Sunday, March 29, 2020

Inspiring story of Minal Dakhave Bhosale

We have to appreciate the highly proactive efforts being taken by the Indian and State governments, in the global fight against COVID-19. Something which I don't see acknowledged well enough either in India or abroad.

For example, all flight passengers from abroad are being subjected to thermal screening at the airport right from mid-January, even before the first case was identified in India, on January 30.

Teams of government officials are tirelessly working to trace the contacts of suspected patients, get them to self-quarantine, as well as make follow-up enquiries about their well-being.


However, one of the key elements of the battle is how well we are able to test people. And, India doesn't have enough testing kits.

In the last few days, we have very good news on this front -- a company in the west Indian city of Pune, called Mylab Discovery, has developed a kit, Patho Detect, that is not only cheaper but can also test samples faster.

The Mylab kit costs Rs 1,200 while the imported one costs Rs 4,500. It can provide the results in two and a half hours, while an imported one takes six to seven hours, says this BBC report.


The leader of the team that worked on the kit is virologist Minal Dakhave Bhosale, Mylab's research and development chief.

What makes her a heroine is not just that her team was able to come up with an indigenous testing kit but the fact that she was in the final stages of a complicated pregnancy.

In spite of her personal difficulties, she took the scientific challenge head-on and submitted the kit to the National Institute of Virology on March 18. The next day she gave birth to a baby girl.

The company, the report says, can supply up to 100,000 testing kits a week and can produce up to 200,000, if needed.

What an inspiring story this is! Hearty felicitations to Ms Minal -- not just a role model for all of us, but also a beacon of hope in these troubled times.

(This blog post is part of the monthly 'We Are The World Blogfest' that celebrates positive news)

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Janata Curfew: India's experiment with total national lockdown

A street in Bhopal, India.
Image credit: Wikipedia
India is quiet like never before.

I woke up this morning not to the sound of vehicles, but to the sound of the chirp of birds.

I have never before heard the rustling of leaves during the day hours when the predominant sound is usually of passing vehicles.

Today the entire nation -- a population of 1.33 billion -- is staying indoors between 7 am and 9 pm. No public transport. No passenger trains. Only trains that have begun the journey before 7 am are running. No buses. No metro. All businesses shut. It's a total lockdown. Only medical services, online delivery services and media are working.

This follows an appeal by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation on March 20, to observe a Janata Curfew or People's Curfew - of the people, by the people, for the people - voluntarily stay indoors between 7 am and 9 pm. He said we have to do it because the crisis we are facing is a very unique one, and we have very difficult days ahead, for which we need to prepare ourselves.


The Prime Minister also exhorted everyone to come to their doorstep or to their balconies and clap or ring a bell or tap a steel utensil for five minutes in honour of every health and medical professional who is struggling out there taking care of the people who are ill.

Accordingly, in our apartment complex, many residents joined the rest of the nation, came out on to their balconies, and clapped.


When the Prime Minister announced just a day's shutdown, the immediate thought that came to everyone's mind was how will a single day's lockdown help in any way. But he had prefaced it saying this lockdown today is to prepare ourselves for the hard days ahead.

That's what is happening now. A number of places in the country, including big cities like Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai, have now declared complete shutdown till March 31. Indian Railways today announced that no passenger train will run till 31st. Buses and metro have drastically curtailed their services.

I don't think we will return to our normal routine any time in the near future.

Take adequate care of yourself. Be safe. These are very uncertain times.

Monday, March 16, 2020

The unsung heros fighting coronavirus

It's now nearly three months since coronavirus began wreaking havoc around the world. Over a hundred thousand are now ill and more than six thousand have died because of COVID-19. The numbers are constantly rising.

It all started in Huanan Seafood Market, a wet market in the city of Wuhan in China in the last week of December. The virus spread rapidly from there within China and later outside. The fact that it was the Chinese New Year holiday season only made matters worse since many people were travelling. 

The symptoms are the all too familiar runny nose, cold, cough and fever. But two factors have made this a bit scary and kept it on the headlines around the world. One, the virus is new, and two, it has spread around the world like never before. 


Though it started from a congested and arguably unhygienic wet market, as the disease spread to different nations, it became associated with people who were only rich enough to fly from one nation another. Top-level artistes, sportspersons, and people in high positions of power were infected. 

It has now moved to the secondary level of infection or local transmission stage, wherein people who haven't travelled anywhere are getting infected since they had come in contact with someone who carried the virus or they picked up the virus from some surface.


The world is trying to contain the spread of the virus by different means. Lockdown of a city and 'social distancing' by people have now become the norm everywhere. 

While a good majority us are playing it safe by staying indoors, keeping track of news in the comforts of our homes, checking our social media feeds, forwarding messages to all and sundry on how to take care, there is a group of people who are taking all the risk only to ensure that the rest of world is safe. 

