flowing through its usual passage – the block had been removed! The second case however, posed certain problems and I sighed as I saw a considerable pooling of blood emerging from the lacrimal (tear) sac area. I placed a sterile pad over the bleed, and compressed the area for a minute, then peeked in to see if the flow had stopped. It’s reduction encouraged me, and I proceeded to punch off a few bits of bone from the nasal side, to expose the nasal mucosa/tissue. The bleeding started again, in all its fury. I hastily used suction from the vacuum apparatus, and alternated it with compression, all the while making flaps from the lacrimal sac and the nasal mucosa, in an attempt to suture them together, thus forming a connection for the tears to drain through. I made two flaps for each, sutured the superficial ones, and removed the inferior flaps, with some difficulty (the bleed, unfortunately had a life of its own.) I checked the lacrimal patency with some mild apprehension, and heaved a sigh of relief when the patient said he could feel the saline in his throat following injection through the tear duct. So that was that! By the time I emerged from the septic ‘OR’ it was tea – time, and I grabbed some tea before heading down again to the ‘OPD’.

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After examining and treating twenty other cases, I left at 6 PM, headed back home, picked up my better half, and raced to the gym, the Ritz showing off its spectacular manouevers as weaved in and out through traffic. The treadmill loomed like a giant monster, and I approached it wondering if I had any strength left in me to go through this. I started walking, until the endorphins kicked in and then started running at 12 kmph, which I maintained for an hour. Warming down to 10 kmph, then further tapering to 8 and then to 6 kmph, I finally got off the treadmill in 75 minutes, with a satisfactory smile. 14 km covered, and 1000 calories burnt – not bad at all. I felt slightly dizzy, then replenished myself with water, relaxed and stretched myself out, before I drove us both home.

Dinner was nothing short of great, a meal to complete the day, over a few great TV series such as ‘Boston Legal’ , ‘Two & a Half Men’ and ‘The Killing’ on Star World. I went through my events of the day – yes I was dead – tired. But was I unhappy? I guess I couldn’t say that even the least. That’s my life right there, and I love it – rest, eat, operate & work, work – out, eat again, and sleep. Oh boy, life can never be better.