About-the world this week, 14 May 2023 to 20 May 2023: Turkey Presidential Elections; G7 Hiroshima; Karnataka Elections, India; Tennis in Italy; and the Cannes Red Carpet.


Elections, Turkey

In recent times, Turkey has been grappling with many serious issues: especially economic, in the aftermath of the recent earthquake that tore through the country, and neighbouring Syria. Now it’s Election time and the current Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the Justice and Development Party-who has been President for over two decades-has failed to secure the absolute majority needed to keep his job. He secured 49.5% of the vote, facing fierce competition from Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the Republican People’s Party, who secured 44.89%.

With voters making their voices heard at the polls, both candidates fell short of the 50% vote they needed to become President. The race is headed toward a runoff, meaning another election by the end of May 2023.

The Turks are at a kind of turning point, having to choose between two leaders offering dramatically different visions for their country’s future. Erdogan promises a strong, multilateral Turkey, creation of six million jobs, and harps on his long rule. Kilicdaroglu, backed by a broad opposition, wants to steer Turkey back towards a pro-Western, more democratic state. And wants to roll back Erdogan’s policies.

The presidential elections are being held alongside parliamentary elections, to elect a President for a term of five years.

G7 Hiroshima, Japan

The Group of 7 nations summit- the 49th- is being hosted by core member Japan in Hiroshima, Japan, between 19 May and 21 May 2023. Other participating members are United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. And The European Union. This is the first summit for both British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, since being elected to Office.

India is an invitee along with Australia, Brazil, Ukraine, and a few other countries. And the United Nations.

This year, the agenda in addition to the usual climate change, sustainable development, food, and health goals…the focus would be on upholding the international order based on the rule of law, in the light of Russia’s uncalled for aggression in Ukraine.

India’s Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi is on a flying visit abroad: first to the G7 summit; then to Papua New Guinea, followed by a series of engagements in Australia’s Sydney, including a bilateral meeting with PM Anthony Albanese.

While India’s PM was flying, back home it was turbulence in the air, with the Reserve Bank of India announcing withdrawl of those lovely pink colour Rs 2000 notes from circulation. And the Finance Ministry blundering on levying 20% ‘Tax Collection at Source’ (TCS) on international Credit Card Transactions – which it quickly rolled-back. Staggering incompetence?

Elections, Karnataka, India

Karnataka was the only state in South India that was ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which also rules at the Centre. In Elections held last week and votes counted at the end of the week, the BJP was routed by the Grand Old Party of India- the Congress Party. They won an absolute majority and proved the Exit Polls right.

The BJP was found licking its wounds, and it’s a tails-up for the next round of Elections – every failure is a lesson. Whatever the angles the analysts may spin, people throw out the Government that fails to deliver and meet their expectations. And bring back the previous one, which was also kicked out in similar fashion.

Meanwhile, the Congress went back to doing what it does best – High Command ruling. There is a tussle between two senior leaders on who should become Chief Minister and the Bengaluru-New Delhi flights are operating to capacity. If it was not a decisive mandate for one Party, the Resorts and Spas in the region would have been fully booked for parking and feeding the horses – else they might run and be traded in Government formation.

Simple, pure democracy demands that the elected Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) meet and elect a leader among themselves for the top job. But then what is the High Command for?

Towards the end of the week, the logjam was resolved, and the Challenger was felled by the come-hither looks, and dimples of the ‘High Command’, meekly agreeing to be a deputy. Somebody said double-engine sarkar: a ’stable’ government to keep the horses in the stable.

Tennis, Italy

In one of the biggest upsets of this year’s Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) season, a qualifier, 23 year old Hungarian, Fabian Marozsan shocked World No 2 Carlos Alcaraz with a stunning 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory in the third round of the Italian Open, this week. Marozsan ranked No. 135, is the lowest‑ranked player to defeat Alcaraz since July 2021. Until he came through the qualifying draw in Rome and defeated the No. 67 Corentin Moutet, Marozsan had never won an ATP match. This is his first ever ATP main draw and also the first ever Masters 1000 Tournament.

On his first appearance on any major stadium court, Marozsan approached the in‑form Player on the tour fearlessly and calmly. From the very beginning, Marozsan served precisely and controlled the baseline. He forced Alcaraz back with consistent aggression and his sweet two-handed backhand while offering the Spaniard a taste of his own medicine: an endless stream of unbelievable, winning, drop shots.

Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal announced that ‘his body has made a decision’ to withdraw from the upcoming French Open 2023. And he will not be playing for the following months. He is targeting Wimbledon 2024 for a ‘swan song’ end to his career and saving-up for one last season. The 2023 Roland Garros will be the first without Roger or Rafa since 1998 – that’s heart-wrenching for Tennis fans.

Please Yourself

The Cannes Film Festival offers unparalleled fashion moments year after year and this year 2023 it ‘catwalks the screens’ between 16 May and 27 May, on the French Riviera.

This year’s 76th event will feature screenings of the latest films from acclaimed directors such as Wes Anderson, Todd Haynes, and Martin Scorsese. And red carpet appearances from those films’ stylish stars, including Margot Robbie, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, and Tilda Swinton.

Johnny Depp walked the famous red carpet, with the premiere of his Louis XV period drama, ‘Jeanne du Barry’, opening the event. Jeanne du Barry has been billed as Depp’s comeback film, following his explosive trial last year with ex-wife Amber Heard.

She’s got glamour in her genes. Carys, the daughter of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones –my favourite actress-proved she’s a natural in front of the camera during a rare red carpet appearance. Unlike her mother, who matched the carpet in a flowing, red gown with a long draped shoulder, Carys wore a delicate white lace dress featuring a deep V-neck and back cutouts.

Actress Uma Thurman presented Michael Douglas with the event’s highest honour, the Palme d’Or lifetime achievement award. Taking the stage, Douglas was given a prolonged round of applause. Meanwhile, ‘Indiana Jones’ Harrison Ford was also awarded Palme d’Or, which he emotionally accepted- being his last in the role.

India’s all-time beauty, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is still finding it hard to slay the red carpet. Aishwarya walked the red carpet at the screening of ‘Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny’, dressed in an outfit completely out of her comfort zone – a black gown with a giant silver hood that extended into a train. Aishwarya finished her look with her signature crimson lips. I just could not find Aishwarya – no matter how hard I searched in the great mass of aluminium foil. Why do they keep doing this to her; to her beauty?

More stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Dress cleverly, don’t foil your beauty with the wrong aluminium. Stay with World Inthavaaram.



About-the world this week, 30 April to 6 May 2023 and 7 May 2023 to 13 May 2023 -Two weeks in one: Russia versus Ukraine; Gun Violence in Europe; India’s Manipur; a King’s Coronation; Pakistan in turmoil; The Kerala Story; Indian wrestling; the Pulitzers; Nude lipstick at the Met Gala 2023.


Last week, Russia came up with a ‘special accusation’, blaming Ukraine of engineering a plot to assassinate its President, Vladimir Putin. This, after Russian air defences shot down two drones attempting to strike Putin’s residence inside the Kremlin walls. Of course, Russia said ‘naughty’ Ukraine carried out the drone strikes on the Kremlin.

