I was privileged to have been invited in the recent past to give a TEDx talk at IISER Pune.
For those of you who are not aware, the IISER institutes were established by the Government of India at Berhampur, Bhopal, Kolkata, Mohali, Pune, Thiruvananthapuram and Tirupati to integrate and promote interdisciplinary science education and research. Over the past decade, the IISERs have been attracting talented young minds who want to pursue ‘pure sciences’. Through my interactions with the Faculty members at IISER Pune (my dear friend John with the theatrical talent and the literary bent of mind being the main man), while I was on the teaching faculty at the Armed Forces Medical College, I had the opportunity to academically interact with the students there, in person, on more than a few occasions , and came away impressed at their intellect , dedication and enthusiasm. It felt reassuring to learn that indeed the future of India as a scientific nation is well on its way to make its mark on time, with students such as those at the IISERs.
The Kumbh Mela in its various iterations is a phenomenal exposure to humanity, and not just the Coffee Table book variety, but the administrative machinations that are required for these…
Being a Public Health Specialist, I had acquired a taste for Mass Gathering Medicine , from early in my military career… hence when invited to give a TEDx talk at the IISER Pune, on a topic of my choice, well….
If you were to ask me today, on how this applies to the current COVID 19 pandemic, well I would say that crisis expansion facilities for those 80% of the corona virus infected, who do not need ICU facilities, the overwhelming majority, can be accommodated in ‘tent cities’ like the Kumbh Mela… We have the template ready… we have the tentage… Go ask the Wedding Planners.
Everyone is locked down or locked in… Better surely than being locked up? Right?
Combating the COVID 19 pandemic requires various preventive measures to be instituted at the individual , family and societal levels. You can read more about these other measures elsewhere on the http://www.who.int (International) or http://www.mohfw.gov.in (India specific) websites.
From the food safety perspective, keeping fruits and vegetables safe for our consumption is a practice that we must all adhere to in routine, and not just in these COVID times.
The right time for food safety is now and everytime!
For cleaning vegetables and fruits with steeping in Potassium Permanganate crystal solution please click here….
For cleaning vegetables and fruits with usage of cooking soda please click here…. Its a link to some one else’s video. However I too endorse this as an alternative to PP crystals.
For cleaning milk packets please click here….
For a quick reminder of how to wash your hands … Surely, we all can do with a quick peek at this 1 min 26 sec video… and revise what we already know…
In case you would like me to answer more of your queries on issues related to food safety in the times of COVID 19 , go ahead , email me or comment below.
In the times of the COVID 19 pandemic sweeping across the globe, there are so many conflicting messages out there , for people to digest, some talk of prevention (which is the only way to safety at present), some talk of prophylaxis (which is only for high risk individuals i.e those healthcare workers who are caring for sick patients, and close household contact of confirmed cases), some talk of treatments and vaccination (which are in various stages of trials, and are not likely to be anywhere on the horizon till early 2021 maybe).
For this post, I choose to discuss with you , my discerning reader, on the vexatious issue of catching that cough or sneeze, that moment in time when you take a deep , often ragged breath and go “ah-chooo” or whatever, in your language of preference.
Now, the current guidance being given by the leading public health agencies across the world, is something that every parent teaches their child… Cover your mouth when you cough! But then we all already know that, or do we? What about the vast majority of people who do not know, or have never been told that they should cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing?
Cover your mouth when you cough! Makes sense right?
You dont want someone else to breathe in those droplets right? That is what airborne transmission means.
If those droplets are given the chance, they gradually settle down and contaminate surfaces, such as table tops, door handles, chair arm rests, the floor etc. A healthy person acquires infection from these by touching these contaminated surfaces with his hands and then touching his own face (nose, mouth, eyes). And this is Indirect Transmission.
Now, what are the choices you have, to cover your mouth when you are coughing or sneezing?
