About-the world this week, 19 February to 25 February 2023: The US in Ukraine; a melting Thwaite Glacier; a canal dry Venice; Israel’s Supreme Court; Trains and Tunnels; Canada’s Super Pigs; Two leaves, and a Bow & Arrow; and Japan’s roll with an iron Ball.


This week United States (US) President Joe Biden made a surprise dash to Ukraine to walk with President Zelensky on the streets of Kyiv, hear the air-raid alarms, deliver bear-hugs, show solidarity, and announce additional support and aid. That should be morale boosting for Ukraine. This is Biden’s first visit since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago and it comes almost on the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of 24th February. Biden said the US would stand with Ukraine ‘for as long as it takes’ and praised the heroic fight-back. He then went on for a three-day visit to neighbouring Poland, where he declared that Russia will never be able to capture Ukraine.

Meanwhile, European Union (EU) foreign ministers met in Brussels to discuss how to make sure Ukrainian forces are supplied with enough ammunition to keep the war going.

And in Russia, President Vladimir Putin made his state of the union address, where he recycled the same lines about his rationale for invading Ukraine; and he outlined no vision of how the so-called ‘special military operation’ he launched might end. But Putin did offer at least one headline, announcing that Russia is suspending its participation in the ‘New START’ (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), the US-Russia bilateral agreement on nuclear arms reduction. Putin repeated the same baseless claim that Russia had no choice but to use force against Ukraine. And he doubled down on blaming the West for the conflict. “I want to repeat: it was they who unleashed the war,” Putin said. “And we used and continue to use force to stop it.” Wow, what an inventive, foggy reason!

Doomsday could arrive sometime in the future and Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier, also nicknamed the ‘Doomsday Glacier’, may drown many parts of the World on a probably irreversible path. Over the years, this unusually broad and vast Glacier, about the size of Great Britain, alone has contributed to 4% rise in global sea levels. Thwaites is melting rapidly and all the Oceans being connected, a full melt-down could result in a 1 to 3 metre rise in sea levels all across the World.

Presently a floating ice-shelf called the Thwaites Ice-Shelf braces and restrains the eastern portion of the Thwaites Glacier. In recent years, this ice sheet has been steadily disintegrating and Scientists predicated that it is likely to collapse within a decade from 2021. The Thwaites Glacier itself acts a natural dam for enormous ice lakes sitting behind it. They will slide down the mild slopes of continental Antarctica and into the sea once Thwaites collapses.

The Glacier is named after Fredrik T Thwaites, a glacial geologist and Professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

What would be the effects? Think, major cities such as New York, Miami, Mumbai, Shanghai, and Tokyo would be inundated. And low-lying Island nations such as Maldives (Indian Ocean), Kiribati (Central Pacific Ocean) and Tuvalu (South Pacific) may be swallowed up.What can we do? Some have suggested building of underwater walls with robots, and others have suggested enormous cooling tunnels under the ice to cool the slightly warmer water beneath the Glacier, which chips away at the ice.

Whatever, the impacts of melting glaciers can always be mitigated depending on how we humans respond in the coming decades. And there is no reason to panic. Maybe we should never use the word ‘Doomsday Glacier’ as it gives the inaccurate impression of something inevitable?

Meanwhile, in yonder Italy, the City of Venice would certainly do with lots of water. Its iconic canals are running dry, making it impossible for the city’s famous gondolas and water taxis to navigate the waterways.

This follows weeks of dry winter weather with the Alps having received less than normal snowfall. A combination of factors are to blame, including lack of rain and unusual low sea tides.

Imagine, Venice built on over 100 islands and crisscrossed by 177 canals, which was once at the risk of drowning, is now starving for water!

Israel has a problem. It’s about judicial reforms which aim to overhaul the country’s legal system. Its Supreme Court (SC) has remained supreme, may be too supreme and the Government brought in reforms to curb a ‘dictatorial streak’. The changes would limit the SC’s power to rule against the legislature and the executive, giving the Israeli Parliament – Knesset- the power to override the SC decisions with a simple majority of 61 votes out of the 120 seat Knesset. Another change proposes to do away with the SC’s authority to review the legality of Israel’s Basic Laws, which function as the country’s constitution.

Supporters agree with the changes. Opponents think it would threaten’s Israel’s democratic nature and may lead to majoritarian rule. People are out on the streets to protest the changes. Others say there is more than meets the eye, and the conflict is not about the role of judges; rather it is over different visions of Israel. May the best vision win?

We have often heard of stories of tunnels being made and to speed up the process -the digging erroneously begins are the two ends. And how they fail to connect due to a wrong alignment – and you either find a way to connect them, abandon them, or get two tunnels.

Now leaving the tunnel alone, there is a story in Spain of how new commuter trains were ordered that could not fit the non-standard tunnels in the northern regions of Spain’s Asturias and Cantabria. However, the mistake was spotted before the trains could be actually pushed into production.

Spain’s Rail Operator Renfe ordered the trains in 2020, but the following year the Manufacturer realised that the dimensions it had been given for the trains were inaccurate and ‘on a hunch’, stopped work.

The rail network in northern Spain was built in the 19th Century and has tunnels under the mountainous landscape that do not match standard modern tunnel dimensions.

The Government launched a joint investigation to find out how the error could have happened and fired a Renfe manager, and the head of track technology, over the blunder. The botched order cost nearly USD 275 million.

Looks like it’s the season of ambitious wide-bodied thinking failing to fit into our straight-jacket world.

Farmers in Canada wanted to breed large-bodied pigs that are far more resistant to cold so that they are able to survive and reproduce at temperatures that would have killed off other types of livestock. Hence, they came-up with and made a new hybrid species –The Canadian Super Pig-by mating domestic pigs and wild boars. Though they initially lived in captivity, a decline in the market for Pigs and Boars led to many of them being freed.

A group of these Super Pigs are now travelling down from Canada to the Northern US and pose a serious threat to native wildlife and humans alike, by spreading disease, and gobbling up crops. These Super Pigs are considered to be incredibly intelligent, learning as they eat and find their way around new places. The fear is that these pigs, swine, hogs, boars – whichever name you give them – these omnivores are poised to wreak havoc on the environment in both Canada and the United States.

In India, two State level political parties have been fighting over control of their parties after the death of their respective charismatic leaders and after a few years of ruling the State in their light and shine.

In the first, in the Western State of Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena founded by Bal Thackeray saw the majority of the party led by Eknath Shinde break away from the family-faction led by the son Uddhav Thackeray. And collaborate with the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) to form a Government, with Eknath Shinde becoming the Chief Minister. This week India’s Election Commission (EC) ruled that the faction led by Eknath Shinde is the real Shiv Sena and awarded it the Party Symbol – Bow & Arrow – and associated Offices. The decision was challenged in the the Supreme Court of India, but the Court sided with the EC’s decision. Later, the Election Commission awarded a ‘Cone Ice-cream’ Symbol to what was left of Uddhav’s party, which was anyway melting away into oblivion.

In the second, in the Southern State of Tamil Nadu, following the death of Supremo Jayalalithaa, two leaders Ottakarathevar Pannerselvam (OPS) and Edappadi Karuppa Gounder Palaniswami (EPS) teamed-up staying true to the ‘Two Leaves’ Symbol of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). And ruled as Deputy Chief Minister and Chief Minister respectively for a while, only to lose the last Assembly Elections to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). But the EPS led AIADMK gave a decent fight, and he went on to become the Opposition Leader. Then the bickering and fighting began and the dual-leadership model broke down, and it became awfully tough for the two leaves to stay on the same stem. Single Leadership seemed to be the best option to take on the ruling DMK and the growing-by-leaps-and-bounds BJP. After many a run to high and higher courts with, you-lose-some, I-win-some games, this week the SC ruled that bye-laws brought-in to make EPS the single leader are legal. This makes the way for EPS to be formally elected General Secretary and undisputed Leader of the AIADMK, graduating from being the ‘interim’ General Secretary.

Parties should choose symbols carefully: A bow cannot wait to dispatch an arrow. And two leaves on a stem cannot stem the growth of more leaves!

