About-the world this week, 19 March to 25 March 2023: Sikhism and Khalistan, an Indian Member of Parliament is disqualified, and it’s not all right to be Gay in Uganda.


India: Sikhism and Khalistan

Sikhism is a religion, which developed from the spiritual teachings of Guru Nanak who lived between the years 1469 and 1539. He is the founder, the faith’s first Guru, and was followed by nine Sikh Gurus. Guru means a spiritual and intellectual Teacher. The Tenth Guru, Gobind Singh who steered Sikhism between the years 1666 and 1708 named the Sikh Scripture called the ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ as his successor. This brought to an end the line of human gurus and established the Scripture as the Eleventh and the last eternally living Guru-a religious, life-guide for Sikhs.

Guru Nanak preached a new concept of God as, supreme, all powerful, truthful, formless, fearless, without hate, the sole, the self-existent, the incomprehensible and everlasting creator of all things. He taught people that the ‘One God’ dwells in every one of his creations, and that all human beings can have direct access to God without the need of any rituals or priests. Setting up a unique spiritual, social and political platform based on equality and fraternal love. He rejected the path of renunciation, laying emphasis on family life.

The Guru Granth Sahib opens with the ‘Mul Mantar’, a fundamental prayer about one God. The core beliefs of Sikhism, articulated in the Scriptures, include faith and meditation in the name of the one creator; divine unity and equality of all humankind; engaging in selfless service; striving for justice for the benefit and prosperity of all; and honest conduct and livelihood while living a householder’s (family) life. Sikhism rejects claims that any particular religious tradition has a monopoly on absolute truth. Sikhism also emphasises the remembrance of the teachings of the Gurus, which can be expressed musically through ‘kirtan’, or internally through ‘naam japna’ -meditation on God’s name- as a means to feel God’s presence. It teaches followers to transform the ‘five thieves’, lust, rage, greed, attachment, and ego to achieve ‘wealth’ in life.

The Tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, initiated the ‘Khalsa’ (pure) tradition, which refers to the community that considers Sikhism as its faith, as well as a special group of initiated Sikhs. Upon initiation, a Khalsa Sikh is given the titles of Singh (male), meaning lion, and Kaur (female), meaning princess, and is sworn to a behavioural code of conduct of the Sikh faith.

Guru Gobind also introduced the ‘Five Ks’ in Sikhism, which he commanded Khalsa Sikhs to wear at all times. They are: Kesh – unshorn hair and beard as a respect for the perfection of God’s creation; Kangha – a comb for the Kesh, usually wooden, to comb the Kesh twice a day; Kara – a bracelet, usually made of iron or steel as a constant reminder that whatever a person does with their hands has to be in keeping with the advice of the Gurus and to symbolise God as never-ending; Kachera -an undergarment, short breeches, with a tie-knot, to be quickly ready for defence or battle; and Kirpan- a small curved sword of any size, shape or metal, used to defend others. The Kesh was to be contained in a Turban, to clearly and quickly identify Sikhs, among other symbols.

The City of Amritsar in Punjab occupies a significant position in Sikhism, with it being, not only home to hundreds of thousands of Sikhs but also the chief pilgrimage destination for Sikhs living elsewhere in India and abroad. The principal focus for pilgrims is the Golden Temple and its complex of several adjacent buildings located around a central tank. Situated on the west side, facing the causeway to the temple, is the Akal Takht, the chief centre of authority of Sikhism and the headquarters of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Supreme Akali Party), the main political party of the Sikhs in Punjab.

Sikhs have been living predominantly in the Punjab region of India. Before its conquest by the British, the region around Punjab had been ruled by a confederacy of Sikh Misls – Cavalry based armies – founded by Banda Bahadur. The Misls ruled over the entire Punjab from 1767 to 1799, until their confederacy was unified into the Sikh Empire by Maharajah Ranjit Singh from 1799 to 1849.

At the end of the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849, the Sikh Empire dissolved into separate princely states and the British province of Punjab. ‘Religion-nationalist’ movements emerged in response to British ‘divide and rule’ administrative policies to counter religious conversions and a general belief that the solution to the downfall among India’s religious communities was a grassroots religious revival.

The Akali movement was started in 1920 by the Central Sikh League’s political wing, the Akali Dal, which was founded in Amritsar in December 1920. The term Akali derives from the word Akal (timeless or immortal) used in the Sikh scriptures. The movement was named after the Akalis, a Khalsa militant order from the time of Guru Gobind Singh which had risen to prominence under Akali Phula Singh, one of the commanders of the Sikh Empire.

The Akali movement, also called the Gurdwara Reform Movement, was a campaign to bring reform in the Gurdwaras (the Sikh places of worship) in India during the early 1920s. It led to the introduction of the Sikh Gurdwara Bill in 1925, which placed all the historical Sikh shrines in India under the control of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). The Akali Dal assists the SGPC.

As the British Empire began to weaken in the 1930s, Sikhs made their first call for a Sikh homeland, called Khalistan (land of the pure). The Khalistan movement was started as a separatist movement seeking to establish a sovereign state of Khalistan in the Punjab region. The proposed state would consist of the territory which currently encompasses Punjab in India, and Punjab in Pakistan, with Lahore as its capital.

Meanwhile India was set to be partitioned on religious lines as Hindu and Muslim States.

During the pre-partition talks in the Lahore Resolution of the Muslim League one of the demands was that Punjab be made into a Muslim state, which the Akalis viewed as an attempt to usurp a historically Sikh territory. In response, the Sikh party Shiromani Akali Dal argued for a community that was separate from Hindus and Muslims. The Akali Dal imagined Khalistan as a theocratic state led by the Maharaja of Patiala with the aid of a cabinet consisting of the representatives of other units.

Following the independence of India from British Rule in 1947, the Punjabi Suba movement, led by the Akali Dal, sought the creation of a province (Suba) for Punjabi people. The Akali Dal’s maximal position of demands was a sovereign state-Khalistan-while its minimal position was to have an autonomous state within India.

As the religion-based partition of India led to much bloodshed, the Indian government initially rejected the demand, concerned that creating a Punjabi-majority state would effectively mean yet again creating a state based on religious grounds. However, later India was divided into States, for administrative purposes, mostly on a linguistic basis. And Punjab (as partitioned between India and Pakistan) became a State in India.

Ever since the movement gathered force in the 1980s, the territorial ambitions of Khalistan have at times included Chandigarh; sections of North India, including the whole of Indian Punjab; and some parts of the western states of India.

In 1940, the first explicit call for Khalistan was made in a pamphlet titled ‘Khalistan’. With financial and political support of the Sikh diaspora, the movement flourished in the India’s Punjab, continuing through the 1970s and 1980s, and reaching its zenith in the late 1980s. This period also saw the rise of militant-minded Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale as a leading figure of the Khalistan movement.

With the Shiromani Akali Dal failing to win respectable seats in Elections to the State and Central Legislatures it came up with a list of demands called, ‘The Anandpur Sahib Resolution’ in 1973 to improve its prospects and galvanise the Sikhs. The resolution declared its goal was to establish a State for Sikhs with quasi-independent status, leaving only the powers of Foreign Relations, Defense, Currency and General Communications subject to the jurisdiction of the Central Government. The then Prime Minister (PM) of India, Indira Gandhi, viewed the Anandpur Sahib Resolution as a secessionist document and refused to accept it.

The Anandpur Sahib Resolution reached prominence in the 1980s when the Akali Dal and Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale joined hands to launch the Dharam Yudh Morcha in 1982 in order to implement the Resolution. Thousands of people joined the movement, feeling that it represented a real solution to demands. This included a larger share of water for irrigation, the return of Chandigarh to Punjab, which was shared with Haryana State, and of course, the idea of a Sikh Homeland. The movement turned militant and Punjab went into turmoil with terrorism becoming the order of the day.

In 1982, Bhindranwale and his militant cadres occupied the Golden Temple complex and made it his headquarters and later fortified the Akal Takht. During this time Bhindranwale ruthlessly killed many of this opponents including a former Jathedar of Akal Takht, Giani Pratap Singh. The killings were brutal to inspire terror such as chopping off the breasts of a female opponent named Baljit Kaur. Bhindranwale went on to establish what amounted to a ‘parallel government’ in Punjab settling cases and resolving disputes, while conducting his campaign for Khalistan.

With Bhindranwale growing to become a menace, in June 1984, PM Indira Gandhi ordered Operation Blue Star, which was carried out by the Indian Army to flush out Bhindranwale and his armed followers from the Golden Temple Complex. This resulted in hundreds to thousands of deaths including that of Bhindranwale. And the crackdown on militancy in Punjab brought back a semblance of peace in the State.

Then in 1984 PM Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh Bodyguards in a revenge action, which led to riots targeting Sikhs in northern India for being responsible for the killing.

In the 1990s, the insurgency petered out, and the movement failed to reach its objective for multiple reasons including a heavy police crackdown on separatists, factional infighting, and disillusionment from the Sikh population.

Now enter the year 2022 and 2023.

Amritpal Singh, 30 a self-styled Sikh preacher and separatist began reviving the idea of Khalistan in Punjab state, which has stoked fears of violence and brought back painful memories of a bloody insurgency that killed thousands. He was relatively unknown until the death of actor and activist Deep Sidhu in 2022.

Sidhu backed the country’s year-long farmer’s movement and founded Waris Punjab De-a group established to protect Sikh rights.

Waris Punjab De mobilised farmers and activists – many of whom were Sikh – against the Government of India’s attempt to modernize the country’s agricultural sector with the introduction of new Farm Laws, Farmers feared the changes would push prices lower. In a rare retreat, the laws were repealed in November 2021. But the Waris Punjab De continued its campaign to protect the Sikh religion and Punjab’s culture.

Sidhu was killed in a car crash in February 2022 and Amritpal Singh took over the reins, leading marches and giving impassioned – often provocative – speeches, building a large following and gaining popularity.

The popularity proabably went to his head and about a month ago he stormed a police station in Punjab along with his gun and sword-wielding gang of supporters to release an imprisoned fellow follower. They shouted pro-Khalistan separitist slogans and Amritpal Singh said he does not accept India as a nation. He likened himself to Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The police quietly watched him whisk away his devotee.

Then the Police ‘found their guns’ and piled up charges on him for attempted murder, obstruction of law enforcement and creating disharmony in society.

Early this week, Punjab Police and central agencies launched a massive crackdown on Amritpal Singh and over 110 of his associates were arrested. However, he is still on the run. Internet was suspended in Punjab for a few days. Police say that Singh was in contact with the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence(ISI) and received funds from Pakistan. Furthermore, Singh was creating a private army in the guise of an anti-drug drive and de-addiction centre.

Following the crackdown, official Indian Government establishments in London and San Francisco were attacked. Singh’s supporters vandalised the Embassies, tearing down the Indian flag and replacing it with the Khalistan Flag.

The Khalistan movement is outlawed in India and considered a grave national security threat by the government – a number of groups associated with the movement are listed as ‘terrorist organizations’ under India’s Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. But it continues to evoke a level of sympathy from some Sikhs, particularly in Canada, United Kingdom and Australia, which is home to sizeable Sikh communities, many of whom fled Punjab following independence in search of better economic opportunities. A small but influential number of those Sikhs support the idea of Khalistan, with referendums periodically held to reach a consensus to establish a separate homeland within India.

Rahul Gandhi

Late this week a Court in India’s Gujarat State, convicted Rahul Gandhi, a Member of Parliament representing Wayanad in the state of Kerala, and a leader of India’s grand old party – The Congress- for his comments in an Election Rally about PM Narendra Modi’s surname. He was found guilty of criminal defamation and handed down a two-year jail sentence. However, the same Court allowed him a 30-days bail, suspending ‘only the jail sentence’, to allow him to make an appeal. Rahul was present in Court to ‘receive the award’!

