About: My window to the world, this week, 1st May to 8th May 2021. The gates opened-up on many things.


Bill Gates and The Ramayana

It was a stunning, bombshell of a headline news when Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates and his wife of 27 years, Melinda Gates, announced their separation and filed for divorce. They had been running the nonprofit, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for over 20 years, fighting poverty, disease, and inequality around the world (and perhaps silently fighting each other? We may never know). And more recently contributing to the development of the coronavirus vaccine, to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thats a lot of time together, to get to this stage during which period they raised three children – all of them who have now become adults.

What could have brought them to this? Reports say that there was another woman in the life of Bill Gates, which wasn’t a secret. Bill Gates took annual ‘learning’ vacations with his ex-girlfriend, a software entrepreneur and venture capitalist even after his marriage, which was an agreement made with Melinda.

Bill Gates, before marrying Melinda, sought his ex-girlfriend’s approval, which she did give saying, ‘I said she’d be a good match for him because she had intellectual stamina’. Appears that when the ex-girlfriend, who was senior to Bill, was ready for marriage, Bill wasn’t and they broke-up, but stayed in touch, as good friends.

With the wealth of knowledge, the wealth of money, and the wealth of shared interests, why could not they find satisfaction in each other after almost three decades of marriage? I ran to the Ramayana for some answers.

In the great Indian Epic Ramayana, when Sage Vishwamitra was preparing to conduct a Yagna (a Hindu ritual done in front of a sacred fire) in his Ashram, in the forest, he had with him the young Ayodhya Princes, Rama and Laxmana to keep at bay the disruptive, ferocious Rakshashas (super-natural, raw-flesh eating beings) living in the forests. Sita and other Princesses from the near Kingdom were also present to witness the Yagna. The occasion was also to serve as a means of enlightenment and education for the young Princes and Princesses-who would later become Rulers and Kings-co-mingling with the Sage and his students, to rub knowledge off one another.

One evening during a discussion in the Ashram, Vishwamitra was asked why fidelity was so important in marriage and especially to the Rishis (a Hindu Sage or learned and enlightened person), to which the Sage said it was a measure of how satisfied we are with the spouse’s offerings. And that the dissatisfied seek satisfaction elsewhere.

Rama then joins the conversation declaring, ‘I shall always strive to find all my satisfaction in a single wife’. Vishwamitra quickly retorts, ‘What if your wife does not find satisfaction in you’, hoping to get a response from Rama, but it was Sita who replied, ‘If she is wise, she will accommodate the inadequacy. If he is wise, he will strive to grow and rise to fulfil her expectations’. This transpired before Rama won and married Sita. And the Ramayana is, among many other things, mostly about staying true to one wife, establishing and following rules, and setting an example in a time when Kings took many wives to spread their seed.

That sure is enlightenment. Maybe Bill Gates should have strived harder. And Melinda appears to have given-up accommodating any inadequacies! But I think years into the marriage you develop ‘many permanent sets’ having exceeded the elasticity limits many times over, and one fine day it just snaps and stays broken. Time to move on and explore new limits and expand known boundaries. Why not?

On a lighter vein, maybe if Bill Gates followed the Linux model of open source programming he would have excelled in his marriage, and the word of the Ramayana would have been a powerful point to make.

Population Explosion

A 25 years old woman, Halima Cisse, in the West-African country of Mali has given birth to nonuplets, nine babies-five girls and four boys-in a single delivery. This was more than the seven seen during ultrasound tests-two of them had probably gone into hiding. All children were delivered by Caesarean Delivery (C-Section), and the mother and newborns are said to be doing well. Cisse was admitted to a Moroccan clinic following a two-week stay in a hospital in the Malian capital, Bamako, prior to the delivery.

The instances of women delivering nonuplets is extremely rare in this world. Only two sets of nonuplets have previously been recorded: one born to a woman in Australia in 1971 and another to a woman in Malaysia in 1999, but none of the babies survived more than a few days.

The record for the most children delivered in a single birth, to survive, belongs to Nadya Suleman, who in 2009 gave birth to octuplets-six boys and two girls- in California, United States, according to the Guinness World Records. The babies, conceived using in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment, were delivered by C-Section.

Is there a better definition of human population explosion? I wish Halima Cisse’s babies survive their birth and go on to become path-breaking adults, as they did at birth.

A Spring Revolution

The Myanmar saga goes on. More than 750 people have been killed since the Military seized power in a coup, three months ago. Thousands of people have been detained, including its democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. The borders are closed and the internet effectively blocked, but people are resisting the coup in many ways. ‘They have the guns, we have the people’, says a protester.

How far will this go and at what cost? I hope The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is already engaged in a dialogue with the Army Generals, and the United Nations up the ante on the Leaders of the Coup and bring back normalcy to Myanmar.

I’ll be Back: What Goes Up must Come Down?

Debris from the core of a Chinese Rocket, about 30m length and weighing about 18 tons is expected to fall back to Earth in an uncontrolled re-entry this weekend.

This was used to launch the first module of China’s upcoming new Space Station, in April 2021. This would be one of the largest items, in decades, to have an undirected dive into the atmosphere. Welcome back home?

Recall the worldwide attention when fragments of the US Space Station, Skylab, fell back on Earth with debris scattering across Western Australian, in the year 1979.

