About-the world this week, 26 February to 4 March 2023: the struggle in Iran; migrants to Italy; getting to the Earth’s core; origin of the Covid-19 pandemic, Nigeria’s Presidential Election; Trains in Greece; Israel and Palestine; India’s northeastern State Elections.


The struggle in Iran continues and this time the news is about 650 girls being deliberately poisoned. Though none have died, dozens have been admitted to hospital with respiratory problems, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. This and other chemical attacks on women, seems to a revenge for the role young women played in the recent protests against forced hijab, and against the Islamic Regime.

This Sunday, more than 80 migrants and refugees died when their boat capsized off the coast of Southern Italy. This included a one month old baby and twin toddlers. The vessel carrying about 200 people, broke apart while trying to land near Italy’s Crotone. On board the boat, which had set out from Turkey a few days earlier, were people from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Obviously, these refugees were escaping the oppressive regimes or poor living conditions in their respective countries, seeking a better life elsewhere.

The United Nations Missing Migrants Project has registered more than 20,000 deaths and disappearances in the Central Mediterranean since 2014. More than 220 have died or disappeared this year alone-and we have just started- it estimates.

Italy is one of the main landing points for migrants trying to enter Europe by sea, with many seeking to travel on to richer northern European nations. But to do so, they must brave the world’s most dangerous migration route.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has urged the European Union to act to stop clandestine migrant boat journeys. Italy accused migrant rescue charities for encouraging migrants to make the dangerous sea journey to Italy, and sometimes work in partnership with traffickers.

There are also calls for more regular migration channels to Europe, and action by Governments in the region to address multiple causes pushing people to try the sea crossings. And often ending in disaster.

That’s a haemorrhage of human life in such troubled spots of the world.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, it is about 530 days since the Taliban banned teenage girls from school. Afghan women and girls continue to be denied education by the ruling Taliban in their tunnel-vision governance of the Country. And this is impairing and pushing back basic freedom for women in Afghanistan.

It’s about time Space research is given some space, to rest awhile. And for a change, Scientists have turned their eyes inward, to what lies beneath our feet.

We learnt in school that Planet Earth comprises four layers-moving from the outside to the inside: an outer rock crust, then a rocky mantle, an outer core made of molten-liquid magma, and a solid metallic inner core – about 2440 kilometres (km) wide.

Scientists have long wondered what really lies at the very centre of the Earth. And the latest research findings suggest that our planet has a distinct ball of iron – a 640 km ball of iron-nickel alloy -within its metallic core, which actually is a hidden layer, or an ‘innermost inner core’. This is according to a new study published this week in the journal Nature Communications.

The monumental finding suggests that the Earth has five major layers instead of four. And detecting the new layer, more than 1600 km beneath our feet, is significant. If offers new details scientists could use to help unlock some of the oldest mysteries about our planet and how it was formed, how it has evolved, and how it will continue doing so. It also enables better understanding of Earth’s magnetic field.

Now we know that we cannot simply dig through the Earth from one end to the other, without hitting an iron ball wall.

When the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020, there was a strong suspicion that it could have been caused by a laboratory accident in China’s Wuhan. We were then so engulfed in fighting the coronavirus that we paused that ‘origin button’ to find ways of managing the effects of the pandemic. Now we are almost done, and the proverbial skeletons are crawling out of the Chinese cupboard.

The United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director, Christopher Wray wasn’t wary at all when he acknowledged that the FBI believes the Covid-19 pandemic was likely the result of a laboratory accident in Wuhan, China. Of course China, on its part, infuriated by the accusation, simultaneously pointed fingers at the United States.

A John Hopkins Hospital Doctor has also said that it is no brainer that the coronavirus was from a lab. And the origins were never a secret? Maybe we may never really know?

In Nigeria the result of the Presidential Election was announced and Bola Ahmed Tinubu was declared the winner. The elections were controversial, with Opposition Parties decrying it as rigged.