In the year 2019, during an Election rally in Karnataka State’s Kolar, Rahul Gandhi said, “Why do all thieves have Modi as their surname?” In his speech, he went on to name fugitive Indian diamond tycoon Nirav Modi, banned Indian Premier League boss Lalit Modi, and PM Narendra Modi.

The case against Rahul Gandhi was brought by Purnesh Modi a former Bharatiya Janata Party Minister in Gujarat State, on the premise that ‘Modi’ being an Other Backward Class (OBC) Community, Rahul has insulted and defamed the entire community by comparing them with thieves. Modi is a common last name for many in Gujarat.

Following the conviction Rahul Gandhi was (automatically) disqualified from his Lok Sabha membership. This was based on a 2013 Supreme Court order, which decreed that a lawmaker convicted in a crime and sentenced to two or more years in jail stands disqualified from the Parliament with immediate effect.

This is a fabulous case of democracy working in India and the Law of the Land taking its course.


People who identify as gay in Uganda risk life in prison after parliament passed a new bill to crack down on homosexual activities. It also includes the death penalty in certain cases.

The debate around the bill had led to fear of more attacks on gay people and blackmail. People were receiving calls on the lines of, “if you don’t give me money, I will report that you are gay”.

The bill is one of the toughest pieces of anti-gay legislation in Africa. Homosexual acts are already illegal in Uganda but this bill introduces many new criminal offences.

Amnesty International has called the bill, which criminalises same-sex between consenting adults, appalling, ambiguous, and vaguely worded. It has also been condemned by both United States and the United Kingdom.

The bill will now go to President Yoweri Museveni who can choose to use his veto to overturn the bill or sign it into law. He has himself made several anti-gay comments, in recent weeks, and also criticised Western countries for putting pressure on Uganda over the issue.

Same-sex relations are banned in about 30 African countries, where many people uphold conservative religious and social values.

More homeland stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Stay with World Inthavaaram. Fight another day.



About-the world this week, 12 March to 18 March 2023: Atmospheric river storms, Bank collapses in America, and the Oscar Awards.


An ‘atmospheric river storm’ is sweeping through the West Coast of the United States (US) causing heavy flooding and hurricane-like winds in the Central and Northern California areas. And this is the 11th atmospheric river storm to hit California this winter. Due to the inundation and water entering houses and businesses, thousands were left without power.

We’ve heard of Hurricanes, Cyclones, and the kind; what then is an Atmospheric River?

An Atmospheric River (AR) is a narrow corridor or filament of concentrated moisture in the atmosphere formed by it picking up moisture and warm moist air in the tropics. It consists of narrow bands of enhanced water vapour transport, generally along the boundaries between large areas of divergent surface air-flow. AR’s are typically several thousand kilometres (km) long and only a few hundred km wide, and a single stream can carry a greater flux of water than Earth’s largest river, the Amazon River! There are typically about three to five of these narrow rivers present within a hemisphere at any given time. These have been increasing in intensity, slightly over the past century.

Since AR storms carry water vapour through the sky, when the storm reaches cooler regions and makes landfall, the weather causes the water to cool and turns it into rain and sometimes even snow. Looks like AR storms are going to be a recurring event in times to come. Gosh, mighty rivers hovering in the atmosphere above us!

Talking of other storms in America – this time about a financial storm in Silicon Valley -The Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), headquartered in Santa Clara, California collapsed. It was quickly matched, in step, by another Bank, Signature Bank.

SVB was founded in 1983 and was the 16th largest US bank before its collapse. It has operations in Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (UK).

The era of easy monetary policy had enabled technology companies to raise and deploy funds, and SVB benefitted from this boom, lending to early-stage technology and biotech startups and managing funds for Venture Capitalists. SVB was a preferred bank for the tech sector because they supported startup companies that not all banks would accept due to higher risks.

But the Russia-Ukraine war fuelled global inflation levels that led to Central Banks tightening monetary policy aggressively.

The collapse happened due to multiple reasons, including a lack of diversification and a classic ‘bank run’, where many customers withdrew their deposits simultaneously due to fears of the bank’s solvency.

SVB had invested most of its deposits in US Government Treasury Bonds when the interest rates were extremely low. But when the US Federal Reserve went on an aggressive plan to raise interest rates to combat inflation, SVB found its return on investment shrinking. With rise in interest rates, bond prices fell, eroding the value of SVB’s bond portfolio. And with customers beginning to withdraw deposits, they had to resort to selling the Bonds at a loss, and also other assets to meet withdrawal requests, ending up with not having enough cash to pay depositors. Hence, California regulators shut the bank down on 8th March.

SVB was large but had a unique existence by servicing nearly exclusively the technology world and Venture Capitalist-backed companies. It did a lot of work with the particular part of the economy that was hit hard in the past year. Other banks are far more diversified across multiple industries, customer bases, and geographies.

Deposits of up to USD 250,000 are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). In SVB’s case, about USD 151 billion of the bank’s total deposits of USD 175.4 billion were uninsured deposits.

The US Government has entered the scene to guarantee customer deposits, but SVB’s downfall continues to reverberate across global financial markets. The government has also shut down Signature Bank, a regional bank that was teetering on the brink of collapse, and guaranteed its deposits.

Meanwhile, HSBC stepped in this week to buy SVB UK securing the deposits of thousands of British tech companies

That’s a Silicon Valley Atmospheric Financial Storm, for sure!

In other news, early this week a Russian military jet, Su-27, intercepted a US drone, MQ-9 Reaper, and downed it over the Black Sea, kicking of a direct clash and raising tensions between the world’s leading nuclear powers. The United States said that the incident shows Russia’s irresponsible behaviour in international airspace, while Russia accuses the US of trying to escalate tensions near Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula it forcibly annexed in 2014.

And on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian forces continued to withstand Russian assaults on the now-ruined city of Bakhmut. A constant rumble of artillery, on all sides, is the order of the day.

This week, The United Kingdom banned the Social Media App TikTok from official government devices on Thursday, adding to similar restrictions imposed by allies in Canada, the European Union and the US. TikTok is not widely used by UK officials, but the measure reflects concerns about TikTok’s links to China through its parent company, ByteDance, and the possibility that the Chinese government could pressurise the companies to hand over users’ personal data.

This week, the US finally decided: after over two years, the US confirmed Eric Garcetti, 52, a President Joe Biden loyalist, as its Ambassador to India. The nomination of Garcetti was pending before the US Congress since July 2021 when he was chosen for the diplomatic post. Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in favour of Garcetti’s nomination. And this week the Senate voted to confirm.

Please Yourself

This week, the 2023 Oscars Academy Awards Ceremony – the 95th – honouring the best in film was held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Sunday night, hosted by US Chat Show host Jimmy Kimmel.

He began with a monologue ruminating the past 12 months in the film industry. “They say Hollywood is running out of ideas. I mean, poor Steven Spielberg had to make a movie about Steven Spielberg,” he joked, referring to the director’s autobiographical best picture nominee, ‘The Fabelmans’. And then Jimmy Kimmel found his way through the air to James Cameron’s ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’, which he described as, “another opportunity for James Cameron to do what he loves doing more than anything else – drowning (Titanic fame)Kate Winslet”.

That set the stage for the glitz and glamour of the night, beginning with the entry of the stars walking on the Red Carpet and the beaming winners leaving with the gold Oscar statuettes. This year the Academy stood like a rock, became a ‘will smith’ ensuring there were no fist-fights or cheeky slaps.

First, the Red Carpet.

Hollywood Actress Cate Blanchett was easily one of the best dressed in an elegant blue velvet Louis Vuitton outfit, featuring a ribbon made by refugees as part of an initiative from the United Nations refugee agency: she glided on the Red Carpet while others walked! Michelle Yeoh arrived in a white fringe Dior ‘wearable cloud’ like gown accented with diamonds. Lady Gaga, who performed her song, ‘Hold My Hand’, from the movie, ‘Top Gun: Maverick’, wore a black Versace dress with a sheer corset bodice, which extended tantalisingly low, hanging by the skin of the hip. Maybe someone had to hold the bottom half of the dress and lift it up? Rihanna also sang at the ceremony, performing, ‘Lift Me Up’ from ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ in her Alaia outfit, which had leather straps and train, and lots of sheer mesh, ‘shark slits’ at her thighs, proudly showing off her magnificent baby bump.

Everyone was wondering what a ‘stranger at the Oscars’ – Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai- was doing in this part of the World when she arrived in a shimmering silver Ralph Lauren gown with ruched waist and inbuilt head-scarf. Appears she was at the ceremony as executive producer of ‘Stranger at the Gate’, which was nominated for best Short Documentary.

Indian Actress Deepika Padukone was a cynosure of many eyes wearing a stunning off-the-shoulder black bespoke Louis Vuitton gown. It had a plunging neckline along with full-length sleeves, a fitted corseted bodice, a flared pleated skirt, and trendy black opera gloves. Deepika also sported a brand new tattoo on her slender neck, which read, ’82’E’ – the name of her newly-launched skincare brand. She was more than nattily dressed-up to announce the winner of Best Original Song, from India – ’Naatu Naatu’.

Over to a short reel of Oscar history.

Only three movies have won a record number of 11 Oscars: ‘Ben-Hur’ in 1959, ‘Titanic’ in 1997, and ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ in 2003. Then comes ‘West Side Story’ (1961), which won 10 Oscars, quickly followed by ‘Gigi’, ‘The Last Emperor’, and ‘The English Patient’ with 9 Oscars each. Movies which won 8 Oscars are, Slumdog Millionaire, Gandhi, Amadeus, Gone With the Wind, From Here to Eternity, On the Waterfront, My Fair Lady, and Cabaret.

Ben-Hur is one of the greatest films in history and was the first movie to win 11 Oscars – a record untouched for decades until Titanic equalled it!

This year, the movie ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ was just about everywhere with seven awards: Best Picture, Director, Lead Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screen Play, and Editing. It’s lead Actress, Michelle Yeoh, became the first Asian woman to win the best actress Oscar.

Yeoh plays a Chinese-American laundrette owner who is mired in a tax audit, stuck in a crumbling marriage, and struggling to connect with her daughter Joy. But when she discovers different versions of herself in the multiverse, she must tap into their skills in order to save the world. The dazzling multiverse adventure dominated the awards this year.

Brendan Fraser capped his extraordinary comeback after years away from the Hollywood spotlight by winning best actor for his performance in ‘The Whale’ as an overweight professor- who almost eats to death – trying to repair his relationship with his teenage daughter. Fraser transformed his appearance for the film, which also won best make-up and hairstyling. It took the team about six hours of makeup and preparation to get Fraser ready with all the ‘extra weight prosthetics’.

American Actress Jamie Lee Curtis won the first Oscar of her 45-year acting career as best supporting actress-one of the tightest categories of the Awards this year-in Everything Everywhere All At Once.

All Quiet On the Western Front’, Netflix’s German-language World War finished the night in second place with four awards – best international feature film, original score, production design, and cinematography.

Wakanda Forever’s, Ruth Carter, repeated the best costume design victory she scored with the original Black Panther.

The award for best documentary feature went to ‘Navalny’, about Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and the events related to his 2020 poisoning. Director Daniel Roher dedicated the award to Navalny, who is serving prison term in Russia. Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, added: “Alexei, I am dreaming of the day you will be free and our country will be free, stay strong my love.”

Other notable wins are, Best Sound for Top Gun Maverick, and Best Visual Effects for Avatar: The Way of Water.

In a way, India danced and whispered its way into the Academy Awards.

The Oscar for the Best Original Song went to ‘Naatu Naatu’ in the Indian film RRR. The music for the song was composed by M M Keeravani, lyrics by Chandrabose, and sung by Kaala Bhairava and Rahul Sipligunj. This was on expected lines with ‘Naatu Naatu’ wining almost all awards in the run-up to the Oscars. This is the first song from an Indian Film to win Best Original Song honours at the Academy Awards.

The whole of India broke into celebrations: Director Rajamouli and the star cast of Ram Charan, N T Rama Rao Jr and team have brought home the Oscar.

