Tuesday, 9 July 2013


This is a copy of the blog that appeared at http://bollywoodbingo.wordpress.com. It is here for the sake of posterity.

In India, the testimony of the prime witness is considered the most important document in a criminal case, which often influences the final verdict.

In the 2002 hit-and-run case of Salman Khan, the man who found himself in the epicenter of the controversy, was the prime witness of the case — constable Ravindra Patil.
Those close to Patil admitted that he was under enormous pressure to change his statement.
There were many who wanted Patil to change his statement. They preferred that Patil maintain that Salman leaned back to listen to him seconds before he lost control of the wheel. This would mean that the accident was caused by a ‘human error’ and not because he was drunk.  Some people wanted him to say that Salman was not drunk at the time of the accident.

Whatever be the case, Patil did not change his statement till the last day.
It was unclear who was putting pressure on Patil — some say they were all ‘well-wishers’ of Salman Khan from the police force while others say that those talking to Patil were Salman’s common friends from the film industry. Whoever they were, the pressure tactic seemed to be working as Patil was showing signs of a nervous break-down.
Why was Ravindra Patil so vulnerable?
Patil was a constable and hence belonged to the lowest rung in the police force. He admitted numerous times that he was under pressure and he would always try to duck the media.
During 2006, when the examination of witnesses was on, Salman had hired the best lawyers in Mumbai who were all charged up to cross-examine Patil. But then, something unexpected happened. Patil just ran away one evening. His brother lodged a missing report about Patil at a local police station.
Day after day, Patil chose to skip court dates because he didn’t want to face the defence lawyer. Soon, Patil came under scrutiny of the court because he remained absent at the court hearings. The court proceedings were stuck because Patil was absent in the witness-box. It also came to light that he had run away without applying for leave.
In a strange twist of fate, a man who had actually lodged the first information report against Salman Khan now had an arrest warrant issued against him for not turning up at court hearings. The arrest warrant was issued after he failed to appear for five consecutive court dates.
As the judge ordered that he be arrested and produced in court, his seniors at the police force simultaneously approved that Patil be sacked from his job because he was absent from duty. His seniors chose to ignore the fact that technically Patil was ‘missing’ and not ‘absent’ according to their own records.
Nobody was interested in knowing why he had run away from his house. Or, why the same person who was so forthcoming in lodging a complaint against a Bollywood star like Salman Khan, didn’t want to take the witness-box. Patil was never put under any witness protection programme.
Patil was sent to Arthur Road jail with hardened criminals
Like how they deal with a hardened criminal, a task force was prepared to nab Patil and find out where he was ‘hiding’. Finding him was easier than anybody had thought because Patil was not hiding anywhere. Ravindra Patil was actually staying in a small hotel in Mahabaleswar, just a few kilometres away from Mumbai. He would come to Mumbai often to meet his wife and family. He was not on the run from the police and was going around telling everybody that he wanted to stay away from the Salman Khan case.
He had repeatedly requested his colleagues in Mumbai Police to work out a way so that he can be spared from the case. The problem was: He was the prime witness and without him the case didn’t stand a chance in a court of law.
How many of you hate going to court? How many of you don’t like how witnesses are grilled in criminal cases by defence lawyers? Well, if I go by Patil’s example, then all of you should be put in jail. Believe it or not, Ravindra Patil was sent to jail because of this ‘crime’.
The special police team swooped down on him, arrested him and produced at the court, the next day. The court sent him to Arthur Road jail, the  biggest jail of Mumbai where most of the high-profile criminals are lodged.
Here are pictures after Patil’s arrest post a raid at a Mahabaleshwar hotel.