Oh Buoy!

This week Japan was rattled when a rusty metal sphere, about 1.5 metres wide, washed up on a beach in Hamamatsu. Could it be a Godzilla egg (the effect of watching too many movies), a Dragon Ball, something from outer space, a spy ball… a mooring buoy? This was in the background of the Chinese spy balloon saga, and a hostile North Korea pumping test missiles into the Sea of Japan.

The area was cordoned off and by the Police and even a bomb squad was sent to check out the object. Then it was X-rayed, declared safe and picked-up for disposal.

Turns out it was a hollow sphere, a steel mooring buoy, used to carry instruments or act as floating markers. The buoys can break free from their anchorage in the sea, either in a violent storm or from being pulled by a big fishing vessel. The objects can float in the ocean for decades, and can lose their markings and get rusty when they wash ashore.

Many Japanese were embarrassed that they could not recognise a buoy in a sea of thoughts.

More fighting, melting, wide-bodied stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Stay buoyed-up and afloat with World Inthavaaram.



About: World Inthavaaram is news that made the week. ‘Inthavaaram’, in Tamil, means ‘this week’. I began in week 41 of the year 2020 and have been writing and publishing every week with a unique calligraphy doodle -in my own hand -to match the stories. I collect news from all over the world and present it in a fresh, light-hearted manner.

This week is about a never-ending war, lingering Covid19, a path-breaking medical invention, politics of economics, bidding bye to a Pope and a legendary football player.


New cold winds are blowing in January of the brand New Year. The sun itself has become awfully shy and wears a blazer to keep itself warm, I guess. But dear Earth is getting warmer by the degree. In the United Kingdom (UK), for example, last year 2022, was the warmest year on record. The average annual temperature was more than 10 degrees Centigrade for the first time. Is this a hot sign of things to come?

Kick-starting the New Year, the diaries, calendars, and resolutions are singing all over the world. I started a new Bullet Journal-doing it fo the past four years. In every month I allocate a page titled ‘World’ to record the ‘news temperatures and flare-up’s’ of the year. Some events keep hugging the pages, hogging the headlines seemingly forever.

Ukraine is fighting back like hell in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War. This week a Ukrainian missile strike killed 89 Russian troops – the actual death toll is still being assessed: we may never know. The attack was one of the deadliest by Ukrainian forces since the war began last year. It involved four rockets fired from United States-made launchers targeting barracks in the Russian-occupied eastern Donetsk region. And it is a massive blow to Russia’s ill thought-out, meaningless invasion of Ukraine. Russia surely finds itself at a stage where it does not know how to exit honourably.Late in the week, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a ceasefire for 36 hours on 6th and 7th January along the entire line of contact between the armies in Ukraine. This is to allow Russian Orthodox Christians to attend Christmas services, considering the appeal of Patriarch Kirill, Bishop and Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church. Perhaps, he should appeal and pray for the war to stop?

Covid 19 has a stranglehold on China and is tearing through the country, with most of its people never exposed to the coronavirus and the elderly not fully vaccinated. While the coronavirus Omicron variant causes mild symptoms in most people, a large number of Chinese are still vulnerable to severe illness. The country’s weak health-care system is already under huge pressure.

The always tight-lipped and walled China says only 13 people have died from Covid19 so far in December. The real toll is undoubtedly much higher. China only counts as Covid19 deaths those who die from respiratory failure or pneumonia. But the virus often causes death by damaging other organs-other kinds of failure. China’s crematoriums are busy: it is estimated that over 5,000 people are probably dying of Covid19 every day; the burial queues are getting longer. And a model predicts that in a worst-case scenario 1.5 million Chinese will die from the virus in the coming months. The World Health Organization (WHO) has demanded that more information be shared with the World. And has accused China of ‘under-representing’ the severity of its Covid outbreak and criticised its ‘narrow’ definition of what constitutes a Covid death But, is China listening?

Base Editing: A Path-breaking Invention

First, a quick basic lesson in the science of Genetics.

Bases are nitrogen containing biological compounds which store information and is the language of life. We must have learnt in school that the four types of Base – Adenine (A), Cytosine (C), Guanine (G), and Thymine (T)-are the building blocks of our genetic code-the DNA (DeoxyriboNucleic Acid). Just as letters in the alphabet spell out words that carry meaning, the billions of bases in our DNA spell out the instruction manual for our body. In RNA (RiboNucleic Acid), the base Uracil (U) takes the place of T.

The incurable cancer of a teenage girl, Alyssa from Leicester, UK, has been cleared from her body in the first use of a revolutionary new type of technology medicine, called ‘Base Editing’.

Alyssa was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in May last year. T-cells are the body’s guardian angels-seeking out and destroying devilish disease threats – but for Alyssa they had become the danger and were growing out of control. Her cancer was aggressive. Chemotherapy, and then a bone-marrow transplant, were unable to rid it from her body.

All other treatments for Alyssa’s leukaemia having failed, doctors at the Great Ormond Street Hospital, Bloomsbury, London Borough of Camden, UK, used ‘base editing’, which was invented only six years ago-to perform a feat of biological engineering to build her a new living drug. Six months later, the cancer is undetectable, but Alyssa is still being monitored in case it makes a comeback. This would have been unthinkable just a few years ago and has been made possible by incredible advances in Genetics.

Base Editing allows scientists to zoom to a precise part of the genetic code and then alter the molecular structure of just one base, converting it into another and changing the genetic instructions. The large team of doctors and scientists used this tool to engineer a new type of T-cell that was capable of hunting down and killing Alyssa’s cancerous T-cells. They started with healthy T-cells that came from a donor and went about modifying (editing) them.

The first base edit disabled the T-cells targeting mechanism, so they would not assault Alyssa’s body; the second removed a chemical marking, called CD7, which is on all T-cells; the third edit was an invisibility cloak that prevented the cells being killed by a chemotherapy drug; the final stage of genetic modification instructed the T-cells to go hunting for anything with the CD7 marking on it so that it would destroy every T-cell in her body – including the cancerous ones. That’s why this marking has to be removed from the therapy – otherwise it would just destroy itself. Looks so easy!

If the therapy works, Alyssa’s immune system-including T-cells-will be rebuilt with the second bone-marrow transplant. She is the first patient to be treated with this technology. This kind of genetic manipulation is a very fast-moving area of science with enormous potential across a range of diseases. What a start in the New Year!

America Fails to Elect a Speaker: Speechless

Meanwhile, in the United States (US) of America, for the first time in a century, the House of Representatives, one person did not receive the necessary 218 votes on the first ballot to become Speaker of the House. Speaker hopeful, Kevin McCarthy secured 203 votes, leaving the top job up for grabs as Republicans took control of the Chamber. Hard right lawmakers followed through on their threats to oppose him as Speaker. By the end of the week Kevin McCarthy lost a historic eleventh vote over three days. And still no US House Speaker. Democracy is a work in progress!

A Pope Dies

Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI the first Pope to resign in 600 years, died on 31st December, aged 95. He had resigned in February 2013 citing a ‘lack of strength of mind and body’ due to his advanced age. Speaking in Latin he had said: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”

Pope Benedict’s handling of sexual abuse cases within the Catholic Church and opposition to usage of condoms in areas of high HIV transmission, despite their effectiveness in preventing the spread of HIV, led to substantial criticism in the public domain.

Amazon Sheds Fat-Letters

This week, e-commerce technology giant Amazon announced that it is shedding about 18,000, A to Z roles as it goes on a drive to cut costs. The job cuts amount to around 6% of the company’s roughly 3,00,000 strong corporate workforce. Amazon is the latest technology firm to unveil major layoffs as the cost of living crisis sees customers cut back on spending. Amazon said it had to announce the layoffs sooner than they wanted to, as the information had leaked out.

India’s Demonetisation is OK

Most of us may faintly recall that dour day of 8 November 2016 when India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, appeared on National Television to announce that all Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes, of the Mahatma Gandhi Series, will no longer carry legal tender.