With the palm of your hand? Well, think of those droplets you have intercepted, thereby contaminating your own hands, which if unwashed immediately afterwards, with soap and water, or usage of an alcohol based sanitizer, will contaminate other surfaces, or transmit to others through hand shakes and the like.
With tissues? Well , these need to be disposed off carefully afterwards, and not carried around or thrown around indiscriminately. How many people in India keep tissues with them?
With the back of your hand? Well , usually the back of your hand does not come in contact with any one or any surface usually (unless of course you are giving someone a backhanded slap instead of a backhanded compliment). In this situation too, you would need to wash your hands with soap and water.
With the crook of your elbow? Let me explain this in a bit more of detail….First, think of a woman in a long sleeved garment (kameez) or a man with a full sleeved garment…. or a child similarly…. Now this person coughs or sneezes into his or her elbow…which is cloth covered…. All the sticky , gooey droplets (micro-organism laden) spray goes onto the cloth at the elbow. And remains there till the time that garment is washed, with other garments… 99.9% times not with hypochlorite solution, nor with a 60 degrees wash cycle (this is India)….
Next, think of a woman or a man with a half sleeved garment…. or a child similarly…. Now this person coughs or sneezes into his or her elbow…which is bare skin…. All the sticky , gooey droplets (micro-organism laden) spray goes onto the skin of the crook of the elbow. And remains there only till the time that person has a bath and remembers to wash the elbow. (again…this is India)….
And also , you yourself just think… when was the last time you washed just your elbow fold??
Now, please answer the following 1. Will the long sleeved clothing possibly get contaminated by infective sneeze droplets… and remain so…? 2. Will this potentially infected cloth contaminate other clothes at home? 3. Will the laundry / washing in rural India ever be adequate enough to ‘disinfect’ such clothes? i.e hot wash and bleach pre soaks? 4. How often will a person actually end up washing his crook of elbow? 5. Is it not easier to cover with back of palm and then wash that afterwards? And this is slightly better than covering with the palm of your hand?
Covering of mouth and nose is what is important!!
That is what is the bottom line.
“The how” is just an exercise in changing behaviours… All of us who are not teenagers today, were taught socially to cover our mouths when we coughed, with our palms… Now we talk of crook of the elbow, why not also the back of the hand, i.e when we dont have access to tissues. There was an old English adage, “the rich keep their colds in their pockets while the poor blow it out onto the road” this of course was in reference to the usage of handkerchiefs by the ‘elite’.
Please let me know your views on the above… it will be interesting to discuss this further.
We all would agree unanimously I am sure, that the cough does need to be covered… My query to you is… what is advisable to be communicated through a population focused messaging campaign?
On TV channels we often see healthcare personnel dressed in ‘space like’ gear on a biosafety protocol, investigating outbreaks or engaging in intriguing missions involving infectious diseases.
Most lay people do not understand that wearing protective gear, which actually protects against unknown and known infectious disease agents, is very cumbersome and not ‘glamourous’ . It is lifesaving, and it is in short supply most of the time. This PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is worn by designated health care personnel in special circumstances to minimise the threat that infectious disease agents pose to their health and survival.
Healthcare personnel need to wear this PPE in the correct manner for it to be effective in its purpose. In the currently ongoing pandemic of COVID 19, PPE is essential for handling patients in the acute stage when they are infectious to those around them. PPE is not for the common man. Believe me, it is downright uncomfortable and sweaty and stressful.
Here is a short (5 min 49 sec) video made by a team of experts from the prestigious AFMC Pune, to communicate effectively, the recommended modality for wearing of PPE by healthcare workers…. https://youtu.be/OlOULwxmTCc
Please feel free to share the link. As and when the creators of the video upload the higher resolution video, this above link will be amended and linked suitably.
The peculiar advantage of living in the modern 2020’s is that though our vision may not be 20/20, and we cannot even predict what can happen or will happen on the next day, we can definitely hope to have hindsight at some time in the future. The power of information available instantly for consumption by the educated illiterates and the uneducated literates is unfolding on a daily basis.