In Arthur Road jail, Ravindra Patil was incarcerated in a separate cell like they would treat an armed dacoit or a serial killer. Patil submitted fervent pleas that he doesn’t want to be grouped with criminals at the Arthur Road jail but the court was in no mood to relent.
Twice, Patil filed applications saying that he is a witness and that he be held at Unit nine of the Crime Branch and twice the court ignored the application. In his applications, Patil went on record saying that he went absconding as he was mentally disturbed at the thought of being cross-examined by defence lawyers. But nobody seemed to be interested in what he was saying.
If the courts didn’t pay heed to his pleas, his employers — the Mumbai Police — seemed to be on some revenge spree. A ‘missing’ Patil suddenly became an ‘absconding’ Patil in their own files and subsequently sacked from his job. This junior-most employee in the force tried every trick in the book to convince his senior officers that he should not be sacked from his job. But nobody was ready to listen.
A witness was suddenly at the receiving end of it all. Life was dealing this grand witness blows after blows while Salman Khan delivered hits after hits at the box office.
The last days of Ravindra Patil
After Patil was let out of jail, he found himself in a strange situation — his family had disowned him and the Mumbai Police was not ready to take him back. Patil didn’t know what to do — suddenly he was the victim because he saw the accident and spoke about it.
A broken man by then, Ravindra Patil went missing again.
Patil was finally discovered at the Sewri Municipal hospital in 2007. Patil was begging on the streets of Mumbai before he landed up at the hospital. The years of acute stress coupled with heavy drinking had made his body weak. Worse, he had contracted a drug-resistant tuberculosis which fast tracked him towards an inevitable end.
Patil wanted to get back in the police force but he was just a bag of bones lying on bed number 189 of ward number four on the fourth-floor of Sewri TB Municipal Hospital. His family members were not aware where he was and nobody had come to see him for a year.
Here are some moving pictures of Ravindra Patil, just days before his death.

Constable Ravindra Patil when he was on duty
Constable Ravindra Patil died on October 4, 2007.
Even after his death, there was nobody to take back his body. The friend who had admitted him to the hospital was so scared that he didn’t even inform his family. In the end, his brothers came forward to perform the last rites.
Before his death, Patil spoke to his friend expressing his wish to get back to the force again while throwing up blood on the cold floors of the Sewri Municipal hospital.
“I stood by my statement till the end, but my department did not stand by me. I want my job back, I want to survive. I want to meet the police commissioner once,” were his last words.
Clearly, even God chose not to hear him.
Ravindra Patil never rested in peace.
Constable Ravindra Patil’s eye-witness accounts are still the most important documents in the 2002 Hit-and-Run case  involving Salman Khan. It is now a case of homicide after a thorough re-examination of other witnesses.
Salman Khan faces a 10-year jail term in the case if he’s convicted.
Before we end, here is a news report about Patil after he was discovered just days before his death.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

How a lunch at Lemp Brewpub Gurgaon turned out to be the most horrid experience

This is a copy of the blog that appeared at http://lempexperience.blogspot.in. It is here for the sake of posterity.

The entire incident in detail 

For a lot of reasons, we have thought a lot before writing this. It is a very detailed account and we suggest you read it with patience. There is a lot to learn for us customers and a lot to be learnt by the restaurant owners community also.

A few of us friends (young, 25-year old, working, well educated, aware, well traveled, well spoken) were searching for a place to go to for Sunday brunch and on Zomato.com we came across a "Hawaiian Sunday Brunch" at Lemp Brewpub, Gurgaon. We decided to try out the Hawaiian brunch. As you can see from the image below, the cost is Rs. 999 all inclusive of taxes, and the same was also confirmed to us by the manager, Mr. Robin.

To put it out there, it wasn't the first time we were going to Lemp.

The Zomato screenshot of the "Hawaiian Sunday Brunch" at Lemp Brewpub

From the above image you can read the promises:

Hawaiian food - NONE to be found.
Tiki bar serving exotic cocktails - there was no such bar.
Live music and dancing - There was no music playing at all. After we asked they switched on the speakers and regular music played in the background. For the dancing, there were never any plans for dancers. On a serious note we were told by the manager, Robin, that customers were the ones supposed to dance.

On asking why there was nothing Hawaiin about the brunch, Robin tells us that suddenly on Saturday night the chef had to go home in an emergency so hence the problem. Yet, see below a picture of the entrance of Lemp with multiple boards advertising the Hawaiian Sunday brunch that day. In spite of all this we still go ahead with the brunch.

In spite of the management knowing of no Hawaiian Brunch inside, the board was still on full display outside  to mislead and attract customers. There was only 1 other table that was occuppied when we left.
After waiting 10 minutes, we are served starters on the table which are absolutely stale, inedible, cold and uncooked. We immediately called back Robin and request him to taste the food so he can understand our plight. Even though a buffet includes unlimited ordering, Robin tells us he'll do us a favour and 'replace' the dishes. By then we try the other dishes served on our table and they are equally ill-prepared. The replaced dishes come back absolutely the same quality, just heated this time around.

The drinks included in the package were their 6 home-brewed beers and any vodka-based cocktails. 6 of us ordered a glass of beer each and we asked for 2 vodka-based Mojitos. The beers came in good time but the 2 Mojito's never came. There were 4 reminders given to various staff including the manager, Robin. Robin told us that the confusion resulted because the staff who took our order suddenly left for a break without informing anyone. To our surprise each of the staff members we had told for the Mojitos were very much inside the place and had been continuously serving our table!