Ukraine, on its part, denied any involvement and accused Russia of cleverly using the incident as a pretext for stepping-up attacks on the country.

Meanwhile, Ukraine is busy defending itself from the rapacious attack of Russia and pushing back Russian troops from its soil. There is fierce fighting-the longest and the bloodiest of this war so far- in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut and Ukraine is clinging to the last streets. Russia has been unable to take control of the city due to the unbelievable fight-back by Ukraine.

When you think of Gun Violence, the United States (US) automatically shoots up in the mind. Maybe they have a close competitor – Serbia. This week, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Belgrade and other cities to protest gun violence after two mass shootings shook Serbia. Last week, a 13 years old boy opened fire in his school in Belgrade, killing nine people and injuring seven others. A day later, a 20 years old man, with an assault rifle, shot and killed eight people in several villages. Serbia has the highest rate of gun ownership in Europe.

In response to the shootings, the Government launched a month-long effort to get people to surrender their illegal weapons with no questions asked. So far, more than 1,500 guns have been surrendered. Now, Serbians are demanding a boost in security, a reduction of violent media content, and the resignation of top government officials for failing to ‘holster the situation’.

Britain’s King Charles III was officially crowned on the Saturday of last week, in a magnificent and deeply religious ceremony combined with pageantry at London’s Westminster Abbey. It was Britain’s first coronation in 70 years and was a symbolic coming together of the Monarchy, the Church, and the State. King Charles is the 40th reigning monarch to be crowned since the year 1066.

After the two-hour ceremony, King Charles and his wife, Queen Camilla-who was also crowned-travelled to Buckingham Palace in the Gold State Coach, which has been used in every Coronation since 1831. They later made the mandatory appearance on the palace balcony alongside other members of the royal family.

Estranged Prince Harry watched the proceedings alone from the sidelines – without a sparkle: wife Meghan Markle and the kids were in far-away US.

This week, Pakistan saw deadly protests in the wake of the arrest of former Prime Minister, Imran Khan. Tensions remained high with paramilitary troops and police on the streets in major cities. Mobile services were suspended – that’s becoming a habit all over the world – and schools and offices were closed in two of Pakistan’s four provinces.

Imran Khan was arrested on two corruption charges of more than 100 cases registered against him since his ouster in April 2022, in a parliamentary no-confidence vote. If convicted, he may be unable to contest elections. And his party, Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is most likely to emerge victorious if free and fair elections are held later this year. With Pakistan’s Army infamously poking its nose fully into governance of the Country we can expect lots of gunfire and twists and turns in the coming weeks and months.

In some relief for Imran Khan, late in the week, the Supreme Court declared his arrest by the Army as illegal. However, he will be held in a Police Guest House until the smoke clears!

India’s North Eastern State of Manipur has been thrown into ethnic turmoil with violence, arson, and mayhem unfolding in its various districts. Shoot-at-sight orders was issued to quell the violence.

The immediate provocation for the unrest appears to be the demand of the Meitei community, which accounts for 53% of Manipur’s population and primarily inhabits the Manipur Valley, to be included in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) list – for reservation benefits. The Manipur High Court also issued an order asking the Government of Manipur State to send a recommendation to the Centre to include the Meitei community in the ST List.

Going deeper, there is also an underlying anger, simmering for a long time, on the Government’s clampdown on reserved and protected forests in the State’s hill areas. And also a feeling among Manipur’s Kuki community of being persecuted. Several Chin, people of the same ethnic group from across the border in Myanmar, have entered India, fleeing violence and persecution, and the Government’s tough stance against these illegal immigrants has angered the Kukis. There, you have a pot-boiler situation.

It all began on 3 May, after the All Tribal Students Union Manipur (ATSUM) held a solidarity march in all districts opposing the Manipur High Court order.

On 4th May, as the violence escalated, the Centre invoked emergency provisions under the Constitution. And in the last few days, convoys of Army trucks, the Assam Rifles, the Rapid Action Force, and local police personnel have moved into the State and entered affected areas.

Over a dozen people have been killed, hundreds have been wounded, and over 9,000 people belonging to the Kuki and Meitei communities, besides others, have been displaced so far. Buildings, homes, and other property, including vehicles, have been destroyed. The situation is tense, and the Government is struggling to bring back peace in the region.

The Indian movie The Kerala Story, which puts the spotlight on forced conversion and radicalisation of women in the State of Kerala, has sparked a terrific row. Amid protests, petitions challenging the film’s release reached the Supreme Court, which has refused to intervene in the matter.

The controversy around started after film-makers dropped the trailer, which claimed that 32,000 girls from Kerala had gone missing and joined the terrorist organisation, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Kerala High Court refused to halt the release of the multi-lingual film after concluding that the trailer did not contain anything that could be considered offensive to any particular community as a whole.

The Kerala Story is a compilation of the true stories of three young girls from different parts of Kerala, who converted to Islam and joined ISIS. Shalini Unnikrishnan, a woman who converted to Islam, shares her harrowing journey of aspiring to become a nurse, only to be abducted from her home and coerced by extremist groups. She was eventually manipulated into joining ISIS and ended up imprisoned in Afghanistan.

Directed by Sudipto Sen and produced by Vipul Amrutlal Shah, The Kerala Story stars Adah Sharma (as Shalini Unnikrishnan), Yogita Bihani, Sonia Balani, and Siddhi Idnani. It released on 5th May and is having an incredible run at the box-office.

The film has courted controversy for claiming thousands of innocent women have been systematically converted to Islam, radicalized & their lives destroyed.

The events portrayed in the film were inspired by the accounts of four women from Kerala who converted to Islam and traveled with their husbands to Afghanistan to join ISIS between 2016 and 2018. And who were interviewed by a news website in 2019. They were part of a 21 member group from Kerala to join ISIS in 2016, who remain incarcerated in Afghanistan since surrendering in 2019. The makers of the film have claimed that the film is the true story of an instance of ‘Love Jihad’ — a Hindutva conspiracy theory about non-Muslim women romanced and lured into marriage to convert them to Islam.

The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is wrestling with a scandal involving its President Brij Bhushan Singh Sharan, 66, President of the WFI since 2011. He was elected for a third consecutive term in February 2019, and is a politician, currently with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and also a Member of Parliament.

The allegations are that the President had sexually exploited and harassed women wrestlers over a period of several years. Top Indian wrestlers have been protesting on the streets of New Delhi for the last week over the lack of action against the WFI President. The protesting athletes have demanded an immediate arrest and sought the intervention of the Supreme Court, which directed the police to register a case against Brij Bhushan Singh.

The WFI President as denied the allegations, saying it’s arm-twisting by the Opposition…and the sparring continues.

While on protest, India’s top wrestlers have alleged that they were abused and assaulted by the police in Delhi while trying to bring beds to the protest site where they have been protesting since 23rd April.

For more than 100 years, the Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded by Columbia University to honour American achievements in journalism, letters and drama, and music. Pulitzers are widely recognised as the most prestigious awards in their field within the United States.

The 107th Pulitzer prizes celebrated journalists across the country. The Associated Press won two awards for its coverage of the war in Ukraine, including the most prestigious of all Pulitzers, the Public Service award.

