About: Lots of illuminating, as well as devastating, stories of what happened this week in our world.


This world’s stage this week was lit by the Oscars-early, and the headlines, burnt and hogged by India, throughout the week.

United States (US)President Joe Biden gave his first address to a joint session of the US Congress on the cusp of 100 days in Office, opening his speech with the never before uttered lines, ‘Madam Speaker, Madam Vice-President-and after a standing ovation-followed it up with, First-Lady, Second Gentleman, Chief Justice… Wonder how many other US Presidents will get to say as much.

American, National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) clever Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity, is on a flip and roll dream, doing gradually increasing flight trips, and I’ve lost count of the many times it took-off, stayed in the thin air of Mars, and landed. Keep it ‘UP’, NASA.

Meanwhile, in Russia, President Putin’s arch-critic, Alexei Navalny, put-in jail by the Kremlin to serve an over two-year jail term appeared in public as a gaunt figure, his prison clothes hanging loosely on a withered frame, the result of a 24-day hunger strike against his incarceration and treatment. And he called Putin a ‘King with no clothes’ and a ‘Naked Thieving King’. Navalny’s various Groups were ordered to be suspended, closed, disbanded, and some near to being labelled extremist. How much more can Navalny endure?

In Britain, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces questions, and a possible Inquiry, on the funding of his Downing Street home refurbishment, overseen by his fiancee, Carrie Symonds. Nearby, the British Royals, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Kate and William celebrated a decade of marriage-filled with their three children. They released some pictures of how they did the ten years. Worth seeing. Can we expect more babies down the line?

The unrest in Myanmar continues with the Army firing at will and reports of torture of protesting citizens doing the rounds. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been engaging the Army Generals to find a solution and stopping the civilian killings. In another front, The Karen National Union, an ethnic guerrilla group, which is fighting the military said they captured a Myanmar army base near the border with Thailand. I say, restore democracy and get out of the way of being in the lives of ordinary citizens.

Well vaccinated Israel found itself caught in a religious stampede during which 44 died and over 100 injured-the highest ever in an event of this kind. Thousands of worshipers had crowded onto a mountain burial site to celebrate the Lag B’Omer holiday, an annual event to pay homage to second century Mishnaic sage Rabbi Shim Bar Yochai. But in the early hours of Friday morning, singing and dancing erupted into chaos, as a huge wave of people trapped others beneath them, including children. It is estimated that about 50,000 to 100,000 people had been on the mountain and with thousands of people tightly packed in a small area they had fallen down a staircase and crushed each other. Israel’s Health Ministry had urged people not to attend the festival, warning of the risk of another coronavirus outbreak. However, case numbers have been low, and Israel has already fully vaccinated more than 58% of its population, so the event was allowed to proceed.

While Brazil fights its own coronavirus war, a new species of tiny, poisonous fluorescent, neon orange toadlets was discovered in the mountains of Brazil. This amphibian measures just under an inch and is a part of the pumpkin toadlet genus, a collection of tiny, bright-colored toads. Humans cannot see it with normal light, but when the toadlets are illuminated with Ultra-Violet light, they glow. Researchers have yet to discover why these pumpkin toadlets glow. Lots of illumination happening in the world. Now to other kinds of light and glow.


Born in Beijing, educated in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) as a teenager, before moving permanently to the US, Chole Zhao, all of 39 years, lives by her Dad’s credo, ‘people at birth are inherently good’. This Sunday she became the first Asian Woman in 93 years of the Academy Awards, and only the second woman-after Kathryn Bigelow’s, 2010,The Hurt Locker-to be named as Best Director at this year’s Academy Awards Ceremony in Los Angeles. She drove away with the Award for her ‘stirring road’ film, ‘Nomadland’.

Nomadland is her only her third film, following, ‘Songs My Brothers Taught Me’ (2015) and ‘The Rider’ (2017). Coming later this year will be, ‘Eternals’, a Marvel superhero movie starring Angelina Jolie.

Zhao’s professional and personal partner is fellow graduate student, Joshua James Richards, who has worked as cinematographer in all three of Zhao’s films and was nominated for Nomadland.

Zhao is known for her quietly compelling portraits of people, often played by non-professional actors, living in the margins of society in the American West. And she is one of the most distinctive and talented film-makers to emerge in recent years.

