About: the world this week, 16th May to 22th May 2021, different kinds of music – beauty, rocket-guns, mice, tics, and actual song.


Miss Universe

The 69th Miss Universe Competition was played on 16th May at the world’s first and only Guitar Hotel, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, United States of America.

The first note-a winning tune-of the Miss Universe 2020 Crown was strung by Miss Mexico, Andrea Meza, 26, from Chihuahua City, Mexico. She was crowned Miss Universe by the outgoing Miss Universe, South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi.

Andrea has a degree in software engineering, is an activist focused on women’s rights, and currently works closely with the Municipal Institute for Women in her City. She is also a certified make-up artist and model. That brings wonderful assets to the catwalk.

The second note was by the 1st Runner-up, Miss Brazil, Julia Gama, and the next notes by, the 2nd Runner-up, Miss Peru, Janick Maceta Del Castillo, the 3rd Runner-up, Miss India, Adline Castelino, and the 4th Runner-up, Miss Dominican Republic, Kimberly Jimenez Rodriguez. The Guitar kept its promise, delivering beautiful tunes.

Miss India-Universe, Adline Castelino was born and raised in Kuwait and moved to Mumbai, India, when she was 15 years old. And she can trace her roots to Udupi, in Karnataka State, India. She had a stutter ever since she can remember, which took her years of practice to conquer and hold a clear conversation. I can sync with her on this as I too had a stutter, which took me layered years of hard ‘make-up’ to overcome and make sound conversation.

In the National Costume round, Adline draped herself in the traditional six-yard Indian saree, inspired by India’s national flower, the lotus, designed by Hyderabad based designer Shravan Kumar. The border and pallu of the saree was encrusted with embroidery depicting the three-hundred-years-old Pichwai Art (a traditional style of painting identified with the Sate of Rajasthan). It took Shravan and his artisans, the Nakshabandhas, more than five months of hand-work to create the stunning saree.

Adline Castelino has a business administration degree and is a top model, working with India’s leading talent agencies, and is seen on magazine covers, television and digital campaigns for major fashion and lifestyle brands.

Only two Indians have ever won the Miss Universe Title: the first-ever being, one of my all-time favourites, Sushmita Sen, in the year 1994, and the flawless Lara Dutta, in 2000. This year’s Third Runner-up is the closest India could get to the Title, in a very long time.

All the 73 Beauty Queens from around the world, participating in the competition, were fabulously beautiful and I find myself lost in a world of beauty…and for a brief moment my stutter returned.

Israel and the militant Hamas

The deadliest conflict since 2014, between the ever warring parties-Israel and the Palestinians-came to an end this week after 11 days of fighting in which over 200 people died, mostly on the Palestine side. A ceasefire was brokered by Egypt, nudged by the United Nations, United States, Germany, and other Nations.

The guns fall silent from this Friday onwards. Such ceasefires are always tenuous and at it remains to be seen if it can brave any new sparks. And of course, both sides claimed victory.

Earlier, in to the second week of hostilities, Israel went about pounding Gaza with what seemed like never-ending Airstrikes, destroying buildings believed to house Hamas leaders, offices & intelligence systems, and tunnel networks, while Hamas kept-up the Rocket throws into Israel. Israel’s block-buster Iron-Dome system designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells was the Rambo of this session of warfare.

It is abundantly clear that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Hamas have failed the Palestinians with their overtly aggressive and militant posturing, and refusing to recognise tiny Israel in the middle of an Ocean of Arab country. Can they change their stripes? The Palestinians ‘need to grow a Gandhi’ who has an ear to the heart of every Palestinian and can peacefully negotiate a settlement with Israel. You simply cannot beat Israel with rockets and gun-fire: you may, without it.

The Mouse Down Under – Need Pied Piper Services?

The last time I talked about Australia was about the deluge and how spiders, snakes, and rodents were spilling over from wet ground to dry ground, especially in to the warm homes of people. I missed one rodent, and now it has come calling. The rains actually did good, creating fertile ground for a bumper harvest. And the grain in Australia was stored in massive hay-sheds in the fields, which then brought this rodent out from the cold.

