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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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