An interesting acronym , apt in these turbulent times, when a pandemic has just been declared, is “IDIOT” – Internet derived Information Obstructing Treatment – more conventionally referring to those patients who rely on Google for primary management of whatever ails them , with poor doctors who wasted their time going to Med School coming in a poor second. There should be an equivalent term for the uncontrollable outbreak of Public Health ‘experts’ that this ongoing coronavirus pandemic has unleashed on an unsuspecting populace. Everyone is now an expert, after a quick skim through a plethora of WhatsApp forwards of dubious provenance , prefaced with the standard non disclaimer “forwarded as received”. Pray , why forward if you dont stand by what you send? Everyone and their Uncle Charitraheen is an expert today.
Anyway , this blog post is not to rant and rave at the inadequacies of society in the times of coronavirus. This is a time to act and the time to act is now. It is rather easy to get distracted when writing abstractly.
I will commence by quickly clarifying that a pandemic when declared by the World Health Organization , is done with due deliberation and is only done when certain predefined criteria are fulfilled. It is based not on the quantum of cases , rather , it is based on the actual extent of spread and the challenge it poses to healthcare systems and populations across the globe. The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 is here , no escaping this. I will not conjecture on the future of this ongoing pandemic, nor will I hold forth on what is an epidemic curve. Google provides easy answers to those with limited understanding, like mine. I will point you to this interesting article on this curve https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator/
Isolation and quarantine help protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease.
Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.
Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.
The Director General of the WHO has stated unequivocally that the global community needs to focus on words that matter much more, and that are much more actionable. Prevention. Preparedness. Public health. Political leadership.And most of all, People.
To reiterate, quarantines and personal hygiene work to slow an epidemic by limiting the ability of infectious people to spread the virus to others. Quarantines are effective because they limit the number of people exposed to a disease.
Individually adopted Social Distancing is the only tactic available for us to prevent transmission of Coronavirus
For myself, as a responsible citizen, I have decided to take these measures with immediate effect :
1. I will work from home to the extent feasible, and will not travel in public transport, unless absolutely essential. I will request my employer to permit “work from home” till required by circumstances.
2. I will not attend community or social events or gatherings.
3. I will not go to cinemas or clubs or restaurants. I will try not to order takeaways as it will mean going to a restaurant. I will restrict ordering home delivery of food.
4. I will stop going to the gym / swimming pool.
5. I will greet people without physical contact by doing a simple ‘Namaste’
6. I will consciously avoid touching my face, nose and eyes through the day.
7. I will wash my hands with soap for 20 seconds as often as needed and definitely after using the toilet, coming home from outdoors and before cooking or eating.
8. I will use my fist or knuckles to touch common surfaces in public areas such as lift buttons, door handles etc.
9. I will not go outdoors except for unavoidable domestic work such as shopping for provisions.
10. I will seek information from authenticated and verified sources only, and will not participate in rumour mongering.
11. I will spread correct messages of prevention to my family, friends and relatives.
12. I will support the Govt and other members of civic society in controlling the transmission of infection.
I strongly recommend that each one of us, adult or child, male or female, adopt a similar declaration of intent and undertake whatever measures we can to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our society, healthy and well.
The Govt of India has issued an advisory on 16 Mar 2020, recommending stringent social distancing measures. We all , as responsible citizens need to realise the importance of this. If we dont participate in ensuring the health security of our nation, we as a society are surely going to be over our heads ! https://www.mohfw.gov.in/SocialDistancingAdvisorybyMOHFW.pdf
Please send me any issues you have a felt need to clarify or seek more information on. I am compiling a list of FAQs .
As people the world over, got together to begin celebrating the end of 2019, the World Health Organization was alerted to several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, in the Hubei Province of China. (https://goo.gl/maps/ktL9XX8AjXWMobEX7) Click on this link and zoom out to get an idea of where exactly this city is in China.
