Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The unsung hero of 2020

We are almost done with 2020, but I don't think we are done with neither the 'new flu' nor the new life that it has forced us to adopt. 

Our lifestyle has changed irrevocably. My gut feeling is that it's going to stay this way, at least a good part of it, even after we all have got our jabs, that's not before a year, I guess.

In the first few months of this year, even scientists were divided on whether wearing a mask would help or not. Soon after, someone discovered that the virus has the potential to be airborne for a good amount of time. And that made the mask an inalienable part of our attire. This gives us a good indication of how 2020 has progressed.

Wars come with sound and fury, wreak havoc. But what we have seen this year is a silent killer wreaking far greater havoc than wars. 

I don't think we will ever get to know the real extent of the damage that has been done to everything from nations' economy to people's livelihoods and wellbeing.

While everyone -- from common citizens to health professionals to scientists -- has been battling to keep themselves and others safe, what struck me as remarkable was the scientific fact that all it takes to kill this virus is just 20 seconds of exposure to the humble soap. How strange that something that can be killed so fast with something everyone has in their homes has turned out to be so deadly!

2020 has been the year of the soap, the unsung 'hero', 'whom' we took for granted, and paid not much attention to. The assertion of its power was so much that we have all been fed with primers on how to wash our hands!

Interestingly, this is not the first time that the soap is proclaiming its prowess. Look back into history, and we see that periodically scientists have had occasions, such as we have now when they had to emphasise the need to wash hands.

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Suitable Boy

All these 27 years since it was published, I have wanted to read The Suitable Boy, the acclaimed novel by Vikram Seth. But it's too long, said to be one of the longest in a single volume; over 1,300 pages.

Watching the six-episode film adaptation is easier. And that's what I did. 

It's on Netflix everywhere, except the US and Canada, where it's being streamed by Acorn TV.

The film is by BBC One, directed by Mira Nair and written by Andrew Davies, who has previously adapted Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair, George Eliot's Middlemarch, and Charles Dickens's Bleak House.

I thought the advent of web series, which can have many seasons and episodes, is a good option for writers who want to turn novels to movies. It seems Davies had written it for eight parts. I wonder why it was reduced by two.

The Suitable Boy is the story of four families -- the life of a 19-year-old college student torn by not only her mother's obsession to find her a suitable boy but also by the fact that she has three suitors waiting to hear a yes from her. She finally chooses one.

The story is also about the India of 1951, four years after becoming independent, with a heavy legacy of Hindu-Muslim animosity, a consequence of the manner in which the freedom was won.

A very well made movie; good acting; the plots jump from one to the other without creating too much confusion, and there is enough drama as well to keep one watching.

One thing though struck me as a bit jarring, especially initially -- the language. Though there is a smattering of Hindi and Urdu, the movie is originally in English. That's fine, but the accent of some of them looked a tad contrived. It made me switch to the Hindi version, just to see the difference; and that looked a bit more natural.

But I think overall the movie has come out very well. Enjoyed watching it.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Declining coronavirus numbers

The last five months of a year is a time of religious festivities in India. The globally well-known Diwali (known as Deepavali in the South) is arguably the high point. It was on Saturday. Now we have Christmas and New Year coming up.

The fear has been that the coronavirus cases will peak with the progress of the season that began in August. Usually, during this time, large crowds of people throng places of worship; friends and relatives call on one and another, or go out on vacation. 

This time, the festivities have been somewhat muted, though people are out in the markets in large numbers. As of now, contrary to fears, the numbers nationally have been on the decline over the past one and a half months. After hitting the all-time peak of 97,894 on September 16, it was 30,548 yesterday. Hope the trend continues.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Back to the 'old normal' in the US

Around three years before the pandemic struck, Donald Trump ushered in a new form of public engagement and governance in the US, in a radical departure from the past. 

A whole swathe of presidential conduct changed dramatically -- aspects ranging from decision-making to implementation; from interaction with the media to engagement with world leaders; from honouring time-tested traditions to characterising as enemies people who had divergent views.

This was a 'new normal' people in the US and many people abroad were forced to get accustomed to.

They now won't have to. It's back to the presidential demeanour and diplomacy that we have always known.

This video popped on my YouTube feed ... as if reminding me of where the thread was left ... President Obama surprising Vice President Joe Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on January 12, 2017. (It's 37 minutes long.)

Fast forward three years, 10 months ... President-elect Biden delivers the acceptance speech on Nov 7, 2020.

Biden seems to have recouped his energy during the four-year break. Good for him. Hopefully, good for America and for the rest of the world.

Can't leave Kamal Harris out. A great speech.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Countdown to chaos or decision?

Image courtesy: Pixabay
I hope it's the latter.

The day after tomorrow is the day, or rather the night. 

It's not for nothing US Presidential elections are keenly watched the world over. 

