A blog on journeys, great destinations and fantastic travel experiences

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


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


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


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.

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 28

One of the boats on the banks of the Ganges ready to transport devotees to the Triveni Sangam

The lockdown in India has entered its 5th week following the jantacurfew on the 22nd of March. Suddenly, the word “New Normal” is being spouted at every available opportunity.

A lot of firsts in the lockdown, most importantly the impact on the environment. Satisfying news from places like Haridwar in uttarakhand and New Delhi about how the Ganges and Yamuna are cleaner than ever before

The #Ganges river in #Haridwar, #Uttarakhand flowing peacefully during the lockdown
Image credit – PTI; Banks of the Ganges in Haridwar, Uttarakhand. Ganges water is fit for direct consumption from the river

The same story repeats with lakes in the city of #Bangalore. The Air quality across major cities have also seen significant improvement during the lockdown. Researchers recorded the air quality of these 10 cities and after three-weeks timeframe noticed that harmful microscopic particulate matter, PM 2.5, has significantly reduced. The PM 2.5 pollutant is smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter and is very dangerous for human beings. The pollutant goes to our respiratory system from where it passes into other organs and bloodstream which may cause breathing problems. 

Back at the workplace, the weekly activities begin in full force. Planning calls for the week, deciding where to set foot, which activities to lead, which disputes to get in to is a necessity. While all of this happens, how does one set aside for one’s own personal growth, extra reading, new skill building etc.,

When it comes to activities within the home, we are slowly reaching the mode of self-reliance. What then happens to our household support personnel who dutifully support us through various chores during the day. There are debates underway in various whatsapp groups on the salaries to be paid to them in the absence of a single days’ work. In the end, the unregulated nature of this sector, leaves the support staff at the mercy of decisions taken by the household. Children who were not used to washing their cups / plates / clothes are suddenly hostel ready. This lockdown has proven to be a huge blessing for parents who regularly have to put up with uncooperative children. Some enterprising kids have even got an opportunity to try their skills at the kitchen. A case in point is the Miss. Bravo!

Lunch was a simple cabbage kootu with a cut mango pickle and steamed gooseberries (Amla). This is more of an exhaust the remaining vegetables kind of a dish. Simple to chop, put them in a cooker along with moong dal and turmeric, salt and tempering follow after which it is ready to go.

Cabbage kootu rice, cut mango pickle and steamed gooseberries / amla
Cabbage kootu rice, cut mango pickle and steamed gooseberries / amla

Two more weeks for the 2nd #lockdown to get over. Experts are looking at many elements before getting the country back on rails

  1. How clusters are being controlled
  2. How successful has contact tracing been. Once traced, how well have the contacts been quarantined
  3. How local governments right up to the level of villages are able to enforce quarantine
  4. Coming clean on the data across states

All of the above will be a true reflection of how people are cooperating across the country. Simply put, in India’s case, prevention truly seems to be the best medicine.

Jai Hind!

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 27

River Ganges, boats docked and the well lit bridge

Sunday begins with cleaning of ceiling fans that have accumulated dirt along its 3 blades. Following this, window panes get a wipe and some of them require a brush to get the pigeon poop out. A blemish free view of the apartment complex ensues and the living room is bathed in light after the drapes are pushed to the sides. After the in-house cleaning, the balcony gets a water wash and a tonne of red mud is also removed. The bird bath is also given a refill. A few pigeons and crows land in for a few sips.

Behind schedule for a presentation due on Thursday; Not even a draft is done. A 2 hour sitting prior to lunch ensues. An evening call is also set up between colleagues to take stock of preparation for the investor relations presentation. Getting to work was possible only after helping the Mrs. with some preparation for lunch. Fresh coriander thuvayal was included in the menu and ingredients had to be roasted and allowed to cool. Amla (nellikai) was steamed and included as part of the menu.

Home food has kept hunger pangs to a minimum and in general one seems content to have 2 good meals a day. The evening office snack is now non-existant and many colleagues have been happy about the resulting weight loss. Samosas, bhel, dhokla etc., are only available via google search these days.

