About: The story of the world this week; of one at war with itself, and attempts to fly in other Planets.


The Guns of the United States of America (USA)

This Sunday, in Brooklyn Centre, Minnesota, USA, Afro-American Daunte Wright, 20 years old, was pulled over for a traffic violation by a woman Police Officer, but there was a struggle when Wright tried getting back into his car while officers were trying to handcuff him. Wright does get back into his car and drives away, but not before been shot by a Police Office who shouted out, ‘Taser, Taser, Taser… ‘(an electric gun which incapacitates a person with a high voltage electric shock), but instead pulls out a gun and fires a bullet. Fatally wounded, Wright driving his car, crashed a few streets away. The Officer mistook the Gun for a Taser, pulling out the wrong one, but nevertheless the damage was done and the shooting sparked wild protests leading to declaration of a curfew and a local state of emergency.

The Police have admitted that the shooting was accidental, but the incident shoots many questions:How can an Officer mistake a Pistol for a Taser when they look and feel different and there are protocols to prevent a mix-up? But before that, why guns for a traffic violation? This is not the case of a criminal running away from a ‘deadly’ crime scene to warrant drawing a weapon!

On the other hand, why did Wright run away, precipitating Police action? He should have allowed himself to be arrested and faced the music. In a deeply divided America these are tough questions to find answers. Meanwhile, the Police Officer and her Chief have resigned-owning up.

While we are on the last legs of this week, there is yet another mass shooting, late Thursday, in the US City of Indianapolis, at a FedEx Facility near the main Airport. Eight people have been killed and many injured, when a man, seemingly without any kind of provocation, started firing an automatic weapon. The gunman, said to be acting alone, killed himself soon after the shooting. The motive is unclear.

What the hell has become of US? This is a never-ending story!

Look up at India: imagine a gun in the hand of every citizen and every policeman too? They get the job done with the fiery bamboo lathi, and the guns are reserved, while people go about their chores with hands in their pockets.

A Full-Blown Conflict: A Failed State?

The United Nations is seeing the big picture, and has warned that Myanmar is heading towards a full-blown conflict with clear echos of Syria in 2011, unless the International Community steps in with immediate, decisive and impactful measures to push Myanmar’s military leadership into halting its campaign of repression and heart-wrenching slaughter of its own people.

The World is standing by and watching Myanmar become a failed State. Time to cross some boundaries and stop being a by-stander?

Jallianwala Bagh and Ram Mohammad Singh Azad

This week brought back piercing memories of the brutal Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, which happened 102 years ago, this month.

On 13th April 1919, when India was under British Rule, Brigadier General Reginald Dyer, the acting military commander of Punjab ordered his troops to fire into a peaceful unarmed crowd, which had assembled in an open ground, in Jallianwala Bagh, Amristar, Punjab, to celebrate the Festival of Baishaki, New Year’s Day, and protest the Rowlatt Act and arrest of two freedom fighters from Amristar. It was a bloody slaughter and one of the most blood-chilling events in India’s fight for freedom from the British. Over 350 ordinary civilians were mercilessly butchered and over a thousand injured that deadly day. Firing continued uninterrupted for about 10 minutes and stopped only when they ran out of ammunition-about 1,650 rounds were spent.

The impact it had on 19 years old Udham Singh, a revolutionary freedom fighter was unimaginable. He was driven by a burning rage to avenge the death of innocent Indians, and taking a handful of the blood-soaked soil he vowed that no matter how long it took or how far he had to go, he would hunt down the persons who did this to his people, and kill them. He swore revenge for every man, woman, and child killed that day.

Twenty-one years later on 13th March 1940, Udham Singh shot and killed Sir Michael O’Dwyer-who was the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab at the time of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre-point-blank, in faraway London, in a crowded Caxton Hall, where O’Dwyer arrived to make a speech. Udham Singh had hidden the pistol in a book with pages cut-out to accommodate the gun.

Two days later after a quick trial Udham Singh was sentenced and later hanged to death on 31st July 1940 at the Pentonville Prison, United Kingdom.

There are two British responsible, with similar sounding names: Dwyer and Dyer. The latter, General Dyer, was discharged from the Army, never punished for his crimes, and died unrepentant in 1927. The former, Sir Michael O’Dwyer, had approved of General Dyer’s actions and is believed to be the main planner-to teach Indians a lesson.

Udham Singh surrendered after assassinating O’Dwyer and during his incarceration until his hanging, said his name was Ram Mohammad Singh Azad-signifying the major religions in India, and freedom.

The Udham Singh story was kept under strict wraps by the British, being in a delicate phase of the Indian Independence movement. However, it’s hard to hide such a story of martyrdom, and eventually it surfaced. And following an outcry, in 1974 his remains was brought back to India and buried in his home town of Sunam, Sangrur District, Punjab.

Today, a ten-foot high statue of Udham Singh stands at the entrance of Jallianwala Bagh with his outstretched right hand holding blood-soaked soil in his palm. Many statues have been erected in his hometown to commemorate his memory.

They say, if we forget the lessons of History we are bound to repeat them. Let’s read and learn our History well. Such spine-chilling killing of unarmed people cannot be forgotten, ever.


India, and Tamil Nadu in particular, is famous for showering freebies on ‘the ever hungry electorate’ to win over their minds, through their stomachs, into voting for them. We have seen a mind-boggling array of goodies such as table fans, mixies, grinders, cycles, scooters, buffaloes, cows, laptops… being offered free with the intention of uplifting the poor. Most of us think that this makes people lazy and that we are creating a useless, skill-dropping workforce. We better rethink!

Economist and Nobel laureate, Abjijit Vinayak Banerjee has trashed this ideology saying there is no evidence whatsoever that such ‘Government injections’ make people lazy-putting them to sleep. He said that his own research on the subject across diverse economies in Asia, Africa and Latin America in the past decade and more, shows no evidence of this effect anywhere, not even in India; instead what he has seen everywhere is only improvements. The Nobel laureate says that when the poor become better off, they become more creative in generating more wealth and leading better lives including by sending their kids to competitive schools far away from their villages.

Economists are always challenging us with their peculiar data-based findings. And they may not always be right. I reckon we can increase our wealth-and probably the Wealth of Nations-by cogitating over how best to deploy whatever we receive from the Government, not necessarily free.

Ingenuity: Still Trying to Fly

America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had its Mars Rover, Perseverance, drop the mini-helicopter, Ingenuity, on the Martian surface on 4th April to get charged and prepare of its first ever flight in Mars. Last Thursday Ingenuity unlocked its blades and did a slow spin test to get the feel of rotation (yesterday they did a full-spin-test). And this Sunday we expected history to be made, but it did not happen as the superbly cautious NASA decided that Ingenuity needs a software update, much like our mobile phones do all the time.

Ingenuity’s guidance, navigation, and control systems will do the piloting for the almost autonomous flight attempt, mostly because radio signals will take 15 minutes and 27 seconds to bridge the 278 million kilometre gap between Mars and Earth.

The Martian atmosphere is 99% less dense than Earth’s, which makes it difficult to achieve enough lift. Successful flights of Ingenuity could provide an ambitious aerial dimension to future Mars exploration.

Meanwhile, the Wright Brothers are waiting and watching, from somewhere close by.

The Pandemic’s Second Wave in India

India is presently ‘doing lines’ instead of curves, with every new day edging past the previous day’s record of the number of positive coronavirus cases-it’s frightening, this almost vertical, a straight line.

The number of cases has gone up from about 11,794 in the first week of February 2021 to over 2 lakhs cases this week, spiking all records. Forget bending the curve we need to first bend the line into a curve.

The term lockdown being overused, Authorities are clamping down with measures to break the chain of infections, with lookalikes of Lockdowns and curfew like restrictions, well almost. Maharashtra is doing it and other States are hoping to follow soon. If the coronavirus can mutate so can the Lockdown. In Mumbai you just cannot go everywhere and anywhere-as you please-and it isn’t called a lockdown!

The Vaccination drive is gathering speed-about 12 crore vaccinations done in India-but it cannot do much in a surging state of infection spread. We need to hold on to the basics of what we have learnt over the past year: masking-up, physical distancing, and hand-washing. Experts say we should avoid public gatherings of over 10 people and limit the unavoidable Events such as Weddings and Funerals to under 50 people, and avoid travel as best as we can. I suggest we keep at it until the cases crawl down to zero and stay grounded for at least a month.

Over the week, India approved Russia’s, Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology developed Vaccine, Sputnik V (It’s the letter V, not the Roman Letter for 5) for emergency use. With this India has three vaccines at hand: Covishield, Covaxin, and now the Sputnik V.

In other Vaccine news, Johnson & Johnson’s single shot vaccine has been temporarily paused in America as ‘abundance of caution’, following concerns that the vaccine may be linked to a rare but severe type of blood clotting-reported as after-effects, in a few cases.

India, after a reasonable success in keeping coronavirus infections at bay has definitely been caught napping and complacency has crept-in. And has mentally declared a victory over the pandemic, when cases were cleverly and stealthily climbing up a rusty ladder. The Assembly Elections in five States saw large gatherings kick up a lot of dust; Weddings and Family get-togethers almost returned to the normal attendance level, religious festivals were back with a bang and too many things were simply ‘left in the hands of God’. The triennial Hindu Festival Kumbh Mela, when devotees take a holy dip in the Holy River Ganges, in Haridwar, is a huge draw and should have been avoided. Sins apart, the waters may find it hard to wash away the virus.

Stealing Giant Rabbits

Darius, a continental giant rabbit, which holds the Guinness World Record for being the world’s longest rabbit at 4 feet and 23 inches, was stolen last Saturday from its owner, Annette Edwards’ garden in Stoulton, Worcestershire, in the West Midlands region of the United Kingdom. The bunny is Edwards’ fourth record-breaking rabbit and took the title from its mom.

Annette Edwards has offered a £1,000 reward for finding Darius, which she claims is too old to breed-if that was the intent of the theft.

Growing Brains at Will

Imagine being able to shrink the size of your brain, and re-grow it at will? Brainy?

Researchers have found that a certain species of Indian Jumping Ants are able to do exactly that.

Unlike other kinds of ants, colonies of Jumping Ants do not perish once their Queen dies. Instead chosen worker-ants, which have expanded ovaries and shrunken brains take the Queen’s place to produce offspring. The Queen’s job being, to only reproduce-and hardly think, her ovaries are large and the brain is small. On the other hand, worker ants need large brains to think and get work done and not waste energy in reproduction, hence small ovaries. Now, if at some point, the Queen status is revoked their bodies can bounce back to the state of small ovaries and large brains-Researchers have found.

Typically, in all Ant Colonies, an ant becoming a worker or a queen is decided at the larval stage. If fed generously and given the right hormones, the ant has the chance to become a queen. If not, then it is stuck with a career as a sterile worker deprived of the opportunity to switch-unless it’s part of a species such as the Indian Jumping Ant.

I can’t help jump every time a new mystery of nature is unravelled, and grow my brain in the process. Amazing!

Please Yourself: Dynamite

South Korean Band Group, BTS (Bangtan Boys) is a seven-member group of men, Suga, Jin, RM, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook – names, which to me appear to be splinters of Dynamite- who write and produce much of their own output. Originally a hip-hop group, their musical style has evolved to include a wide range of genres.

BTS’s global smash hit ‘Dynamite’, which is the group’s first song made entirely in English, just crossed one billion views on YouTube, in less than eight months since its debut, making it the newest entry in YouTube’s Billion Views Club.

The ‘Dynamite’ video on YouTube premiered in August 2020. It garnered over 101.1 million views in its first 24 hours, making it the biggest music video debut on the video platform to date. The video also set a record for the biggest YouTube Premiere with over three million peak concurrent views. It opened at No. 1 on the YouTube Global Top Songs chart, and has remained on the chart for 32 straight weeks

I listened to ‘Dynamite’ before writing this piece and I was blasted by its beauty. However, here I’m alive, and in one piece, to tell this story.

More dynamite and jumping stories coming up in the weeks ahead.



About: The story of the world this week, new forces in the making, and old ones becoming more forceful and bullying too.


Move on: A new Force of Nature is here

Scientists say that all of the forces of nature we experience every day can be simply skinned-down to four categories of fundamental forces: Gravity, Electromagnetism, the Strong Nuclear Force, and the Weak Nuclear Force. The last two dominate only at the level of the sub-atomic particle and are effective over close ranges.

Now, Physicists say they have found possible signs of a fifth fundamental force.

While the four ‘grand old forces’ govern how all the objects and particles in the Universe interact with each other, this new fifth, is trying to squeeze-in, and force its (rightful?) place in the scheme of things in the Universe.

The findings come from research carried out at a laboratory near Chicago, United States (US), which is the latest in a string of promising results from particle physics experiments in the US, Japan, and most recently from the Large Hadron-Collider on the Swiss-French border.