It's one of the oldest democracies and one of the most powerful nations in the world. Its dollar and military are still a force to reckon with. Its institutions are strong and resilient enough to withstand the frequent destabilizing forces that keep cropping up off and on. Its culture has a profound influence all over the world. 


That's a phrase we keep hearing on the election night, as winners for each State are announced by media organisations. 

(How strange everyone looks to the so-called "biased" media networks to declare - unofficially - who the winner is!)  

The popular opinion was that Donald Trump, during his four years of presidency, will script his own defeat. Let's accept this -- there is nothing so far (from the "unreliable" pollsters) to suggest this will definitely happen.

That means we are going to hear that phrase many times over on Nov 3 night and, who knows, well into the next day too.

The outcome might be uncertain, well in keeping with this year's pan-global theme. But the battle lines are crystal clear.  


  • Conspiracy theories vs Science

  • COVID-19 is a ploy to destroy America; don't panic and buckle vs COVID-19 is a disease; take care of your health as well as of others

  • Mask symbolises shackles and tyranny; wearing it won't prevent you from getting COVID-19 vs Wearing a mask is a recommendation of health experts to keep you and everyone else safe

  • Our well-being and health can't be at the cost of the economy vs It's possible to keep the economy running even while we take care of our well-being and health
  • People who disagree with you are all wrong vs People who disagree with you could be right

  • Recklessness vs Prudence

  • Don't think too much, act (you can correct later) vs Think through before you act (because by the time you correct, the damage is done.)

  • Reach your destination, don't bother about the road vs The road you take to reach the destination is equally important

  • Don't waste time waiting for consensus and to take everyone on board vs Getting as many people on board is important. Correctness and inclusiveness of decisions matter as much as the speed with which decisions are taken

  • Security and economy is more important than everything else vs Everything else is as important as security and economy

  • Only America and Americans matter, don't bother about the rest vs The rest of the world matters too


  • Narrow win for Trump (The show will go on)

  • Landslide win for Trump (The show will go on; the likelihood of more pomp and fury)

  • Landslide for Biden (The Red camp might smell a rat but the celebration in the Blue camp might overwhelm the shock in the Red camp)

  • Narrow win for Biden (The Red camp might smell a rat. But the worry is will they let emotions spill on to the streets?)

  • Counting disputed in one or many states (Court battles. If not long-drawn-out, the Supreme Court will declare the winner. Remember 2000? There is also the possibility of the contingent election. It has happened thrice: in 1801, 1825, and 1837. SG in his blog describes how it works and the interesting outcome it could throw up.)


If Trump loses, narrowly or by a wide margin, will he and his supporters be sporting enough to accept the verdict?

Friday, October 30, 2020

Celebration time for quintuplet family

Last week, the quintuplet family of Kerala state was in the news again. But before getting into the details, some background to it.

Back in November 1995, four girls and a boy were born to Rema Devi, a homemaker in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. That's very rare, is it not? It seems the chances of having natural quints is 1 in 55,000,000, according to Baby2See. So, quite understandably, they hit the headlines of the local media there.

Since they were born on the Uthram star of the Malayalam calendar, the daughters were named Uthra, Uthraja, Uthara and Uthama, and the son Uthrajan. (In case you are interested: Wikipedia pages on Malayalam calendar and star)

The quintuplets with their mother.
Courtesy: Mathrubhumi

Raising one child is tough, and this is an ordinary middle-class family with just one earning member. And one can imagine how hard the days must have been for the family.

Tragedy struck when the children were nine. Their father ended life. That made the struggle for the mother, Rama Devi, unimaginably tough. The Kerala government helped by offering her a job in a bank. 

Good Samaritans and community welfare organisations also reached out to them so that the mother's hardship could be reduced somewhat, and the children got access to good and quality education.

Their struggles were amply rewarded as all the children did well in their studies and got placed in good positions.

Three daughters at their wedding.
Image courtesy: Mathrubhumi

Last week, it was another milestone for the family -- wedding bells. Three girls got married. If fact, it should have been four, but one of the girls has to wait since her groom couldn't travel to Kerala from Kuwait because of the travel restrictions on account of the pandemic.

Fortune favours the brave, doesn't it? This family is a testimony to it.


Mathrubhumi, Malayala Manorama

(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.)

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.

Friday, July 24, 2020

COVID-19 is closer home

(This post has multiple updates at the end)

One of the residents of our apartment complex tested positive for coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2 as it is officially called, on the 22nd.

He has been running fever 100.22 F / 37.9 C since the 19th, and to be on the safe side, he got a test done at one of the well-known private hospitals. 

Normally, at a government facility, a test is done only if there are symptoms, and if the fever is above 100 F / 37.7 C. The doctor confirmed COVID-19, and he advised home quarantine. But some private hospitals do let you take the test even if the fever is below 100 F. 

