Unlock June '21


Unlock in June ’21.

Since the count of going in for lock down to unlock is indeterminate, let us call the current unlock notifications being announced as Unlock ’21.

What are the primary considerations and do they satisfy the acceptable levels is the question? The ‘acceptable levels’ is set based on parameters gleamed from the learned and lived experience of the past year by us. It is corroborated with the data, findings from other nations which are shared by a few countries. Let us see what are the parameters and check whether we meet or not in respect of Chennai & surroundings.

1.    Case load should be substantially less. This is best seen by assessing the occupancy of ICU with covid cases and number of hospital beds availability for treating serious cases, including O2 consumption levels. Best norm is that the available capacity for all the factors should be over 75%.

2.    Net positivity rate with reasonable levels of testing using RT PCR tests, should be lower than 5%.

3.    Have we vaccinated persons adequately? This should be over 60% of the vulnerable and 30% of the 18-45 age group.

For Chennai we seem to be meeting the first two but are failing on the last question.

When you look at Chennai, one must take it account the adjoining districts with which close links exist. There are millions of daily commuters who criss-cross with in the districts. The table prepared from available date is shared below:



First Dose Administered

Second Dose Administered



% age of Population


%age of Population









































Obviously, we are failing here. The granular date for the different age group show that we have not crossed the threshold of 50% for a single dose for the vulnerable group.

The effort to vaccinate has been humungous; but not adequate. The reasons are vaccine shortage and vaccine hesitancy. Unless you address these and bring up the vaccinated levels it is unwise to unlock. But since for other considerations unlock may happen, it is preferable that individuals take proper precautions. Else we will harm those yet to be vaccinated, which is predominantly children.

My mother tongue, Mother & much more..


My mother tongue, Mother & much more..


“Indian English is a Prakrit, not a creole, says linguist Peggy Mohan’, was the quote in the Sunday magazine of The Hindu which triggered my thoughts on mother tongue and the importance given in our community / society to mothers, sisters.

A Caveat: I moved to North India for my graduate studies, before I turned 18. I had to learn another language. It took a while to become fluent in that language, that too the college variety.  There was discrimination which hurt. It aroused the feelings of my passion for mother tongue Tamil, which I had ignored all along. I was groomed in English Medium and had Sanskrit as my second language.

The discrimination hurt, caused deep regret and I still carry it. This manifests itself in many forms including a bias for my mother tongue. I believe that any attempt to specialise in a language other than mother tongue should not be done in isolation.

The quote also resonated with other ideas running in my mind. There were thoughts which you pick up over reading thoughtful essays or books. Let me explore them

  1.      I. The two books of the trilogy by “Guns, Gems & Steel” and “The third Chimpanzee” by Jared Diamond were transformative for me. The author through his powerful analysis and examples convinces that the human species has essentially emerged through transformation by influential factors predominantly local, played over the millennia. It has been the survival of the fittest accentuated by the evolutionary process under influence of multiple socio, cultural and environmental factors.

While this has resulted in significant changes in appearance, habits, behaviour, beliefs, amongst communities, to distinguish by religion or language or the artificial national borders when you look at the larger populace is futile. The future of our species lies in thinking we as one. Any other approach will be ‘cannibalising’ the other community in some form, directly or indirectly, as it happened with Neanderthals.

At the same time to find uniformity or conformance of uniformity through imposition of a single man or grups’ diktats, be it language or religion or dietary habits, means infringing on freedom of the individual and community as we know today - ‘the right to life’.

  1.    II The next idea is the studies of anthropology and the exploration of evidences as discovered through artefacts, fossils, language and much more. Two distinct traits present amongst the Indian population are traced back to eons ago, to the initial community who moved to this land of opportunity. One has come from Eurasia and the other local / South Asia. Be it the difference in the domesticated animals or the staple foods we like and consume, or the various aspects of our development, languages we speak etc, there are multiple supporting evidences for this trait through centuries.

But the recent Indian history, spanning say from the 17th century to first part of the 20th century, these communities had steered their progeny through substantial shift in beliefs and practices. Be it the ‘morals’ of Victorian era enforced through the colonisers authority or the duplicity of the democratic rights practiced by them or the multitude of missionaries who criss-crossed our landscape advocating their ‘superior’ practices especially amongst deprived class, there was a tumultuous impact on the core beliefs of our ethos.