Results provide strong evidence for the existence of an undiscovered sub-atomic particle or new force while studying particles, which are the building blocks of our world. Some of these smaller-than-the-atom-particles are made up of even smaller constituents, while others cannot be broken down into anything else, called fundamental particles. The muon is one of these fundamental particles. It is similar to the electron, but more than 200 times heavier. Some call it a ‘fat electron’.

The current experiment involved sending the particles around a 14 metre ring and then applying a magnetic field. Under the current laws of physics, of the Standard Model, this should make the muons wobble at a certain rate. Instead, the scientists found that muons wobbled at a faster rate than expected. This might be caused by a force of nature that is completely new to science.

One of the Scientists commented on the finding, ‘It is quite mind-boggling. It has the potential to turn physics on its head. We have a number of mysteries that remain unsolved. And this could give us the key answers to solve these mysteries’

The Universe is indeed a force to reckon with…and we humans are unravelling one mystery after another, for sure.

Belfast, Belfast

Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom (UK), is burning with violence-rioting-in areas of Derry, Belfast, and other towns in County Antrim over six successive nights-a level of unrest not seen in years.

The reason for the unrest seems to be the exploding anger over the UK’s post-Brexit trading Agreements with the European Union (EU)-known as the Northern Ireland Protocol-which loyalists believe has created barriers between the region and the rest of Britain. Under this protocol a de-facto border was created in the Irish Sea with goods entering Northern Ireland from mainland Britain subject to EU checks, which angered the Loyalists. I smell a rotten fish here-movement between parts of a United Kingdom subject to external checks by an outsider?

Loyalists, or Unionists as they are called, are part of a political movement that wishes to keep Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom and attached to the British monarchy.

Unrest first broke out over anger on the decision by the Northern Ireland Police not to prosecute leaders of the Irish Nationalist Party, Sinn Fein, for breaking coronavirus restrictions, during the funeral of a former Irish Republican Army (IRA) figure.

Looks like people are forever looking for a reason to get violent and release pent-up feelings. Easy to get angry on one’s nose?

To me, Belfast, the Capital of Northern Ireland brings back memories of the Titanic, which considered to be an unsinkable ship, famously stuck an iceberg and sank on its maiden journey, in 1912. The Titanic was constructed in Belfast, which they say, is perfectly situated for ship building.

Belfast also brings to the air, yesteryear Music Group, Boney M’s, hit song ‘Belfast, Belfast’, which was inspired by previous violent incidents in Northern Ireland. It is a significant reminder that when people utterly fail to live in peace together, such conflicts reverberate far and wide.

A Pillar Falls

Prince Philip, aged 99, The Duke of Edinburg, and the husband for 73 years, of Britain’s reigning Queen Elizabeth-II, passed away peacefully on Friday morning at Windsor Castle. He was the longest serving consort in British History.

When the Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, married her third cousin, the Duke of Edinburgh in November 1947, Winston Churchill said it was like a ‘flash of colour’ in the grey post-war Britain.

Prince Philip remained a die-hard supporter of his wife, the Queen, throughout their long life together, which saw many turbulent events in the shifting sands of time, causing the Queen to remark, ‘he was my strength & stay’.

Prince Philip had to grudgingly give up many things, including his Mountbatten name to fit into the harness of Royal Life. And to stay and be a pillar of strength to the Queen.

The BBC said of him, ‘He outlived nearly everyone who knew him and might explain him. This is why Prince Philip lived an extraordinary life’

Beauty and the Beast

If the beast was the marauding Myanmar Junta, the beauty was, Han Lay, Miss Grand Myanmar, who spoke out last week against atrocities committed by her country’s military beast. Her speech turned heads.

“Today in my country Myanmar, there are so many people dying,” she said at the Miss Grand International 2020 event in Thailand. “Please help Myanmar. We need your urgent international help right now.”

A little over a month ago, Han Lay, 22 years old, was on the streets of Yangon, Myanmar, protesting against the military. She is now concerned that her two-minute speech could possibly put her on the cross-hairs of the military’s many targets. She has decided to stay put in Thailand for at least the next three months. I guess that’s the most beautiful thing to do in these ugly times.

Meanwhile, model and Actor, Paing Takhon, one of Myanmar’s most popular celebrities was arrested on Thursday for being active in online and offline protests. And in the United Kingdom (UK) Myanmar’s Ambassador to the UK, was locked out the Embassy after a Military Attache ‘forcefully’ occupied his place and stole all his powers. He spent the night in his car outside the Embassy and felt bullied for being supportive of Democracy in Myanmar.

More than 500 civilians have been killed since the Military Coup of 1st February and the world cannot stand by watching.

It’s time countries ratchet-up sanctions on Myanmar’s Military to bring them to heel and restrain them from murdering their own people. They ought to be locked up inside their barracks and keys thrown into the sea?

India’s Naxalite Challenge

Former Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, once described Naxalism as India’s greatest internal security challenge. In hindsight looks like he had great foresight.

This Sunday, Naxalites killed at least 22 State Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in the Bijapur region of Chattisgarh State. This is the second highest, since 6th April 2010, when 76 security personnel were gunned down in nearby Dantewada. All this, since India first started its Naxalite counter-insurgency operations in the year 1947.

What is Naxalism, and what do they want?

The term Naxal comes from the name of the village, Naxalbari, in West Bengal, which was the epicentre of a tribal uprising against land-owning Landlords in the year 1967. Naxalites are considered far-left communists, supportive of Maoism, described as militant insurgents, and living with separatist ambitions.

The rise of Naxalism corresponded to the growth of militant communism in India, particularly the creation of the Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) and the emergence of rebel groups such as the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and the People’s War Group (PWG). The MCC and the PWG merged to form the CPI-M(Maoist), which is designated as a terrorist organisation and banned by the Government of India. We need to draw a boundary here: while the CPI-M(Maoist) is the banned party, the parent CPI and CPI-M(Marxist) are ‘accepted’ political parties working within the political system in India.

Naxalites claim to represent the poorest and most socially marginalised members of Indian society-the tribals and outcasts, and adopt the Maoist doctrine of sustained peasant-led revolution against the State: waging guerrilla warfare against Landlords, Businessmen, Politicians and Security Forces, who they consider a threat to their native land and livelihood. They aspire to get back land, which they think, belongs to them, as a right.

Since the beginning of the history of humankind, natives of a particular region of land have always wanted an unfettered hold on them, for the bountiful natural resources they yield-as a possessive right- and their unspoilt nature and beauty. Invaders, on the other hand, had sought to grab as much of rich and fertile land as possible and exploit the wealth of resources including beneath-the-earth minerals for commercial purposes and the progress of themselves and mankind. Over centuries, this ever-present tussle set man against man and has changed the course of history and fractured the geography of the land we live in.

In India, tribals expected the Indian Constitution to deliver to them a certain degree of autonomy in the land they have lived in from birth, and restrain ‘invading’ Landlords from grabbing huge swathes of ‘their land’. Historically, the original mission of Naxalites was to seize land from Oppressors-who had taken over their lands, during India’s Independence struggle and soon after Independence-and redistribute it among the peasants. They took it upon themselves to disrupt infrastructure, communication, and modernisation. And ensured they remain in splendid isolation, away from civilisation-staying marginalised, to exercise their kind of power in a Kingdom of their making.

When did such a movement begin in India?

In July of the year 1948, almost a year after India gained independence from the British, the first spikes of communist activity began to manifest in the State of Telengana (then part of the state of Andhra Pradesh). A major event known as the Telangana Struggle occurred in which the lower-classes and peasants of 2,500 villages of the former Hyderabad State started an armed revolt under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (formed in 1925,India), against oppressive landlordism, patronised by the autocratic rule of the Nizam of Hyderabad.

By the 1970’s Naxalism spread to almost all of India’s States except Western India. In the 1980’s when Naxalism was rearing its head in Tamil Nadu, in the region of Vellore, Tiruppathur, and Dharmapuri, it took the sagacity of the then Chief Minister M G Ramachandran (MGR) to give a free hand to then Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, Walter Devaram to deal with the growing insurgency. Devaram was an Army soldier and had cracked the Indian Police Service (IPS) exams with flying colours to slide in the role of a lifetime.

MGR named the task, ‘Operation Ajanta’, after Police Inspector Palanisamy’s six years old daughter, Ajanta. Inspector Palanisamy and two head constables of Tamil Nadu Special Police were killed in a Naxal bomb attack in August 1980, setting the stage for decisive action against Naxalism. Walter Devaram is hugely responsible for having successfully exterminated the menace and driven any remnants out of the State. Many movies have been made on his heroics… and he is Legend!

The idea of Naxalism is a lost cause, with rapid development, industrialisation, progress happening all across India, and citizens fortified with better laws. However, sensitive regions endowed with natural resources have to be tackled in a meaningful manner, with least possible disruption and dislocation of native people living in these regions. Attacking the State and the Indian Republic-its Law-keepers and makers-is unacceptable and must be dealt with an iron hand.

A Helicopter in Mars

America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had successfully landed its Perseverance Rover on Planet Mars, on 18th February, with the mini-helicopter, Ingenuity, neatly tucked underneath its belly. It has been sight-seeing in Mars all these days, and finally on 4th April, it gently dropped Ingenuity on the surface of Mars to prepare for the first ever man-made helicopter flight on Mars. Ingenuity is carrying a small piece of cloth that once covered one of the wings of the Wright Brothers’ aircraft which achieved the first powered flight on Earth at Kitty Hawk in 1903, to pay tribute to that milestone.

Like a butterfly would dry its wings, soon after emerging from the cocoon, and shake-it up to allow the blood run, before taking its first flight, Ingenuity is following in these small butterfly steps to take the giant leap of its first flight. Ingenuity’s solar panels and systems would also be cranked-up in the coming days, besides getting used to the Martian atmosphere, and NASA is planning the helicopter show before 11th April. The Wright Brothers are on standby, watching closely, somewhere nearby.

Voting in India’s State Assembly Elections

Elections in the States of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, and Kerala, to elect respective Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) saw a single phase one-day voting happen on the 6th April. Once elected, the majority MLA’s in turn elect one of their own as the Chief Minister of their State.

The door on Election campaigning was slammed at 7pm, on 4th April, and I breathed a sigh of relief over the hum-drum of 36 days of election cacophony. However, this time a lot many issues were brought-up by candidates, in thundering speeches, in their inimitable styles, in addition to the mandatory bursts of emotions with tears wetting cheeks and towels, and some even watering the ground.

I thoroughly enjoyed the voting process, in my place of work, Attur, Tamil Nadu. The Polling Station, a Government Middle-level Municipality School, spotlessly clean, was about 100 steps away from home and I walked over, proudly showing-off my new Voters Identification Card, which arrived only about a week ago – culmination of an online Change-of-Address request. A small crowd had gathered, and Party Workers stationed at a distance were furiously looking to mine mind votes, while an armed Police Guard looked-on, guarding the entrance and sending eye signals to other troops inside.

My wife and I got our fingers inked and casted our votes early at 7.45am following separate Ladies and Gentlemen queues. My queue was miniskirt short and I quickly punched the button of my choice on the Electronic Voting Machine, while my wife’s queue was longer than a sari, and she took time to find and hook that button.

The central, open-to-the-atmosphere courtyard of the school had an umbrella of flame-of-the forest trees shading us from the cruel summer, with a gentle breeze singing a lullaby. And I lingered a while longer allowing Wordsworthian beauty to sink-in. I wished I could vote more often: even become an Election Poet.

Maybe, 105 years old Marappa Gounder, a farmer from Karupparayanpalayam in Coimbatore District, Tamil Nadu, heard me-he had about the same thoughts walking through his mind. He has voted without-break in all State Assembly elections since the creation of Tamil Nadu State. On voting day he walks down to the Polling Booth, which is near his Home and casts his vote, urging people to vote for those who do good for the people. What a fine example he is setting, of exercising one’s democratic rights through the voting process!

Considering the pandemic times, voting was thrown open between 7am and 7pm.

It is a dampener that the results will be known only on 2nd May with counting to be taken up on that day. I wish they could count sooner. But with Elections being simultaneously held in many States, the thinking was that the results of one could influence the outcome of another.

COVID-19 to 22?

India is in the throes of a second wave of coronavirus infections and looking back at the same month of the year 2020 it appears worser, with over 1,40,000 cases per day and climbing steeply-almost vertical.

The rate of increase in cases is the worst India has seen and it’s not even peaked, as yet. This is concerning, as more variants could develop and further affect the trajectory of this pandemic.

Tracking the vaccination campaign across the world, more than 726 million shots have been given across 154 countries at a rate of about 17 million doses per day.

India has administered near about 94.3 million vaccine doses till date.

I had my first vaccine shot last Saturday and through Sunday I could feel my body rising-up to the challenge of a possible invader!

More of ‘less frightening’ and hopefully less forceful stories coming up in the weeks ahead.


About: The story of how we shipped ourselves and got stung this week, in our World


Delhi Heat

The heat is on India’s capital New Delhi and the surrounding National Capital Region (NCR). Temperatures touched 40.1 degrees celsius on the day of Holi, this week making it the hottest day in March in over 76 years. Delhi had previously hit 40.5 degrees celsius on 31st March 1945.

