About-the world this week, 5 February to 11 February 2023: a devastating earthquake; a balloon in the sky; an ex-Dictator dies; and the sound of the Grammys.


Turkey is Shaken

Long before it struck, the birds seemed to know it would come, behaving strangely as only nature can trigger, to announce an impending disaster in its own mysterious and unique way.

In the early hours of this Monday an Earthquake measuring 7.8 magnitude (moment magnitude scale) hit Turkey and Syria causing deadly devastation. More than 20,000 people have died, close to 80,000 injured and tens of thousands rendered homeless. While that’s the count at this time, an earthquake expert estimates that 180,000 people or more may be trapped under the rubble, nearly all of them dead!

A video of a multi-storey building on a busy Turkey street showed it crumble like a pack of cards leaving behind nothing but dust and rubble. In another, a photograph, a man could be seen holding on to ‘only the hand’ of his 15 year daughter crushed to death under the rubble – it was heart-wrenching.

The main earthquake was followed by about 60 aftershocks and another quake measuring 7.5 and yet another at 5.9. The epicentre is estimated to be 23 kilometres (km) east of Nurdagi, in Turkey’s Gaziantep Province, at a depth of 24.1 km.

Monday’s earthquake is the strongest to hit Turkey since 1939, when a similar one killed 30,000 people. Earthquakes of this magnitude are rare, with fewer than five occurring each year on average, anywhere in the world. Seven quakes with magnitude 7 or greater have struck Turkey in the past 25 years. Why Turkey?

Turkey lies in one of the World’s most active earthquake zones, being at the intersection of three tectonic plates that make up the Earth’s crust: the Anatolian, Arabian, and the African plates. Arabia is moving northwards into Europe, causing the Anatolian plate -which Turkey sits on-to be pushed out westwards. The movement of the tectonic plates builds up pressure on fault zones at their boundaries. And a sudden release of this pressure causes earthquakes. Monday’s earthquake is likely to have happened on one of the major fault lines that marks the boundaries between the Anatolian and Arabian plates: either the East Anatolian fault or the Dead Sea Transform fault. These are both ‘strike-slip faults’ -meaning they accommodate some motion of plates moving past each other – without creating much of a fuss.

Modern seismologists use the ‘moment magnitude scale’, which represents the amount of energy released by an earthquake. The Richter scale-that we often hear-is outdated and is sometimes wrongly quoted. This moment magnitude scale is non-linear: each step-up represents 32 times more energy released. A magnitude 7.8 actually releases around 6,000 times more energy than the more moderate magnitude 5 earthquakes, that usually happen in the region.

The World has quickly rushed aid to Turkey and Syria and I hope they climb out of this disaster at the best possible pace.

China’s Balloon Eyes

William Wordsworth would have been excited to see a Chinese Balloon ‘wander lonely as a cloud, floating on high over vales and hills’ when all at once it looked down the United States (US) of America, beside the lake, up above the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

The balloon, about 60 metres tall, with a solar panel array, started its journey from over Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and wandered through Canada before appearing over the city of Billings in Montana, US, last Wednesday. Montana is home to some of the US’s nuclear missile silos.

The United States believes that the balloon, seen above sensitive areas, was in fact a high-altitude surveillance device. But China said it was a Weather Balloon mainly used for meteorological purposes and regretted the unintended entry of the balloon into US airspace and that it had been blown off-course by unexpected winds. That’s a brilliant filling of air in the balloon!

Initially, the US decided not to shoot down the balloon because of the danger posed by falling debris, and the limited use of any intelligence the device could gather.

To add perspective: a surveillance balloon usually flies in the sky range between 24 and 36 km, Fighter Aircraft at 20 km, and Commercial Airlines at 12 km.

When the balloon was near the Carolinas above the Atlantic Ocean, the mighty US finally woke up and dispatched its revolutionary Fighter Jet F-22 Raptor to fire a single AIM-9X Sidewinder heat-seeking missile to take down the balloon- while another F-22 watched the proceedings. The accuracy was pin-point and China cried fowl on the ‘excessive reaction’. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken’s upcoming diplomatic visit to China bursted with the balloon. Last heard America was fishing for the remnants to determine what it could have done, or not done.

China – US relations now enter a ‘cold stage’ to complement the freezing weather in many parts of America.

