Journeysmatter

A blog on journeys, great destinations and fantastic travel experiences

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 62 – 68

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Over two months in to the lockdown, we begin our countdown not towards another lockdown, but a gradual opening up. In a week from now, the country will know whether it is right on course towards opening cup, having minimized the number of cases and resulting deaths and of course the avoidable crisis of moving workers back to their home states.

According to data posted by Dr. Shamika Ravi, we can conclude the following about India:

  1. We are still some time away from declaring if we have peaked in terms of total number of cases
  2. Our doubling rate of total confirmed cases is now 16 days and growth in active cases stands close to 2%
  3. The bunching of cases is a sign of peaking and we seem to have Russia for company
  4. Another heartening sign is the lower death rate and one that is considerably slowed; Recovery rates have improved significantly and stands somewhere in the range of 44 – 45 %
  5. Many states who have now received incoming workers from other states, are observing a second wave and consequently a steady rise in number of active cases
  6. Maharashtra is leading the pack with significant number of new new cases
Prof Shamika Ravi’s summary as on 31st of May 2020

The Hon’ble Prime Minister has written a letter of gratitude to the people of India thanking them for the trust placed in him and his government and voting them back to serve. Being a peoples’ man, on a normal day he would have had meetings organized across the country and would have jetted off to meet people if not for th pandemic. A letter or chitti still evokes a personal touch and hence the format. A significant word used early on is ‘active cooperation’; no other PM has been able to get people to respond to various initiatives or collective voluntary action the way the Hon’ble Prime Minister has been able to. Schemes like giving up of a gas cylinder subsidy, rail subsidy or maintaining a clean surrounding are examples of mass movement and active cooperation. The letter even touches upon the vaccination program being undertaken for better preventive health of our livestock. All contemporary issues surrounding the pandemic and suffering of people have been touched upon in good measure. All relief measures for sections of society too have been called out. One area, which we hope will get the desired attention is Police reforms. The law enforcers probably have the most difficult job in the world and to police in a country of our size and population requires more feet on the ground and a lot of creativity rising from the use of technology. Freeing them up from political clutches and making them truly independent can only be a dream but gradually easing them out of petty corruption is definitely achievable. The multiplier effect of such an action will be truly remarkable and will touch every citizen.

Hon’ble Prime Minister’ letter to Indians on the occassion of a year of his government’s second term

The chatter on many whatsapp groups are mainly around household helps – cooks and maids to be precise. Household helps too seem frustrated at not being able to return to work and earn their full salaries. People with continued income are able to set aside atleast a partial sum of money to be paid as salaries to household helps despite the absence triggered by the pandemic. Newspapers too should find their way back in to households so that companies can start spending on advertisements and gradually put many back in to employment. Another sector that should open up gradually is public transport in the form of auto rickshaws and taxis. Many vehicle owners and drivers have headed back to their home towns in the absence of any guidance regarding resumption of services. People in large cities tend to struggle without such public transport.

Workplaces have started discussing return to work guidelines in consultation with local authorities. Many states have issued guidelines to kickstart their local economies in order to increase revenue from taxes. Though the centre, via the Atmanirbhar Bharat announcement has allowed states to borrow an additional 2%, that comes with a number of riders that are focused on bettering the basic infrastructure like electricity reforms and signing up for trans state schemes like one country one ration card. This is truly federalism with responsibility.

It is a great opportunity to move our examination systems out of the 3 hour writing menace to one that involves multiple choice questions. Availability of testing centers and online tools can be a great facilitator.

Rice was once again the go-to staple this week. A few tiffin varieties crept in to the schedule and were welcomed with open arms.

Gujarati tiffin for sundays - chhole puri, roti and beans chickpea flour curry with gujarati kadi and dal fry
Gujarati tiffin for sundays – chhole puri, roti and beans chickpea flour curry with gujarati kadi and dal fry

Few interesting tiffins along the way, given that on certain days lunch preparations consisted of gravies like drumstick sambhar.

The word lockdown should be put out of use. People, thoughts, work, action can never be locked down. All, while exercising caution. From next week, we take a look at how the country is planning to open up over the next few months.

Time for some positivity!

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 55- 61

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Two months have gone past us as the country battles the coronavirus; During moments of despair and frustration, people have even called it the #Chinavirus , #Chinesevirus. Even though the world does not conclusive evidence regarding its origins, the fact that the pandemic had its origins in wuhan was enough to get people to attribute the virus and its origins to China. The world will hopefully hear more about its origins, spread, mistakes along the way and finally lessons to be taken home.

The central government in India has displayed the right intent by announcing commencement of domestic flight services on the 25th of May 2020. In one go, this will bring out many sectors from their morass; Airlines, ground services, catering, hotels, cab services will begin the journey towards normalcy. However, this proactive push by the central government should be backed by various states showing the willingness and creativity in handling the travellers coming in to their states. A great awakening among people is required to ensure compliance to rules and therefore breaking the chain of transmission. The Hon’ble Prime Minister spoke about saving lives and livelihoods. The lives are being taken care of and return to livelihoods is being ensured, however slow.