He said the action would curtail the shadow economy, increase cashless transactions and reduce the use of illicit and counterfeit cash that funds illegal activities and terrorism. The Govt also announced the issuance of new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 banknotes in exchange for the demonetised banknotes. Oh, I loved those new green 500, pink 2000, which first emerged, followed by the orange 200 and blue 100 notes, later on.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) stipulated that demonetised notes should be deposited with the Bank over a period of 50 days until 30 December 2016. In the final tally, the RBI said that approximately 99.3% of demonetised currency was deposited- returned to the Government coffers.

The announcement of the demonetisation decision sparked massive confusion and chaos for several weeks as people scrambled for the new currency notes, forming snaky queues before Banks and ATM kiosks, for days. Some people even died waiting to have their money exchanged. The move was severely criticised by those opposed to the Government, as poorly planned and unfair, sparking protests.

India has previously demonetised bank notes in 1946 and 1978 with the objective of curbing counterfeit money and black money.

This week the Supreme Court of India upheld the demonetisation decision with a 4:1 majority. A five-judge Constitution bench dismissed a batch of 58 petitions challenging the demonetisation exercise. It said that the decision, being the Executive’s economic policy, cannot be reversed. And that Centre’s decision-making process cannot be flawed as there was consultation between RBI and the Government. It is not relevant whether the objectives were achieved or not.

The ruling comes as yet another badge to pin on the chest of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which had been subjected to tremendous outrage on the demonetisation drive by the Opposition Parties. And the BJP is shining the light and ringing the bell on the awesome changes, especially the significant rise in digital payments, brought about by demonetisation.

A Dragging Horror in New Delhi

India’s capital Delhi has a knack of getting into gruesome acts, every year, at stunning regularity.

This year on New Year’s Eve a young 20 year old woman, Anjali Singh along with her friend, Nidhi drives a few streets away from her home to a Hotel for an event management. On the return, after midnight, she and a her friend after some kind of an altercation mount the scooter to ride Home. On the way they are hit by a car with Nidhi on the pillion ‘safely’ falling off and Anjali getting trapped under the car along with the scooter. And being dragged for about 10km and mauled to death in a horrific manner, with body parts split-up. It appears that someone in the car knew Anjali was stuck as the car went forward and backwards with Anjali screaming before dragging her in an unmindful manner. It appears the five people inside the car were drunk and with loud music running, they did not hear anything! Heart-wrenching. Police weren’t around despite being called to the scene and the city being under a New Year Security blanket. Nidhi, who could have shouted her guts out, scooted from the scene – fled, fearing ‘everything’ and stayed silent without telling anyone anything for almost two days. Further, Nidhi said Anjali was in an ‘inebriated’ state while the post-mortem report she was not under the influence of Alcohol. As the stories spin, investigations have begun to find out what exactly happened. Unbelievable that a friend could do this to a friend. It is a combined failure of the Police System in particular and the community at large?

Everybody needs to do their part, and unfortunately not one person did theirs, that day.

Goodbye Pele

Football King, Pele passed away last week, and this week his funeral was held in the city of Santos, Brazil. His coffin was kept in the Urbano Caldeira -Vila Belmiro- stadium, home of Pele’s former club Santos, for mourners to pass through for one final look at one of history’s most magnificent athletes, before entombment.

Pele’s coffin was then driven to the mausoleum that he had bought 19 years ago inside the Memorial Ecumenical Cemetery, a high-rise building that holds the Guinness world record as the tallest cemetery in the world. The Santos soccer club estimated that 230,000 mourners had been through the stadium. And huge crowds turned out to accompany the procession.

The procession had started at the Stadium and his coffin was carried through the streets of Santos, including the street where Pele’s 100 year old mother lives.

Hundreds of thousands of people waited for hours under a burning sun on Monday to file past Pele’s coffin. “This is no sacrifice,” said one who traveled three hours to the Stadium and had to be at work in five hours, yet had another few hours before he would be through the line. “He gave us so much joy that it’s a pleasure to be here.”

Pele being a footballer like no other, his final resting place is exceptional too: a large replica stadium complete with artificial turf inside the world’s tallest vertical cemetery.

Some of Brazil’s best-known footballers have faced a furious backlash as fans questioned why they had failed to attend ceremonies bidding farewell to Pele. And only a handful of Brazil’s World Cup winners made the trip to pay homage. “Pele is a citizen of the world, at the same level as Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi, but Brazilians don’t know how to recognise that,” lamented a former player.

Pele married three times, fathering seven children. He leaves behind his present wife, Marcia Aoki.

Play well through the year 2023. Fix the posts and shoot your goals, with World Inthavaaram.


About –the stories of the world this week, 25 December to 31 December: the blizzard of the century; Covid19 again; a fierce Prime Minister; discovery of new plants, animals, and fungi; a rush to Heaven; and the cheek of looking good.


A cold wave is doing a scathing run across the world from North America to Japan and through India’s New Delhi – where temperatures dipped to frightening low levels putting to shame ‘traditional owners of the cold weather’ in the region, Nainital, Dharmasala, and Dehradun.

Meanwhile, a Crown Prince aka Pappu, of a certain Royal Dynasty in India wore a white T-Shirt during a visit to his Father’s grave in freezing Delhi, and his Palace Clowns declared him superhuman and ‘fit to be Prime Minister (PM)’. And he walked away into the cold. Said a scientist: One in five Italians have a mutation in the ACTN3 gene because of which they can withstand extreme cold. Come again?

The severe winter storm that has swept across North America has left the city of Buffalo, New York, looking like a war zone in what is being called ‘The Blizzard of the Century’ with at least 60 people dead. On another front, lakefront homes in Ontario were encased in a thick, spiky coat of ice after the blizzard whipped frigid waves on shore. And as it barrelled through Erie County, last weekend, residents found themselves stranded in howling snow with nowhere to go, their cars dwindling in gas supply and with police unable to come to their rescue. The situation is expected to improve over the first week of the New Year.

Following neighbour China falling for Covid19, time and again, India isn’t impressed. And it’s getting ‘its looks ready’, and renewing its fight against the coronavirus, should it dare the formidable Indian PM’s 56 inch chest. This with countrywide mock drills, booster doses, masking, and screening tests at International Airports being carried out in a flurry of activity. The great RT-PCR test is back and is mandatory for people arriving from China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Thailand. The new ‘virus rascal’ threatening us is BF.7 a sub-variant of Omicron, which is behind the current explosive spike in China.

This time, India has a new weapon too. Bharat Biotech, the makers of the hugely successful Covid19 vaccine, COVAXIN have come up with the world’s first intranasal non-invasive, needle-free vaccine, which stimulates a broad immune response at the site of infection – essential for blocking both infection and transmission of Covid19. It goes by the name of ‘iNCOVACC’ and is for people above the age of 18 years and for those who have not had their third precautionary or booster dose.

Medical Experts in India say that there is nothing to fear but warn people to ensure wearing of masks in crowded places and to keep applying the basic prevention techniques we have learnt so well over the past two years.

Nepal has a fierce new PM who was once a Maoist guerrilla and led a decade-long insurgency against the Hindu Monarchy. Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who even in peaceful times wears the name Prachanda – meaning ‘terrible’ or ‘fierce’ was appointed PM this Sunday for a third time. This was on the strength of an alliance with the main opposition after last month’s election returned a hung parliament. He will head the new government for the first half of the 5-year term with the support of the Communist Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) Party and other smaller groups. Prachanda, replaces Sher Bahadur Deuba of the Nepali Congress Party and will himself step down in 2025 -on a power-sharing agreement, making way for the UML to take over.

Prachanda’s Maoist Centre Party won 32 seats in the 275 seat House of Representatives. The UML has 78 seats, and the rest, required for the 138 number majority, will be controlled by smaller groups. The Nepali Congress Party will be the main opposition with its 89 seats. Himalayan navigation skills are required to stay in power and make a difference, leave alone climb every kind of peak, in this part of the world.

