Work @ Home Extended Again

I got the news late last night after a long day at work and while I was lying in bed and trying to watch some Agents Of SHIELD. A colleague in my team messaged me and asked if I had read the news shared in an announcement email sent by our country head. I hadn’t since I had shut down my system at 11pm and so I got the info that they have declared that those of us who are currently working from home (having got systems from the office) will continue to work from home until December 31st, 2020! They will look at the situation after a while and see if they can make a change but it does not look likely.

In the current situation, as the number of infected people starts going up in India and even in my state and city. I just heard that with 241 fresh cases, Kerala has registered a new Covid 19 peak on Saturday with the coronavirus situation taking a turn for worse in state capital Thiruvananthapuram and port city of Kochi. A worried Indian Medical Association (IMA), Kerala chapter has asked the state government to enforce a strict lockdown in containment areas and restrict movement of people to avert community spread. Saturday’s tally is the biggest single-day spike in the state since the outbreak in January. The total number of cases registered so far in the state has gone up to 5,204. 3,050 of these patients have recovered leaving 2,129 active cases. The state has recorded 25 deaths to the disease so far, said chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office.

The fact that the source of infection is unknown in many cases has worried the state government. The CM said that since the disease was spreading both in urban and rural areas, stricter cubs will be needed to contain it. The government is toying with the idea of enforcing a targeted confinement and triple lockdown in some of the worst-hit areas to check the spread of the contagion. Triple lockdown, a measure considered stricter than curfew allowing only police personnel’s movement, did wonders in containing the spread of the disease in Kasaragod in north Kerala earlier.

India’s Lockdown Extended Till May 3

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has extended a nationwide lockdown until 3 May to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The announcement comes on what was to be the last day of the initial lockdown, which began on 25 March. India has reported 8,988 active cases and 339 deaths so far. Under the lockdown, only essential businesses – such as groceries and pharmacies – are allowed to remain open. City transport services are limited to emergency staff and those with special travel passes. All trains and flights have been suspended.

Modi suggested that the rules could tighten further over the next week, but he did not give more details. He said the government will issue “guidelines” soon. He added that the federal and state governments will be watching potential hotspots closely, and will evaluate every district in a week’s time to determine if restrictions can be eased anywhere. India’s grinding lockdown has already caused economic disruption and social distress. It has hurt the economy immensely. Joblessness has risen sharply, according to an independent assessment. India’s already sputtering economy is now expected to grow between 1.5-2.8% in 2020-21, according to the World Bank. Migrant workers, the backbone of key service industries, have either fled their shuttered workplaces or are stranded in homeless centres in cities. The thriving informal economy is in tatters.

Access to food, medicines and emergency medical care for non-Covid-19 patients has become difficult for the poor. The lockdown, says an economist, “seems to be the case of the privileged transferring their epidemic risk to the under-privileged”. There is no doubt that lifting the lockdown at a time when India is seeing a rise in infections and trying to catch up on testing, can be risky. At the same time, it is also abundantly clear that India will have to ease the lockdown to save the economy and livelihoods of people.

Covid-19 : Kerala Update 09-0-2020

Well it looks like the lockdown will continue for a while.Describing the COVID-19 pandemic as an “unprecedented” public health crisis in recent history, a Kerala government-appointed task force has pitched for a “phased” and “calibrated” lifting of the national lockdown, saying “time is not yet ripe” for its full withdrawal from April 14.Continuing restriction of large scale movement of people across international and state boundaries was critical and easing it should not be considered unless and until the situation was under control in every state, it suggested. However, the panel said it also felt that prolonged and stringent lockdown would lead to economic hardship, famine and law and order problems, which could undermine both the lockdown and the health management objectives. On Tuesday the state would be able to chart its future course of action only after knowing the Centre’s decision on the 21-day lockdown, imposed to check the spread of the deadly virus.