Turtle moving slowly towards the sea but not stopping
India should continue moving and not stop

Another positive step is the introduction of over 200 trains to commence their services from the 1st of June 2020. Apart from online bookings, the railways have started operating reservaton counters and empowered agents to accept bookings. The overwhelming response indicates the willingess of people to move (implicitly accepting the conditions) plus ultimately paves the way for return of labour who have moved back to their hometowns. With these twin boosts i.e kickstarting domestic air travel and increasing rail services, the central government has shown positive intent in getting the country back on track. The onus is now on states to clearly align and show the resolve in getting their local economies back on track. Leadership in each of these states will be keenly watched and judged based on what and how they prioritize.

While the states battled COVID-19, West Bengal and Odisha on the east coast were struck by a ferocious #cycloneamphan(Twitter feed). West Bengal was more in the news due to extensive damages to villages, towns and the city of Kolkata. Burst transformers, ruptured water connections, roofings lifted off by heavy winds and strewn on streets, fallen trees, electricity cables etc., have littered the landscape of Kolkata. The Prime Minister was prompt in travelling to both the states and standing shoulder to shoulder in this time of crisis. The vibes between the leaders were extremely positive in the state of Odisha. As committed, the Government of India was prompt in asking the RBI to credit the respective state governments with the promised relief money.

Prof Shamika Ravi continues her masterful briefing tweets on the COVID-19 situation in the country and world over. Appreciate her commitment to bring this information to the public along with her colleague Mudit Kapoor.

The best place to get your daily updates on India and the world’s position in the fight

When the whole world was busy fighting its battles with coronavirus, one man made news with global PE and technology companies bringing in big money to invest in his telecom + data company – Reliance JIO. Starting with Facebook, the list of investors now include Vista equity partners, Silverlake, General Atlantic and the more recent one, KKR. The investments continue to prove the potent power of the telecom sector and how it has enabled life changing moments in India with superior reach. It is only because of telecom that many sectors are able to reach the customer with ease. While many may argue that there is no product being backed, the money is clearly backing the venture based on the vast demographics that it supports.

Nepal’s concerns on India laying a road right up to the Lipulekh pass on the trekking route to Kailash Mansarovar has stirred the pot. The new map released by Nepal shows Lipulekh, the crossover point in to Tibet and Kalapani as parts of its territory. Having done the yatra in 2015, the guides point out the territory and have been witness to free movement of people between territories on either side. Kalapani has a quaint temple dedicated to goddess Kali and is said to straddle both the countries. Security of the area is guaranteed by the Indo Tibetan border police.

Workplace continues to adapt to the rigours of working from home. Executives have probably spent the longest time confined their homes than at airports. The Aarogya setu app is a good tool that, if used in the right way, can inform the user about the number of cases in their vicinity, risks thereof and the prevention to be taken. People have been putting up their achievements on the company portal – a senior leader is said to have run 100 kms on his terrace and raised a lakh of rupees towards charity. Eating right, exercising regularly, sleeping well – all of this will hopefully continue even after the lockdown ends and people get back to their normal lives. School for the Miss ends on the 25th and they go on a break for two weeks. Mrs. finally sported a smile when she heard about resumption of domestic flights.

Food this week was simple home cooked fare starting with a bunch of Gujarati dishes on Sunday

Dahiwala moong sabzi, Dudhi (bottlegourd) with chana subzi, Pakodi kadi and Gujarati dal with Rotis
Dahiwala moong sabzi, Dudhi (bottlegourd) with chana subzi, Pakodi kadi and Gujarati dal with Rotis. THe meal for three costs about 730 Rs (10 USD) including delivery charges

Rice attack continued through the week and that is the best option available to cook once and get done with.

Dal rice and ghee with Cauliflower and potato subzi
MONDAY – Dal rice and ghee with Cauliflower and potato subzi
Lemon rasam with brinjal (eggplant) curry and some mixture
TUESDAY – Lemon rasam with brinjal (eggplant) curry and some mixture
Paruppu sadam with vathakuzhambhu and vadam
WEDNESDAY – Paruppu sadam with vathakuzhambhu and vadam
Paruppu (pulses) thogayal rice with keerai (spinach) masiyal
FRIDAY – Paruppu (pulses) thogayal rice with keerai (spinach) masiyal
Vegetable pulav with boondi raita and potato chips
Vegetable pulav with boondi raita and potato chips

On a couple of days, we had the privilege of some great evening tiffin as well.

We head in to the last week of lockdown 4.0 and headed in to it with a lot of positivity. Just waiting for reciprocation from governments across the country so that India can get back in to business in style!

Jai Shriram!

