Author Archives: Trichur Hotel

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Kerala among top ten holiday destinations!

Category : India , Kerala , Tourism

Kerala Temple Festival
Kerala Temple Festival (Photo credit: beapen)

Lonely Planet has named Kerala among the world’s 10 best family destinations in 2014. This is a historic moment, and an opportunity to help the reeling economy of the state badly battered by the returning expatriates. But are we (and our leaders) ready to embrace this opportunity?

I have blogged about our power crisis and promised one on our waste management crisis, which I could not deliver. Do the rating organizations take our problems also into consideration before we are added to the elite club that includes New York City, Denmark, Prague, Iceland, Italy and Hawaii?

Our homestay industry is another example of gross mismanagement. A quintessential malayalee expatriate (ഗൾഫ്‌ കാരൻ) always builds a big house, that invariably remains unused or converted into a homestay. So Kerala is replete with homestays everywhere that are mostly not licensed. It is important that homestays are regulated as it can raise several security issues. But the present system is neither suitable for effective regulation nor effective data collection on foreign visitors. These are the things you need if you decide to register your homestay legally. (From the kerala tourism website)

English: From the backwaters in Kerala.
English: From the backwaters in Kerala. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Prescribed application form duly filled in.
  • Proof of ownership/lease of the building.
  • Location plan showing access to the building from the major roads (need not be scale.
  • Plan and elevation of the existing building.
  • Plan and elevation of the building incorporating the proposed alteration, if required, certified by a qualified engineer.
  • Photographs of the building, including interiors.
  • Police clearance certificate from the Local Station House Officer.
  • The department has prescribed regulatory conditions to be abided by promoters of classified projects. The promoters should furnish the acceptance of these regulatory conditions in the prescribed form. The regulatory conditions and proforma of acceptance is appended along with the application proforma.   
English: Backwater in Kerala, India
English: Backwater in Kerala, India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are lucky, you may receive a registration in 6 months, that is valid for 2 years. And here is the most absurd part. After 2 years, you have to go through the process again, submit all the above documents again, for renewing the registration. Once you register, you have to upload your visitor statistics using a system, that is even difficult for a tech savvy person like me to use. On top of that Kerala Water Authority will impose commercial rate on your homestay, even if it is unused. The red tape is killing an industry that accounts for 15-20 per cent of the State’s tourism industry.

Hope Kerala’s tourism minister AP. Anilkumar and the Kerala Tourism director S. Harikishore will take note of this. Hope they can bring many more tourists to ദൈവത്തിന്ടെ സ്വന്തം നാട്.

Thanks Dr +Ashique K T for the beautiful pictures of Kerala!

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Vembanad Kayal to Lake Ontario

Category : Hamilton

Though this particular post was not about Kerala (It was more about me!), because of the popularity of this post among tourists seeking information about Kerala I have decided to give it a facelift. The enchanting backwaters of Kerala (often called the Venice of the east) is sure to mesmerize you, if you have not explored it already. India’s decision to grant visa on arrival for travellers from 180 countries is an icing on the cake for many who wanted to explore Kerala. We do have some problems to sort out, but if the leaders show some more commitment, I am sure we will reach the top of the list of world’s best tourist destinations. Come join us! The backwaters beckons you! with 44 rivers, a vast network of lakes, 1000 miles of labyrinthine canals, snake boat races, over 300 species of birds and floating markets!!

Finally I made that giant leap I promised Fizzy, from Lake Vembanad to Lake Ontario, across the “small” pond. The dive was uneventful so far (touch wood), but I have just started swimming. Infact the first plunge was rather cold. (Did I expect the water to be friendly like lake Vembanad or luke warm like the swimming pool on the 100th floor of the Dubai apartment building!?) So here I am, sitting in the sleepy city of Hamilton, wrapped around the western tip of Lake Ontario, blogging in broad daylight at 8PM, soaking up the last few days of summer, awaiting my first winter, exciting times for a person who has never seen snow, except for the artificial one in Dubai.

The transition from the leprosy camps in Kumbakonam to beautifying emirates’ crew was not painful. Hope this transition from the world of beauty to that of data and computers would be smooth too. I have always loved the computers more than the scalpel or the needle.

I could touch base with few old friends before the plunge. Though yet to explore, Niagra is just 45 minutes drive from here, a dream destination for another friend. Henceforth I will be blogging about Hamilton too, but on my better half’s advice, I shall leave the cold waters of lake Ontario behind and embrace the warmth of new friendships, new culture and the (reassuring) buzz of intel i7 crunching numbers!