That this has brought its benefits to many and pushed to further disadvantage many is an issue.

But the traces of origin, the beliefs and the habits some of which the community have hung on to is through their language, cuisine and religious beliefs for sure. That is challenged in the current context at the home. Alas my generation have crossed key milestones in our life span without paying due attention to it. Such an action is crass for our own and our progeny’s good.

III. The third idea is Matrilineal concept. This is one concept which has been captured in a completely different context by this quote ‘Indian English is a Prakrit, not a creole’. The author argues, that mothers were a liability at sea and in war zones. Therefore sea farers and warriors / raiders through lands. had to necessarily travel on their own to new lands. These men took wives and concubines at the conquered areas. Their sires who grew with both parents were influenced by both the languages of parents. Then were the official languages of the court / rulers which they had to learn as they grew up.  Diction and the grammar evolved through such multiple influences as per the author. This is a startling perspective.

  IV.        The thread which I liked most and which brings in much emotions is the neglect of mothers by the intelligentsia. Given that till recently mother was the main care giver and their character, education and well-being was tantamount to the success of the off springs are to me clear indicators that the matrilineal system as practiced in some parts of India was superior and has helped preserve some of our practices.

Some communities who practiced the matrilineal concept and gave a superior status to their mothers and sisters, can again be faulted for ignoring their fathers and their families. Given that the female live expectancy was higher, though by a marginal 4 to 5 years, it was 20% over the male life expectancy!

But in the current century, when equality is being hailed as the new solution, and democracy / freedom as the ultimate solution to grasp utopian times, there are still multiple ideas waiting to be explored. To me giving pre-eminence to mothers and fathers equally for upbringing the children and the values which we inculcate in them for according the importance to their mother tongue(s), cultural beliefs, practices of their ancestors is the way forward.

Maybe I am not getting everything right. Am I?

The Courtesan, the Mahatma & the Italian Brahmin by Manu S. Pillai.- Review


The Courtesan, the Mahatma & the Italian Brahmin

by Manu S. Pillai.


After listening to Manu S. Pillai in a podcast hosted by Amit Verma, ‘The Seen and Unseen’, I bought two books of him. One was the Ivory Throne and the other was ‘The Courtesan, the Mahatma & the Italian Brahmin’.

Divided in three parts, it chronicles India as we know today broadly defined by its geographical boundaries. The first two parts bring in the unique diverse country which we are. He has done a good job through selection of a multitude of ‘colourful’ characters, chosen and previewed by the author for our benefit but from his perspective. He is liberal in echoing his views in the third part titled ‘what is good for India going forward’. This is the narrative through the book, which is summarised in the third part, ‘An Essay for our times’.

I have no major disagreement with the narrative and the conclusion. What it has done to me is kindle an interest to develop a deeper understanding of some of the characters as well as explore the ones missed out. Certain concepts line Matrilineal concepts, the antecedents for the basis of Hindi becoming an option for national language instead of Sanskrit and the emergence of traditional Carnatic music as we know today in the period when the Marathas dynasty ruled Cauvery delta area and much more.

For any avid reader of Indian history this is a great book to refer as it is well researched and vetted.

Since most of the essays, each essay exploring one character and the associate times, is structured originally for the weekend edition of Mint Lounge, the narrative is crisp and goes easy on readers like me who are more used to the topic being summarised in less than 700 words; nothing more and less.

But there is too much to unpack in each of these phenomenal personalities chosen to represent a distinct and unique characteristic of our diversified culture and their times. The right-wing vs left wing contrast which is the characteristic of most of the modern-day English writers does irritate.

If you can gloss over that, then you have a treasure trove of the times of our immediate ancestors. The cultural transformation which our forefathers have seen and managed is coming through clearly. It is a must read for those wanting to get a glimpse of the periods negotiated by our immediate forefathers and the struggle they must have gone through to help us see today.

I have read the ‘Incarnations – A History of India of India in 50 lives by Sunil Khilnani. Manu S. Pillai has assisted him in that book. The words chosen sometimes challenges you as I had to refer dictionaries often. I guess when you work for an exponent like Sashi Tharoor some of his characteristics rub off on you.

I recommend the book.