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 48 – 54

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Heading in to the final week of lockdown 3.0, we are at a moment where we want every part of the country to continue performing well and get out of the rut. Conscious Citizen effort can get cities and towns, villages out of the crisis that has enveloped them. The daily analysis by Prof Shamika Ravi and her team seems to suggest so. As per today’s report:

  1. As on 17th of May, total cases in India stand at 90,648 and active cases growing at 3.1% which means active cases are doubling every 23 days. If the doubling of active cases has to suggest anything it can only suggest that number of recoveries too are on the increase. As per latest reports, they stand in the range of 35 – 38%, much higher than the global average of about 27%. Commendable Job!
  2. Prof Ravi talks about flattening of the curve i.e no significant rise in active cases. Save for Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamilnadu, rest of the states have shown a remarkable growth in the number of recoveries
  3. Another key data point that will drive decisions regarding lifting of restrictions, classification of zones and kickstarting commercial activity is source of new cases. Maharashtra, Gujarat, TN, Delhi figure in this list in descending order. Aggressive contact tracing + testing and containment is required to slow down the increase in new cases
  4. Learnt another measurement technique regarding epidemics – R0 (‘R naught’). – mathematical term that indicates how contagious an infectious disease is. It’s also referred to as the reproduction number. As an infection is transmitted to new people, it reproduces itself.

It pays to follow Prof Shamika Ravi on Twitter and learn more about how countries are combating COVID 19

The best twitter handle in India that gives a detailed view of the COVID19 crisis

Our Hon’ble Prime Minister has initiated a series of measures to kick start the country’s economy as the lockdown measures are gradually eased. The theme of these measures is ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ or self-reliant India. The measures are being announced by the Hon’ble Finance Minister and care is being taken to address every single sector of the economy. This space needs to be watched and analysed as many will tie in to the ambitions and promises spelt out by the current government at the start of its new term just a year ago.

Hon’ble Prime Minister’s message to the nation on picking up economic activity and the government’s role in it

The railway ministry continues with its stupendous effort of moving workers from different parts of the country to their home towns. Indian railways has so far transported more than 15 lakh stranded people by running about 1,150 shramik (labour) special trains. During the last 3 days, Railways has transported close to 2 lakh people per day. Railways is ensuring comfort by distributing food and water to the passengers right up to the point they reach their destination.

A couple praying before boarding a train back to their hometowns
This moving image of a couple thanking the land of Gujarat for having given them everything. This, before boarding a train back to their place of origin. They promised to be back and continue with their work

The FDA has been active in granting emergency approvals for companies conducting trials related to COVID-19. Some of the therapies (vaccine / drug / drug combination) show early promise while some fail early on. The world has truly come together towards finding a therapy that is aimed as a cure for COVID-19.

  1. The influenza antiviral favipiravir has shown early positive results as a COVID-19 treatment in a Russian trial.
  2. The FDA has granted Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate a fast-track designation, making it the first potential vaccine to receive the agency’s expedited review status.
  3. Researchers at the University of Albany said they found no benefit from using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. There have been at least two other studies that came to the same conclusion.
  4. Neovii has signed a research and licensing agreement with Tel Aviv University to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. The National Institutes of Health is sponsoring a clinical trial of Gilead Sciences’ antiviral remdesivir combined with Eli Lilly’s anti-inflammatory Olumiant (baricitinib) for treatment of COVID-19 infections.
  6. A triple antiviral combination has shown promise in a phase 2 trial of 127 patients in Hong Kong with mild to moderate COVID-19.
  7. The Rutgers Institute for Translational Medicine and Science is planning a phase 2 trial of Evelo Bioscience’s investigational anti-inflammatory treatment for COVID-19 patients.
  8. Sorrento Therapeutics and the Mount Sinai Health System are collaborating to develop an antibody cocktail that could treat COVID-19.

While the country works hard to lift itself out of the self imposed economic shutdown, workspaces continue to operate from homes across the world. My company, while recovering from COVID 19 has had to deal with another man made crisis. As of now they seem to have come out of it but the cost we will end up bearing will be visible only in the upcoming months. Various benchmarking exercises indicate the worst is yet to come for us.

School for the Miss. continues on alternate days. She is busy during the day with home cleaning and clothes washing. This has kept her fit and energetic. Mrs. is busy with Yoga, breathing exercises and has started with some walk around the building. She also tries out new ways of cooking the same dishes and of course doing the dishes. Fare offered last week:

Packed lunch from a Gujarati caterer - Cauliflower capsicum and peas curry, Aloo rassawala, Marwadi kadi, Gujarati dal. Methi thepla and Chapatis
Packed lunch from a Gujarati caterer – Cauliflower capsicum and peas curry, Aloo rassawala, Marwadi kadi, Gujarati dal. Methi thepla and Chapatis

Sunday lunch was from a caterer offering freshly cooked local fare. Good food that lasted us the entire day.