The Washington Post won two Pulitzers- National Reporting and Feature Writing- as did the Los Angeles Times-Breaking News Reporting and Feature Photography. So did, Birmingham. Its columnist Kyle Whitmire won the Commentary award for his work analyzing Alabama’s confederate heritage. The publication also took home a Local Reporting Pulitzer for its series exposing malfeasance on the part of the local police force. Two awards were given in that category. The other Local Reporting Pulitzer went to Mississippi Today, in Ridgeland, Miss.

The New York Times won two Pulitzers as well, for International Reporting and for Illustrated Reporting and Commentary. The Pulitzer for Music went to Omar, by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels an innovative and compelling opera about enslaved people brought to North America from Muslim countries, a musical work that respectfully represents African as well as African American traditions, expanding the language of the operatic form while conveying the humanity of those condemned to bondage.

In some glad news, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that Monkeypox is no longer a global public health emergency. WHO added that the virus is still sneaking around and further waves and outbreaks could continue, but the highest level of alert is over. This comes almost a week after WHO also declaring that the COVID-19 Emergency is over. Two good goodbyes?

Please Yourself

This year’s annual fashion event, the Met Gala 2023, graced by iconic persons had most of them sporting sexy, sublime nude lips. From red carpets to catching up with friends or date nights, nude lips are as versatile and easy to wear as they come. Taking into consideration the right makeup look for any ensemble or event has never been easier as one can seldom go awry with a nude lip.

The Met Gala 2023 saw the model industry’s sweetheart Gigi Hadid looking stunning in a sheer black Givenchy Gown. To pull the whole look together, she wore natural base makeup, shimmery eye shadow and razor-sharp cat eyeliner that brought out the captivating beauty of her eyes with ease. Most notably, Gigi wore a comfortable caramel nude lip colour that complemented her peaches and cream skin perfectly.

India’s Bollywood Actress Alia Bhatt’s debut at the Met Gala 2023 was no short of a fantastic feat in her career. ‘Dressed to the nines’ in custom Prabal Gurung couture, Alia shone under the lights looking like a million dollars. Her signature dewy make-up and soft glam brown smokey eyes were brilliantly paired with a cool nude lipstick that pulled her ensemble to perfection.

Thus the nude lipstick became the signature tune of this year’s Met Gala.

More beautiful stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Stay clothed with World Inthavaaram.


About-the world this week, 23 April to 29 April 2023: gunfires and standing your ground; news broadcasters crossing a line; flight out of a fighting Sudan; India’s Naxalites blast again; and snakes in Indian politics.


In America the gunfire refuses to subside. Early this week nine people were injured after gunfire erupted at a teenagers’ party in Jasper County, Texas. The shooting took place at a private residence where some 250 Jasper High School students had gathered after their annual prom dance.

The reason known at this point of time is that some kids ganged up after prom to have a night they could remember the rest of their lives, and somehow it got twisted, a bunch of children got shot. The victims ranged in age between 15 and 19. A motive for the shooting had not yet been identified.

Just last weekend, four people were killed and 28 others were injured in a shooting at a ‘Sweet 16’ birthday party in Alabama.

Firearm incidents are now the leading cause of death for American children and teenagers, according to the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, there is a burst of another kind of fire: shootings sparked by everyday mistakes.

There was this teenage boy in Missouri who rang the wrong doorbell. He had gone to pick up his two younger brother from a friend’s house. However, he went to the wrong home. An eighty years old homeowner answered the door and promptly shot the teen in the head and arm. The boy who was hospitalised in critical condition, is now recovering at home.

Then this 20 years old woman in rural upstate New York whose boyfriend accidentally turned into the wrong driveway -while looking for a friend’s house- resulting in her being shot and killed by a man shooting from his front porch in a Wild West mode.

Firing on, about two cheerleaders in Texas whose group approached the wrong car to find a man sitting in the back seat. The girls backtracked and went back to their car, but the man in the wrong car approached them and when they rolled down the windows to maybe apologise, he shot them.

And the family in North Carolina, who were shot at after a basketball rolled into the suspect’s yard. And after children jumped-in and went to retrieve the ball.

Though believed to be the ‘rarest of the rare, wrong place, wrong time’ shootings seem more common than ever before. The trend may be due to a number of factors, such as increased distrust or a sometimes-racist fear of crime, marketing by the gun lobby, and self-defense laws in states that protect shooters. Those laws generally fall into two categories, though the way they’re used state-to-state is different. One is the ‘Castle Doctrine’ which says while someone is on their property, they can use deadly force in defense without retreating. The other includes ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws, which extend that to public places, or anywhere someone with a gun has the legal right to be.

In other America news, two of the biggest names in broadcast news were showed the door by their respective Bosses.

In February, Don Lemon of ‘CNN This Morning’ came under fire after he said former UN ambassador Nikki Haley “isn’t in her prime” to run for president. He later apologised for his misogynistic on-air remarks, but the damage had been done.

Close behind was Fox News, which announced that its prime-time host is leaving the network after 14 years. ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ was one of the most successful shows on the network, with an average nightly audience of 3.2 million viewers. Over the years, the show increasingly became a platform for former President Trump and conservative commentators. Carlson has come under fire for pushing theories that the 2020 election was stolen and for misleading viewers about the 6th January Capitol Riots.

Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon are both out of the roles they’ve held for years. The shifts in the industry — from firings to layoffs — show that media outlets appear to be facing a reckoning.

Fierce fighting continues in Sudan and countries are busy evacuating their people from the crazy war-zone.

American forces evacuated US embassy personnel from the country’s capital. India worked round the clock to herd their flock together in ‘Operation Kaveri’. And India has become something of an ‘evacuation expert’- what with many Countries approaching India for help. Say Sri Lanka.

The Naxalite issue is a stranglehold that refuses to leave India in peace. This week at least 10 personnel of the District Reserve Guards and their civilian driver were killed when Maoists detonated a powerful (Improvised Explosive Device) IED on a un-metalled road and fired on the wounded jawans near Aranpur, Dantewada District, Bastar, about 400 kilometres south of Raipur, on Wednesday.

Around 200 jawans were returning in a convoy when the blast was triggered. Police believe about 50 kilograms of explosives were used.

The IED was so powerful that it blasted a crater 12 feet deep and around 25 feet across, spanning the entire width of the village road. The vehicle was blown to smithereens and some of the rifles were bent out of shape by the shockwaves.

India’s Railway infrastructure is on an awesome track roll, the Prime Minster (PM) of India is busy snaking around the country to inaugurate the New Vande Bharat Trains. These ‘non-poisonous’ Made In India trains feature a GPS-based passenger information system, bio-vacuum toilets, and rotational seats that can be aligned in the direction of travel in the executive class, and employs a regenerative braking system. The Vande Bharat can reach a maximum speed of 180 km.

During an Election campaign in the State of Karnataka the Congress President called the PM a poisonous snake, and you could die by licking it. A longtime ago, another Congress President called the PM ‘The Merchant of Death’ during another Election campaign – the results were there for all to see. Lots of poison being thrown around this week.