The Russia-Ukraine War needlessly and senselessly started by Russia, in February this year, meanders-on, refusing to come to an end. This week under the continued merciless, intensified attacks by Russia, civilians fled the city of Kherson. Only last month, on 11th November, there had been jubilant scenes in this city when it was liberated by Ukraine, after being taken by Russian forces on the second day of invasion.

The Pope noticed and made a fervent appeal to stop the mindless war during his traditional Christmas speech at the Vatican.

Over the week Russia rained a plethora of cruise missiles-probably the most massive ever, since the invasion-on Ukraine, making life more miserable for Ukrainians who have stood-up boldly to the might of a bully. The attacks come after Russia said it will not negotiate with Ukraine under the terms of its President, Volodymyr Zelensky’s proposed peace formula.

In another kind of war, it’s more than 466 days since the Taliban banned teenage girls from school. Afghan women and girls continue to be shut out of their classrooms, denied their basic human rights and the world remains mostly muted. International aid organisations suspend operations in Afghanistan following Taliban ban on female NGO workers. Said an official, “We cannot operate without women, we will not operate without women… this crosses a humanitarian red line. Do they want millions of Afghans to starve and freeze?”

Why does the Taliban do this? It springs from their fundamental ideology that women are second or third class citizens are cannot have the same rights as men and should be subjugated. They follow Fiqh, or Islamic jurisprudences and believe women are ‘polluted’ and that gender equality ‘destroys families’. This ideology, known formally as Deobandi, goes back to ‘themes’ developed by political Islamists in response to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in 1922, that ruled from today’s Turkey and stretched across the Middle East and North Africa at its height. In the aftermath homegrown movements focussing on women’s rights in Islamic countries such as the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, later Hizb ut-Tahrir in 1953 came into being. These two-pan Islamic groups promoted a particular narrow interpretation of sharia and spread it throughout the Islamic world.

“The Taliban and Al-Qaida are the ideological continuation of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb ut-Tahrir,” said an Afghan Islamic scholar. The Muslim Brotherhood was against a wave of movements that supported natural and citizen rights of people including women. Women’s rights made up the central piece of the dispute between the Muslim Brotherhood and these new movements, in the Arab world in the early 1900s.

While Afghanistan is preventing education of its women folk, Iran is after what women wear. A wave of executions in the country is imminent following the persisting protests that have swept the country following the death in September of Mahsa Amini, a young woman detained by Iran’s notorious morality police for improperly wearing her hijab.

Shahid Alikhani square in the historic Iranian city of Isfahan, and the grand entrance to one of the city’s main metro stations, is in the centre of the news. An execution platform has been installed where many fear high-profile Iranian footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani faces imminent execution along with at least 43 others. Nasr-Azadani is accused of involvement in the killing of three security officers, including two volunteer Basij militia members, during protests in Isfahan on 16th November.

Authorities have already executed at least two people in connection with protests in Iran last month, one of whom was hanged publicly. This is a result of a rushed judicial process in Iran where charges which could carry the death sentence are often handed down in a single sitting.

The Russia-Ukraine war; the abysmal, pathetic condition of women in Afghanistan; and the continuing protests in Iran again the stringent Islamic Dress Code for women, are perhaps the three worst events of the year 2022, which I hope comes to a close in the year 2023. Is humanity sliding downhill? Wonder why the United Nations cannot play a more muscular role.

On the sidelines, Writer Yuval Noah Harari has argued that the greatest achievement of mankind has been the decline in war, now that is in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, the rule of the military junta in Myanmar continues and Nobel Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi just got sentenced to another 7 years in jail, for corruption. The court’s latest action leaves her with a total of 33 years to serve in prison following a series of politically tinged prosecutions since the army toppled her elected government in February 2021.

Every year we discover so much that makes us realise how little we know about the world and how big it actually is. And the tree of life keeps growing. This year, The California Academy of Sciences researchers and their international collaborators discovered 146 new animal, plant, and fungi species. The previously unknown creatures and plants were found around the world, in the mountains of California, Australia’s Queensland State, the rocky peaks of Brazil and the Coral Reefs of the Maldives. Scientists made discoveries on six continents and within three oceans.

Among the new species were 44 lizards, 30 ants, 14 flowering plants, 13 sea stars, 7 fish, 4 sharks, 3 moths, 2 spiders, and 1 toad. Keep looking around, under, and above: there’s more to discover in the year ahead.

Over the year many have left this world for the skies above. Some, maybe, waited until the last month, the last week of this year 2022 to give up their valuable breath.

Brazil’s Edson Arantes do Nascimento famously known by his nickname, Pele – the Black Pearl – the greatest football player ever who brought ‘passion to the heart of football’ died this week at 82, after battling cancer. He is the only player to win three World Cups for his country 1958, 1962, and 1970 and leaves behind a rich football legacy. Pele was voted Player of the Century in the year 2000. And his 1,279 goals in 1,363 matches is a world record that is unlikely to be surpassed.

British fashion designer and style icon Vivienne Westwood died aged 81. She passed away peacefully at her home in London. The media called her ‘the high priestess of punk’ and the ‘Queen of Extreme’. In the world of fashion she was a beloved designer and pushed the boundaries of the fashion industry until her death.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mother Heeraben Modi passed away at the ripe age of 99 years after stepping into her 100th. She must be a proud mother having delivered for India one of its best prime ministers, ever. PM Modi carried out the last rites, just like any ordinary citizen would, and rushed back to work – keeping his tight pre-planned schedule.

May their souls rest in peace. Without doubt, each one did their job extremely well in their respective fields. And will be remembered in times to come.

Please Yourself

Over the past few weeks, buccal fat removal has become a hot-button topic on social media after several celebrities were said to have had the procedure. American model and TV personality Chrissy Teigen who is married to singer John Legend is one celebrity having admitted to doing the procedure. And we can see the cheeky difference.

Buccal fat removal is the removal of fat from the buccal fat pad, a mass of tissue located deep within the cheek. The procedure is typically conducted under anaesthesia. A surgeon will create small incisions on either side of the inside of the patient’s mouth to expose the buccal fat pad, and then remove some or all of the fat. By doing this, you can accentuate the cheekbones by removing the fat that is in the buccal fat compartment. The procedure can create the appearance of more sculpted, defined cheekbones. A person interested in this effect might not have a full face, but they just want to see a little more definition in the cheekbones and looking to emphasise the sub-malar hollow below the cheekbone.

Everyone wants to look beautiful.

More incisive stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Grow beautiful with World Inthavaaram – without surgery.

Build a legacy to leave behind. A Happy New Year and wishing you unalloyed happiness in your lives.


About –the stories of the world this week, 20 November to 26 November: onward to the Moon, the ongoing war, a political odyssey in Malaysia, Covid19 hangs on, climate change goals, World Cup Football, population growth, and a python is pulled off.


America’s NASA’s Artemis-I Moon Mission, launched on 16 November is doing just great, and spacecraft Orion – now on its own – has arrived at the Moon, sweeping about 130 kilometres (km) above the lunar surface, as planned. And has been ‘kicked by the Moon’ into a Distant Retrograde Orbit – about 64,000 km away from the Moon, after reaching the end of which it will return to the Moon Space and receive another ‘Moon kick’ to return to Earth. Orion is sending back, to the NASA Mission Control Centre in Houston, Texas, awesome pictures of what it’s seeing.

The Russia-Ukraine war battles on and Ukraine is bracing itself for the coming harsh winter; made terrible by power blackouts, caused by the blistering assault of Russian missiles on utility facilities. The Ukraine people are standing on the ground against the ferocious illegal Russian invasion and this is yet another painful test of their endurance and fortitude. When will all this end?

This week, Malaysia got itself a new Prime Minister. Actually, an old hand who has been relentlessly chasing the job over a remarkable odyssey of 25 turbulent years that saw him jailed twice on sodomy and corruption charges. And charges overturned by the Supreme Court and later pardoned by the King of Malaysia, to fight another day. Veteran opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, 75, was sworn in as PM this Thursday by Malaysia’s constitutional monarch, King Abdullah.

