Sunday, May 2, 2021

Outreach in the time of COVID -19

The COVID-19 is impacting humanity, economy, life and livelihood like we've nothing seen before. It has spared no countries and comes in multiple waves leaving millions scarred and scared. 

We all know of a friend, a colleague, a family member or a family who has been impacted by this lethal virus. Many of us freeze when we receive that call from a dear/near to informing us they tested positive and every minute following that turns anxious and nights become sleepless until the person recovers. 

I put together some notes based on my personal experience from when a family member and a few friends  tested positive. Here are some outreach tips.

Ensure you have the following supplies at home during this time. Please don’t hoard!
  1. Pulse oximeter
  2. Thermometer
  3. Paracetamol tablets 1 strip
  4. Cough syrup 1 bottle
  5. Vitamins and Zincovit tablets
  6. Steam inhaler and Karvol Plus capsules
  7. N95 Masks and gloves
  8. Hand sanitizer
  9. Spirometer for breathing exercise
  10. Face shield 🛡
  11. Mask for nebulizer
  12. Dettol
  13. Domex
Check if someone in your close circle has a nebuliser that you can borrow incase of emergency. Rest of the medicines will have to be prescribed by a registered medical professional.

Notes for those of you who wanna help your family member/friends who test positive.
  1. Don’t out them on social media or to your friends unless it is absolutely needed.
  2. Keep track of their treatment, consultation and medicines.
  3. Check on them once or twice a day for any help.
  4. You can order grocery, medicines, Dunzo home cooked meals (ask them what they would like to eat), schedule test and doctors appointments.
  5. Don’t give advice or overload them with links and videos on what do to - they are best left to doctors.
  6. Keep track of critical medicines, beds, oxygen, etc. in your city and how you can get hold in case there are in need.
  7. Be patient and think calmly.

Some of my friends have tested positive, so some wisdom for you all.
  1. Take a RT-PCR test if you have any COVID19 symptoms - fever, sore throat, conjunctivitis, headache, stomach issues, etc.
  2. Check your SP02 (blood oxygen saturation) every two hours and write it down.
  3. Consult a Covid doctor (Apollo, Narayana, Fortis, etc. have virtual consultations) when your RT-PCR turns positive. - You are not a super person to fight it without medical help.
  4. Be responsible and inform people who’ve come in contact with and ask them to isolate and test.
  5. Create a small network of friends who can keep tabs on you - order medicines, grocery, arrange home cooked meals and schedule your tests/doctor appointments.
  6. Some workplaces have setup up Covid help desk- keep those numbers handy.
  7. Inform your society and stay within the 4 walls unless you need to go out for CT Scan.

With media and social media highlighting suffering due to lack of beds, oxygen, etc. everyone is petrified of this virus and often end up panicking when they get it. Watch this video from a Doctor to Covid patients:

“One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you’re going through now and it will become part of someone’s survival guide”.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Yoga, the reset button

Have you every pondered over life and lifestyle being interconnected? For example: Some of us stay up late on weekends, party hard, eat late and as a result disturb our body and sleep rhythm. And next morning we wake up feeling tired, foggy in the mind and distracted and drowsy throughout the day. This continues to the next day and becomes a habit if we don't step in and take control of our schedule. I'm sure you must have experienced this on several occasions.

Unfortunately, most of the diseases today including diabetes, fatty liver, hypertension and stress are all related to our lifestyle. Yoga is a great way to keep these diseases at bay and helps you easily reset life and lifestyle.

Cleanse life and lifestyle

I've been practicing yoga since my school days and decided to make it a daily routine in the last 15 years. As yoga is practiced early in the morning, I'm forced to hit the bed early so that I wake up feeling well rested. Moreover, Yoga requires the practitioner to eat sattvic food so that one doesn't wake up feeling lethargic or with an upset tummy. In short, Yoga helps you nip bad habits and negative thoughts in the bud.

Detox body and mind

Our daily routine and what we consume has a bearing on our mind and body. The asanas in yoga not only corrects our posture, but also ensure various organs of the body function well and secrete right amount of hormones. The regulated breathing exercise, calms the mind, keeps it agile and negative thoughts at bay.

Personally, yoga has helped me stay fit and keep medicines away. It has also helped me stay mentally agile and perky and physically flexible and in shape. I always travel with my yoga mat and it has always been the best way to start my day wherever I am.

You too can discover the power of yoga and experience the benefits and the unlimited potential it holds! Take your first step with can do attitude, without self doubt and keep marching. Anyone can start learning yoga and there is no age restriction. 