Pakistan’s ex-Dictator

Pakistan’s ex-Dictator General Pervez Musharraf died in exile in Dubai at the age of 79 after a prolonged illness. He was know to be a smooth-operator mixing State Terrorism with Politics and tried to get the better of India over its Jammu & Kashmir State, and failed. He is known as the architect of the Kargil War, fought between May and July 1999, which saw India hand out a humiliating defeat to Pakistan when Nawaz Sharif was Prime Minister (PM) of Pakistan and Pervez Musharraf was the Chief of Army.

Kargil is one of the two districts of India’s Union Territory of Ladakh and is the second largest town in Ladakh, about 200 km from Srinagar.

Pakistan Troops had infiltrated into India crossing the Line Of Control (LOC) in Kargil, Kashmir, and the Kargil War saw them driven out by a resolute and clinical India. Infamously, Musharraf did not bother to recover or accept the bodies of Pakistani soldiers killed in the fighting, and it was left to India to do the job of giving them a decent burial!

This was at a time when India’s then PM Atal Behari Vajpayee, with the intent of improving bilateral ties and resolving the Kashmir problem, undertook a path-breaking Bus Journey to Lahore, for talks and engagement with Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif blamed the Kargil infiltration and misadventure on Musharraf and a few of his cronies: only four Pakistani Army Generals, including Musharraf, knew of the plan and he claimed that he himself was kept in the dark. Musharraf, however, asserted that Sharif had been briefed on the Kargil operation 15 days ahead of Vajpayee’s famous bus-ride to Lahore. Took India for a ride?

Later, with calls of a court-martial against General Musharraf growing louder, he staged a bloodless coup ousting PM Nawaz Sharif and went on to establish military rule in Pakistan, as President between June 2001 and August 2008.

Musharraf resigned in 2008 to avoid impeachment and emigrated to London in a self-imposed exile and thereafter to UAE’s Dubai.

Charges of high treason were brought upon Musharraf for implementing emergency rule and suspending the constitution in Pakistan. And he was declared an ‘absconder’ in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case by virtue of moving to Dubai. In 2019, Musharraf, in absentia, was sentenced to death for the treason charges but the death sentence was later annulled by the Lahore High Court. It is debatable whether the General left Pakistan for better or the worse. Whatever, Pakistan finds itself in a ‘general’ mess today.

Please Yourself

The Grammys

The 65th Annual Grammy Awards 2023 took place in the Arena, Los Angeles, United States, this week. This Sunday night was a history-making show, filled with dynamic performances from iconic music artists. And the sound of music could be heard in all parts of the world.

English singer, songwriter, and actor, Harry Styles, who once swiftly dated singer Taylor Swift, picked up the coveted Album of the Year for ‘Harry’s House’. Others in the run were Abba’s ‘Voyage’, Adele’s ’30’, Beyonce’s ‘Renaissance’, Cold Play’s ‘Music of the Spheres’, Bad Bunny’s ‘Un Verano Sin Ti’, Brandi Carlile’s ‘In These Silent Days’, Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Mr. Morale & the Big Steppes’, Lizzo’s ‘Special’, and Mary J Blige’s ‘Good Morning Gorgeous (Deluxe)’.

The Best New Artist Grammy went to 23 years old, jazz singer, American, Samara Joy who also lingered on to win best jazz vocal album for her album ‘Linger Awhile’. Joy was an outlier in this category and the win was considered an upset and a jaw-dropping moment when last year’s winner Olivia Rodrigo announced her successor.

The Record of the Year went to American Singer and Rapper, Lizzo for ‘About Damn Time’. She dedicated the award win to Prince, explaining, “when we lost Prince I decided to dedicate my life to making positive music”. The song has a theme of allowing us to take a moment and celebrate our survival, and celebrate how far we have come.

Song of the Year and Best American Roots Song went to 73 years old American Blues Singer and Guitarist Bonnie Raitt’s, ‘Just Like That’. And it ‘went easy’ on Adele who won Best Solo Performance for ‘Easy on Me’; and almost ‘broke the soul’ of Beyonce who danced back with Best Dance/Electronic Music Album for Renaissance.

Though it wasn’t all too well, Taylor Swift easily carried away the Grammy for best Music Video for ‘All Too Well: The Short Film’.

American Actor, Viola Davis, 57, won a Grammy for Best Audiobook – her audiobook recording of her memoir, ‘Finding Me’. With this she achieved EGOT Status joining an elite group of 18 artists. Known as US Entertainment’s Grand Slam, the acronym EGOT stands for the recipient of an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony award. She joined the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Mel Brooks, Andrew Lloyd Webber, John Legend, John Gielgud, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jennifer Hudson.