Tinubu, of the ruling All Progressive Congress Party defeated Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the opposition People’s Democratic Party, and Peter Obi, the popular Third Force candidate. This is one of Nigeria’s most fiercely contested Elections since returning to democratic rule in 1999.

Tinubu hails from the same party as outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari and previously served as the Governor of Lagos State. Tinbu will serve as Nigeria’s 5th President.

On the wheels of the recent train derailing accident in the United States comes a head-on collision between two trains, near the city of Larissa, Tempi, Central Greece, killing dozens of people and injuring scores of others. The two trains, a Passenger Train carrying more than 350 people and a Freight Train collided, both of which were travelling for several kilometres on the same track. At some point, the Passenger Train had changed tracks and switched to a cargo-track setting-up the head-on collision.

Greece has a poor track record of railway passenger safety compared with other countries in Europe. It has the highest railway fatality rate per million train kilometres from 2018 to 2020 among 28 nations on the continent.

Israel and Palestine are forever at each other’s throats in what seems to be a never-ending war in the over 100 years conflict. In recent times, especially since the start of this year, there has been an intensification of violence between the warring factions, with deaths mounting on both sides.

The current violence is mainly taking place in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – areas occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war, which began to escalate in March 2022.

In a period of days, Israel was rocked by a series of deadly Palestinian attacks and the Israeli military launched an open-ended operation in the West Bank in response, resulting in nightly raids into the occupied territories.

Israel says it has to continue its operations to weaken the militant groups and thwart attacks, while Palestinians say the attacks are a response to Israel’s actions and overwhelmingly more powerful military. There is also no political peace process, which could offer the prospect of a permanent solution, leaving decades-old grievances – the Palestinians’ want of a state and Israel’s want of security chief among them – festering.

Each side blames the other, but there are also longer-term underlying causes.

Palestinian attackers and those who support them say they are fighting Israel and the occupation and avenging Israeli assaults.

Some of the Palestine attacks have been carried out by ‘lone wolves’-individuals who were not acting on the orders of an organisation. Other attacks have been carried out by Palestinian militant groups, including the newly formed ‘Lions’ Den’, whose popularity on the Palestinian street has surged.

Israel’s ongoing operation in the West Bank, called ‘Break the Wave’, is targeting militant groups with arrest raids to stop them from launching attacks. The raids, however, are often taking place in densely populated refugee camps and other urban areas, where they meet resistance from gunmen and often turn bloody.

This week there was a flood of visits to India, by other countries, to attend the G20 Foreign Ministers Meet under the chairmanship of India. Russia and the US briefly met face-to-face in a you-dare, I-dare, cinematic fashion, the first since the Russia-Ukraine War. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to end the war and urged Russia to reverse its suspension of the New START nuclear treaty.

India’s efforts to bridge differences and produce a joint statement stumbled due to differences over the war. However, an ‘outcome document’ was produced.

In India news, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) heading the Government at the Centre kept its winning streak in State elections that come its way – this time in northeastern India. Three States swooned to the BJP’s charms.

The State of Nagaland got its first-ever couple of woman MLA’s and the BJP kept its Government allying with the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP). The major alliance partner NDPP improved its performance this year by 7 seats, winning 25 of 60 seats seats. The BJP won 12 seats and the relationship continues.

The two women who created History are, NDPP’s Hekani Jakhalu from the Dimapur seat, who won by 1536 votes, and NDPP’s Salhoutuonuo from Western Angami constituency, who won by a razor-thin 7 votes.

In the Sate of Tripura, the BJP won a majority on its own – just crossed the half-way mark. In the State of Meghalaya it was a hung result and it tied-up with the National People’s Party (NPP) after winning 2 seats to the NPP’s 26 and hopes to form a Government with others joining in.

While the Congress Party of India was being trounced all over India and bleeding seats – except for a few solo ‘historic’ wins- its key Leader, trimmed his beard slipped into a suit-boot mode, and sporting a new look, visited his Alma Mater, Cambridge, in London, United Kingdom. He lectured students on the art of ‘Learning to Listen in the 21st Century’ and about promoting ‘new thinking’ in democracy. He also bashed India with, ‘Indian Democracy is under attack’, which is not good for his and India’s health.