Mr. Robin - The Manager who 'chose' 3 different prices for the Sunday brunch during this incident. This photo was clicked secretly from one of our phones.

By now, after all the fiasco, we decided that we would leave since nothing in the package was as promised and even the service was getting worse by the minute. We asked the manager to call the owners so we could speak to them. He said they are too busy to be called, even on the phone. In plain words we were told they are inaccessible for us. We simply informed Robin that we would be leaving. Robin tells us that is ok with him as long as we pay for what we consumed. Despite of all the poor incidents and not getting anything as promised, we tell him we will pay full rate for the beer we have had (a total of 6 glasses). Even though beer as part of an unlimited buffet should be calculated at subsidised rates.

We keep waiting another 15 minutes for the bill, which never comes. We ask the waiter and he tell us it will still take more time. At this point we tell the manager that we are leaving. He tells us we cannot do so and must pay the bill. To our shock, we are presented with a bill of Rs. 12,000! Reminder: The buffet costs Rs. 999 inclusive of all taxes and we were only 8 people there! We are told that the food we sent back will also be charged and other dishes prepared for the buffet which were still to come to us will also be charged!

Not wanting to waste anymore time, we walk out towards the elevator and 4 of us get in (3 guys and a girl). Suddenly there are bouncers blocking the tiny entrance of the elevator and intimidating and threatening us against leaving. The waiters and the other staff of Lemp had all surrounded us by then. We do what came to our mind 1st in a panic, raise noise so we can get out of the elevator into an open area. Having lived in Gurgaon for the last 10 years, that was the most scared we've felt ever. It was absolutely not safe inside (whether the girl had been with us or not).

We immediately called the police on 100.

By then a senior manager, Kapil Singh Thapa, comes to the scene. He walks in with so much arrogance that there was no point discussing anything with him. All he said was that you must pay for what you have consumed. Before the police come, the bill is corrected to approx. Rs. 6,700. Obviously, 6 glasses of home-brewed beer cannot cost Rs. 1100+ a glass.

Mr. Kapil Singh Thapa - The Senior Manager who is mentioned on many many reviews on the internet for his misbehaviour towards customers. This photo was also clicked secretly from one of our phones.

We still told the staff to call the owners, hoping they would have the sense to reverse such a poor customer experience that kept getting worse. We were repeatedly told that they cannot be reached for such an issue. In the meanwhile, even the mall management, run by Jones Lang LaSalle, decided to come by. We politely requested for help and were instead told to sort out the issue inside Lemp and not spoil the decorum of the place. They all knew the Lemp staff very well.

Senior person from Jones Lang LaSalle from the mall management at DT Star Mall. He refused to help us.  By standing was a better option.

Making calls to arrange for more men. Mall management and Lemp managers together.
From L-R: Mr. Kapil Singh Thapa (Senior Manager), Mr. Robin (Manager), Mall Management from Jones Lang LaSalle who refused to help  (in a red tie), Lemp staff (in jeans). 
This photo was also clicked secretly from one of our phones.

Guess what happens next? The police arrives. With the 'owner' of the place. Very clearly they came together. We are in an even more helpless situation.

This 'owner', Shashank, was even more arrogant than the previous two managers, rather tending towards the likes of a goon. He even said, "Mera naam kisi se bhi Gurgaon mein check kar lena." ("You can ask anyone my name in Gurgaon and they will know.") He further declares (in Hindi) he will not hear a word against his food or his place or he will get us put behind bars. He goes on to declare that his managers have been running this place for more than a year and they are absolutely right.

The 'owner' Shashank (L) and the senior manager, Kapil Thapa (R), from a public photo found on Facebook.

The 'owner' Shashank (L) and the senior manager, Kapil Thapa (R), from another public photo found on Facebook.

And we had completely depended on the owner to come in and solve the situation amicably. After all, no owner would want customers leaving with such an experience.

When asked to explain how the bill of Rs. 12,000 could be presented, the same managers, Robin and Kapil, state that the buffet costs Rs. 1,199 per head + taxes. We showed everyone the screenshot of the Zomato page. Unfortunately, the police could not understand what the internet was and the Lemp management disowned the page. Instead an order is sent inside to instantly get rid of any paper/board where the price of the buffet maybe written. Suddenly realising that even then the calculation doesn't add up for 8 buffets @ Rs. 1199, a friend raises the point. Now the buffet in an instant costs Rs. 1,299! When we told the policemen that this is exactly the kind of experience we have had, the police tell us they didn't hear the manager changing the price of the buffet. Unbelievable. Most of all - HELPLESSNESS.