A phased withdrawal would be sustainable only if there was a steady recovery and decline in the number of cases leading to initial flattening of the infection curve and then gradual tapering of the curve to zero infection cases. The government should advise people of the state that in the event of a resurgence, they should be ready and willing to undergo the rigours of a complete lockdown once again, it said. It suggested that the unit for operationalising a phased withdrawal approach should be a district as it had defined boundaries and an executive magistrate who had the authority to effectively enforce the measures of the phased lockdown.

We might also see, as per the suggestions, wearing masks in public, limiting the number of passengers in public buses to one-third of the capacity of the vehicle, and rapid testing and screening of those who return to Kerala once the state’s borders are reopened. A draft action plan compiled by a 17-member task force has suggested continuing with strict restrictions on commercial, industrial, religious and cultural activity in seven hotspot districts that cover half of Kerala, where the risk of infection is higher. The administration does not believe that major revenue making avenues, such as tourism, alcohol, jewellery and lottery sales, will return to normal functioning anytime soon.

Covid-19 : India Update

The number of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, cases crossed 900 in India with the death toll rising to 19, according to the Union Health Ministry. According to the data, the number of active COVID-19 cases in the country stood at 775, while 78 people were either cured or discharged and one had migrated. The number of coronavirus cases increased to 61 in Uttar Pradesh today after 11 people tested positive for the disease, a senior health official said. The total number of COVID-19 patients in the state is at 181 after 28 new patients found positive today. Till now, a total of 26 patients have recovered or discharged. 104 tests found negative for COVID-19.

India’s trajectory is flatter than that of the US, which is the new global epicentre of Covid-19, with confirmed cases surpassing China. Yet, given the volatility in India’s daily data over the past few days, it is too early to say whether the current trajectory will sustain, rise, or flatten in the coming days. Even going by the current trajectory, India’s case count has doubled over the past four days. If this trajectory continues, the number of cases could shoot up to 10,000 cases over the next 16 days, and India could run out of hospital beds in May.

At 162, Kerala leads in terms of the number of active cases of Covid-19. Active cases exclude deaths and recoveries from the list of confirmed cases. Maharashtra has the second most number of active cases (150), followed by Karnataka (50). At 47 active cases, Telangana has the fourth-highest number of active cases, followed closely by Rajasthan (45). In the north-east, two states have reported Covid-19 cases so far: Manipur and Mizoram, with 1 confirmed case each in both states. Other north-eastern states have not reported any case so far. Jharkhand hasn’t reported any confirmed case either. Kasargod district (45 cases) has reported the most number of cases in Kerala.

Sunday Shutdown Due To Corona Virus

The state of Kerala is on self-imposed 14 -hour Janata curfew is total in the state when three hours of self-isolation has been completed. The curfew began at 7 am and will end at 9 pm. However now it’s been extended till 5am MOnday. All the roads were seen empty in the state and people are busy cleaning their houses as part of containing the Covid-19 spread. All the transport services including KSRTC  kept off the roads and all the shops except emergency services were seen locked. Private taxi and autorickshaws also joined the curfew.  In the front of Secretariat, the agitators also left home giving solidarity to the Union and state governments to combat the disease threat.

I haven’t heard a single vehicle all day long (it’s 6:15 pm now) and I haven’t even heard a single other person other than my parents who I live with. The train services were also cut shortened. In Kochi, the metro rail services are not operating as it already informed that they will not operate on Sunday. However, the government has issued strict instructions to ensure that essential services shouldn’t be hit. The chief minister has said that delivery of milk and water shouldn’t be interrupted and hospital canteens, including those in private hospitals, should remain open throughout Sunday. Petrol pumps would also remain open. The curfew was called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had said that the state government would also join to the curfew as part of the collective effort to combat the threat of virus.

As the day progressed, both the Centre and States took slew of measures to contain the contagion that has already claimed 7 lives even as the number of infected nears 350. While the Center announced suspension of inter-state passenger train and bus services till March 31, Delhi’s CM announced a lockdown from 6AM Monday till midnight of March 31.