‘Naatu’ means native, local, countryside. Chandrabose wrote the song from childhood memories – 90% in half a day and the remaining in over 1.5 years. The sound was to the beat of folk songs in Indian Villages and Keeravani used Indian skin drums for the instrumentation in addition to mandolins for the melody. The song was shot in Ukraine at the Mariinskyi Palace, the official residence of the President of Ukraine in Kyiv, a few months before the start of the Russia-Ukraine War.

However, the biggest surprise was reserved for the Tamil Language Short Documentary Film ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ directed by documentary filmmaker Kartiki Gonsalves in her directional debut, and released on Netflix in 2022. It was produced by Sikhya Entertainment founded by Guneet Monga, who also produced/co-produced films such as ‘The Gangs of Wasseypur’, ‘The Lunch Box’, and the Tamil ‘Soorarai Pottru’.

The Elephant Whisperers won the Oscar for the Best Documentary Short Film, the first ever by an Indian film in this category. It shouted out other nominees, Haul Out, How Do You Measure A Year, The Martha Mitchell Effect, and Stranger At The Gate.

The Elephant Whisperers tells the heart-warming story of an indigenous couple, Bomman and Bellie in the Mudumalai National Park, in the Nilgiri Mountains, Tamil Nadu, India, who lovingly bring up an orphaned baby elephant named Raghu and in the process develop a strong bond with it as it grows up, forging a rare kind of friendship – an elephant-knit family.

The film is also a visual treat showcasing the marvellous diversity of nature and wildlife beauty in the Reserve, and the people and animals who co-exist in harmony with nature and the environment. It unobtrusively allows viewers understand both the elephant and the human carers with minimal, outside interpretation. And portrays the dignity of both the magnificent elephants and the indigenous people who have lived with and cared for them for centuries. The movie also provides a window into Indian culture and country’s long history of environmental preservation.

More elephantine stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Love yourself, the animals around, and nature. And listen to the whispers of World Inthavaaram.


About-the world this week, 5 March to 11 March 2023: A wave of missiles in an endless war; a shooting in Germany; Jehovah’s Witnesses; eggs from mice cells; and remembering a forgotten Indian Actress – a Dark Angel- in Oscar times.


Ukraine continues to suffer tremendously in the un-warranted war brought on by Russia, and this week Russia launched one of its biggest aerial assaults with a huge wave of missiles, about 84, targeted at Ukrainian infrastructure. This included six hypersonic Kinzhal ballistic missiles that eluded Ukraine’s air defences. However, about 34 other missiles were intercepted. Ukraine admitted that they have no capabilities to counter these weapons. The use of such a wide and unpredictable array of weaponry seemingly marks a shift in Russia’s strategy.

There was a dead-serious, scary moment when Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant lost all off-site power due to Russian missile attacks-the first time the plant had lost all power since 23 November 2022. This is a reminder of the perilous situation facing the nuclear site and the surrounding area.

“If we allow this to continue time after time, then one day our luck will run out,” said the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The strategic Ukraine city of Bakhmut appears to be getting closer to being under complete Russian control: the private mercenary group Wagner, working for Russia, being in the forefront, in a fierce battle – perhaps the most violent fight of the war. The end of the war is still not in the cross-hairs!

Meanwhile, in China, President Xi Jinping secured a precedent-breaking third five-year term as China’s President putting him on track to remain in power for probably the rest of his life. The, about 3000, members of the National People’s Congress- China’s largely ceremonial Parliament – voted unanimously, after the Constitution was changed, to remove the traditional two-term limit for President. There was not even one vote against the change.

Previously, in October 2022, Jinping broke another tradition when he had himself named for a third fiver-year term as Party General Secretary. That’s a lot of power in one hand.

This week, a shooter opened fire after a religious service at a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Kingdom Hall in Hamburg, Germany, killing seven people. German police are searching for a motive of the killing. The gunman is believed to have acted alone in the attack, and died at the scene.

Mass shootings are relatively rare in Germany, but there has been several attacks in recent years, both by jihadists and far-right extremists.

Who are Jehovah’s Witnesses?

Jehovah’s Witnesses are an international church founded in the United States with headquarters in Warwick, New York, where a Governing Body consisting of a group of elders establishes all doctrines based on ‘its interpretation’ of the Bible. It has a world membership of about 8.5 million and about 170,000 in Germany.

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ (JW) worship Jehovah, the one true and Almighty God, the God of the Bible, and who is the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. JW imitate Jesus Christ, claiming to adhere to the form of Christianity that Jesus taught and his apostles practiced.

JW have beliefs that are distinct from mainstream Christianity. They believe that the destruction of the present world at Armageddon (end of the world scenario) is imminent and the establishment of God’s Kingdom on Earth is the only solution to all problems faced by humanity.

Members are known for door-to-door preaching and distributing literature in public places. Their distinctive practices include refusal, to bear arms, enlist for military service, receive blood transfusions, salute state symbols, or participate in a secular government. They do not celebrate Christmas, Easter, birthdays, religious holidays, or follow other Christian customs.

A Japanese researcher Professor Katsuhiko Hayashi from Osaka University has told a major genetics conference that he has created eggs from the cells of male mice. The research, still in its early stages, involved turning male XY sex chromosomes into female XX ones. The development, which he has submitted for publication in the scientific Journal Nature, raises the prospect of male couples having their own children. Details were presented at the human gene-editing summit at the Crick Institute in London, United Kingdom.

Prof Hayashi, a globally respected expert in the field, told delegates that the work was at a very early stage. The eggs were of low quality and the technique could not be used safely on humans, as yet. But current problems could be overcome in ten years and then made available as a fertility treatment for both male and female, and same sex couples if it is proven to be safe to use on humans. And approved by Governments.

The technique involves first taking a skin cell from a male mouse and then turning it into a stem cell – a cell that can turn into other types of cell. The cells are male and therefore have XY chromosomes. Prof Katsuhiko’s team then delete the Y chromosome, duplicate the X chromosome and then stick the two X’s together. This adjustment allows the stem cell to be programmed to become an egg. The technique could be used to help infertile couples where women are unable to produce their own eggs.

Prof Hayashi said he would not be in favour of it being used by a man to create a baby using his own sperm and artificially created eggs.

Sometimes, we need a fascinating story to break the monotony and shed light on darker things. The 95th Academy Awards Function – the Oscars – is coming up early next week. And by way of warming-up to the Oscars here is a ‘little long, dark-light’ story. Lights, camera, action.

Long ago, in the year 1936 in the growing-up years of the Oscars, a bizarre, bewildering, and different woman with a delicate oval face, eloquent emerald eyes, bright red lips, and alabaster skin won a best actress nomination. By doing do, she cemented her place alongside Hollywood’s greats and the glamour paragons of the day, such as Actress Katharine Hepburn and the eventual winner, Bette Davis.

She is Merle Oberon, the first Asian Woman to be nominated for the Oscars, and who took Hollywood by storm in the 1930’s. She was nominated for Best Actress for her role in the coming-of-age drama, ‘The Dark Angel’. It was only after her death in 1979, that the world discovered Oberon was a South Asian, Anglo-Indian woman passing for white.

Born Estelle Merle O’Brien Thompson in the then British administered City of Bombay, Oberon was determined to make the most of her innately fair complexion as an Anglo-Indian. It became her ticket to a bigger world, the shroud that helped disguise the fact that she was the product of rape. Her birth father was an Anglo-Irish foreman of a tea plantation. Her mother, who was of Sri Lankan and Maori ancestry, was about 12 when she gave birth to Oberon, in 1911.

After centuries of intermixing, babies born from biracial relationships had evolved into a quiet shame, shunned by Britons and Indians alike.

The family nicknamed Oberon, ‘Queenie’, as her birth coincided with Queen Mary and King George’s visit to India. In an attempt to avoid scandal and soften ‘Oberon’s mix’ in life, her birth grandmother, Charlotte Selby, raised Oberon as her own child and convinced her that her teenage biological mother, Constance, was actually her half sister. But that wasn’t enough to shield Oberon from the relentless taunts over her mixed heritage.

The family moved to Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1917 after Oberon’s father, Arthur Terrence O’Brien Thompson’s death. She won a scholarship to attend ‘La Martiniere Calcutta’ one of the city’s private, elite best all-girls, day schools, only for classmates to drive her out with their overt racism. Films and the nightlife scene became her escape, and pretending to be something she wasn’t became key to her survival. She got her start in acting through the Calcutta Amateur Theatrical Society in 1920.

In her adolescence, Oberon began honing a posh accent and lightening her skin with bleach creams loaded with ammoniated mercury – a dangerous poison that had more of a weakening effect on Oberon’s many male suitors. Those who didn’t dump her outright, after discovering her race, helped sponsor her moves from India to France, and England, where she worked for a time as a club hostess under the name Queenie O’Brien.

She began her career in British films with mostly forgettable roles or bit parts. She appeared in uncredited roles in films, a pattern that would unfortunately repeat itself regularly over three years.

Then she became romantically involved with the Hungarian-born British director Alexander Korda and Oberon’s acting career moved into high gear. Korda cast her as Anne Boleyn in ‘The Private Life of Henry VIII’ (1933), opposite Actor Charles Laughton. And Oberon married Korda in real life.

After her portrayal of Lady Marguerite Blakeney in ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ (1934), Hollywood beckoned, and she left England to try her hand in US films.

After Oberon was injured and her face scarred in a car crash in 1937, cinematographer Lucien Ballard famously developed a technique that lit her in a way that would obscure her facial scars. The technique, which went on to be called the ‘Obie light’ was also believed to be a way to ‘whiten’ Merle’s face before the camera. Maybe the light had an effect and Oberon divorced Korda and married Ballard in 1945.

During her ride in Hollywood, Oberon had an on-again, off-again affair with the famous Actor John Wayne, from 1938 to 1947.

To avoid prejudice over her mixed background, Merle Oberon created a cover story of being born and raised in Tasmania, Australia, and her birth records being destroyed in a fire. The story eventually unravelled only after her death.

Her most notable portrayal was that of the beautiful Cathy, who tormented and rejected Heathcliff -played by Laurence Olivier-in the 1939 classic ‘Wuthering Heights’.

In 1957, Oberon married wealthy Italian industrialist Bruno Pagliai. They adopted two children, a girl and a boy, and settled into two lavish homes: one in Mexico City and another in Cuernavaca. Oberon doted on her children and ran her two households with military precision. While she bloomed as an international hostess, she made fewer and fewer films.

Oberon also produced her last film, ‘Interval’ (1973), which was financed by Bruno Pagliai, although their marriage was all but over by then. In the movie, Oberon portrays an ageing woman who falls in love with a younger man.

Oberon retired after ‘Interval’ and true to script fell in love with her co-star Robert Wolders. And after marrying him, moved to Malibu, California, where she died in 1979, aged 68, after suffering a stroke.

Meanwhile, Oberon’s mother Constance married Alexander Soares and had four other children. One of them, Harry, eventually moved to Toronto, Canada, retaining grandmother Charlotte’s maiden name, Selby. When Harry tracked down Merle’s birth certificate in Indian government records in Bombay(Mumbai), he was surprised to discover that he was in fact Oberon’s half-brother, not her nephew. He attempted to visit her in Los Angeles, but she refused to see him. Harry withheld that information from Oberon’s biographer Charles Higham. And eventually revealed it only to Maree Delofski, the creator of the 2002 documentary ‘The Trouble with Merle’, produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which investigated the various conflicting versions of Merle’s origin.

More dark, hidden stories, brightened by the ‘Obie light’ will be showing in the weeks ahead. Stay with World Inthavaaram.


About-the world this week, 26 February to 4 March 2023: the struggle in Iran; migrants to Italy; getting to the Earth’s core; origin of the Covid-19 pandemic, Nigeria’s Presidential Election; Trains in Greece; Israel and Palestine; India’s northeastern State Elections.