Plating the food along with a piece of chilli
Plating the food along with a piece of chilli

Rasam figured twice in this weeks’ menu. It is said that if you are able to relish the taste of rasam, your taste buds and system are in perfect shape.

Two days saw us relish single rice based dishes. At every opportunity, Mrs. experiments with different masala bases and we end up with a unique taste.

If rasam featured twice, sambhar had to feature atleast once. Here is the eternally popular murungakkai (drumstick) sambhar with roast potato curry.

Murungakkai (drumstick) sambhar with paruppu sadam and roast potato curry
Simple ones in life are always the best – Murungakkai (drumstick) sambhar with paruppu sadam and roast potato curry

The pick of the week had to be the palak paneer made as a collaboration between Miss. and the Mrs.

Palak paneer with two chapatis, boondi raita and a chilli pickle
Palak paneer with two chapatis, boondi raita and a chilli pickle

To round up the week, an idli variant (mutant) was to be tried. This was Oats idli with pudina (mint) + coconut chutney. Turns out that there was no spare idly that had to be carried forward.

Oats idli with pudina (mint) + coconut chutney
Oats idli with pudina (mint) + coconut chutney

India’s social structure is its biggest advantage. We still listen to elders, father figures and think regarding the well being of everyone around us. Our conduct is our cure.

Lastly, had to trudge about 8 kms in return to collect a packet of medicines which had reached the nearest post office. Joints asking a lot of questions.

Things will get better by the day. Har Har Mahadev!

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 41 – 47

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The first week of our third lockdown seems to be going pretty ok. It is almost like we have got used to living like this. The only wish is to ensure that our recovery rates continue to improve, new infections continue to reduce, people continue to be socially aware & take required precautions and of course, a therapy emerges at the earliest.

The only source to turn to is Prof Shamika Ravi’s data driven report on the state of infections in India. Everything else is noise.

A data intensive approach to how states are performing in the battle against COVID19

As Prof Ravi says, apart from testing, contact tracing becomes extremely important so as to limit spread. Such a keen listener, she stops the moment an anchor on television interrupts her analysis.

States like Telengana have extended the current lockdown to the 29th of May while some like Karnataka have asked essential and non-essential establishments to open while keeping strict social distancing norms. A few states have seen easing of restrictions blow up on their face like in Chennai where the main fruit and vegetable market in Koyambedu turned in to a hotspot. Many like West Bengal have made news for the wrong reasons – no clear picture on fatalities arising out of COVID-19 and others like Maharashtra and Gujarat have started spiralling out of control.

Many positives during the week. Air India began Vande Bharat mission, touted as the world’s largest evacuation operation. Its objective was to get stranded Indians back home. Many Indians across the Gulf, Unites States, London, Far East, South East Asia have been stranded due to loss of jobs, expiry of visas, inability to get back home before the lockdown or the simple need to be back with loved ones. In addition to bringing back stranded Indians, many Indians desirous of going out of India have also been given hope. A detailed order to this effect has been put up on the Air India Website. I hope each and everyone of them is grateful to the country for having been given this opportunity.

Image describing the objective of Vande Bharat mission
The Vande Bharat Mission to bring back stranded Indians

It was also heartening to read about Indian railways and its fantastic efforts.

  1. Trains have been operated from various parts of the country to help migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and other persons stranded at different places. Over 300 trains have been run so far and many more being run
  2. The efforts to connect North East of India by rail has proven immensly beneficial. The Northeast frontier railway has managed to run a record 622 services to various districts across the North East states supplying essentials. Time and again it has been proven that with good infrastructure, progress is guaranteed.
  3. The western railway has used the lockdown to carry out extensive maintenance services of its infrastructure and prepare them for the monsoon ahead.
  4. While the above seem regular, some extaordinary achievements too go unnoticed. The railways managed to get 20 litres of camel milk across to a child in Mumbai who was in need. This did put a smile on many faces
  5. About 5,200 coaches have been converted to COVID-19 isolation wards. This represents another effort to overcome shortage of hospital beds and one that uses ingenious thinking.
A railway coach converted in to a COVID19 isolation ward
A Railway coach converted in to a COVID 19 isolation ward

The only jarring note was the needless controversy and politics alleging that fares were being extracted out of migrant labour moving between states. The central government did clarify that it was bearing 85% of the fare while the host state government was bearing the remaining 15%.