I talked about the film ‘Minari’ in an earlier story and the grandmother who brought the seeds of Minari from South Korea, Actress, Yuh-Jung Youn, won the Best Supporting actress and became the first South Korean actress to win in that category.

Hollywood’s biggest night saw women of colour make history. Adding to the blazing colours of Chloe Zhao and Yuh-Jung Youn, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson painted their mark as the first Black women to win for makeup and hairstyling for the movie Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Wow, that lights, camera, action, at the end of a black tunnel!

Other major winners are: Best Actor, Anthony Hopkins-The Father; Best Actress, Frances McDormand-Nomadland; Best Cinematographer, Erik Messerschmidt -Mank; Best Costume Designer, Ann Roth-Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Best Music, Trent Reznor, Atticus Roads and Jon Batiste-Soul (a lively animated film); Best Original Screenplay Writer Emerald Fennel-Promising Young Woman.

The Best Picture went to Nomadland. It’s the story of a woman, Fern-played by Frances McDormand-in her sixties who loses her husband, her job, then gives up most of her belongings, buys a van and leaves her hometown to embark on a road journey through the American West, searching for work and living the life of a van-dwelling modern day nomad.

One of the reviews said, ‘It is a hauntingly beautiful, beguiling, and poetic while not sugar coating a difficult lifestyle’. Another was, ‘Director Chole Zhao populates the films with as many perspectives as possible to emphasise that true liberation and spiritual peace of mind are entirely different notions based on who’s answering. There is an unstable beauty to that’.

I haven’t seen Nomadland, as yet, and hope to hit the road to seeing this beautifully made movie, one day. I’ll decide about buying myself a van, later on!

The Storm in India: Staying Alive

India is facing one of the toughest COVID-19, coronavirus infection times ever, with a deadly storm of SARS-CoV-2 caused infections sweeping through the country, overwhelming hospitals, medical workers, and the already gasping healthcare system. India never had a great healthcare infrastructure, but it just about managed to get the job done-especially polio vaccinations-all these years. Now, more than anytime before, developing and ramping-up healthcare and disease outbreak monitoring systems has become, by default, the top-most priority.

During the first wave India, admirably and unbelievably scaled up production of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)and Ventilators from non-existent levels to the the stage of even exporting them, and got-ready Hospital beds in double-quick time.

This time it’s Oxygen and maybe the next time it will be other medicines, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Beds, Nurses, and Doctors. India needs to wear battle gear and go to war-with a mirror to itself and the best swords-to defeat this hydra-headed virus of a monster.

The media has a ‘view to a kill’ and is castigating the Indian Government for its actions-and inactions-raining endless ‘natural invectives’ and vocabulary building exercises, such as, crisis, disaster, tragedy, hurricane, deluge, tsunami, catastrophe, apocalypse…sounding as if they wanted it to happen. It says, among many other things, that the deaths of over 3,000 per day cannot be so low and there is undercounting and hiding of figures.

I quietly went back to my own weekly, World Inthavaarm, Posts and this is what I found:

In the week ending, 24th April-last week, we had over 3 lakh cases, the week ending 17th April, over 2 lakh cases, the week ending 10th April it was over 1.4 lakh cases, the week ending 3rd April showed a rapid growth, and in the week ending 27th March it was over 60,000-the formal arrival of the second wave, in the week ending 20th March it was over 40,000, and murmurs of a second wave dissecting the 20,000 cases in the week ending 13 March 2021.

If I could read the uptick in the coronavirus infections I’m sure the Authorities must have, but why was quick action not forthcoming and better preparedness ensured ? Many questions requiring many answers. But the second wave came with a surreptitious ferocity that India was totally unprepared for.

In India after the first peak of about 97,000 positive cases in September 2020, cases dipped for 30 straight weeks before it started to rise again in mid-February this year. On 8th February 2021, India had just about 8,700 cases, which was about the bottom most.

The first signs were a 509% increase in Punjab-since bottoming out, followed by a 331% increase in Maharashtra, a 302 % increase in Haryana, a 164% increase in Madhya Pradesh and a 140% increase in Delhi, all as on 10th March 2021. During this time Kerala was yet to get over its first wave. Bihar saw a rise of daily new cases by 522 times, Uttar Pradesh by 399 times, Andhra Pradesh by 186 times, Delhi and Jharkhand by 150 times, West Bengal by 142 times and Rajasthan by 123 times. Sounds Alarmist?