The struggle in Iran continues and this time the news is about 650 girls being deliberately poisoned. Though none have died, dozens have been admitted to hospital with respiratory problems, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. This and other chemical attacks on women, seems to a revenge for the role young women played in the recent protests against forced hijab, and against the Islamic Regime.

This Sunday, more than 80 migrants and refugees died when their boat capsized off the coast of Southern Italy. This included a one month old baby and twin toddlers. The vessel carrying about 200 people, broke apart while trying to land near Italy’s Crotone. On board the boat, which had set out from Turkey a few days earlier, were people from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Obviously, these refugees were escaping the oppressive regimes or poor living conditions in their respective countries, seeking a better life elsewhere.

The United Nations Missing Migrants Project has registered more than 20,000 deaths and disappearances in the Central Mediterranean since 2014. More than 220 have died or disappeared this year alone-and we have just started- it estimates.

Italy is one of the main landing points for migrants trying to enter Europe by sea, with many seeking to travel on to richer northern European nations. But to do so, they must brave the world’s most dangerous migration route.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has urged the European Union to act to stop clandestine migrant boat journeys. Italy accused migrant rescue charities for encouraging migrants to make the dangerous sea journey to Italy, and sometimes work in partnership with traffickers.

There are also calls for more regular migration channels to Europe, and action by Governments in the region to address multiple causes pushing people to try the sea crossings. And often ending in disaster.

That’s a haemorrhage of human life in such troubled spots of the world.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, it is about 530 days since the Taliban banned teenage girls from school. Afghan women and girls continue to be denied education by the ruling Taliban in their tunnel-vision governance of the Country. And this is impairing and pushing back basic freedom for women in Afghanistan.

It’s about time Space research is given some space, to rest awhile. And for a change, Scientists have turned their eyes inward, to what lies beneath our feet.

We learnt in school that Planet Earth comprises four layers-moving from the outside to the inside: an outer rock crust, then a rocky mantle, an outer core made of molten-liquid magma, and a solid metallic inner core – about 2440 kilometres (km) wide.

Scientists have long wondered what really lies at the very centre of the Earth. And the latest research findings suggest that our planet has a distinct ball of iron – a 640 km ball of iron-nickel alloy -within its metallic core, which actually is a hidden layer, or an ‘innermost inner core’. This is according to a new study published this week in the journal Nature Communications.

The monumental finding suggests that the Earth has five major layers instead of four. And detecting the new layer, more than 1600 km beneath our feet, is significant. If offers new details scientists could use to help unlock some of the oldest mysteries about our planet and how it was formed, how it has evolved, and how it will continue doing so. It also enables better understanding of Earth’s magnetic field.

Now we know that we cannot simply dig through the Earth from one end to the other, without hitting an iron ball wall.

When the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020, there was a strong suspicion that it could have been caused by a laboratory accident in China’s Wuhan. We were then so engulfed in fighting the coronavirus that we paused that ‘origin button’ to find ways of managing the effects of the pandemic. Now we are almost done, and the proverbial skeletons are crawling out of the Chinese cupboard.

The United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director, Christopher Wray wasn’t wary at all when he acknowledged that the FBI believes the Covid-19 pandemic was likely the result of a laboratory accident in Wuhan, China. Of course China, on its part, infuriated by the accusation, simultaneously pointed fingers at the United States.

A John Hopkins Hospital Doctor has also said that it is no brainer that the coronavirus was from a lab. And the origins were never a secret? Maybe we may never really know?

In Nigeria the result of the Presidential Election was announced and Bola Ahmed Tinubu was declared the winner. The elections were controversial, with Opposition Parties decrying it as rigged.

Tinubu, of the ruling All Progressive Congress Party defeated Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, and Peter Obi, the popular Third Force candidate. This is one of Nigeria’s most fiercely contested Elections since returning to democratic rule in 1999.

Tinubu hails from the same party as outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari and previously served as the Governor of Lagos State. Tinbu will serve as Nigeria’s 5th President.

On the wheels of the recent train derailing accident in the United States comes a head-on collision between two trains, near the city of Larissa, Tempi, Central Greece, killing dozens of people and injuring scores of others. The two trains, a Passenger Train carrying more than 350 people and a Freight Train collided, both of which were travelling for several kilometres on the same track. At some point, the Passenger Train had changed tracks and switched to a cargo-track setting-up the head-on collision.

Greece has a poor track record of railway passenger safety compared with other countries in Europe. It has the highest railway fatality rate per million train kilometres from 2018 to 2020 among 28 nations on the continent.

Israel and Palestine are forever at each other’s throats in what seems to be a never-ending war in the over 100 years conflict. In recent times, especially since the start of this year, there has been an intensification of violence between the warring factions, with deaths mounting on both sides.

The current violence is mainly taking place in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – areas occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war, which began to escalate in March 2022.

In a period of days, Israel was rocked by a series of deadly Palestinian attacks and the Israeli military launched an open-ended operation in the West Bank in response, resulting in nightly raids into the occupied territories.

Israel says it has to continue its operations to weaken the militant groups and thwart attacks, while Palestinians say the attacks are a response to Israel’s actions and overwhelmingly more powerful military. There is also no political peace process, which could offer the prospect of a permanent solution, leaving decades-old grievances – the Palestinians’ want of a state and Israel’s want of security chief among them – festering.

Each side blames the other, but there are also longer-term underlying causes.

Palestinian attackers and those who support them say they are fighting Israel and the occupation and avenging Israeli assaults.

Some of the Palestine attacks have been carried out by ‘lone wolves’-individuals who were not acting on the orders of an organisation. Other attacks have been carried out by Palestinian militant groups, including the newly formed ‘Lions’ Den’, whose popularity on the Palestinian street has surged.

Israel’s ongoing operation in the West Bank, called ‘Break the Wave’, is targeting militant groups with arrest raids to stop them from launching attacks. The raids, however, are often taking place in densely populated refugee camps and other urban areas, where they meet resistance from gunmen and often turn bloody.

This week there was a flood of visits to India, by other countries, to attend the G20 Foreign Ministers Meet under the chairmanship of India. Russia and the US briefly met face-to-face in a you-dare, I-dare, cinematic fashion, the first since the Russia-Ukraine War. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to end the war and urged Russia to reverse its suspension of the New START nuclear treaty.

India’s efforts to bridge differences and produce a joint statement stumbled due to differences over the war. However, an ‘outcome document’ was produced.

In India news, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) heading the Government at the Centre kept its winning streak in State elections that come its way – this time in northeastern India. Three States swooned to the BJP’s charms.

The State of Nagaland got its first-ever couple of woman MLA’s and the BJP kept its Government allying with the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP). The major alliance partner NDPP improved its performance this year by 7 seats, winning 25 of 60 seats seats. The BJP won 12 seats and the relationship continues.

The two women who created History are, NDPP’s Hekani Jakhalu from the Dimapur seat, who won by 1536 votes, and NDPP’s Salhoutuonuo from Western Angami constituency, who won by a razor-thin 7 votes.

In the Sate of Tripura, the BJP won a majority on its own – just crossed the half-way mark. In the State of Meghalaya it was a hung result and it tied-up with the National People’s Party (NPP) after winning 2 seats to the NPP’s 26 and hopes to form a Government with others joining in.

While the Congress Party of India was being trounced all over India and bleeding seats – except for a few solo ‘historic’ wins- its key Leader, trimmed his beard slipped into a suit-boot mode, and sporting a new look, visited his Alma Mater, Cambridge, in London, United Kingdom. He lectured students on the art of ‘Learning to Listen in the 21st Century’ and about promoting ‘new thinking’ in democracy. He also bashed India with, ‘Indian Democracy is under attack’, which is not good for his and India’s health.

He peddled lies such as claiming he had the Pegasus malware in his phone and that he was told by ‘intelligence officers’ that his calls are being recorded. The fact is, no evidence of the Pegasus malware was found in a Supreme Court inquiry. He and many other politicians who claimed they were being snooped on and tried to raise a political controversy over it, never submitted their phones to the probe panel. Of the 29 phones that were submitted, only 5 were found to be infected with ‘some kind of malware’ and none of them was confirmed to be Pegasus.

An Ambassador ‘lies’ abroad for the welfare of his country. A scion of India’s Grand Old Party, lovingly called ‘Pappu’ in India, lies abroad to defame India. Some never learn.

Meanwhile, we are listening and thinking, for sure. Maybe, grow a new beard to trim later on?

More growing-up stories and uplifting ones coming in the weeks ahead. Vote for World Inthavaaram.


About-the world this week, 19 February to 25 February 2023: The US in Ukraine; a melting Thwaite Glacier; a canal dry Venice; Israel’s Supreme Court; Trains and Tunnels; Canada’s Super Pigs; Two leaves, and a Bow & Arrow; and Japan’s roll with an iron Ball.


This week United States (US) President Joe Biden made a surprise dash to Ukraine to walk with President Zelensky on the streets of Kyiv, hear the air-raid alarms, deliver bear-hugs, show solidarity, and announce additional support and aid. That should be morale boosting for Ukraine. This is Biden’s first visit since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago and it comes almost on the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of 24th February. Biden said the US would stand with Ukraine ‘for as long as it takes’ and praised the heroic fight-back. He then went on for a three-day visit to neighbouring Poland, where he declared that Russia will never be able to capture Ukraine.

Meanwhile, European Union (EU) foreign ministers met in Brussels to discuss how to make sure Ukrainian forces are supplied with enough ammunition to keep the war going.

And in Russia, President Vladimir Putin made his state of the union address, where he recycled the same lines about his rationale for invading Ukraine; and he outlined no vision of how the so-called ‘special military operation’ he launched might end. But Putin did offer at least one headline, announcing that Russia is suspending its participation in the ‘New START’ (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), the US-Russia bilateral agreement on nuclear arms reduction. Putin repeated the same baseless claim that Russia had no choice but to use force against Ukraine. And he doubled down on blaming the West for the conflict. “I want to repeat: it was they who unleashed the war,” Putin said. “And we used and continue to use force to stop it.” Wow, what an inventive, foggy reason!

Doomsday could arrive sometime in the future and Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier, also nicknamed the ‘Doomsday Glacier’, may drown many parts of the World on a probably irreversible path. Over the years, this unusually broad and vast Glacier, about the size of Great Britain, alone has contributed to 4% rise in global sea levels. Thwaites is melting rapidly and all the Oceans being connected, a full melt-down could result in a 1 to 3 metre rise in sea levels all across the World.

Presently a floating ice-shelf called the Thwaites Ice-Shelf braces and restrains the eastern portion of the Thwaites Glacier. In recent years, this ice sheet has been steadily disintegrating and Scientists predicated that it is likely to collapse within a decade from 2021. The Thwaites Glacier itself acts a natural dam for enormous ice lakes sitting behind it. They will slide down the mild slopes of continental Antarctica and into the sea once Thwaites collapses.

The Glacier is named after Fredrik T Thwaites, a glacial geologist and Professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

What would be the effects? Think, major cities such as New York, Miami, Mumbai, Shanghai, and Tokyo would be inundated. And low-lying Island nations such as Maldives (Indian Ocean), Kiribati (Central Pacific Ocean) and Tuvalu (South Pacific) may be swallowed up.What can we do? Some have suggested building of underwater walls with robots, and others have suggested enormous cooling tunnels under the ice to cool the slightly warmer water beneath the Glacier, which chips away at the ice.

Whatever, the impacts of melting glaciers can always be mitigated depending on how we humans respond in the coming decades. And there is no reason to panic. Maybe we should never use the word ‘Doomsday Glacier’ as it gives the inaccurate impression of something inevitable?

Meanwhile, in yonder Italy, the City of Venice would certainly do with lots of water. Its iconic canals are running dry, making it impossible for the city’s famous gondolas and water taxis to navigate the waterways.