Finally, the owner adjusts the bill to Rs. 4,463 from the last revised Rs. 6,700. Out of no other option we agree to pay so that we can get out of the situation safe and sound.

We pay the amount and are returned the change. Of course, we ask for the bill which we are told will take some time. We wait another 15-20 mins for the bill. In the meanwhile, the cops ask us to put down the incident on paper and say that a compromise had been reached. We write the incident in detail and hand it over after taking a picture. We are ordered by the cops that we cannot keep proof of the letter or they will not take accept it from us. And we cannot click any pictures at that point. We were just stripped of our right of free speech and expression?

Next, when the manager of Lemp is asked to sign it he calls the owner and explains to him that we have written that we were cheated of our money. The owner throws an angry fit and orders the police to take us to the police station and present us to the SHO. He says there will be cases filed against us. We are returned our money that we paid 15-20 mins back.

Note - all this being said in Hindi/Haryanvi doesn't sound half as pleasant as it may read in English.

Not wanting to drag this further, the tables have completely turned and we plead the cops and the owner to keep the money, throw away the letter and let us go. But the owner is adamant that we will not only pay the full bill of Rs. 12,000 but he also wants us behind bars.

We are dragged out of the mall by the police into their van. On the way, we were further scared by the police that we will be alcohol tested and what not. As you would have realised from our entire bill of 6 beer glasses amongst 8 people, we were perfectly sober.

By now, all of us who lived in Gurgaon immediately call our parents and ask them to come to the police station. After our parents reached AND they were forced to drop a few names, the situation turned on its head and the police staff started explaining how they have been trying to help us kids since the beginning and we kids had only requested the police to bring the Lemp manager to the station so that the issue could be solved!

The owner was now 'too busy' to come to the police station (which was barely 200-300m away from Lemp) but already had control over the cops. The SHO was called to the station and in the end we still paid the Rs. 4,463 to the manager there. We were told there was no need of any letter stating the issue was resolved with a compromise from our side. Finally, thats when this horrid 'brunch' ended.

On a separate note, I wanted to cover a small incident that the girl with us faced. She was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. The Lemp waiters/staff were leching on her and kept staring at her legs. When one of us told one of their staff members "Aap apni aankhein please oopar rakhiye" ("Please keep your eyes up") he replies, "Kya karoon neeche hi chali jaati hain." (What can I do, my sight goes downwards automatically." This happened while the cops were there. This happened while we were surrounded by the Lemp staff and their bouncer + mall management bouncers. This is why the only thing on our minds throughout was to get out of the situation safely at that point.

We have tried to keep this incident as factual as possible without mixing emotional biases or the hate we have for this place today. We have not touched on the fact that in my own country, we do not have basic rights of speech and that the law is bent at the convenience of those who dictate power at that point.

Here are a few reviews of Lemp on Zomato we wish we had taken seriously. One thing that is common is the arrogance and misbehaviour of the staff and being overcharged wrongly. Even the names of the managers are the same in these reviews:

2 must read reviews:
By a certain Nitin Bhatia who had a similar horrendous experience as ours. He was also promised things, then commitment wasn't delivered and finally he was at the receiving of end of the staff - http://www.zoma.to/review/32812
By a certain Sanjiv Tyagi who left his card there, only to find out the next morning that it had been swiped at not only Lemp but other establishments too (such as the liquor store) - http://www.zoma.to/review/34265

A few other reviews. Click on the link to go to the full reviews:

Poor staff:

"The manager was so indecent that we immediately left... teared all vouchers just in front of him... This place is only for those who want to spoil their evening by fighting with rude managers."

"Never seen more ruder bouncers.managers while entering place. So cocky for no reason."

"A bunch of moronic unapologetic staff members!"

"Arrogent staff, No hospitality"

"The staff don't have manners to interact with customers."

"Mr. Thapa was so bossy and busy"

Friday, 6 July 2012

Flipkart, what happened?

Update 3:  8:00 PM, Jul 7, 2012

Flipkart has removed the stock of all Milagrow tablets from their site. Now, whatever you make out of it, the action has been swift and complete.