He peddled lies such as claiming he had the Pegasus malware in his phone and that he was told by ‘intelligence officers’ that his calls are being recorded. The fact is, no evidence of the Pegasus malware was found in a Supreme Court inquiry. He and many other politicians who claimed they were being snooped on and tried to raise a political controversy over it, never submitted their phones to the probe panel. Of the 29 phones that were submitted, only 5 were found to be infected with ‘some kind of malware’ and none of them was confirmed to be Pegasus.

An Ambassador ‘lies’ abroad for the welfare of his country. A scion of India’s Grand Old Party, lovingly called ‘Pappu’ in India, lies abroad to defame India. Some never learn.

Meanwhile, we are listening and thinking, for sure. Maybe, grow a new beard to trim later on?

More growing-up stories and uplifting ones coming in the weeks ahead. Vote for World Inthavaaram.



About: the world this week, 6 March to 12 March 2022, war grows, Ganga flows, Covid19 again, rains floods, elections and elections, tree driving, and a pig heart.


Ukraine: Fighting Back

“I am prepared to die for my country, for what I love,” said a Ukrainian in perfect English. “Putin doesn’t understand we don’t want his authority-his world. All of us here know what we want-the right to live our lives, the right to choose who leads us. That’s our right, not Moscow’s.” That sums up the steely, courageous mood against all odds, which has invaded Ukrainian minds.

It’s over two weeks since the Russian invasion and Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky is holding-on with his people in the capital Kyiv amidst the mad, relentless attack on his country. He has been on a continuous talking spree to world leaders explaining the situation, and trying to enlist their understanding and support. His speech to the United Kingdom’s (UK) House of Commons received a standing ovation. “We will fight until the end, at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost,” he said. Brave words, which will go down to the wire.

The city of Kyiv has been transformed into a fortress and from the looks of it, the people are determined to defend the city to the last man standing. Almost 40,000 volunteers joined the Territorial Defense Forces in the first two days after the invasion began. In Kyiv alone, 18000 people picked up weapons when authorities called for volunteers and reservists to do so.

Those who couldn’t join the forces are helping in other ways: making Molotov cocktails, sewing camouflage nets for barricades, distributing food, hot drinks and cigarettes to those standing guard. They are raising money for the military, building more road blocks, and even painting over traffic signs in an attempt to confuse the invaders.

Over the week, Russia bombed a Hospital in the city of Mariupol that injured 17 people, including children, women, and doctors. Three died, among them one child, a girl. Civilians are being increasingly targeted and this is a huge cause of worry, as is the precision of Russian weaponry becoming suspect.

India successfully evacuated nearly all its citizens and students in Ukraine. Many would not budge without their pet cats and dogs, which also earned space in the Operation Ganga flights. One man, an Orthopaedic Doctor chose to be different. He had a pet panther and a jaguar and refused to leave without them. Last heard he was hunting for food to feed them. Another who was shot, during the Russian shelling, was rescued and taken home in an Indian Airforce Plane.

While we talk about Ukraine, think about Afghanistan and Myanmar where its people invaded their country causing endless internal strife. And Taiwan living in constant fear of a Chinese invasion. Another rogue nation North Korea is busy firing missiles into the Ocean, what if they turn and attack South Korea? The possibilities for war is limitless. In Taliban’sAfghanistan it’s Day 175 since girls have been banned from returning to secondary school: teenage girls remain stuck at home, waiting for the Taliban to decide the future of their education. And they are busy lecturing Russia and Ukraine to talk it over and take things cool. Wow!

This week, the US further turned the screws on Russia by banning all imports of Russian Oil, Gas, and Energy. US based companies such as McDonald’s, Starbucks, KFC, Pizza Hut, Coca-Cola, temporarily closed their stores in Russia to show their solidarity with Ukraine. And in return, Russia threatened to seize all these abandoned assets. Well, that’s another front opening in this war!