This follows weeks of dry winter weather with the Alps having received less than normal snowfall. A combination of factors are to blame, including lack of rain and unusual low sea tides.

Imagine, Venice built on over 100 islands and crisscrossed by 177 canals, which was once at the risk of drowning, is now starving for water!

Israel has a problem. It’s about judicial reforms which aim to overhaul the country’s legal system. Its Supreme Court (SC) has remained supreme, may be too supreme and the Government brought in reforms to curb a ‘dictatorial streak’. The changes would limit the SC’s power to rule against the legislature and the executive, giving the Israeli Parliament – Knesset- the power to override the SC decisions with a simple majority of 61 votes out of the 120 seat Knesset. Another change proposes to do away with the SC’s authority to review the legality of Israel’s Basic Laws, which function as the country’s constitution.

Supporters agree with the changes. Opponents think it would threaten’s Israel’s democratic nature and may lead to majoritarian rule. People are out on the streets to protest the changes. Others say there is more than meets the eye, and the conflict is not about the role of judges; rather it is over different visions of Israel. May the best vision win?

We have often heard of stories of tunnels being made and to speed up the process -the digging erroneously begins are the two ends. And how they fail to connect due to a wrong alignment – and you either find a way to connect them, abandon them, or get two tunnels.

Now leaving the tunnel alone, there is a story in Spain of how new commuter trains were ordered that could not fit the non-standard tunnels in the northern regions of Spain’s Asturias and Cantabria. However, the mistake was spotted before the trains could be actually pushed into production.

Spain’s Rail Operator Renfe ordered the trains in 2020, but the following year the Manufacturer realised that the dimensions it had been given for the trains were inaccurate and ‘on a hunch’, stopped work.

The rail network in northern Spain was built in the 19th Century and has tunnels under the mountainous landscape that do not match standard modern tunnel dimensions.

The Government launched a joint investigation to find out how the error could have happened and fired a Renfe manager, and the head of track technology, over the blunder. The botched order cost nearly USD 275 million.

Looks like it’s the season of ambitious wide-bodied thinking failing to fit into our straight-jacket world.

Farmers in Canada wanted to breed large-bodied pigs that are far more resistant to cold so that they are able to survive and reproduce at temperatures that would have killed off other types of livestock. Hence, they came-up with and made a new hybrid species –The Canadian Super Pig-by mating domestic pigs and wild boars. Though they initially lived in captivity, a decline in the market for Pigs and Boars led to many of them being freed.

A group of these Super Pigs are now travelling down from Canada to the Northern US and pose a serious threat to native wildlife and humans alike, by spreading disease, and gobbling up crops. These Super Pigs are considered to be incredibly intelligent, learning as they eat and find their way around new places. The fear is that these pigs, swine, hogs, boars – whichever name you give them – these omnivores are poised to wreak havoc on the environment in both Canada and the United States.

In India, two State level political parties have been fighting over control of their parties after the death of their respective charismatic leaders and after a few years of ruling the State in their light and shine.

In the first, in the Western State of Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena founded by Bal Thackeray saw the majority of the party led by Eknath Shinde break away from the family-faction led by the son Uddhav Thackeray. And collaborate with the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) to form a Government, with Eknath Shinde becoming the Chief Minister. This week India’s Election Commission (EC) ruled that the faction led by Eknath Shinde is the real Shiv Sena and awarded it the Party Symbol – Bow & Arrow – and associated Offices. The decision was challenged in the the Supreme Court of India, but the Court sided with the EC’s decision. Later, the Election Commission awarded a ‘Cone Ice-cream’ Symbol to what was left of Uddhav’s party, which was anyway melting away into oblivion.

In the second, in the Southern State of Tamil Nadu, following the death of Supremo Jayalalithaa, two leaders Ottakarathevar Pannerselvam (OPS) and Edappadi Karuppa Gounder Palaniswami (EPS) teamed-up staying true to the ‘Two Leaves’ Symbol of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). And ruled as Deputy Chief Minister and Chief Minister respectively for a while, only to lose the last Assembly Elections to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). But the EPS led AIADMK gave a decent fight, and he went on to become the Opposition Leader. Then the bickering and fighting began and the dual-leadership model broke down, and it became awfully tough for the two leaves to stay on the same stem. Single Leadership seemed to be the best option to take on the ruling DMK and the growing-by-leaps-and-bounds BJP. After many a run to high and higher courts with, you-lose-some, I-win-some games, this week the SC ruled that bye-laws brought-in to make EPS the single leader are legal. This makes the way for EPS to be formally elected General Secretary and undisputed Leader of the AIADMK, graduating from being the ‘interim’ General Secretary.

Parties should choose symbols carefully: A bow cannot wait to dispatch an arrow. And two leaves on a stem cannot stem the growth of more leaves!

Oh Buoy!

This week Japan was rattled when a rusty metal sphere, about 1.5 metres wide, washed up on a beach in Hamamatsu. Could it be a Godzilla egg (the effect of watching too many movies), a Dragon Ball, something from outer space, a spy ball… a mooring buoy? This was in the background of the Chinese spy balloon saga, and a hostile North Korea pumping test missiles into the Sea of Japan.

The area was cordoned off and by the Police and even a bomb squad was sent to check out the object. Then it was X-rayed, declared safe and picked-up for disposal.

Turns out it was a hollow sphere, a steel mooring buoy, used to carry instruments or act as floating markers. The buoys can break free from their anchorage in the sea, either in a violent storm or from being pulled by a big fishing vessel. The objects can float in the ocean for decades, and can lose their markings and get rusty when they wash ashore.

Many Japanese were embarrassed that they could not recognise a buoy in a sea of thoughts.

More fighting, melting, wide-bodied stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Stay buoyed-up and afloat with World Inthavaaram.


About-the world this week, 12 February to 18 February 2023: new normal war and education; a chemical train derails; Cyclone Gabrielle acts tough; the First Minister of Scotland quits; a new illness; Super Bowl and pregnancies; and a famous, beautiful Hollywood Actress dies.


America is suddenly occupied with shooting down ‘Identified Flying Objects’ and also Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) strolling into its airspace, and ‘maybe’ calling them Aliens – it’s becoming a habit and a new trend.

The illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine and the fight-back by Ukraine in the War is growing normal. So is the fact that girls are shut-out of schools and colleges by the Taliban in Afghanistan: denied basic education only because of their gender, which is not done as policy in any other country on Earth-a war on Education. The World needs to do more to stop these two senseless wars.

The Earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria, last week, bore stories of unbelievable grit of survival emerging from the ruins and the rubble; and, once life is extracted, washed-down, and fed food, displayed a beatific smile. Life lives and sustains in the worst of disasters. And goes on.

The contrast between killings in the Russian-Ukraine War – we need to count the dead – and saving lives in the Earthquake, is stunning. Life is precious. Why is the United Nations- strung-together by countries of the world-with the stated purpose of ‘preventing another (world) war, unable to do anything at all – in the War in Ukraine and in Education in Afghanistan? Thankfully its Health and Food programmes are success stories we can talk about in abundance. But the ‘Achilles heel’ is, failing to prevent war, or stop a war that has slipped through and started.

Staying with the United States, while it is fully focused on the sky, for the moment, the news of a deadly train derailment in Ohio State did not fire or climb much of the headlines.

Last week, a train carrying the chemical, vinyl chloride derailed and exploded near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. And a controlled burn of the toxic chemical had to be ignited to prevent a much more dangerous explosion. Thousands in East Palestine, a town of about 5000 people, were evacuated with a warning the controlled burn would create a phosgene and hydrogen chloride plume across the region. Phosgene is a highly toxic gas that can cause vomiting and breathing difficulties, and was used as a weapon in the First World War.

The Ohio derailment can be safely called a catastrophe. And it is a ‘wake-up call’ to the dangers of deadly train derailments. The next one could be cataclysmic. No one died in the accident, but the air is pregnant with danger.

‘Ineffective oversight and a largely self-monitoring industry that has cut the rail workforce to the bone in recent years as it puts record profits over safety’, is responsible for the wreck, said a Railroad Official.

About 4.5 million tons of toxic chemicals are shipped by rail each year and an average of 12,000 rail coaches carrying hazardous materials pass through cities and towns each day, according to the US Department of Transportation.

Going into another line of thinking, just 22 train tank coaches filled with LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) holds the same amount of energy as the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb. An LNG fire is extremely difficult to contain, and shipping it by rail can be extremely dangerous. While we are astonished by the effect that the spillage of five coaches of vinyl chloride has had at the Pennsylvania-Ohio border it would be nothing compared to the effects of a similar derailment of LNG.

The US is definitely heading ‘someplace’. What, with it being ‘attacked’ from the Air- UFO’s and Aliens; on Land – chemical derailments, and people using easily-available guns to primarily shoot down school going children.

Meanwhile, this week, a gunman, Anthony Dwayne McRae, 43, killed three Michigan State University students and left five others in critical condition. He had no known ties to the University and opened fire on two parts of campus. And was later found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. There have been 12 school shootings so far this year, and the shooting at Michigan State marks the first at a college or university this year.

Over the past year we have heard of mighty winds, heavy and incessant rains, blazing heat, and other devilish Weather conditions ‘not seen or experienced in a generation or in decades’. Well, it’s back this year.

Cyclone Gabrielle – the kind not seen in a generation in New Zealand – pummelled much of the country’s North Island causing the Government to declare a National Emergency – only the third in New Zealand’s history.

About a third of the country’s population of five million people live in the affected areas. Many people were displaced from their homes and some were forced to swim to safety after rivers burst their banks and entered their houses. Others climbed to rooftops from where they were rescued . About a quarter of a million people are without power. Falling trees have smashed houses, and landslides have carried others away and blocked roads. The storm’s damage has been most extensive in coastal communities on the far north and east coast of the North Island – with areas like Hawke’s Bay, Coromandel, and Northland among the worst hit.

Down Under neighbour Australia has often gone under water and now the ‘disease’ has spread to New Zealand.

The United Kingdom (UK) consists of the lands of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. With England, Scotland, and Wales being referred to as Great Britain we have one title, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the Passport.

Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland each have their own government or executive led by a First Minister and a devolved unicameral legislature. England, the largest of the constituents of the United Kingdom has no devolved executive or legislature and is administered directly by the UK Parliament, which also reigns supreme over Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

The First Minister of Scotland is Nicola Sturgeon, 52, who is also the Leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), a position she has held since 2014.

This week, in a shock announcement, Nicola Sturgeon ‘in a Jacinda Ardern moment’ called it quits as First Minister as well as Leader of the SNP, saying, “In my head and my heart, I know the time is now”.

This was a bombshell which send shockwaves through Scottish politics. Her Government was in a pivotal moment, in pursuit of SNP’s founding goal, of Scottish Independence in the light of the UK Government’s refusal to engage in plans for a referendum. And the UK Supreme Court has ruled against another referendum on Scottish freedom being held unilaterally, i.e., without the UK Government’s consent.

Nicola Sturgeon departs after facing mounting pressure over her tactics for independence and over transgender rights, though she said she was under no pressure whatsoever over these issues.

Sturgeon became First Minister in the aftermath of the September 2014 referendum, which saw Scots reject breaking away from the rest of the United Kingdom by more than 10 percentage points. However she has been doggedly pushing for another vote, especially in the background of Scotland voting against Brexit in 2016. She has overseen unprecedented electoral success for the SNP as she kept the ‘scent of Scottish Independence’ alive. “I firmly believe that my successor, whoever he or she may be, will lead Scotland to independence and I’ll be there cheering him or her on every single step of the way,” she said.

In less than a month, two prominent world leaders-New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, and Nicola Sturgeon -have resigned from political office. The similarity in the reasons both leaders have cited will find resonance in much of the world, especially among women in public life. Both have cited exhaustion, the need to step away from constant scrutiny and have a private life. They have also hinted at how dehumanising being a woman in public life can be. Lessons for the world!


