Category Archives: Kerala

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The wines of Kerala – Part 2

Category : Canada , Kerala , Malayalam , Niagara

English: Nutmegs (Myristica fragrans) on a tre...

മലയാളം: ജാതിക്ക (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Read the full series.

The aroma of the Niagara wines reminded me of the nutmeg shells. Probably nutmeg shells are deeply imprinted in my memory database. I should tell my Mom to try making nutmeg wine!

Wines of Kerala

Wines of Kerala

Mallu winemakers traditionally use Bharani (ഭരണി ), the locally available porcelain container with a lid as French or American oak is beyond their reach. Porcelain obviously cannot bestow the fruity flavour to the wine. So we may have to find an innovative container for wine making. കറുവാപട്ട  (Cinnamon) may be a good replacement for oak, though I am not sure whether the flavour will be too much. Anyways, I am sure my Mom adds cinnamon to the wine that she makes.



Apparently, the oak barrels are air tight with no residual air at the top. Air changes the flavour of the wine. Wine should be allowed to breath only when the bottle is opened, just like the infant takes the first birth after birth. Bharani’s are not airtight. So this may be an important limitation for wines of Kerala.

Do you have any tips to improve the taste of our wines?

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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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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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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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Pound foolish Vishu

Pounds Sterling
Pounds Sterling (Photo credit: 917press)
Today is Vishu, the malayalam new year. People wear new clothes and elders gift money to children called ‘vishukaineettam’. The latest TV advertisement of Kerala State Lottery shows this gifting ceremony. But there is a twist in the tale. What the person is gifting is not Indian rupee! It is a 2 pound sterling coin!! Time for introspection to all idolatrous Manglish speaking Mallus including me.
india kerala boat people
india kerala boat people (Photo credit: FriskoDude)
There are few hilarious TV ads in malayalam as well where Mohanlal buys, sells and does everything possible with gold. One hair oil ad rambles: “Why look at the face, everything is in the hair!!”  All the “kuri” ads try to be funny by emulating the comical Thrissur accent. Is it because all ‘kuri-companies’ are from Thrissur or is it because they (we) are the most gullible?

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KIRTADS – The Kerala Institute for Research, Training and Development of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, is conducting a പൈത്രികൊല്സവം (culture festival, the translation may not be accurate) in Mala, Kerala from Jan 22nd 2012 to Jan 30th 2012. Since I am in Kerala now on vacation, I visited this festival a couple of days back. They had several stalls for traditional medicine. I will blog about my experience later. Today I will translate relevant parts of their brochure. Disclaimer: The translation may not be accurate. Read at your risk!!

Ethnomedicine (വംശീയവൈദ്യം): Every tribe has their own knowledge and treatment methods to deal with various diseases. Diseases that exist for several generations are treated with herbs and materials of animal origin. These practical knowledge evolved over several centuries and became a form of medicine called ethnomedicine. However this form of medicine is on the decline because of inefficient transfer of information through generations. Kirtands is trying to preserve this knowledge by encouraging ethnomedicine practitioners. Their core expertise is in psoriasis, piles, infertility, cancer, diseases of the nervous system, vitiligo, asthma, hair fall, abdominal diseases, cough, various arthritis and joint pains, eye diseases and tonsillitis. 

Medical Sauna: 

This is effective for skin diseases, respiratory diseases and arthritis and includes more than 60 herbal medicines. This treatment method is available in several centers in Kerala.

Research Initiatives in Ethanomedicine:

The main emphasis of our research division is on perpetuating the knowledge we have accumulated. We have initiated a 3 year course in ethanomedicine. Many of our practitioners who completed this course has become very popular in various districts of Kerala. We also conduct treatment camps in various places. We have even collaborated with Regional research center, Trivandrum on trials for diabetic medications. Our initiatives have helped in preserving our traditional treatment methods and to make it popular among the masses. 

In my next post I will describe my personal experience!