I often wonder what did the Ukrainian people do to deserve this: homes destroyed, lives shattered, and tens of thousands crossing the Borders into Poland, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Moldova, and Slovakia as refugees.

A third round of talks between Ukraine and Russia was unproductive. And they are still talking. Ukrainian President Zelensky indicated he might not want to join NATO after all-as they are cold towards them. He might also give up in some eastern provinces which Russia recognised as Independent. These maybe the building blocks for further negotiations.

South Korea’s New Unfavourable President

This week, South Korea chose the opposition conservative People Power Party’s candidate, Yoon Suk-Yeol, as the country’s next President following a tightly contested Presidential Election, the closest in its history-with the final count separated by less than 1%. He takes over from the outgoing President Moon Jae-In, who held three summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in an attempt to bridge the gap between the Koreas.

Yoon, a political novice, scraped out a victory over the liberal Democratic Party’s Lee Jae-Myung, based on promises to tackle class inequality. Both presidential candidates were considered widely unpopular throughout the campaign. And voters appeared so disenchanted by the frontrunners that local media dubbed the vote as ‘election of the unfavourables’. However, polling day saw a high turn out, with 77% of eligible voters casting their vote. Yoon Suk-Yeol’s victory over his rival Lee Jae-Myung is far from decisive. The razor-thin margin being a sign of just how bitterly divided politics in the world’s tenth largest economy has become.

Except is authoritarian regimes, where we may never know until the very end, most democracies are deeply divided over many factors, with new fault lines and fissures discovered all the time.

New Zealand and The Virus

New Zealand defences against the first two waves of the Covid19 pandemic was the sturdiest, the toughest, and the tightest. Only a few viruses slipped through, which were caught at the borders and mercilessly thrashed. When the world was baffled on how New Zealand did it, the mutated virus -the Omicron fellow- heard, and taking law into its hands invaded New Zealand like never before. Daily infections climbing into Space-as high as over 20,000- which is the highest ever in the country since the pandemic began. However, deaths were insignificant with over 90% of the weakest population vaccinated against the virus. Vaccination works.

The cases are beginning to dip and I’m sure New Zealand would be wiser at the end.

The virus is indeed a great leveller. You cannot take it for granted.

Australia’s Emergency

New Zealand’s big island neighbour had a different kind of problem: unending rain, growing floods; it’s becoming harder to live in Australia. Over the past week, severe rain along the country’s eastern coast has caused some of the worst flooding in Australian history and inundated swaths of two of its largest cities, Sydney and Brisbane. The provinces of New South Wales and Queensland have been pummelled by heavy downpours that have caused floods, and Sydney was hit by widespread flash-flooding.

The situation forced Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison to declared a national emergency this week. It was the first time that a national emergency-a legislative power created after the deadly wildfires in early 2020-had been declared.

Experts say the flooding emergency has been worsened by climate change and a ‘La Nina’ weather phenomenon. A La Nina develops when strong winds blow the warm surface waters of the Pacific away from South America and towards Indonesia. In their place, colder waters come up to the surface. In Australia, a La Nina increases the likelihood of rain, cyclones, and cooler daytime temperatures.

Whoever coined the term ‘Down Under’ probably knew what was coming!

India’s Five State Elections

Finally the last of the five States, Uttar Pradesh, that went to the polls to elect its new Legislative Assembly finished voting in the final phase on 7 March 2022. And once the voting was over that evening, Exit Pollsters started shouting out their kind of voting, and the prediction was that India’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will win in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarkhand, Manipur, and maybe Goa. While Punjab will go to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) presently governing the Union territory of Delhi.