Anwar’s Pakatan Harappan Party (PH) won the largest share of the vote in last Saturday’s Elections, but not enough to form a government on its own. Then, after days of intense negotiations, Anwar cobbled together an agreement with two other Political Groupings giving him the majority he needed. The King was convinced by the numbers and called him in.

Anwar has promised to forgo his PM’s salary and will focus on tackling Malaysia’s rising cost of living, besides combating corruption. His reformist-minded PH has a goal of promoting a more pluralist and inclusive Malaysia.

Anwar Ibrahim entered politics surprisingly joining the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) – Malaysia’s Grand Old Party – and rising through its ranks. And being mentored by Former Prime Minister Mahatir Mohammad, with who he had a love-hate Tom & Jerry relationship through the vicissitudes of his political life. There’s a lot of Malaysian expectations riding on his shoulders, and he should deliver.

In China the coronavirus caused COVID-19 is not letting go easily and is experiencing its worst outbreak in six months. Localised lockdowns have surged over the last couple of weeks. This week, China recorded more than 28,000 new cases in 24 hours, which are in every single provincial-level region. The country maintains a zero-Covid policy, where entire communities are locked down over single cases of the virus, in order to prevent its spread.


The results are out, and maybe we can look up and breathing slightly easier-find more Oxygen than Carbon di-oxide in the air- in the years to come? At the 27th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties(COP27) in Egypt which concluded on 18th November, almost 200 countries struck a landmark deal to launch a fund to help nations worst-hit by climate change. Applause broke out as the historic fund was approved just before dawn after negotiations ran through the night.

The vulnerability of developing nations to climate impacts has been recognised by the fund for climate loss and damage, but many rich nations will be disappointed about fossil fuels.

New language added in the final political statement includes ‘low emissions’ energy alongside renewable power as the energy sources of the future. That could be used to justify new fossil fuel development, which is exactly what global climate scientists in the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) advise against. It could refer to gas, which is cleaner than oil and coal, but not a renewable fuel like wind or solar.

The summit also seems to have moved the commitment to try to limit the average rise in global temperatures to 1.5 Degrees Centigrade by the year 2100. That’s the crucial temperature threshold scientists say we cannot go above if we are to avoid the worst of climate change. Leaders warned about this from the beginning, and it will be deeply disappointing for rich nations if there is now less global ambition to urgently cut fossil fuel use.

The message is absolutely clear: we have to consciously cut-down on using fossil fuels for energy generation, in whatever manner we can. This has to be inhaled by each one of us on Planet Earth.

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

The 22nd edition of ‘Federation Internationale de Football Association’ -FIFA (International Federation of Association Football)-World Cup 2022 began in Qatar, a tiny gas-rich Gulf kingdom, this 20th November: the first to be held in the Arab world, and the second World Cup held entirely in Asia, after the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan.

FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar, brought with it lots of controversies, which could hold centre-stage and be debated between the goal-posts, more than football. But first, let’s whistle about the game itself.

Football giants Brazil have won the World Cup 5 times, Germany and Italy 4 times each, Argentina, France, and Uruguay 2 times each, and England and Spain 1 time each. The previous World Cup, in the year 2018, was won by France beating Croatia, 4-2 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia. Now Russia seems so far away and is off the World Cup Guest list. We all know why: Its illegal war in Ukraine, of course.

No Player in the history of the World Cup has won the Golden Ball-Player of the tournament- twice, which was first introduced in the year 1982. The inaugural was won by Italy’s Paolo Rossi and then by Argentina’s Diego Maradona in 1986, Italy’s Salvatore Schillaci in 1990, Brazil’s Romario in 1994, Brazil’s Ronaldo in 1998, Germany’s Oliver Kahn in 2022, France’s Zinedine Zidane in 2006, Uruguay’s Diego Forlan in 2010, Argentina’s Lionel Messi in 2014, and Croatia’s Luka Modric in 2018.

This edition of the World Cup beginning on 20 November 2022 plays up to 18 December 2022. A total of 32 teams, who qualified to reach here, play over 64 games. Two top teams from each group will make the cut for the Round-16 Qualifiers or the Pre-Quarter Finals. There are Eight Groups, A to H, each consisting of four teams.

The Round -16 will be held between 3 December and 7 December, the Quarter Finals, 9 to 11 December, Semi-Finals on 14th and 15 December, 17 December will be the play-off for third place, and the Finals on 18 December at the Lusail Stadium of Qatar’s Al Daayen City.

The Opening Ceremony was held at the 60,000 capacity Al Bayt Stadium 40 km north of Doha and the first kick-off, a Group ‘A’ match between Hosts Qatar and Ecuador, set the ball rolling. Ecuador won easily 2-0 with its skipper Enner Valencia scoring both goals. He missed a hat-rick when another of his goals was disqualified.

Now, rolling over to the controversies part. Qatar is accused of human rights violations, the deaths of migrant workers and being vocally anti-LGBT.

The authorities in Qatar, have always strongly denied that their bid to host the World Cup involved corruption of any kind. Yet, cash seems to have sloshed around. A prominent Qatari appears to have spread largesse, apparently on his own account, but nothing has been conclusively established. FIFA officials overlooked Qatar’s blistering summer heat, which meant the World Cup itself was moved to November, instead of the usual June – July. The legions of foreign construction workers, mostly from India, who built the glitzy new stadiums and other infrastructure were treated like slaves: some have died. Many more were paid paltry wages and forced to stump up exploitative recruitment fees.

Meanwhile, Qatar’s criminalisation of homosexuality may put gay supporters off going to watch. Some players plan to wear rainbow armbands in a stand against discrimination. Murky dealing, exploitation, prejudice: what ought to be a festival of harmony will instead be a showcase of international woes, not least the rise of petro-fuelled autocracy.

Qatar is a conservative Muslim country and it tightly regulates alcohol sales and usage. In September, officials said ticketed fans would be able to buy alcoholic beer three hours before kickoff and for one hour after the final whistle, but not during the match. Organisers had promised it would be available in match venues and in fan zones – and that it would also be reasonable priced.

However just before kick-off, FIFA announced that alcohol will be banned for World Cup fans at grounds in a major and unprecedented volte-face: alcohol will not be sold inside or around the perimeter of stadiums.

The last-minute alcohol ban is emblematic of the contradictions at the heart of this World Cup.

The FIFA World Cup sponsor Budweiser has announced that the alcoholic beer it cannot sell in stadiums in Qatar will go to the winning country of the tournament.

The Winner takes it all: lots of beer to drink.

The week, the Group level games are being played and in a historic upset, Saudi Arabia stunned Argentina with a 2-1 win in their Group match, but only after Argentina’s Messi scored a goal. In another astonishing upset, Japan defeated four-time World Cup winner-the mighty Germany, 2-1. That’s a number to watch?

Coming to high scoring matches of the week, Spain whipped Costa Rica 7-0, and England thrashed Iran 6-2. I guess football fans were overwhelmed by the goals and some dazzling display. I loved the way Spain played clinical football with surgical passes and found myself ‘stitched to my seat’.

Meanwhile, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo made history as the first man to score in five World Cups; this after he scored in a penalty shot to give Portugal a 3-2 win in its match against Ghana. The goal is significant, as previously only women had done the five goal thing in the FIFA Women’s Football: Marta Vieira da Silva, Brazilian striker is the first footballer of any gender to score at five World Cup editions, a feat matched by Canada’s Christine Sinclair in 2019. That’s the 5 star line-up: Marta – Christine Sinclair – Cristiano Ronaldo.

Population Growth

Over the past months we have heard expansive talks about India’s Economy growing at break-neck speed to become one of the largest in the World, in a few decades’ time. Comparisons with China are inevitable and many say, we are many years behind China’s Economic development. Whatever, there is one area India will surely be overtaking China: easy to guess, population.

You think of population and immediately China pops up in the mind. It has been the world’s most populous country for hundreds of years, but now there is a dead serious challenger. The United Nations (UN) guesses that India’s population will surpass that of China on 14 April 2023. And India’s population on that day is projected to be 1,425,775,850. Watch that bulge!

It’s time India cranks its own counting mechanisms and finds a means of keeping the burgeoning population under control.

