Monsoon Is Here

The rains finally hit Kochi and the rest of Kerala this Sunday as the monsoon season is officially declared by the clouds over the state. Technically June 7th was the beginning but over here it really started pouring on Sunday.

Being at home all through the weekend I was watching a movie while in bed in the late afternoon when the rains started and other than a brief respite it has been raining throughout until Monday morning and the sun is mostly blocked by rain clouds. It isn’t raining now at 12 noon but the forecast is for showers and some thunder. Vigorous rainfall is expected across Kerala over the next 4 to 5 days. I just hope that it doesn’t get to be like last year with the heavy rains leading to floods that devastated parts of the state.

However, I must say that I love the rains. Especially when I am in the comfort of my home and in bed and can cozy up in my sheets and it’s raining outside. I didn’t feel like getting outta bed this morning and since I am only due to be at work at 7:30 pm I went back to sleep and that laziness won. A bonus, it’s not sweaty and hot and I enjoy this kinda weather. I do not enjoy getting wet in the rain but yeah I like this weather.

The New Mash Is Not An Improvement

Today was not a fun day to go out. My main interest was to go get some shopping done for groceries and toiletries but before that I wanted to get some lunch. The problem was my choice of place. I picked Mash RestoCafe as I hadn’t been to this particular place in 2 years. The thing was they had closed that particular outlet in Pallimukku and opened one in Edapally and had another one in Panampilly Nagar.

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From that rather big sized venue to this tiny cafe with just a few uncomfortable chairs & tables (4 in total) and built in benches. Neither the chair not the desk looked comfortable but I picked the chair at one end. Looked at the menu and picked a very refreshing banana & strawberry shake (which I have had before) and their meat lovers sandwich which is a double decker sandwich with a chicken ham, beef chunks, a fried egg, tomatoes & fried onions). I had a started of very thin fish fingers. The shake was awesome and very refreshing on a hot day. I couldn’t finish the fries having only made a slight dent and I couldn’t finish the sandwich either and feel it would have been better without the middle slice of bread.

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I had had enough of the place – food is good but I don’t appreciate the close quarters with the counter being just right behind me and having to hear the staff talking so loudly near me and also some guy who came in and perhaps knows these guys and him talking so loudly in Hindi. From that big setting in Pallimukku to this cramped space where you wouldn’t be able to have a conversation in peace. Chairs are uncomfortable and the bench – no thank you. I do like their food so will mostly order via UberEats.

Partying In Hotel Hill Palace

Yesterday was the quarterly get-to-ether of our department at the office I work at. This is a team of about 25 folks and some, not me, look forward to this dinner and gathering in a nice hotel where we book a hall or conference room and there are speeches, presentations and awards given for the performance during that quarter and then play some funny games and play music while we have dinner from the buffet.

Me, I am not a big office party kinda guy. Anways, I was working the morning shift and hence I wanted to go home as soon as possible yet I had to stay back. I waited in the office till almost 7 pm when me and a colleague of mine booked an Uber and went to Hotel Hill Palace which is about 6 kms away. It is a 5 star hotel and on the 3rd floor we had a conference haul booked for us. The function started and it was all fun and games until dinner time. I had a little soup, naan and rice with butter chicken and fish tikka masala and skipped desert as I wanted to leave by 9:30 pm.

I said my goodbyes and then booked an Ola ride from there to my home and reached by 10pm. And as the elevator was on the fritz for the past 4 days I made my long and tiring 7 floor walk up to my apartment and then washed away my sweat and dirt from the day and relaxed in front of the laptop.

Heat Waves In Kerala

It is so hot. A heat wave alert has been issued for Kerala till Thursday with the mercury level witnessing a steady increase over the past few days. According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), maximum temperature was likely to be above normal in all districts, except Idukki and Wayanad. The IMD warned that temperature would rise by 4 degrees Celsius in Alappuzha, Kottayam, Palakkad and Kozhikode. Thiruvananthapuram, Pathanamthitta, Malappuram, and Kannur will see a rise of 3 degrees Celsius. As Kerala braces for a sweltering week ahead, two more suspected cases of death due to sunstroke were reported from Thiruvananthapuram and Kannur districts on Sunday.

The number of sunstroke deaths in the State over just the weekend has now risen to three. In Ayira in Thiruvananthapuram, a 42-year-old man, identified as Karunakaran, was found dead in a field. In Eramamakuttur in Kannur, Narayanan, 67, was found dead near his home. Narayanan was reportedly missing since Saturday. In both cases, sunburn marks were reportedly found on the men, but autopsy reports are awaited to ascertain the cause of death. Though a third death reportedly due to sunstroke was reported from Pathanamthitta on Sunday, the Health Department did not confirm it. Between March 1 and March 24, as many as 125 persons sought medical attention due to sunburn, the DHS reported. Of this, 67 cases were reported in the last one week alone. On Sunday, Nasar Khan, a local RSP leader in Punalur, and a young girl from Kasargod were among seven persons hospitalised due to sunburn.