RIP Sonam Sherpa

I just found out that Sonam Sherpa (8 October 1971 – 14 February 2020) who was lead guitarist & founding member of Indian band Parikrama, died on Friday. According to reports, the musician, who was in Kurseong to record music for an upcoming movie, suffered a massive cardiac arrest.

Sherpa joined Parikrama at its inception in 1991. He remained as the lead guitarist in the band until his death. Sherpa was featured on CNBC’s Young Turks, a show focusing on young entrepreneurs. The BBC also featured him and his band in a rockumentary while on their Download Festival Tour. He took steps in the Indian film industry (Bollywood) by composing the songs and music for the feature film “Manjunath” a collaboration with Nitin Malik and Subir Malik (both from Parikrama). The music of the film received a rating of 2.5 stars from Times of India. Sherpa owned and ran Parikrama school based at Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi.

While not a fan of Parikarama (I just didn’t listen to that much of their songs) Sonam could really play on the guitar and he won awards for his blues & rock based playing. He will be missed.

7 More Strange Things In India

8. Highest gold consumption in the world

849 metric tonnes of gold is consumed in India every year. The reason for this consumption is marriages and festivals.

9. Tallest statue in the world

India holds the record of possessing world’s largest statue that stands at a height of 182 meters and is known as “statue of unity”. The government spent INR 3000 crores for its construction. The interesting fact about the construction of statue is that around 3000 metric tonnes of iron was collected from all over India specially from villages but later it was cleared that those iron pieces were not used in the construction of the main project but for other parts of the project.

10. ID’s for cows

Wait! what? ID’s for cows? Yes, you read it right. In the West Bengal state of India, cows have their own ID cards this step was taken by the Indian border guards who photographed the cows in West Bengal so as to stop the smuggling of cattle to neighbouring Bangladesh

11. Six seasons

India is known to the world as the land of festivals but do you know no other country except India has 6 seasons a year. According to the Hindu scriptures, the 6 seasons are :

Vasant Ritu: Spring ( Feb-April)

Grishma Ritu: Summer (April- June)

Varsha Ritu: Monsoon ( June – August)

Sharad Ritu: Autumn ( August – October)

Hemant Ritu: Prewinter ( October – December)

Shishir or Shita Ritu: Winter ( December – Feb)

12. Home for most polluted cities

India stands at the first position in the list of world’s most polluted countries. The cities which are most polluted are Kanpur, Faridabad, Gaya, Varanasi, Delhi and the list does not end here. The fact that is scary and worth of your consideration is that the people living in Delhi are most prone to pollution and sources say that breathing in Delhi is equal to smoking 44 cigarettes a day. This literally scars me.

13. Largest Hub for spices

India is the largest producer of spices and produces more than 50 spices including chilli, turmeric, cumin and pepper. The interesting stuff here to notice is that the pepper is also used as a non-lethal weapon by the Indian Army. The armed forces use chilli grenade made up of chilli spices in a weaponized form.

14. Low divorce rate

The divorce rate in India is very low and the reason for this could be that people of India consider marriages a bond that does not break even after death. They believe that the person you marry should be your only partner throughout life. Getting divorced also creates an unhealthy image of that person in society.

7 Strange Things In India

1. Policemen are paid for keeping moustaches

The tradition of keeping long moustaches in India seems very pleasant. People from rural India have been following this tradition for long but do you know that in an Indian state policemen are paid INR 33 per month for keeping moustaches. The police chief in that state hit upon this idea because he observed people giving respect to policemen having moustaches and treating them pleasantly.

2. The nine unknown men

Have you ever heard about the nine unknown men? well, it is one of the biggest mysteries of the Indian subcontinent till date. The nine unknown men resemble a secret group of nine people which was created by the emperor Ashoka in 226 BC. The purpose of this secret society was to create, preserve and spread knowledge and to make sure that every creature lives peacefully, enjoys security and happiness. The identity of those men was kept a secret.