Till the backwaters call me back!

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mHealth for fever ravaged Kerala

Category : Kerala , mHealth

Kerala is a land of paradoxes. The most literate state in India with quality of life indicators similar to the west is ravaged by a fever epidemic from a variety of causes ranging from dengue and chikungunya to rat fever. Most of these are vector borne (predominantly mosquitoes) and similar pattern can be observed in Africa and Latin America. With the state machinery discussing methods to strengthen tertiary care, we fail to leverage our strengths of literacy to tackle the basic vector control measures. So what else can we do?

English: Aedes aegypti in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
English: Aedes aegypti in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Comedians in our TV shows make fun of our housewives interest to send SMS vote for their favourite reality show star. Every reality show ends with the participant soliciting SMS vote in a particular format that even our octogenarian viewers can repeat in their sleep. In spite of this near complete penetration of mobile phones and an educated population we fail to utilise the mHealth model of vector control, successfully employed for fever epidemic control in Africa and Latin America. What all can we do with mHealth?

mobile phone mast
mobile phone mast (Photo credit: osde8info)

mHealth is a term used for the practice of medicine and public health, supported by mobile devices. First and foremost we can use mobile phones to give basic health education on fever. So if you or your family member gets fever, you send an SMS to a particular number along with basic symptoms along with your location and you get information on what to do and when and where to consult a doctor. This basic triage will help in optimising our health services delivery already in the breakpoint due to poor infrastructure. This model is successfully employed in many parts of Africa for prenatal care.[1]

The statistics collected from these SMS messages can also be used to assess social (eco-bio-social) determinants of vector density and plan more effective vector control measures. It will also help in finding the epicentre of epidemic outbreaks. It can also be used for treatment support and medication compliance for patients. A similar system has been employed in Colombia for prevention and control of Dengue. [2]

Our waste management efforts are at the core of vector control and that is a topic for a different discussion. Suffice to say that encouraging our age old habit of taking a ‘sanji’ to the grocery with a total ban on plastic bags would be a good beginning.


1. SMS reminders to improve treatment adherence [Click here]

2. Ecosystems Approach for the Design and Implementation of a Sustainable Strategy for Dengue Prevention and Control in Colombia. [Click here]

3. Importing ONTODerm Ontology.

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Power Crisis in Kerala – Part 2

Category : Energy , Kerala , Solar energy

ONE EARTH ONE LIFE: Electricity Crisis in Kerala and Possible Options -2008:

‘via Blog this’

English: On 140 acres of unused land on Nellis...
English: On 140 acres of unused land on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., 70,000 solar panels are part of a solar photovoltaic array that will generate 15 megawatts of solar power for the base. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My ‘crazy’ post on power crisis in Kerala attracted some attention in terms of visitors. So I am attempting a followup post motivated by this blog (link above) by Harish that summarises the situation pretty much. The blog says “Possible Options -2008”, and it was actually posted last year and in all probability the situation and statistics have probably worsened since. It is interesting to note that our hunt for “possible solutions” started 5 years back with no sign of any possible solutions in the horizon. So let us continue our lateral exploration.

How can the government incentivise local power generation, whether it is solar, wind or mini-micro hydel projects? Is it possible for individual power producers to contribute directly to the grid? Apparently the model is being considered in Middle East to future-proof their energy requirements. Can we implement the model in God’s own country?

Here is how it might work: Usually individuals generate solar power when they cannot consume it, that is in the morning hours. So storage in the form of batteries is an expensive and cumbersome (to maintain) requirement for such systems. If we can give the power generated in the morning hours to industries that consume it and get compensated in the night we do not need storage/batteries! Avoiding the storage requirement would reduce the cost of solar power generation by more than half! The management of individual/group energy contributions to the grid can be managed and incentivised by government by adopting the Microfinance (Microenergy rather) paradigm that originated from the Indian subcontinent. I am curious to know what the domain experts think about this model.

In a ‘possible – 2014’ post I shall laterally explore the potential of biofilms and energy trapping surface paints for harvesting solar energy. On a lighter note, just planting a tree could also trap substantial solar energy!

