A blog on journeys, great destinations and fantastic travel experiences

Tag Archives: indian railways

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


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


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


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!