Counting on a few more degrees to better the record? Blame it on that climate-change fellow?

I can recall other Delhi months having reported even hotter days, but this is the highest in March and this may well be a bellwether of how hot the other months are going to be: more record breaking, for sure!

I lived in the NCR for over six years and the extreme weather conditions, running between severely hot summers to freezing cold winters, makes you crack-up once in a while. Layered living, during cold times-with room heaters on, and un-layered living during the hot times-with the air-conditioning on, was the overall climate of things. And my electricity bills always stayed on a high, hitting different uneven peaks during both seasons!

Myanmar’s Reign of Terror – Continues

I’m trying my best to shoot this story off my headlines but it refuses to go away.

Last Saturday saw one of the deadliest killings by the Military that took control of Myanmar in a coup in early February this year. The world was horrified by the killing of over 100 protestors in a single day – the deadliest since the coup.

The lethal crackdown against all kinds of civilians came as protesters defied warnings and took to the streets in towns and cities across the country.

What was the provocation, on that day?

Coup leader Min Aung Hlaing, in a show-of-strength-parade by the military on Army Day, made a speech about safeguarding democracy and warned against violent acts. Anti-coup activists had called for peaceful protests but they soon turned violent as the security forces opened fire in more than 40 locations. The commercial centre, Yangon, saw dozens of deaths, but killings were recorded from Kachin in the North to Taninthartharyi in the far South.

A resident remarked, ‘they are killing us like birds and chickens, even in our homes’.

The birds are watching. And something needs to be done here!

India’s Slippery State Elections

The five Indian States of West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry are in the Election mode doing the dance of democracy. And the multi-day, phased ones have already begun in West Bengal and Assam. The others are the one-day affair Sates and people in them, including me, come out to vote on 6th April.

The campaigning is at its loudest decibel level in Tamil Nadu, with comparisons to prices of slippers, illicit relationships & premature deliveries by dead Moms, size of women’s hips in relation to ‘foreign cows’ milk, and past stories of hair-pulling and ‘tugging at saris’…abuses being thrown about liberally. Wonder, on whose feet the slippers are, and who wears them saris? In the melee, an ex-supercop popularly known as singham (Lion) in his policing days threatened to smash the teeth of an opponent. The Election Commission is finding it tough listening to the music and conducting the proceedings.

Tamil Nadu once famous for awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping oratory by its leaders, has now changed course and re-wired the soundbox. People find that they can finally make some sense of the talk and relate to what is being said. With two head-strong parties hogging the headlines, and endlessly charging at each other, it remains to be seen who leaves the battlefield with tail between the legs and who rises to shine. It’s been an unalloyed ‘entertainment’ thus far.

The Seized Canal

Last week, a sky-scraper Container Ship fooled by tough high winds and a sandstorm found itself loosing sight and got nicely wedged in the Suez Canal blocking traffic both ways. However, experts weighed-in that the reasons may not be as easy as, ‘simple and main’, as that touted: tugging at possibilities of technical and human errors. Another investigation on yet another mishap in our world could tilt the balance, off the forces of nature.

Meanwhile, the world-from children to the oldies-went overboard in trying to offer solutions to unblock the canal. Some kids suggested using ‘hundreds of helicopters’ to lift the ship out its misery, while another said, pour buckets of water and raise the water lever to float the ship. If that was the kids, an oldie-that’s me- said, call Superman or Hanuman to simply pick it up and place it in the right direction on the water. Wonder where the kids meet the oldies?

Finally, the giant Ship was able to float straight again on Monday, six days since it found a sand bank to deposit its hull. And all other ships horned a sign of relief.

On another dimension, advertisers were quick to seize the moment and I particularly liked a Durex advertisement-widely circulated on WhatsApp-showing a Durex pill wedged across the canal and ‘sperm boats’ frantically looking for an opening. There is no limit to man’s imagination, is there? We can always find a way – sperms included!


We have rubbed the word ‘Lockdown’ to such a degree that a new bone had to be found.

Late this week America’s Capitol Hill area went into a quick lockdown over fears of a security breach. A lone-star ranger rammed his vehicle into a police barricade at a Vehicle Access Point, then got out brandishing a knife and ran towards the Officers. One Police Officer was killed and another injured in the incident.

The suspect was quickly neutralised-shot down and killed. That sure is super-quick action. Later it was revealed that the suspect had lost his job, had medical ailments and feared that the Government was using ‘mind control’ on him.

Weird thoughts!


The Indian cricket team is on a colourful swing. After dark brown-washing England 3-1 in the Test Series and light brown-washing it in the Twenty-20’s (T-20), India dealt a ‘trinity blow’ by clear brown-washing the English in the One-Day Internationals (ODI), 2-1. Multiple colourful catches were spilled, maybe due to the rains in Australia and that ship-wedge stuck (now released) in the Suez Canal, Ha!

This during a time when India celebrated Holi – the festival of colours.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

We heard about the World Health Organization (WHO) flying to China to discover the origin of the coronavirus that stayed famous throughout 2020 and maybe well into 2021. WHO says the wildlife trade in China is the most likely path that the coronavirus took to spread from the original animal source, possibly bats, to humans, through an intermediary animal. However, the possible ways in which the novel coronavirus could have emerged in Wuhan is still unclear. And WHO ruled out a laboratory leak. There’s nothing novel about this, right? At best, they confirm what most of us already know, thanks to the tons of reading and seeing we have done during the lockdowns. Many ‘wished’ it was a Laboratory Leak. China is still in the cross-hairs.

Let’s remember that Covid-19 has killed more than 2.7 million people worldwide in the 15 months, since it emerged.

Tracking the vaccination campaign across the world, more than 628 million shots have been given across 150 countries at a rate of about 16.3 million doses per day.

India has administered near about 73 million vaccine doses till date. I hope to join the vaccinated ranks and have scheduled mine, this Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, a rapid growth of positive cases is waving at India; and is having Authorities worried. Signs of micro-lockdowns are being put up!

The Hand of the Octopus

Australia just let go of the stranglehold that rains and floods had on them over the past weeks, which saw swarms of animals find newer ground.

Back in the water, an Octopus peacefully living on one of Australia’s Western Beaches in Geographe Bay decided to test the power of its mighty tentacles. A Geologist wanting to take a dip near the Resort where he was staying with his family, was taking a stroll on the beach when he thought he saw what looked like the tail of a string-ray striking at a seagull. On taking a closer look, along with his 2 years old daughter, and while filming a video, an Octopus suddenly lashed out in their direction and vanished into the deep waters. Stung by the suddenness he left the spot, and later when he returned to go into the water alone, the Octopus found and hunted him down. It stuck him on the arm, and then whipped him on the neck and upper arm. It did leave a mighty impression and I reckon Octopuses have strong emotions, can get angry, when someone enters their territory.

The preferred treatment for sea animal attacks is applying vinegar and since the Geologist did not have anything on him at that time he tried used Coca-Cola ‘Turns out, it worked’.

I guess we need to stretch out on our beaches with lots of vinegar or cola, within the reach of our own tentacles. Welcome to the beach!

Please Yourself

While we wait for the Academy of Motion Pictures to reveal the Oscars Winners at the fag end of April, India went ahead and announced its highest honour for cinema artists-the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. The 51st recipient was named as South Indian Superstar Rajinikanth, all of seventy years. I’ll flip a cigarette to that!

Rajinikant, the humble and God-fearing person that he is, thanked bus driver Raj Bahadur, his partner, in the Bus Conductor days in the city of Bengaluru, who discovered hidden acting and style talent in him and pushed him into the head-lights of a movie career. And, of course he mentioned his elder brother who provided the foundation-keeping food on the table- and late Film Director K Balachander who gave him his first break in the movies.

Rajinikant has acted in about 167 films in many Indian languages, but mostly in Tamil. He was hurrying-up the shooting for his 168th film ‘Annaatthe’ (Elder Brother) hampered by the pandemic, when he fell ill, spending quality time in Hospital. God must have talked to him during that time as he decided against entering politics-on God’s sign: he had announced starting a brand new Political outfit last December but gave it up. We sorely miss a style quotient and the famous punch dialogue one-liners in the Tamil Nadu Election Circuit.

More real acting stories coming up in the weeks ahead.


About: The story of how we stayed afloat this week, in our World, and how we got beneath the surface of a lot many things.



A little foolishness, enough to enjoy life, and a little wisdom to avoid the errors, that will do.” ― Osho

Down Under Water

Last year, in January, Australia was bush-whacked by the largest bushfires on record and the country became smoking hot. This followed a prolonged period of drought: of course we can blame the effects of climate change as ‘arsonist-in-chief’.

Now, this year, Australia is experiencing a once-in-a-century deluge and one of the worst floods in 50 years, as torrential rain relentlessly lashed Eastern Australia. Parts of New South Wales have seen almost one metre of rain flooding hundreds of homes and severing roads: the Town of Windsor being one of the worst affected.

Rains have been inundating places since last Thursday, but then a major Dam-the Warragamba Dam-overflowed adding to the already swollen rivers and causing flash-flooding in many parts. This has forced people to evacuate, sometimes at midnight, as the waters stealthily entered their homes under the cover of darkness. About 18,000 people have been evacuated and another 15,000 are expected to join and swell these ranks. Luckily, not many lives have been lost.

People living in these places say they have never seen anything like this. And the Australian Government has declared a national disaster in many of the affected areas.

Meanwhile, the record-breaking rains have spawned another problem: a mass animal exodus to higher ground, with spiders in particular surging into people’s homes and lands. Close behind are snakes, with a resident remarking, ‘the trees are full of snakes’, trying to coil on to something dry.

The happenings in Australia must be closely watched as these bewildering natural calamities will surely have lots of hidden messages and lessons to learn with an entire gamut of living species affected in one way or the other.

America’s Guns

Quick on the heels of last week’s shootings in Atlanta, another shooting massacre happened at ‘King Soopers’ a Colorado Supermarket in the University City of Boulder. A shooter gunned down at least one person with a semi-automatic rifle in the parking lot before entering the Main Building through an entrance earmarked for handicapped people, and then going on a shooting spree inside the store.

The shooting left 10 people-aged between 20 and 65-dead, including a store manager and a police officer.

A ‘person of interest-a suspect-of Arvada, near Denver, has been arrested, and it appears that he was operating alone. Motives are unknown at this stage.

The shooting incident fires the question, ‘why isn’t America still ambivalent on Gun Control?’ Yes, its Constitution allows it as a right and maybe this was necessary in the Wild West Days. But not any longer as of the original intent. America is advanced enough to deal with any problem, without having to draw that gun from its holster!

The only way to honour the victims of these senseless massacres is action. Let’s do it – wake up America.

Myanmar Killings

There is not the slightest sign of any abatement in the Army and Security Forces crack-down against protestors in Myanmar where daily protests have been ongoing in towns and cities across the country, ever since the military seized control, in a Coup, on 1st February.

Myanmar’s security forces shot dead a 7 years old girl in the city of Mandalay on Tuesday, the youngest victim yet in the military’s bloody crackdown on civilian opposition. The young girl named Khin Myo Chit was shot and killed in her home during a military raid, while sitting in her father’s lap after security forces kicked down the door to the family’s home. Soldiers asked the father if everyone in the family was present in the house. When the father said yes, they accused him of lying and shot at him, missing and hitting the girl instead.

During the week, the military released about 600 people imprisoned for protesting the coup, hoping to cool temperatures. However, protestors tried a new tactic called a ‘Silence Strike’-The Loudest Scream-calling on people to stay at home and Businesses to close for the day.

I wonder why the United Nations is unable to show any muscle or teeth? Maybe we should better define its role in a fast evolving World punctuated with violence. Shouldn’t they get nations together, on the same page, to shoot down the actions of the Myanmar Junta?

Fires in Bangladesh

In other news linked to Myanmar, the already tormented Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh saw their settlements engulfed by a deadly fire that ripped through a Rohingya Refugee Camp in the Coxs Bazaar area. At least 15 people died and over 400 remain missing. It was massive and devastating.

The Camp roughly houses about 1 million people living in cramped and squalid conditions, the vast majority of who fled Myanmar in the year 2017 amid a military led crackdown on the Rohingya.

Some 40,000 huts and shelters in the camp burned down. And the barbed wire fencing around the Camp trapped many people causing many casualties.

Bangladesh, on its part had been pushing refugees to relocate to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal, until such time they can return to Myanmar, as the camp had become overcrowded.

The reasons for the fire outbreak is unclear at this stage.

The Rohingya Refugees is a humanitarian crisis and this is another reason why the United Nations and the rest of the World have to step-in and push for solutions to ending the misery of millions of people in these camps.