Nothing has deterred India in its quest towards ensuring soverignty of its borders, its citizens living close to the borders are taken care of an movement made more comfortable. It is in this light that one must take note of the commedable job done by the Border Roads Organization – they have built a motorable road just 5 km short of the lipulekh pass that separates India from Tibet (PRC). This erstwhile walking path has been used by piligrims walking to Kailash Mansarovar, residents of border villages, delivery of essential supplies and traders. From use of manual labour and ponies to now using transport vehicles up to atleast 17,000 feet, it has truly made life easier for its people. An online inauguration by the Hon’ble Raksha Mantri brought a lot of joy to people who will be direct beneficiaries of this key infrastructure

Hon’ble Raksha Mantri inaugurating the link road to Kailash Mansarovar

While this reduces the yatra timeframe via Uttarakhand significantly, the walking route gave yatris a lot of time to chant the lord’s name, be with nature and essentially dissolve with the divine. The time spent with sah yatris, opportunity to do seva will truly be missed. At the same time one cannot ignore the massive road and telecom infrastructure built by China on the Tibetan side.

Map of the road link right up to the lipulekh pass.
Estension of the road from Dharchula right up to the lipulekh pass which is a crossover point in to Tibet

While India moved ahead with major infrastructure projects while battling COVID-19, it did not lose sight of the opportunities coming out of this crisis. Many states have used this opportunity to reform their labour laws and have thrown open their gates to investors looking to set up shop. While many say that this targets potential investors who are looking to exit China, many domestic investors too might find the opportunity ripe to invest in states which now have tremendous manpower in the form of returning workforce.

Back home at the workplace, progress with work is steady. Google’s decision to offer employees a day’s break on the 22nd of May to combat weariness arising out of work from home is being spoken about in tech circles. However, services companies who cannot miss a day’s billing, can only dream of such decisions.

The Miss. now has school on alternate days thereby getting some respite from the gruelling 4 hour online schedule. The schedule is mostly to do with keeping attention span than the act of sitting continuously for long durations.

Food as medicine has been imbibed in our civilization for centuries. This lockdown has given everyone a golden opportunity to revive those tenets. At home, two meals a day was the norm except for the weekend when a late lunch required an elaborate breakfast. Rice with a gravy and a subzi continued to be the staple eat of the week. Here is a collection

All the ricelings

Other Rice delicacies from the week

On the day of Sambhar i.e Thursday, Miss. requested Mrs. for some idlies and this simple wish was granted.

Rava idly with egg plant / kathirikai sambhar
Rava idly with egg plant / kathirikai sambhar

On Thursday, just before my eyes shut, Mrs. asked if Sabudana (Sago) was available at home along with peanuts. She immediately rushed to soak them overnight and the next day for breakfast, we were served this:

Sabudana khichdi on Friday morning
Sabudana khichdi on Friday morning

Eggs were in the refrigerator for many days now. Having brought some fresh bread on saturday morning, yielded this:

A great 2 egg omlette with three slices of brown bread for a great breakfast on saturday
A great 2 egg omlette with three slices of brown bread for a great breakfast on saturday

The only two days when lunch was ‘make do with what is around’ was on Friday and saturday. THis was more driven by zero stocks of vegetables than anything else.

We were getting better at designing our life around the lockdown. A lot of understanding of responsibilities and focus on responding definitely helps in maintaining calm at home and the virtual workplace.

A calibrated easing of the lockdown enabled by higher levels of citizen responsibilities will define the way ahead for our country.

Bharat Mata ki jai!

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 34 – 40

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We entered what is widely expected to be the final week of the lockdown. Hopes were rising but, the fear about major cities not coming out of the woods yet persisted.

The Hon’ble Prime Minister was in constant touch with Chief Ministers of various states and was taking stock of their preparedness to release parts of their states out of the lockdown. The approach towards fighting the #Coronavirus was very clear : stay locked in and prevent the fire from singeing you thereby saving lives first before protecting livelihoods. The same has been explained in this utterance of Vidura, the wise one.

Lot of political posturing during the week gave rise to debates, chatter, claims of conspiracy etc., all arising out of a TV channel daring to take on one of the leaders of the ruling coalition in the state of Maharashtra. The failure to condemn the lynching of Hindu Saints in a remote district of the state led to a TV anchor launching a tirade against this leader. In response, various state units of the leader’s party filed over 200 First investigation reports across various states reflecting the lack of application / intelligence. While the Hon’ble Supreme Court refused to restrict commentary by the press, the police in the state was prompt in calling in the anchor and interrogating him for over 12 hours. What was stunning was the attitude of fellow journalists / anchors who did not step in to condemn the police interrogation. If the same interrogation was done to a journalist favorable to the other end of the spectrum, all hell would have broken loose. The media in India is well and truly a divided house.

The states seem to be struggling with the issue of housing and feeding migrants who arrive for economic reasons. The migrants’ own wish to be with their loved ones at these times, has led to the government organising transport for those who are asymptomatic along with measures to quarantine them upon arrival. While seeing them reach their homes safely is heart-warming, the thought of not having enough workforce once the lockdown measures are relaxed, should frighten those incharge of crucial projects.