The virus being reportedly implicated in this outbreak apparently did not match any other known virus. For infectious disease epidemiologists (popularly referred to as Disease Detectives , I think the CDC USA coined this term), this kind of situation is of serious concern as whenever a new enemy is detected, they are not familiar with its people attacking tactics.
In the first week of January, Chinese researchers confirmed that they had identified a new virus – a coronavirus, which is a family of viruses that include the ubiquitous common cold viruses, and also dangerous viruses such as SARS and MERS. This new virus was initially christened “2019-nCoV.” There, are you feeling reassured not that you have a name ? All the better to have a name that you can toss about here and there, when scaring children with bedtime tales of the Bogeyman. Read the earlier paragraph for the new name.
This Corona Virus usually causes respiratory illness and there is a standard advice that must be shared with all. We need to know how to protect ourselves and those we love, from getting not just this disease, but most respiratory route of spread illnesses.
Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or just regular soap and water;
When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands;
Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough;
If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathingseek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider;
When visiting ‘live’ produce markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals;
The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.
And I would add on a few simple tips for you to think of adopting not just today or because of the nCoV outbreak…
Avoid Shaking Hands with people you meet casually… Do you know if the person has not sneezed or coughed into his palm before shaking your hand? Instead, a ‘Namaskar’ with folded hands is most suitable for conveying greetings and respect to those you meet.
Always keep a window partially open when using a split air conditioner , as there is no fresh air intake in such machines (I am sure you will not believe this! Google it if you want, or take my word for it… I am familiar with HVAC systems). You need the air change! Your split AC is just cooling and circulating the same air, after a bit of dust filtration , thats all.
Always try to sit near the window when in public transport or in cars, and try to get in some fresh air and not just recirculated air.
Practice with your family and friends, to cough and sneeze onto the back of your palm or crook of your elbow… Its not easy as it seems, we have been conditioned over decades of parenting to cover our mouth, but never been told the correct way, to prevent spread of infection. Think about this.
Try to avoid touching your nose and eyes with your hands when out of your home. You cannot wash your hands often enough , and we are all exposed to contaminated surfaces through the day, the lift buttons, the door handles, the staircase railing, the files and documents, the keyboard of our computers, etc… You know it all.
Avoid crowded indoor public spaces such as movie halls and restaurants, to the extent feasible. If you have to dine out, dine outdoors…
Be Safe! Think Hygiene at all times…
So that’s it ladies and gentlemen! It all remains the same, irrespective of new names! Be safe, be well!
Wellington, near Ootacamund in the Nilgiri mountains of Tamil Nadu, India, is where this photo essay is set.
Again, tis not I, it be my runaway batchmate, the Running Man! Remember him from those photos taken whilst running around Calcutta, from an earlier blogpost?
Summers are deliciously cool, high in the Nilgiri mountains, and the wise reader may wisely infer that winters would be truly cold. Well, on a fine Sunday, R man decided to work up a sweat, and thereby unfolds the tale of a runaround…
Coonoor Railway Station… The first train waiting to leave for Ooty, just a few miles away.
The train station dating back to 1897. Tourists throng around to take in the vintage heritage railway.
The Municipal bus stand at Coonoor, a few hundred metres away
The deserted Mount Road, the main road of Coonoor. Obviously! It’s early morning on a winter day! Why would the good folks of Coonoor give up on their cozy beds!
A striking gopuram of a roadside temple… Typical of temples in Tamil Nadu…
The sun tries to burn it’s way through the early morning fog… the weather could have been termed as heavenly… If 12 degrees is your idea of a pleasant day…
The lesser cousin of the Botanical gardens at Ooty.. the Sim’s park in Coonoor… More than 150yrs old..
A quaint motel in Upper Coonoor… Ostensibly serving up the best pizzas and pasta in the Nilgiris…
The motel…. A popular movie starring Rishi Kapoor … Kapoor & Sons was filmed here a few years ago.