No wonder I am sweating while sleeping right under the ceiling fan and my sheets are covered in my sweat puddles. The Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) said that 4,467 water kiosks have been installed across the State to ensure adequate supply of potable water in water scarce areas. District Collectors have been sanctioned ?50 lakh each for undertaking distress relief measures, including emergency supply of water through tankers and kiosks.

Kerala & The Beef Burger

Well, it’s been a debate that has been going on for many years and will continue to be debated and argued for a long, long time. “Indians do not eat beef” – is what most foreigners think about our dietary habits. Not true! Heck, a lot of Indians also think the same thing. Not true! And when they see us Keralites or some others in India or maybe a few metro cities or the 7 North Eastern states, some of them – the normal ones – shrug it off as a cultural difference and never have a problem with it but some others – the fanatic assholes – start abusing us verbally and shout at us for not being real Indians.

Stupidity aside, Kerala, West Bengal and North-eastern states such as Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim. In Manipur, a royal edict banned cow slaughter, but beef is consumed widely. Now, what I find funny is that international brands like McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell etc cannot have beef products in India and Kerala. Instead they have chicken and veggie options. But if you are in Kerala – well I can say for Cochin in particular since I live here – you can eat beef burgers in various places. The Burger Junction, Double Roti, The Grill Lab, Burger Spot, Burger Queen, Burger Hut & Burger Hutz, Chai Kofi, Mash 24, Westley’s (former known as Burgeria) among others all serve beef burgers and some even have pork. No problem in getting our fill of beef burgers over here!

In terms of the best I would say that The Burger Junction is the most awesome with Double Roti come in at second place. The Grill lab is a place that I have only visited once and I would love to try more of their food but I guess they would rank high.

WhatASale Experience

Last week India’s first cashless store, WhatASale, launched a vending in our office building. What is WhatASale? It is India’s first cashier-less store that’s opened up in Kochi, Kerala. You need to follow three simple steps: download its app, open it and scan the unique QR code while entering the store. That’s it. You can now pick the items you need, and you can pay for via different online payment options.

Subhash S, CEO & CTO, Watasale, shared that he was inspired to attempt this because of the media attention received by Amazon Go. Using a combination of QR codes, computer vision, sensor fusion, deep learning, and AI this concept of pick up and go has been made possible. While they have an actual store, my experience is limited to the vending machine. You download the app and enter a one time password of 4 digits on the keypad. This will open the door.

Then you check and pick up what item or items you want. So far I and my colleague have only picked up Lays and Orea cookies. You know, when you get peckish 4 to 5 hours after dinner. You get the bill sent to the app and you pay later. You can use your credit/debit card or online payment apps. So easy. Best thing – this is a local company!

Taco Bell Comes To Kochi

It’s finally here! Well not that I or anyone I know was waiting eagerly for it but Taco Bell is finally coming to Kochi. It’s the inauguration of the first Taco Bell outlet in Kerala and it’s in Lulu Mall, Edapally – which is a suburb of Kochi. Lulu Mall is largest mall in India (for now anyways as that title will soon be gone) and has KFC, Dominos, Pizza Hut, Burger King & McDonald’s.

Now they have a Taco Bell too. I have never been to a Taco Bell and never had anything from them. They have outlets in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad & Chandigarh – 11 in all and I guess Kochi makes 11. If it’s a success I guess they will have one each in the two Lulu Mall outlets that are being setup in Calicut & Thiruvananthapuram. But since India does not allow national/international food chains to have beef products (local joints in Kerala can have beef but not in most of India) what will they serve? Chicken ofcourse. Let’s look at the menu!

Mexican Paneer? What the fuck??? Tikka Masala Nachos Veg/Chicken? LOL, to be honest the rest of the menu looks interesting and I want to try a bunch of them. No beef ofcourse but lots of chicken option. I hope it’s good.

Rain Lashes On Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram: Under the influence of Cyclone Gaja, Kerala state will experience isolated rains and strong winds till Monday. Squally wind speed reaching 35-45 kmph gusting to 55 kmph likely over Southeast Arabian Sea. The sea waves could rise at a height of 2.8 m in Kerala coast and Lakshadweep region till Sunday. Fishermen are advised not to venture into these areThe meteorological department has warned the formation of low pressure in the middle of the southern Bay of Bengal by Sunday.