3. Magnetic hill of Ladakh

You must have planned to visit Ladakh because of its enchanting beauty but let me tell you one mysterious as well as the strange thing that exists in the beautiful area of Ladakh. “ Magnetic hill of Ladakh” it is called so because it pulls the vehicle up which are within its range because of a strong magnetic force that exists there. In fact, many Indian Air Force planes have diverted their routes because of this interference.

4. India has a spa just for elephants

Elephants are so lucky! There is an elephant camp located in Kerala where elephants enjoy a luxurious life and are massaged and cleaned by the locals there.

5. The largest number of veg in the world

Indians prefer veg Food over non-veg and this statement is backed by a report which stated that 31% Indians are vegetarians this is because people in India believe that no creature should be harm for our own personal pleasure and they follow the practice of ahimsa (non-violence) which means respecting the lives of other creatures.

6. World’s biggest gathering- Kumbh Mela

Kumbh Mela is the world’s biggest gathering where people from all over the globe gather and take a dip in the holy river, Ganga, as they believe that doing this will wash away all their sin. There are four Kumbh Mela: the Haridwar Kumbh Mela, the Prayag Kumbh Mela, Nashik simhastha and Ujjain simhastha. The interesting thing about the Kumbh Mela is that 75 million people gathered for Kumbh Mela in2011 and the crowd was so large that it was visible from space.

7. 31 doctors in a single family

Jaipur is famous for forts, right? But after reading the next few lines you will get to know what you can expect from Jaipur besides forts. A family in Jaipur consists of 31 doctors, there are 7 physicians, 5 gynecologists, 3 ophthalmologists, 3 ENT specialists, neurologists, urologists, surgeons, psychiatrists, pathologist and orthopaedic doctors in the family!

Some Weird Laws In India

  • In Maharashtra, you can vote, have sex and get married by the time you’re 18. But you can’t drink hard liquor until you’re 25.
  • In another ridiculous law, the Indian Aircraft Act of 1934 considers a kite to also be an aircraft thus making it necessary to get a permit to fly one. As is apparent, this law has never been followed and should be dealt away with immediately.
  • You need to have a perfect set of teeth to become a motor inspector in Andhra Pradesh.
  • It is illegal for more than 10 couples to dance on a dance floor.
  • Suicide is legal, but attempted suicide is not.
  • Adultery is illegal, but only the man will be penalised for the crime.
  • The Indian Post Office is the be all and end all of delivery. According to the Indian Post Office Act, 1898, it is illegal to send letters through any other service apart from the Indian Post Office.
  • It’s OK for people to kill themselves in India. However, if they fail, they can be prosecuted according to the Indian Penal Code.

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.

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.

More Indian Jokes

An American businessman goes to India on a business trip, but he hates Indian food, so he asks the concierge at his hotel if there’s any place around where he can get American food. The concierge tells him he’s in luck; there’s a pizza place that just opened, and they deliver.

The concierge gives the businessman the phone number, and he goes back to his room and orders a pizza. Thirty minutes later, the delivery guy shows up to the door with the pizza. The businessman takes the pizza, and starts sneezing uncontrollably.

He asks the delivery man, “What the heck did you put on this pizza?” The delivery man bows deeply and says, “We put on the pizza what you ordered, pepper only.”
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An aspiring Yogi wanted to find a Guru. He went to an Ashram and his preceptor told him, “You can stay here but we have one important rule: all students observe Mouna or a vow of silence. You will be allowed to speak in 12 years.”

After practicing for 12 long years, the day came when the student could say his one thing or ask his one question.

He said: “The bed is too hard.”

He kept going for another 12 years of austere discipline, meditation and silence and finally got the opportunity to speak again. He said: “The food is not good.”

Twelve more years of hard work and he got to speak again. Here are his words after 36 years of practice: “I quit.”

His Guru quickly answered: “Good, all you have been doing anyway is complaining.”

