Monday, October 12, 2020

We will miss you, papa

A cheerful, energetic and lively personality. A very nice human being ever willing to help anyone anytime. Always fun to be around with. He took hardship and challenges in his stride. A source of encouragement for all of us. He made light of difficult situations with his amazing sense of humour. My father-in-law would have been 82 on Oct 5, but he left us eight days earlier, on Sept 27.

Papa had a long career of nearly three decades in the engineering division of the BHEL (Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited) in Bhopal. My first memories of him go back over thirty years when I met him and his family over dinner at their home. Ever since that, all these years, he has been, more than anything, a wonderful friend.

After his retirement, he moved back to his home state of Kerala in the late 1990s. He continued to keep himself busy with social activities and work in his small but very resourceful kitchen garden.

Over the past 10 years, he used to regularly visit us as well as his son here in Bengaluru. After going to Kerala in November 2019, they were supposed to be back here in March-April. But because of the lockdown, they stayed on there.

They would have stayed on there, but for the resurgence of symptoms of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia from which he had almost fully recovered some one-and-a-half years ago. After reaching here on August 20 for review and resumption of treatment, he made three visits to the hospital. Though his condition didn't get better to the extent it had earlier, there was some improvement.

But unfortunately, that didn't last long, with extreme fatigue, loss of appetite and later on a cough weighing him down. On the night of 24th, Thursday, he looked very tired and weak like never before, and the next day we took him to hospital. 

There was one possibility we had always factored in, considering papa's highly immunocompromised health condition, and we tried our very best to keep him safe. But that Friday, about a couple of hours after he was taken into the Emergency, a doctor came to us with the test result, and we realised we had failed. 

Till then, for so many months, we had only read and listened to stories from places as far away as New York to localities in my neighbourhood of the hard times COVID-19 had brought. Now, the virus had reached our home too. 

But we are thankful for small mercies. Papa didn't have to endure pain; it was discomfort and tiredness that seemed to bother him the most. The doctors were extremely helpful in not just providing excellent medical care but also guiding us through the right way during those difficult days.

Rest in peace and comfort, papa. You will always be in our thoughts. We will miss you.

Since he was with us, all of us at home got ourselves tested, the very next day, on 26th, Saturday, and the results came negative. But since our last day of contact was the 25th, we have to be watchful for any symptoms for 10 to 21 days. So we are in quarantine till the 16th. 

Meanwhile, my wife began to feel fatigued, with a mild fever of 99 and blood oxygen level hovering over 93-95 on Oct 1st. A couple of days later she developed a slight cough as well. We are all already in quarantine and she was isolated within our home itself. We kept our distance and wore a mask when required. 

We consulted a doctor, who said, now with the virus all over the place, any flu-like symptom (especially among vulnerable people) is prima facie considered a possible case of COVID-19 unless proved otherwise. So, he right away prescribed ivermectin, doxycycline, vitamin C, D and zinc, besides steam inhalation three times a day and gargling with salt-and-turmeric-mixed lukewarm water five times a day.

(This line of treatment is referred to by some doctors as 'quadruple therapy', and there is a white paper on the efficacy of ivermectin.)

The fever was gone after four days, and there was a steady improvement in her condition every day. She has now completely recovered and is back to her energetic self.  

We aren't letting the guard down. I don't think we can at any time in the foreseeable future.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

The quarantine conudrum

The past fortnight has been very hectic. Haven't been able to keep track of many of my favourite blogs. Shall catch up as soon as possible, as much as possible.

Father-in-law needs to have a medical review of an ongoing treatment at a hospital here. So, my parents-in-law returned from Kerala on Aug 20. He has an appointment with the doctor the next day. 

According to the safety protocol, anyone coming in from another state has to be in home-quarantine for 14 days. Our resident association rules stipulate that other members of the residence also need to be in quarantine for the same period. That's till Sept 3rd. Of course, a hospital visit is allowed.


Meanwhile, an uncle and aunt of mine were scheduled to leave for the US on a repatriation flight to join their children there on Aug 21 late night. The airport is around 40 km / 25 miles away, and whenever they travel, they book a cab, though we keep telling them it would be our pleasure to drop them.

But this time around, considering the prevailing circumstances, they were reluctant to take a cab; and apologetically suggested that it would be nice if I or my brother-in-law could drop them on Aug 21 night. And therein was a problem.

I wouldn't be able to drop them since I would be in quarantine from Aug 20 night. If I ventured out, that would be a violation of the rule. 

My brother-in-law wouldn't be able to drop them either, because he would have taken papa to the hospital for the scheduled meeting with the doctor earlier in the day (Aug 21); and it would be considered risky for him (my brother-in-law), post the hospital visit, to take uncle and aunt to the airport the same day in the night. Plus, it would be such a hectic day for him too.


So, this is what we did. I moved to my uncle's house on Aug 20 before the arrival of my parents-in-law at home in the evening. I stayed over there that night; took them to the airport on Aug 21 night, and came back home and entered quarantine. 

My brother-in-law took papa to the hospital as planned on Aug 21 morning, and dropped him back home.

So, there was neither a risk of my relatives getting exposed to infection nor rules of quarantine being violated.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Kamala Harris might overshadow Joe Biden

It isn't easy to hazard a guess on the result of a US presidential election, thanks to its fabled complexity. Many well-calculated predictions have gone wrong. Now, with less than three months to November 3, the runup to the poll is heating up. 

On August 11, Joe Biden announced his running mate: California senator Kamala Harris, who herself fought a tough battle with Biden to be the Democratic presidential nominee.