The counting of votes was on 10 March 2022 and the results were generally on predicted lines. The BJP smashed many ceilings in winning 273 (with its allies, 255 on its own) out of 403 seats in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh where it was the incumbent governing party. The election strategy of pushing for a ‘double-engine’ (Centre and State ruled by one Party) growth seems to have worked, and it fired on all cylinders. The Grand Old Party of India, The Indian National Congress (INC) was decimated in the State winning a miserly 2 seats. Overall, it was mauled at the hustings in other States and left licking its wounds. It had bungled and messed-up big time in Punjab and ‘reaped a bare minimum support’ from the voters.

The BJP went on to record remarkable victories in all other states except Punjab where the AAP, which has the broom as its symbol swept-off every other party including the BJP with a magical, massive, first ever win – 92 out of 117. In Uttarkhand the BJP won 47 out of 70; in Manipur it won 32 out of 60; and in Goa it won 20 out of 40.

The BJP shattered a battery of records in Uttar Pradesh with its present Chief Minister(CM)Yogi Adityanath, nearing 50, becoming a tall leader in his own right. He is the first CM to retain power in 37 years; the first CM to complete a full tenure and be re-elected; the fifth CM to win a second consecutive term; first BJP CM to return to power; first MLA to become CM in 15 years and the first CM to break the Noida Jinx. According to legend, whichever CM visits the city of Noida during his tenure either loses the next election or does not complete his tenure. Many past CM’s used to deliberately avoid this city and those who dared, succumbed to the fate of the Noida Jinx.

The State of Punjab saw an incredible performance by the AAP which won a landslide of 92 seats of a total of 117. There is also a story there.

Maybe this is the year of the Comedy Actors getting their timing right, fighting it out in the world of Politics and leading the charge afterwards. Punjab’s Bhagwant Singh Mann who is the Chief Minister-elect is a comic poet, writer of political satire and competed in the popular Indian TV show, ‘The Great Indian Laughter Challenge’ in 2008. He is currently a Member of Parliament for the AAP and was chosen to lead the Punjab Elections based on a public poll in which 93% wanted him to become the Chief Minister of Punjab. That’s almost an Indian Zelensky!

One ‘handed-down’ lesson from the elections is, ‘never take the voter for granted’.

India’s Tree Scooter

India is the world’s biggest producer of areca nut, with an output of 1.2 million tonnes in the year 2020-21. Much of this is produced in the southern coastal states of Karnataka and Kerala.

The areca nut is the seed of the areca palm and is commonly referred to as betel nut. It is known to be a major ‘cancer causing nut’; as with chewing tobacco, its use is discouraged by preventive efforts. Consumption by hundreds of millions of people worldwide is described as a much neglected global public health emergency.

On the brighter and taller side, 50 years old Ganapathi Bhat farms areca nut in the coastal town of Mangaluru in India’s Karnataka State. He faced a problem: regularly scaling palm trees as tall as between 60 and 70 feet to inspect and harvest his crop. Too old to climb, and unable to find cheap labour, Bhat took it upon himself to invent a device that would make climbing areca nut trees easier.

Starting in 2014, Bhat spent around INR 4 million on research and development. After four years of climbing work, he and his engineer partner came-up with a working prototype of a ‘Tree Scooter’. It consists of a small motor; a rudimentary seat, which straps a person to the seat and to the handlebars in a kind of tree-embrace; a set of climbing wheels, foot-bars; and the handle bar of a scooter with hand-controlled accelerator and brakes, which is revved to swiftly move up and down the tree and brake to a stop where required.

Bhat has sold more than 300 of the ‘tree scooters’, which cost about INR 62,000 each.

Last seen he was effortlessly zipping up and down trees grabbing the fruits of his labour!

Pig Heart

In the United States, 57 years old David Bennett had terminal heart-disease, was confined to a bed, and was given no chance of survival – certain sudden death.

However, in a ground-breaking experiment, Doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Centre, were granted a special dispensation by the US medical regulator to carry out a heart-transplant from a genetically-modified pig. Bennet thus became the first person in the World to receive such a heart, and would otherwise have died sooner.