(Last month, a friend of mine -- who had severe throat pain and had a fever of 99.7 F/ 37.6 C -- was told he needn't get himself tested for the virus. (A test won't be done without a doctor's prescription.) He recovered after 10 days but thinks he had COVID-19.)


In the evening, civic officials visited our apartment block, recorded the contact numbers of people he had come in contact with, and sprayed disinfectants all over the place, including on the doors of each apartment, lifts etc. 

They were happy with the safety precautions our resident association has taken. We have to compulsorily wear masks outdoors. Maids have to wear face-covering even while working in different houses. All home delivery items are left at a designated spot near the gate, and we have to go and pick them up. Anyone from outside is allowed in only if s/he is wearing a mask and only after being checked for high temperature.

We have emergency medical equipment on hand, just in case a need arises. We also have nearby a healthcare facility. They have offered their services to anyone in the apartment who might need basic medical intervention.


The immediate vicinity around the flat of the patient has been kind of sealed, with movement in those areas restricted. The rule is that an area around 100 meters around the infected person's house is cordoned off.

Yesterday morning, he put out a message in our WhatsApp group informing all of us that his fever has reduced and that he is generally getting well. That message was quite reassuring and calming.

Even though in our complex, the restriction is only on that particular floor where the patient stays, all of us are careful and we are not venturing out needlessly. Children usually come out to play in the foreground, but they are now conspicuous by their absence.


According to the patient, he could have got it when he visited a supermarket. It's well-known that most of the big cities have entered the community transmission stage, but that is something most governments, not just in India, but around the world, are hesitant to accept. 

There is only one exception, I can think of: the government of Kerala state, which not only acknowledged that it's community transmission but is also giving out every day the number of people who have been infected via that route. 

It's important that community transmission is acknowledged officially since that will flag the seriousness of the current situation and thereby prod people into being a lot more careful than they are now.


The number of positive cases has been steadily going up every day. But the brighter side is that the number of recoveries has also been on the rise. Yesterday over 49,000 were confirmed positive across the country. 

India population: 1.35 billion
Active cases now: 440,135
Total recovered: 817,209
Total deaths: 30,601
Total number of infections: 1.2 million 
(As of July 23)

The graphs on the NDTV website gives a good indication of the trajectory, nationally and state-wise.

The numbers in Bengaluru also has been on the rise. Yesterday, there were 2,207 positive cases.

Bengaluru population: 8.4 million
Active cases now: 29,090
Total recovered: 9,326
Total deaths: 784
Total number of infections: 39,200 
(As of July 23)

The local civic administration, BBMP, has a reasonably good website giving not only regular updates but also detailed graphics on how the city has been faring ever since the first case was detected on March 8.

We just need to be patient and calm to see this through.

I hope you, and all your near and dear too, are safe. 

Take care.


Update on Sunday, July 26

We now have a second case in the apartment complex. 

This person had a minor cold on Tuesday. He woke up on Wednesday with a fever. On Thursday, he booked a test at a nearby private hospital for Friday morning. But when he went for the test, the temperature had come down considerably. Late that night, the results came as positive. He is already on road to recovery.

He is someone who hasn't gone out of the apartment complex in the last two weeks. The only route of infection, he suspects, could be an e-commerce parcel that he had received from the delivery boy.

Update on Wednesday, July 28

The wife and daughter of the second patient have also tested positive. Their condition also is mild.

The Resident Association has revised rules for package delivery protocol since there is a strong suspicion that the parcels could be a source of infection. Now, all packets except food items will be sprayed with a disinfectant and kept at the security gate for a couple of hours. After that, the addressee will be informed, and s/he can come and pick it up.   

Monday, July 20, 2020

Film: The Lift Boy

One of the movies I watched recently was The Lift Boy.

Raju Tawde (acted by Moin Khan)  is an engineering aspirant but has been having no luck in the examination. A quirk of fate lands him a job as a lift operator in an apartment complex.

Though he initially doesn't like the job, he gradually becomes friendly with two residents: Princess (Aneesha Shah), a young aspiring actress; and Maureen (Nyla Masood), a painter who also happens to be the owner of the apartment complex.

Raju with Maureen in the lift. Photo: The Lift Boy

An eminently watchable movie, it explores the interactions of Raju with the two residents, especially Maureen, who becomes kind of a mentor, in whom Raju is able to find the guide who will help him find his way forward in life. It's not a long film: 1 hr 47 min.
Though it's largely in Hindi (subtitled in English), it's bilingual in parts, where Raju speaks in English with Maureen and Princess.

I felt the story has an O. Henry-ish touch: its simplicity and the ending.
The movie left me with this feeling: irrespective of where we end up in life, it's important to have a positive outlook.

Information on IMDb; it's on Netflix.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Not everything we see online is correct

The other day I was scrolling through Twitter and I chanced upon a video post. It showed an elderly couple dancing. The text in the post said, "He is 94 and she is 91 - they still have the moves!! Just awesome."