Iceland Volcano

Last week I talked about the over 50,000 ‘Earth shakes’ over a period of three weeks, in Iceland and how it ‘tested positive’ for a Volcano pregnancy. This week it delivered: the Fagradalsfjall volcano woke up after almost 700 years and is putting on a mesmerising ‘lava show’. Volcanic eruptions are not often referred to as ‘cute,’ but some people are saying that about Fagradalsfjall. They are calling it a Disneyland eruption. Time, someone starts issuing rock-solid tickets for the show.

The volcano has stirred a stream of visitors and some of them have been clever to use the heat of the lava to cook hot-dogs, buns and eggs. The taste must have been epic and volcanic!

Doomsday Plans, Lunar Ark

Man has been studying the Moon intensely and tired of seeing the surface, has decided to look beneath the surface of things. Literally, Scientists have uncovered a network of around 200 lava tubes-100 meters in diameter, beneath the surface of the Moon, which formed when streams of lava melted through soft rock to form underground tunnels, billions of years ago. So, what about them?

Scientists have proposed a Lunar Ark, dubbed a ‘modern global insurance policy’ for species from Earth, cryogenically preserved and hidden in these underground tunnels and caves. The Ark will hold millions of seed, spore, sperm and egg samples from Earth’s species to provide a genetic backup for the planet in the event of a doomsday scenario-a total annihilation of the Earth. These tubes could provide the perfect shelter for the precious cargo, protecting it from solar radiation, surface temperature changes and micrometeorites.

Powered by solar panels, the underground Lunar Ark would be accessed by elevator shafts, which would lead to a facility storing cryogenic preservation modules.

Scientists believe that about 250 rocket launches would be required to transport about 50 samples from each of the about 6.7 million species to the moon.

The move to stock-up such a bunker is still a long way off.

A Traffic Jam in the Sea

A gigantic Japanese owned container ship, 400 meters (m) length and 59m wide, weighting 224,000 tons, fully-loaded with containers, called the MV Ever Given- painted Evergreen across- ran aground at the southern end of the Suez Canal on 23rd March wedging itself across the width of the canal blocking movement of ships in both directions.

The cargo ship was knocked off-course by strong winds and a sandstorm that caused low visibility and poor navigation resulting in the now ‘stuck situation’.

Authorities attempted to re-float the vessel but were not successful. Dislodging the vessel could take days, even weeks. A first step would be to remove fuel oil and ballast water from the ship, try to move it at high tide. If that doesn’t work, staff will have to remove containers and try to dig or flush away the sand banks in which the ship is now lodged. Imagine dredging over 20,000 cubic meters of sand to get to the bottom of things.

Meanwhile ships are piled-up at both ends and could cause severe disruptions of oil, Liquefied Petroleum Gas, clothing, auto-parts and essential commodities to countries depending on them. The famous Shipping Journal, Lloyd’s List, estimates that goods worth $9.6 billion pass through the canal every day. Lloyd’s says about $5.1 billion of that traffic is westbound and $4.5 billion is eastbound.

The Suez Canal-since 1869-is a sea-level waterway running north-south across the Isthmus of Suez in Egypt connecting the Mediterranean and the Red seas. And is controlled and operated by Egypt. The canal provides the shortest maritime route between Europe and the lands lying around the Indian and western Pacific oceans. It is one of the world’s most heavily used shipping lanes. The canal extends 193 km between Port Said in the north and Suez in the south. The original canal did not permit two-way traffic, and ships would stop in a passing bay to allow the passage of ships in the other direction. But now it allows movement in both directions.

This is a real lock-jam for World trade, bottlenecked in a canal. Time to start digging the sea, to stay afloat. Maybe Install better traffic signals?

COVID-19 Shots

Tracking the biggest vaccination campaign in history, more than 518 million shots have been given across 140 countries at a rate of about 13 million doses per day.

India has administered near about 56 million vaccine doses till date. It may have managed to give a vaccine dose only to 3.4% of the overall population, but about 22% of the elderly-over 60 years-population have already received a dose.

The coronavirus has been quietly working on ways and means to penetrate the great immunity defence systems of India. Over the past week, Indian Scientists have uncovered over 771 variants of the coronavirus including a unique double mutant coronavirus variant with a combination of mutations not seen anywhere in the world. These are based on samples taken from the States of Maharashtra, Gujarat, and New Delhi.

What does mutation and variant mean in the context of the coronavirus?

Most of us know that viruses cannot replicate and spread on their own. They need a host, whose cells they hijack-turning it into a virus Factory-to replicate. And when they replicate, often they are unable to make a perfect duplicate of themselves-their genetic material- meaning this is an error-ridden process resulting in their offspring not being exact copies of the original ‘Mom virus’. These errors are called mutations, and viruses with these mutations are called variants.

Viruses mutate has a habit and there is nothing extraordinary about it, except when these mutations become what Experts call a ‘Variant Of Concern’ (VOC). Till date, all over the World, only three variants have been declared as VOC: a Variant found in the UK, B1.1.7, a Variant found in South Africa, B.1.351, and Variant found in Brazil, P.1 lineage. It remains to be seen if the Variant found in India reaches the VOC level.

Meanwhile, coronavirus infection cases are sprinting in India, over 60,000 yesterday highest since last October, in what is being called a second wave. But Authorities are fully prepared. The Government has declared that anybody above 45 years of age can get a Vaccine jab from 1st April onwards – a much needed directive.

With five States going to polls on 6th April and election campaigning by various parties, in the heat & dust of India’s Cities, Towns, Villages seeing large crowds, India is in the cusp of an intense phase. I hope this passes without incident, with basic coronavirus-infection-prevention-rules being adhered to, religiously.

A Kind Of Spark

Over the last weekend I read Elle McNicoll’s book, ‘A Kind of Spark’ and found myself caught in the spell of a charming, bewitching story. I allowed the words, in the about 187 pages, ‘wash over me’.

It’s about an eleven years old autistic girl, Addie, who conquers her world and builds a monument to it; all the while staying different, going to the same school as everyone, and making and breaking friends. She strengthens every-day bonds with the family of an understanding Mom & Dad, a super-supportive autistic sister, Keedie – her fighting twin Nina, who after initial differences learns to sink them and integrate with Addie.

Keedie, is always behind her like a rock and tells Addie, ‘Other people’s minds are small. Your mind is enormous. You don’t want to be like them’.

Thanks to a spark from a school lesson, Addie is ignited and overwhelmed by the Witch Trials that happened in her hometown centuries ago. She is convinced that people in that period in time never fully understood how certain people experience the world differently (as she was in today’s world), and lazily or conveniently branded them as witches. This, for simply being able to see things that others could not. Clairvoyance! Witches in those days were wrongly found guilty and executed, often burnt at the stake.

Addie takes it upon herself that past wrongs must be corrected and in what better manner than building a Memorial to ‘honour’ them. The story is, among other things, how she ultimately, in a never-say die attitude, convinces her Small Town to build that memorial despite outright rejections at the start.

Addie is a regular at the School Library, reading a ton of books, guided by an understanding Librarian. She finds Sharks more interesting than dull Dolphins, and I quote her in the novel, ‘Sharks can sense the electricity of life itself. It’s their superpower. But someone made a horror film about them, and now millions of them are killed each year. Like the Witches for no reason’.

She says at the end of a speech at the Village Meeting – in a final attempt to convince them, ‘I like myself the way I am. A lot’. That speech broke my heart. Applying it ‘differently’, I can confidently agree with the much said line, ‘everyone of us is an original of which there is no copy, in this world’.

This is a must-read for parents, teachers, and doctors handling differently-abled children. And it’s awfully inspirational. Opinions on perceived wrong-doings can always change-often for the better-when we learn more, ask the right questions, and understand, especially people’s needs. We just need to open ourselves and embrace the different!

On my own spark, I decided I like witches… and sharks.

More pages with witchy, shark teaser stories coming up in the weeks ahead: build your own memorials.


About: The story of how we fired on all our guns this week, in our World.


United Kingdom: The Case For A Return Of Sherlock Holmes

On 3rd March, Sarah Everard, a 33 years old marketing executive vanished into the proverbial thin air, while walking home to Brixton after visiting a friend in Clapham. Both places are about 50 minutes away from each other on foot. A typical walk from Clapham to Brixton takes one through some of London’s most populated, brightly lit, and well-walked parts. Hundreds of people pound these pavements every day and consider the streets in and around them as home.

Sarah left Clapham at 9 pm, and is believed to have walked through Clapham Common, a large park on the route. Soon after she left, Sarah spoke to her boyfriend on her mobile phone for about 15 minutes, and was last spotted in the footage of a doorbell camera at about 9.30pm. A day later, Sarah’s boyfriend contacted the police to report that she was missing. The police then sought public help in tracing her whereabouts, and made ‘missing person’ posts on social media to elicit responses.

A dead body was found, a week later, inside a builder’s bag, in a woodland in Ashford, Kent. Two days later the Police confirmed, through the use of dental records, that it belonged to Sarah Everard.

Then, this week on Tuesday, the police made two arrests – the first was a Scotland Yard police constable, on suspicion of kidnapping, and the second a woman on the suspicion of assisting an offender. Detectives are investigating, and we should be getting a clearer picture in the coming weeks.

Many Londoners shared their own experiences of harassment on streets or public transport and are demanding better protection. Much of the conversation has revolved around what men can do to make women feel more safe. I think this is an important lead to work on. And I hope the case is solved in the manner Sherlock Holmes does, to throw the best possible light on how it happened. Maybe, the fear of getting caught could act as crime-deterrent.

Australia Too

In another Commonwealth, beyond the Oceans, in Australia, tens of thousands of people across the country protested against sexual violence harassment and gender inequality after a wave of sexual assault allegations involving politicians surfaced.

Worlds apart there is about the same problem, which needs urgent attention.

Earth Shakes

When was the last time we heard about an Earthquake, leave alone experiencing one, near us? Give me a break…seems long ago.

Iceland, an Island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, known for its stunning natural beauty, has recorded a whooping 50,000 earthquakes, and more, in the past three weeks, perhaps signalling that a volcanic eruption could be heating-up and melting its way to the surface.

Think about Iceland, and what scorches my mind is its capital Reykjavik-where over 60% of the population live-and where the Reykjavik Summit meeting between the then US President Ronald Reagan and the then Soviet Union’s General Secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev, was held in 1986. They came awfully close to agreeing to a complete elimination of nuclear weapons: of course it wasn’t to be and has remained in history as the nearest successful attempt of leaders of nuclear powers to do so.That itself was earth-shaking.

They say that Iceland is a land of contrasts: ice and fire, glaciers and volcanoes, mountains and lakes, waterfalls and geysers. I cannot agree more!

Meanwhile, Scientists are baffled, putting together the beauty and all the pieces of quake information, tying to make ‘breaking news’ out of it. And Icelanders are learning to live with the ‘Earth shakes’.

The Guns Of Myanmar

Myanmar has been tightly gripped by severe protests since the military seized control on 1st February and detained Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, the winner of the General Elections.

Mahn Win Khaing Than, the leader of a group of Myanmar politicians has vowed to press on with a ‘revolution’ against the illegal coup by the military, saying ‘this is the darkest moment of the nation and the moment that dawn is close’.

This Sunday 38 people were killed in one of the deadliest retaliation by the Military and martial was declared in six areas after Chinese-funded factories were set on fire. The death count has risen, to at least 138 people being killed, till date, in the ongoing protests.

Over the past weeks the turmoil in Myanmar has been heart-wrenching as new shots of over-the-bar violence by the Ruling Military Junta snakes its way up the headlines every day. India, as a powerful neighbour, and the United Nations (UN) as a far-sighted neutral observer can do more-speak up, defend democracy, and boldly order the Military to hand power back to the people.

America Is Still Shooting, Wild

On 16th March there was yet another deadly shooting incident in the United States of America, in the State of Georgia. Shootings in two massage parlours in Atlanta and one in the suburbs left eight people dead-at least six of them were women of Asian origin.

Police have arrested one man, suspected to be behind all the three shootings. The motive is unclear and investigators are trying to get to the bottom of the muscle.

The shootings are sending shockwaves throughout the Asian American Community as hate-related incidents have increased since the start of the pandemic.

This is not how America should look like, and the recurring shootings bring the issue of Gun Control into the cross-hairs. America must act…before the next shooting engulfs the country, again. This is a tragedy beyond measure.

Should we completely ban guns and return to the bow & arrow mode, or better still, armless combat?

Lifting The Veil, Again.

Sri Lanka has taken a significant step towards banning the burka and other face coverings in public, on grounds of national security. A cabinet order has been signed, which now needs parliamentary approval. A ban can be expected anytime now.

The Government is also planning to ban more than 1,000 madrassa Islamic schools, which flout the national education policy, teaching in their own way.

The move comes nearly two years after a wave of co-ordinated attacks on hotels and churches, on Easter Sunday, brought back bitter memories of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s (LTTE) brand of terrorism. Suicide bombers had targeted Catholic churches and tourist hotels, killing more than 250 people in April 2019. The Islamic State militant group said it had carried out the attacks.