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Native Village and Kula Devata Worship

A particular god worshipped in our lineage for generations is referred to as "Kula Devata". Srirangam Ranaganatha is the kula devata of Ikshvaku Family, the dynasty in which Lord Rama was born.

Usually, Kula Devata can be either a male or a female god and is back in our native village. Most families have a single deity while some the have multiple deities as Kula Devatas.

Due migration from villages and passing away of elders at an early age, families loose connections with their native villages and kula devata. During difficult times they consult astrologers who point them to go back and worship their kula devata for peace, prosperity and good health.

When a women gets married they start to worship the Kula Devata in their in-laws place thereby taking the tradition to their next generation.

While many of us may have moved from our native villages and forgotten the responsibility towards those deities. This is similar to the responsibility we have towards elders in the family. Those of us who know our Kula Devata, should make it a point to visit and take their blessings at least once a year and definitely before major life events such as weddings, child birth, upananayam, etc.

Also, every 12 years when temple consecration is held all natives should make it a point to fund the expenses and reconnect with deity and people of the village. Let’s not give up on our ancestry, identity and ensure we pass it on to next generation.

My mother maintains a file on all temples and has prepared a calendar of worship and marked down temples where the family has the responsibility to offer prayers on select auspicious days. We have the responsibility to offer prayers on the 3th and 4th Friday in Aadi (Kataka masam) at the Shiva temple at Kunniyur and 3rd and 4th Friday in Thai (Makara Masam) at Kamakshi temple, Kunniyur.

See a short video that documents our native village (Kunniyur, Thiruvarur District), native deity (Anandeshwara and Ambiramavalli) and kula devata (Kamakshi Amman).

Monday, June 29, 2020

Mourning a Big Loss!

On June 29, 2020, one generation lost their youngest sibling and another generation lost their eldest sibling. Though she was my dad’s youngest sibling and we addressed her aunt, she was hardly 8-10 years older than the next generation which made her dear to us.

I remember her almost in every scene of my growing up years. As a child, I crawled into her music class and listened to her sing. When I started kindergarten, she dropped me and my brother at school on her way to college and picked us up on the way back. And one time, when she had to undergo an eye surgery for squint correction, we threatened to jump off the car and made the driver take us to the hospital on the way to our school. Then every night after dinner, she told us stories from Bhagavadam and instilled faith and values in us and this went on till she got married in 1983.

Me standing in front of her

The house wasn’t the same after she got married and left. Those were days when phones were used only for emergency purposes and we would crowd around the phone every time she called and longed to hear her voice. Rather than elbow each other for a chance to speak, I found another way to keep in touch with her, through letters. I was 8 years and I started writing to her and she would promptly respond and I remember this ritual went on till I finished college and moved overseas.

We kids would impatiently wait for the summer holidays and I remember going to the train station to receive her each year. That’s the excitement she brought into our lives. She visited almost every year without fail and spent two months with us. When she left to her home at the end of summer we all cried and felt sad. And couple of years when she couldn’t come down for a visit, I visited and spent my summer with her. What fond memories growing up with her!

Many years ago we visited her place to participate in function; she gave us a grand welcome. And when we had to depart she broke down and we decided to stay for an extra day to make her happy. That’s kind of bond and affection we shared with my dad’s youngest sister.

Whenever someone in the family was unwell or sick, she performed special prayers for their recovery. When she fell sick a few years ago, I prayed to the same gods in the stories she told us as kids, but none of them helped her recover completely. When she had to stay back in the hospital for the day, I remember leaving my lunch for her. There was so much care and reciprocity in our relationship.

And today, a week ahead of her 37th wedding anniversary, she breathed her last. How could she leave without saying us good bye? Sadly, none of us could threaten anyone to get there and pay our respects and tell her the never ending love and joy she gave us. Though we may be 15 years apart, she was my elder sibling. No one can take her place in our hearts and she will continue to live in ourmemories. 

Hope her 2.5 year old grandson will one day read this blog and understand how special her grandmother was to us. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Wake up now - There is no Second Chance!

Mother Nature has a unique way of making us realize our mistakes and only those who introspect and observe minutely will be able to decipher the message. And the lockdown gave me an opportunity to reflect on my behavior and human behavior in general.