Lunch consisted of poricha rasam which did not contain any tuvar dal or tamarind. Specially ground masala was used by the Mrs. to make an impactful dish. The kothamalli (coriander) thuvayal, Rasam and curd made it a 3 course meal.

Poricha Rasam and rice, Bhindi subzi, Kothamalli (coriander) thuvayal along with steamed amla
Poricha Rasam and rice, Bhindi subzi, Kothamalli (coriander) thuvayal along with steamed amla

Rasam rice is usually consumed with mixture or other knick knacks but non-availability has ensured a non-corrupted rasam sadam.

Evening passes off peacefully with some tea, biscuits and some rava dosa for dinner. Week is expected to be a busy one what with certain incidents having rattled the company.

Jai Shri Ram!

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 26


First saturday after the announcement of Lockdown 2.0. Saturday’s are reserved for top up groceries and some additional vegetables to pull through the following week. Managing the grocery inventory requires constant scrutiny of dry groceries, vegetables, fruits, confectrionaries and the occassional packed snacks. Scrutiny is done midweek and over the weekend.

The apartment complex housing the grocery store now has its main doors shut. Two apartments away, two residents of a building have tested #COVID19 positive and the nearby residents have gone in to a containment mode. Orders are taken by the store attendants and the goods are delivered across the grilles of the gate. Adding half a dozen of eggs, vegetables and fruits too are added as purchases for the week.

A quick round of exercise – Suryanamaskar was followed by a sumptuous lunch of South Indian Pulav with raitha.

A plate of south indian pulav made with coconut and coriander ground with spices and lots of vegetables along with raita
A plate of south indian pulav made with coconut and coriander ground with spices and lots of vegetables along with raita

The vegetable truck arrives in the afternoon stacked with a lot of coriander, vegetables, some watermelon and lots of gooseberries. Steamed gooseberries are said to offer excellent immunity as they are loaded with a lot of vitamin C. 20 Rs worth of it along with some watermelon and cucumbers completed the purchases for the week.

TV gets duller by the day as channels are nearly done with their original programming. Older movies are screened and all of it makes TV a painful watch. Tamil channels are screening a few interesting movies of 2019 and early 2020 and that gets your attention for a while. Radio FM channels are playing songs from the 90’s and all of it ad-free. A world without advertising is hard for all consumer facing businesses. Movies without adbreaks are an absolute delight though.

The local corporation set up a health monitoring station within the building premises. Residents were requested to walk in, get their temperature checked and ensure that compliance was ensured. Admirable step.

The weekend was going to be a busy one with atleast 3 hours of office work and some cleaning!

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 25


And so we are now in the second and hopefully the last phase of the lockdown. The country has now started the long process of kick starting the economy by announcing sector wise opening up starting from the 20th of April. Important among them being agriculture and other sectors relying on manpower and the MNREGA segment which involves creation of work so that unskilled labour can be employed and earning opportunities created.

There are countless stories of effective management and mismanagement of the crisis. Several state leaders have risen to the occassion and have moved the administrative machinery to get cracking at tracing the infected, testing them and quarantining them. However, there have been a few who have found this the right time for politicking and have been called out on social media

While the politicians are at it, it is important for the lay folk to understand the happenings on the ground, and happenings supported with data. One of the best twitter handles that talks about how India is progressing in the war against the virus is of Prof Shamika Ravi.

Professor Shamika Ravi has been posting daily updates on the status of COVID19 cases in India along with commentary on how it is progressing. All driven purely by data.

A final team orientation session has been pushed to Monday to accommodate some preparation time for the evening call with analysts. The rest of the afternoon is used to prepare for the analyst call. That is interspersed with other review activity and closures for the week. We have also been running a story series on how various project teams have been coping with the lockdown and have continued to work remotely and deliver successfully for clients. The education in this has been about knowing the range of work that companies have been doing in the world’s fight towards #COVID19.

