About: This is a light-hearted recount of what happened this week, in our World.
‘Too many people underestimate what they are and overestimate what they aren’t’ – Bill Gates…and many others.
The United States (US) of America.
America’s Constitution and Election Laws are being severely challenged with the incumbent President, Donald Trump, still refusing to concede defeat to the clear winner of the 3rd November Presidential Elections. The writing on the wall is clear to everyone looking, except the President who is ‘trying to find the wrong way to a place he cannot go’. Seldom has the US President looked like a ‘Total Recall’ of the many infamous African Dictators who clung on to power and had to be ‘couped-out’.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus surge in the US seems to know no bounds, with ever-growing spikes across the States, and Americans would be thankful if Thanksgiving Day is not celebrated as it was in the past. Better to keep the celebrations low-key, within the household bubble, say the Experts. Strong Leadership is required at the moment to give a sense of direction to the abysmally poor handling of the pandemic. And the Biden-Harris Team appear to have many tricks up their sleeve – if only they are ‘declared to transition’. This is not happening at the moment, as all kinds of strings are still being pulled and road-blocks built, making it tough of the new President to drive smoothly.
I’m hoping the Donald Trump concedes and exits peacefully during the course of the upcoming Week. Will he? God Bless America.
Russia, War & Peace
Tired of talking about America? For a change, let’s go to Russia.
In week No 41, we read about the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict melting into war again, over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. The problem of ownership was in deep freeze all these years and the brewing heat got to it from both the Parent countries.
This week, the over six-weeks of fighting finally came to an end after Armenia, being defeated in battle by Azerbaijan, agreed to sign a Russian brokered peace accord. Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Aremenian PM, Nikol Pashinyan, put their signature to paper.
Broadly, Russia supplies Peace Keeping Forces – Russia has not done this kind of thing in a long time – to monitor the truce, for a period of five years, Azerbaijan receives significant territorial concessions, holding on to areas that it had taken during the conflict. And Armenia agreed to withdraw from certain areas under its control, handing them over to Azerbaijan, by 15th November.
People say it is actually a victory for Azerbaijan as its capture of the town of Shusha in Nagorno-Karabakh brought it close to taking down the region’s largest city, Stepanakert, and appears to have forced Armenia to come to the Peace Table.
Tails up for Azerbaijan and hope to see peace return to Nagorno-Karabakh. I’m sure Armenia can adjust quickly and move ahead to find victories in other domains.
About this time there are over 200 different COVID-19 vaccines under development around the world.
Last week Pfizer announced the results of its COVID-19 Vaccine, and we were elated. This week we heard about a second Vaccine coming up. A Massachusetts, USA, based biotech company, Moderna, announced that its Vaccine has cleared Phase-III trials and is 94.5% effective against the coronavirus.
Like Pfizer’s, Moderna’s vaccine works by programming the body’s own cells to produce non-infectious bits of protein from the coronavirus that train the immune system to recognise and prevent illness from the actual invading virus.
Comparing the two Vaccines, while Moderna’s is almost 95% effective, needs to be stored at – 20 Degrees Celsius, for up to six months, and has a refrigerator shelf-life of 30 days; Pfizer’s is 90% effective, needs to be stored at – 75C and has a refrigerator shelf-life of 5 days. The actual vaccination consists of two injections 21 days apart for Pfizer; and two injections 28 days/ 4weeks apt for the Moderna Vaccine.
In a late shout, Pfizer announced that its vaccine too has reached 95% effectiveness in the final round of analytics. Cheers to that!
The other Vaccine that hit the headlines is the Russian Sputnik -V Vaccine and claiming to be the first registered COVID-19 Vaccine, is about 92% effective.
So, here we are with three Vaccines at a needle’s reach. Is the end of the pandemic in sight? It’s a matter of time, but I’m sure it is.
An Acting Legend Passes
Bengali Actor Soumitra Chatterjee who starred in over 300 movies and is best known for his work with the renowned filmmaker, director, Satyajit Ray, died at 85, in Kolkata, this Sunday. He was in Hospital for over a month and is reported to have been suffering from COVID-19.
Soumitra Chatterjee was also an accomplished playwright, theatre actor and poet. The late Satyajit Ray had this to say about him, “He is an intelligent actor, given bad material he turns out a bad performance”.
Satyajit Ray created the fictional character of detective ‘Feluda’ – the Indian version of Sherlock Holmes – in short stories and novels, some of which were made into movies. If Sherlock lived at 221-B Baker Street and had Dr Watson as a sidekick, Feluda lived at 21 Rajani Sen Road, Ballygunge, Kolkatta and had his cousin ‘Topshe’ for the side part. If Sherlock smoked a pipe, Feluda smoked Charminar Cigarettes.
Soumitra Chatterjee played Feluda in the movie Sonar Kella (released as The Golden Fortress, in the USA) and the Apu-Trilogy, among a long list of movies, which showcased Indian cinema to the World and won enormous recognition.