More stories snaking-up in the weeks ahead. Stay away from poison stay with World Inthavaaram.


About-the world this week, 16 April to 22 April 2023: Revenge arrests; a stampede for food; lots of gunfire; a rapid unscheduled disassembly; and a ‘kota’ beauty.



This week a Russian Judge ruled that American Journalist Evan Gershkovich, 32, must remain in jail-at least till 29th May-on espionage charges, in a case that is part of Russia’s crackdown on dissent and press freedom. This is happening in the background of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting war. If convicted, it would be 20 years in a cold Russian jail.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed that Evan Gershkovich, who is based in the capital Moscow, had been trying to steal State secrets. This is the first time, since the Cold War, that a United States (US) news correspondent has been detained in Russia.

Evan works for the Wall Street Journal, which is published by US company, Dow Jones. He was born in a jewish family, to parents who fled the then Soviet Union during a period of mass emigration amidst rumours that Jews would be exiled in Serbia. His parents ended up in the US in 1979. And Russian is a language spoken at home.

The arrest of Evan Gershkovich comes on the heels of the US announcing charges, about a week ago, against a Russian national, Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov accusing him of being a Russian spy.


Dying for Food

This week, a stampede in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, left over 80 people dead and dozens seriously injured. Hundreds of people crowded at a School in Sanaa to receive alms, which amounted to 5,000 Yemeni Riyals or about USD 9 per person of people, waiting to receive donations during the last days of the Muslim Festival Eid al-Fitr, Ramadan. Houthi fighters- who’ve been running the city since 2015- had shot into the air to disperse and control the crowd, striking an electrical wire that sparked an explosion. The series of events spooked the crowd, leading to a deadly stampede. Two organisers of the event have been arrested, and it seems there wasn’t any coordination with local authorities. Now, there’s an investigation underway. The stampede happened right before the Muslim Festival holiday, which marks the end of Ramadan.

Yemen has been stuck in the deep pit of an eight-year conflict that pits a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia against the Iran-aligned Houthi group. The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 against the Houthis, months after the group ousted the internationally recognised government from Sanaa. The conflict is seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The war has killed tens of thousands of people, wrecked the economy and pushed millions into hunger. The United Nation’s World Food Programme feeds 13 million in Yemen, but funding shortfalls have curtailed its activities.

The stampede shows the plight of the people in a war-torn country, fighting (and dying) for food, in Yemen.

The Guns of Africa

Late last week clashes broke out across Sudan, mainly in the capital city of Khartoum and the Darfur region, between rival factions of the country’s military government. Into this week, almost 330 people have been killed and about 3,200 injured. The clashes erupted amid an apparent power struggle between the two main factions of Sudan’s military regime.

The Sudanese armed forces are broadly loyal to Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the country’s de facto ruler, while the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a collection of militia, follow the former warlord Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti.

The power struggle has its roots in the years before a 2019 uprising that ousted the dictatorial ruler Omar al-Bashir, who built up formidable security forces that he deliberately set against one another.

When an effort to transition to a democratic civilian-led government faltered after Bashir’s fall, an eventual showdown appeared inevitable, with diplomats warning, in early 2022, that they feared such an outbreak of violence. In recent weeks, tensions have risen further.

Sudan is in a volatile region bordering the Red Sea, the Sahel region and the Horn of Africa. Its strategic location and agricultural wealth have attracted regional power plays, complicating the chances of a successful transition to a civilian-led government.

Several of Sudan’s neighbours – including Ethiopia, Chad, and South Sudan – have been affected by political upheavals and conflict, and Sudan’s relationship with Ethiopia, in particular, has been strained over issues including disputed farmland along their border.

The history of conflicts in Sudan has consisted of ethnic tensions, religious disputes, and competition over resources. In its modern history, two civil wars between the central government and the southern regions killed 1.5 million people, and a continuing conflict in the western region of Darfur has displaced 2 million people and killed more than 200,000 people. Since independence in 1956, Sudan has had more than fifteen military coups and has been ruled by the military for the majority of the republic’s existence, with only brief periods of democratic civilian parliamentary rule. That’s a tinderbox situation in Africa.

The Guns of India

One of India’s rowdiest states fires into the news, this week too, with gangster Atiq Ahmed and his brother being shot dead while being escorted by the police for a medical check-up. In a brazen act, the killers, seemingly unmindful of the police being everywhere, ‘gate-crashed the party’, simply pulled out a gun and shot dead the gangsters. And then promptly surrendered to the Police.

Just last week, the gangster’s son had been killed by the Police in an encounter, while trying to escape and making deadly plans to rescue his father from jail. Now they are together in another place.

He who lives by the Gun dies by the Gun?

The Name is Gandhi

One of India’s Member of Parliament (MP), Rahul Gandhi, who was found guilty, convicted by India’s Courts, and disqualified as an MP lost an appeal to stay the conviction on criminal defamation – on the ‘Modi surname issue’. The Court said he failed to show the ‘exceptional circumstances’ to grant a stay on the conviction. Jail beckons, and the wait outside Parliament’s Gates stays.

This is only the second time since 1860 that someone has been punished with two years for jail for criminal defamation. That’s ‘rarest of rare circumstance’ – perhaps good enough reason to hand out a jail term!

A Successful Failure

The United States’ Space Agency NASA has long been in the game of Space and appears to have wisely outsourced all risk-taking to Elon Musk’s SpaceX, who grabs them by the tail-for the lessons to learn. I admire the man for such daring.

This week, SpaceX’s Starship Spacecraft and Super Heavy Rocket – collectively referred to as Starship – the largest and most powerful rocket ever built- blasted off from a SpaceX Starbase on the Gulf of Mexico in Boca Chica, Texas. However, after a successful launch, Starship blew up within minutes into the test flight that SpaceX, hoped will be the first step on a human journey to Mars.

After a cancelled launch earlier this week because of a pressurisation issue, the 120 metre Starship finally kicked off its base. It gathered speed, but then started to spin at altitude before exploding about four minutes after leaving the ground. It appeared that the two sections of the rocket system-the booster and cruise vessel -were unable to separate properly after takeoff, possibly causing the spacecraft to fail. It was not immediately clear whether the rocket exploded spontaneously or if the Flight Termination System was activated – a failsafe that destroys the spacecraft to prevent it from veering too far off course.

Starship is a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, and beyond. It is capable of carrying up to 150 metric tonnes fully reusable and 250 metric tonnes expendable fuel. Starship leverages tanker vehicles (essentially the Starship spacecraft minus the windows) to refill the Starship spacecraft in low-Earth orbit prior to departing for Mars. Refilling on-orbit enables the transport of up to 100 tons all the way to Mars. And if the tanker ship has high reuse capability, the primary cost is just that of the oxygen and methane, which is extremely low. The Starship is designed to carry 100 people on long duration interplanetary flights.

SpaceX had cautioned that the chances of success were low and that the aim of the test flight was to gather data, regardless of whether the full mission was achieved. Employees at SpaceX cheered even after the rocket disintegrated. “As if the flight test was not exciting enough, Starship experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly before stage separation,” SpaceX said in a statement, referring to the explosion. Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly-that’s Space equivocating at its best spin!

