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.

The Fate Of Southern Fried Chicken in Kerala

A few years ago I had written in length about the Malayalee’s love for Southern Fried Chicken which led to several KFC styled brands to open up shop in Kochi and other cities in Kerala. KFC & ChicKing, the main fast food chain that was established here in Kerala before KFC finally came to our green state, are thriving but the rest are fading fast. I do not see any Chicken Chicago, 3 outlets of Chickos & the 3 Chicknik outlets are long gone and part of history as is NFC.

We still have Krispy Chick’n, the one outlet in Oberon Mall, There’s something called Magj’s American Fried Chicken but there are no outlets near me, though they do have 2 outlets in the state. SFC Plus, which I love has now only 2 outlets, both of which I have never visited but I go to Lulu mall where one is. They had two other outlets which closed, including one of my favourite places to chill out. Yesterday, checking food for delivery dinner, I was sad to learn that the MarryBrown outlet near to me may also be closing down. I dunno, it’s kinda conflicting news. They do have another outlet a little ways away and I guess I can get them to deliver if needs be.

Now there are a couple of non-big name, single outlet, fried chicken places in the city but I have never tried anything from them. I will take a shot and see how they taste. Hope they are good too. I like a little competition.

Halloween Here In Cochin

So, Halloween has come and gone. India doesn’t really celebrate Halloween. The only reason we do is because of MNCs and BPOs, the call centers that are doing outsourced work for US, Canadian & UK companies. Most people I know have only heard of Halloween and do not know anything about it other than people dress up in scary outfits (and some none scary outfits) and that candy is passed around for free.

Last night in my office, as they had declared a “face painting and costume” competition, there were people using face paint and colours and trying to look scary. However it looked more like a Joker convention at the office. There were mostly the Dark Knight version of Joker than anything else. One stupid Why So Serious meme and stickers and this generation in Kerala sucked it all up! There were a couple of Harely Quinns out there, both were really well done. There were a few guys in white face paint with black designs on top of the white designs, which I am supposed to think represents evil ala Valak from Conjuring 2.

These were the three main inspirations and some other folks were painted in similar styles just not very conclusive enough to let me know if it was Valak or Joker or a combination of both. Some managed, with the help of black robes and black upside down crosses painted on their foreheads, to look like members of a Black Metal band but that was about it.

We just don’t do Halloween here!

Sunday Morning Shopping In Hypermart

If you want to go to Lulu Hypermart for shopping for groceries and stuff, then go on a weekday in the morning hours before late afternoon. For me, Sunday morning is the day for doing it. I remember going a couple of times in the morning, by 9:45 am and still they have a lot of people in it. The problem is, we don’t have large groceries stores like Walmart or Sobeys or Costco etc etc. We have just this one Hypermart in the entire city and state – well atleast until the Thriuvananthapuram and Calicut malls open.

Anyways, I went yesterday but it was later than I wanted to. I kept the alarm for 7 am so I could leave by 9ish. However since I went to bed only by 2:30 am and slept fitfully I went back to sleep till 8:30 and only left my home a little after 10am. I was in the mall by 10:30 am and quickly had a breakfast of an ice cold latte and a chicken & cheese sandwich at Costa Coffee and then found a cart and went in. It was quite busy but not as busy as it usually is in the evenings. Getting there by 9:30 am is actually much better.

I bought soaps, I bought some chocolate, cheese, apples, plums, eggless mayo, nuts roasted in pepper, cashewnuts, fresh baked cookies, hamburger buns and bread, biscuits, dates, coffee, sugar etc etc. It cost me quite a bit (trust me these things are expensive here) but it was fun and it had been a year since I last went to hypermart. I just wish we had more of them and that they were cheaper.

Malayalam Reality Song Contests

I’ve never been much for Malayalam music & songs for the most part. Throughout my years I’ve liked and loved quite a few songs but I am a rock guy and from my childhood the songs that have stayed with me are mostly not Indian/Malayalam.

While I am not that big on the talent based reality shows that are made around the world I do find the odd one or two that I really like. The Malayalam ones – here’s the problem: It’s like a singing school. There’s not much room or actually none really for improvisation, for singing your own version, making the song your own. If you change even a note while singing, the judges then decend upon you and it become a “class” led by a teacher. They want it note for note and will not adjust for changes. That’s not what music is about for me.

Music is about creativity and emotion. It’s about individuality and the best singers & musicians can take a great song and put their stamp on it, make it their own but yet pay respects to the original singers & musicians. That is usually what draws people to songs or atleast me and others who like the music that I like. There seems to be no room for that here in these contests and therefore, I have no time for them.

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.

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.

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.

Corn Crunk In My Sundae

Today’s breakfast is cornflakes. Just regular ole cornflakes with a little milk in the bowl and a dash of sugar. Nothing fancy like nuts or berries or other fruit in it. Plain ole, plain ole! I like this for breakfast 2-3 times in a week.

But what is this obsession that Malayalees have in adding cornflakes in ice cream sundaes? I dunno, I haven’t seen it anywhere else in India (not that I travel much) but in Kerala, they tend to add cornflakes at the bottom of the sundaes, along with nuts and dried raisins. While I understand nuts,  berries, fruits and dried raisins, what the hell is cornflakes doing in the bowl or glass? It does not belong there.

Did it start so to economize the amount of ice cream that they have put in the bowl so fill it partly with cheap stuff like cornflakes to make the bowl seem more filled when in reality you are being stingy with the ice cream. I guess so. Or do some people just really like crunchy stuff in their ice cream? But why not give it as an option rather than putting it in all the sundaes?

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.

WIFI On Optic Fibre Is Here

So we have these monster speeds now available in Kerala. I just saw this add spring up all over Youtube and a couple of other places. Would I really need 200Mbps speed for my internet at home? What am I planning to download – the history of the world? Unless you are on the USS Enterprise or one of the other starships, I doubt you could really need those astronomical speeds (maybe) and I bet the monthly charges are astronomical as well.

I will wait and watch as my 10mbps speed seems ok to me at the moment (I could use 25 but let’s see).

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.

Life Returning To Normal In EKM Atleast

While rescue missions are seemingly done in Kerala and the cleaning and sanitation are in full swing while there are still people in camps and trying to find a home, the rebuilding stages seem to be a while away. As politicians do what politicians do and the arguments, disagreements and blame games begin in full form, the rest of wonder how long will it take for things to be back to normal. Have no doubts about it, Kerala will not be the same again but hopefully we will become wiser and better.

Meanwhile here in Ernakulam/Cochin live is back to normal for the most part. I went back to work from Monday and things were even more normal on Tuesday. Yesterday was a public holiday and so is Friday but I do have to go the office today. On Monday and Tuesday we had a lot of people still not able to come to work, especially those from the areas of Kerala which were badly affected. I hope most of them have come back from camps and are just busy with the cleaning and rebuilding parts of their homes.

After today I have the next three days off and here is how I plan to spend it; Friday – watch movies and some Star Trek tv show episodes, Saturday – go out and enjoy the day and see if cousin Sujith can join me for a nice lunch and finally Sunday – back again at home and sleep and watch movies with a heavy dose of Youtube video watching. Keep it simple.

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.