While the Coronavirus is judged as ruthless by scientist and medical professionals, it hasn’t been partial. It infected the famous like Tom Hanks, Boris Johnson, Kanika Kapoor, Chris Coumo, etc. and lesser known mortals including healthcare workers, policemen, cab drivers, vegetable vendors, etc. 3 months into the pandemic; it continues to affect infants, kids, and middle-aged people, frail and elderly and has taken away two hundred thousand plus lives globally.

While the scientists are busy working on vaccines, and economists are busy putting together plans to revive global economy, I was busy questioning my actions and our collective actions. Do we deserve this harsh sentence? Let’s introspect together.

Before this tragedy struck, we were all living a hectic, monotonous and meaningless life chasing all the wrong ambitions and non-essentials. In order achieve our dream career, we left home at day break, ignored our family and health, and outsourced our children with day care and nannies. We spent hours in traffic getting to and back from work. And on the weekend, in the name of unwinding we engaged in binge buying, binge eating and binge drinking. We kept borrowing money to outdo each other on luxury, class and standard of living.

Greedy CEOs, CMOs and CHROs exploited our misplaced ambition and priorities. They sold products and services that were unsustainable, enamored with meaningless careers and fooled shareholders with peanuts called dividends. Despite knowing this lifestyle isn’t sustainable, we all ignored our inner voice and went around like hamster in a wheel.

It is true that nature fulfills our basic needs and not greed. And this was evidently visible during the pandemic. None of us can complain that we never got produce and food during this time, while toilet paper is luxury. Organizations and governments started to focus on the basic and essentials. For examples, car manufactures went on to produce ventilators; fashion brands produced masks, etc.

Globally stock markets saw a correction after inflated indices. The overpaid CEOs were forced to take 25% cut in their salaries to keep their businesses afloat. Some of the sinister industries were made to shut their shops and announced thousands of layoffs. Governments that earned revenue by indiscriminately converting forests into IT parks, and residential areas, sand mining and polluting rivers, selling liquor, and endangering wildlife were almost bankrupt and forced to end wars focus on the welfare of people – food and health. Those farmers who got greedy and poisoned the soil and atmosphere with chemicals saw their produce sent back to earth.

By working from home, attending to our daily chores and ignored family members, we were able to temporarily step out of meaningless and monotonous routine. Finally, we spent more time at home for which toil 20 years of our precious life to pay mortgages, engaged with our parents, spouses and children, picked up phones to check on our friends and loved ones. We realized it is possible to live without domestic help, cook, etc. and by sharing work among members the family became more responsible and cohesive. Also, we realized a life without visiting bars, malls, gyms, cinema halls, sports, concerts, cruises, vacations, entertainment was possible and meaningful. Lavish weddings and mournful demises have become a private affair. Those expensive Benzes, Porches, Bentleys became useless objects in our garages and driveways. We must be thankful to nature for accepting “Internet and mobile phones” as a basic need.

Flora and fauna used this break to rejuvenate themselves. Rivers across the globe saw a drop in pollution and aquatic life thrived again. Wild animals came into cities to reclaim their lost territory. Also, we've seen improvement in air quality since the lockdown. 

Sadly, when we humans wanted to report our plight and ask for forgiveness, all gods shut their doors on us. Churches were shut for Easter; Mosques were shut for Ramadan prayers, and Hindus temples cancelled their summer festivals.

Stop blaming China, Wuhan, Wet markets, Tabliqi and even Donald Trump for the current Pandemic. 
The Cornonavirus offers a moment to reflect on our priorities, lifestyle and ambitions. It is shown us it is possible to live a sustainable life without luxury. Let’s use this opportunity to learn from our mistakes and build sustainable habits because there is no second chance from Mother Nature.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

My moments with COVID-19

March 17 - 3 weeks ago and 2 days after I landed in Chennai from Bangalore I developed sore throat without any cold or runny nose. We all know sore throat is not a life-threatening disease and has simple home remedies such as salt water gargling, Rhinothermy aka steam inhalation and sipping of hot water with honey. But for an asthmatic with super sensitive lungs, sore throat could be the first indication of flu. I’ve gone through some nasty episodes of flu that eventually led to Bronchiectasis and I even coughed up some blood in 2017.

After this episode, the Pulmonologist made me take a vaccine for pneumonia and put me on flu vaccines each year without fail. Also, she put together a detailed list of first, second and third-line remedies for my symptoms and recommended me to carry medicines whenever I traveled (within or outside the country).

That morning before I boarded the train, my brother who rarely calls or texts sent me a reminder message to wear a 3M mask, not touch any surface and keep washing my hands frequently. On the train, I had also looked up the symptoms for Corona Virus that resembled a common flu.