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Potential Solutions to Kerala’s Power Crisis

To be mathematically correct, I have lived only 40% of my life in my home state of Kerala, often called the God’s own country. I was born in a village (villages in Kerala are not really villages any more) called Kombodinjamakkal in central Kerala. Our state (it is more important to be politically correct here than mathematically correct) is plagued by two impending disasters. A looming power crisis because of the angry rain gods scourging the bourgeois for exploiting its hydro electric power for such a long time. The second is the pathetic waste management, all because of the inefficiency of our neighbour and the government to remove the wastes from our backyard!

Kerala Temple Festival
Ayyappan Kavu Ulsavam (Photo credit: beapen)

Why am I getting into this quagmire? Because I am a winner of multiple innocentive challenges and I want to show off. Hey, I am entitled to some self promotion on my blog. This is an attempt to give some lateral thinking perspective (if you will) to these complicated problems. But needless to say that I have no prior experience in this.

OK, let us start with energy or power. I don’t know much about both except that both have the same unit for measurement. Political power has a different unit by the way! I also know that the two easily available, clean energy sources are the sun and the wind. Wind energy is proportional to the cube of wind velocity. (Hey, I seem to know more than I thought). So a wind turbine has to be mounted on a tower for effective functioning and may not be cost effective in Kerala. Besides we don’t have much free space with an exceptionally high population density in spite of being manpower suppliers of the world for well over a decade.

That leaves the energy from the sun. Solar energy is traditionally harvested with photovoltaic cells made out of silicon wafers. We do not produce enough silicon to harvest solar energy. If gold could trap sunlight we could have made use of the gold our housewives have accumulated over the years.

Solar water heaters are effectively being used in Kerala. In my house, we cover the panels of our solar heater to prevent excessive heating of water! Water is abundant enough to trap solar energy too. Is there any way to produce electricity from hot water? Do you think a modified steam turbine would be an answer to our energy woes? Feel free to post your ideas here. Maybe men of power (pun intended) would someday see this and experiment (and implement) with our ideas! When I get some fresh ideas for waste management, I will post it here. Well do you have any?

Watch the video posted below. (Credit: Timothy Sohacki – YouTube )

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How to teach alternative medicine to your dog

A harmonic oscillator in classical mechanics (...
A harmonic oscillator in classical mechanics (A-B) and quantum mechanics (C-H). In (A-B), a ball, attached to a spring, oscillates back and forth. (C-H) are six solutions to the Schrödinger Equation for this situation. The horizontal axis is position, the vertical axis is the real part (blue) or imaginary part (red) of the wavefunction. (C,D,E,F), but not (G,H), are stationary states (energy eigenstates), which come from solutions to the Time-Independent Schrödinger Equation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


me: Hey Gem. Where have you been?

Gem: Just came back from Italy. I was on a mission to find out how Italians manufacture and sell helicopters.

me: oh, interesting! Just wanted to ask you something. Do you know anything about quantum mechanics?

Gem: Sure, I have taught quantum mechanics to my dog. But he understood the entire concept in just one sentence.

me: Oh, what was that? BTW you have an intelligent dog!

Gem: The act of measurement causes the set of probabilities to immediately and randomly assume only one of the possible values. The act of measurement changes everything.

me: Oh, What a Bohr (My expression was blank. So the readers may safely assume that the pun was not intended). The act of measurement is fundamental to us doctors. We take measurements all the time. BP, Pulse, Blood sugar…. And we measure many things during clinical trials!

Gem: You should try alternative medicine then! They don’t measure much.

me: Don’t tell me you believe in the memory of water molecules beyond the Avagadro limit in homeopathy or the healing powers of yoga. Orac would plan a very respectful insolence on your beliefs.

Gem: See that’s the problem. You make fun of Dr Prasad’s anti-diabetic laddoos. You insist that only RCTs can differentiate a placebo from a drug. I do agree with you. But all I am saying is that before the act of RCT a placebo could be a drug and a drug could be a placebo. All I am concerned about is the effect.

me: But how??

Gem: If you still don’t understand, ask my dog.

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The brighter Moon

Category : Gem

English: The brighter Moon
English: The brighter Moon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Gem is skeptical, not passionate and gets easily bored. But Gem considers it the main ingredient of a quintessential innovative mind. Passion clouds your judgement. You tend to miss the negatives. Cognizance of the unfavorable is crucial for progress.

Gem remains stationary. The world grows around him. Does the umbilical connections to the past become a liability? May be, May be not..

Gem is bad at making small talk. Gem is uncomfortable with the social pattern of networking and rapport building. Gem perceives it as a waste of time.