I watched the video. No doubt, the performance was awesome. Amazing, dexterous moves by an elderly couple. I couldn't resist watching it again.

I was tempted to retweet the post. But I checked myself after seeing the age of the couple mentioned in the tweet. Also, I wanted to know something more about this wonderful pair, before I shared the clip. 


I went to Youtube to see if it had the video and if I could get any details.

Since I didn't know their names, I wondered what should I search for. I began typing out "he is 9... " and immediately many suggestions came up. 

I clicked on "he is 94 and she's 91", and there were seven videos that matched the search. All of them the same videos but with different headings.

Though there were not many details, I got the name of the couple - Dietmar and Nellia.

There are many more videos if you give a search with the couple's names.


Now I opened a web browser to search the Internet for some information about them.

There were a few websites that matched my search. I clicked on two of them: Seeitlive.co, and mirror.co.uk.

They are Nellia and Dietmar Ehrentraut, and they are 66 and 72 years old, respectively. They’ve been married to one another since 1970—and they both love to dance. Although they’re not necessarily a household name, the Ehrentrauts are pretty well-known in the dance community as passionate and daring dancers, no matter how old they get!
The article gives the sources of information, including the website of the couple

An elderly Austrian couple have shot to online fame after their barnstorming routine in a veterans dance contest. 
Footage of Dietmar Ehrentraut, 70, and his wife Nellia, 64, energetically boogieing in Bavaria has been viewed more than 62 million times.
The young-at-heart pair, who live in the tranquil town of Durmersheim in Baden-Wuerttemberg but were born in Austria, have been dancing together for decades.
And a few weeks ago their moves were caught on camera by impressed audience member during a veterans dance competition in Bavaria.
See It Live, is a part of Shareably Media Network that was founded in 2015 by a team of UC Berkeley graduates and is located in Los Angles, California. See It Live shares "the best entertainment content from around the world with you".

The Mirror is one of Britain’s well-known media organisations.

Nellia and Dietmar Ehrentraut are not 94 and 91.


I am not trying to be a spoilsport here. Nor am I belittling the absolutely impressive performance by the elderly couple, who, I now realise, are extremely gifted, and they conduct training sessions. 

Why I think the wrong age must be called out is not only because that's factually incorrect but we also tend to associate the impeccable performance with that age, which is wrong. 

Let's be wary of "clickbait" information that we see online unless it's on a well-established media organisation's website or it's been put out by a person we know is credible.

Let's not share anything unless we are sure about its veracity.

Monday, June 29, 2020

The elusive phone

I am at my desk working on my laptop. I hear a voice -- someone is talking. It takes a while for me to figure out where it is coming from. 

It is from my phone! The Google Assistant has launched itself and is announcing the weather in Bengaluru and that I have no tasks scheduled for the day ...! 

The phone is acting up. I shut down the application. 

A couple of days later ... I am messaging a colleague on WhatsApp. Even while I am keying in, I hear a voice from the phone: "Hello, hello, hello ...." But I can't see anyone's name on the display, which is not responding to my touch either.

Finally, I restart the phone.

Once the phone rebooted, within a minute, I get a call from the person to whom I was keying in the message which didn't go. He asks me if I made a video call on WhatsApp to him. I say no.

He is surprised because I have never before made a video call to him. I then explain to him it could be because my phone is malfunctioning.

Not only is the device not responding to my touch but it is also doing things on its own. I also notice there is a vertical black line on the screen.


The phone -  Moto G8 Plus - is only seven months old. It's made by Motorola Mobility which was once owned by Google before passing hands to Lenovo. It's a stock Android phone, without any add-ones by the manufacturer. 

Those were some of the reasons why I went for this brand. Besides, the phone I previously had was a Moto G4 Plus which lasted more than three years, until the battery began draining out too fast. 

Now I need a phone immediately. One, this one might conk off any time; and two, when I give this for repair, I will need another one. 

I scroll through Amazon and Flipkart. The good ones will take at least a week to get delivered. I can't wait that long. 

I go to the nearby mobile store to check what they have on offer. The storekeeper shows me Redmi Note 8, Samsung M21 and a few other 'A' series phones of Samsung; besides some Vivo models.

Some 10 years ago, a phone with features I want would be in the range of Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000. But now such a phone is available for half that price.  

I tell the storekeeper that I want to think over the models that he showed and I will be back in the evening or the next morning. 

Back home, I do some research. There are only two options - either a Samsung or a Redmi. Samsung is generally more reliable, but Xiaomi phones have good features and are popular. I guess, they can't be that bad. I have had Samsung phones before. So I thought I will go with Redmi for a change.

I head back to the store at 4.30 that evening.


"I am so sorry we don't have that in stock," says the storekeeper.

"What?! I came this morning, you showed me one," I counter him.