He underwent the surgery on 7th January, and in the weeks afterwards he spent time with his family, watched the Super Bowl, and spoke about wanting to get home to his dog, Lucky.

But his luck ran out, and his condition began to deteriorate over the past week. And he died this week on 8 March. Bennett knew the risks attached to the surgery, acknowledging, before the procedure, it was ‘a shot in the dark’.

More light stories to dispel darkness coming up in the weeks ahead. Climb with World Inthavaaram.


About: the world this week, 20 February to 26 February 2022, war-an invasion, chess, a not so noble gas, elections, and a Western movie that hopes to lasso a barnful of Oscars!


War (and Peace?)

Finally, after weeks of invasion of the media by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the stalemate ended. And the world’s worst fears came true: Russia ‘royally’ invaded Ukraine through the Donbas region on 24 February 2022 calling it a ‘special military operation’ with the goal of ‘demilitarising and denazifying’ Ukraine: it made claims (false) about genocide perpetrated against ethnic Russians in the eastern parts of Ukraine, and they asking for help as one of many reasons.

I never knew invading another Country was so easy-never mind the preparation-without any kind of overt provocation by Ukraine. And all along implying that it was going to happen.

Read the basics of the build-up of the story at:

We have to give it to the United States (US) for using their superior ‘intelligence’ with President Biden’s relentless invasion theory bearing fruit. But they could do nothing to prevent it. Ukraine, despite its intent, has not yet joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). If it had, NATO troops can enter Ukraine to defend it. Now, the best that NATO can do is watch from across the Borders. And keep gathering intelligence.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “We do not intend to occupy Ukraine. To anyone who would consider interfering from the outside: if you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history. All relevant decisions have been taken. I hope you hear me”.

The scope of the Russian attack appears to be massive, with cruise and ballistic missiles targeting infrastructure near major cities such as Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol and Dnipro.

This come days after Putin recognised the independence of Ukraine’s two eastern areas of Donetsk and Luhansk and ordered Russian forces into these regions as what he called ‘peacekeepers’, wow! And this also comes weeks after Russia amassed over 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders.

A fantastic case of Russia being the criminal, the prosecutor, and the judge – all rolled into one tank and shot into Ukraine.

Recall, Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014, and pro-Russia rebels have since been fighting Ukrainian forces in the eastern areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. More than 14,000 people were killed in that conflict.

Ukraine is also known for the Chernobyl Nuclear disaster – considered the worst nuclear disaster in history – that occurred on 26 April 1986 in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the city of Pripyat in the north of Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union. Russia would be looking to seal off this site to prevent any new kind of new danger spilling over from the, now shut-down and boundary isolated nuclear power plant. Well, it did just that on entering Ukraine.

Three decades ago, the newly independent country of Ukraine was briefly the third-largest nuclear power in the world. Thousands of nuclear arms had been left on Ukrainian soil by Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. But in the years that followed, Ukraine made the decision to completely denuclearise – destroying or returning its nuclear arsenal to Russia. In exchange, the US, the United Kingdom(UK), and Russia would guarantee Ukraine’s sovereignty and border security in a 1994 agreement known as the Budapest Memorandum. Now Russia has failed that trust. And the US and UK too?

It beguiles me, what do you call such a reckless invasion by a responsible nuclear superpower? Can it ever be trusted? Russia’s action is unacceptable and condemnable. It sets a dangerous precedent in attacking an independent country on fictitious, flimsy reasons; a country that has chosen its own path and has not shown any unprovoked military aggression against Russia.

What options does Ukraine have? Fight it out or lay down arms-to avoid bloodshed -talk it over with Russia and accept not to join NATO, for a start? Where does the United Nations (UN) come in, when will it grow teeth?

There is enough of Russia for Russia. Otherwise there is all of Space to occupy, if they can. Live and let live!