The Hon’ble Prime Minister touched upon the important topic of spitting in public places during his fortnightly radio connect #mannkibaat. This habit has been one of the reason of high incidence of communicable and air borne diseases in the country. People of all ages including students spit when out in the open. No specific reason; Some spit to relax, some to take out phlegm, some after gargling their throats, and some after consuming a stimulant like tobacco / paan. Not sure if there is any body of research that has delved in to this disgusting habit. The only way future generations dont have to suffer is by getting community elders to lead via mass messaging.

The announcement this week by the ministry of home affairs on classifying the country into various zones – Red, Orange and Green has seen this government take a decisive step towards easing the country out of the lockdown – step by step. The ones in the red zone have to do more to move in to being classified as orange. Citizens have to remain indoors, shops to be open only for a few hours and people to declare truthfully if they have come in contact with any infected person. Hope the innate socially aware nature of India comes to its rescue. It is time tested and has never failed.

The week floated past us and everyone was joyous about the long weekend ahead. Before that, the Miss turned 18 and the friendly neighbourhood baker did not disappoint. The red velvet cake was to die for with excellent flavor and some authentic not-so-sugary cream. The birthday lunch was a special Pao Bhaji by the Mrs. and a delightfully choreographed Zumba session in the evening, again by the Mrs. Everyone wore special clothes to mark the occassion.

Lot of interesting dishes were made and consumed during this period. Sunday, day 34, the food we ate was our medicine.

Veppamboo (neem flower) rice along with a senaikizhangu (yam) lemon based masiyal
Veppamboo (neem flower) rice along with a senaikizhangu (yam) lemon based masiyal

Rasam was the staple on days 35 and 40 accompanied by delicious and healthy curries / subzies. On both days there was a spicy roasted and fried accompaniments that lifted the experience.

If rasam was there, sambhar was not far off. The lone mullangi (radish) was brought out and a fragrant sambhar prepared with fresh coconut and spices. The Miss resisted but the Mrs. cajoled her in to accepting the proposal.

Paruppu and mullangi sambhar rice along with carrot cucumber kosumalli
Paruppu and mullangi sambhar rice along with carrot cucumber kosumalli

An everyday feature was dosa. With excellent sesame oil to accompany, it was a wonderful evening meal.

Just one day, the Miss and Mrs. took the road less travelled with a tangy and well made alu mutter gravy with chapatis.

Half a chapati, alu mutter gravy, cucumber slices and some rice
Half a chapati, alu mutter gravy with some methi leaves, cucumbers sliced and some rice on day 38

As the week moved to a close, the news of extension of the lockdown by 2 weeks started to sink in. Various opinions are being placed with the major ones for reviving the economy. Again, the social system of the country will ensure that communities succeed by each one lending a helping hand to the other. One month of working from home for regular office goers is a funny feeling.

Focus for the next 2 weeks is to ensure a cheerful atmosphere at home.

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 33

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Officially, sunday 26th April is Day 33. Began counting the lockdown from the day the Jantacurfew was imposed on the 22nd of March. 42 days since the Miss attended school within the confines of a classroom.

A board presentation was due for a bit of clean up. A short team call in the morning to sort things out and then it was back to weekend services.

Firstly the damage from the sesame oil had to be undone. Back to a tried and tested brand which is well recognized in the south of India. The oil has a sweet taste as it has a bit of jaggery mixed in to it. The Sesame oil is found to be rich in multiple nutritional components comprising chlorophyll, fiber, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin “E”.

Stocking up on vegetables for the next few days. The neighbourhood vendor had put out his stocks on display. His store attendants were unpacking vegetables from jute bags, cleaning them and preparing them for sales. One of the attendant unmasked himself and spat on the street. A warning was issued to his boss and subsequently all residents of nearby societies were cautioned about the conduct. The vendor apologized for his attendant’s conduct and promised that it would not be repeated.

The saga of one dish lunches continued. Morning was a change; everyone agreed for a breakfast of vegetable maggi. The sight of numerous colourful veggies made everyone forget about the mainstay which in any case is not exactly a healthy alternative. Lunch was a rice mixed with sesame powder and tempered with some peanuts, curry leaves, chana dal and some red byadgi chillies.

rice mixed with sesame powder and tempered with some peanuts, curry leaves, chana dal and some red byadgi chillies. Some salad and steamed gooseberries for immunity
Rice mixed with sesame powder and tempered with some peanuts, curry leaves, chana dal and some red byadgi chillies. Some salad and steamed gooseberries for immunity.

A heavy lunch meant a simple tiffin as it is called in south indian circles. Dosa with coconut chutney and curd.

THe Idly dough transformed in to a dosa dough. Dosas accompanied with coconut chutney and curd
THe Idly dough transformed in to a dosa dough. Dosas accompanied with coconut chutney and curd

Lot of reading, follow up on twitter action especially with respect to political developments in the country, COVID actions taken by various states made saturday truly a busy day. Mrs. had a need for chocolates and it was duly taken care of by undertaking an afternoon trip to a grocery shop.