I followed the first-line remedy that involved no Allopathic medicines and only home remedies. I felt a bit tired during the day and I mostly isolated myself from my parents who are in their 70s. On the second night, I experienced spells of chill and sweat nevertheless I slept for 11 hours. When I woke up, the sore throat had almost vanished, but I started to feel breathless and tightness in my left chest. None of these are new to me and I experience it whenever I came down with flu or viral attack. Also, that made me feel confident to try all the remedies.

By March 23 the number of COVID-19 cases in India started to multiply rapidly and we went through “Janata Curfew” and quickly moved into a 21-day lock down. Media channels were creating hysteria instead of awareness and there was only panic in the nation. Five days after I completed the first dose of antibiotics, I self-medicated myself with the stronger dose (Azithromycin) for next 5-days. But it didn’t seem to make any difference.

Without waiting any further, I explored my second-line of treatment by calling the hospital and seeking an appointment with the pulmonologist. And to my dismay the hospital they said all private consultations were closed in lieu of Corona Virus and I needed to visit ER to consult one.

I had two options, either brave up and go into ER or text the doctor directly. I took the latter option. But before I texted the Pulmonologist, I wrote a detailed day by day account of my whereabouts and medicines I’ve taken.I was lying in bed recounting my actions from the last 7 days and symptoms of Corona Virus. From sore throat, chills and sweat and breathlessness I was checking every box. Alongside, my appetite also plummeted and I was eating like a 3-year old – a few spoons for every meal.

Screen shot 1 from text exchange with the doctor. (Click and zoom to read)

On March 29, breathlessness got worse and I was about to collapse from respiratory distress at home. I asked my brother to call the emergency. He rushed to my room with Pulse-oximeter and slipped it in my index finger. My heart rate was elevated (85 beats per minute) and oxygen saturation was still good at 96%.

It didn’t look like I was having respiratory distress. Did I come down with a cardiac issue? That evening, I pushed myself to walk for 60 minutes and climbed two flights of stairs. Was it due to this exertion?

Immediately, my brother dialed his close friend who is a Pulmonologist and described my symptoms. I was curled up in the bed holding my mom’s hand expecting to say goodbye to this world. I put my phone on silent and told my mom the password for my phone incase she needs to access it.

The doctor advised against going to emergency and asked me to come to the hospital the following morning. I had no choice but to go back to my bed and stay curled up for the night. 

I survived the night and woke up feeling a tad better the next morning. So many thoughts crossed my mind as my brother drove me to the hospital. The hospital which was always welcoming the sick now looked like an immigration desk. We were made to fill out forms about recent travel and asked if we had cold and fever before let into the hospital.

I walked into the emergency and explained my symptoms to the nurse. She slipped the Pulse-Oximeter in my finger and continued to chat with me. The monitor show 90 beats per minute and oxygen saturation of 97%. The doctor was on his way to the emergency from the ICU. And when he arrived I couldn’t barely recognize him as he was covered from head to toe in PPE.

In the next 5 minutes, I again explained the last 15 days ordeal with the symptoms and remedies I tried out. He put the stethoscope on my chest and made breathe a few times. Finally, he confirmed that I had no wheeze and scribbled a few tests to check for viral load and possible lung infection including pneumonia.

I was escorted to the X-ray room to film my chest and then to the pulmonary ward to evaluate of my lung condition. I faintly heard the doctor discuss the reports with my brother as I put my arm out to the nurse to draw two vials of blood to check the CDC count, C-Reactive Protein and Eosinophil.  

When I came out the doctor announced that my lungs were in great shape and there were no signs of distress. I smiled for the first time in two weeks and immediately excused myself to text my anxious parents for whom every passing minute felt like a year.

I quizzed the doctor about what was causing breathlessness and lack of appetite. Quickly, he threw in the probability of GERD and I confirmed his finding and shared more information on the earlier diagnosis – duodenal ulcer. He quickly prescribed me some medicines and asked me to leave the hospital immediately as he didn’t want me to catch any other infection. He promised to call me in evening with the blood report.

I endured almost all the symptoms of Corona and suffered for 15 days in home quarantine and self-isolation for 15 days. When I stepped out of the hospital I was unhappy that didn’t get the same welcome that Corona patients got from their doctors and nurses.

On the way back home, I confessed to my brother that I should have visited the doctor much earlier and not stayed in isolation for 15-days and let the symptoms get worse.

