News Thoughts

A photograph can be a life changer

The Hindu today, carried a story on how a photograph clicked by a news reporter ultimately changed the boy’s life:-

A news photograph, a life changer How a candid shot changed a ten-year old’s life forever – A photo published in The Hindu changed the life of a boy in Assam and fetched director Jayaraj global acclaim.
Author: P.K. Ajith Kumar

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Little Ashadul Islam was surprised. He had no idea why these two strangers had come to meet him at his village of Kuchani in Morigaon district of Assam on this Friday morning.
But the 10-year-old was in for a bigger surprise.
One of the men presented him a gift and told him that he was going to sponsor his entire education. For ace Malayalam movie director Jayaraj, it was a meeting he was pining to have, for over a year.
It was Ashadul’s picture that The Hindu carried on August 22, 2014, that inspired him to make the critically acclaimed film Ottal. The frame had the famished little boy rowing to safety his family’s salvaged possessions, a few goats, on a small plantain-trunk canoe that he steered with a tree branch through the swirling waters, in an almost surreal setting. The movie bagged a string of awards, and also swept most of the major honours at the recently concluded International Film Festival of Kerala.
“I want to find that boy,” Jayaraj had told this correspondent sometime back. “I would like to help him in whatever way I could. Please help me find him.”
The image, clicked by The Hindu’s Guwahati-based Special News Photographer Ritu Raj Konwar, had made a deep impression on him and Ottal was woven around its stark poignance. Jayaraj had even replicated that particular frame in his movie, which won the National and the Kerala State awards.
“Meeting the boy today is going to remain a special moment of my life forever,” Jayaraj told The Hindu over phone from Assam. “I am going to take care of all his financial needs. Besides, the charitable foundation of which I am a part will look after the health of the entire population of this boy’s village.”
Ashadul, indeed could do with whatever help he receives. He comes from a very underprivileged background; both his parents are daily-labourers in a brick factory.
It was the photographer who took that picture who took the director to the boy. “Ritu had taken a print of the photograph with him,” said Jayaraj, winner of six National film awards. “We showed it to the villagers, and they led us to the boy’s father.”
Sometimes a picture is worth not just a thousand words. It could be a life changer as well.


Stipend hiked for Medical Postgraduate residents in Kerala

Kerala government has hiked the stipend to postgraduate medical residents.  According to G.O.(Ms).No. 262/2015/H&FWD dated TVPM, 18-11-2015, the monthly stipend of PG residents with effect from 01-09-2015 shall be:

Junior Residents:

1st yr- 43,000

2nd yr-44,000

3rd yr-45,000

Senior Residents:

1st yr- 47,000

2nd yr-48,000

3rd yr-49,000


Settling in

So I’ve slowly settled in at my new place of work. The workplace is a nice environment. For a change, it doesn’t have the corporate aura that ceremented the previous medical college that I worked in. I guess the difference lies in the way management runs things. The latter was an institution that seems to have been started purely for financial gain. Patient care, and attitude towards doctors took the back seat there. Here on the other hand, doctors are respected and have privileges that come with responsibilities.

I’ve slowly acclimatized to hostel life, and monotonous canteen food. At least the food’s still good wholesome Keralite food.


Income tax return

Just a small tip regarding filing IT return:

In the Total salary calculation, deduction under section 10 for HRA is to be calculated, and the subtracted amount is to be entered as salary. Professional taxes if any paid are also to be deducted before salary is entered.

The total deductions under Section 80C can only be a maximum of Rs 1,50,000. (AY 2015-16)


Jothydev’s 3rd Annual Diabetes Conference

I attended the Jothydev’s 3rd annual diabetes conference at Taj Vivanta on 8-9 August 2015. It was a very exciting conference, being attended by the stalwarts in the Diabetes world. There were lectures, orations, workshops and discussions about various aspects of the Diabetes mellitus. A talk by Dr V.Mohan from Mohan’s Diabetic hospital was most heartrending.


Star Health insurance policy fail

Medical insurance by private companies is a farce. Take the example of Star Health’s Star Wedding Gift and Star Comprehensive Insurance which specifically covers pregnancy related hospitalisation expenses.

The terms under this policy are hilarious.