Update 2:  8:00 PM, Jul 6, 2012

  1. Flipkart has removed most of the fake-looking reviews from the Milagrow Series of tablets. This happened very quickly. Good on Flipkart.
  2. Now that Flipkart agrees the reviews were fake, it's puzzling to me why is it still selling tablets from a company which obviously gamed Flipkart's system. There is no one else in this world who'd benefit from the fake reviews other than Flipkart or Milagrow. I am now of the view that Flipkart should come out clean by at least accepting Milagrow was responsible for this. Or else, I'd still put the blame on Flipkart.


Update 1:  4:00 PM, Jul 6, 2012

  1. Flipkart has been amazingly prompt in responding to my criticism. One of their employees contacted me on this blog promising me that they'll take action. Flipkart's twitter page is also filled with open admission of lapse and promise of action. I am not sure if there is any other company in India which will be so fast in responding, forget accepting a problem. Faith in Flipkart restored (for now).
  2. Someone at reddit pointed me out that this post makes me look like I am a Homeshop18 agent trying to defame Flipkart. I'll repeat what I replied to that person:
     I have used Homeshop18 and I have had very bad experiences. I will most probably never use them again (unless the price difference is huge). Flipkart is every penny worth their service. Personally, I have never had any problem with Flipkart.
I'll keep posting the developments via top posts on the same article (for multiple reasons).


Original Post:

Everybody loves Flipkart. I do. I was one of those earliest customers who'd force his friends to buy every book from Flipkart, not only because it had great discounts, but because deep inside I wanted it to succeed, to really become Amazon, so that one day, I could shop Fridges and Air Conditioner from it. And that day did come.

I feel sad saying that everything is not okay at Flipkart. They are not the innocent little start up that they once were.

The prices are higher for most of the items when compared to sites like Homeshop18. Though I'd agree that there is a premium involved in the kind of prompt service that Flipkart provides, but still, gaps of more than Rs 1000 for items in 10-15k range can really force you to even risk shittier services. And mind you, Homeshop18 is not that shitty anymore. They are getting better, just as Flipkart has been getting worse. And I thought competition would better Flipkart's service.

There was actually a time when the blogosphere was filled with positive reviews of Flipkart. Now you can find many stories saying just the opposite. I won't collect them here. I'd just link a representative story, where they even quote a Mouthshut guy saying they deleted hundreds of fake reviews promoting Flipkart: http://www.pluggd.in/flipkart-deleting-negative-reviews-297/

Well, I don't know how Mouthshut established that the reviews on their site were fake, but I have got quite a bit of fresh evidence of fake reviews, right inside Flipkart!

So, I just happened to check out this tablet "Milagrow TabTop MGPT01-32 GB":

The product page screenshot:

It's a tablet that costs around 27.5k, and is nowhere even comparable to say, an iPad2 which costs 24.5, or Samsung Galaxy Tabs, but for some crazy reasons, it has a rating of 5 stars from every reviewer except one, who gives a 1 star rating :)

Here is the screenshot of the ratings:

And here are all the reviews. Do spend time to find out for yourself if these are "real people"!

All this about a tablet which people won't buy even in 15K. So who are these people who are buying it in 27.5K and are extremely satisfied? 5 stars, all over, you know :)

Let's look at the history of user Aakash Kochhar. See a pattern?

So the user Aakash Kochhar has 5 stars for only Milagrow Tablets and 1 star (lowest) for every other tablet. I could have believed it to be genuine, had everyone on the review page not turned out to be same. Here are some more samples.

User Dilawar Khera:

User Anirudh Lamba:

User David D'Souza:

So all these different customers consistently give 5 stars to Milagrow tablet and take the pain to trash all other tablets by giving them 1 or 2 stars. Wow!

This is not only limited to one Milagrow tablet. All Milagrow tablets have a swarm of fake reviews giving them almost 5 stars aggregate rating and trashing all other tablets from all other companies!


Here is another example, in which almost all reviews seem to be fake:

The screenshots are:


In fact, check the whole series:

It's filled with fake looking reviews.

I really really hope this has been done from outside and Flipkart takes this kind of SEO-bullshit seriously. In fact, I had almost made up my mind to buy one of these Milagrow tablets. And I feel lucky that I read the reviews and found how clearly they were fake-looking.

The only thing that really worries me is that these Milagrow tablets have Flipkart's Flyte ecosystem installed (as advertised.) This would mean Flipkart would be extra careful with this product line as it is directly endorsing and marketing it as one of its own. 

Since I really like Flipkart, I plan to make a series of such exposé to bring Flipkart back to its old days. Yes, I have more material. If Flipkart does not take them down, I'll post it soon when I have time.

I love you, Flipkart. I won't let you go rogue :'(