"We just had one model, and he picked it up just now," the storekeeper says pointing to a gentleman at the cash counter. "But I can get you one in about half an hour, from our store in Marthahalli."

"Half an hour? It will take about half an hour one-way to Marthahalli." I am surprised.

"No, I will get it Dunzoed," he says with a smile. 

(Dunzo is a very successful Bengaluru-based startup that provides "pick up and delivery" service within a city.)

"Okay. That sounds good. So, I will come back by around 5.30."

I go back home, thinking I would have got that phone if I was a few minutes early.


Around 5.30 the storekeeper calls me to say they have got the phone. So I head to the shop yet again.

He takes out the box from a bag and ... he looks embarrassed and annoyed and I wonder what has happened.

"I am so sorry ... Really sorry. They have sent us a Redmi Note 8 Pro, and not Redmi Note 8."

"Oh! ... Okay ... I am sure this will be a bit more expensive ... "

"Yes, about 4 to 5,000 more."

"No ... I would stick to Note 8, and not Pro ..." I tell him because I can't find any good enough reason to spend 5k extra.

"Okay, in that case, I will give you a call tomorrow morning after I get you a Note 8."

"Fine," I tell him and head back home for the second time in an hour empty-handed.


Back home, I do a 'factory reset' of my Moto G8 Plus, hoping it may solve the problem.

It seems to have worked, except that the vertical line on the display remains. The phone is dutifully responding to my touch and is not behaving in any crazy manner. 

No call from the shopkeeper nor I call him; since the Moto G8 Plus seems to be okay now, and I don't need a Redmi Note 8 immediately.


However, I resume checking out phones online. Because I need a new one when I give this one to the service centre to get rid of that vertical line. I better do that before the one-year warranty expires. 

Amazon keeps notifying me about a 'flash sale' of the latest Redmi Note 9 Pro phone. It is at 12 noon.

What the shopkeeper had got by mistake was a Note 8 Pro which I decided not to buy because it was costlier than Note 8. And now I am being tempted with a Note 9 Pro! 

I have never attempted to buy anything during these 'sales' when only a limited number of products are on offer and prospective buyers in thousands will make a dash online to grab them. The chances are practically nil.
But I decide to try my luck. Because this has better features and is only marginally costlier than Note 8.

No, I am not fast enough and my web connection is not strong enough. I get edged out. I don't make it. 

I wonder who all were lucky to get that phone within about 30 seconds of the opening of the sale. And how they managed to get it.  

Now I find that there is another 'sale' coming up after a week or so. Who knows I might be lucky then. 

No, no chance. 'Sale' is definitely not my cup of tea!


I am not disappointed since my Moto G8 Plus is (seems to be) working well and there is no hurry to get a new phone. 

Another reason is I have figured out that some of the Samsung models are as good as, if not better than, Redmi models. 

The third reason is Samsung is a brand I know well. I always had their phones except for the two Moto Gs and one Sony. 

Also, I didn't want to push my luck too far with Redmi, going by my recent experiences.


Sunday, June 21. Father's Day. Fête de la Musique. International Yoga Day. Summer Solistice. Partial Solar Eclipse. ... 

Wow! So many events?!

The day actually turns out to be quite eventful.  

The first thing I notice in the morning is that the phone is acting crazy again. The same problem. 

The screen is not responding to my touch; worse, the display is flickering and different apps are feverishly getting launched on their own. This time it looks much worse than earlier. I am not able to have any control on what is happening on the screen! 

After some struggle with the screen, I manage to do a 'factory reset' to erase all my data in the phone before the phone becomes completely inaccessible. 

I erased all data not with any hope of setting the phone right but when I give the phone for repair I don't want anyone to have access to my data. 

I head to the nearby store yet again looking for a new phone.

This time I ask for a Samsung phone. In the M Series, there was just one: M11. That doesn't seem to have good reviews. So weigh the options of the A-series ones. 

This time I have no doubts as which one I should buy. Galaxy A30s.

Finally an end to the struggle with the phone and indecisions. 

Back with Samsung after about four years.

The day is eventful in other ways too. My brother-in-law and his daughter come home. My son joins us on video. They all play games. Good fun. 

The day ends well.

Monday, June 8, 2020

We are all human beings. Everything else is a label

The pandemic has had varying impacts on different people in different parts of the world. But at a basic level, we all, all of us on this planet, have felt like one. When we spoke to someone, maybe in our neighbourhood or thousands of miles away, there was one topic we related to: how we were coping. 

All of us shared a worry - about our health. We stayed at home, remembered to wash our hands frequently, wore masks, kept a safe distance from one another ... 

In the midst of all this, on May 25, a medieval show of brute force snuffs out the life of a man in front of a live video camera. 

In 2008, the chant "Yes, We Can", reverberated across the United States. On November 4 that year, while I was watching the concession speech of John McCain on a TV screen during dinner at a San Francisco restaurant, the enormity of the historic event was still sinking in. 