1. You can take the policy for a pregnant woman, but the delivery will be covered only after 3 years. I’m sure that Star Health is quite aware that the average period of gestation for a human female is 9 months.
The specific term is “A waiting period of 36 months of continuous coverage under this policy with Star will apply.”. How exactly do they want the carrying lady to wait?
2. Delivery and New-Born Cover: (Maximum 2 deliveries)
3. For the second claim for delivery expenses a waiting of 24 months will apply.

So, if a couple decides to take this policy, they would effectively be letting Star Health dictate when exactly they wish to have the baby.
All of the other Star Health policies exclude pregnancy relates expenses from its coverage.
IRDA should be doing its job of regulating such ridiculous terms by these companies. It would be much better if such a policy weren’t offered at all.


Updating encashment details in Spark

You have to update Encashment details of previous month before Spark allows you to process Salary for this month.
Menu option:
Salary->SDO Salary->”Update Encashment Details”

Bill Number: Enter as YYYY-MM (Eg: 2013-08)
Date of encashment: Date on which treasury credited it to your account, or you received it as cash.
Cash/TSB Amount: This is the net amount (i.e Gross amount minus Deductions)
Cheque/Bank amount: 0
TC Amount: Total deductions (i.e ‘Bill Gross’ minus ‘Bill Net’)
POC No: 0
Gross Amount: Autocalculated if you entered everything correctly.

Click on Confirm.

Uncategorized digs its own grave

MWSnap005 2015-05-17, 10_07_36On 15th May, one of India’s forerunners in the online shopping scenario began to painfully dig its own grave.

I was one of the earliest adopters of, swayed at the time by their lip smacking offers, like “Get Rs 1000 off when you shop for Rs 2000” or something similiar. I forget exactly what. It’s been more than a couple of years. Myntra quickly shot to fame, and became trustworthy and a household name. I remember that at the time I would recommend to close friends who asked for recommendations of a trustworthy site,. Many were wary of providing credit card details online. Mytra was known for its ‘Easy returns’ policy, and friendly customer service. MWSnap004 2015-05-17, 10_07_20One could easily order any clothes without worrying overtly about whether it was a perfect fit. If it wasn’t the right fit, would easily replace it. They even had pickup facility. I lost track of the number of items my brother and I have bought from this store. It was so easy to order reliable branded clothing and shoes because of this store.

But with the announcement on 15th May, 2015, may very well have dug its own grave. It announced with great pomp and fanfare (first page on The Hindu newspaper) that it was taking down its website and going app-only. What the hell?

One can easily come up with reasons why this is such a bad idea..

Rupesh Pradhan at, in response to my mail, had this to say:

I certainly understand your concern regarding our move towards the mobile app only.We provide a better shopping experience on our app than we could through any mobile browser. Our app learns you better with time, and allows us to give you a high quality personalized experience across all supported platforms.
We’re making a bold move with an aim to better your experience. We’re confident that those customers who unfortunately can’t migrate with us will join us in the near future as technology also adapts to this shopping revolution.

We hate leaving anyone behind, and won’t stop until we’ve found our way back to all of them.

It may be a better experience than a mobile browser, but it’s certainly worse than shopping on a PC with a large monitor, or a smart TV for the matter. I hate to see Myntra regress in this manner. What was wrong with offering customers a choice of both a website and app like all other sane companies do. Myntra was at the forefront of the shopping revolution in India. With this move, you will have effectively alienated a huge segment of users, who may now be using the app because of promotional offers, but will lose interest in the long term.

Apps are definitely a poorer experience than huge screens which most homes have. Is it easier for a family to look at shopping choices and make opinion, looking at the big screen, or squinting at a tiny mobile screen. Small may be better in some cases, but not all. Will the developers of your app consent to code their application on their mobile phone or tablet alone? Sometimes apps have issues with payment gateways.

The app may “learn with time”. The same is possible for a desktop program equipped with the same algorithms. Once it is customized for the user who logged in, there is no difference between an Android app and a web application. Or is Myntra suggesting that the app installed on my smartphone is actually, and without my consent, tracking my online activities and my location, thereby improving Myntra’s marketing, at the risk of being akin to spyware? Come on, that’s paranoid even for me. Heaven save, if they’re too stupid as to do that.

Hopefully has in it to reconsider before being left behind. It’s alright to adopt technology. But foolish to be overwhelmingly blinkered. If I’m proven wrong about this in the coming years, I’ll eat my hat.