Indian Beauty

Miss India, or Femina Miss India, is a national beauty pageant in India that annually selects women beauties to represent India to compete in the Miss World Contest, one of the Big Four major international beauty pageants. It is organised by Femina, a women’s magazine published by The Times Group. Since 2013 to 2022, Femina also organised Miss Diva as a separate competition, with participants competing at Miss Universe.

This week India chose its Miss India-to represent India in the upcoming 71st Miss World Contest 2023, to be held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) later this year. Rajasthan’s 19 years old Nandhini Gupta was crowned Miss India in the pageant held on 15th April, followed by Delhi’s Shreya Poonja as the first runner-up and Manipur’s Thounaojam Strela Luwang as second runner-up.

Manipur hosted the grand finale of Femina Miss India 2023, a first in the pageant’s history where it was held outside Mumbai. One contestant from 29 states (including Delhi) and a collective representative for all Union Territories adding up to 30 participants competed for the title.

Sini Shetty was Femina Miss India World 2022 from whom the crown passes to Nandhini Gupta.

Miss India’s official Instagram page said of Nandini Gupta, ‘magnetism, charm, endurance, and beauty’.

Nandini Gupta is 19 years old and hails from Kota, one of the biggest coaching hubs in the country for engineering and medical aspirants. Could perhaps become a coaching hub for beauty and brains too? The new Miss World India holds a Business Management degree. The Tata Group’s Ratan Tata is the most influential person in Nandini’s life. International Actor and Miss World 2000, Priyanka Chopra is one beauty queen who inspires Nandini the most.

Kota Doriya is a fabric famous for its quality manufactured in the region. And the new Miss India wants to help the artisans by promoting it on a national and international level. Time to get our quota of Kota?


In other news, India became the most populous country in the World with a head count of 1.428 billion, about 17.8% of the World’s Population. Quickly behind is China with 1.425 billion.

Meanwhile, a debate is underway in the India’s Supreme Court on same-sex marriages.

In India’s Jammu & Kashmir, five Indian soldiers were martyred when a vehicle in which they were travelling was fired upon by terrorists in the Poonch area, on Thursday. The unidentified attackers took advantage of heavy rains and low visibility, and the army truck probably caught fire due to a grenade attack. I’m sure, India will give a befitting reply in time to come.

In the Russia-Ukraine war, trigger-happy Russia accidentally bombed one of its own cities-the city of Belgorod, close to the Ukrainian border. A Russian Sukhoi-34 fighter-jet was involved in the ‘special operation’. Maybe Russia itself is an accident over the past year(s)?

More cat-walking stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Make-up and stay beautiful with World Inthavaaram.


About-the world this week, 9 April to 15 April 2023; licking tongues; the taste of India; a Farm explosion and fire in the United States; Cyclone Ilsa; Casino Japan; Covid-19 in India; an encounter killing; an underwater metro tunnel; and the DMK Files.


The Gods must be crazy. This week, Buddhism’s 87 years old spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama was caught in the act of asking a young boy to suck his tongue. During an event in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India, where the Dalai Lama lives in permanent exile, a boy asks His Holiness whether he can hug him. He then invites the boy on stage and asks him to first kiss him on the cheek. The boy goes on to hug and a kiss the Dalai Lama at which point it gets adventurous. The Dalai Lama then points to his lips and asks the boy to kiss him there too, and pulls the boy’s chin and kisses him on the mouth. And in, what could be called, a climax, he pokes his tongue out asking the boy to suck it.

The Dalai Lama has since apologised and the timid explanation offered was that he often teases people he meets, in innocent and playful ways, even in public, and before dangerous, hungry, ‘licking’ cameras.

In India’s ever-evolving dance of democracy, the State of Karnataka is swinging into Election mode and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) announced its first list of 189 candidates with 52 brand-new faces. By the end of the week, the ‘old faces’ started dropping off the Party -a typical act in these parts-and licking up mouthful offers from other parties.

Meanwhile, parochial forces were singing their best tunes trying to milk votes, arguing that local products – Nandhini Milk -should prevail over national, or from another state – Amul, the taste of India. I love Amul and have been ‘utterly, butterly, deliciously, devouring it – along with their delicious, cheeky advertisements-ever since I first set my tongue on to it. And the lick of Amul is available all over India.

This week an explosion and fire at the South Fork Dairy near Dimmitt, Texas, United States (US), killed 18,000 cows. Situated about 113 kilometres (km) southwest of Amarillo, in Castro County, the Farm is in a vast grassland country, dotted with dairy farms and cattle ranches. About 19,000 cattle were at the farm when the explosion happened. This is the deadliest barn blaze for cattle in Texas history and in the US. And the investigation into the reasons is underway.

Numerous cows-a mix of Holstein and Jersey-were crammed together in the holding pens, waiting to be milked, and hence stuck in dangerous conditions as the fire quickly spread across them.

Overheated equipment is likely to have caused the fire. The fire might have started with a machine called a ‘honey badger’, which consists of a vacuum system that sucks the manure and water out. It could have got overheated and probably the methane and other flammable things nearby ignited, spread out with the explosion and the fire.

Nature is always at work down under, and this week Australia braced for and faced its most powerful Category 5 cyclone- Cyclone Ilsa– in 8 years, which set a new preliminary Australian 10-minute sustained windspeed record of 218 km per hour at Bedout Island, about 40 km offshore.

Ilsa brought with it, wind gusts up to nearly 315 km per hour. The last Category 5 storm to cross the Australian Coast was Cyclone Marcia in 2015. Another one, Cyclone Veronica, passed by in 2019 but with nothing more than a backward glance and did not cross Australia’s Pilbara coast.

Ilsa was downgraded to Category 3, after it crossed the coast. However, warning was issued that the system could still pack gusts of up to about 200 km per hour. The storm made landfall early Friday morning with the highest intensity rating on a 1-to-5 scale and then moved inland. Port Hedland, the world’s biggest iron ore export point, was closed on Thursday, and port authorities began clearing berths as the cyclone gathered pace over the Indian Ocean.

Casino Japan: Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Government in Japan approved controversial plans to build the country’s first gambling resort. The complex will open in the western city of Osaka in 2029.

Casinos have long been illegal in Japan. But a law was passed in 2018 providing exceptions to games, such as poker or baccarat, to create jobs and boost tourism.

Public opinion has been split, with some concerned about a rise in crime and gambling addiction.

Besides the casino the abundant complex includes a hotel, conference centre, shopping mall, and a museum. And hopes to sell Japan’s charms to the world.

In the United States a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard was arrested this Thursday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in connection with the leaking of classified national defense information. The suspect, 21 year old Jack Teixeira, is believed to be the leader of an online chat group where the classified documents were posted.

Teixeira’s official job is a Cyber Transport Systems journeyman in the 102nd Intelligence Wing of the Air National Guard, tasked with making sure the service’s vast, global communications network is operating correctly. The documents included detailed intelligence assessments of allies and adversaries alike, including on the state of the war in Ukraine.