The next day, Biden introduced Harris at a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware. It was late in the night for me, so I watched the event on YouTube the next day morning.

A radiant 55-year-old Kamala Harris, brimming with enthusiasm and confidence, clearly outshined a tired-looking 77-year-old Joe Biden. Their speeches were on predictable lines. 

I am not going into the political or economic ideologies of the two. But by the end of that event, I wondered if Harris, rather than Biden, would actually lead the campaign.


Within the next few days, in India, a year-old YouTube video of Kamala Harris and Mindy Kaling cooking masala dosa began to be widely shared on social media.


On a more serious note, there is a two-year-old clip of Kamala Harris taking down justice Brett Kavanaugh with pointed and sharp questions at a Senate hearing on the Mueller investigation.


Meanwhile, BBC's South Asia Correspondent, Rajini Vaidyanathan, put out a tweet on how Kamala Harris pronounces her first name, which is a very common Indian name.

Friday, August 7, 2020

A black day of twin tragedies in Kerala

It has been raining heavily in Kerala, bringing back memories of the last two years, especially 2018 when rain wreaked massive havoc across the state. And today, was a day of two rain-related tragedies. The day began with one and ended with another.


Early morning, we got the news of a landslide burying the residential quarters of tea garden workers in a place called Pettimudi near the tourist hill station of Munnar in the Idukki district of central Kerala. 18 people died and 52 are missing.

Rescue workers at the site. Photo courtesy: The Hindu

Apparently, the incident happened late last night, as people were asleep. Since communication lines were disrupted, news filtered out very slowly and the enormity of the tragedy became apparent only today morning.

Several places in north Kerala are also battling incessant rain. Since many people have been evacuated, loss of lives has been minimised in those areas, but there is considerable loss of property.


In the evening around 8 pm came the news of a plane accident - an Air India flight from Dubai with 190 people on board skidded off the runway while landing in heavy rain in Karipur airport in Kozhikode in north Kerala, fell into a 35-ft gorge, and broke into two pieces. At least 15 people have died.

The wreckage of the plane. Photo courtesy: The Hindu


This airport is one of the few which has a table-top runway. They are called table-top because the runway is like the top of a table; a raised platform of land, surrounded by a precipice on all sides. This means the plane has limited space to land and the pilot has to be very careful.

I haven't been able to find out how many such airports are there in the world. But there are at least two in India. Besides the one in Kozhikode, where the accident happened today, there is one in Mangaluru in neighbouring Karnataka state. 


Incidentally, in Mangaluru airport, there was a similar tragedy in May 2010, in which, again an Air India plane from Dubai overshot the runway and fell into a gorge. The plane caught fire killing 158 people; 8 survived. Luckily, in Kozhikode tonight, the plane didn't catch fire, and the fatalities have been minimised.


This flight, which was involved in the accident today, was one of those special repatriation flights -- called Vande Bharat Mission -- that the government has been operating to bring home people who are stuck in various places abroad because of the cancellation of normal flights.

How sad. They must have been waiting for so long to be with their family and friends, and they were almost home.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Evening rain in Bengaluru

Bengaluru receives rain between mid-June and September. This video was taken a few days ago.

This is a part of the South-West Monsoon which sets in over Kerala (usually) on June 1. That's also the day when the new academic year begins in that State and one of the most abiding images is that of children in their new set of school uniform holding umbrellas and walking in puddles of water.

The atmospheric system moves north and during this June-September period the entire west coast, as well as some parts of the interior landmass too, get rain. Today, for example, Mumbai experienced heavy downpour leading to the suspension of public transport as well as shutting of offices.

Friday, July 31, 2020

He is no more; but he lives on in others

Last week, a heart-warming piece of news came from Kerala. The family of a man, who was declared brain dead by the doctors, decided to donate his organs -- heart, kidneys, eyes, small intestine and hands -- to others who might need them.

27-year-old Anujith was seriously injured in a motorbike accident on July 14 and was admitted to KIMS Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. Doctors declared him brain dead three days later. 

On July 21, his heart was airlifted to Lisie hospital in Kochi, and after successful implantation, it began beating in the body of the recipient 11 hours after the extraction.

The small intestine and hands were transplanted to two others at the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi.

Interestingly, 10 years ago, Anujith and a friend ran beside a railway track for almost 500 meters waving a red bag to warn the driver of an approaching train about a crack in the rail track. The signalling worked and a probable accident averted saving many lives.

Anujith and his friend were then cheered and felicitated. He may not be around today but he lives on in others.


(This post is part of the monthly We Are The World Blogfest that goes out on the last Friday of every month to highlight the positive stories around us. On Facebook and on Twitter.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

30 years since Graham Gooch's 333 at Lord's Test

Graham Gooch. - Pix credit BBC 

Memories of the first Test between India and England at Lord's from July 26 to 31, 1990.

India lost the match, but there were plenty of moments of great cricket. 

Skipper Graham Gooch scored 333 after India won the toss and put England to bat. England declared at 653 for 4. Alan Lamb made 139 and Robin Smith remained not out at 100.

India struggled quite a bit. The only exceptions were opener Ravi Shastri's 100, and captain Mohd Azharuddin's 121. The next top scorer was Kapil Dev, whose scintillating 77 -- which included four consecutive sixes -- helped India avoid the ignominy of a follow-on by one run.

In the 2nd innings, England declared at 272 for 4. India had to chase 472 to win, but managed only 224, falling 247 runs short.

BBC's Test Match Special brought out a bonus edition on July 27 to celebrate the occasion. It has archive commentary, as well as Gooch, Azharuddin and Kapil recalling those memorable moments.

If you are a cricket fan, then it's worth a listen.