‘I was just enjoying myself’, so said 16 years old Chess Grandmaster (GM) Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa from Chennai, Tamilnadu, India, when he stunned the World No 1, Magnus Carlsen, in the eighth round of the Airthings Masters Online Rapid Chess Tournament. He became only the third from the country- after Viswanathan Anand and Pentala Harikrishna – to earn a victory over the Norwegian Chess superstar, in any form of the game.

Praggnanandhaa is a chess prodigy, the fifth-youngest person ever to achieve the title of GM, behind Abhimanyu Mishra, Sergey Karjakin, Dommaraju Gukesh (Gukesh D), and Javokhir Sindarov. He is the younger sibling of Woman GM Vaishali Rameshbabu.

Praggnanandhaa won the World Youth Chess Championships Under-8 title in 2013. In 2016, Praggnanandhaa became the youngest international GM in history, at the age of 10 years, 10 months, and 19 days.

We have a new King in the Castle. And he comes armed with a coolness beyond his years and ash smeared on his forehead. Mind it!

India has nearly 70 GM’s now, up from 20 in 2007. Twelve of them are women. That’s a formidable army: Russia, and others, beware!


The ‘Airthings’, in the Rapid Chess Tournament Title, quickly caught my eye before Praggnanandhaa could make his next move. What is Airthings?

Established in 2008, Airthings is a global tech company which aims to educate people on the prevalence of Radon, as well as other indoor air contaminants, and develop technology solutions to help people measure the dangers lurking inside homes and tackle them to live a healthy indoor life.

Airthings makes user-friendly Radon detectors to measure Radon levels in Homes and Buildings akin to the common smoke detectors. Radon testing for homeowners has been stationary for almost 30 years. Traditionally, people only had two options: call a professional to test radon levels, or purchase a single-use charcoal test which was then sent to a laboratory for the results. Airthings broke this tradition by designing, making, and supplying affordable Radon and other indoor air quality sensors trying to make them essential and a universal element in every building.

Next, what is Radon, why does it need to be measured?

Radon is an inert, colourless, odourless, radioactive, noble gas, present in the atmosphere in trace amounts; produced by the natural breakdown or radioactive decay of uranium and thorium present in rocks, soil, and groundwater. Since it emanates from the earth’s crust, the level of Radon at a place varies depending on the uranium content of the location. When Radon deteriorates, it releases radioactive energy, which is a health hazard. And can cause lung cancer. People can be exposed to the gas primarily from breathing Radon in the air that comes through cracks and gaps in buildings and homes from the base foundation. There is Radon in water too, because it can permeate well waters, hot and cold springs, making water unsafe to drink. When these gases are confined inside houses, it accumulates to dangerous concentration levels.

Outdoors, Radon disperses rapidly and, generally can be ignored. Breathing Radon over time increases risk of lung cancer and is the second leading cause of lung cancer (in the US, for one). Only smoking causes more deaths.

Indoor Radon can be controlled and managed with proven, cost-effective techniques based on Testing. If Radon levels are high, a certified Radon service professional can fix the problem.

A , 0 to 48 Becquerels/cubic meter (Bq/cubic meter) level of Radon is safe and normal. If it reaches 100 Bq/cubic meter, a ventilation solution has to be found. Guidelines suggest a mitigating action if levels are at or above 148 Bq/cubic meter . Usually, Radon problems are fixed using an underground ventilation system or by increasing the rate of air changes in the building-through fresh-air and exhaust fans.

I brought this up to bring awareness on indoor pollutants, especially Radon, as I could hardly see it ‘permeate’ our knowledge!


Elections seen to be always happening in India’s noisy democracy, in a never-ending cycle. An election buzz seems to be everywhere, every few months.

This week saw the counting of the Urban Local Body Elections in the State of Tamilnadu-held after 10 years -where the party ruling the State romped home. But not before the national party, ruling at the Centre made its mark in the State. Analysts are out there, with their calculators trying to work out the math from the wins and losses.

I think people voted for continuity to see that the party which just won the State Assembly Elections, also rules the Local Bodies. No excuses hereinafter, for the winners. Deliver, or pack and leave.