For over two decades Sri Lanka suffered terribly under the ‘wild, militant, separatist presence’ of the LTTE, which controlled and ruled the North Eastern part of the country. It was a Herculean effort that Sri Lanka made to wipe out the LTTE, gunning down its top leaders and scoring a decisive military victory. And they cannot allow other extremists to take the country for a ride, again.

India’s Five State Assembly Elections

After the recent rains of water, it’s now preparing to rain washing machines, solar stoves, cooking gas cylinders, mosquito nets, and other freebies in India’s Tamil Nadu State, which is going to the Polls on 6th April. People have already been drenched with television sets, mixies, grinders, table fans, scooters, cycles, laptops, gold for mangalsutra, milch cows… and they don’t seem to be catching a cold. Housewives maybe paid to do their homework, one in a family given a Government Job, and the swing of cash flows is a tsunami in the making. With dominating charismatic leaders either dead or out-of-action this is a high octane Election campaign.

In Kerala a wizened old ‘Metro-Man’, seething with national fervour, hopes to build rails to a better future, and run the State like he did the Metro Rail System in Delhi and other Cities. In West Bengal a ‘forever-scowling’ white Tigress slipped and fell hurting herself, breaking bones, and blamed the lotus-eating-Lions for attacking her. Now she gets to be pushed around the campaign trail. In Assam it’s free dole time too, with scooters for girls students and agricultural tools for farmers. We can expect something similar in Puducherry, with about the same parties playing the same political game yonder too.

India’s State Elections offer one of the best entertainment anybody can get anywhere in the world. Try looking at it!

On the COVID-19 Trail

Tracking the great Vaccination drive, more than 413 million shots have been given across 132 countries at a rate of about 9.94 million doses per day.

Israel has showed that vaccinations have a nation-wide effect. By February more than 84% of people of age 70 and above had received two doses and severe COVID-19 cases have declined rapidly. And life is returning to near normalcy. The United Kingdom experienced similar results.

India has administered near about about 40 million vaccine doses till date, and needs to change gears and drive even faster. India, being the Vaccine Factory of the World is in the forefront of delivering Vaccines to other nations as well, earning enormous goodwill in the process. A case is being made for opening the vaccination to anybody who wants it. The Government is yet to decide. Recent spikes in COVID-19 cases are alarming, with a high of over 40,000 cases yesterday, generating fears for a second wave of infections.

Music’s Biggest Night: The Grammys 2021

This year, the 63rd Grammys Awards were held on a different kind of stage and tuned to a different kind of music, as well, heavily influenced by the pandemic.

There was no audience, and performers were separated into five stages, arranged in a circle inside the Los Angeles Convention Centre to maintain social distancing. In another break with tradition, the awards were handed out by bartenders, security guards and cleaners from concert venues that have been forced to close due to Covid-19. Comedian Trevor Noah hosted the ceremony for the first time.

Taylor Swift’s surprise lockdown Album, Folklore, which was a front-runner in the run-up to the Grammys, fearlessly walked away with the Album of the Year prize making her the first woman to win the Best Album Award, three times. She swiftly joins ‘three other folks’ who had done it before – Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder.

The Grammy Awards Night may well be called the ‘Musilacious Beyonce Night’ as she aced the Awards breaking the record for the most Grammys won by a woman and any singer, male or female, with 28 awards-also tying the record with the great Quincy Jones, as the living person with the most Grammys.

Enter Blue Ivy Carter, 9 years old, the daughter of Beyonce and Jay-Z who became the second youngest artist to win a Grammy Award, her first, for Best Music Video for ‘Brown Skin Girl’. The record for the youngest is held by Leah Peasall, who won in 2001 at the age of 8 years.

Beyonce and fellow Houston native, Best New Artist, Megan Thee Stallion, also made history as the first pair of women to ever win best rap performance with the remix of Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘Savage’. The pair then went on to win best rap song for the same tune. But it was Beyonce’s win for best R&B performance for ‘Black Parade’ that put her over the top.

Find the other winners from the wildcards below.

‘I can’t breathe’ without saying that the Song of the Year was won by Dernst Emile II, H.E.R. And ‘Future Nostalgia’, Dua Lipa, stayed high on Pop Vocal Album of the year. It ‘Rain-ed on Me’ that the Best Pop Duo was Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande. I decided it was ‘Everything I wanted’ of Bille Eilish for Record of the Year, but not before shooting ‘No Time To Die’ as the best song for visual media. Watch it in the yet to be released James Bond movie.

I just gulped a solo Harry Styles, ‘Watermelon Sugar’ drink to rock to ‘The New Abnormal’ of The Strokes before going traditional pop vocal with James Taylor’s, ‘American Standard’. ‘Anything for For You’ sang Ledisi in a traditional R&B best performance.

Oops, I’m still out of breath, and hope to find it soon!

The Oscar Nominations

Actor and Producer Priyanka Chopra Jonas along with her husband, Nick Jonas, announced the nominations-which had many surprises-for this year’s Academy Awards.

The movie ‘Mank’, directed by David Fincher, starring Academy Award winner Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried, bagged 10 nominations under different categories. The second highest number of nominations was bagged by, The Trial Of The Chicago 7, Sound of Metal, Nomadland, Minari, Judas and the Black Messiah, and The Father, with six nominations each.

Mank is an American biographical film about screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz who wrote the screenplay for one for the finest movies of our time, Citizen Kane. Recall, Gary Oldman is the honest Police Officer in the Batman movie, Dark Knight, and has previously won Best Actor Oscar for being Winston Churchill in the 2018 movie, Darkest Hour. Amanda Seyfried is nominated for Best Supporting Actress and this is her first Oscar nomination-without doubt, she is thrilled!

The Indian movies I talked about last week did to make it to the final nominations. But a Priyanka Chopra starrer (she is also one for the Producers), ‘The White Tiger’ held on to its stripes with a nomination for Writing-Best Adapted Screenplay, written for the screen by Ramin Bahrani who has also directed the film. Bahrani is an Iranian-American director and screenwriter.

The White Tiger, is based on author Arvind Adiga’s novel-a New York Times Bestseller and winner of the Man Booker prize-of the same name, and is the story of a self-made man growing from a tea-shop worker in a village to a successful entrepreneur in a big city (call it Bengaluru).

Look out for the Oscar Awards Ceremony happening at the end of March 2021.

More scenes set to great tunes coming up in the weeks ahead.


About: The story of what we did this week in our World. Last week, among other things, I talked about Old Birds, this week there is a story of Old Humans, Meteorites, and Music. Read on…


Meteorites from Outer Space – Aliens throwing them?

On the night of 28th February the Wilcocks family living in Winchcombe, a market Town in Gloucestershire, United Kingdom, heard a dull thud outside their house. One of them stood up and looked out through the window, but it being awfully dark – couldn’t see a thing.

The next morning on coming out of the house, they saw a lump of ‘a coal kind of thing, a kind of splatter’, on their drive. Could someone have been driving around lobbing lumps of coal into people’s gardens? Or could it be an upturned barbecue tray?

Meanwhile, Scientists-they are always watching-knew fragments of a meteorite must have landed in the Gloucestershire area, as their tracking cameras had recorded a rock coming through the atmosphere, that Sunday night, creating a huge fireball. And they made an appeal for people to come forward with any finds.

When Planetary Scientists saw the pictures sent by the Wilcocks, they were blown away, and almost instantaneously thought it must be a meteorite from outer space.

It was indeed a meteorite, the first find of its kind in the UK in 30 years. It was a carbonaceous, dark stony material that retained unaltered chemistry from the formation of our Solar System 4.6 billion years ago, and hence could give fresh insights on how planets came into being.

This would keep Scientists busy for years to come in trying to unravel the mysteries of the Universe. Let’s hope they, ‘lift the veil’ on just about everything we know about our Solar System and the origin of life.

Lifting the Veil

In a Referendum, results of which were declared this week, over 51% of people in Switzerland voted to ban women from wearing the burqa or niqab in public spaces. The argument by the Swiss Government was that religious veils are a symbol of oppression of women and aren’t suitable to modern society. Full facial veils will be allowed inside places of prayer and for native customs, such as carnivals. Exceptions to the law will include face coverings for reasons of security, climate, or health, which means protective masks worn against Covid-19 are acceptable.

The initiative behind the referendum was launched in 2016 by the Egerkingen Committee, an Association that also successfully pushed for a vote to ban the building of new Minarets, in 2009.

With this outcome Switzerland joins France, which banned wearing a full face veil in public in 2011. Full or partial bans on wearing face coverings in public are also ‘off the face’ in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

The face is the index of the mind. If I cannot see a face-and the many lines formed and un-formed, crooked or straight, how do I read a person? I believe religion should be veiled inside one’s heart, mind or home. And-I’m assuming-the best results better be visible on the outside.

Oprah Winfrey, Big-Bang

Do meteorites striking the United Kingdom have mysterious big-bang effects elsewhere and echo in the Kingdom?

When it comes to interviewing people on Television there is none better in the World than Oprah Winfrey. She pulls it off skilfully, as smooth as silk, always making the interviewee feel safe and protected, cleverly nudging them to opening up about themselves and uncover shocking, hidden secrets. She talked to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who quit their royal duties in England, to build their own life outside the control of the Royal Family.

The revelations, about animosity, deep-rooted racism, double standards, and a dearth of support from the Royal Family were like carpet bombs raining down on the Crown – the monarchy. It will be remembered as one of the most brutally explosive royal interviews in history.

The Royal family had concerns and conversations on about how dark Harry & Meghan’s son, Archie’s skin might be when he’s born. Archie was not made a Prince and hence not given the kind of security that other younger royals enjoyed as an entitlement. Meghan spoke of suicidal thoughts she experienced and the lack of support from the Royals-you have to deal with it yourself she was told. She felt trapped and alone, unable to venture out freely.

It was also striking that Harry was absolutely open about his own mental and emotional struggles, speaking frankly about the pain in family relationships.

Someone remarked that Harry’s emotional intelligence could be used as a springboard for ‘enhancing the emotional wellness of our men and boys’.

We get to see the picture of the British monarchy being a family that gives little support to those who marry into it, where a woman of colour finds the ensuing abuse simply unmanageable. And there is this ‘Institution’ or ‘The Firm’ or ‘The Preservers’ that straight-jackets the Royal Family, coming in-between the Royals and all others.

Oprah concluded the interview by telling Meghan that her story with the Prince “does have a happy ending-because you made it so”.

Let me tell you a true story-doing an ‘Oprah Winfrey Selfie’:

In the days when I was hunting for a bride-in the South Indian arranged marriage system-I went to ‘formally see’ a girl, with the family in tow. I saw her, talked to her, and liked what I saw and heard, in the one-to-one brief meeting. And decided to take the chance-given the options-and say, yes. But the family found many shades of colour-the girl was slightly dark-and some surface defects, and asked me to reconsider. I overruled them and asked for a more valid reason beyond the ‘physical aspects’. And I said, I saw inner beauty-I found her likeable in my own way. I was firm and the issue remained in suspended animation for almost a year with me ‘launching a me-only protest’ and declaring, ‘I won’t see any other girl’. Meanwhile, a truckload of the family made another visit to ‘look again’. And did not change their mind.

We were building a new House at that time and Dad and I disagreed on the colour of the wash basins and water closets, with me insisting that they should be sparkling white and Dad saying they should be chocolate-brown. Then, he comes over and says, ‘You want everything white in the bathrooms and yet you are okay with a dark girl?’ This, in the early 1990’s-an India obsessed with the fair & lovely skin!

I had to move on as I had not means of furthering the relationship with the person I met only once. Later, I married another ‘slightly fair’ brown girl, after another formal seeing.

Some memories stay with us for a lifetime and I hope to meet ‘this first girl’, one day, and take stock of how the colours have faded and how we got here!

The Torch of the Tokyo Olympics 2021

I read about oldest living persons so often that I’m getting old with who is really old. This is an attempt to get young with the old, and set the age records straight – of the verified longevity claims.

Japan’s Kane Tanaka, at 118 years of age, is the world’s oldest living person and she is preparing herself to carry the Olympic Torch this May when it passes through Shime, in her home prefecture of Fukuoka, Japan. She will be doing a 100 metre run-in her leg of torch carrying-which means Tanaka’s family will push her in a wheel-chair for most of the distance. And she is determined to walk the final few steps to pass the torch on to the next runner. That’s definitely the sporting spirit which is the fuel of the Olympic flame.

When Kane Tanaka indeed does it, she would be the oldest person to ever carry an Olympic Torch and ‘run a leg’ of the journey to the inaugural of the Games.

Tanaka was born in the year the Wright Brothers made history by successfully completing the world’s first powered air-borne flight. She has twice survived cancer, lived through two World Wars, two global pandemics (The 1918 Spanish Flu and this Covid-19) and loves fizzy (Coca-Cola included) drinks. She married a rice shop owner at the age of 19, went on to cook four children, and worked in the family store until she was 103. Tanaka has five grandchildren and eight great-grand children. One of her grandson’s said of her,’ I don’t remember her talking much about the past, she’s very forward thinking, she really enjoys living in the present’.