Letter to our beloved PM



22nd May 2021


Respected Prime Minister,

We were not happy to read the letter addressed to you by retired IAS and other senior officers of the government of India at this crisis hour[VB1] . As concerned citizens we would have appreciated if the letter had been drafted and issued differently. Here’s our take:

As the second wave of Covid 19 ravaged through state after state and the toll is mounting, we submit this appeal to you along with suggestions on the way forward starting with crisis management and Allocation of resources to related matters.

First and foremost is the integrity of data and the availability of accurate granular data for scientists, statisticians and administrators. Detail numbers as they come up throw up interesting Scenarios for able administrators who are competent. Talents across fields are available in plenty in our scientific pool including the administrative Cadre.

Transparent data stream will pave the way for a more proper and clear response.

The current lack of data across segments and the tendency to not recognise the importance for accurate and correct field data has been one of the main reasons in our opinion, for getting surprised repeatedly. We stress here that each one of us believe that you have our best interest at heart.

Our country is at a stage where it can ill afford to be surprised again and again and it is our appeal to you to take the lead and issue specific instructions to all agencies including state government to comply with data transparency.

The next most important action in our opinion, is to understand the vaccination scenario as it is unfolding factoring the supplies expected and present an action plan for orderly rollout. The current chaos and lack of accurate details from a reliable supply chain system is severely hampering the planning and implementation of even those groups who are efficient. Our country can legitimately boast of a huge vaccination network especially in rural areas with adequate vaccination centres and we have had past successes in effectively eliminating through vaccination viral diseases. This was possible by an active participation of the government steered from the centre, social organisations, corporate and local community chiefs. With this experience our suggestions for vaccination roll out are:

i.        It looks like we will have about 11 billion doses globally before December and India can access for sure what it can produce locally with the existing vaccine manufacturers. That is around 40million per month under a conservative estimate. Having vaccinated over 190 million as on date, the task is to find the balance 800 million doses at the earliest.

ii.        With just 360 million doses confirmed by this year end in the pipe line, there is going to be scarcity for some time.  Our suggestion is to scale up availability to the maximum to hit the estimated higher level announced. But that is not confirmed yet. Hence judicious allocation of the current scarce resource is the urgent need.

iii.        Given the vaccine hesitancy and accounting for wastage converting the bulk of this into jabs in the legible arms of the people is the utmost priority. Priority shall be above 45 years old and then below 45 but parents, work force. Efforts must be made to individually trace and vaccinate these persons breaking through hesitancy and logistical challenges. That is the best way to prepare for the third wave around the corner.

iv.        If this is done successfully before December, we would be much closer to achieving heard immunity accounting for substantial infected cases as well. We therefore recommend that this Administration of doses should be done through microlevel planning and rollout. Each of the collectors should get specific instruction and ensure roll out. They should also pick out in the eligible category uninfected and vaccinate as was done in the polio administration 

v.        Web interface at the administration level, user level from individual citizens, have been a challenge given the prevailing lack of computer literacy. We recommend therefore to appoint short-term contract employees sourced with the support of big IT companies and train them for both the admin and as well as support the citizens. They should be posted on a war footing. PSU employees and Railway employees who are already exposed to computer should be instructed suitably.

vi.        PMO shall have a dashboard with real-time updates on the vaccination roll out for each of the 719 districts. We can deploy the same mechanism which we do for monitoring of the counting of votes at booth level for a nation as a whole.

vii.        Respected Prime Minister you have a huge following in our nation and you should constantly come out and advocate for vaccination of all eligible citizens. You should also assure those who have to await for the vaccine suitably. Political costs can be managed by you as you have done previously. You should rope in all the MPs irrespective of political affiliations and emphasise the responsibility of the  elected representatives to support this action.

There are other pressing matters which we would like to bring to your attention. We would so in time. But this is the priority now and the only priority for you as our leader. Others can manage the rest for the time being.


Paatal Log - a Netflix Series

Powerful, emotive, grounded, reflective of the ground realities, non judgemental and presented with a purpose - entertainment with a window to the conditions that exist in major locales in the Hindi heartland.  

In addition I liked the serial for its bold theme and limited use of censorship freedom that OTT allows. Characters, though well defined are portrayed equally well by the leading actors. Jaideep Ahlawat, Niharika Lyra Dutt, and sweet Doll(y) Swastika Mukherjee. 

Not leaving too many open ends while linking most of the many characters opened through the series is another feat which leaves one entertained truly. 

Good time pass.