Gem finds it difficult to turn his thoughts off while sleeping. Gem’s best ideas struck him in his dreams…

Gem is taking a leap into the cold pacific ocean with a lifeboat and Richard Parker. There is no shipwreck though. The lifeboat could be big enough and Richard Parker is just a cat.

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The elusive Kallana (Stone Elephant)

Elephant Self-Portrait
Elephant Self-Portrait (Photo credit: Cybjorg)

Kallana – കല്ലാന  (the literal translation would be stone elephant) is an elusive species of elephant supposed to be seen in Kerala, that belongs to the realm of cryptozoology. The locals describe it as a adult elephant with a maximum height of 5 feet, but with normal trunk and tail. Till recently it was only a local folklore like the bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster. Recently one was captured, but whether it is a mutant pygmy elephant or a new species has yet to be ascertained. Even a genetic test could be inconclusive as proof of many such elephants with the same genotype and phenotypic presentation is needed for defining a species. Well documented pygmy elephant species (Elephas maximus borneensis) has been described in other parts of the world.

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Tourism in God’s Own Country

Sad day for tourism in Kerala as 4 people were drowned in a freak house boat accident in  Alappuzha – The Venice of the East. I think basic infrastructure development and proper waste management would go a long way in attracting tourists to the state than the much hyped Grand Kerala shopping festival! BTW posting few of our DSF snaps.

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A Medical Shave

Category : Beauty , Health

Dear Reader

Pardon me for choosing a very mundane topic this time. But someone actually asked me this question: How does a dermatologist shave? 

Since dermatologists are humans and are unlikely to be different from the 7 billion others we have on the planet, I transformed the question into a more acceptable form.

Is there a medical way of shaving?

Shaving (Photo credit: Improbable Roach)

I must admit that I never considered a medical shave though I have worked on ‘Medical Facials’, a term the cosmetic dermatology (industry) introduced into the forefront through the back door. Since dermatologist deals with the skin and the hair, the two fundamental components of a shave, I decided to introduce the uninitiated to the art of good ‘medical’ shave!

But before I start, I think I should mention two disclaimers: Since the medical shave involves using pharmaceutical products, please consult your physician to decide whether my medical shave suits your skin. Second, if you are a barber or a cosmetic tycoon thinking of stealing this idea, beware. Creative commons, attribution license apply!

Safety Razor Set - A safety razor, shaving bru...
Safety Razor Set – A safety razor, shaving brush, and mug with shaving soap. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The basics first (Yes, this guide is for professionals and novices): You need access to hot and cold water, good lighting, a decent shaving blade, disinfectants, shaving form, brush, a toner containing salicylic acid, after shave and if possible a steamer. Now you need to procure two things that are not immediately apparent. An exfoliating cream containing alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) at a concentration of 10 to 20%. (Don’t worry, It is not as bad as the sulphuric acid from chemistry lab). You may also need a 2.5% Benzoyl peroxide gel. Check with your spouse, before you approach the chemist. You may find these in your house.

Half an hour before the anticipated shave, apply the AHA cream to the area. This will basically detach dead cell accumulation around hair follicles. Just before the shave, use steam or hot water to soften the hair. Put the shaving blade in warm water with some disinfectant. Apply shaving foam and use the brush in short circular motion. This will not only spread the foam better, but also keep the hair straight and decrease the chances of ingrowth. Keep the shaving foam for at least 10 minutes before you shave to soften the hair properly. You may do other things like brushing your teeth during this time.

Illustration from Shaving Made Easy. How to sh...
Illustration from Shaving Made Easy. How to shave the left side. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shave in the direction of hair growth in a single uniform action avoiding undue pressure. Multiple passes increases skin irritation and chances of ingrowth. Twin / multiple blade systems offer little advantage. After the shave, wash with cold water or ice to close open pores and to reduce inflammation. Use a salicylic acid containing toner to cleanse and close the pores. Salicylic acid is also anti-inflammatory. Apply aftershave only on the neck and under-chin. These are the areas where cuts commonly occur. After-shave will be a good antiseptic to prevent infection. But it is not advisable to use it on the other areas of the face since most of the aftershaves contain photosensitizers that make your skin dull on sun exposure. Use the 2.5% Benzyl peroxide gel after the shave if you have a tendency to get razor bumps.

So that is my ‘Medical Shave’ for you. Hope you enjoyed it. If you want a demonstration video, post a request on my youtube channel here.