Driven by IMAGE DRIVERS (India)

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The Jeep Life!

Lex Talionis!
Lex Talionis! – A long term update on the Mahindra Thar!

We’ve spent an adventurous four years with this mean and mod-friendly machine! So before we let you through to our original story on the Thar, here’s a quick look at the major modifications on our daily driver!

Mahindra Customisation: Snorkel, Midnight Edition Front and Rear Bumpers: Inspire confidence while fording and enhance maneuverability / aesthetics.

Bimbra 4×4: Heavy Duty Rock Sliders, Fiber reinforced Hard Top (V2), Aluminum Roof Rails: Protection from rocks underneath and the Hard Top takes cabin comfort and security to the next level.

Hella: Front Auxiliary Halogen Lamps (Comet 500 Black Magic): Used as DRLs and driving aid.

Onella: Rear Auxiliary LED Lamps: Rear driving aid and campsite illumination.

Aurora LED: Front LED Bar (Off-Road): Off-road path-finding.

Cooper Tires: Discoverer STT Pro 31″ Mud Terrain Tires on 15″ Steel Wheels: Improved off-road capability, increased stability on road, the trade off – an audible ‘humm’ while at speed, reduced top end. 

Mopar: Wrangler Hood Latches: Aesthetics primarily, eliminates squeaky noises made by stock metal bonnet Latches.

DampMat: Thermo-Acoustic Insulation: Reduced cabin noise and heat by 50%. Improved life inside cabin (and air-con efficiency) immensely.

ARMORO:  Custom Spare Wheel Cover: Adds attitude and improves overall aesthetics, protects spare rubber from elements.

Lex Talionis!
Built not Bought!

Each modification/add-on mentioned above has been made after careful research and due scrutiny of each available option in the category. The custom accessories market in India is steadily growing and so are the options that are natively available for enthusiasts to use on their individual rigs.

We at TheNirvanaTeam & theroadtonirvana.com have also grown with the industry as end-users and as creators who use these products to our advantage while on the job.

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Now, back to our original story on the Mahindra Thar!

The Jeep Life!

The Jeep Life!

Those who follow our work will know we did a quick review of the Mahindra Thar some time ago. The Thar is an SUV which carries the tag of a Jeep in India. People who drive these brutes are often from a different school of thought altogether. These men and women, like most, value comfort, style, ease of handling and most of all practicality. With all these in the bag though, there is still something missing. The chase for this missing element is what makes people buy a Jeep.

A jeep is not practical, it isn’t comfortable, the handling on these machines is appalling and as for styling – it hasn’t changed for the last 7 decades. So then, what is it? What makes one buy a Jeep? Nirvana set out to unravel this mystery in the best way there is!

Trailblazing Thar!

Why Jeep?

We cleared our schedule, packed up as much stuff as we could, stuffed it into a Mahindra Thar and then drove off in tandem with the rising Sun. For the first few kilometers, we battled the blistering cold as the Thar warmed up. The cabin heater takes its own time to wake up and the canvas-ish soft top roof was not helping things either. Eventually though we did find some semblance of temperature inside the cabin. The drive had now begun. We were now officially giving chase to the element, that one thing which makes one go out and buy a jeep.

Barreling through the cold morning winds, we’d defog the windscreen manually (with a cloth) every few minutes. Irritating at first, it is something a Jeeper gets used to very quickly. Much like the bumpy ride one has to deal with even on smooth highway roads. The rear end of the Thar sits on an antique leaf spring suspension setup making it jump over every little lump of tar on the Indian road. Safe to say, the ride is not something to write home about. Even with the fully independent pot hole eating front suspension, there is only so much this Jeep can offer.

Highway Crusin'!

 Highway Crusin’ – Indside Story!

The 2.5 Litre turbo-diesel does tend to impress when given the beans on the highway. Sluggish at first but given time, the Thar holds its own on the highway. For what is essentially a box on wheels, the Mahindra Thar is a gem on smooth straight roads. On mountain roads however, curve after curve, one has to calibrate to the comfort zone of this Jeep. The driver learns to read the road for potential bumps and it’s his/her skill which decides how smooth or unnerving the ride will be.