‘Finding Me’ is about racist bullying that Viola endured while growing up in Rhode Island. And her journey from being an admired actor stuck in small roles to being cast as the lead in ‘How to Get Away With Murder’ – the Television Show that made her name.

Beyonce became the most decorated artist in Grammy history picking up a record breaking 32nd trophy. From her self-titled visual album in 2013, and the confessional masterpiece that was 2016’s Lemonade to last year’s Disco Fantasia Renaissance she has change the way pop music is written, produced, released, presented, and promoted. Beyonce is surely deserving.

Indian musician Annette Philip rocked the Grammy Red Carpet with a Kanjivaram silk sari and bindi. And completed her look with a golden choker set. Annette Philip founded the massive Berkeley Indian Ensemble’s first album, titled ‘Shuruaat’, which was nominated under the Best Global Music Album Category.

India’s Bengaluru based Music composer, and environmentalist Ricky Kej won his third Grammy along with the iconic ‘Police’ Drummer, rock-legend Steward Copeland for ‘Divine Tides’ in the Best Immersive Audio Album category. That was a divine collaboration between one of India’s best and the World’s.

Divine Tides featuring Artists from around the world is a tribute to the magnificence of our natural world. Contains nine songs and eight music videos from the exquisite beauty if the Indian Himalayas to the cold Forests of Spain and is about co-existence.

Previously Ricky Kej had won Best New Age Album for ‘Winds of Samara’ in 2015, and again Best New Age Album for Divine Tides in 2022. He is the only Indian to win three Grammys.

Ricky Kej schooled in Bengaluru’s Bishop Cotton School before studying at Oxford Dental College to become a ‘non-practicing’ Dental Surgeon. His Dad is a General Physician, Dr Gyan Kej, working in the US. His Grandfather from Mom Pammi Kej’s side is Janaki Das, Olympic Cyclist and Freedom Fighter. His wife Varsha Gowda, who he married in 2014, manages his music activities including public relations. His life and journey as a musician is taught in the 7th grade in India as part of ICSE syllabus English Text books. He is a Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies at Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.

Kej is credited with over 3500 placements for radio and TV jingles. He composed the music for the 2011 Cricket World Cup Opening Ceremony. Wonder why we never heard much of him, or did we?

While the Gramophones were changing hands during the presentation ceremony actor-filmmaker Ben Affleck looked miserable and like a fish out of water. Cameras repeatedly caught Affleck, known for his grimace and his penchant for looking morose while smoking cigarettes, glumly sitting next to his beautiful wife Jennifer Lopez during the show. Many Grammy watchers noted how Affleck seemingly wanted to be anywhere but the Arena. Others gave him a thumbs-up for being stoic in the face of the music buzz around him. Meanwhile, we kept our eyes on Jennifer. Could Ben Affleck have been disappointed that Jennifer did not wear that iconic green tropical-print silk chiffon Versace dress with a ‘never-ending’ plunging neckline that travelled beyond her bellybutton – of Grammys 2000 fame?

‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head’, remember that classic song? This week, legendary music composer and song-writer Burt Bacharach died aged 94, of natural causes. He was the brain behind ‘raindrops’ and dozens of hits throughout his over 70 years career. And ‘I Say a Little Prayer’. His songs will live forever.

More singing stories and raindrop songs coming up in the weeks ahead. Plunge into World Inthavaaram.



About: the world this week,3 April 2022 to 9 April 2022, India all the way-beginning to the end, a massacre in Ukraine, the Genetic Code, the virus-again, and the Grammy Awards.


India Musings

It suddenly dawns upon you that India is living in a mighty dangerous neighbourhood – in an ocean infested with sharks of every kind, as if it were, but with ‘one pod of happy dolphins’ in one small corner. And thanks to the great Himalayas in the north and the oceans in the south, India has some height and depth of protection, at least in some dimensions.

Pakistan split decades ago into the present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh, and they predominantly occupy the west and the east of India. While Pakistan tries its best to constantly be at war with India, Bangladesh is only slightly better -almost a friend- but both countries have shaky Governments of various degrees and leaders who rarely last an elected term.