The dominant view among many people I spoke to was that it was not just about America getting its first African American president. It was also a symbolic break from the past in the way one looked at another person, and that too, when at stake was who the new president should be.

Twelve years later, one single incident sets the clock back, brings latent fissures and frustrations -- which many people think began building up since 2016 -- to the fore. Hundreds of thousands of people pour on to the streets in many cities across the globe, crying out, yet again, for a change.

'Black lives matter' is not just about the colour of the skin. It's about everyone who is marginalised, not just in the United States but all over the world. People are discriminated and victimised often because of reasons like nationality, the language one speaks, the food that one eats, the religion one practises, hierarchies in society, office ... the list goes on. 

These are nothing but mere labels. They don't really mean anything.

It doesn't matter which clock one looks at to know the time.
It doesn't matter what colour the umbrella is when it rains.
It doesn't matter what transport one takes to reach a destination in time.
It doesn't matter what movie one watches or what music one listens to in order to relax.
It doesn't matter what exercise one does to stay fit and healthy.
It doesn't matter what food one eats when hungry. 

We are all humans beings. 

Mercifully, it's not gloom and doom all around. There are many slivers of radiance shining through the clouds, spreading love, affection, kindness, compassion, generosity, and humility.

And thereby comes the hope of real change.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Lot of time, but no time

Needless to say, there is a lot of time on hand, nowadays. But the problem that comes along with it is, something close to the Parkinson's Law -- "... work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."

Though the British naval historian, Cyril Northcote Parkinson, wrote these words as part of the opening sentence of an essay in The Economist in 1955 on the way the civil service works, I have noticed that, in a loose sense, the law holds good in my daily routine as well.

Before the stay-indoors order came, everyday activities were all time-specific: and one transitioned to the other as if they were all pre-programmed.

Now, every activity seems to stretch to eternity ... 

I switch on the television and end up watching one programme after the other.
I play Scrabble or Sudoku or Solitaire and it goes on like for one hour or even more than that on weekends. 
No need to travel anywhere to meet up with friends. Meetups are online and they go on and on.

I found it ironic that even though I have so much time, a lot of chores are either left incomplete or not done at all.

One way out of it, I have realised, is to have a time limit for each activity. Like, if I am reading a book, I make sure I stop reading it and get on to something else after a particular time. 

Seems to be working.

Now let me end this post here, go over to Feedly and check out some blogs ...

(Image credit: Pixabay

Monday, May 25, 2020

What I am waiting for ...

Image credit: Pixabay

Today is Day 62 of the lockdown, which came into force on March 25, and is in its fourth iteration with fewer restrictions and more relaxations.
Many rules on reopening of businesses, travel, quarantine etc have been eased; and the buzz is slowly coming back to this city.

Inter-state bus services haven't started, but they will soon. Trains have begun running. From today, domestic flights have resumed. 

With people moving from one city to another, what many feared is happening - the number of cases is increasing. Almost every other day, it's a record high.

Multiple models and numerous researchers have been saying India's peak is still a few weeks, if not a few months, away. Which means, the chances of getting infected haven't reduced, they have actually increased.


I don't do anything that is perilous. However, there are a number of risks in my daily life. It may be minimal, but there is a risk when I take a flight, when I drive a car or when I travel by train.

Am I not living in the midst of so many viruses and bacteria? Is the air I breathe so free of pathogens that I could catch no infection?

As far as the virus is concerned, I am trying my best to be one up on it by taking as many precautions as possible.

Nevertheless, I am psychologically prepared for the day when I might test positive when the new normal gives way to the old normal. I am being more realistic than pessimistic here.


Image credit: Pixabay

According to NJ.com, a top New Jersey health official said everyone would get the disease. 

In an article in the world-renowned medical journal, The Lancet, Johan Giesecke, Sweden's former chief epidemiologist and current health advisor to the World Health Organization, says: 
"Everyone will be exposed to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, and most people will become infected. ... This is the real pandemic, but it goes on beneath the surface ... There is very little we can do to prevent this spread: a lockdown might delay severe cases for a while, but once restrictions are eased, cases will reappear. ..."
But unlike other infections, I am (probably, more) worried about others;.the hardship they would have to undergo.

No, this is not going to be like any other cold, cough or fever. There are wide-ranging social implications too. It's going to ring alarm bells in so many people around me. 


Where all did you go? 
Were you wearing a mask always? 
Who all did you meet? 
How close were you to them? 
Did you shake hands with anyone? 
Do you remember someone sneezing or coughing?
Do you remember who they were, where you met them?


I told you not to go out ... What was the need? ... You could have waited for some more days ...

All are waiting for the vaccine. Even when a vaccine is invented, it doesn't mean from the very next day the world has been rid of the virus.