He was awarded India’s third highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan, in 2004, and received the Dadashaeb Phalke Award, India’s highest award in Cinema, in 2012 , in a long medal of Awards.
Chatterjee leaves being a wife, a son, and a daughter.
I haven’t seen much of Soumitra Chatterjee’s Films, but intend to catch up with the legend.
Surfing in India: Ishita Malaviya
Despite peninsular India having an abundance of coastline, most Indians prefer surfing the internet to the waves of the great Oceans surrounding us.
One person has decided to show us how to catch and ride these waves, and her name is Ishita Malaviya, 29, India’s first professional female surfer. When Malaviya first took up the sport in earnest – ever since she caught her first wave – while in Manipal University, Karnataka, there were only about thirteen professional surfers in India. She and her partner Tushar Pathiyan went on to start the Shaka Surf Club in the fishing village of Kodi Bengre on the West Coast. And surfing is taught free for the kids from the village. She and Pathiyan shared one board between them, in the early days, before they started to fix up broken boards from traveling surfers passing through the Country.
Last year Malaviya featured in the Forbes 30 under Asia list alongside Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka. Her story finds a wave in a book ‘She Surf’ written by a fellow surfer, Lauren Hill, recounting tales of female surfers around the world.
Surfing debuts in the Tokyo Olympics next year on the Pacific Coast of Chiba, Japan. We do not know, as yet, whether Malaviya would participate being a long-board specialist. But we hope the waves take her there.
“I remember smiling on my first wave, all the way to the shore and all the way back home from the beach. I live a very unglamorous life, I live in a village, a simple, peaceful village. But I’m really grateful doing what I do with the story that I have”. Malaviya said in an interview.
“The challenge of surfing, but it’s also the beauty of surfing, is you have to wake up and respond to the happenings in the living world around you. It’s not like almost every other aspect of modern life where you can plan into an uncertain infinity”, says a surfer.
Her story should inspire this generation of Indians, to look beyond King Cricket, and indulge in other challenging sports in which they can become Kings & Queens. It’s for the taking – I’ll wave to that!
Royal Enfield Motor-cycle: The Bullet
I remember the early 1980’s when heavy, fuel-guzzling bikes such as Jawa, Bullet and Rajdoot were the glorious ones that motor-cycled Indian roads. We had a hellva time trying to kick-start these bikes, and often we gave up on them. Then came the easy-start, light weight 100cc fuel efficient bikes and the oldies almost disappeared. Only just.
Kicked-up in the year 1901, The Royal Enfield motor-cycle probably has the longest lifespan of any motorcycle manufacturer in the world and remained unknown in markets outside India.
Royal Enfield’s original British Company operations closed in 1970; the surviving Indian remnant was heading the same way before a stunning revival that saw annual sales grow from 31,000 bikes in 2006 to more than 800,000 in 2019, transforming the value of Enfield’s parent company, Eicher Motors, India a tractor-maker, from just a few hundred million dollars to over eight billion. Now the company is accelerating into the wider world and has touched ground in the USA too.
The four-stroke, distinctive sounding, over 350cc Enfield motorcycle, simply called ‘Bullet’ in India, is a throwback devoid of modern frills and with the looks of a classic bike. Enfield decided on riding in the middle of the road: declining to enter the largest part of the Indian market, which is for small and cheap bikes, or in making the expensive, tech-laden machines that motor-cycle enthusiasts generally hanker after in other countries. Improvements have tackled mechanical shortcomings without undermining the existing sound, feel and look.
They must, says Eicher’s boss, provide “everything you need and nothing you don’t”.
I recall, starting the Enfield was a huge challenge, with one hand on the choke, one eye on the amps-meter and one leg on the kick-start lever. After a few hisses and misses it splutters to a start and the ‘royal, thud-thud, sound’ is good on the ears. These days they have introduced a push button battery start, and we leave the starting worries behind, in the thin wispy smoke. Trademark Retail showrooms that have silently sprung-up in the small Towns and Cities are stunning, selling various models of the Enfield, besides awesome riding gear, and have an irresistible urge to peek inside – I did, in a Showroom in Attur, Salem, India. Why not set a goal of ‘biting the Bullet’ in the year ahead?
The pandemic lockdowns introduced me to the World of, ‘Sitting in Front of the Television’ and it didn’t take me long to discover that the usual TV Channels, with a few exceptions, weren’t worth much of a watch. Then, my son, on a visit home from London in middle of January this year, lead me to Netflix and pointed out a few Movies and Drama Series’ to watch. I got hooked, for sure.
I’ve immensely enjoyed, ‘The Last Kingdom’, ‘Resurrection Ertugrul’, and now ‘The Crown’, besides catching up with the movies that I’ve always wanted to see. The advantages are they come without the interruptions of commercial advertisements; and you can simply stop at what ever scene you are watching and come back to it later.
The drama series are extremely well-made, bring to life the characters and the scene of the times and stay in the mind screen for a long time.
More light and sound coming-up in the weeks ahead.