The evening call with analysts passes of without a glitch. Kept the concentration going for the entire 90 minutes. There were no What if or How may we questions just the common place ones which any company is anyway prepared to answer; including a lot of blah on #COVID19. The call brought the day and the week to a close. A note of appreciation from the leadership on the preparation and execution of the call helped end the day on a high.

The call would not have been successful had it not been for a tasty lunch by the Mrs. of Onion rice and a black chickpea gravy. Rendered support by cutting up some onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and chillies.

Onion rice with kadalai or black chickpea gravy which was a tomato onion based one
Onion rice with kadalai or black chickpea gravy which was a tomato onion based one

The reward for a good analyst call was an a delightful rava idly with a potato gravy for sides.

Rava Idly with Potato masala or potato gravy made in a south indian style
Rava Idly with Potato masala or potato gravy made in a south indian style

A happy Mrs. is possible with good assistance in the kitchen of namely stacking the dried vessels, clearing up food remains, ensuring there is no shortage of ingredients and of course keeping the vegetables washed and chopped to precision based on the menu for the day.

Saturday was earmarked for some sundry shopping, blogging and of course an essential nap!

Har Har Mahadev!

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 24


Today is devoted to preparing for the interaction with analysts. In the meanwhile, the company is churning out insights, crystal ball gazing on how various industries are going to cope with the COVID 19 situation. There is a deluge of information everywhere and all of them are reactions and snap judgements. Frankly, no one knows what the next day will bring. Human will however will help navigate the roughest seas.

Any business who has always kept his customer at the center of all his actions will know what needs to be done to keep his customer satisfied. Similarly, governments who have the citizens, businesses and its soverign borders at the core of its actions will know what needs to be done for each of them.

Online grocery portals have tried to create a disruption in a country where the neighbourhood store (kirana) has a better pulse of buyers in its vicinity. For the online portals, this crisis was the best opportunity to showcase their capability to adapt and deliver, giving the same experience to the customer. Lack of clarity in government rules aside, these portals have largely flattered only to deceive. Our first order was delivered flawlessly but only after close to 30 hits on the site trying to check for a delivery slot.That was the last order on the site after which multiple issues started surfacing

  1. Stock outs – within 2 weeks of the lockdown, they have completely stocked out and have not been able to replenish even basic items like rice
  2. No intimation mechanism about delivery slots opening up. One has to randomly try after loading the basket and if one is victorious with grabbing a slot, consider yourself lucky!
  3. There is no way the basket is reflecting the availability. Between picking items in to the basked and whenever one pays during checkout, atleast 70 – 80% of the items are stocked out and one is left with items which one may not need
  4. Grocery sites are definitely a no-go for fruits and vegetables. Stale vegetables, over ripe fruits and damaged goods have ensured that this category should best be left handled by the local market

A neighbourhood store operating for over a decade is confident with his supplychain and has most of the distributors eating out of his hand. If there is one thing that is good about online grocery that is about ordering remotely for things to be delivered to elderly folk living on their own.

Calls continued throughout the day. Set aside an hour to review a few proposal documents and shared comments and prepared the team for a discussion before the final submission.

Lunch was a simple rasam with a bitter gourd subzi. Easy on the stomach and lesser chance of hitting the sack.

One more day and then the weekend arrives to rescue.

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 23


India does not restrict movement of people for economic purposes. This has seen a lot of youngsters move from their home states to other states for economic reasons. Many times the home states may not have seen industrial development or the migrating worker may not own agricultural land and of course there is always the issue of skill. The lockdown has truly impacted the migrant labour and their employers and state administration have shown little empathy in dealing with their plight. The incident of DTC buses transporting huge number of migrant workers and dropping them at the borders of New Delhi – UP, migrant workers evicted by their landlords walking back home / taking refuge in public places or the one on 14th of April where purported migrant workers assembling outside a mosque in suburban mumbai expecting trains to resume. All these incidents collectively point at only one root cause – lack of timely intervention towards arresting fake news flooding social media or instant messaging channels. Once the incident happens, there are many analysts and conspiracy theorists dissecting the issue and in some cases even pointing at extreme political conspiracies. The reason the Hon’ble Prime Minister has established a direct connect with the people via his apps or other digital mediums is to ensure that people hear directly from him and not through other channels which are prone to distortion.