She now lives in a nursing home and plays math games-the board game called Othello-every day. So, we now know her secret of longevity. Lessons for us? Other secrets of people who have lived beyond 100 are: family unity under the rules of love, mutual respect, honest work, and proper education based on family values. Japan is home to some of the oldest of people and we would do well to learn the way they live, and adapt.

She is not done, as yet. The record for the oldest person to ever live is held by a French Woman, Jeanne Louise Calment who died at the age of 122 years and 164 days. And Kane Tanaka has her sights on beating this milestone. Will She? See you – and her – in 2025. This will be after the next Summer Olympics, which incidentally is, Paris 2024. And the French have an ‘old age’ competition. Welcome to France.

Tennis at the Qatar Open

The ATP Qatar Open underway in Doha is Swiss, Roger Federer’s first comeback Tournament since returning to playing from knee injury-two back-to-back arthroscopic surgeries. He made a good start and almost made it to the quarter-finals when he was beaten in three sets by Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili.

Roger has decided to return to training, and has exited the upcoming ATP 500 event in Dubai.

The nearing 40, Tennis superstar showed class and some vintage ‘Roger Federer shots’, making us want more of them, from him. It’s worth the wait. Hope to see him back on court, soon. Welcome back Roger.

On the COVID-19 Trail

Brazil plunges into a crisis.

A second wave of COVID-19-believed to be caused by a deadly new variant of the coronavirus-is whiplashing through Brazil pushing Hospitals and Intensive Care Units towards the brink of collapse and claiming a record number of daily deaths.

This Wednesday, Brazil’s Health Ministry registered a devastating new high of 2,286 lives lost to the virus. In total, more than 270,000 people are known to have died due to COVID-19.

What is the cause? Health-Care workers blame the recent surge in cases on large parties and gatherings that began around New Year’s Eve and continued through the Mardi Gras carnival holiday and into the present. Many of these were held in defiance of local city and state restrictions.

On the Vaccination front, more than 345 million doses have been administered across 121 countries at about 8.74 million doses per day.

Israel has reached a milestone of 100 doses per 100 people; about 56.5% of the population has received at least one shot, and 45.2% are fully vaccinated. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has given 60 doses per 100 people, The United States (US) has given 30 doses, and the United Kingdom has done 37 doses per 100.

India has given about 2.82 crore vaccine doses till date, at 2 doses per 100, with 1.7% receiving at least one shot and 0.4% fully vaccinated. There appears to be a murmur of a second wave in India with over 20,000 positive cases and with the States of Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu seeing an uptick. We are still in the thick of the fight with the virus and should hold-on with our guard-not lowering it down, until the vaccination, and better times, reach us. I’m sure the Government is working to a plan.

The Sound of Music

The Storm over Saranga Dhariya

The Telangana folk song ‘Saranga Dhariya’ (meaning, musical instrument Sarangi – a bowed short necked stringed instrument – worn as an ornament) featured in the Sai Pallavi movie, ‘Love Story’, has become an internet dance sensation garnering over 31 million views on You Tube, over 10 days. The song is sung by popular folk singer Mangli and the lyrics are by Suddala Ashok Teja, an award-winning lyricist. In the yet-to-be-released movie, Actress Sai Pallavi dances to the beat of the song in the way, only she can. Remember, ‘Rowdy Baby’?

However, there is now a brewing controversy on Tollywood’s (Telugu Film World) appropriation of Telangana Folk Music.

Ten years ago, Komala, a folk singer, from Telangana’s Warangal District auditioned for a talent show-in which Lyricist Suddala was a judge – with the song aired on the TV Show ‘Real Re’, which brought her fame and recognition. Kamala says she heard her grandmother sing Saranga Dhariya while working in the fields from where she plucked out the song and strung the music to it.

Komala learnt about the appropriation only when the promotions of the film were released and was dissatisfied with the adaption and not being given due credit for ‘her song’, first rendered in the competition. And later she had even released an album of the song.

In the film, the song is about a woman – her beauty, her strong mindedness, one who is not easy to attain and who adorns the sarangi instrument. Komala’s version is more about righteousness and virtue of a woman, than her beauty. The film version has taken the song to greater heights than Komala, and her grandmother, could even imagine.

Meanwhile, let the music play on. It’s irresistible to keep your body parts immobile to such an earthy beat – righteousness, virtue, and beauty, all dancing in unison.

The Grammys – up ahead.

Every year, March is definitely the month of ‘reaping the fruits’ in showbiz, of the seeds sowed in drama and music in the year gone by. What, with the Oscars and the Grammys showing.

The 63rd Grammy Awards Show – The Grammys 2021 – will take place in Los Angeles, United States, this Sunday and winners of the nominated 83 categories of music will be announced.

Look forward to live performances by some of the best music Artists in the World, coming together to play music for each other as a community, and celebrate music that unites people across civilisations.

Black Pumas, Billie Eilish, Mickey Guyton, Brittany Howard, Miranda Lambert, Cardi B, Brandi Carlile, Harry Styles, Dua Lipa, Chris Martin, Thee Stallion, Taylor Swift, and more are lined up to sing and dance.

Beyonce leads with nine nominations, while Taylor Swift is favourite to pick up the coveted Album of the Year Award. If she wins, Swift will become the first woman to scoop the Best Album prize three times. Only three others have done it before: Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder.

Someone said, ‘music is the soundtrack of life’. We all have our own unique soundtracks and let’s play it well -to be heard.

More music and stories landing on your drive in the weeks ahead. Try looking out of the Window to see what you can find.


About: The story of the world this week-fascinating, with many firsts.


Smoke in my Eyes

Some news refuses to vacate the front page headlines-hogs it-and the Myanmar saga is one. This week 38 people protesting the military coup were killed and the retaliation against the pro-democracy demonstrators is becoming more brutal and deadly, with every new day of the strife. More than 50 people have died, and many wounded, since the coup began.

Where does Myanmar go from here? There was another thought channel-and I think it made sense-which believes that the ‘Aung San Suu Kyi Moment’ has passed, and Myanmar needs the next crop of leaders to step-in and make radical changes, especially in the Constitution. But then, clearing the military minefield would be the biggest challenge.

The World has been ‘shot and wounded’ by the incidents in Myanmar and should apply more pressure on the Military Junta to release leaders, hand over power to the people-elected Government-like it or not-and step behind. And watch from the shadows of their barracks.

The Pope in Iraq and the Rivers of Babylon.

Iraq is a war-torn country and healing is required in every dimension. It is also a land steeped in ancient biblical history. With this in mind perhaps Pope Francis decided to make a first-ever papal visit to Iraq, this week, and the first overseas visit by the Pope, since the pandemic caged all of us.

His Holiness was invited by President Barham Salih in 2019 and when it actually happened was received at the Baghdad Airport by Prime Minister Kadhimi.

On landing in Iraq, the 84 years old Pontiff said he comes as a pilgrim of peace and called for an end to acts of violence and extremism, factions and intolerance.

Babylon, in Iraq, is the birthplace of Abraham, patriarch of the Jews, Christians and Muslims: it has been the dream of every Pope to make a visit. Pope Francis should be realising this dream.

Remember the Music Group, Boney M’s famous song, ‘Rivers of Babylon’, which lyrics are adapted from the Hebrew Bible and has a history stretching back to thousands of years. It’s about a time when Jerusalem has been conquered, the Temple destroyed and Israelites exiled in Babylon. They weep and mourn their fate sitting on the banks of the River Tigris and Euphrates remembering Zion- Jerusalem. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? The Pope will surely find answers.

The visit will also be the first meeting in history between the head of the Catholic Church and the head of the Shia Islamic Establishment-the Hawza-now led by the 90 years old Grand Ayatollah Ali-al Sistani, one of the most influential religious authorities in the Muslim World. They met in the holy city of Najaf and probably exchanged ‘religious views’.

Great minds are at work: hope peace and progress of humanity occupies the largest space.

Roaming on Mars

America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Perseverance Rover which successfully touched down on Mars, on 18th February, at the Jezero Crater took its first drive this week, traveling about 21 feet and doing a little spin across the Crater. NASA says that it all went ‘incredibly well’. Once the mission begins exploring Mars, in a more ‘whole-hearted manner’, it will go on drives averaging about 656 feet or more.

Meanwhile, Perseverance has been soaking itself in the Martian weather hoping to get a Martian tan: it deployed wind sensors to set up its own weather station, flexed its robotic arm-carrying a muscle of instruments-and even received a software update. And has sent about 7,000 images back to Earth.

Wow, the Rover seems to be enjoying the holidays! I’m still waiting for the Ingenuity helicopter to be dropped so that it can start preparing for its own test flights. Lots to look up to!

Chicks of the Old

A Laysan Albatross named Wisdom, regarded as the oldest know wild bird in history, aged at least 70, has hatched another chick in the Midway Wildlife Refuge-home for the largest colony of Albatrosses in the World-in the North Pacific Ocean. Though the chick was hatched in February it was only this week that it was reported.

Albatrosses mate for life, rarely cheating on their partners, during a normal life span of about 40 years. Wisdom having lived up to 70 must have outlived mates, and picked up new partners, probably through ‘dance parties’, which is an elaborate pair-selection ritual in the Albatross clan. Her present long-term, steady companion, since 2010 is a guy called Akeakamai-the father of the new chick-with whom Wisdom shares incubation duties and chick feeding duties, while she forages for food-a part of the Albatross culture.

Typically, Albatrosses hatch eggs every few years and Wisdom must have brought about 35 chicks into the World.

Laysan Albatrosses are large sea-birds with wingspans of about 2 metres. They are spectacular gliders, able to stay aloft in windy weather for hours without ever flapping their extremely long narrow wings. They drink seawater and feed on squid, fish, and crustaceans. Like most seabirds Albatrosses breed on land where they appear clumsy compared to their majestic, soaring flights in the air.

In the Bird World, only parrots, especially cockatoos, are known to live beyond 70 years and into the hundreds. Most animals are productive right up to old age, and this Albatross is indeed a magnificent old bird.


The fourth test match between India and England in underway at the ‘freshly named’ Narendra Modi Stadium, in Ahmedabad, India, and England is finding the going awfully tough. Call it a name swing.

Vaccination Tracking, COVID-19.

More than 291 million doses have been administered across 111 countries at about 7.23 million doses per day.

Israel is continuing to lead the vaccination marathon with 95 doses given per 100 people; about 54.2% of the population has received at least one shot, and 40.4% are fully vaccinated. The United States (US) has given 26 doses per 100 people, while the United Kingdom has done 34 doses per 100.

India has given about 1.80 crore vaccine doses till date, at 1.4 doses per 100, with only 0.2% fully vaccinated. India needs to scale-up, quickly.

With the rollout of the second phase of the vaccination drive, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took his first dose of a made-in-India COVID-19 Vaccine, Covaxin, at the, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, early this Monday and appealed to Indians to get themselves inoculated. Setting an example is the finest point in leadership and this should give the much-needed momentum to Vaccinating India.

Please Yourself: The Oscars

I’ve always been fascinated by the Oscars, the Red Carpet dresses-often leaving so much to the wildest possible imagination with haunting colour, sparkle, ‘transparency’, revealing hidden treasures, and unbelievable curves-a reflection of the fantasy of movie making. And the fantastic stories, song, music, and sheer brilliance of make-believe. Along with watching movies nothing compares to sitting back and watching the best movies of the year gone by and living the creative world of man’s mind.

This year, in the list of 366 movies, released by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences eligible for consideration at the 93rd Oscars, in various categories, three Indian Films have earned a place. One is, ‘Mmmmm’ (Sound of Pain), a film in the Kurumba language spoken by the tribal community in Attapadi, Kerala’s Palakkad District, South India. The film tells the story of a person from the Kurumba Tribe, who ekes out a living by collecting honey, and trials and tribulations in making his life ‘honey sweet’.

The second is, Tamil movie ‘Soorarai Pottru’ (hail the brave) which is a fictionalised true-story based on the start of India’s first low-cost airline-the struggle to lift and fly the common man. The theme being, everybody can afford to fly!

The third is ‘Bittu’ shortlisted in the Live Action Short Film category, which is set in rural India and revolves around the close friendship between two little girls, eclipsed by an accident of food poisoning at School.

Indian movies have not it made to holding the golden statues at the prestigious Oscars-though many Indian Artists and Actors have-and the only films that came close to being nominated are, Mother India (1957), Salaam Bombay (1988), and Lagaan(2001). India should get its act together. And it has fabulous stories to tell!

The voting will start on 5th March, and the official nominations will be announced on 15th March.

More golden stories, with ‘lots of span’, coming up next week.


About: I kept my last week’s schedule and watched the film, ‘News of the World’. Now I ‘read’ my edition of the News of the World. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.


Words of Wisdom

Invest in you, it’s going to be the best bet of your life.

