Sunday, 24 July 2011

Mercedes-Benz E200 Kompressor High Speed Test

WARNING: Unless you are well-connected to someone in the National Highway Authority, do NOT attempt to run your own high speed test like the one shown in this video.
Et tu Nawazu?

Despite my poverty on four wheels, I was a happy man in 2003 when I first drove my old 1300cc Japanese car at 140 Km/h on the M2 motorway.
The ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, is credited with doing three things: testing an atomic bomb up in the remote hills of Baluchistan, having a six lane motorway built between Lahore and Islamabad and finally going for a hair transplant.

The M2 being a joint venture project between Pakistan and Korea, Nawaz Sharif laid its foundation stone on 11 January 1992 and inaugurated it on 26 November 1997. He did the undoable by ‘wasting huge sums of money on one of Asia’s most expensive highways’.
The Fast Lane

The new M2 is a faster alternative to the old GT Road. Although the 367 Km long M2 increases the distance between Lahore and Rawalpindi, it cuts down the travel time considerably. As in the old days, when the GT Road was dotted with caravanserais and trees on both sides, the M2 has plenty of resting points, whose names are associated with nearby towns. Keeping in view the public’s penchant for consuming refreshments, there are plenty of free public toilets all along the route—a major achievement considering that in many parts of the industrialized world, one pays to answer the call of nature.

One must pay a one-way toll fee of Rs 235 on the M2 which is a small price for laying one’s tired eyes on scenic beauty and totally bypassing all the dirt and noise produced by heavy vehicular traffic on GT Road where carefree humans and animals suddenly cross one’s path.

Indeed Nawaz Sharif upped the ante on Sher Shah Suri who merely renovated the famous Sarak-e-Azam (Great Road) that linked the capital at Agra (India) with his home in Sasaram. Suri extended the road westwards to Multan (now in Pakistan) and eastwards to Sonargaon (now in Bangladesh) in the 16th century AD. The same highway was later re-named by the British as Grand Trunk Road—now popularly known as GT Road.
The most interesting points of this scenic drive on the M2 are the world’s largest rock salt deposits and Asia’s highest pillared bridge built at Khewra Salt Range near Kallar Kahaar, home to ICI’s chemical processing industrial plants. Not many who drive by a town called Bhera realise it dates back to the time when Alexander of Macedon, invaded us in the name of democracy in 326 BCE. He was followed By Mahmud of Ghazni, Genghis Khan, Shahab-ud-din Ghauri, Zaheer-ud-din Babur and Sher Shah Suri.
Greed For Speed

Life on the M2 begins when you exceed 120 Km/h, the legal speed limit on the motorway. If one has a powerful car, there is much to gain from occasional speeding such as: shrieking children, a scared wife reciting aloud holy verses, one’s own pounding heart (which invariably pounds less after a few years of having uttered ‘I DO’ thrice), an engine revving away on automobile-Viagra and best of all, adrenalized highway policemen lying in wait for the next speed demon.
What you see in the video here is a Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse (W211) E200 Kompressor not chased by the police on the M2. While the automobile is capable of reaching a top speed of 236 Km/h (146.7 mph), we could only touch 222 Km/h (139 mph) or 96.5% of the maximum.

While the E200 Kompressor can accelerate from 0 to 100 Km/h (0-62 mph) in a 9.1 seconds, it took us full fifty-eight seconds to accelerate from 128 Km/h (80 mph) to 222 Km/h (139 mph). This slightly slower acceleration resulted because the car was loaded (approximately 380 Kg) with five adults, their luggage, and forty Litres of petrol in the tank—conditions hardly conducive to an ideal speed test.
Test Conditions

Elevation: 366m (1,200 feet) above mean sea level
Temperature: 35 Celsius
Relative humidity: 63%
Speed Vs RPM data

80 mph (128 Km/h) @ RPM 3,500
90 mph (144 Km/h) @ RPM 4,000
100 mph (160 Km/h) @ RPM 4,200
110 mph (176 Km/h) @ RPM 4,700
120 mph (192 Km/h) @ RPM 5,100
130 mph (208 Km/h) @ RPM 5,500 (drop to 4,700)
139 mph (222 Km/h) @ RPM rise to 5,000

The acceleration rate was 1.55 Km/h every one second. The distance being covered was from 2.13 Km/minute (at an initial speed of 128 Km/h) to 3.7 Km/minute (at a final speed of 222 Km/h).