The job of the Air National Guard is very sensitive and vital. They fly the drones that conduct Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance missions in support of the Air Force and warfighters on the ground in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and in support of special operations teams who may be sent anywhere on classified missions. That means that units need access to a broad amount of intelligence collection and analysis because they may be operating in multiple theatres against multiple threats. Their other mission is cyber intelligence collection and that is even broader in terms of scope.

It’s back in the news in India, and forgotten counting and score-keeping skills are doing the rounds again. Covid-19 cases in the current week measured 34,901 cases compared to 1,377 cases 15 weeks ago. Health Experts says the pandemic is moving to the endemic stage and there is no cause for worry. The State of Kerala is a topper, followed by Maharashtra, Delhi, Haryana and Tamil Nadu. A lineage of the Omicron virus called XBB.1.1.6 is being the current rapid spike in infections.

In India’s once dacoit-infested, lawless State of Uttar Pradesh dreaded gangster-turned- Politician Atiq Ahmed’s son Asad Ahmed, wanted in a murder case was gunned down by the Police, in an encounter in Jhansi on Thursday. A co-accused was also taken down.

The Police believe Asad Ahmed had planned to free his father by attacking a police convoy carrying the jailed father, Atiq Ahmed, en route from Ahmedabad to Prayagraj, for a Court hearing. This could have led to him being chanced upon in Jhansi and subsequently gunned down in an encounter. The police, acting on intelligence inputs, had sanitised the route from Ahmedabad to Prayagraj.

Opposition parties were quick to cry foul on the booming ‘encounter culture’ where criminals are shot down during the ‘sketchy process’ of ‘re-catching’ them while attempting to make a break-out from police custody.

It was a historic moment for India when its first underwater tunnel metro route completed its maiden run.

In the State of West Bengal, the Kolkata metro’s newest line, set to open to the public in November 2023, passes underneath the Hooghly River in the city’s northeast, with the tunnel 32 meters below the water. The line will connect the soon-to-open metro station of Howrah Maidan and the existing station of Esplanade on the opposite side of the river, traveling 520 meters in just 45 seconds. Once open, Howrah Maidan will be the deepest metro station in India. This is a revolutionary step in providing a modern transport system to the people of Kolkata and suburbs – said a Metro Official.

Flowers, breaking of coconuts and a round of cheers were part of the celebrations following the inaugural test run . To bless the new tunnel and train, officials conducted ‘traditional puja – as per Hindu traditions – to bring good luck, after the train successfully pulled into the station at Howrah Maidan.

Towards the end of the week, on Tamil New Year’s Day, Tamil Nadu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Annamalai released what he called the DMK files accusing many top leaders of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party of owning questionable and sizeable assets. He also levelled corruption charges against the present Chief Minister (CM) of Tamil Nadu, alleging that he had accepted a bribe of INR 200 crore from an American firm in 2011, to secure a contract for the first phase of the Chennai Metro Project. The CM in question was the deputy Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu between May 2009 and May 2011, when his late father was Chief Minister.

The DMK rules the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India, coming to power in the year 2021-after 10 years in the wilderness-winning the Assembly elections with a majority of its own.

Annamalai claimed that the assets listed in Part One of the ‘DMK files’, worth nearly Rs 1.34 lakh crore, are owned by 12 DMK individuals including the CM’s son, his son-in-law, sister, state ministers and Members of Parliament. Twenty seven DMK Leaders alone have assets of over 2 lakh crore, which amounts to 10% of the GDP of Tamil Nadu.

The DMK, on its part, was quick to retort, calling the release a joke. Wonder who will have the last laugh!

More blazing and corruption-free stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Stay the course with World Inthavaaram.


About-the world this week, 2 April to 8 April 2023. Dance moves of the world: Finland gets a new Prime Minister; NASA announces its team to the Moon; the dance of hush money; the rocket dance in Israel; and a classical dance in India’s Tamil Nadu.


The Dancing is Over: A New PM for Finland

The world’s youngest woman leader, Prime Minister (PM) of Finland, Sanna Marin, 37, lost her job in the just concluded Elections. She had bursted on to the political stage in 2019 heading a coalition of five parties, all led by women.

Finnish conservative ‘National Coalition Party’ Leader, Petteri Orpo won a nail-biting three-way election race, defeating Sanna Marin’s Centre-Left ‘Social Democratic Party’. Orpo secured 20.8% of the vote, ahead of the right-wing populist ‘Finns Party’s’ record of 20.1%, and Sanna Marin’s 19.9%. It was a bitter defeat for Marin, who however increased the count of her party’s seats.

Sanna Marin enjoyed high poll ratings and has been widely praised for steering Finland towards imminent entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and navigating her country through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite such successes, including a mature response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the election was largely fought on Finland’s economy and public debt, as all the mainstream parties backed the NATO membership.

Many Finns saw Marin as a polarising figure. She came under heavy scrutiny last year when a video emerged of her singing, dancing, and drinking at a party. Supporters said the controversy was steeped in sexism and women across Finland and the world shared videos of themselves dancing in solidarity.

Petteri Orpo, by contrast, has none of Sanna Marin’s ‘rock-star’ dancing qualities but hopes to make moves that get noticed in Finland… and the world.

Finland officially became NATO’s 31st member this Tuesday. And was warmly welcomed by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg when Finland’s flag was raised alongside those of the 30 other nations in the alliance, during a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Finland’s has been the fastest accession process in the Treaty’s history.

Finland has historically maintained a position of neutrality in the face of its often complicated relations with Russia. NATO would now rise to Finland’s defence should it come under attack from Russia or any other Country.

The Moon Dance: NASA

The United States (US) space agency NASA has named the four astronauts who will take humans back to the Moon, after a gap of 50 years. This would be the Artemis-2 mission, which follows the successful ‘test Mission’ of Artemis-I. And, will in turn be followed by the Artemis-3 mission: the first landing of the new era, which is not expected to occur until at least 12 months after Artemis-2.

Christina Koch will become the first woman astronaut ever assigned to a lunar mission, while Victor Glover will be the first African-American astronaut. They will join Reid Wiseman and Jeremy Hansen to fly a capsule around the Moon late next year or in early 2025. The astronauts will not be landing on the Moon, but their mission will pave the way for a touchdown by a subsequent crew.

Reid Wiseman, 47, is a US Navy pilot who served for a time as the head of NASA’s astronaut office. He’s flown one previous space mission, to the International Space Station in 2015.

Victor Glover, 46, is a US Navy test pilot. He joined Nasa in 2013 and made his first spaceflight in 2020. He was the first African-American to stay on the Space Station for an extended period of six months.

Christina Koch, 44, is an electrical engineer. She holds the record for the longest continuous time in space by a woman-328 days. With NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, she participated in the first all-female spacewalk in October 2019.

Jeremy Hansen, 47, was a fighter pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force before joining the Canadian Space Agency. He has yet to fly in space.

Wiseman will be the commander; Glover will be his pilot; Koch and Hansen will act as the supporting ‘mission specialists’.

The four of them are essentially repeating the 1968 Apollo-8 mission, which was the first human spaceflight to reach the Moon.

The last human spaceflight mission to the Moon was Apollo-17 in December 1972. The first Moon landing was Apollo-11, in 1969.