Image credit: Pixabay

It's going to be a long wait - for the day when, for most of us, today's risk is no longer considered a risk.

I am waiting for the day when a cough or a cold doesn't alarm people.

I am waiting for the day when COVID-19 is seen on a par with many other diseases like flu, dengue, chikungunya, chickenpox, malaria, etc.   

I am waiting for the day when people would have learnt not to be scared but cautious. 

I am waiting for the day when the stigma attached to the disease vanishes.


"O, you have a fever? Got yourself tested?"

"Yup! I have COVID-19!"

"O! So you will be indoors for ... what ... one month?"

"Ya. Okay, see you then online."

"Sure. ... Take care."

Monday, May 11, 2020

Mask shaming

About a month ago, I was at a nearby grocery store. That was a time when face mask had not been made mandatory by the state government, and very few people wore one.

Inside the store, there were just three people at that time, including me. Only one person had a mask on. 

Looking at the other person who didn't have a mask, the storekeeper told him to wear one. "If you don't have a mask now, at least put a handkerchief around your nose and mouth. Don't come to this store if you can't wear a mask."

He didn't stop there. "There are some people who think it's below their social status to wear a mask," he muttered to himself.

Before he could turn to me, I quickly pulled out a handkerchief and tied it around my nose and mouth.

That storekeeper was rude. There was no need to speak like that, even though he is well within rights to have rules for customers in his store.

He might believe in the benefits of wearing a mask, but there is a way to convey it. 

His comment on that gentleman's "social status" was unwarranted, and it could have sparked off an argument between the storekeeper and the customer, who merely chose to ignore the remark and calmly took out a handkerchief and tied it around his face.


On April 15, the Union government made wearing mask compulsory in public places (The Hindu BusinessLine). However, many state governments issued rules for their regions much later. For example, in Karnataka, the wearing of the mask was made mandatory only on May 1 (The Economic Times).

In Bengaluru, failure to wear a mask attracted a fine of Rs 1,000. It was later reduced to Rs 200. The municipal corporation collected over Rs 2 lakh by way of fine, till a week ago (The Hindu). The figure must have gone up by now.

Following the government order, our residents' association mandated that we wear one even if when we are within the complex but outside our flat. So, now whether it makes sense or not, I wear a mask the moment I step out of my house. 


There have been many studies on whether a mask is beneficial or not. But none of them have conclusively proven one way or the other.

A mask does protect the wearer and people who are nearby, and in some situations, it's better to have the mask than not have.

But the problem lies elsewhere. Many people overlook the fact that the mask does not provide foolproof protection. 

The covering itself will have viruses, and when one unwittingly touches the mask to adjust it or to remove it, the pathogens get transferred to the fingers, an aspect that the wearer is unlikely to realise since the mask gives him/her a sense of (false) security and protection.

BBC's latest weekly Health Check programme featured the topic "Should we wear face masks?" In it, Prof Robert West of University College of London, who conducted a review of more than 20 studies on this subject, said, "The evidence is equivocal". Listen to this very informative programme here.


With opinions split on the issue, there is a disgusting new social phenomenon: mask shaming. That's when a person who wears a mask ridicules and shames another person who is not wearing one; or vice versa. What my neighbourhood grocery storekeeper said to the customer was a typical example of mask shaming. 

NBC recently reported a case of what an Oakland resident experienced while she was on a morning walk. “It happened to me the other day... I went for a walk in the morning and someone came up to me and said 'put on a mask!' I felt bad.”

This letter writer in The Columbus Dispatch says, "Unfortunately, people are now being conditioned to shame anyone who doesn’t wear one. In fact, some have gone as far (sic) to suggest you are a murderer for not wearing a mask. This is absurd." 

On another discussion page in Reddit, one person speaks of how it's normal for people in countries like Hong Kong and Taiwan to wear a mask when they are not well.

One post on that page says, " "A person who wears a mask isn’t admitting that they are sick or paranoid: They’re acknowledging that they are aware of their civic duty regarding public health." We need to listen to our Asian friends and stop mask-shaming in western countries."

Well, wearing masks is not a common practice in all Asian countries, definitely not in India.

Mask shaming is occurring in the reverse direction as well. People who don't wear one are making fun of those who are wearing one.

Here is a post in Reddit, "Today, I wore a (sic) N95 mask in a Costco in Toronto, Canada and overhead head (sic) some random person said (sic), "Wearing a mask makes him look like a Monkey." I got pissed because it was my first time wearing a mask in public. I DGAF anymore. At least I have a mask on and doing my part not to catch or spread the virus. North Americans need to stop Mask Shaming!"

Probably the term 'mask shaming' is being used in Western nations, especially in the US, but I guess, the practice is prevalent all over the world, especially since the scientific opinion on the issue is split.


Whether wearing a mask is compulsory or not, there is no justification to scoff at someone.