Finding a five kilometres long traffic-free stretch in the right lane on the M2 was not an easy task considering that the Motorway Patrol watches motorists at such sweet spots for over-speeding. After all, they too have wives and young children to feed at home.

At places, the concrete divider that separated the lanes on each side of the M2 had gaps through which stray cats or dogs could suddenly cross one’s path. At such speeds, even a bird hitting the car’s body might act like a bullet, hence the possibility of a high speed crash was more on the mind than a ticket for over-speeding.
Money On four Wheels

Depending upon the options, the current price of an E200 (2011 model) in Pakistan is anywhere from 8.2 to 8.6 million Rupees. Add to that an annual comprehensive insurance premium of at least Rs 250,000, one time registration fee of at least Rs 100,000 and the cost of using high octane (RON 95 rating) fuel at Rs 103/Litre. With this much white money out of a banker’s clutches and moving gracefully on four wheels, one would be a complete fool not to conquer temptation by giving in to it on the M2.

Buying a Mercedes-Benz means one pays for the superb ride quality, lower noise level inside, the ability to touch hitherto unknown speeds and see jealousy writ large on the faces of lesser mortals on the road. Speeding away like a bullet at 222 Km/h brought home the realization this July that life is for living.
In Pakistan, millions spend their entire lives saving enough to buy either an 800 cc Suzuki or a 1,300 cc Toyota, always worrying about children’s higher education. The feel of driving a pedigree automobile—such as a Porsche 911 Carrera which I once drove in England at 240 Km/h (150 mph)—is something quite beyond words.

Tail Lights

Men express happiness when women get themselves waxed but almost all women show signs of jealousy when a man pays more attention to his first love: his car. Now, if you ladies will excuse me, I need to go wax my E200 Kompressor.
©2011 Tahir Gul Hasan

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Pictures In My Mind

If a man approaches a work of art with any desire to exercise authority over it and the artist, he approaches it in such a spirit that he cannot receive any artistic impression from it at all. —Oscar Wilde

Reproduced for your viewing pleasure are the obverse and the reverse sides of the invitation card of my first ever solo photography exhibition titled ‘One for the Road’, held at Lahore’s Alliance Française from 5 until 18 March 2005.

The director at the Alliance Française, Matthieu Pinel, was most cooperative from the beginning and matters such as image selection, print size, and framing were left entirely to my Pakistani imagination mainly because his immediate superior, mademoiselle Giselle, had already appreciated my work in private.

Hectic were the days leading up to the opening night but excitement left panic knocking at the door. To be honest, photography seemed an easier job compared with organizing a major public display of it.

More than half of my images were in colour, with no digital manipulation in Adobe Photoshop software. Long hours spent at yet another photo lab that only processed black and white (silver gelatine) prints paid off as well. Ah, the lengths one must go to satisfy discerning eyes.

The cameras I used were good old film cameras from as far back in time as the 1950s. Nothing was digital, all was either shot using the square 6x6 cm format or standard 35mm negative film. Whenever interested viewers or interviewers wished to know what camera bodies or lens I had used, I laid great stress on the power wielded by something considered quite old-fashioned: the negative.

It was odd to note that ordinary people seemed to equate quality images with unusually expensive and complicated digital gadgetry. There is no short cut to hard work and just about any camera in capable hands automatically becomes a powerful creative tool, and the greater the artistic vision, the less important the fixation on equipment becomes, but even this truth takes time to absorb.

At home, I spent endless hours getting the photograph’s titles and the pricelist right. Since I knew that photographs always sold less than paintings did, the prices were kept affordable.

Mine was the first event to be held at the new Alliance Française premises located at Scotch Corner, Upper Mall. The opening day was extremely busy as nearly all the media people and members of civil society descended in time for free snacks—if not fine Scotch—that the ‘French Centre’ had arranged in the front lawn.