This time it’s a swarm of mice which are ravaging fields, infesting homes and factories causing millions of dollars in damage to crops and machinery, prompting Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister to declare, ‘The only good mouse is a dead mouse’.

The ‘mice-ed’ areas are Eastern Australia, from the Victoria Border in the South all the way to the Country’s Northern State of Queensland.

At least 800 to 1000 mice per hectare is considered ‘plague’ by Australia’s National Science Agency. And trying to count the number of mice running around Eastern Australia right now is akin to trying to count the stars in the sky.

A pair of mice can produce 500 offspring each season, with females delivering a new litter every three weeks. And all these litters need food – that’s available aplenty!

A New South Wales Farmer calls his Tractor a ‘Mouse Hotel’ as it has been overrun by mice. Another Small Town Resident spends her days disposing of dead mice from traps in her client’s homes. She cleans the mouse excrement out of people’s kitchens, children’s rooms, and even their beds. In her own home she has blocked every nook and cranny with steel-wool to stop mice from crawling in.

Australia, always full of surprises, is looking beyond ordinary mouse traps and is wheeling out heavy weaponry to fight the mice (borrow that Iron-Dome from Israel?) It has secured one of the world’s strongest mice-killing chemicals, Bromadiolone-a poison so potent that it kills with one dose. There are concerns too, as the highly toxic chemical could taint food crops and kill local wildlife. As winter approaches, the mice would be searching for homes to settle into. Wonder, what the cats are doing?

It’s a vicious circle and maybe Australia should call for the services of the famous Pied Piper of Hamelin-if ever there was one. Mice-out a descendant from Germany, maybe?

A Pandemic Tour of Seychelles

The country of Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, with a population of about 98,000 people. Tourism directly or indirectly generates about 72% of GDP(Gross Domestic Product) and employs more than 30% of the population.

Though Seychelles is one of the most vaccinated nations in the world, it is also experiencing a wave of coronavirus outbreak and this could be a bellwether of things to come in other parts, as we freakout on getting people vaccinated.

The country has fully immunised about 63% of its population using the China made SinoPharm, and the India made Covishield-of the AstraZeneca vaccine. 57% of the fully vaccinated people received SinoPharm, which was given to those between the ages of 18 and 60, while 43% took Covishield, which was given to those over 60.

About a month ago, the Seychelles confident of having overcome Covid-19, dropped most tourist restrictions. With few cases and a mass vaccination campaign underway, the country re-opened its borders to almost all international travellers: anyone with a negative test report could enter the country without quarantining. At that time the country had reported fewer than 3800 cases and 16 deaths.

Since then, the total cases have more than doubled to 9184 and 32 deaths. Of the current active cases, 33% are the fully vaccinated people and though infected nobody is getting seriously sick, nobody is dying, nobody is developing complications. People in the islands have been socializing without taking precautions. And let down their guard, leading to the current spike in cases.

The conclusion is, that the vaccines are indeed protecting people. If not for the vaccines things would have been worse. It is also a reminder that even after widespread vaccinations, infections are unlikely to stop completely. Countries need to be wary of new variants and transmission. And the ‘Seychelles Effect’ may not necessarily be mirrored in other parts of the world.

Cyclone Tauktae

They sure have a way of naming Hurricanes, Cyclones, and Storms-stays in the mind, after they have long gone.

Cyclone Tauktae was born in the Arabian Sea and grew up to wind speeds over 180km per hour and blazed through the West Coat of India leaving the familiar ‘trail of destruction’, this week. Signs of climate change keep showing up ever so often that the Meteorological Department must be running out of names.

India’s Off-shore Oil Installations bore the brunt and were hammered with, up to eight metre high waves. More than 600 people working on Off-shore Rigs were rescued by the Indian Navy. About 49 are dead and 26 are missing from one of the Barges and the Indian Navy is doing a vigorous search.