Modern practice now calls for rocket stages to be de-orbited as soon as possible after their mission. In the case of large core segments, these would normally come straight back, within one orbit, falling into the ocean or on land. USA’s SpaceX, for example, has made designs such that it lands its core stages by controlled propulsion, so they can be reused.

For upper-stages, that go into an orbit and may travel around the Earth several times as they precisely position a payload, the preference is to include a re-ignitable engine that can steer the stage into a return to Earth at the earliest opportunity.

Various Space Agencies are tracking the path of Rocket and I wonder whether China is being irresponsible, again. However the exact point of impact can be predicted only a few hours before the actual fall. I hope the Oceans are welcoming enough and receive the debris with open octopus arms!

India’s State Elections and the Results

It was a beautiful Sunday, I had a shower, a strong breakfast, bristled with energy and filled with positivity that my expectations would come true as the counting of votes in the five State Assembly Elections of India began at 8am. I had fried-fish and fish curry waiting to be walloped at lunch, and I was expecting to spend lots of energy in cheering my favourite horses to the winning majority line.

The start was extremely welcoming but soon after the fish curry did its work at lunch – a few naughty bones got stuck in my throat, the horses I had bet-on started losing. Eventually, I had to go to bed ‘with the horse’s tail between my legs’.

While the results of Puducherry and Assam were on ‘my expected lines’ the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal were not.

In West Bengal a fiery tigress of a woman led her party to a landslide win for the third successive time, but lost her own election as a candidate. I call it, ‘Operation Successful, but Patient died’. The challenger settled for second place, but bettered its previous seats-won record by a whooping 2500%. I wanted them to win.

In Tamil Nadu I was disappointed that a Party led by an ordinary man, who had climbed up the political ladder and by sheer chance became Chief Minister, grabbed the opportunity, and excelled on the job, was not rewarded for courageous work he had done especially during the first wave of the pandemic. He won his own Election by one of the largest margins in the State. If we do not respect good work, we encourage unqualified people to win. The ‘rising son’ winner who took oath as Chief Minister on the 7th May, immediately showed his true colours: his twitter page said, ‘Belongs to the Dravidian stock’. I consider it a regressive, parochial way of identifying yourself when you should be the Chief Minister of all people. The Party he heads has always been this way- various shades of black and red!

Ultimately, they say, ‘the people’s choice is God’s choice’, and democracy certainly works in mysterious ways: accept and move-on.

The Outbreak In India

India is in the agonising throes of a brutal second wave of coronavirus infections in the COVID-19 pandemic with over 4 lakhs cases per day and near about 4000 deaths. And there is already frightening talk of a sure third wave unless India fights it out.

The stories of struggles for hospital beds, medical personnel, oxygen, medicines, and burial space are heart-wrenching, especially in the worst affected States of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Kerala, and Karnataka. The State of Goa is on a different league: one in two people have tested positive for the virus and the State has the highest positivity ratio in the country, of 51.4%.

Meanwhile, the Press continues to be hysterical and it’s a sordid drama that unfolds on the TV screens every day.

State Governments are enforcing various kinds of lockdowns. Authorities are slowly rising-up to the tremendous challenge of saving lives, and I’m sure the worst will be behind us in a couple of weeks. Allright, we are here, now, let’s try to find some solutions.

In India’s ongoing Vaccination Drive, about 167 million people have been vaccinated – one short or two-with Maharashtra State leading in the highest number of vaccinations followed by Rajasthan and Gujarat -all over 10 million. My own State of Tamil Nadu has done about 4 million.

How do we contain the virus?

Experts say containing the coronavirus in the short term will be hard, slow and painful. Improved Government messaging, communication, and streamlining of medical distribution are solutions to work upon. The load on the health care system has to be reduced by making sure that mild cases don’t progress to the critical stage.

India has historically underinvested in its health care, which has led to the collapse of the system, under the bulging weight of hospital admissions. It is a ‘now or never moment’ to begin ramping-up medical infrastructure, all over the country.

The thinking is that India should invest not less than 5% of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in health care if it wants to prevent another collapse of the health care system. Presently, India invests as little as 1.5% of GDP in Health. Terrible, isn’t it? Glad we noticed.

Comparatively, the United States of America invests about 17% of GDP in Healthcare; Switzerland-12.2%, Germany-11.2%, France-11.2%, Sweden-11%, Japan-10.9%, The United Kingdom-9.8%, New Zealand-9.3%, Spain-8%, China-6.6%, Italy-6.4%.

Looking at the percentage of GDP figures, we know where the fault lies and add the fact that India has the second-largest population in the world, we get a dizzy cocktail. Successive Governments, through the years have failed us in developing a penetrating health care system and this is a final wake-up call. Such a fragile system was bound to crumble at the slightest application of pressure. And it did exactly that.

One of India’s ‘biggest failures’ in controlling the pandemic has been in communication – direct and indirect. The government should have actively discouraged events like weddings, mass gatherings, political rallies, and religious festivals. It should have also actively advised people against attending super-spreader events.

India was also under attack by more powerfully evolved mutants of the virus and new properties such as the virus being air-borne and spreading in this manner.

Looking back in history, the AIDS and polio epidemics were tackled through high quality messaging at the national level. With COVID-19, we have-after a reasonably good start-been inconsistent with the intensity of messaging, including on basic protocols like masking and physical distancing.

With the mind space occupied by gruesome tales of suffering it’s hard to think about and ‘please yourself’ with anything else. This too shall pass.

More outbreaking stories coming up in the weeks ahead.


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