Please Yourself

In Australia, a five year old boy survived being bitten, constricted, and dragged into a swimming pool by a 3 m long python snake, about three times his size.

Beau Blake was enjoying a swim at home when the python, which was probably waiting to snap up someone whole for lunch, struck the boy-biting into him- when he was walking around the edge of the pool. The python wrapped itself round the leg of the boy and dragged him inside the pool. But before it hit the bottom, Beau’s 76 year old grandfather, Allan, saw it and without the least hesitation jumped into the pool, pulled out the boy-snake combo and passed it to his son Ben who was also around the pool. Ben then prised free the boy from the python and released it back into the vegetation. Beau is in good spirits and escaped with mild injuries. And the python finds itself something else to coil around, another day!

“Once we cleaned up the blood and told him that he wasn’t going to die because it wasn’t a poisonous snake… he was pretty good actually”, said Ben.

If generations get together the snakes can be outwitted. In Australia, something is always lurking around the corner. And pythons are a fact of life in certain areas.

More ‘hissing’ stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Keep your Dad and Grand-Dad always around; live with World Inthavaaram.


About –the stories of the world this week, 9 October to 15 October 2022, a bridge gets attention, uncovering head-covering, trying to get to the moon, multiple news in India, and dwindling wildlife on Earth.


Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Long before the present round of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russia had ‘captured Ukraine’s Crimea’ in 2014 and officially annexed it in 2015. The Russians then quickly got to work and built what’s called the Crimean bridge, or Kerch Bridge, across the Kerch Strait linking Crimea’s Kerch to Russia’s Taman Krasnodar Krai. It is a 19 kilometres long bridge with a pair of parallel bridges, one for a four-lane road and one for a double-track railway. The bridge became one of the longest in Europe.

President Vladimir Putin himself personally opened the Kerch bridge by driving a truck across it in 2018, hailing it as the ‘construction of the century’. The Rail part was inaugurated in 2019 – and there were no reports of Putin having driven a train this time. The bridge connecting Russia to the Ukraine mainland, through Crimea, is an easy means of moving military equipment, ammunition, and troops during the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

Late last week -early Saturday- an explosion severely damaged parts of the road and rail bridge. The explosion originated at the road bridge, and the blast started a fire on a fuel train on the overhead rail bridge: it is not clear whether it originated above the bridge deck, or below. The blast caused one span to rupture at its middle. The adjacent span on the Crimean side remained intact, but was pulled off and also collapsed into the sea. A third span on the Russian side remains standing, while the next span fell off. But the Russians recovered, got cracking, and brought the bridge back to safe mode in double-quick time.

The bridge plays a strategic role in the ongoing war, and Ukraine has said it is a legitimate target, as they vow to retake the peninsula. They responded with a thinly veiled approval to the explosion, but have not indicated that their forces were behind the attack.

Meanwhile, Putin in a display of brutality and vengeance unleashed a streak of missile attacks on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, blaming Ukraine for the attack on the bridge, calling it an ‘act of terrorism’, Wow!

In this modern era it is unbelievable that we allow a rouge county to effortlessly pull-off attacking another sovereign country and seemingly get-away with it. And we are all reduced to ‘rubble spectators’. The Ukrainians are trying their best to go about their business as usual, and one has to admire their tenacious spirit in building bridges to a normal life.

Uncovering Iran

The protests in Iran over the Islamic Dress Code continues. Dozens of protesters have been killed since the unrest began last month following the death of a young woman, Mahsa Amini, in custody when she was detained by the morality police for not covering her hair properly. Another incident uncovered the hijab further, when 16 years old Nika Shakarami, last seen standing on a dumpster and burning her headscarf, as others chant slogans against the Islamic Republic, disappeared after telling a friend she was being chased by police. She was found dead ten days later.

“Under authoritarianism it’s not easy to voice your opinion. Even though their courage is extraordinary, their demands are not. They’re asking for equality, to be able to have dignity, justice, not to be judged on what they wear” said award-winning British-Turkish Novelist & Activist Elif Shafak.

School students participating in street protests are being detained and taken to mental health institutions. And referred to what are called ‘psychological institutions’, where the students are reformed and re-educated to prevent ‘anti-social’ behaviour. They are then released into the education stream, after they’ve been reformed!

That’s another revolution happening in Iran.

NASA’s Honey Moon

After many forces, technical and natural, challenged America’s NASA’s Artemis Moon Mission and succeeded in keeping it grounded, NASA is finally breaking free. The target for the next launch attempt for the Artemis-I Mission is 14th November 2022. And I look forward to seeing Artemis-I ‘honey the moon’ and comeback with sweet stories for launching the Man & Woman Mission, Artemis-II – I hope.

India Melange

In a gruesome and shocking suspected incidence of human sacrifice in Elanthoor, Pathanamthitta District, Kerala State, two women, Rosly and Padman were killed in a horrific manner. And it is believed that cooked body parts were eaten that would enable ‘the sacrificers’ to preserve their youth, besides achieving financial prosperity.

The prime accused is a history-sheeter, sexual pervert and psychopath, Muhammad Safi, 52, who along with Laila, 59, and her husband Bhagaval Singh, 68 – a traditional healer and masseur – carried out the brutal act that stunned India this week. Safi had befriended the couple through a Facebook profile in the name of ‘Sreedevi’, and later masquerading as Godman Rasheed influenced them to do his bidding. Police cracked the case while probing the missing Padman – based on a complaint by her son- and the three suspects were arrested. One of the victims was lured with money for acting in a pornographic video while the other was promised sex work. The bodies of the victims were cut into pieces and thrown away, and Police recovered 61 packets of body parts.

Absoultely disgusting that such cannibalism and antediluvian beliefs exist in these modern times.

Elections are always happening in India, throughout the year, and the end of season announcements were made this week: the State of Himachal Pradesh with 68 Assembly seats will go the polls in a single phase on 12th November. The counting will be on 8th December. The elections in the Prime Minister’s home State of Gujarat, which is always seen as test of his grip on the voters-is expected to be announced soon.

A former Delhi University Professor, Saibaba – in Jail for about 7 years – was acquitted and ordered to be released by the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court. This was following his conviction in March 2017 for links to the banned Maoists and indulging in activities amounting to waging war against the country. ‘Urban Naxalism’ is the modern term used to describe such behaviour. It springs from the Naxalbari uprising in India where tribals fought landlords as well as the Government to protect their rights over land ownership, means and way of living.

India’s highly entertaining, fitness-minded, scion and Prince of the Grand Old Party of India -The Indian National Congress- Rahul Gandhi pounced upon an idea to boost the dwindling popularity of his Party, in the tempest of Election set-back after setback. And while still searching for that elusive President of the Congress Party of which his Mom is the acting President. The election of a real President is finally in progress after a very long time, with two candidates in the fray, trying to show which ‘hand’ is the best.

On 7th September, Rahul embarked on a Bharat Jodo Yatra (Unite India March) – a padayatra (walk by foot)- that began in the southern-most tip of India, Kanyakumari in Tamilnadu State, and is scheduled to end in Srinagar in the northern State of Jammu & Kashmir. It covers 12 States in a distance of nearly 3500 kilometres over a duration of about 150 days. This weekend it will be day 37. And while Rahul is trying to make people to ‘overcome hatred’ and come together to strengthen India, he is certainly strengthening his muscles: doing push-ups on the road; tying his Mom’s shoe laces; marching his old Party colleagues to young fitness levels; and growing a beard.

Hope to see a strong and united India to match the 56-inch chest of India’s Prime Minister.

Please Yourself

The World’s leading conservation organisation, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released its Living Planet Report 2022 and the situation is deadly alarming.

According to the report, wildlife populations – mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish – have seen a devastating 69% drop on average since 1970. The report highlights the stark outlook of the state of nature and urgently warns governments, businesses, and the general public to take transformative action to reverse the destruction of biodiversity.