Other incidents of businessmen waving a letter issued by a Home Secretary of a state and zipping past policemen to a hill station have resulted in a lot of anger towards the establishment and crooked ways of the entitled lot.

Another day of calls. The HQ comes back with full force and there are scores of calls through out the day on various subjects. Chosing which to attend, is one adequately prepared, are there outcomes defined; if the call set up does not meet the above laid out objectives, better to stay away.

An analyst briefing is slotted for friday evening with global leaders joining in. Preparations are underway with daily time invested by a senior leader towards reviewing of content and in specific cases, taking it upon him to write them. Generous in praise and always ready to step in; this man has truly won some of our hearts. When a guy does it and leads by example, others naturally gravitate towards him/her. Leaders are great schools to learn at!

Lunch today was a nice sambhar with salad. Sambhar contained a medley of brinjal, onion and potatoes. Missing some crunchy fried snacks which normally accompany such dishes. The Mrs. is now dividing her time brilliantly between washing vessels, cooking and attending travel industry webinars.

A plate of rice on which there is a sambar of potatoes, onion and brinjal along with a green cut salad
Sambhar rice and salad

Mid way through the week, looking forward to the weekend and covering ground with discussions around college admissions of Miss and future of travel with the Mrs.

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 22


A very happy Tamil New Year! The Sarvari varusham is here. The Vasan thirukanitha panchangam (thirukanitha – mathematical calculations to arrive at precise planetary positions thus determining auspicious time for various activities) has been an integral part of every household and a new one is published just before the new year.

The pink coloured Vasan Panchangam with Lord Krishna holding Govardhan mountain with his little finger
The Vasan panchangam with Krishna holding aloft Mt Govaradhan

A morning trip to the store to find coconuts is futile. Result is no payasam or coconut based fare. Never mind. Picked up a few flowers on the way back and everyone was ready to usher in the New Year. On the occassion, offerings are made of rice, dals, coins, cash, jewels and clothes to signify prosperity and good health. Prayers to the panchangam are offered as well. Along with all of the above thin and spiced buttermilk (Neer mor) and a jaggery + cardamom + ginger powder based water (panakam) is offered as part of the prayer. A mango + neem flower mix, boiled with jaggery signifying the sweet, sour and bitter experiences is offered and later savoured. All experiences are to be treated equally and accepted gracefully.

Prayer altar with photos of deities a lamp burning. Offerings of jewels, fruits, rice, dal, currency and coins. Along with neer mor, panakand a mango, neem flower and jaggery mix.
Prayer altar with photos of deities a lamp burning. Offerings of jewels, fruits, rice, dal, currency and coins. Along with neer mor, panakand a mango, neem flower and jaggery mix.

The Hon’ble Prime Minister wished its citizens celebrating New Year and promptly announced the extension of the #lockdown. We were now heading in to #lockdown 2.0. His appeal was based on the need to save lives and livelihoods. All arms of the government along with state governmernts were taken on board before a decision was communicated to the citizens of the country. The second lockdown was to extend until the 3rd of May. The severity of guidelines were to be increased until the 20th of April post which sector wise easing was expected. This was the livelihood piece. Of siginificance here is the agriculture sector which had to get back to work to complete the harvest and be in readiness for the monsoon on which the country is dependant.

The Hon’ble Prime Ministers address to the nation conveying the extension of lockdown

With the office headquarters in the country shuttered due to Tamil new year, the rest of the locations had a relatively easy day to contend with. However, calls that were already on calendars had to be honoured and those few hours were definitely required to get them completed. An afternoon movie on a regional channel was a good watch along with the Mrs. The movie was called Thambi.

Lunch was a simple Rasam prepared with neem flowers. The dish is a delicacy and is a great stomach cleanser.

With HQ coming back online, the day after was always going to be one where there would be no respite from the calls that infest the calendar.