An illness, which has killed more than nine people in Equatorial Guinea has been identified as Marburg, a highly infectious and deadly Ebola-like virus for which there’s no vaccine, officials announced this Monday.

The outbreak was first detected last Tuesday, affecting people who went to a funeral ceremony in Kie-Ntem province, which borders Cameroon and Gabon. It prompted a local lockdown and restrictions along the border with Cameroon. One of the eight samples which were examined has since tested positive for Marburg virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said. The other results are not yet known. Samples were negative for Ebola, Lassa, Dengue and Yellow Fever.

So far, Equatorial Guinea has reported 25 suspected cases, including 9 deaths. Their symptoms include nose bleeds, fever, fatigue, joint pain and blood-stained vomit and diarrhoea.

The Marburg virus disease is a highly virulent disease that causes hemorrhagic fever and has a case fatality ratio of up to 88%. It’s in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola. Human-to-human transmission is possible through direct contact with bodily fluids, surfaces and materials.

There are no approved vaccines or antiviral treatments to treat this virus.

Please Yourself

Super Bowl

In American Football, the Super Bowl is the annual final playoff game of the National Football League (NFL) to determine the league champion. It has served as the final game of every NFL season, since 1966.

The Super Bowl is played on the second Sunday in February of the year and is among the world’s most-watched single sporting event and frequently commands the largest audience among all American broadcasts during the year.

This year’s Super Bowl, the 57th, was played on 12th February at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Kansas City Chiefs won their second Super Bowl in four seasons, defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35.

One of the most eagerly awaited events is the half-time of the Super Bowl when Superstar musicians treat the spectators to a spectacular performance. Remember, the 37th Super Bowl made famous by ‘Janetgate’, when Singer Janet Jackson’s breast—adorned with a nipple shield—was exposed by Actor-Singer Justin Timberlake to the viewing public for approximately half a second. The shield made us wonder whether Janet came prepared with a ‘shield’ expecting the ‘Justin’ attack? It went on to create a voluminous discourse over indecency in broadcasting.

This year, singer Rihanna performed live about a dozen of her hits, without controversy, at half-time. It was an epic music show featuring gravity-defying sets – mainly seven LED illuminated platforms that were hung up to 60 feet above the field. Some said it was the most technically advanced show ever, at the Super Bowl.

And once the music died down, Rihanna made an announcement of a second pregnancy with Rapper A$AP Rocky (he has a dollar in his name).

Not to be left behind, the already mother of three, Actress Blake Lively followed suit announcing ‘one more’ with husband Actor Ryan Reynolds.

I read about a couple in Poland who had seven kids and decided to go for one more, but were blessed with quintuplets – that’s a dozen in total! Suddenly it looks like it’s raining babies all over Plant Earth. The human population is surely exploding and may become the next Climate Change problem, will it? And we have a grown-up child activist leading an effort, from the front!

US actress Raquel Welch – a breath-taking natural beauty – who, some say, paved the way for modern-day action heroines in Hollywood films, died at the age of 82, after a brief illness.

Welch became an international sex symbol in the 1960s, widely remembered for playing a bikini-clad cavewoman in the 1966 film One Million Years B.C. She also won a Golden Globe for her role in 1974’s The Three Musketeers. In a career spanning over five decades, Welch appeared in more than 30 movies and 50 television shows.

In the year 1979, Raquel Welch posed for Playboy, but she never did a fully nude shoot. Playboy founder Hugh Hefner later said, “Raquel Welch, one of the last of the classic sex symbols, came from the era when you could be considered the sexiest woman in the world without taking your clothes off. She declined to do complete nudity, and I yielded gracefully. The pictures prove her point”.

Welch married her high school sweetheart, James Welch with whom she had two children, Damon Welch, and Latanne Tahnee Welch (who is an actress). James and Raquel Welch divorced in 1964: she retained James’ last name, Welch, until her death.

She married producer Patrick Curtis in 1967, and divorced him in 1972. In 1980, she married producer Andre Weinfeld, divorcing him in 1990. Welch wed Richard Palmer, owner of Mulberry Street Pizzeria (over 30 years in the business of making Pizzas; claims to be the World’s most famous Pizzeria) in 1999 but then separated in 2003. After this, Welch did not remarry.

She was my ‘Dream Woman’ in the High School and College days. RIP Raquel Welch.

More stories pregnant with life and meaning coming up in the weeks ahead. Deliver your best with World Inthavaaram.


About-the world this week, 5 February to 11 February 2023: a devastating earthquake; a balloon in the sky; an ex-Dictator dies; and the sound of the Grammys.


Turkey is Shaken

Long before it struck, the birds seemed to know it would come, behaving strangely as only nature can trigger, to announce an impending disaster in its own mysterious and unique way.

In the early hours of this Monday an Earthquake measuring 7.8 magnitude (moment magnitude scale) hit Turkey and Syria causing deadly devastation. More than 20,000 people have died, close to 80,000 injured and tens of thousands rendered homeless. While that’s the count at this time, an earthquake expert estimates that 180,000 people or more may be trapped under the rubble, nearly all of them dead!

A video of a multi-storey building on a busy Turkey street showed it crumble like a pack of cards leaving behind nothing but dust and rubble. In another, a photograph, a man could be seen holding on to ‘only the hand’ of his 15 year daughter crushed to death under the rubble – it was heart-wrenching.

The main earthquake was followed by about 60 aftershocks and another quake measuring 7.5 and yet another at 5.9. The epicentre is estimated to be 23 kilometres (km) east of Nurdagi, in Turkey’s Gaziantep Province, at a depth of 24.1 km.

Monday’s earthquake is the strongest to hit Turkey since 1939, when a similar one killed 30,000 people. Earthquakes of this magnitude are rare, with fewer than five occurring each year on average, anywhere in the world. Seven quakes with magnitude 7 or greater have struck Turkey in the past 25 years. Why Turkey?

Turkey lies in one of the World’s most active earthquake zones, being at the intersection of three tectonic plates that make up the Earth’s crust: the Anatolian, Arabian, and the African plates. Arabia is moving northwards into Europe, causing the Anatolian plate -which Turkey sits on-to be pushed out westwards. The movement of the tectonic plates builds up pressure on fault zones at their boundaries. And a sudden release of this pressure causes earthquakes. Monday’s earthquake is likely to have happened on one of the major fault lines that marks the boundaries between the Anatolian and Arabian plates: either the East Anatolian fault or the Dead Sea Transform fault. These are both ‘strike-slip faults’ -meaning they accommodate some motion of plates moving past each other – without creating much of a fuss.

Modern seismologists use the ‘moment magnitude scale’, which represents the amount of energy released by an earthquake. The Richter scale-that we often hear-is outdated and is sometimes wrongly quoted. This moment magnitude scale is non-linear: each step-up represents 32 times more energy released. A magnitude 7.8 actually releases around 6,000 times more energy than the more moderate magnitude 5 earthquakes, that usually happen in the region.

The World has quickly rushed aid to Turkey and Syria and I hope they climb out of this disaster at the best possible pace.

China’s Balloon Eyes

William Wordsworth would have been excited to see a Chinese Balloon ‘wander lonely as a cloud, floating on high over vales and hills’ when all at once it looked down the United States (US) of America, beside the lake, up above the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

The balloon, about 60 metres tall, with a solar panel array, started its journey from over Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and wandered through Canada before appearing over the city of Billings in Montana, US, last Wednesday. Montana is home to some of the US’s nuclear missile silos.

The United States believes that the balloon, seen above sensitive areas, was in fact a high-altitude surveillance device. But China said it was a Weather Balloon mainly used for meteorological purposes and regretted the unintended entry of the balloon into US airspace and that it had been blown off-course by unexpected winds. That’s a brilliant filling of air in the balloon!

Initially, the US decided not to shoot down the balloon because of the danger posed by falling debris, and the limited use of any intelligence the device could gather.

To add perspective: a surveillance balloon usually flies in the sky range between 24 and 36 km, Fighter Aircraft at 20 km, and Commercial Airlines at 12 km.

When the balloon was near the Carolinas above the Atlantic Ocean, the mighty US finally woke up and dispatched its revolutionary Fighter Jet F-22 Raptor to fire a single AIM-9X Sidewinder heat-seeking missile to take down the balloon- while another F-22 watched the proceedings. The accuracy was pin-point and China cried fowl on the ‘excessive reaction’. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken’s upcoming diplomatic visit to China bursted with the balloon. Last heard America was fishing for the remnants to determine what it could have done, or not done.

China – US relations now enter a ‘cold stage’ to complement the freezing weather in many parts of America.

Pakistan’s ex-Dictator

Pakistan’s ex-Dictator General Pervez Musharraf died in exile in Dubai at the age of 79 after a prolonged illness. He was know to be a smooth-operator mixing State Terrorism with Politics and tried to get the better of India over its Jammu & Kashmir State, and failed. He is known as the architect of the Kargil War, fought between May and July 1999, which saw India hand out a humiliating defeat to Pakistan when Nawaz Sharif was Prime Minister (PM) of Pakistan and Pervez Musharraf was the Chief of Army.

Kargil is one of the two districts of India’s Union Territory of Ladakh and is the second largest town in Ladakh, about 200 km from Srinagar.

Pakistan Troops had infiltrated into India crossing the Line Of Control (LOC) in Kargil, Kashmir, and the Kargil War saw them driven out by a resolute and clinical India. Infamously, Musharraf did not bother to recover or accept the bodies of Pakistani soldiers killed in the fighting, and it was left to India to do the job of giving them a decent burial!

This was at a time when India’s then PM Atal Behari Vajpayee, with the intent of improving bilateral ties and resolving the Kashmir problem, undertook a path-breaking Bus Journey to Lahore, for talks and engagement with Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif blamed the Kargil infiltration and misadventure on Musharraf and a few of his cronies: only four Pakistani Army Generals, including Musharraf, knew of the plan and he claimed that he himself was kept in the dark. Musharraf, however, asserted that Sharif had been briefed on the Kargil operation 15 days ahead of Vajpayee’s famous bus-ride to Lahore. Took India for a ride?

Later, with calls of a court-martial against General Musharraf growing louder, he staged a bloodless coup ousting PM Nawaz Sharif and went on to establish military rule in Pakistan, as President between June 2001 and August 2008.

Musharraf resigned in 2008 to avoid impeachment and emigrated to London in a self-imposed exile and thereafter to UAE’s Dubai.

Charges of high treason were brought upon Musharraf for implementing emergency rule and suspending the constitution in Pakistan. And he was declared an ‘absconder’ in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case by virtue of moving to Dubai. In 2019, Musharraf, in absentia, was sentenced to death for the treason charges but the death sentence was later annulled by the Lahore High Court. It is debatable whether the General left Pakistan for better or the worse. Whatever, Pakistan finds itself in a ‘general’ mess today.

Please Yourself

The Grammys

The 65th Annual Grammy Awards 2023 took place in the Arena, Los Angeles, United States, this week. This Sunday night was a history-making show, filled with dynamic performances from iconic music artists. And the sound of music could be heard in all parts of the world.

English singer, songwriter, and actor, Harry Styles, who once swiftly dated singer Taylor Swift, picked up the coveted Album of the Year for ‘Harry’s House’. Others in the run were Abba’s ‘Voyage’, Adele’s ’30’, Beyonce’s ‘Renaissance’, Cold Play’s ‘Music of the Spheres’, Bad Bunny’s ‘Un Verano Sin Ti’, Brandi Carlile’s ‘In These Silent Days’, Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Mr. Morale & the Big Steppes’, Lizzo’s ‘Special’, and Mary J Blige’s ‘Good Morning Gorgeous (Deluxe)’.

The Best New Artist Grammy went to 23 years old, jazz singer, American, Samara Joy who also lingered on to win best jazz vocal album for her album ‘Linger Awhile’. Joy was an outlier in this category and the win was considered an upset and a jaw-dropping moment when last year’s winner Olivia Rodrigo announced her successor.