“We face the double emergencies of human-induced climate change and biodiversity loss, threatening the well-being of current and future generations. WWF is extremely worried by this new data showing a devastating fall in wildlife populations, in particular in tropical regions that are home to some of the most biodiverse landscapes in the world,” said the Director General of WWF International.

More wild and natural stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Wake-up to the task of conserving Planet Earth and all that it holds. Stay with World Inthavaaram.


About:the stories of the world this week 21 August to 27 August, trying to kill a brain, a drying-up Biblical lake, education still being denied, a country loosens-up to the LGBT, chess and tennis, a Dancing Queen, and a music diva sings again.


The Brain

The Russia-Ukraine war reached a grim six-month anniversary, on 24 August, and it’s a dark-tunnel conflict where we are unable to see any light at the end. I think, a lot depends on Russia switching-on a light and declaring some kind of pyrrhic victory.

In a dangerous incident in Ukraine, the World narrowly avoided a ‘radiation disaster’ when the last regular power line supplying electricity to Ukraine’s Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was temporarily cut-off, by shelling. Luckily the diesel generators kicked-in automatically, as programmed, and the Station Staff reacted quickly after the blackout to prevent any damages. What if something went amiss, or if the Plant remains disconnected from the Ukraine Grid? That’s as close as one can get to the next nuclear disaster.

Meanwhile, somebody is trying to get to the ‘brain’ of Russian President Vladimir Putin. This week, the daughter of Russian ultranationalist and political commentator Alexander Dugin – dubbed ‘Putin’s brain’ – died when the Toyota Land Cruiser she was driving was ripped apart by a powerful explosion – a car bomb – on the outskirts of Moscow.

Dugin is known for developing an extreme rightwing view of Russia’s place in the world. He is described as a Russian Fascist who has helped shape Putin’s expansionist foreign policy. He is the high priest of a virulent brand of Russian nationalism that has become increasingly influential in Russia: from fringe ideologue to the leader of a prominent strand of thinking that sees Russia at the heart of a ‘Eurasian Empire’ defying Western decadence.

Dugin is the spiritual founder of the term ‘the Russian World’, and helped revive the expression ‘Novorossiya’ or New Russia, which included the territories of parts of Ukraine, before the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. Well, that’s the brain… thinking.

Looks like the bomb was intended to kill the brain, but with the daughter taking the wheel in a last minute brain-wave swap, the brain was saved. And of course Russia was quick to blame Ukraine as the brain behind!

We Need Education

There is another continuing, hard-to-come-to-terms issue, which is almost a year – over 340 days- old: teenage girls in Afghanistan have been kept away from School by the Taliban, simply because of their gender. And this is denial of a basic human right, which almost every other country on the Planet takes for granted.

How do we bring an unflinching Taliban to book?

Oh Jesus!

Lakes are drying up everywhere and it’s the turn of the Sea of Galilee in Northern Israel, which is actually a fresh water lake. It has sustained life for millennia and is Biblically famous as the sea, in and around, where many of Jesus Christ’s miracles were performed. The lake irrigates vineyards and local farms that grow everything from green vegetables to wheat and tangerines. Its archeology, hot springs, and hiking trails bring tourism and livelihoods for local communities.

The climate crisis is causing huge fluctuations in the lake’s water levels. Now it happens to be fairly full, but just five years ago, it hit a record low.

But the Israeli government thinks it has found a solution – its own kind of miracle: It plans to pump water from the Mediterranean Sea, desalinate it, and send it across the country to top up the lake when needed. That should help keep the faith!

It’s OK to be Gay in Singapore, but…

Singapore is repealing a law that bans gay sex, effectively making it legal to be homosexual in the conservative City-State.

When the British colonized Singapore in the 1930s, they introduced penal code 377A, making it a crime for men to have sex with each other. And even after colonial rule ended, Singapore opted to keep the law in place. Men who had gay sex faced up to two years in prison.

But now, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is thinking ‘out with the old and in with the new’. And announced the decision on national TV, which comes after years of fierce debate on the issue.

LGBT activists in Singapore have hailed the move as ‘a win for humanity’. And Singapore is the latest place in Asia to move on LGBT rights, after India, Taiwan, and Thailand.

However, there is a catch, Lee said that though the government will be abolishing the decades-old law, gay marriage is not being made legal, at this point of time. And that the Government will amend the country’s constitution to reinforce the definition of marriage as only between a man and a woman. It’s unclear when the change will come into effect, and when Gay-Marriages will also be decriminalised.

That’s equivocating at its best?


India just hosted the Chess Olympiad and coming on the wings of the Tournament, one of its youngest Grand Masters, 17 yrs old Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu defeated World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen for the 3rd time this year, in the FTX Crypto Cup. Previously he check-mated the Champion at the Chessable Masters in May, and Airthings Masters in February.

The kid is growing-up for sure. And Chess is returning to the country of its birth!

This week, 21-time Grand Slam Champion and this year’s Wimbledon Title winner Novak Djokovic announced his withdrawal from the upcoming US Open Tennis Tournament, which plays from 29 August to 11 September.

Djokovic has remained unvaccinated against Covid-19 throughout the pandemic, and current United States (US) Rules stipulate that any non-US citizen must be fully vaccinated against the virus in order to receive a visa and enter the country. The Tournament Director said, “Novak is a great champion and it is very unfortunate that he will be unable to compete at the 2022 US Open, as he is unable to enter the country due to the federal government’s vaccination policy for non-US citizens. We look forward to welcoming Novak back at the 2023 US Open”.

Previously, he was unable to compete at The Indian Wells and The Miami Open in March due to the same US travel regulations. Djokovic was deported from Australia in January this year, preventing his participation in the Australian Open, due to his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Djokovic’s withdrawal has taken place after the start of the qualifiers, hence a ‘lucky loser’ will be included in the draw. The loser better make best of the chance!

Please Yourself

Dancing Queen

In the year 2019, on 10 December, when Sanna Marin, 34, of Finland’s Social Democratic Party was sworn in as Prime Minster, she became the World’s youngest serving State leader and youngest Prime Minister in Finland’s history. Suddenly, the world seemed to grow younger! Old head on young shoulders was what danced in the mind.

You don’t grow old on becoming a Prime Minister (PM), do you? The young do what they do. And last week videos of the young Sanna shaking a leg and dancing while partying with friends in a private setting, leaked to the media. And the Opposition was quick to shake a finger and accuse Sanna Marin for being un-PM like and bringing disrespect to the Office of the PM.

Responding to these accusations, Marin acknowledged partying ‘in a boisterous way’ but said she was angry that the footage was leaked to the media. She said alcohol was consumed but that she was not aware of any drug use at the party.

The world heard and women across the world posted videos on social media of themselves dancing, to support Sanna Marin’s dance show.

She agreed to take a drug test after senior opposition politicians argued there was a ‘shadow of doubt’ hanging over her, despite her insistence that she had never taken drugs and was not compromised beyond drinking some alcohol.

This week, Marin’s office announced the negative results of the drug test, taken after an opposition MP called on her to get tested: no drugs had been found in her system.

Just when the Dance Floor lights were switched off came another accusation. During a party hosted by the PM in her official residence in Helsinki, Kesaranta, after the Ruisrock Music Festival in July, topless photos of guests were leaked. In it, two well-known women influencers can be seen kissing each other covering up their bare chests with an official-looking sign reading ‘Finland’: the photo was taken in the downstairs toilets used by guests.

Sanna Marin again apologised for the topless photo of guests and admitted “the picture is not appropriate, we had sauna, swam and spent time together,” Marin said. “That kind of a picture should not have been taken but otherwise, nothing extraordinary happened at the get-together,” she added.

Trouble never comes alone, does it? It brings its brothers, sisters, and friends, and family along. I’m sure Sanna Marin would get wiser. And what’s wrong with her dance moves?

Britney, Spears Ahead

This week Singer Britney Spears released her first new music since being freed from a conservatorship that controlled almost every aspect of her life for about thirteen years.

‘Hold Me Closer’ – a duet with Sir Elton John – hit music streaming sites marking Spears’ return to music after a six-year hiatus. The song also incorporates three of Sir Elton John’s classic hits.