NASA has outsourced development of the system capable of taking astronauts down to the lunar surface to Elon Musk’s SpaceX company. Called Starship, the vehicle is due to start flight testing in the next few weeks.

The Moon never got closer!

Hush Money Dance: Arrest of an Ex-President

This week, former US President Donald Trump surrendered to authorities in Manhattan after a grand jury indicted him for his role in a USD 130,000 hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. He was indicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

He arrived with his legal team and an 11-vehicle motorcade surrounded by Secret Service. Officials fingerprinted the former president, but did not handcuff him.

One poll found that nearly all Democrats approve of the indictment, whereas 79% of Republicans disapprove. But it also found that a majority of Americans believe the indictment was motivated by politics. That’s about the same everywhere?

On The Same Dance Stage: Israel

This week, Israeli Police raided the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem when several hundred Palestinians remained in the mosque after Ramadan prayers on Tuesday night. Israeli police tried to clear them peacefully, but a small group refused to leave. Police moved in after ‘several law-breaking youth and masked agitators’ brought fireworks, sticks, and stones and barricaded themselves inside the mosque. Many were injured and dozens arrested.

Following the raid, tensions flared-up in the highly sensitive and brittle region of the Middle East.

In the biggest attack since 2006 when Israel fought a war with the Hezbollah movement, rockets were launched from Southern Lebanon into Israel. Out of about 34 rockets, 25 were intercepted by Israeli Air defence systems. Israel was quick to pin responsibility on the terrorist organisation, Hamas, and responded in equal measure conducting air raids on Hamas positions in Lebanon and the Gaza. And the never-ending story continues to dance.

Indian Classical Dance: Kalakshetra

This week, and simmering over the past many weeks is sexual harassment allegations in India’s Kalakshetra Foundation – recognised and declared an ‘Institute of National Importance’, by the Government of India in 1994.

Kalakshetra Foundation, formerly ‘Kalakshetra’ is an arts and cultural academy dedicated to the preservation of traditional values in Indian art and crafts, especially in Bharatanatyam dance-the classical dance form of Tamil Nadu- and Gandharvaveda music.

Kalakshetra was founded in January 1936 by Rukmini Devi Arundale and her husband George Arundale in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. It now operates out of a campus in Chennai’s Besant Nagar area, close to the sea shore.

The Institute aims to train and encourage young artists and to revive Bharatanatyam and other ancient arts and crafts. The Institutes under Kalakshetra are, the Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts, the Rukmini Devi Museum, Koothambalam (Kalakshetra theatre) and the Craft Education and Research Centre (including the weaving department, the Kalamkari natural dye printing and the painting unit).

The institution achieved national and international recognition for its unique style and perfectionism. Having studied the Pandanallur style for three years, in 1936 Rukmini Devi Arundale started working on developing her own, Kalakshetra style of Bharatanatyam, noted for its angular, straight, ballet-like kinesthetics. She introduced group performances and staged various Bharatanatyam-based ballets.

Rukimini Devi Arundale was a theosophist, dancer and choreographer of Bharatanatyam, besides being an animal welfare activist, in a side hustle.

Beginning in December 2022, allegations of sexual abuse on the campus began to surface after a former director wrote a social media post accusing a teacher of harassing and molesting students, but hadn’t specified names. In the following months, over a hundred students of Kalakshetra’s Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts accused senior faculty members of sexual harassment. The accusations spanned a number of years.

The accused was exonerated following an internal investigation, and Kalakshetra issued a gag order preventing students and staff from discussing the allegations. Then the National Commission for Women began investigating, but closed the investigation shortly, after a victim denied any sexual harassment during an enquiry. In end March 2023 the students began protests against the inaction of the Kalakshetra authorities, by walking out of a routine morning prayer when one of the accused walked in. The Government of Tamil Nadu has stepped-in and an investigation is dancing the rounds, hoping to come up with solutions.

The culture of Classical Institutes of this kind makes it extremely difficult to find wrong-doers and punish them due to the ingrained ‘Guru-Shishya Parampara’ (Teacher-Disciple tradition) in Indian Classical Dances, Arts, and Craft.

The system of Guru-Shishya Parampara traces its roots back to 5000 BC and has been an inseparable part of the ancient Indian civilisation relating to the relationship between a teacher and his disciple. A key feature of this system was that the students were required to stay at the Gurukul (the teacher’s residence) until their shiksha (education) was completed. The Guru’s words and actions are unchallenged in a tacit understanding. This assumes that the Guru is honourable and lives up to high standards of his position and leads by example. Now, somewhere fault lines have appeared, and in the arts, life moves in circles resulting in Gurus and Shishyas bumping into one another all the time. Institutes ought to wake-up to providing a safe environment for students to learn and grow fearlessly.

This week, The Padma Awards one of the highest civilian honours of India- announced annually on the eve of Republic Day-was presented to the Awardees by the President of India, Droupadi Murmu, in a ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi. Over the past years the awards have become more inclusive bringing to the surface and recognising real heroes at the grassroots level. It has focussed on work done by people rather than on identities. And I’ll bring the inspiring stories.

More classic stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Dance with World Inthavaaram.


About-the world this week, 26 March to 1 April 2023: Israel erupts, America continues shooting, an ex-American President is indicted, Scotland gets a new First Minister, a local Party in India gets somewhat whole; and plants talking to each other.


Israel saw unprecedented protests and civil unrest ignited by the Government’s plan to bring in judicial reforms, which aims to rein in the powers of an ‘interventionist judiciary’.

The most significant reform would allow a simple majority in the Israeli Parliament, Knesset, to overturn Supreme Court rulings; to change the way judges are selected, and remove government ministries’ independent legal advisers, whose opinions are binding.

This week, Israel’s Defence Minister was promptly sacked when he said that the Government should stop going-ahead with the new legislation and talk to the opposition and protestors: he was fired for not backing the new law. The President of Israel also called upon Prime Minister (PM) Benjamin Netanyahu’s Government to halt the judicial overhaul.

Early this week, embattled PM Netanyahu finally buckled and announced that he would delay the judicial reforms plan, after protests seemed to be only swelling and getting out of hand.

Netanyahu said he would put-off voting on the remaining legislation until after the Knesset’s Passover recess in April 2023 ‘to give time for a real chance for a real debate’. In a televised address, Netanyahu said that he was aware of the tensions and is listening to the people. But he indicated that the pause was only temporary, and insisted that the overhaul was necessary, reiterating criticism of refusal to train or serve in the military in protest at the planned changes. “Refusing is the end of our country,” Netanyahu said. Israel rests in peace for the moment.

Israeli historian, philosopher, and best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari, of ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ fame, feels that Netanyahu may go down in history as the man who destroyed Israel. He added that the PM has divided the country to preserve his political longevity, which has caused rifts that will be difficult to heal. Hope Netanyahu is listening to this one of the Homo Sapiens.

Six people, including three children, were killed in a shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, United States, which just cannot keep its paws off ‘em guns. It’s 129 mass shootings in the past three months and a distinctive American phenomenon. A frightening count says that America also has more guns than it has people!