The Record of the Year went to American Singer and Rapper, Lizzo for ‘About Damn Time’. She dedicated the award win to Prince, explaining, “when we lost Prince I decided to dedicate my life to making positive music”. The song has a theme of allowing us to take a moment and celebrate our survival, and celebrate how far we have come.

Song of the Year and Best American Roots Song went to 73 years old American Blues Singer and Guitarist Bonnie Raitt’s, ‘Just Like That’. And it ‘went easy’ on Adele who won Best Solo Performance for ‘Easy on Me’; and almost ‘broke the soul’ of Beyonce who danced back with Best Dance/Electronic Music Album for Renaissance.

Though it wasn’t all too well, Taylor Swift easily carried away the Grammy for best Music Video for ‘All Too Well: The Short Film’.

American Actor, Viola Davis, 57, won a Grammy for Best Audiobook – her audiobook recording of her memoir, ‘Finding Me’. With this she achieved EGOT Status joining an elite group of 18 artists. Known as US Entertainment’s Grand Slam, the acronym EGOT stands for the recipient of an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony award. She joined the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Mel Brooks, Andrew Lloyd Webber, John Legend, John Gielgud, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jennifer Hudson.

‘Finding Me’ is about racist bullying that Viola endured while growing up in Rhode Island. And her journey from being an admired actor stuck in small roles to being cast as the lead in ‘How to Get Away With Murder’ – the Television Show that made her name.

Beyonce became the most decorated artist in Grammy history picking up a record breaking 32nd trophy. From her self-titled visual album in 2013, and the confessional masterpiece that was 2016’s Lemonade to last year’s Disco Fantasia Renaissance she has change the way pop music is written, produced, released, presented, and promoted. Beyonce is surely deserving.

Indian musician Annette Philip rocked the Grammy Red Carpet with a Kanjivaram silk sari and bindi. And completed her look with a golden choker set. Annette Philip founded the massive Berkeley Indian Ensemble’s first album, titled ‘Shuruaat’, which was nominated under the Best Global Music Album Category.

India’s Bengaluru based Music composer, and environmentalist Ricky Kej won his third Grammy along with the iconic ‘Police’ Drummer, rock-legend Steward Copeland for ‘Divine Tides’ in the Best Immersive Audio Album category. That was a divine collaboration between one of India’s best and the World’s.

Divine Tides featuring Artists from around the world is a tribute to the magnificence of our natural world. Contains nine songs and eight music videos from the exquisite beauty if the Indian Himalayas to the cold Forests of Spain and is about co-existence.

Previously Ricky Kej had won Best New Age Album for ‘Winds of Samara’ in 2015, and again Best New Age Album for Divine Tides in 2022. He is the only Indian to win three Grammys.

Ricky Kej schooled in Bengaluru’s Bishop Cotton School before studying at Oxford Dental College to become a ‘non-practicing’ Dental Surgeon. His Dad is a General Physician, Dr Gyan Kej, working in the US. His Grandfather from Mom Pammi Kej’s side is Janaki Das, Olympic Cyclist and Freedom Fighter. His wife Varsha Gowda, who he married in 2014, manages his music activities including public relations. His life and journey as a musician is taught in the 7th grade in India as part of ICSE syllabus English Text books. He is a Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies at Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.

Kej is credited with over 3500 placements for radio and TV jingles. He composed the music for the 2011 Cricket World Cup Opening Ceremony. Wonder why we never heard much of him, or did we?

While the Gramophones were changing hands during the presentation ceremony actor-filmmaker Ben Affleck looked miserable and like a fish out of water. Cameras repeatedly caught Affleck, known for his grimace and his penchant for looking morose while smoking cigarettes, glumly sitting next to his beautiful wife Jennifer Lopez during the show. Many Grammy watchers noted how Affleck seemingly wanted to be anywhere but the Arena. Others gave him a thumbs-up for being stoic in the face of the music buzz around him. Meanwhile, we kept our eyes on Jennifer. Could Ben Affleck have been disappointed that Jennifer did not wear that iconic green tropical-print silk chiffon Versace dress with a ‘never-ending’ plunging neckline that travelled beyond her bellybutton – of Grammys 2000 fame?

‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head’, remember that classic song? This week, legendary music composer and song-writer Burt Bacharach died aged 94, of natural causes. He was the brain behind ‘raindrops’ and dozens of hits throughout his over 70 years career. And ‘I Say a Little Prayer’. His songs will live forever.

More singing stories and raindrop songs coming up in the weeks ahead. Plunge into World Inthavaaram.


About-the world this week, 29 January to 4 February 2023: a documentary and a research report create heat and dust in India; America’s police brutality is tiring; Iran continues acting tough; India’s Amrit Kaal Budget; and the Australian Open Tennis closes.


Over the past week India was boiling and it continued into this week with two hot items causing lots of steam release. One, a BBC Documentary on India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, conducting its own ‘un-Sherlock Holmes’ like investigation into the 2002 Godhra riots in India’s Gujarat when Modi was the Chief Minister of the State, and without credible evidence, blaming him as directly responsible and tacitly supportive of the assault on muslims.

The riots started when Hindu pilgrims returning by train from the Ram Janmaboomi Site in Ayodhya were attacked by a Muslim mob who set ablaze their coach at Godhra Station, resulting in 59 Hindus-including 27 women ad 10 children-being burnt alive. This triggered a spontaneous outbreak of retaliatory violence resulting in one of the worst communal clashes in post-independence India.

The BBC Documentary was based on ‘false truths walking on water’ and does not stand the test of India’s Supreme Court, which set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to thoroughly investigate allegations on Narendra Modi – at a time when the now ruling Party was in the opposition. The SIT gave Modi and 64 others a clean chit. A challenge to the verdict was also thrown out by the Supreme Court in July 2022, as ‘devoid of merit, and which intent was to keep the pot billing for ulterior design’. Well, the BBC is doing just that and has no business in casting aspersions and trying to be smarter than the highest Court of our Land, that too when deep investigations have been done into the matter.

Two, The Hindenburg Report by short-seller Hindenburg Research, which in a two year investigation claimed that India’s Adani Group led by the World’s third richest person Gautam Adani was involved in massive and brazen stock manipulation and an accounting fraud scheme. The report questioned how the Adani Group uses entities in offshore tax havens such as Mauritius and Caribbean Islands and said key Adani companies had substantial debt, which put the entire group in precarious financial footing. The cause a melt down in Adani stocks causing unbelievable chaos in the financial markets.

Short-selling or shorting is a trading strategy where an Investor or Trader buys a stock or security and sells it on the open market planning to buy it back for less money. Short Sellers bet on and profit from a drop in a stock’s price. Traders usually short stock by selling shares they have borrowed -they don’t buy them- from others through brokerages. When the prices of the shares fall to expected levels the Trader would purchase the shares at the lower price and return them to the owner, booking a profit in the process. However, if the price of the share appreciates instead of falling the Trader will be forced to buy shares at higher prices to return to the owner, thereby booking a loss.

Last year in May 2022, a Judge in New York said that investors in a sports betting company called Draft Kings Inc., cannot rely on short seller reports to prove fraud. Short Sellers are not unbiased narrators, the Judge said, in a ruling in a securities fraud class action against Draft Kings. When they publish damning revelations about publicly traded companies, it’s usually because they are hoping to drive down the Company’s share price so they can cover their bets. The Judge dismissed action against Draft Kings, concluding that shareholders’ case was fatally flawed because it relied almost entirely on assertions from a 2019 Hindenburg Research report that pushed Draft Kings’ share price down about 4.2%. I guess we can figure out what’s happening in the Adani case?

Later in the week, a Follow-on Public Offer (FPO) following its Initial Public Offer (IPO)-selling of securities to the public in the primary market- by the Adani Group, which was fully subscribed, was called-off by Adani and the money is to be returned to investors. The reason cited was volatility in the market and the Adani Board strongly felt that it would not be morally correct to proceed with the FPO. Under the circumstances, a bold thing to do!

It is a signature-tune in America, if not guns shooting down people, it is Police high-handedness and abuse of the law, killing one at a time. And this time it’s black and black.

Tyre Nicholas, a 29 years old Afro-American motorist, was pulled over by a Team of Afro-American Police Officers, on 7 January at a traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee State, for what police said was reckless driving. While attempting to flee on foot, Nicholas was struck with a taser, kicked, punched, pepper-sprayed, brutally hit with a baton, and left reeling under the assault. It took more than 20 minutes for him to receive medical attention. Three days later, Tyre Nicholas died in hospital. A video of the incident shows Nicholas, at one point shouting, “Mom, Mom, Mom.” His mother’s home was only about 73 metres away. The five officers involved have been fired and charged with second-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, and other crimes.

US President Biden spoke to Nicholas’ mother and committed to supporting legislation to help prevent police abuse. He said he was “outraged and deeply pained.” Protestors gathered in cities like New York City, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Memphis to protest the brutality.

The protests in Iran against wearing the headscarf and ruthless implementation of the Islamic Dress Code for women rages on, but in quiet defiance. This follows the deadly crackdown that led to thousands of arrests and at least four executions. Many women are boldly venturing out in public without the mandated headscarf and small groups of demonstrators are still gathering to make noises that can be heard. Now, we learn that an Iranian couple, Astiyazh Haghighi and Amir Mohammad Ahmadi, in their 20s, were sentenced to at least 10 years in prison for dancing in the street. The couple have a large social media following, and were arrested in November last year, after posting a video dancing in front of Tehran’s Azadi Tower. Haghighi was not wearing a headscarf, a move which appeared to show solidarity with the headscarf protesters. Now, the Iranian regime has convicted the pair of corruption, prostitution, and national security charges. That’s brutal.

India’s Budget – an Amrit Kaal

The Annual ritual of presenting the Budget for India happened on 1st February and the Government termed it an ‘Amrit Kaal’ Budget giving a big push for capital expenditure in building infrastructure, fiscal consolidation, and unleashing personal income tax-reforms for the ‘much ignored’ salaried, middle class.

‘Amrit Kaal’ is a term pulled out from Vedic Astrology and refers to an auspicious period when the portals of great pleasure open for humans and other living beings.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman is easily the most consequential Finance Minister India has ever had. She has done a commendable job by navigating the economy through a tough pandemic and the effects of the Russia-Ukraine war, and nurturing it as a lone bright spot when the world braces for a recession.

Indian Industrialist Harsh Goenka (I follow him on Twitter) Chairman of RPG Enterprises best summed it up as, “M’bap’pe of a budget, not ‘Messi’ at all. A budget that puts India on the path to become the world champion- all set to score goals on infra development, consumption and inclusion. A big boost for domestic manufacturing, job creation and ease of doing business”. Glad he brought-in Mbappe: he is a top scorer, is young, and can kick us into the future – will lots of ‘goals’.

He did not stop with that, but when further, roped-in an Indian movie scorching the world screens, and said, “we at RPG love this budget because it’s RRR once again: Railways; Renewables; and Reforms. A ‘Naatu Naatu’ budget for the whole country putting us on track to conquer the golden globe”-alluding to the Indian film RRR winning a Golden Globe Award for best original song of ’Naatu Naatu’.

We can dance to that!


Australian Open

Last Saturday, Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka, the 5th seed, came from a set down to beat Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, the 22nd seed, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the final of the Australian Open women’s singles event at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia. This is Sabalenaka’s maiden singles Grand Slam. The reigning Wimbledon champion Rybakina seemed to be in control after winning the first set, but was completely outplayed in the second set by Sabalenka, who then fought her way to claim the decider, despite squandering three championship points.

In the Men’s finals played this Sunday, as widely expected, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic coolly beat Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6, 7-6 to win his 10th Australian Open title and level with Spain’s Rafael Nadal on 22 Grand Slams. That was a pretty straight win. The others behind in Grand Slam Title wins, but retired, are Roger Federer with 20 and Pete Sampras with 14 Grand Slams. That leaves two ‘fit’ horses in the race to the next Slam level: Djokovic and Nadal.