Hotel Altius Nest, Kodaikanal, a haven for honeymooners and families

Altius Nest, though a relatively new entrant, is a pearl among the various hotels dotting the landscape of Kodaikanal. I chose Altius as our honeymoon destination, going by the various positive reviews on Tripadvisor, and I’m really glad I did so.



Wanting to save some bucks, I was searching for a honeymoon destination that was safe for couples and families, providing comfort and great service, yet light on my pocket. Scouring the internet for deals, I happened to read some reviews on Altius Nest. It wasn’t available for booking universally at all sites yet. I managed to find a deal on Goibibo that amounted to Rs. 12462 for 5 nights at their Standard Room. Applying Goibibo’s “SEASON14” promo code, I got the price reduced to Rs 7362. I admit that I had more than a trifle of trepidation booking an unknown hotel without being able to verify the authenticity.



Going by recommendations on Tripadvisor, I phoned the hotel ahead of arrival (a couple of months in advance) and asked that a room on the first floor facing the woods behind, be reserved for me. The woods referenced turned out to be part of the property belonging to the CSI Church, and are a really pretty view. I contacted the manager, Mr Bala and he assured me that a room of my preference would be reserved for me.



I travelled from Thiruvananthapuram to Madurai, and stayed overnight at Madurai. Early morning after breakfast, I proceeded to Kodaikanal via an SETC ultradeluxe (semireclining) bus from Madurai Arapalayam bus terminus. I recommend an SETC bus if you’re travelling to Kodaikanal from Madurai, as it is hardly ever crowded (as it’s slightly more expensive than the regular Corporation bus). Our bus had just 5 passengers and the bus did not have any stops between Madurai and Kodaikanal. The journey was pleasurable. After an hour of travel though warm Madurai, the bus ascended the slopes leading to Kodaikanal, and the journey waxed with scenic sights and hordes of monkeys. The bus journey took around 4 hours, and our bus dropped us at the bus stop adjacent to Kodai Lake.


There are no autorickshaws in Kodaikanal. There were a couple of taxi cars lined up at the bus stop. After bargaining for a while, they told me that they could take us to Altius for Rs 150. I called up the hotel and they said Rs 100 was the reasonable charge for a car to the hotel. I argued that Rs 100 would be the maximum I’d pay and finally we got a Maruti Omni minivan to take us to the hotel.


The Hotel and Reception

The Hotel was lovely from outside. It resembled what I’d imagined about what a country side inn out of old Western classics would look like. The receptionist was very pleasant, and immediately recognized us, and after handing over the Goibibo receipt for the prepaid rent, we were taken to the cost room on the first floor. Drawing back the curtains, we were greeted by the lovely woods at the back with wild flowers in full bloom.

Being used to the tropical hot climate in Kerala in mid January, the weather seemed was extremely cold. However since we intended to enjoy the cold at Kodaikanal, we were not moved. The heater was working, and after a quick bath, we were invigorated. We went down to the restaurant for a quick cup of coffee.


There was hardly anyone else in the restaurant. Our waiter identified himself as Veerapani and told us that he and Veeramani would be looking after our stay for the next few days. Coffee was great, and so was lunch. The tap water was biting cold, however Veerapani offered warm water out of the drinking jug, to wash our hands. All through the stay, what stuck me deeply was the amount of courtesy that Veerapani and Veeramani provided to us. We never gave a tip for the food, and yet every day he would kindly provide us warm water to wash, and would be ready with tissues to dry our hands after washing. Every night after dinner, he would ask and replenish our drinking water.



The room was cosy, and spacious for a regular room. The flooring was wooden. The bedding was made up well, and a white blanket was drawn over the sheets, neatly folded. The bed was a king size bed, and there were switched at both sides for the lighting. There was no air conditioner as is the usual norm for hill station rooms. There was a row of three windows on the right side of the door which faced the woods at the back. The lobby and the corridor leading to the room was tidy and the rooms and lobby was built around an open rectangular space, and even before descending the stairs we could peer down into the lobby.


January 28-February 2 was off season in Kodaikanal and in answer to my query, I was told that there were only 2 other rooms out of the total number of 25 rooms that were occupied at the time.


The toilet was clean, with fresh hot water and a partition between the latrine and the bathing area.