RIP Balabhaskar

Noted singer-violinist Balabhaskar who was seriously injured in a car accident last week in Kerala died at a hospital early in Thiruvananthapuram this morning. His two-year-old daughter was killed when the family’s car hit a tree after the driver lost control. He died at around 1 am after a cardiac arrest, hospital sources said. Balabhaskar’s wife Lakshmi and the driver are recovering in hospital. Balabhaskar, 40, and family were returning from a visit to a temple in Thrissur after thanksgiving prayers for their daughter; little Tejaswini Bala was born after 15 years of marriage, according to sources close to the family.

The car rammed a tree on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram around 4.30 am, the police said. The couple’s daughter was declared dead in hospital. The driver is believed to have dozed off and lost control of the vehicle. Balabhaskar was on ventilator support after being seriously injured and had undergone a surgery. His body was taken to Thiruvananthapuram’s University College, his alma mater, where people from all walks of life queued up to pay their last respects. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Finance Minister Thomas Issac were among those who reached the college.

The last rites would be held on Wednesday in Thiruvananthapuram. The musician shot to fame when, as a 17-year-old, he composed music for a Malayalam film and has scored music for several films. A rising musician, he was was known for his stage performances and concerts in and outside Kerala. His fusion music was popular among his fans. Balabhaskar and Lakshmi were students of the same college.

Kerala Style Egg Puffs

This morning at around 10:45 am, having had just bread and mayo at 8 am for breakfast, I was craving a hot coffee and a snack to eat. I called on one my colleagues and we went to the cafeteria’s tea/coffee counter and got a tea for him and a coffee for me and we ordered some eggs puffs. Flaky, warm (not hot but warm enough to know that it was freshly made just an hour or so ago). Delicious and it satisfies the hunger.

How do you make it? Heat oil in a wide pan and add sliced onions. Cook till the onion becomes golden brown. Once the onion becomes golden brown, add crushed ginger and garlic and cook for 2-3 mins. Add 1/4 tsp Turmeric powder, 1.5 tsp Chilli powder, 1/2 – 1 tsp Coriander powder, 1/2 tsp Pepper powder, 1/2 tsp Garam masala / meat masala , all masala powders and salt. Cook till the oil appears, around 2-3 mins. Add 1 – 2 tbsp hot water to bring everything together. Add ketchup, curry leaves and mix well.

Beat 1 egg with 1-2 tsp water for egg wash. Apply this egg mixture on four sides of the puff pastry. Place about 1 tbsp of masala on each puff pastry, followed by half a slice of egg. Put some masala on top of the egg as well. Bring together the diagonally opposite sides and seal. Apply the egg wash all over the sealed puffs. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 mins or until the puff pastry is golden in colour.

Serve with some ketchup and drink hot coffee or tea. On a rainy day in Kerala, this evening snack has few rival.

RIP Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Indian politician who thrice served as the Prime Minister of India, first for a term of 13 days in 1996, for a period of eleven months from 1998 to 1999, and then for a full term from 1999 to 2004, passed away today. He was 93 years old. Apart from politician with great oratory skills, Vajpayee was also an acclaimed writer who wrote several poems.

He was a member of the Indian Parliament for over four decades, being elected to the Lok Sabha, the lower house, ten times, and twice to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house. He served as the Member of Parliament for Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh until 2009 when he retired from active politics due to health concerns. Vajpayee was among the founding members of the erstwhile Bharatiya Jana Sangh which he also headed from 1968 to 1972. He was the Minister of External Affairs in the cabinet of Prime Minister Morarji Desai.

When the Janata government collapsed, Vajpayee restructured the Jana Sangh into the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980. He was the first Indian prime minister who was not a member of the Indian National Congress party to have served a full five-year term in office. He was conferred India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, by the President of India in 2015. Vajpayee remained unmarried. He adopted Namita Bhattacharya, the daughter of BN Kaul and Rajkumari Kaul.