Landslides, mudslides and other damages were reported on Friday in various parts of Idukki district, where the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) had issued an orange alert for November 16. The heavy rains have largely affected Munnar, one of the main tourist destinations in Idukki. Landslides were reported in Mammal and Edamal areas in Vattavada near Munnar on Friday around 10 am. A home in Vattavda was partially destroyed due to the landslides. The landslides and heavy rain also submerged acres of winter vegetable farms in Vattavada. Traffic was partially disrupted in the Kochi-Dhanushkodi national highway in old Munnar as the roads were submerged in the rainwater. A mudslide was reported near Mattuppetty road in Munnar and the traffic disrupted in the top station route.

Incidentally, the recently rebuilt Periyavara Bridge was also washed out due to heavy rain on Friday. The bridge, which is on the Munnar-Udumalpet interstate route, connects tourists to Rajamala tourist destination and the Eravikulam National Park.

A Kerala Flood Update

The death toll from the fresh onslaught of rain in Kerala since August 9 has climbed to 75 as the state is reeling under one of the worst floods in history. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had once again called PM Modi on Thursday to seek more aid considering the situation. or the first time in history, the state has opened 35 of its 39 dams. Meanwhile, operations at the Cochin International Airport have been suspended till August 26 due to flooding in and around the airport. A red alert has been issued in all the 14 districts of the state.

Train services have been disrupted and road transport services are in disarray with stretches of roads coming under water. Officials said a holiday has been declared for educational institutions in all districts barring Kasaragod for day while colleges and universities have postponed exams. Rise in flood waters in Periyar River due to the rains and opening of all shutters of all major dams including Mullaperiyar, Cheruthoni, part of Idukki reservoir, and Idamalayar, have severely affected lives of people in downstream areas.

My uncle and aunt in Chenganuur have their rented house flooded and they moved to the second floor. The second floor is quite higher than the ground level so they are ok for now. The Navy is patrolling on boats and checked on them but they are good for now. Tomorrow they might have to move. They have biscuits, bread and some snacks with water. My cousins in Aluva have had to move from their home to their mother’s family home yesterday but the water levels in Aluva and neighbouring suburb of Kalamaserry was rising way too high. So they evacuated based on the advice of authorities and moved to a flat that one of my cousin’s own in another area of Cochin.

No cabs are running today and even autos seem to be rare. I stayed home from work after thinking about it for a while. A lot of people did.

Floods In Kerala

Days of incessant rain have led to raging floods across Kerala. Buildings and infrastructure have collapsed, leaving over 54,000 people homeless. Dams, reservoirs and rivers have overflowed, roads have caved in, sections of highways collapsed, and homes swept away in ferocious floods. People are homeless, tourists are stranded, and wildlife is in danger as more than half of Kerala is dealing with severe flooding due to the unforgiving rain. Opening of all five gates of one of the dams of the Idukki water reservoir have only added misery to the already-dire situation.

29 people have died and tens-of-thousands have been evacuated from affected areas. Rescue operations are being carried out round-the-clock, and around 500 relief camps have been set up so far. Over 50 tourists stranded at a resort in the popular hill station of Munnar in Idukki, have been rescued by the army. The army, navy, air force, coast guard, and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have joined hands, by coordinating on a massive scale to carry out evacuations and relief operations. A fourth red alert has been issued for the Idukki reservoir, the gates of which were opened yesterday after 26 years.

The water level at the Idukki reservoir went down from 2,401.60 feet yesterday to 2,400.72 feet today. The maximum capacity of the reservoir is 2,403 feet. Northern and central Kerala have been battered by heavy rains resulting from the southwest monsoon since August 8. Of the 29 people who died, 25 were killed in landslides, while four people drowned. Officials said that over 54,000 people are now housed in around 500 relief camps across the state. The situation however, eased somewhat on Saturday afternoon, with the intensity of rain reducing considerably.

Pot Hole City

It’s been cold for several days. It’s been raining almost every day and on some days it’s been raining almost non-stop. My last post was about floods in the town of Pala in Kerala but it’s bad everywhere. Kottayam, Kozhikode and even Cochin. The railways stations in Eranakulam North Junction and in South Junction are both flooded and people are even using boats to float on the waters above the railway tracks.

Worst parts are the roads! Cochin is famous for having potholes that the local government take their own sweet time to address and when they do get to fixing it, they do a barely minimum job which they either ruin by having pipe work done on the sides immediately after or they fix the roads just before the monsoon season. All this ensures that the contractors get their contracts signed every year regularly and the corrupt politicians gets to steal money.

Yesterday the cab I was in had to use two diversions because of huge pot holes on two side roads onroute to my office in the evening as the waters were deep and sedans as well as smaller cars and bikes won’t get through without damages. I lost a lot of time, almost 30 minutes because of this.