Barring a rudimentary seat-belt, there is nothing between the passenger/pedestrian and certain loss of limb. Oh, maybe the less than adequate brakes might soften the nudge a little. And then there is the price tag; eight and a half lakhs on the road (Pune). Phew! So where does all that money go? Clearly the interiors (or the lack of them) is not something which eats up the budget.

Jeep It!

Getting dirty!

As we found out, the Borg&Warner 4×4 transfer case mated to the 2.5 turbo is where the money’s at. It is the off-road capability of this Jeep that costs. Off-road loyalists in India will probably want to discount the Thar’s ability when things get a little too technical (Compared to a traditional solid-axle). Not to say this jeep is bad when taken off the road. We found the stock Thar to be adequately endowed for someone looking to break into the world of Indian jeeping. Having said that, we were still miles away from discovering the magic element (and our destination!).

Trailblazing Thar!

I can go anywhere!

We had driven a few hundred kilometers by now. Over highways and in the curves, we’d found our rhythm with the Thar; then something funny happened.

As we got used to the Thar’s antics, she took on an almost endearing personality. Like a human being, even with all its limitations, the Thar kept moving. Eating miles and sipping diesel, she got us to our destination – Our holy grail – Hedvi.

Holy grail – Hedvi!

Despite all the niggles, we had fallen for the Mahindra Thar! Every time we looked, we couldn’t take our eyes off it! On a beach, out trailblazing in the wilderness or even on the city street, the Thar cuts a very crisp figure. And gosh is it attractive! Driving down the streets, everyone from young boys and girls to middle aged couples and even a few Army and Police personnel will give you the thumbs up.

The Thar almost always becomes the conversation piece because truth is, the Jeep (as a concept) has seen it all. Over the past century, in all corners of the world and in every walk of life this vehicle in all its forms has proven its mettle beyond doubt. Starting from the military, through utility and going all the way till recreation, the Jeep can do everything.

Trailblazing Thar!
Trailblazing!

The compromise in comfort and luxury, we feel, is fair in return for the capabilities and downright uniqueness. Safety on the other hand is something Mahindra & Mahindra still need to work on for the Thar.

Finally though we’d cracked it; we now knew why one buys a jeep. Read on.

Travel till land’s end!

Romance is rare, charm is even rarer and class, well that’s almost extinct. There is a reason why a charming, secure and confident man makes any woman swoon. The reason is romance. Any man who is secure in himself and confident about his abilities probably knows how to woo a woman. He could walk onto her turf with his charm and the only thing a lady will do is welcome him. No matter how uncomfortable it is to be together, no matter how unpractical the love is and regardless of the cost, if the romance is alive – the love will flourish.

And that is it ladies and gentlemen. The romance of a lifestyle is what attracts enthusiasts to jeeps like bees to honey. It’s the romance of doing things differently, standing unaffected by the way the ‘herd’ looks at living and going where few bother to look which sets true blue Jeepers apart. Living with a Jeep is not for those corrupted by comfort!

Trailblazing Thar!

The virile lifestyle!

Comfort zones become a thing of the past with a jeep. A well kitted out vehicle and with a strong skill set on tap, anyone can become an explorer. In fact, we love the romance of Jeeping so much, we’ve bought one! The vehicle you see in the pictures is a bone stock* Mahindra Thar from our very own Nirvana stable!

Expect a lot more travel and Jeeping stories hereon out! Also, in our bid to encourage motoring conversations further, we’d like you to comment below and tell us what you think. We’d love to know how our readers satisfy their cravings for the road! Cheers!

For more Jeeping photography click on The Jeep Life!



Gir and Gujarat

Early this year, we hightailed it through the Indian state of Gujarat in a car. A 2500 kilometre long journey packed into a tight 4 days. They say the best journeys are the ones that are planned the least. This mad drive into Gujarat was exactly that. One crappy car and four drivers can do a lot more than one might assume.