India has a knack of throwing up great cricketers and this week a precious find could well be 23 year old Shubman Gill, from Punjab State, who smashed the highest-ever score by an Indian in T20 Cricket. He hit 126, not-out, off 63 deliveries in his maiden hundred in a T20 match against New Zealand. Shubam Gill beat the previous record held by Virat Kohli who did a 122 of 61 balls against Afghanistan in September 2022.

More smashing stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Plan your budget after reading World Inthavaaram.


About-the world this week, 22 January to 28 January 2023: Tanks for Ukraine; the year of the rabbit; shooting in America, a new Prime Minister for New Zealand; India’s mobile phone Operating System, and Republic Day; Australian Open Tennis; and the Oscar nominations.


Tanks for Ukraine

After weeks of squabbling, Germany has finally taken some responsibility to help Ukraine win the war against the bullying invasion of Russia.

This week, German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, confirmed that Germany will indeed send 14 Leopard-2 tanks to Ukraine and give permission for other countries to send theirs too. It follows weeks of international pressure from Ukraine and its allies to approve export of German-made tanks. Poland, for example, has been pressurising Germany to send the Leopard-2 tanks to Ukraine. If they wouldn’t do that, at least authorise other NATO Allies to send them, while hinting that should Germany fail to give its consent, Poland would go ahead anyway, offering to send 14 of its own Leopards. Adding-up, in another part of the world, United States (US) President Joe Biden also announced plans to send 31 Abram Tanks to Ukraine.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky believes his country needs at least 300 battle tanks to be able to defeat Russia. But, why so much focus on tanks?

Tanks represent the most powerful direct offensive weapon provided to Ukraine so far, a heavily armed and armoured system designed to meet Russia head-on, instead of firing from a distance-taking the fight to the heart of the enemy. If used smartly with necessary training, they could allow Ukraine to retake territory against Russian forces that have had time to dig-in defensive positions. It remains to be seen if the Tanks would be a real game-changer!

Meanwhile, Russia is warning that any deliveries of US tanks would be a blatant provocation and vows to ‘burn all tanks in Ukraine’. Look who’s talking about blatant provocation? Russia is always looking for a reason to keep the fire burning!


New Zealand was quick to fill its tank following the stunning but graceful resignation of Prime Minister (PM)Jacinda Ardern, who declared that her tank was empty. Chris Hipkins, 44, was unanimously elected as the Leader of the Labour Party and was sworn-in as Prime Minister this Wednesday.

Chris Hipkins was first elected to the New Zealand Parliament in 2008 and was appointed minister for Covid19 in November 2020. He was often seen on national Television talking to the people and steering the country during the pandemic. Prior to elevation to PM, he was minister for police, education, and public service.

Chris Hipkins is known as ‘Chippy’- a nickname derived from his initials, but which may have stuck thanks to an upbeat, slightly school-boyish demeanour. Hipkins has a reputation in Parliament for a sense of humour, fast quips, and a self-deprecating streak.

Hipkins married partner Jade Marie in 2020 and has two children from the relationship. The couple divorced in 2022, deciding to go their separate ways, but stay friends to bring up their 6 years old son and 4 years old daughter.

How long Hipkins will be in office is uncertain as New Zealand holds a general election in October this year. He will have less than nine months before contesting a tough election, with opinion polls indicating his party is trailing its Conservative Opposition.

The Year of The Rabbit

The year of the Rabbit is upon us. And we need all the carrots we can find. The Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year is a celebration of the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year on 22 January 2023. It is the most important holiday in China, and widely celebrated in South Korea, Vietnam, and countries with a significant overseas Chinese population.

The rabbit is the fourth in the twelve-year periodic sequence of animals that appear in the Chinese Zodiac related to the Chinese Calendar. Last year it was the year of the Tiger, and the next year it would be the year of the Dragon-that’s more like China!

According to the Chinese Zodiac, first comes the Rat, then the Ox, the Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and in the end, the Pig.

America’s Shooting Rounds

Last Saturday, thousands of people gathered in Monterey Park, about 16 kilometres from Los Angeles, US, for a Lunar New Year festival. Late that night, a gunman opened fire in the Star Ballroom Dance Studio Hall, killing 10 people and injuring 10 others.

About 30 minutes later, the Shooter attempted another attack in the neighbouring city of Alhambra, before he was disarmed. He entered the studio, but two people managed to wrestle the weapon off him-a semi-automatic assault pistol with an extended magazine-and he escaped.

Police have identified the gunman as Huu Can Tran, 72, who was later found dead in a white van. He had a self-inflicted gunshot wound and was declared dead at the scene. The motive behind the shooting is not yet known.

Barely 48 hours after the mass shooting in Monterey Park yet another shot to the headlines, this time with 7 killed in the Half Moon Bay area of California. The suspected shooter, Chunli Zhao, 66, was arrested by Police, two hours after the incident, in the parking lot of the Sheriff’s Office. The weapon used was found in his car. He legally owned the semi-automatic gun and the incident appears to be a workplace violence case.

Will America ever get off its Wild West Shooting?


The Operation Systems (OS) of the mobiles and smart-phones we own mostly run on Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. Now India has come out with an indigenous OS, called BharOS, developed by JandKops (J and K Operations Private Limited) incubated by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras’ Pravartak Technologies Foundation.

This week BharOS was successfully tested by India’s Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw. This is a great leap forward in India’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat journey of becoming self-reliant in manufacturing.

The new, indigenously developed, mobile OS aims to reduce over-dependence on foreign OS in smartphones and enhance the security and privacy of users. It comes with no default apps and therefore gives users the option ‘to not use’ an unfamiliar app. It provides more control over permissions and data that Apps seek from smartphone users. The new OS will provide access to trusted Apps via organisation-specific Private App Store Services (PASS), which is a list of curated Apps that meet security and privacy standards.

BharOS also provides ‘Native Over The Air’ (NOTA) updates to ensure enhanced security of the devices. NOTA updates are automatically downloaded and installed on the device, without the need for the user to manually initiate the process. This ensures that the device is always running on the latest version of the operating system, which includes the latest security patches and bug fixes.

Initial reviews say that BharOS is less of an alternative, more of a fork version: when a developer takes a copy source code from one software package and starts independent development on it, creating a distinct and separate piece of software.

India’s Republic Day

India celebrated its 74th Republic Day on 26th January with the usual gusto, colour, and spectacular display of made-in-India weapons, on the revamped and renamed Kartavaya (meaning duty) Path – the 2km stretch from India Gate to Rashtrapati Bhavan- in India’s capital, New Delhi.

PM Narendra Modi donned a multicolour Rajasthani turban symbolising the diverse culture of India. Last year it was an Uttarakhand Cap embellished with a Brahmakamal (a sacred flower)inspired brooch.

Being invited as the Chief Guest at Republic Day celebrations is the highest honour India accords another country in terms of protocol, and this year the Chief Guest was Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

In many firsts, the British-era 25-pounder guns were replaced with the indigenous 105mm Indian Field Guns for the 21-Gun Salute. Another was the Rajasthan Frontier of Border Security (BSF) preparing the world’s first camel mounted women’s squad with more than 20 women officers taking part in the contingent.

The Government also released its annual list of Padma Awards. The Padma Vibhushan-second highest civilian award-was awarded to noted Architect B V Doshi (posthumous), tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, Indian-American mathematician Srinivasa Varadhan, Oral Rehydration Solution pioneer Dilip Mahalanabis (posthumous), along with two others.

Industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla of the Aditya Birla Group, scientist Deepak Dhar and philanthropist Sudha Murthy (wife of Infosys founder Narayana Murthy) were awarded the Padma Bhushan. Also joining them was Kannada Writer SL Bhyrappa, Artist Singer Vani Jayaram, and Linguistics Scholar Kapil Kapoor.

91 People were awarded the Padma Sri, which included Investor Rakesh Jhunjhwala, Actress Raveena Tandon, and music director M M Keeravaani who composed the music for Oscar nominated ‘Naatu Nattu’ Telugu song.

Many unsung heroes from across India were also honoured including a 102 year old artist from West Bengal, a snake-catcher duo from Tamil Nadu and a 98 yearly organic farmer from Sikkim. The expert snake-catchers, Vadivel Gopal & Masi Sadaiyan are Irula Tribals from Tamil Nadu. Their expertise and traditional knowledge of snake-catching has ‘found teeth’ in many countries.

The Awards itself will be given in a glittering function in March this year, when all the awardees parade themselves – and we get to see them, if we havent already. I hope the snake-catchers don’t turn up with a snake coiled-up around themselves!


The Australian Open (AO) is being served in Australia and Novak Djokovic is in scintillating form playing arguably the best tennis of his career. He brushed aside world No. 6, Russia’s Andrey Rublev in straight sets to reach the semifinals. And stayed perfect in the semifinals, beating America’s Tommy Paul, again in straight sets, to make a record-extending 10th men’s final. In the process he sailed past Andre Agassi’s record of 26 wins. The 35 years old Djokovic is one match away from a record-equaling 22nd Grand Slam victory.

The Women’s Singles Finals coming up this Saturday is Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina versus Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka, which will bring the countries they represent into the spotlight.

This AO was also the swan song of one of India’s greatest women players, Sania Mirza, who partnering with Rohan Bopanna in the mixed-doubles reached the finals only to lose to Brazil’s Lusia Stefani and Rafel Matos. Sania is retiring from Professional Tennis after this match and marches into the sunset…with her young son looking on-he shared a hug with mom, on Court.

This week, two-time Olympic gold medalist and American Skiing star Mikaela Shiffrin secured her 83rd World Cup win to break fellow American Lindsey Vonn’s record, in the 57th International Ski Federation (FIS) Alpine Ski World Cup. With this World Cup victory Shiffrin is only three wins behind the 86 wins of overall record holder- in both men’s and women’s skiing-held by Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark.

Please Yourself

The end of last week was abuzz with news about the second man to ever step foot on the Moon, Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin getting married for the fourth time. Remember in 1969 he followed crew-mate ‘first man on the Moon’ Neil Armstrong who was on the moon’s surface for two hours and 32 minutes and Aldrin spent about 15 minutes less than that. Aldrin is one of four people alive to have walked on the moon.

Said Aldrin, “On my 93rd birthday and the day I will also be honoured by Living Legends of Aviation I am pleased to announce that my longtime love Dr. Anca Faur & I have tied the knot. We were joined in holy matrimony in a small private ceremony in Los Angeles & are as excited as eloping teenagers.”

Dr Faur, 63, who has a PhD in chemical engineering, is the Executive Vice President of Aldrin’s company, Buzz Aldrin Ventures. Aldrin posted two photos of himself in a tuxedo and Faur in a long-sleeved glittering dress. Honey, there is still honey in the Moon.

The Oscars are Coming

This Week the nominations for the Academy Awards were announced. ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’ leads the year’s Academy Awards, with 11 nominations. Other best picture nominees include Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar: The Way of Water and The Banshees of Inisherin.

The best actor nominees include Cate Blanchett, Brendan Fraser, Britain’s Andrea Riseborough, and Bill Nighy.

The song ‘Naatu Naatu’ from the hit Telugu-language film RRR has won a best original song Oscar nomination. It’s the first Indian feature film to be nominated for anything other than best international film at the Academy Awards. The song has been a favourite at award ceremonies and has already won a Golden Globe and a Critics’ Choice Award. It will be up against heavyweights Lady Gaga and Rihanna, whose songs are nominated in the same Oscars category.

The last time an Indian won an Oscar for a film’s music was in 2009, when composer A R Rahman won best original song and best original score for the song ‘Jai Ho’ from the film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, directed by Britain’s Danny Boyle.

This year’s Academy Awards ceremony will be held in Los Angeles on 12th March.

More catching stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Stay coiled with World Inthavaaram. And win Awards.