The golf course in Wellington… I have visited this in 1994, however didn’t swing clubs badly in those days (I do now, badly I. E) , so couldn’t appreciate the undulating fairways well enough
Sunday school was a big thing for the Christian school mates of our Running man
Gymkhana clubs were set up across the country by the British rulers, to provide a place for the brown sahibs to hobnob with the White man!
Madras Regimental Centre war memorial…
The main gate of the Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) next to the war memorial…
The Madras Regimental Centre… The regiment traces its origins to the seige of the Seringapatnam fort… Among other battles… It is one of the oldest Infantry regiments in India…
The Assaye elephant… Allowed to be used as regimental symbol of the Madras Regiment after the battle of Seringapatnam…
The ceremonial entrance
Providing healthcare to the military population
The Manekshaw bridge… Reconstructed in 2009 after the original one built of Burma teak in 1878 became unfit for vehicular traffic … Let’s see how many years this one lasts!
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) a UNESCO heritage site… Has been in use since the 1900s
The modified steam engine which once propelled the train… Even today .. these are the engines which push the train up the hill from Mettupalayam to Coonoor, the segment which has inclines as steep as 1 in 12.5… the diesel engines take over the segment from Coonoor to Ooty.
The original Swiss made locomotive… it ran on coal and water …. It was a powerful little engine for its size! Another well preserved sister locomotive lies in the rail museum at Safdarjung Enclave in New Delhi. The new engines run on diesel burning furnaces which generate steam… Lighter, but as powerful.
Even small roadside temples are a riot of colours… This is India, we do lead lives filled with colour, despite millions eke-ing out a hand to mouth existence
This post is a prime example of Vicarious Phlogging (photo blogging while jogging) …. All the viewing pleasure without the bothersome running… That we have outsourced to Ranjith. Till next Sunday, or whenever more scenic locales are run through…..
That’s the 30 year batch cap on the young man! All set to outrace the Nilgiri express…. Does anyone remember that movie song which went Chhaiyan Chhaiyan, and has this curvaceous bimbette cavorting atop the train…
Governance means different things to different people, depending on where you are in your life.
“Good governance is epitomized by predictable, open and enlightened policy-making, a bureaucracy imbued with a professional ethos acting in furtherance of the public good, the rule of law, transparent processes, and a strong civil society participating in public affairs.” You can check out more on this from the World Bank at http://web.worldbank.org/archive/website01020/WEB/0__CON-5.HTM
As common people in India today, we are faced with a conflicting social situation on a daily basis. We coexist in apparent chaos, and survive, nay, thrive in ambiguity. Most of our ilk seemingly assume that the Government is just a distant entity helmed by a charismatic BJP leader, without being bothered about the layers of Government in our daily lives. Of immediate concern to us is the civic services provided to us in our cities and towns, by the local Government. Bombay where the state Govt resides seems like a distant relative, and Delhi seems like another world in its distance from our reality.
However , initiatives of the Central Govt in e-governance affect us in our every day existence, and have been evolving over the years . State Govts provide the environment for these people friendly initiatives that have been progressively initiated, local Governments struggle to keep pace and maintain some civic balance, and they often fail.
To illustrate two positive instances of the silent revolution in e-governance in India, I choose the humble driving license and the passport.
The Driving License permits us to participate in the unruly traffic that characterises most developing countries. Well, if we had superlative public transport, and an interlinked seamless network of it, and not just a token system, we would not need driving licenses….. However, well, we dont have such, so we need this small plastic card , and it needs to be renewed every now and then. Thirty years earlier I had obtained my first driving license, wobbling by on a borrowed scooter, and renewed it subsequently every decade or so in the recent times. And it had never been a pleasant experience. How many movies or books have been written about romance in the times of DL renewal?