Gir and Gujarat

Gir and Gujarat

Our biker friend, Pankaj Goyal, was getting married deep inside Gujarat and we had to be there to bid our boy goodbye. We drove endlessly and under the cover of darkness in mid January. Swapping driving and navigation responsibilities at every rest stop, we saw the sunrise. While we were still on the road and now only about 50 kilometers from our destination, our minds started wandering.

Gir and Gujarat

Wanderlust

500 miles from home, it was imperative that we make the most of our journey. But, time was short. We met our friend and his lovely fiance, stayed and shot the wedding (our first wedding shoot evaar!) and then darted out into the vastness that is Gujarat.

The Gir national park and wildlife sanctuary is very popular amongst tourists and hardcore photographers. To be true, all our wildlife gear was sitting pretty back at base! Our photography, cameras and lenses were optimized to shoot a wedding, not the wild!

Gir and Gujarat

Trails

Thus began our trip to Gir, the final stronghold of the Asiatic Lion.

This was the first time any of us were visiting this part of the country. Yet again, we started our drive in the night. Gujarat, in India, is synonymous with ‘development’ or so we thought. We drove into the interiors and were taken by surprise, the roads in this part of the country were abysmal. To make matters slightly more challenging, the gates into Gir National Park did not open till 8am.

We snoozed in our car till a shabbily dressed, half asleep forest guard let us in. At 8 am and on the outer boundary, things got worse. As one drives into the sanctuary, roads virtually disappear. This was bad news for our overloaded car. Our speed was less than an average of 25 km/h.

Gir and Gujarat

Nothing but nature

They say everything happens for a reason and after 2 hours the slow, irritating and bumpy early morning drive bore fruit.

We saw her, as she walked protectively behind her two cubs. Protective but not concerned, we were on her turf. The four of us suddenly froze, as if in a daze. She was aware of our presence, we shut off the engine of our car. Just for a second, she turned to look at us.

Gir and Gujarat

I see you

That was the moment when the photographer in us took over. Before she could look away, we had our shot. That little moment felt much longer when we were in it. In her gaze, she sized our vehicle up. We were no threat.

Just as soon as we had clicked a couple of photos, she turned and walked away. As if she knew she had given us what we wanted, our first sighting. Before even entering the safari zone, where people go weeks without a single sighting, we had met the Lioness.

Gir and Gujarat

Luck and a Lioness

It was clear, luck was on our side.

We reached our campsite cum hotel a little after noon. All four of us were eager to try our luck at catching a glimpse of another Lion. We just had to go on safari. A completely modified SUV, optimized for carrying up to 6 people arrived to take us around the forest.

Our group of four was allotted one of the longest safari routes through the main forest. Our driver and spotter (Forest department registered) were adept at telling us about every aspect of the flora and fauna here. Albeit in a routine and practiced manner.

Gir and Gujarat

Dust, grime and a whole lot of fun!

One hour into the safari and having seen just a few hundred deer and buffaloes our spotter got news of a Lion sighting over the radio. We reached the spot with about 25 other jeeps already waiting at a distance.

A safari at Gir is rather amusing. There are unsaid practices here which make sure the paying tourists get their shots.

Sightings at Gir are actually enabled by people called ‘Trekkers/trackers’. These Trackers are local villagers hired by the forest department to patrol a designated piece of land. Their job is to relay the presence of Lions in their sector to the higher ups.

There were a lot of tourists at this sanctuary, the kind who come for the heck of it and not for the value forests of such nature hold. There were mammoth lens toting photographers too, who maybe didn’t care about the way they got their shot, as long as they got it.

And then there was us. Four confused guys, on a safari in India for the first time. We didn’t have our lenses but our conscience was alive. Sort of.

Gir and Gujarat

Spotted!

Here’s the truth about Gir. Everybody wants a sighting but not everybody gets one. It is sort of possible to ‘arrange’ for one to get a proper sighting. If a Lion has been sighted, drivers and forest guides act as if their vehicle has broken down. Then, once everyone else has left the spot, one ‘pays’ the tracker and gets the shot one wants. The moment guides/drivers learn that you’re interested in taking pictures, the offers come up.

We were gifted with another sighting. A slumbering male Lion, snoozing in the afternoon shade, lying on a carpet of dry grass.