A World of Protests

In Russia, Opposition Leader, Alexei Navalny who was convicted to three years in jail on multiple cases, including defamation of an Army Veteran, lost an appeal on his prison sentence and will continue to ‘count the jail bars’, as ruled by the Courts. That means he will be sent to a forced labour camp where he will do sewing, carpentry, and the kind. Demonstrations against his arrest continue across Russia. His wife too is in jail, for joining the protests.

It’s a very long road ahead for Navalny and the tunnel is just being dug – with no end in sight, leave alone any kind of light. He is up against the might of a powerful State, which knows exactly what it wants (gets to you from the underpants – they say).

In Myanmar, demonstrations against the January 2021 Military Coup, demanding the release of democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) Party is showing no signs of abating: they are continuing to rise, with gusto. A young 20 years old woman, Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing, who was shot in the head by the Police, during the protests, died in Hospital further inflaming the situation. Youngsters are protesting in artful and creative ways. The Three-finger Salute (idea stolen from the Hunger Games movie), Blindfolding, Dressing like Suu Kyi or Tattooing her picture on the body, are some of the innovative ways of galvanising attention and showing dissent.

I think the Army Generals are making a ‘bomb mistake’ by ‘generating war’ within the Country. Isn’t their task to safeguard the country from external forces and mind the borders, rather than create borders inside?

In Spain it is a testing time for ‘freedom of expression’. Pablo Hasel, or Pablo Rivadulla Duro, is a Spanish Rapper, Writer and Poet. He is known for his fierce anti-establishment raps, which are said to glorify terrorism and insult the Spanish monarchy. Recently, the Spanish Supreme Court upheld a lower Court’s conviction for supporting terrorism, and also for libel and slander against the Spanish monarchy, through his social media messages. He was ordered to voluntarily enter prison to serve a nine-month jail term.

Defying the Order, Pablo and his supporters barricaded themselves inside Lledia University, in the northeastern provincial capital of Lleida, near Barcelona, after the deadline to surrender expired. Catalan Police then stormed the University and took him away.

Following Pablo’s dramatic arrest, protesters spilled on to the streets in Barcelona and Girona, in Spain’s northeastern Catalonia region protesting the arrest, which is seen as a violation for Freedom of Speech.

The Spanish Government had recently announced that it would remove prison terms for offences involving freedom of expression, however it is unclear when the changes will be made and take effect.

I recall, in Iran, some time ago, an Iranian Rapper Justina, Farima Habashizadehasl, fled the country to seek asylum in Georgia – where she now lives in exile- for the simple reason that in Iran, women are banned from singing solo. Iran’s Muslims, in the religiously conservative, country believe that a woman’s singing voice can be erotic. And many women have been arrested or penalised on this song count.

Freedom Of Expression is certainly not as free as it seems. But ‘erotic’, I wonder? Suddenly, due to the plethora of social media shouts, Freedom Of Expression is being challenged like never, and Governments are scrambling to re-define what it really means.

It’s Raining Plane Parts

United Airlines Flight-328 was carrying 231 passengers from Denver, USA, to Honolulu when it suffered a failure in its right-hand engine, which caught fire. Passengers on board recount that they heard a loud explosion shortly after take-off.

Fortunately, the Boeing 777-200 was able to return and safely make an emergency landing at Denver Airport but not before raining engine debris over a residential area in nearby Broomfield Town. Fragments were found on a football field and what appeared to be the front of an engine-casing landed in the front garden of a home. No one was hurt.

This Boeing 777 uses two Pratt & Whitney-4000 Engines, which had similar blowouts is two other flights, and definitely warrants a close examination of the insides. Preliminary investigations suggest that the failure might be due to metal fatigue.

A modern twin-engine airliner is designed to be able to fly safely for hours using a single engine.

On the same day as the Denver incident, an engine failure on a Boeing 747 freighter saw debris rain down on a town in the Netherlands. Parts of what appeared to be turbine blades landed on the Town of Meerssen, with one blade found embedded in a car roof. Two people on the ground, one a child, were slightly injured. The aircraft, which had left Maastricht bound for New York, landed safely in Liege in neighbouring Belgium.

Airlines are having a tough time and ‘metal rain’ is definitely not what the passengers ordered or people on the ground would expect. Flying safe remains a stiff challenge at all times.

World of Sport

Australian Open Finals, Melbourne Park, Australia

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic beat Russian Daniil Medvedev, World No 4, in a classic Australian Open final, 7-5, 6-2, 6-2, to claim his 18th Grand Slam title. Djokovic delivered a masterclass, surgical performance to overwhelm Medvedev who came to the final riding on the wave of a 20-game continuous winning streak. Medvedev exhibited awesome talent, skills, and flashes of brilliance; giving all that he had in the first set, but crumbled soon after, and in the end when it was all over, smashed his racquet on the ground of the Rod Laver Arena. Call it Tennis Crush?

Novak Djokovic is now just two Grand Slam Titles short of the all time record of 20 Titles, jointly held by the other aces, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Naomi Osaka easily overpowered American Jennifer Brady, a first-time finalist, 6-4, 6-3, to win the Women’s Title. The Victory gives Osaka her second Australian Open Title and fourth Grand Slam Title, at the age of 23 years. With the trouncing of Serena Williams in the semi-finals, Osaka looks set to dominate Women’s Tennis for time to come.

The Rising Sun is rising and shining in the World of Tennis.

The Wizard of Tennis

While the big stars were shining brightly Down Under, there was one little-known star who quietly twinkled and conquered the hearts of the many watching. She is tennis maverick, Taiwanese, Hsieh Su-Wei, unmistakable with her beaming smile, wry sense of humour – strung on a thin frame and served with a great return. Known for playing with two hands on both sides, she has a unique and unorthodox style of play, a variety of shots matched with a crafty gameplay, and aggressive volleys. She plays on unalloyed instinct, which often makes for a great match for those watching.

The 35 years old Hsieh, ranked as one of the world’s best doubles player (she is currently World No 1 in Women’s Doubles) reached the quarterfinal’s in Melbourne – the furthest she has ever gone as a singles player in a Grand Slam. She was knocked out by eventual winner Naomi Osaka.

Hsieh, nicknamed, ‘The Wizard’ by commentators, has won three Grand Slam doubles titles, making her one of Asia’s, and Taiwan’s, most successful tennis player of all time and one of the greatest tennis players Asia as ever produced. Hsieh has won 28 doubles titles, on the WTA(Women’s Tennis Association) Tour, 27 Singles and 23 doubles Titles in the ITF (International Tennis Federation) Circuit and a bunch of medals (gold, silver, and bonze) in the Asian Games.

Hsieh started to play professionally at the age of 16, in Taiwan. And life on tour wasn’t easy, and neither was being based in Taiwan. She struggled to sign up for tournaments and was having to plan everything herself without a Sponsor. Then she met former Australian tennis player Paul McNamee who took Hsieh under his wing in 2011 and unburdened her of the administrative headaches. It allowed Hsieh to focus on her game and unleash her true potential.

Hsieh doesn’t like people mentioning the age of girls in public – not in our culture, she says, and she is a food fan, eating as much as she can at the Table.

Nothing to hide; much to serve and volley; lots to eat.

Test Cricket: The Short and the Large.

England must have been stunned ‘by the turn’ of the Motera Stadium in to the Narendra Modi Stadium, inside the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Sports Enclave, in the third Test Match at Ahmedabad – a day-night, pink ball match. They were completely outdone by India in an incredible period of just two days – and three days to spare. With this India takes a 2-1 lead in the four match test series.

England scored 112 & 81 while India did a 145 & 49-without loss, to brown-wash England by ten wickets.

The Narendra Modi Stadium is the largest Cricket Stadium in the World and bowlers typically charge to the wickets from the ‘Adani and Reliance ends’ – with these two Corporates having liberally contributed to the build, earning sponsorship Ends. It was conceptualised by Prime Minster Narendra Modi when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat and also the head of Gujarat Cricket Association. It has a seating capacity of 1,32,000 spectators higher than the 90,000 seating capacity of the now dethroned biggest – Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia.

What’s in a name? Let the games begin – with lots of space for physical distancing.

The Pandemic, COIVD-19

Vaccination Tracking

More than 231 million doses have been administered across 103 countries at 6.17 million doses per day.

Israel is still way ahead with 88 doses given per 100 people; about 51.5% of the population has received at least one shot, and 36.4% are fully vaccinated. The United States (US) has given 21 doses per 100 people, while the United Kingdom has done 30 doses per 100.

India has administered about 1.34 crore doses till date, at 1 dose per 100, with a measly 0.2% fully vaccinated. The Government is rolling out its second phase of vaccination from 1st March covering the over 60years or the over 45 years but with medical comorbidities. The virus has not found it easy to get a deadly spike hold in India – as many predicted, but the vaccination drive ought to be speeded up.

Meanwhile, the US crossed a grim, heartbreaking milestone of over 500,000 dead, due to the coronavirus. President Biden had this to say, ‘We often hear people described as ordinary American. There’s no such thing, there’s nothing ordinary about them. The people we lost were extraordinary. They span generations. Born in America, emigrated to America”

Indeed, heart-breaking – what this pandemic has done to us.

Please Yourself: Now Showing Minari

With the month of March around the corner it’s getting close to the announcement of the Oscar nominations and the Academy Awards being cat-walked in April.

Last year, South Korea’s movie ‘Parasite’ unexpectedly stole the show in a World wary of English sub-titles. This year there’s another South Korean movie called ‘Minari’ growing inroads into the hearts of moviegoers, the world over, hoping to be a wellspring of deserved honours.

Unlike Parasite’s story line of social satire, Minari is a warm story, set in the 1980’s, of a South Korean family moving from California to Arkansas. A father plans a better living for his wife and two young children by farming Korean vegetables, and selling them to wholesalers and restaurants. The family ‘imports the mother’ of the wife from Korea, to baby-sit the children, when she plants Minari – a Korean plant that grows almost anywhere and can be used in just about any dish – on a riverbank. It thrives and the plant serves as something of a metaphorical encouragement: even far removed from its native soil, Minari can grow and thrive.

The movie draws strength and beauty from the landscape of rural America and is a breathtaking story of belonging and hope. And of chasing the great American Dream.

Minari is a Korean word for the vegetable, ‘Water Dropwort’, which has crisp stems and leafy tops and a herbal flavour, and tastes a little like parsley. It is used as a flavouring herb in soups and stews. Both the leaves and stems can be finely chopped and used as a topping on any savoury dish. And it has the taste of carrot tops and celery.

More mouth-watering stories – ‘and names’ (and renames) – coming up next week.


About: This is illuminating news, from my perspective, on how we lived this week, in this Earth…and in other Planets as well – beyond Earth.


God Bless America

The United States of America (USA) went through the motions of impeaching its most recent ex-President, as second time, but could not muster the courage to vote him guilty of instigating the 6th January 2021 Insurrection at Capitol Hill – a huge blot on America’s democracy – visible from the Red Planet. Punishing him would have set a great example and cleared the cobwebs on an ambiguous law, which loopholes helped him survive.

A two-thirds majority vote was required to convict the not-so-great ex-President and with a 50-50 tie between the Democrats and the Republicans in the Senate, the final vote count stood at 57 (convict)- 43 (acquit), which was far from the required punishment threshold. Seven Republicans showed ‘great’ guts in agreeing with the Democrats that the ex-President was guilty.

He was acquitted by the Senate and lives to get elected another ‘great’ day.

What Next? More of ‘great’ golf, until the next Elections?

Bill Gates, now a Window to Climate Change

Microsoft Founder Bill Gates is turning out to be a damn good Astrologer, opening doors, windows, and many vistas: predicting infectious disease Epidemics and Climate Change, to mention a few. Nostradamus must be pleased, from up above.

Bill Gates has written a new book, ‘How to Avoid Climate Disaster. The Solutions We Have and The Breakthroughs We Need’. It’s a guide to tackling global warming. I haven’t read it as yet, but here are some insights I plucked out from various reviews.

He says, ‘solving climate change would be the most amazing thing humanity has ever done. By comparison, ending the pandemic is very, very easy’.

Fifty-one billion, is how many tonnes of greenhouse gases the world typically adds to the atmosphere each year. Zero, is what we need to get to.

Renewable sources like wind and solar can help decarbonise electricity, but that’s less than 30% of total emissions. We are also going to have to decarbonise the other 70% of the world economy – steel, cement, transport systems, fertiliser production, and much, much more. We simply don’t have ways of doing that at the moment for many of these sectors.

Consuming less stuff – fewer flights, local food, less electricity and gas – won’t solve the problem.

He argues political action is more important, demanding Governments across the World do the right thing, and using our voices as consumers, insisting the same of Companies.

‘If you buy an electric car, a hamburger made of a meat substitute, an electric heat pump for your home you are helping increase the production of these products and therefore helping drive prices down’.