So well, with trepidation I went online to the Govt website parivahan.gov.in , studied the process and applied online after uploading all the required documents, paid the nominal fees online, and printed out the required documents. In anticipation of a long wait and tangled lines at the RTO, I went armed with a book and a light snack on 04 Oct to the local centre. Of course, there was no sign posting , nor any official help desk, however , the usual ‘agents’ ( a pleasant term for a tout) did not bother with me as apparently I had all the required documents, and just pointed me to the relevant counter. Firstly, there was no line! , Secondly, the man at the counter was polite. Thirdly, he took the document set, checked the contents , and then smiled and said “it will be done”. No ingratiating smiles, no winks , no hints at any greasing of palms. It took me all of about 5 minutes from the time of my entry to the building to exiting it. Unbelievable! Not having to go to multiple counters or windows for approvals or signatures, I missed out on getting my planned steps count for the day! I was aghast at the efficiency. I went across to the Officer in Charge and complimented him on the new system and its customer friendliness. I can honestly state that he was taken aback! Maybe he was more used to people complaining and no one appreciating the work being done. Would you believe it, within two weeks, on the dot, I received my Driving License!
The passport application story again is similar. My wife and I applied to the Regional Passport Office on a Monday after filling in all the required info online, and in a matter of barely a cumulative hour of standing in multiple lines, we were out. And the passport was there at our doorstep by the next Monday!
If these are not illustrative of the convenience that e-governance provides to the common man, then what can be.
The resistance to good governance, is always from the people themselves. Those who have vested interests, those who would want to circumvent due processes, those who want preferential treatment and those who want it now!
As citizens, we have to be involved in our Government, we need to be proactive, we need to be participative. We can simply do this by leveraging our internet access. Those who read this are the target clientele.
Check out the https://www.mygov.in/ website. Log in, make your views known. Dont expect feedback. Be assured that there is a system in place to sift through all the ideas and views, and for them to be actioned upon.
Greetings and best wishes to the reader , for the Festive season and for life in general.
You cant be in India and not get to know about Diwali or Deepawali, the Festival of lights , of joy, of celebration, of gorging on over caloric foods and general all round bon homie…….
However, what you might not know, or keep in focus is that today 27 October, is a day when we celebrate the glory of the Infantry Soldier, that unsung hero of many an unknown battle, the man who puts his life down on the line , so that we may breathe the air of freedom!
PM Modi extends greetings to soldiers on Infantry Day
On 27 Oct 1947, when the princely State of Jammu and Kashmir was under attack by the tribal raiders supported by the troops of the newly formed Pakistani Army, the first Infantry contingent of Indian Army, the troops of the 1 SIKH Infantry Battalion, landed at Srinagar Airfield and fought a courageous battle to liberate the Kashmir valley from the intruders.
To commemorate this gallant action by the Infantry, October 27 is celebrated as the Infantry Day every year.
The heroes and martyrs of the undaunted Infantry have not only upheld the hallowed traditions of our Army, but also have enriched them by their glorious deeds of valour and sacrifice. The infantry has always stood by the nation in times of crisis and the Infantrymen had displayed utmost dedication, courage and selfless devotion to duty . (Source : ADGPI Facebook page)
I am the son of an Infantry Officer, and am privileged to have served with the finest men of the Indian Army, in support of the Infantry. Irrespective of the colour of their beret or that of their lanyard, these men represent the finest martial traditions of the subcontinent, and of the fighting soldier everywhere in the world.
God bless the brave soldiers of the Indian Armed Forces, who selflessly are guarding the Nation.
Now, dont run me down….. I am merely chronicling yet another morning run from the Running Man! And no, he is not paying me (as yet). We of the Zedd, sometimes think that maybe our brethren have taken to running or biking or even hitting the greens, just to stay out of the way of domestic chores…..
Well, that was another tale from the phone of the Running Man. Methinks there is a reason why every Sunday, he wends his way outwards….. lest he be bound to those chores I alluded to earlier…. I guess this should inspire others to take up running…. or at least telling the better half (gender neutral please!) that the road beckons…. well to each his / her own pursuit…
Let me share with you the relatively un inspiring scene from my window… and the hill beyond it!
Till next time that the Running Man posts from somewhere on his runs. I cant resist this aside…. He is careful about his eating and drinking , to avoid getting the runs … ;-]