The Covenant School in Nashville, where the incident took place, is a private Christian school for students in pre-school through the sixth grade, when students are roughly 11 or 12 years old. Nashville police engaged and killed the shooter, a 28 year old woman, Audrey Hale, who was carrying two ‘assault-type’ rifles and a handgun. She is a Nashville resident and was once a student at the school. The motive is unclear and is being investigated. Initial pointers indicate that Audrey had some resentment to having to go to the Covenant School; had a history of mental struggles; and the shooting was planned as a kind of suicidal mission.

This week former United States (US) President Donald Trump was indicted – charged with felony crimes – by a Manhattan Grand Jury in his role of payment of hush money to a porn star. His arrest is imminent. And when it happens, the unprecedented arrest of a former President of the US is likely to be routine with standard procedures for felony offences followed, such as being fingerprinted, photographed, and maybe, even handcuffed.

Donald Trump faces more than 30 counts related to business fraud in the indictment from the Grand Jury – the first time in American history that a current or former President has faced criminal charges. The decision has sent shockwaves across the country, pushing the American political system-which has never seen one of its ex-leaders confronted with criminal charges, let alone while running again for President – into uncharted waters.

The incident pertains to Trump’s role in a hush money payment scheme and cover-up involving adult film star Stormy Daniels that dates to the 2016 presidential election.

Daniels has said she had a sexual encounter – it was consensual sex – with Trump in 2006, the year after he married his third wife Melania. And more than a decade before the businessman-turned-politician-at the time known for a popular reality TV show – became President. Trump has denied the relationship and has said the payment was made to stop false and extortionist accusations.

Stormy Daniels, 44, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She has been a well-known personality for more than two decades in the adult film business, appearing in and directing numerous videos.

In October 2016, in the waning days before the presidential election that Trump won, Daniels signed a non-disclosure agreement in which she pledged not to publicly discuss her relationship with him in exchange for a USD 130,000 payment. The pact was signed by Keith Davidson, her lawyer at the time, and Michael Cohen, then Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer. The document included a spot for Trump’s signature, but he never signed it.

On expected lines, Trump released a statement in response to the indictment claiming it was ‘Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history.’ We heard similar sounds from someone, of India’s Grand Old Party, didn’t we?

Russian President Vladimir Putin took another step in complicating the attack on Ukraine announcing last weekend that Russia would be deploying tactical nuclear weapons in the territory of a ‘very friendly’ neighbour, Belarus, ruled by his long-time buddy Alexander Lukashenko, also the longest-sitting European President.

Meanwhile, Ukraine said it was seeking an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council over the move.

In February this year, the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, 52 who was also the Leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) quit both positions in a ‘Jacinda Ardern’ moment. This after over eight years of ‘ruling’ Scotland and trying to get its ‘independence’ from the United Kingdom.

This week, Humza Yousaf was confirmed as Scotland’s new First Minister after a vote in the Scottish Parliament. Yousaf was backed by all 64 SNP Members of the Parliament and the 7 of the Scottish Greens, guaranteeing him a majority. The two parties having a power-sharing agreement in the 129 seat Parliament.

Humza Yousaf, a son of Pakistani-Kenyan immigrants, is the country’s sixth first minister, the youngest at 37, and the first Muslim to lead a major UK party.

Following the vote, Yousaf announced Shona Robison – who has been serving as the social justice secretary and was a close ally of Sturgeon – would be appointed as his Deputy First Minister. He also confirmed he would have a ‘Minister for Independence’ in his government, a role he pledged to create during the leadership campaign.

UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was looking forward to meeting and working together with Yousaf, but the UK Government has already made clear it will continue to refuse to grant formal consent for another independence referendum.

India saw the week filled with protests by Opposition parties over the disqualification of the Congress Party’s, Member of Parliament, Rahul Gandhi following his conviction in a defamation case by the Courts. Quick on the heels was a notice from Parliament to vacate his spacious bungalow. Last heard, he was hunting for a House while his Party continued setting a bad precedent by ‘challenging the judiciary’.

In India’s Tamil Nadu state, the more than the year-long tussle between ‘Two Joint Leaders’ of a once powerful Party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) founded by yesteryear film superstar M G Ramachandran (MGR) and later skilfully steered by his protege Jayalalithaa, was finally resolved. At least, for the time being.

Following the untimely death of Jayalalithaa – fondly called Amma – due to illness, while in office both as the General Secretary (the Supremo) of the AIADMK the top position fell vacant. A minister in the cabinet, Edappadi K Palanisamy (EPS) became Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, in some smart moves and did a reasonably good job, for the remaining term – over two years. He bypassed the favourite, O Panneerselvam (OPS) who was himself CM twice when he filled-in for the time Jayalalithaa was convicted by Courts and had to quit office under the Rules. Basically, OPS kept the Boss’ seat warm.

High drama followed the passing of Amma when her close friend and confidante Sasikala almost became CM, but a court conviction of corruption sent her packing to jail.

Then for over the past 4 years, EPS & OPS jointly steered the AIADMK dedicating the position of General Secretary to Amma, as ‘eternal’, until the ‘friends with benefits’ turned sour and EPS became tired of the dual-headed control. All the more after the AIADMK lost at the hustings and bitter rival, the DMK, came to power.

The Two Leaves, symbol of the party, began wilting – under stress. After a series of Court cases, clashes between the widening factions, and Court appeals and re-appeal, EPS was finally announced as elected unopposed and the undisputed General Secretary of the AIADMK. Hope to see the two leaves listen to the party cadres and bloom especially with the Lotus (symbol of the Bharatiya Janata Party) having gained lots of water and land in Tamil Nadu.

EPS announced that said the party would continue its alliance with the BJP for the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections in the year 2024, after rumblings from the BJP about ‘going it alone’. Then there is OPS – a leaf cut off from the stem. Tomorrow is another Day!

Please Yourself

An Israeli research team, Tel Aviv U, has in groundbreaking research, recorded plants ‘talking’ for the first time.

It has been known for some time that plants communicate with one another, but Israeli scientists now say they have identified ‘words’ and have found that different species speak in different ‘languages’, according to a new study published this week in the prestigious Scientific Journal, Cell.

Scientists know that plants communicate in a variety of ways when they are stressed. They might change physically -by wilting or changing leaf colour, become bitter to the taste -to deter herbivores- or emit smells -volatile organic compounds-to tell other members of the family that they are under attack, for example by insects.

It turns out that plants talk in clicks, which sounds something like popcorn popping. The sounds are emitted at a volume similar to human speech, but at high frequencies, beyond the hearing range of humans.

The findings suggest that the world is full of plant sounds and that these sounds contain information — for example about water scarcity or injury. It is assumed that in nature the sounds emitted by plants are detected by creatures nearby, such as bats, rodents, various insects, and possibly also other plants that can hear the high frequencies and derive relevant information.

Perhaps humans can also utilize this information, given the right tools — such as sensors that tell growers when plants need watering.

The research team recorded ultrasonic sounds emitted by tomato and tobacco plants that had been deprived of water, suffered a cut to the stem, or have been left alone. Time for new vocabulary building

More plant stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Listen to the clicks and stay with World Inthavaaram.


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.