On land, particularly in the State of Gujarat, Tauktae left its mark with many people saying that they never experienced such intensity in their lives. What with winds smashing Windows, uprooting trees and toppling power lines, more than 16,000 house were damaged in Gujarat.

India’s National Disaster Management Authority (NMDA) is up to the task and in recent times have rooted themselves to the job of saving lives and reducing the effects. I only wish they could whisper to the Storms-to take a path with the least devastation. Yssh…there’s another one coming-Yaash-in the Bay of Bengal, this time.

India and the Coronavirus

Belying various educated projections, India started showing a downhill trend after hitting a peak of 4.14 Lakh, in daily positive cases, on 6th May. However deaths stayed still, hovered around 4000 per day reaching an unfortunate high of 4529 on 18th May.

New daily Infections are at currently at about 2.5 Lakh per day. The average India test positivity ratio is at about 12.6%

Most States appear to have reached their peaks, but some like Tamil Nadu-now under a lockdown- are climbing every day. It was 36,184 cases on 21st May, with a test positivity ratio of over 21%. Close behind, in growth of cases, are Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and West Bengal.

The total vaccination is India stands at over 19 crore with the three Vaccines, Covishield, Covaxin, and Sputnik V, being jabbed into willing arms. We all need to go for it at the first available opportunity-without any kind of hesitation. I’ve had my first shot of Covishield in early April and the Government has put off my second shot to between 12 and 16 weeks: I have been promised ‘more juice out of the Vaccine’. I can wait, so that others can fill the gap and rise up to the challenge of the virus.

Meanwhile, another infection called, Black Fungus or Mucormycosis, is latching on to COVID-19 survivors and beginning to spread across the country. The Centre has forewarned the States asking them to declare it as an epidemic. It did warn them about a deadly second wave in mid-March but, I reckon, things happened too quickly.

Black Fungus is caused by micro-organisms called mucormycetes, moulds that are present naturally in the environment-particularly damp- found mostly in soil and decaying organic matter such as leaves, compost, piles, and rotting wood. It infects the central nervous system, eyes and lungs leading to blackening or discolouration over the nose, blurred vision, chest pain, difficulty in breathing and coughing of blood. An anti-fungal medicine called Amphotericin-B, is already available to treat the disease. Causes could be due to overuse of steroids during the COVID-19 treatment or poor hygiene in the oxygen delivery system to the patient, when in Hospital. The fungus goes through the first window of opportunity to invade the body in which a small opening is created by COVID-19, because of the sugars (high glucose levels), antibiotics, and many other things, which enables it to get a foothold.

However, Black Fungus is not contagious and does not spread from person to person.

The States most affected are Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, and Telangana. A total of 5500 cases with 126 lives lost have been reported.

It’s a tough time out there: we should hold together, support our local communities and the Governments at the State and Centre, follow directions, Standard Operating Procedures, and do our part simply by staying-put at home.

Please Yourself

The Eurovision Song Contest is an international song competition organised annually by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) with participants mainly from European countries. Each participating country submits an original song to be performed on live television and radio, transmitted to national broadcasters via the EBU’s Eurovision and Euroradio networks, with competing countries then casting votes for the other countries’ songs to determine a winner. The finals are coming up on Sunday, 23rd May.

A ticking participant in this year’s Eurovision is Norway’s entry, TIX-real name Andreas Haukeland-taking his name from the ‘tics’ he has due to his Tourette’s Syndrome(TS).

TS is a common neuro-developmental disorder which begins in childhood or adolescence. It is characterised by multiple movement (motor) tics and at least one vocal (phonic) tic. Common tics are blinking, coughing, throat clearing, sniffing, and facial movements. These are typically preceded by an unwanted urge or sensation in the affected muscles.

During the semi-final on Tuesday, TIX showed his tics live on stage by removing his sunglasses. TIX’s message to people is, ‘Don’t just be yourself, embrace yourself.’

He adds, ‘Once you embrace yourself, that’s when the happiness starts. TS is both a blessing and a curse, but try to focus on the blessing’.

Lots of ticking stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Stay Blessed.


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