That is the community of healthcare workers, comprising doctors, nurses, paramedical personnel, healthcare officials, and a huge staff. 

They don't play it safe and keep themselves away from the infected and the sick. They have to be in the midst of the very people who are ill and who need assistance. They have to tend the elderly who are at a high risk of succumbing to the disease. 


India was one of the first countries to begin screening of incoming passengers at airports. It's being done at all international airports in the country. Yesterday, Kerala (which has a high number of positive cases) decided to screen even bus and train passengers coming into the state. 

I am happy that in India, everyone who is fighting this war is doing an admirable job. There are so many first-person accounts of people who have witnessed high levels of efficiency by people are engaged in combating the pandemic.

They are not just reacting to a situation but proactively working to ensure that people who might be carrying the virus are safely isolated so that they don't unwittingly spread the virus to other people. 

There are heartwarming stories of how airport/ airline officials and health workers are diligently tracking passengers who might have flown in an aircraft taken by a person who later tested positive. I also heard stories of how people have voluntarily isolated themselves even though they didn't show any symptoms of the disease. The social responsibility and dedication that these people have shown are admirable.
Several scientists and doctors are saying that the virus is not going to be exterminated from the face of the earth anytime soon, and people will continue to be at risk. But this highly praiseworthy proactive method of fighting the challenge will definitely mean the number of people who might get infected could be kept to a minimum saving hundreds of lives in India and the world at large.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Coronavirus case in Bengaluru

There seems to be only one topic of conversation - coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes. It all started in a city in China called Wuhan, in late December, and now it has spread to over 1 million people in a good number of countries around the world.

India's first patient was in my home state of Kerala - a student of Wuhan University tested positive on Jan 30. Since then many states of India have been reporting cases, most of them are returnees from China or Italy.

Yesterday, the city I live in currently, Bengaluru, reported its first patient. A computer engineer who returned from the United States on March 1. There are now four patients in the state of Karnataka, of which Bengaluru is the capital. More and more cities are reporting positive cases, and the total must now be around 50 in India. There are no deaths.


I have been reading news reports from many countries regarding panic buying of essential daily requirements, fearing a shutdown. Nothing of that sort here.

The only time there is shutdown in India is when there is widespread violence, because of any social or economic unrest. That's when the government imposes curfew, and it's for at the most three or four days.

There are cases in India when people do indulge in panic buying. That's when there is an impending shortage of essential farm commodities, mainly vegetables or grains.

Here as of now, there is no panic, though everyone is taking precautionary steps. Schools have declared early summer vacation. Many public gatherings have been postponed or cancelled.


Social media is flooded with information regarding medicines that can either protect people from the disease or cure them of it. I have been debunking these claims on some of my WhatsApp groups.

Such messages are dangerous because some people might actually think there are medicines that protect them, and won't take the required preventive steps, endangering their lives and that of others too. Such messages are best not passed around.

I have also been advising my friends and relatives not to believe anything unless it comes from a recognised medical authority or a government institution.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Women's Day surprise

When we opened the front door of our flat this morning to pick up the newspapers, we were in for a surprise. There was a plant sapling, and a Women's Day good wishes card kept on it. The door was decorated with balloons and chocolates.

It was a Women's Day surprise from the apartment association, for residents of each flat in the complex. A very heartwarming and thoughtful gesture.

***                   ***                    ***

Women, once considered very different from men and therefore segregated, relegated and sidelined, have come a long way, though there is quite a distance still to traverse.

The gender barrier, once very thick and inflexible, has blurred quite a lot, though it hasn't vanished altogether.

A person's gender was once a significant determinant, but that's no longer the case. In many situations, it doesn't matter whether a person is a man or a woman.

This day, March 8, the International Women's Day, celebrates the achievements of women, the triumph of their individuality and abilities over gender stereotyping.

This is not to say it's all hunky-dory for women. The day is also a reminder of new issues that have come in the wake of the evolution.

We have many situations, wherein gender doesn't matter, but at the same time, it does matter too.

It might be a 'unisex world', where men and women work, play and live together, but women need their space. The key is one's ability to recognise and respect a person's individuality, of which gender is an important component.

To all the women out there, go out, enjoy! The world is yours!

Monday, March 2, 2020

Is 12.15 am tonight or tomorrow morning?

We all know after midnight, it's a new day. That's going by the clock or the calendar. But normally in conversations, it doesn't go that way, does it?

For most of us, a new day is after we have woken up from sleep. So, 12.15 am is still 'tonight', though actually, it is 'tomorrow'. 

But for some of us who sleep a few hours after midnight or we have to make a reference to a time a few minutes past midnight, it's quite tricky. 

I know a friend who missed a flight which he was supposed to board a few minutes past midnight. When boarding time is 12.15 am on Sunday, it's actually Saturday night! But he thought it's Sunday night 15 minutes past midnight. 

So is 12.15 am, tonight or tomorrow morning?!