Gir and Gujarat

FlatLioned

The Lion was lying flat on the ground. Looking at us photographers the tracker walked to a bush and shook the branches, which alerted the King. It looked up to see what the commotion was about. We all got our shot.

It is at this point that I realized the sorry state of the wild here. Yes this was a forest and yes the Lions were free to roam the boundaries of Gir, but there was something missing. That thrill of the chase, the chance of getting lost. And the sheer convenience of looking at these Lions had made this a very mediocre wildlife experience.

The only issue we had to deal with was dust. Which, had we been prepared, would not have caused us any discomfort.

Gir and Gujarat

My land exists but my wild is lost.

Gir is simply not what it is cracked up to be.

We had our share of fun. Buttered paranthas in the biting cold, under the stars and around the bonfire, licking pickles of unimaginable potency with me carefully keeping my distance from the sweet Gujarati Daal.

We had to be heading home, people among us had work to get done. But the disease of travel is such that it never leaves you cured. We took the long route out, stopping over at Somnath to check out what the temple holds.

Gir and Somnath

Somnath, the forbidden temple.

It was a lackluster trip once we left the wedding but as any good road trip is incomplete without its share of mishaps, ours was yet to give us the final challenge.

On our way back, doing three digit speeds, we lost our brakes. Yes. The game was still on!

At a remote dhaba, we waited for 5 hours as a mechanic charged us a bomb and got us new brake pads. Then, we drove for a thousand kilometers and reached home. Safe.

This land holds secrets, too many to count on ten fingers. Gujarat.


Shooting Stars

Exceptional photography – team that up with top of the line motoring and one gets an epic combination of style, class and charisma. Here’s a quick run up of a shoot we did early in January 2013 which has got us on the world map.

Ever visited a quarry? We did, epic thanks to our friend and fellow motoring enthusiast Vikram Dhoot. Dust, grime and amazing chicken curry led to the shots you will see below. We decided to go four wheeled this time!

We spent the day (and night) at this mammoth mortar making quarry. Not only were we breathing through our T-shirts all the time but this shoot was a proper dust test for our equipment as well. We had quite a few cars lined up as part of this shoot but today we talk only about one very special machine.

The vehicle is a 1980’s Mercedes Benz W123-200. Enjoy.

As the Sun set, we finished our tour of the premises and settled down for a spot of tea (we love our tea!). Our team now consisted of one photographer and more than ten accompanying enthusiasts. We slotted the Mercedes sedan for the night.

It was essential to take the surroundings into our photographs. The amount of dust on the vehicles was also something we tried working into the shots.

So here we go.
Quarry kid

Alive!

The image is alive. So is the processing plant at the quarry. We shot this image at about 12am and boy, was it an experience!

The sky was at its acme of clarity and so the following picture was inevitable. This was a welcome change from our usual motorcycling infused travel photography. We tested a bunch of new camera equipment too, the pictures you see here are all shot with a brand new Nikon D800! Check out the view!

80's motoring

The epitome of 80’s motoring in India!

If you haven’t already noticed, the car is a Left Hand Drive W123-200. This particular car is a 2 litre, four cylinder petrol. From North America and across the world to Japan, this car has seen almost every terrain the world can offer. The W123 was the most popular Mercedes sedan of its time, selling more than 6 million units! Which brings us to our next photograph.

Shooting the star

The star.

In one day, this photograph championed more than 40000 likes and favourites on Facebook and Instagram. This one image registered more than two million views. Mercedes Benz, Stuttgart, themselves pinged us and asked for the picture. This, friends, is the next step.

June 2013 Update:

These pictures have now gone on to become the face of Mercedes Benz Museum’s Classic car photo competition!

Like the Mercedes Benz Museum facebook page HERE.

View and participate here: http://mb4.me/ShootingStars

They even named the Photography competition after our article! Enjoy!

We thank:

The motorcycle men and women of the Firelords – for their ever awesome, ever annoying and forever dear to us assistance.

Vikram Dhoot – for the hot food, his car and his quarry.

Mercedes Benz – for their fantastic motoring.

If you have an awesome car and want awesome photography, get in touch!