When you see someone wearing a mask or not, don't outrightly judge him/her. There could be a reason for wearing one, there could be a reason for not wearing one. 

If the law mandates that you need to wear one, do so.

But if there is no rule, do what you feel is right, and leave the issue to the other person's wisdom.

Remember, a mask doesn't give you foolproof protection. It's helpful in some situations, but it needs to be worn and handled in a particular way, for you to be actually safe.

Take care.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

A to Z Challenge 2020 - Reflections

Finally, here I am with a review of the Challenge. Probably among the last to do it. 

This year was my third year at the Challenge. Though I had known about similar blogging challenges before, I couldn't participate in them owing to my hectic daily routine which itself was a challenge.

I chose to sign up this time not just because I had time on my hands, but also because I believe blogging is an excellent platform to read good articles on a variety of subjects. It's not like the ubiquitous social media platforms wherein one tends to find fleeting thoughts rather than well-thought-out compositions. 

In 2018, I didn't have a theme. Last year, it was 'journalist jargons'. This year, when the time for 'reveal theme' arrived, I didn't know what I should blog on. 

A couple of days before the kick-off, I thought of our current state and what I was doing presently. And that became my theme - how I am keeping up my spirits in these troubled times.

It was a pleasure to not only put up one post a day barring Sundays but also to connect with some amazing bloggers, check out and comment on their posts, and read their comments to my posts. 

I had never read so much on niche subjects like quilting, herbal oils and Geographical Indications. There were reminiscences of childhood memories, introspections, reviews of books, travelogues, offbeat destinations, short stories etc., besides, of course, the highs and lows of the routine nowadays. 

A BIG THANK YOU to everyone out there who read my posts, keyed in comments and kept coming back to my blog. It was a wonderful journey, getting to know you all.

Here are just some of the bloggers with whom I connected during the Challenge (listed in alphabetical order of the blogger), the name of their blog and their theme:
  1. Anagha Yatin - Canvas with RainbowShort stories

  2. Anita Sabat - The Explorer of MiraclesGeographical Indications of Odisha
  3. Arti Jain - My Ordinary Moments - Stories from childhood revolving around grandfather's garden

  4. Darshana Suresh (Dashy) - Wandering Wows!Inhibitions

  5. Frédérique - Quilting Patchwork Appliqué - Quilting work of favourite artists

  6. Frewin55 - How would you knowPosts around personal and societal responses to the Covid 19 crisis

  7. Genevive Angela - Living A Life Of GratitudeShort stories for inspiration

  8. Jade Li - Tao Talk - Essential oils

  9. Jhilmil Bhansali - Parenting and Lifestyle - Parenting 

  10. Keith - Keith's Ramblings - Short stories with words that have fallen out of use

  11. Moondustwriter - Penned in moon dustIssues faced by elders

  12. My Space - My SpaceShort stories

  13. Ninu Nair - Bookishloom - Books

  14. Nisha - Teeth That SparkleTravel Stories from Across the World

  15. Red - Doesn't Speak Klingon - Thoughts in these Covid times

  16. Shilpa Garg - A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose! - Various aspects related to books and reading

  17. Simrit Bedi - Suburban LifestyleActivities for kids

  18. Sinjana Ghosh - Backpack & Explore - Offbeat destinations of India

  19. Suzy - Someday Somewhere - In the Lockdown

  20. Sweta Sharma - My Random Ramblings - Quirky, humourous and relatable definitions

  21. Tomichan Matheikal - Tomichan Matheikal's blog -  Books

  22. Wendy - Wendy's Waffle - Various aspects related to moving house
See you soon! Take care and good wishes!

Monday, May 4, 2020

Lockdown relaxed, but no one is in a hurry to get back to old ways

Though India has extended the lockdown till May 18 (it began on March 25), there is considerable relaxation in areas which have seen no, or very low cases, designated as green and orange zones.

In fact, 90% of Bengaluru should be limping back to normality from today with many commercial establishments opening.

My house falls in a ward that has seen no positive cases, but my district is in the red zone since a few other wards in the district have seen a high number of cases.

Since my ward is in the green zone, many people will try to get back to their normal routine in my locality from today. I can already hear the sound of quite a few vehicles plying.

Following the latest government order, our apartment association took a decision a couple of days ago to allow in domestic helps but with strict controls and monitoring. But the fact is everyone is hesitating to make the first move and ask them to come back.

No one wants to change the new status quo if they have an option not to.

In fact, we initially thought we would ask our maid to come, but later we changed our mind. That is because there is no necessity -- we are managing with cooking and cleaning, and the maid (who has been with us for nearly 15 years) is being paid her usually salary though she hasn't been working.

Also, we thought let us see how the situation pans out, now that from today many people who have no option would begin to move around and get back to work.

The rule of thumb is don't be in a hurry to go back to the old ways; wait, watch, and restore normality in a phased manner.