There’s no doubt that the next best thing to destroying the human race – other than an epidemic – is the effects of climate change. It’s the Elephant in the Room that many haven’t noticed and those who did are trumpeting for immediate action. If we can find a Vaccine for a nano-virus, I’m sure we can herd Elephants out of the room, back into the lush green forests. I agree with Bill Gates, it’s hard to push an Elephant.

Sleepless in Texas – Shivering and Freezing too

Did Bill Gates predict this one?

Texas State in the USA is known for its sprawling deserts and intense heat waves, but, right now it is hiding under a thin layer of ice. Unbelievable?

Texas is in the grip of unprecedented freezing temperatures as a brutally cold, historic winter storm ravaged it, bringing snow, sleet, and freezing rain in its wake. Temperatures touched down to (- )39 Degree Centigrade in many cities.

The frigid cold, crippled giant wind turbines (an important source of electricity in the State), froze and paralysed vital equipment at gas wells, the natural gas system, and in the nuclear industry. Pipes froze and burst across the State.

The primary sources of energy in Texas – natural gas, coal, nuclear, wind and solar – have been affected by the cold and ice causing blackouts and ruinous power outages. The Power Supply Grid was overwhelmed and several parts were left without power, for basic chores.

Homes in Texas are not normally insulated for cold water, resulting in indoor temperatures quickly dropping to freezing point after heating systems failed.

Texas is the only state of the USA with an independent power grid, meaning it depends entirely on its own electricity supply means. In hindsight, it was a lurking disaster waiting to happen, and they should have had a means for connecting with the Grid of another State – at least for emergency power. How can you afford to ‘live off the Grid’ for so long a period?

India, for eg., has a National Electricity Grid – One Nation, One Grid – and power can flow from the top of the Country to the bottom and across, from the left to the right, in a seamless manner, delivering power to Consumers, anywhere in the country. India achieved this electrifying feat in the year 2014.

What caused the freeze? The US National Weather Service says that this is due to an ‘Arctic Outbreak’ that originated just above the US-Canada Border bringing winter storm and plummeting temperatures. Cold air outbreaks such as these are normally kept contained with the Arctic Zone, by a series of low-pressure systems. However, this one moved through Canada and spilled out in to the US. And it has touched down far South into Texas. Amazing reach!

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) – Starting to Trade

The WTO is the only global international organisation dealing with rules of trade between nations. Its main function is to ensue that trade flows smoothly, predictably, and freely as possible. It has 164 nations as its members.

This week, WTO finally got its trading biases right – after years of trading with males in the lead it has made the shift to females. On Monday, it appointed Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the first female and first African head of the WTO. This is a first in the 73 years of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and WTO.

Okonjo-Iweala will take up her job on 1st March 2021 and her term, which is renewable, will run up to 31st August, 2025.

One of the selectors said of her, ‘She was not chosen because she is female or because she is from Africa, but because she stood out as the candidate with the best qualifications, experience and qualities for the daunting task’. That’s well said. I just do not like making everything a male-female issue and would trade it for expertise and quality.

The Geneva-based WTO has been leaderless since Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo stepped down last August, a year ahead of schedule. The WTO appoints its leaders through a consensus-finding process, but former US President Donald Trump’s administration stood alone in blocking the consensus around Okonjo-Iweala.

Okonjo-Iweala takes over a beleaguered WTO when it is facing a slew of challenges that have hobbled it in recent years, including how to best manage the increased friction between economic superpowers the USA and China. Critics of the WTO said it has failed to intervene over some of China’s most egregious economic offenses, which in turn has let the USA name its economic adversary a currency manipulator and impose or threaten billions of dollars in tariffs on goods from China.

Okonjo-Iweala is seen as a trailblazer in her homeland. She was twice Nigeria’s finance minister and its first female foreign minister in a two-month stint. A development economist by training with degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, Okonjo-Iweala has also had a 25-year career as a development economist at the World Bank, eventually becoming its number two. She has portrayed herself as a champion against Nigeria’s rampant corruption-revealing that her own mother was even kidnapped over her attempts to tackle the scourge. Okonjo-Iweala is married to Ikemba Iweala, a neurosurgeon. They have four children, including author Uzodinma Iweala who wrote, ‘Beasts of No Nation’ (adapted as an award winning film) and ‘Speak No Evil’.

I’m sure the WTO can build strong trade bridges and Okonjo-Iweala has already warned about Vaccine Nationalism, during the current pandemic, ‘a phenomenon where rich countries are vaccinating their populations and poor countries have to wait’.

Toolkits: Vocabulary Building

There is a new word ploughing around Town and it goes by the name of Toolkit.

A Tookit is a collection of documents that contain basic information on an issue, adaptable resources, and campaigning tips, such as tweet suggestions, hashtags, who to tag on social media, how to sign online petitions, etc., so that one can spread the word easily (on a issue) and build-up a momentum of social-media opinion, which could ultimately ignite physical action in terms of sloganeering or for & against rallies – peaceful or otherwise.

Most of us in India learnt about it when overseas Celebrities and Activists began tweeting in support of the Farmer Protests protesting the Farm Reforms – laws enacted by India’s elected Government following due process of walking it through Parliament. Obviously the ‘hand of Toolkit’ was visible in their actions. This lead to inland celebrities fighting back with their own tweets against outside interference. Meanwhile, someone who edited one of these Toolkits, said to have been first prepared by anti-India Forces, was caught and the Police are using all the tools in their kit to find out what’s happening. And now you have a full-blown social media tool war and attempts to unravel a ‘plot against the nation’.

I’m glad that the younger generation is coming out with guns blazing on issues confronting the World. I’m sure they want to add perspective and get in to the thick of things. But they need to be mighty careful on who they are dealing with. Reminds me of Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. Going to see grandma with sweets and biscuits is ‘very caring’. Beware of the Wolves, lurking in the bushes – and using toolkits for directions!

By all accounts the Farm Laws are very progressive, passed through an elected Parliament, and made into law. These reforms have been in the air for more than a decade and most of the Political Parties opposing them have sometime earlier supported the reforms now actually made into Law. Any changes should be made only through Parliament. Meanwhile it is best to try them out and I’m sure any shortcomings can be corrected by elected legislators. When it is time to vote, the overseas celebrities are welcome to vote, if the can.

Space: USA’s NASA lands on the Red Planet, Mars

On 18th February 2021, National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Perseverance Rover, weighing about a ton, landed, without incident, on Mars on a spot that has never-before been attempted by NASA – the Jezero Crater.

Perseverance is NASA’s ninth landing on Mars and its fifth Rover. And it had to go through the infamous ‘seven minutes of terror’ to land on Mars. The one-way time it takes for radio signals to travel from Earth to Mars is eleven minutes which means the seven minutes it takes to land on Mars occurs without any help or intervention from the NASA Control Centre, on Earth.

The Spacecraft reached the Martian atmosphere at a speed of 12,000 miles per hour and had to slow down to 1.7 miles per hour, seven minutes later, when the Rover landed. The spacecraft’s heat shield endured a peak heating of about 1300 Degrees Centigrade.

Perseverance has been on nearly a 472 million kilometre journey to get here since leaving Earth about 203 days ago (30th July 2020). It will explore the crater and search for signs of ancient microbial life, and collect samples for future missions over an expected life of two years.

There is a helicopter called ‘Ingenuity’ attached to the belly of the Rover and over a process of ten days the Rover will drop Ingenuity and roll away from it. After Ingenuity ‘finds its bearings’, settles down to the world of Mars and charges its solar panels, it will be ready for its first flight, which is expected to last about 20 seconds. This will be the first ever helicopter flight on another Planet and I’m sure the Wright Brothers must be looking down from Heaven, fingers-crossed.

Going back in time, the first Flyby of Mars happened on 15th July 1965, by NASA’s Mariner-4 and on 14 November 1971, Mariner-9 became the first space probe to orbit another planet. The first successful landing on Mars came on 20th July 1976 when NASA’s Viking-1 touched down in a spot named Chris Plantia – The Plains of Golf.

India’s, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) succeeded in its very first attempt to orbit Mars, with the launch of Mangalyaan, on 5th November 2013. And the space probe has been in orbit since 24th September 2014. Though ISRO planned a six-month life for Mangalyaan, it has exceeded expectations completing more than five years – and is still in a ‘circle of love with Mars’.

Surely, we need lots of perseverance to move ahead in life. While Perseverance used every ounce of it to reach Mars to try unlocking mysteries on the origin of life, those living in Texas, on Earth, will need all the perseverance and the ingenuity, they can muster to stay warm and alive.

Life in Antarctica, 3000 Feet Under

Scientists have found life buried deep under about 3,000 feet of ice in Antarctica, challenging the assumption that nothing could live in such conditions. It was thought that Antarctica’s frigid temperatures made it impossible for living creatures to thrive in these extreme locations, because they are so far from sunlight and any obvious source of food.

The strange living creatures were found attached to a boulder in the Arctic seas under an ice shelf. Experts from the British Antarctic Survey drilled through 2,860 feet of ice before making the discovery.

A collection of stationary animals, sponges and potentially several previously unknown species, were among the discoveries.

One of the Researchers explained, “If they are living somewhere as tough as this, they are probably specially adapted to being there. There is a good chance they might go weeks, months and years without food — you have to be pretty hard to cope with that.”


Australian Open in the Melbourne Park, Down Under

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic became just the second man in history to reach 300 Grand Slam wins with a fluent win over Canada’s Milos Raonic in the fourth round of the Australian Open. He whipped the big-hitting Raonic, in four sets, in just under three hours. On Thursday he beat Russian Aslan Karatsev to reach the finals.

Up ahead of Djokovic, in Grand Slam wins, is Switzerland’s Roger Federer – I miss him – the only man to previously reach the 300 win mark at Grand Slams, now sitting on a pedestal of 362 wins. Rafael Nadal is third, with 285 wins. And he is out of the Australian Open.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Naomi Osaka beat America’s Serena Williams to set up a Women’s Finals clash with American Jennifer Brady – happening this Saturday.

The Men’s Finals will be on Sunday, 21st February…and Novak Djokovic has never lost an Australian Open Final. Worth a watch!

Test Cricket

England’s Cricket Team is touring India at the moment and India got whacked by England in the first test at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai, losing by 227 runs.

India came back strongly in the second test, also in Chennai, to wallop England by one of the biggest ever wins, beating them by 317 runs, levelling the four match Test Series. India was lying under a heap of a losing streak of Test Series under ‘new Father’ Virat Kohli’s captaincy and this win has put a stop to that. Kiss the baby? Ravichandran Ashwin scored a total of 119 runs and picked up eight wickets turning into a kingpin of India’s win.

The next two Tests are slated to be held at the Sardar Patel Stadium, Ahmedabad, 24the February to 28th February and 4th March to 8th March 2021.

India requires ‘Iron Wins’ in the Sardar Patel Stadium to weld the Test Series into a strong performance and qualify for the World Test Championships.

COVID-19, the Pandemic

New Zealand’s Fight

I have read and clapped my hands with joy on New Zealand’s superb handling of the coronavirus pandemic, going for months without reports of new infections. With a population of about 5 million it recorded just over 2,300 cases of COVID-19 and 25 deaths.

The country closed its borders to people coming-in or going-out, early on in the pandemic, aiming to keep-out the virus. It maintains a tight vigil on the borders to make it a rock-solid buttress against the nano-invader. And it is succeeding.

However, this week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ordered the country’s biggest city, Auckland, to go into lockdown after the discovery of three new local COVID-19 cases. One of the cases was traced to the laundry department of an airline catering facility and with the obvious border connection, New Zealand is looking for holes to seal.

Three is definitely a small number but the country’s action is big and putting a mighty effort with the goal of stamping-out the virus. Keep it up New Zealand! Until the vaccines arrive, in many shots, we have no other option but to keep injecting ourselves with lockdowns?

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is still fishing in the troubled waters of Wuhan, China, to pin-down the source of the pandemic, but China keeps muddying the waters and is not supplying enough bait, leave alone fishing rods.

Vaccination Tracking

The speed of vaccination, to overturn the pandemic, is improving, but we need to jab faster. More than 199 million doses have been administered across 87 countries, i.e., roughly 6.50 million doses per day.

Israel is an outlier, with 79 doses given per 100 people. About 47% of the population has received at least one shot and 31.8% are fully vaccinated.

India has administered about 1.07 crore doses till date, at 0.76 doses per 100.

To provide a perspective, at current vaccination rates the prediction is that India will be fully covered by late 2022. And Israel, the USA, the UK, and much of Europe will be fully covered by the end of this year 2021.

India has seen a steady reduction in coronavirus infection cases across the States, but recently the States of Maharashtra and Kerala have seen a rising trend, which is a case of concern. This is not over and let’s stick to the basics of prevention dynamics until the Science and the Experts declare we are safe.

Please Yourself

I’m a die-hard fan of Hollywood’s Tom Hanks and this weekend I’ve scheduled myself to watch ‘News of the World’, on Netflix.

I’ll be back with more news of the world…and we have that helicopter waiting to take us on flight, in Mars!