I came home popped in the first pill and waited for 30-minutes to have my meal. In the evening I got a call from the doctor. Not sure if it was the medical evaluation or the pill, I started to feel better both mentally and physically. In the evening, doctor confirmed my blood results were normal and I had no signs of any infection.

First peace and sleep returned followed by appetite. Within 24 hours breathlessness vanished.I resumed my work and exercise routine that includes 60 mins of yoga in the morning and 60 mins of walk in the evening.

In the last week, I’ve read article about the mutating Corna Virus and it becoming asymptomatic. Also, I read accounts from several people who’ve endured it without knowing about it. Here is an account -

A simple virus can invade our head and body in minutes and make this world go crazy. 
Not sure if I my body already endured Corona Virus, but I’ve seemed to have developed the mental immunity to fight it. When the antibody test kits arrive in Chennai, I’ll definitely get myself checked.

In the meanwhile, stay safe and practice social distancing

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

I’m Lakshmi and this is my story...

Hello Peeps,

I’m Lakshmi, and today I’m in a mood to chew cud and share my story with you. Are you ready to listen? 

I was born 15 years ago and my owner says I look very much like my mother. Yes, both mom and I have a white patch on our forehead. My daughter looks Identical to us. We’ve been with our owner for two generations. My mother and her sister lived in this farm before us. 

My mother was called “Shenbagam” and her sister was called “Saraswathi”. This family we live with are devout Hindus and they named us after their gods. Sometimes, I wish for a fancy English names like Elizabeth, Valarie or Stephanie. May be the Hindu names saved us from being sent to an abattoir? So, let me thank the Hindu gods. 

When we were young, we lived on mom’s milk and slowly transitioned to eating hay, fresh grass and fodder. On festival days like Pongal, we were garlanded, horns were painted in bright colours and fed “Sakkaraipongal” (sweet rice) and fruits. 

As a calf, I used to be afraid of night and stayed closer to my mother after sun down. As I grew older, I made friends with moon and stars and developed confidence to be on my own. Also, I took additional responsibilities to watch out for my siblings, nieces and nephews. 

The male ones in our farm were sent to the farm for work. While mom, my sister and I stayed at home enjoyed each other’s company and raised young calves with love and care.  

A few years ago my mom fell sick. Though the vet regularly came to check on her, but could do nothing to make her better. And, when we realised she wasn’t going to be around for long, we all felt sad. Despite her frailty, she spent her last days with her grandchildren and they loved being around her. 

Luckily, my owner cared for mom in her old age too. He didn’t sell her to a slaughterhouse and gave her a tearful send-off when she died. My mom was buried behind the two hay stacks in the picture.

Even today, the owner and his family remembers her and every time they introduce us to their grand kids they talk about our family and I feel so proud.

After her time it was my sister and I in the farm. We got busy with our lives, but often thought of her - mighty presence, kind and magnanimous nature. As a cow, our job was to yield milk and deliver calves. My sister and I took turns and delivered calves 12 calves. I’m 15 years old and I’ve had 7 offsprings. I’ve met several bulls in the farm, but never had an opportunity to get intimate with them.

While humans chose their partner, fall in love, get married and have kids, we are rarely allowed that kind of life and intimacy. My sister and I delivered all our offsprings through artificial insemination. And, every time our children ask about their fathers we tell them that they are busy working in the farm and sending us all the hay.

Days and years rolled by and our owners were also getting older with us and couldn’t care for the 6 of us. They retained me and my daughter and sold my younger sister, her daughter and my son to another family to farm owner across from us. I get to see them on festival days and sometimes they raise their voice to share updates at their farm. 

Off late, I’ve not been able to chew much food and get tired very easily. The vet examined my health and specially my teeth and told the owner that I was ageing fast and recommend I be fed with soft food and fresh grass. 

I got anxious after hearing the Vet, but my owner is kind enough to treat me with special care. He has stopped milking me and has put me on a special diet with high protein, easily chewable food and less fibre. 

My family and I had a happy life on this farm and none of them were sent to the abattoir. I’ll happily say goodbye to them when my time comes and I know my owner will give me a good farewell.

These days I spend my time watching my daughter “Durga” who was named after my grand mother and being around my grand children Tulsi (below) and Maruthi (behind Tulsi).

Sometimes at night, I hear my mom from behind the hay stack. She tells me to accept my old age and get prepared to join her someday.

I hope I can get to see all those who read my story and appeal to them to be kind to us and not consume us. Also, I would like to appeal to politicians and WhatsApp University graduates to not spread rumours about the curative power of our urine and dung.