People let their guard down, complacency and COVID-19 fatigue slithered-in, infected minds and spread like wildfire, and almost all believed that the worst of the pandemic was over. This belief, I think, was reinforced by the ‘return to business as usual’ with huge Election Rallies, Religious Festivals, The Indian Premier League Cricket Tournament, etc., happening, without good-enough steps being taken to adhere to the basic infection prevention techniques we learnt so well over the past one year. However, all of these were held in the great outdoors and their contribution to the current surge of infections is debatable as the second wave began waving in States, which had none of these huge activities.

 What then is the cause? It could be attributed to the variant B.1.1.7, first identified in the UK and India’s own hometown double mutant B.1.617, which was found to be awfully infectious, and one that learnt to find the fault-lines in the Indian landscape. This wave of the coronavirus is different from the first and not a repeat. Studies show that it might be airborne-after all, staying in the air for about three hours and thereby spreading faster.

Family Functions, Weddings, Funerals, Get-Togethers, saw sizeable gatherings and the virus must have been waiting for an opening to latch-on. It did, by which time India was completely drowned in the wave. If we never knew about the first novel coronavirus this one too remained novel of another kind spreading ruthlessly through the population. I do to think anyone could anticipate this and no amount of preparation would be able to satisfy everybody. What happened to all those beds created and Railway Coaches converted? We need to pull them out and put them to work. It looks like it only has to be managed as it comes, and lessons learnt the hard way. For e.g., about 160 Oxygen Plants were ordered by the Government, with clever foresight in October 2020, but only about 30 were installed due to resistance by the States. Here we are!

Today, India is running over 3 lakh cases per day over several continuous days, and yestedy is crossed 4 lakh cases for the first time with a Positivity Rate of over 20% and about 3,500 deaths. States such as Karnataka and the Union Territory of New Delhi have returned to the lockdown mode and cities like Mumbai and Pune too. Other States are cautiously watching and trying their best to prepare for the worst.

The scenes are heart-breaking and it is as if the people are entirely on their own, either trying to find a Hospital bed, get an Oxygen Cylinder or simply bury/burn the dead.

Vaccine hesitancy is another aspect which has consumed many, with rumours of unproven side affects storming the population. Some Political Leaders even questioned India’s ingeniously developed Vaccine, Covaxin, creating a suspicion in the already angular thinking Indian mind. It has been proved, beyond doubt, that Covaxin effortless tackles the new mutant on the scene.

But we cannot vaccinate ourselves out of a surge of this kind. Vaccines take two weeks from the first dose to take effect and we require an interval of four weeks between the first and second dose. The median incubation period of the virus, by contrast, is four to five days, which means vaccinations will not necessarily avert infections.

What do we do to get out of this seemingly unfathomable abyss?

I found this wonderful advice by Dr. Rana Jawad Asgar, an Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Nebraska, who has worked for the US Centres for Disease Control & Prevention.

‘The Government needs a new risk communication strategy which should be based on providing timely and trustworthy information with workable solutions. Some health professionals have already identified the problem and are educating the public on how to treat themselves at home and when to opt for hospitals. A real-time system of resource availability will help ease the population’s concerns. Improved health intelligence, which is beyond collection of testing numbers, should be institutionalised’.

Political bickering, blaming, and scoring debating points should stop and everyone of us should do our best to support ourselves, the local communities we live-in and the Government, in doing our darnedest, even it means just staying at home. By all means criticise any short coming, but also give a solution-become part of the solution than the problem. Let’s do it.

When the cow falls into the ditch we should put all our efforts in pulling it out, then find out how it fell into the ditch. And decide, make plans and resolve to ensure that it never again falls into the ditch.

Many countries are encouragingly rallying to help India and World is beginning to feel like one community-like it should always.

I’m sure India is up to the task and we will emerge stronger than ever before. For e.g., if there is any country in the World, which can bring over lakhs of Nurses and Doctors for Hospital and ICU duty it is only India. We can do it. This too will pass.

More safe and encouraging stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Stay alive.


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