Journeysmatter

A blog on journeys, great destinations and fantastic travel experiences

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 21

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A busy week begins!

The leadership is keen to know the business pipeline and team composition. How to go after new business, what business to go after, should we talk about offerings valid in the COVID 19 scenario, what will we discuss to address their short term pain and also help them prepare for the long term ? Questions abound. Questions relevant to the customer are in many ways relevant to the family as well.

What is a family that has not saved and has little cash in the bank going to do if the lockdown and the expected slowdown stretches their finances ? Are the elderly protected from this storm financially ? The government is doing its best to ease the burden on interest payments but the pain just got delayed and is not totally out of the way.

The business unit strategy discussions are underway and 11 AM everyday is a scrum call to align on work completed, to be taken up and challenges.

Prior to the leadership pipeline call, the team call happens and a thorough pipeline discussion is conducted. How can we regularize the habits of the team with respect to tracking of activities that they own ? The company has provided multiple collaboration tools to make life easier but the world still derives pleasure by shooting of emails by the dozens.

Conflict resolution with dialogue and ability to take decisions is a culture that has to sink in.

Pipeline review with leadership passes of without any major incident. Getting to know these guys a little better and how their asks vary from one another. In this age of personalization, even in such calls, important to prepare from the perspective of what they would like to hear. Are we covering the deals they want to see ?

Lunch is a simple Methi dal and Cabbage + peas subzi. Skipped taking a snap.

Next day is regional new year festivals including the Tamil new year. An announcement by the Hon’ble Prime Minister has been scheduled for 9 AM on the 14th of April.

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 20

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Watching the news everyday leads one to think that the lockdown is not expected to end anytime soon. The Hon’ble Prime Minister is expected to make an annoucement before the lockdown ends on the 14th. News agencies are in to their job of speculating on possibilities. There is no end to FAKE NEWS.

A sedate sunday passes off without any major disruption. The regular cleaning activities are planned and executed. Rewarded with a simple and nice lunch of Rajma + Chawal + Raita. Pulses are extremely useful in the absence of vegetables. OTP + pulses can take care of a week’s meal.

Rajma chawal and raita
Rajma, chawal and raita for lunch. With such a heavy lunch, dinner is more or less ruled out

What will the new week bring forth ?

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 19

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Weekend is here and out come the grocery bags for some missing items. Looks like the whole neighbourhood chose the weekend to get out; queues outside stores with people standing outside stores within circles maintaining a safe distance. People buying Amul butter in multiples of 500 gms, multiple condensed milk tins, multiple packets of all purpose flour; Not sure if they would have generated such volumes on a normal day. Indians are unit level shoppers and usually buy in sachets, single piece items and not in terms of value packs. In the future if an FMCG company puts up a notice that few of its plants are shut for maintenance for 20 days, am sure people will flock to pick up whatever stokcs are available.

Daughter has enrolled in to an online learning session on office productivity tools. Essential Word, Excel and Powerpoint. In crucial times, someone who is able to clean up an excel sheet or make a few presentation slides is more valuable than just a textbook student.

Lunch was Methi Thepla with Alu subzi. The recipe for Methi Thepla was from the original home cook tutor, Ms. Tarla Dalal. Adding a bit of curd to the dough makes the thepla ultra soft it seems. An enjoyable saturday lunch! Kudos to the Mrs. and Ms.

Methi thepla with Alu Subzi and gujarati chilli pickle with mustard
Methi Thepla with Alu subzi and Gujarati chilli pickle with Mustard

Afternoon nap after flipping a few pages of the book Midnight’s Machines by Arun Mohan Sukumar. Fantastic read about how India embraced technology post independence. A huge point the author makes is about how the leaders (PM’s) took it on themselves to communicate to the people on technology and in the process maybe did huge disservice to the people by not focusing on technology to enhance people’s lives. A notable miss is the semiconductor complex in Mohali for which we seem to be paying dearly!

The vegetable truck was in and people were lining up to stock up for the week. Not much variety in the vegetables.

Adai was back to reinvigorate the evening. White butter and jaggery made it the perfect combination. Avial ? Maybe next time!

Adai with Jaggery and White butter
Adai with white butter and jaggery

Sunday was Rajma chawal and the Mrs. had done the soaking of Rajma beans.

Good night!