Meanwhile, State Elections to the Legislative Assemblies of Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Punjab, Manipur, and Uttarakhand are in various phases of completion. Punjab, Goa, and Uttarakhand voted on a single day on 14 February. Manipur votes in two phases on 27 February and 3 March 2022. Uttar Pradesh is voting in seven phases: 10 February, 14 February, 20 February, 23 February, 27 February, 3 March, and 7 March 2022.

Counting of votes for all the Sates that went to the polls over the past weeks of February is scheduled on 10 March 2022. Testing times ahead.

Please Yourself

This week I found time to see the power of The Power of the Dog, a movie expected to make a big bite at the Oscars with an awesome 12 nominations in various categories in the 94th Academy Awards Night, coming up later in March 2022. I read that this year it will be hosted by Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes.

The Power of the Dog is a powerful, haunting, psychological Western movie thriller where instead of guns you have the bango, the piano, the cattle, the landscape, and the raw cowhide doing the shooting. It is based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel of the same name. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch (Phil), Kirsten Dunst(Rose), Jesse Plemons(George), and Kodi Smit-McPhee (Peter), and is directed by New Zealand Director, Screenwriter, and Producer, Jane Champion.

A wealthy American ranch in Montana, is run by brothers Phil and George. While Phil is blunt, cruel, and aggressively emulates his late mentor Bronco Henry in his traditional rawhide cowboy dressing, George is cool, polished, a perfect gentlemen with suit, tie, and hat to boot.

During a cattle drive George falls for inn-keeper Rose who is a widow with a teenage son, Peter. George lifts Rose to the ranch after marrying her, and sends her son to College to study medicine-surgery. Phil plays on the emotions of Rose with his coldness, pushing her into drinking, turning her in an alcoholic wreck, all the while mocking Peter’s effeminate manners.

Peter comes over to the ranch during a College break, feels his Mom’s condition, and snares and dissects a Rabbit to show-off his dissecting skills. He is befriended by Phil after Peter catches him bathing in a secluded pond and masturbating with a Bronco Henry scarf around his neck. Peter also discovers a stack of the magazines of nude men with the mentor’s name on them near the secret pond.

Phil teaches Peter to ride a horse and even starts making a lasso of raw cowhide for him to twine their friendship. Their warmth irks Rose and drives her further in an abyss. And one day, in a drunken stupor, she defiantly sells unused hides – normally burnt off by Phil – to a native Indian, when Phil & Peter are out for a ride together.

When Phil discovers his hides are gone, he creates a ruckus, and is unable to complete twining of the lasso he was working on. Peter offers him some hide he had himself cut-off, using a surgeon’s gloves, from a cow, which had died of Anthrax. Phil works through the night, with Peter watching, to finish off the lasso inadvertently allowing an injured bloody wound in his hand to soak in the solution used to soften the rawhide. During the process Phil narrates a story of Bronco Henry saving his life in freezing weather with the heat of his body and does not answer Peter’s question of whether they did it naked. Peter, in turn tells him about having to cut down the corpse of his alcoholic father who had killed himself by hanging. And that his father told him he was not ‘kind enough’.

The next day Phil is found sick in bed and later dies (of Anthrax – says the Doctor). George is puzzled about the Anthrax as Phil was awfully careful in staying away from dead cattle.

In the end Peter, who avoided Phil’s funeral, smiles on seeing his Mom embrace George outside the ranch, and perhaps live happily ever after. He pushes the Phil-made lasso, with a gloved hand, beneath his bed. You need to figure out yourself on what happened to Phil – that’s an unspoken, but ‘clear’ mystery.

Superb acting by the cast, especially Benedict Cumberbatch, and Kirsten Dunst who drinks into the character.

I found the music score, composed by English musician Jonny Greenwood who is the lead guitarist and keyboardist of the rock band Radiohead, filling the film to the brim. Made me grow my ears!

More Eastern and Western stories coming-up in the weeks ahead. Wars do not work-live peacefully with World Inthavaaram.