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!

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