The first ever exhibition of my work was a solo show—a great breakthrough for me. Friends, colleagues, neighbours, strangers, famous names and perhaps unrecognizable old flames, all turned up at the venue during those fourteen days. If the public got any wrong impressions from seeing certain images, it was because it did not look long and hard at them.

The public’s comments in the visitors’ book that I had placed there were equally amusing—I learnt nothing new about myself. While the literati used the same book rather wisely, the ignoramuses of our society abused it by penning thoughts that actually showed me how unhappy they were to witness genuine creativity. The latter group—unable to appreciate the meticulous printing, expensive glass-covered frames and the witty titles of the photographs—expected from a first time solo exhibiter, quantity and not quality, inability to expound and not lucidity, mistakes and not perfection. And hence, the shutter-bugs imposed themselves on my work and took little home to brood over. It was their loss, not mine, and that made me very happy.

Alliance Française invited people from the print and electronic media to cover the exhibition. Interesting were the questions of journalists, some of whom wrote entire articles without having laid eyes on me, preferring to plagiarize the text of the invitation card instead. It made me glad that for a change they wrote fine English.

Interviewers from various television channels, woefully unfamiliar with matters of Art, made me feel they were at a political rally. And by the time the gentlemen from Pakistan Television got over, they imagined I taught photography professionally, something I vehemently denied.
I was asked, “What should the gore-mint do to promote the art?”

Unexpected for them was my reply, “I think the government should only concentrate on running itself without meddling with Art and artists”.

One TV channel aired my interview so many times I was convinced their viewers had absorbed plenty of Art and knew all my words by heart.

Not everyone came as a buyer but some bought what they liked at the exhibition. With urban and rural landscapes, abstractions and street photographs, there were forty-two prints on display. In any case, I exceeded my sales target and was happy to share the cake with my French sponsors.

By the end of the exhibition, director Matthieu Pinel too was a happy customer who bought a black and white photograph titled, Lord of the Rings, which was a street portrait of man selling rings that common folks can be seen wearing in Pakistan.

I had plans of taking the circus to the Federal capital but decided to spare the capitalists so in love with bad policies plaguing this country. Then I thought of Karachi but decided to let the unhappy ethnicities first decide matters relating to ‘the art of war’ between their rotten selves.

These days, everybody needs a painting to match the interior decor, and calligraphy of Qur’ānic verses seems safe since many believe that if they hung depictions of human beings on the walls, God will ask them to breathe life into them. God has better things to do than that.

Art is one’s individual expression and pays tribute to the unity in diversity. Art is the opposite of organized religion and this is the reason why artificially pious persons, unable to attach unverifiable dogmas to each stroke of genius, hate its unfathomable abstractions.

Lahore now has many art galleries and some still wish to put up my work for sale. Since March of 2005, I have not decided if I should become famous as a photographer or as a wordsmith.

©Tahir Gul Hasan, 2011

Further reading
TGH Photography Exhibition (DAWN Article)

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Aliens From Inner Space

Please restrict yourselves to reading my tongue-in-cheek style of written material; never imagine that I have my tongue inside forbidden cheeks. –tgh

You are many in number, are spread all over the globe and have seen me grow over the years.

What is this map here?

Are these locations of Al-CIAda’s bases—as America would have us believe? Are they places where military DICK-tators have hidden our clean money as ‘dirty’ money? Are you still guessing if these are shops that sell red balloons? Give up wracking your frail nerves right away!

Well, this is how all readers, commentators and casual browsers of my blog really look like on the world map! Surprised?

As you can see, from Hawaii to Japan, I have got it covered. Why do so few possess literary tastes in South America is beyond me, and why are there no readers from Australia, Africa, Russia, CIS countries and Greenland? I can take some horses to the proverbial well but I cannot make them all drink.

Use word of mouth, and spread the good word around because I love you all in shockingly different ways and for whose demonstration you must never ask.

Thank you for your support.


© Tahir Gul Hasan