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 32

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The day began with the investigative skills of the Mrs. The sesame oil purchased had expired and the new bottle of sesame oil was not smelling the way it should. The product expiry date of one of the batches was over a year ago and the grocery store owner had not noticed it before selling the bottle of oil.

Today was a day to complete a round up of the week’s pipeline, activities in progress, activities due for completion and sharing of information with the team. The attendance was encouraging and participation was improving. There were good suggestions from the team members and with a new collaboration tool being introduced, activities at the work place were getting interesting.

Other presentations and data collecton activities were nearly complete and we were eager to close for the week. The Miss’ birthday is due on the 28th of April. An order for a kilogram of red velvet cake has been placed with the neighbourhood baker, who incidentally, lives in the same building complex. Children are taking the lockdown and e-classrooms positively and displaying a lot of commitment towards the task on hand. They are marking one month of virtual connects and are now eager to hear their teachers tell them if the summer holidays are still on. The month of May is when the children and teachers get a break from each other before resuming in the month of June.

Since Idli batter was made available, lunch was a sambhar made of drumstick and a small quantity of sweet pumpkin curry. A bit of paruppu/dhal made it feel like the starting portion of a wedding feast.

Rice and drumstick sambhar with a sweet pumpkin curry
Rice and drumstick sambhar with a sweet pumpkin curry

Idlies with drumstick sambhar made it a wonderful carbohydrate filled day. Lots of protein from the dal as well.

Idlies with drumstick sambhar. Sesame oil / nallennai was missing due to product quality issues
Idlies with drumstick sambhar. Sesame oil / nallennai was missing due to product quality issues

Good music on the local radio channel after dinner and direct to bed. Look forward to a decent weekend.

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 31

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Data collection for an analyst evaluation of our capabilities in a particular technology stack is near complete pending alignment to the format in which data has been requested. This has turned out to be a painful exercise due to the co-ordination involved between various teams in the organization. On top of it, the team running this exercise has not been able to influence the anlyst agency to extend the timelines. Their interactions reveal a deep sense of frustration regarding the task on hand. Companies, whether they are service providers or consumers of technology, have to organize their source data in a much better fashion. When reports look rubbish, nowhere else to point fingers but at the source; in the way the data model is defined and entered.

The investor relations call passes off without any major incident. The investor relations teams circulate mind numbing templates that look like the 1’s and 0’s of a star trek screen. We took a step of deviating from the template and wrote what we thought was appropriate to speak about during these times. Teams are unwilling to spend time to read, analyse facts and draw their own conclusions. Second hand information, whataboutery, hearsay etc., become facts. Thinking based on first principles is a must from a young age.

The other presentation to the board progresses with miniscule changes, increments to the thought process and outsourcing of other content to various business owners. The prospect of a Friday is always an appealing one.

While this busy week was unfolding, the deal that was announced a week ago had moved in to contract negotiations and a team was well into discussing specifics of the arrangement. The handoff from pursuit in to contracting was quite smooth and this was possible with weekly communication, pursuit leaders well equipped with the details and solid support documentation.

Lunch was a new dish called chhole paneer pulav. THe Mrs. and Miss. were planning to go about it without any ground masalas but the presence of coconut and coriander and some tantrums from my end ensured that the pulav ended up tasting like the south indian pulav which was prepared just about a week ago.

Chhole Paneer pulao with some salad of cucumber and tomatoes
Chhole Paneer pulao with some salad of cucumber and tomatoes

Equipped the household with two packets of idli batter suggesting that the Mrs. should consider some idlies for friday evening. That meant, including a sambhar as part of the day’s menu. This evoked strong reactions from the Miss but Mrs. convinced her that she would make it in a way that it appealed to her senses. Sambhar – ughhh! Souffle – ahhhh!

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 30

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Eleven more days to go for lockdown 2.0 to end.

The company is preparing to report its first quarter results for 2020. Preparation is underway to brief the investor relations team on the performance by the Industry vertical team. Work involves gathering qualitative information on market headwinds, tailwinds and performance of the business unit in the post COVID-19 scenario. Final touches given after feedback from the leadership and the presentation shared with the coporate finance team.

Other presentations, deal reviews and data collection activities continue in the background unhindered. An interesting and an effective technique was taught to the team today. The pyramid principle of thinking was used as we were building a presentation for the company’s board. Developed as a training module within McKinsey, this has proven to be a logical way to synthesize observations in to findings and further on to guiding thought.

A news channel has taken on the opposition and the ruling dispensation in the state where two hindu sadhus were lynched. A direct line of questioning was used on the acting president of a national party which is a member of the coalition ruling the state. The fireworks of the news channel anchor has set alight social media and has questioned the aura of invincibility that was built around the acting president. The failure to issue a condemnation of the incident of lynching despite having a share in power was a huge mistake and brought the fault lines and their understanding of India to the fore. Subsequently 200 FIR’s were filed against the effervescent anchor of the channel . The supreme court intervened and ensured rights of the press and the freedom to air views and at the same time put off any arrests for 3 weeks. Interesting times ahead.