Miffed At BevCo

It’s fast becoming a pain in the ass. My outlet for buying liquor is the Self-service BevCo outlet (Kerala State Beverages Corporation BevCo for short) in Gandhinagar. This is the closest Bevco outlet that is self-service to me. The reason I like the self-service ones is because I hate standing in a queue at the smaller outlets which are more in number and I have one closer to me. But the snake like queue outside them are a blight on society and it’s ridiculous to stand like that for 30-40 minutes, sometimes longer and then ask them what they have.

I prefer this – no rush, no fuss! Go in, pick a basket, browse through the aisles and pick your poison and then go and pay. A few months ago they started the option of accepting payments through debit and credit cards – YES – and that was convenient. Yeah, until mid 2017, a government beverages outlet only accepted cash! And mind you, we also had a demonetization issue in between! Anyways, what my issue with them is that they have such limited selection of beers now. No Budweiser or Magnum, Miller or Tuborg in the last few visits and this weekend when I went no Carlsberg or Heineken either. Foster is available but I hate that.

But they have the Indian brands – Goa, Black Fort, Hunter, British Empire and lots of Kingfisher! Lots of it. And some new brand that I hadn’t seen or heard of before. I am not 100% sure but the other outlets seem to have more stuff and stuff that I want. I might have to check out ConsumerFed’s Liquor store or another self-service BevCo because others have said that they have better stock.

Building Basement Collapses During Piling Work

Last night as I passed by Kaloor on my way home from work, I saw the commotion on the streets. Tension gripped the city on Thursday night when the basement of a building under construction at Kaloor collapsed, threatening the structural stability of nearby buildings and roads, besides forcing the suspension of the Kochi metro services. The incident happened around 8.30 p.m. when the two-storey deep basement parking area of the building of an upcoming textile major caved in during the course of piling work being undertaken using excavators.

Following the incident, occupants of a section of Gokulam Park Hotel and another three-storey commercial building, which reportedly developed a slant to either side of the upcoming building were evacuated as a precautionary measure. As a crack appeared near the road in the impact of the collapse, traffic between Kaloor and Kacherippady was also fully suspended. At least three Kochi metro services were suspended midway through following the incident. The last train from Aluva to Maharaja’s terminated service at Palarivattom, while a train bound for Aluva from Maharaja’s suspended service at MG Road. Another train bound for Aluva never took off from Maharaja’s station.

Track experts of the Kochi metro are already at work, and the service up to Maharaja’s will be resumed only after their assessment as the incident took place close to the metro pillars. The site identified for the third extension of the culvert in front of PVS Hospital had developed a crack, and that if it had already been constructed, it would have collapsed in the impact. A Kerala Water Authority (KWA) pipeline also burst in the impact of the collapse, and the thick jet of water further worsened the situation.

What’s Your Favorite Neighbourhood Joint?

My favourite joint – it’s not really in my immediate neighbourhood but a quick 20 minutes away – is the original Golden Dragon restaurant which is located in Mercy Estate, Ravipuram. So it’s an old joint and it’s been a favourite for quite a few years. I love Chinese food and my family and I have ordered it several 100 times over the years.

We used to love to go with uncles, aunts and my cousins to Chinese Garden but as I turned into my 20s, I started loving Golden Dragon. Mostly because it’s more authentic and it’s also more tasty. Plus – and this is very important – they have license for beer and alcoholic drinks. I love sitting there for a few hours, tasting some awesome pork, beef, seafood and chicken while downing a few beers or drinking vodka.

My cousin and I go once every couple of months and sit there for 4-5 hours and drink a few and eat a lot and chat quite a bit. I also go there with friends. I love this place.

Prompt from The Learning Network at The New York Times

Humid & Hot

I hear all this talk about snow melting and the onset spring in my timeline and on Youtube because of my friends from the West. Meanwhile over here, it’s March and it’s fucking hot. It is humid and sweaty and unless you are in an air-conditioned environment you will suffer. It is so humid right now that immediately after you take a shower and come out after wiping yourself down with a towel, you will start to sweat.

It’s 3:47 pm and 33 degrees Celsius and around 91 degree Fahrenheit. I just went to the bathroom a few minutes ago to wash my hands with soap before I went to make some coffee. The water from the tap was boiling hot. I will take a shower in about 45 minutes and I am not looking forward to the heat in the shower. No wonder I feel like drinking a few cold milkshakes in a day though I don’t actually do that.

I would like to look at getting an ac in my bedroom – the outlet is there and I only just need to buy the unit but when I think of the electricity bills I am hesitant. I guess I will sweat it out.