Look at the present political turmoil spinning in Pakistan: the Deputy Speaker threw out a non-confidence motion, brought up by the opposition parties, as illegal, and the Prime Minister rushed to advise the President to dissolve the National Assembly and quickly announce fresh elections. It almost worked, but Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled the Deputy Speaker’s action as a no-ball -unconstitutional-and restored the status quo. And now the sitting Prime Minister, Imran Khan, will have to face a no-confidence motion; may be sent back to the pavilion and replaced with a new one, until the next twist, at the next bend. I was awfully surprised that rules are being applied in Pakistan. And the Courts are beginning to see and read them well. Hail the Constitution!

In the Himalayan north, years ago, Nepal took a painful, tumultuous, tortuous path to its present Federal Democratic Republic status. This was after the massacre in the Royal family which killed King Birendra and the Crown Prince leading to his ‘unfit’ brother Gyanendra inheriting the throne in the 2000’s. During the 1990s dozens of short-lived governments walked in and out. And Nepal is infamous for perennial instability primarily- a signature tune- because of personal disputes among its leaders rather than policy disputes. ‘Nepali Politics is disgusting’ said a Nepali.

Nearby Bhutan looks steady, having changed from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck transferred most of his administrative powers to a Council of Ministers and allowed impeachment of the King himself by a two-thirds majority vote in parliament. In recent times, Bhutan has been continually ranked as the happiest country in all of Asia.

Myanmar is under bloody military rule, for over a year now, with the Junta having over-thrown a democratically elected government. It generated and fuelled the Rohingya crisis and seems to have forgotten how to hand back power to the people. It keeps piling up cases on its famous Nobel Peace Prize winning prisoner-who failed to make best of an opportunity, when it mattered.

Nearby Sri Lanka is falling apart economically. Years ago it was devastated by a fight for freedom by the minority Tamil population, with a ‘militant beast division’ hijacking the cause and having to be militarily eliminated. This time it’s bad governance and ‘militant’ mismanagement of the economy.

Maldives, in the Indian Ocean, appears to be riding a good wave ever since the current President, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih was sworn into Office in November 2018, for a five-year term, on the strength of a massive election victory. And it looks like he is upto the task of holding and keeping the Government afloat.

For many years Maldives surfed in political turmoil with everybody trying to overthrow everybody else, including mercenaries from far away lands. And even the water is trying to overthrow the Government.India was called to help flush out the dirt many a time-talk about draining the sump! A paradise lost: a paradise regained?

In contrast to all its neighbours India is standing tall, splendidly, with a thriving noisy democracy, despite parochial State Chieftains (trumpeting their stock origins) looking for every opportunity to widen fault lines for their selfish gains. Ever wondered how India does it? Staying fit with yoga?

Ukraine: The Bucha Massacre

This week the gruesome killings in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha traumatised the world to the very depth of its soul. The murder of scores of civilians, as much as 300, was uncovered after Russian troops withdrew from the Kyiv suburb.

On the grounds of a church was an open mass grave with the dead still inside and some in body bags, poking out in the loose graveyard sand. Houses have been bombed and found caved in by Russian shelling with the driveways ploughed over by tanks. The streets were littered with bodies with hands tied behind and obviously tortured and shot dead. It was a horrific sight.

The Pope stepped in, condemning the massacre in Bucha. He kissed a Ukrainian flag and cried for the war to be stopped, the weapons to fall silent and to stop the sowing of death and destruction. He also called the helpless situation as ‘Impotency of the United Nations’. Rightfully so.

After the failure of the League of Nations in preventing World War II, the United Nations (UN) came into being with the sole lofty aim of ‘preventing wars’. Sadly wars have only been increasing while various other arms of the UN are winning Nobel Prizes and awards in doing many other jobs extremely well-except preventing war! A snake which never had fangs at all? What next, we disband the UN and start a brand new ‘Union of Countries’ with super poisonous fangs and an ability to act as true deterrent to war?

Whatever, late this week, finally, in a small step, Russia was suspended from the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) due to its unjust invasion of Ukraine and colossal human rights violations. This happened with a two-thirds majority voting and the usual countries, including India, abstaining.

The only other country suspended from the HRC was Libya in March 2011.

Towards the end of the week, a Russian strike in Kramatorsk Railway station killed many civilians including children: thousands of people were waiting for evacuation at the railway station when the Russians attacked. The Russian barbarism continues and something has to be done about it. What about the millions of refugees fleeing war-torn areas? How and where will they be accommodated? That’s a gargantuan challenge in itself (a friend of mine-a monk on a Parikrama, who bought a Maruthi Suzuki Baleno car to ride-called me a few days ago, from Shimla, to remind me).