As I mentioned earlier, service was the distinction of this hotel. I am not an avid traveller, yet I could gauge that the service quality of this mid range hotel was exceptional. I don’t believe 5 star hotels elsewhere would provide the service quality equalling Altius Nest. Veeramani and Veerapani acted as our hosts. In addition to providing exceptional service at the restaurant, Veerpani would call us every day before breakfast, lunch and dinner, and remind us that food was ready. He would ask us after dinner, regarding our preferred time of breakfast, and right on the dot, would phone us up and announce that food was ready. As honeymooners, we were bound to be late for breakfast, but he would remind us patiently.


On the eve of our checkout, there was an issue with the card processing system, and I was told that they couldnt process my card. Instead of being told to go to an ATM and withdraw cash, Veeramani took me to nearby ATMs (the first two were faulty) on his scooter to help me get cash.


The room I reiterate, was extremely chilly during this chilly off season. On the third day of our stay, I chatted up with Mr Bala. He had apparently worked at Kovalam beach in Thiruvananthapuram. On being told it was too cold for us, he generously offered a room heater free of cost. Once the heater started to function, the cold become pleasurable and Kodaikanal seemed less like Kashmir.


Sightseeing trips

Sightseeing trips were planned by the hotel in arrangement with local tour operators. Veeramani would ask us what kind of sightseeing tour we liked, and the hotel arranged guided tours along with other couples. Every morning, a mini bus containing half a dozen other tourists, would pick us up from our hotel, and take us on guided tours to various places. A typical trip lasted from 11 am to 2 pm, and the guide would take us to various scenic places, describe them and even take photographs for us. We especially liked Pandiyan of Rajah’s travels who conducted guided tours with a personal touch and affection.



Breakfast was complimentary, and we could choose savoury hot dosas, masala and ghee dosas, onion oothappams, pongal, and toasted bread and jam. Other than the scrambled eggs, everything was deliciously tasty. Thinking of our breakfast would arouse the taste buds! I forgot the names of our chefs, but apparently there were two of them preparing delectable dishes.


Lunch and Dinner by comparison to dinner were less exciting. We didn’t like the Chicken biriyani they dished out. However noodles and fried rice were good, and so was the Chicken chilli. After the second day we stuck to fried rice with Chilli chieken and Stuffed parathas for dinner. Anyway there was nothing to complain regarding the food.  Everything was scrumptious.


IMA’s Medical Millenium event

Yesterday I attended IMA’s Medical Millenium conference at Kovalam. It was a much hyped event conducted at Hotel Udayasamudra and Hotel Samudra, two reputed resorts at Kovalam from 7-9 November 2014.

After participating in the KENTCON 2014 conference at Perinthalmanna, what struck me immediately was the lack of hospitality on the part of the organizers. In short, the humane touch was lacking in this event organized by doctors from Trivandrum. Maybe it’s a reflection on the much talked about decline in empathy among present day doctors.


Reaching the venue at 9:15 am, I had to spend half an hour getting a parking spot at the venue. There was such a parking mess. The organizers had clearly put no thoughts into parking arrangements.

After registering, I tried to enter the Food court for breakfast. I was stopped by three organizing commitee members blocking the way to the menu. They informed me curtly that “Breakfast was over”. On enquiring the reason, I was told that they had announced over the mic that breakfast would be over by 10 am. I looked at my watch. It was 10:04 a.m.

Feeling that this was taking efficiency a bit too extremely I went to the IMA helpdesk to vent my ire. Three helpdesk commitee members were basking in comfy chairs. After waiting half a minute to get their attention with more than a couple of “Excuse me sir”s, finally I tried to explain to them that I had reached the venue well in time, and the reason for being apparently late for breakfast was because I had to wait for the reception commitee members to provide my reception package. However my plea fell on deaf ears. The sheer callosity of the helpdesk members was appalling. It was in stark contrast to the organizers of KENTCON 2014 at Perinthalmanna, where there was a universal warmth in attitude towards guests, from organizers.

On trying to enter the inagration ceremony, like many others before me, I found that it was impossible to enter the tiny hall with a seating capacity of around 500. How 5000 people could be expected to squeeze into that tiny hall is best left to your imagination. I’m sure the organizers weren’t expecting the Russian circus.


The food provided in the banquet was also nothing to write home about. There was a distinct lack of variety. For an event that was touted to host 5000 doctors from across the country, it was too unappealing to the palate.

Maybe the Medical Millenium organizers should look to their Northern siblings and learn how to organize events. Shame on such a shoddy performance!