A shopping trip to the nearby store. Sesame oil was sold but discovered as expired only after a detailed scrutiny of the smell and then the expiry date. Even after so many years, retailers dont junk expired stock and still have the nerve to sell it to customers. Honesty is a culture! Morning was busy with other support activities like chopping up a cluster of beans and a couple of carrots and grating a coconut – in a mechanized way of course!

The handicapped retailer of eggs is one enterprising guy and he hands out chits of paper detailing his name and contact details. A call to order vegetables and fruits, and one could pick them up at his kiosk near the grocery store.

Lunch was a simple dhal / paruppu sadam (rice) with a beans and carrot subzi. The kothamalli (coriander) thogayal was to be exhausted today as there were tell tale signs of fungus setting in.

Paruppu sadam with ghee, carrot and beans curry along with kothamalli / coriander thogayal
Paruppu sadam with ghee, carrot and beans curry along with kothamalli / coriander thogayal

Evening was time for an experiment. The Mrs. went in to the youtube channel of an australia based south canara hobby cookpreneur and came up with the recipe for Tomato Dosa. The raw batter smelt wonderful but did the end product come out as expected. Yes, atleast i thought so but the Miss. dissed the end product and the Mrs. had to be content with exhausting the batter on me. What was for sides – kothamalli / coriander thogayal of course.

Tomato dosa with kothamalli thogayal
Tomato dosa with kothamalli thogayal

The company is in the midst of managing the outcome of one manmade crisis and has had to lurch in to another manmade crisis. While the former tested our resilience the latter is bound to test our reputation.

Hope to learn and come out a winner !

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 29

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A good way to start the day is to understand what really happened in history on the day. A useful place to go for that is here

Mrs. is attending a lot of webinars hosted by DMC’s of various country tourism boards and hotel representatives. Was interesting to hear through offerings from operators in places like Andaman, countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana etc., Additionally, industry representatives too gathered (over 100 of them) to talk through the present crisis and what bodes for the travel industry. Any talk hinges on the resumption air traffic or train traffic, a pre-requisite for encouraging outbound / inbound travel. Airports and train stations have been preparing themselves to receive passengers but what will be the government’s position and even if restrictions are lifted marginally, will people gather courage to step out.

The day is now dedicated for a presentation and data gathering exercise. We have not fixed things at its source and as a result are now having to make do with data that is thrown up by the system. That in turn is requiring long hours of cleaning before it can start making sense. We can do this over one or two cycles but organizations not tackling things at a source layer but end up advising customers to do the same are sounding like hippocrates.

Family is keen to have short reassuring talks on what we will be doing post the lockdown. A common theme is to just keep good health and the rest will follow.

The country is seeing politics creep in to efforts being made to contain the spread of the virus; Political one-upmanship is rife in these trying times. The waters have further been muddied with the lynching of two hindu monks near a Maharashtra district that borders the state of Gujarat. The incident did not arouse universal condemnation but only selective calls to avoid communalizing which has not gone down well with sections of the press and the majority. The state government’s weak reaction and positioning of the Chief Minister in the line of fire as compared to the Home Minister was a reflection of how well things are running within the coalition ruling the state. The state currently holds the dubious distinction of carrying the highest number of infected; this, despite not being the largest and the most populated. Mumbai is now at the precipice.

Dharma has to be upheld. The Hon’ble Prime Minister has stated via a tweet that the virus does not differentiate before striking.

Tweet by the Prime Minister that has generated a lot of debate

In his capacity, he is the Prime Minister for everyone. While his detractors have, as usual, ignored or dissed his tweet like any other, his supporters are vehemently disagreeing with this and have cited a specific religious community and a particular congregation of being the reason for India’s numbers soaring. They additionally point out to the non co-operation of their community members when approached by healthcare workers for testing and support for cure. Valid points but not sure if the Hon’ble PM should react at this point instead of responding to the crisis which is showing hopes of coming under control. It is better to bury the angst and bring it to the fore at the right time and opportunity.

Today, we travel to Gujarat for lunch. Mrs. has been raised in Gujarat and all things Gujarati are most welcome. This is probably the first time in a month that we have had more south indian for meals than Gujarati. For lunch today was a complete fare of vegetable khichdi, Gujarati kadi, athanu marcha, some salad and of course a Gujarati papad

Vegetable khichdi, Gujarati kadi, athanu marcha, some salad and of course a Gujarati papad
Vegetable khichdi, Gujarati kadi, athanu marcha, some salad and of course a Gujarati papad

Work from home, people assume 24*7 availability and as a result there are lot of missed calls, missed instant messages on communicator and a tonne of emails.

A shopping trip planned for today has been shelved owing to the work load. The heat is getting unbearable and a few hours without air conditioning leaves you drenched.