The capital Kyiv is gathering its feet after the exit of the Russians. And that brings some hope.

The Genetic Code

This week, Scientists announced they have finally finished mapping the human genome – what is called, the genetic code. Mapping first started in 1990, and by the early 2000s researching scientists had sequenced a whopping 92%. Now, the last bit of 8% is done. With such an in-depth look into our very insides, we should be able to better understand human biology. It could also pave the way to greater medical discoveries. And even ‘leave the door to be pushed open’ to individualised medicine.

‘We are’ the World!

The Circulating Virus

This week America’s Centre of Disease Control (CDC) announced that ‘BA.2’, the highly transmissible Omicron variant is now dominant in the United States, making up nearly 55% of new cases. Globally too, this is the dominant variant in circulation. The announcement came as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized an optional second booster shot for people 50 years and above. The CDC is yet to officially recommend it, but is telling anyone who qualifies for such a dose, to consider getting shot with it.

Back to the country where it all started. This week Chinese authorities enforced a lockdown in China’s largest city, Shanghai: the partial lockdown of the previous week was extended to cover all areas of the financial centre. This despite growing anger over quarantine rules where latest test results show only about 268 symptomatic daily COVID19 cases. The broader lockdown came after testing saw asymptomatic COVID19 cases surge to more than 13,000.

This means more than 26 million residents will stay put indoors. Chinese officials described the outbreak as ‘extremely grim’ and sent tens of thousands of healthcare workers to help contain infections in the city, including military personnel.

Overall, some 23 Chinese cities are under total or partial lockdown. And we thought we saw the end of COVID19? Hang on!

Sri Lanka Woes

This week, the island country’s economic crisis only got worse and an emergency was declared to curtail violent protests against the hapless condition. The entire cabinet of the Government resigned, and a newly appointed Finance Minister quit after just one day in office. I reckon he had no food for thought? And perhaps he wisely decided he is incapable of finding food for others. This was just ahead of crucial talks with the International Monetary Fund for a loan programme.

Towards the end of the week President Gotabaya Rajapaksa revoked the emergency but the real emergency of life continues. The Government is working on patching together a crack team-good with the finance numbers-to find a way out. Better late than never?

The Grammys Song

Time for some music, to shake a leg, at the end of a barbaric week.

The 64th Grammy Awards Function was held on 3rd April, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, United States, hosted by Trevor Noah-the South African Comedian, Television Host, Actor, and Political Commentator.

The Grammy for the Best Album was won by Jon Batiste for ‘We Are’. The best Pop Duo/ Group Performance was won by Deja Cat for ‘Kiss Me More’ – go ahead and kiss the cat more!

The Grammy for the Best New Artiste went to Olivia Rodrigo who had a ‘good 4 u’ music start this year. She also won Grammys for Best Pop Solo performance for her song, ‘Drivers License’, and Best Pop Vocal Album for ‘Sour’. Her on-stage driving was put to a real test, when racing about she dropped a Grammy Gramophone causing it to break, but before the incident could ‘sour’, it was tinkered and repaired – hope she’s ok?

Silk Sonic won Record of the Year and Best Song of the Year for ‘Leave the Door Open’. Yes, it’s better we do that, otherwise who gets to hear the song if the doors are closed.

The Grammy for the Best Country Song went to Chris Stapleton for ‘Cold’ and also best Album for ‘Starting Over’. The Best Rock Song, and Album went to Foo Fighters for ‘Waiting on a War’-I wonder whether they meant the Russia-Ukraine war was coming. Best rap song went to Kanye West for ‘Jail’-most of us know who to ‘put-in jail’ don’t we?

Indian-American singer Falguni Shah, aka Falu, won best Children’s Music Album for ‘A Colourful World’. A Child’s world is indeed colourful – including the black & white!

Falu is known for her modern inventive style with a formidable Indian classical shaped vocal talent. She had trained in Hindustani Classical in the Jaipur Gharana musical tradition and in the Benares style of Thumri under Kaumudi Munshi and semi-classical from Uday Mazumdar. She also studied under the legendary Indian classical vocalist, Kishori Amonkar and must have rubbed off a lot from her. It showed!

More musical stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Play the Gramophone with World Inthavaaram. And don’t break it.


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.