Fresh out of her conservatorship, Britney Spears, 40, married Personal Fitness Trainer and Actor, Sam Asghari, 28, on 9 June 2022. Her ex-husband, Jason Alexander, tried to crash the event. This is technically her third wedding and second marriage. Britney was married to Jason Alexander in 2004 in Las Vegas for just 55 hours, and then married Kevin Federline that same year. Britney and Kevin have two children, boys Sean and Jayden, from their marriage.

Great to listen and see Britney do it again.

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


About: the world this week, 1 May to 7 May 2022, heat of the weather and the dust of war, Glamour girls, unwanted babies, and WHO statistics on who died.


Heat & Dust

This week rolled by with temperatures flaring up across India with a blistering heat wave frying people in the country. In a way, to escape the heat, India’s Prime Minister made his first overseas visit of the year, starting with Germany, then Denmark and finally France. He drummed up support for India to wild cheers by the Indian diaspora, bear-hugged leaders, made sweet-soft, one-to-one conversations, dined with royalty on fine cutlery, and went on an Agreement signing spree to do better business and improve India’s beat in the World. The Indian head is high in the clouds, for sure!

Meanwhile, India’s favourite, entertainment-filled Congress Member of Parliament Rahul Gandhi slipped in to nearby Nepal to attend a Friend’s Wedding and shake a leg. He was seen in a Pub with a Nepali woman- a friend of the bride- looking in his typical empty wild-eyed manner at the ceiling and wondering where the disco lights came from. Initially, there was some speculation that the woman was a Chinese diplomat, maybe an Ambassador.Is there something he can do right, after all? Pappu can dance!

The Russia-Ukraine War now concentrated on the Eastern part of the Ukraine is tanking on and this week Russia could not get its iron hands fully on the throats of Ukrainians, resisting-refusing to rust-from inside the Azovstal Steel and Iron Works. Russia had asked them to surrender, but the steely resolve is still under production.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke of Hitler the Dictator, as having some jewish blood in him. And attracted quick-fire condemnation from Israel (they are always on an unmatched alertness), and later in the week an apology – yes an expression of regret-from the Russian President Vladimir Putin himself. He apologized for comments that his Foreign Minister made about Hitler and Jews, in a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Israel, in turn promptly accepted the apology and thanked the President for clarifying Russia’s stance towards the Jewish people and the memory of the Holocaust.

Glamour at its Weirdest Best

I spoke about what the Met Gala is about, last year in September,

This year the notoriously exclusive Met Gala red carpet happened on Monday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA.

This year’s theme was ‘Glided Glamour and White Tie’ centering around the lavish era of American fashion in the last decades of the 19th century when industrialisation rapidly amplified the country’s wealth gap. During this age you were what your wore and it was a period when branding dished out from fashion houses was a novel concept.

The glamorous Reality TV star Kim Kardashian appeared in a sparkling skin-tight, body shaping gown -adorned with over 6000 hand sewn crystals-once worn by Marlyn Monroe when she famously sang, ‘Happy Birthday to President John F Kennedy, in 1962’. The iconic dress was loaned to Kardashian by ‘Ripley’s Believe it or Not’, a museum and events franchise that purchased the gown in an auction in 2016. And believe it or not, Kardashian had to lose about 7 kg to get her hour glass-curves et all- into the dress. Alterations were not allowed and it was almost impossible to walk with such as tight-fitting dress, but she was kept about upright by her holding partner. And of course Kim Kardashian later changed in to a replica of the original dress, for an easier cat walk…breathe easy!

Another sensation was Winter Olympian Eileen Gu, Skier and Model, who attended wearing a figure hugging Louis Vuitton mini-dress. Born and raised in California, 18 years old Gu switched her sporting allegiance to her mother’s home country China ahead of this year’s Beijing Winter Olympics. She became the youngest Olympic champion in freestyle skiing after winning gold in ‘big air’ and ‘halfpipe’, and a sliver medal in ‘slope style’ events.

American model Kaia Gerber -the daughter of supermodel Cindy Crawford- appeared in a gilded and gorgeous vintage Alexander McQueen outfit. Kaia’s gown featured cutouts on her torso, a slight sheer skirt, and silvers jewels dripping from top to bottom. That had the men’s saliva dripping all over the red carpet!

Rapper Cardi B came in a Versace dress – chain embellished, which was made from a mile of golden chains. American Actress and singer Vanessa Hudgens wore an elegant black sheer Moschino gown and looked like she would take a butterfly flight any moment. Ex-US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton turned up with all her wrinkles on display, in a custom Jospeh Altuzarra design featuring the embroidered names of 60 women who inspire her.

What about India?

The Executive Director of the Serum Institute of India (SII), entrepreneur-philanthropist, Natasha Poonawalla 40, wife of Head of SII, Adar Poonawalla, was the sole Indian presence at the Gala. She made a stunning appearance, wearing a gold handcrafted printed tulle sari and trail by celebrity Indian designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee. The trail was embroidered with silk floss thread and embellished with bevel beads, semi-precious stones, crystals, sequins and applique printed velvet.

The World’s richest man Elon Musk, who continues to hog the news, arrived in Tom Ford with his mother, the model Maye Musk who was wearing Doir.

Stars Blake Lively and her husband Ryan Reynolds, who are two of this year’s co-chairs, totally ruled the red carpet. Blake Lively turned heads in a metallic, colourful Versace gown that truly embodied the ‘Gilded Glamour’ theme.

The gala was a riot of imagination running footloose and beauty spiked and flowed in many dimensions.

To Keep or Not to Keep

The United States of America is struggling to keep some parts of its freedom, especially on women’s rights. India for one, is far ahead – for more you can read my post,

Decades ago, in 1973, in a path breaking landmark decision, in what is called the Roe vs Wade case, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that women have a constitutional right to an abortion – a pregnant woman can choose to have an abortion without excessive government intervention: in the 1 to 12 weeks (1st trimester) the Govt cannot prohibit abortions; in 13 to 26 weeks (2nd trimester) the Govt might impose health regulations; and after 27 weeks the Govt can step-in and entirely prohibit an abortion.

But, in an unprecedented leak of a draft ruling, the SCOTUS appears to be veering around to overturning the Roe vs Wade decision and also another, called the Planned Parenthood vs Casey: the 1992 decision that affirmed the right to an abortion and protected women from dealing with undue burdens trying to get them.

The final ruling in expected in June or July this year, and could it be that this rare leak is a test, to study the reaction?

Wonder what’s being impregnated in the US?

Who Died?

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the the pandemic wiped off nearly 15 million people worldwide. The total deaths officially reported across the World is 5.4 million and WHO believes that the extra 9.5 million deaths were direct deaths caused by the virus rather than indirect deaths. The WHO says many countries, including India, undercounted the numbers who died from Covid.

India countered that the WHO’s calculating methodology and modelling was horribly wrong for India. WHO’s estimate of 47.4 Lakh Covid related deaths in India in 2020 and 2021 is not in keeping with overall death data, historical trends in death reporting, and Covid death compensation (an incentive to report) from States. On an average about 83.5 Lakh people died every year in the last decade and a half (without the pandemic). And India’s death toll for a year has never been below 80 Lakh since 2007. WHO’s calculations put the non-covid deaths at 73 Lakh!

The measure used by the WHO is called excess deaths – how many more people died than would normally be expected based on mortality in the same area before the pandemic hit. These calculations also take into account deaths which were not directly because of Covid but instead caused by its knock-on effects, like people being unable to access hospitals. It also accounts for poor record-keeping in some regions, and sparse testing at the start of the crisis.

A Statistician from Seattle’s University of Washington says, “We urgently need better data collection systems. It is a disgrace that people can be born, and die – and we have no record of their passing”.

I wish the United Nations can measure up and show the same WHO calculated intensity in bringing around Russia to stop this horrific war in Ukraine. How about it counting itself in, networking with World Leaders and modelling a ‘satyagraha’ to stop the war?

More gilded, glamorous stories will cat-walk in the weeks to come. Dress-up with World Inthavaaram. And keep the count.


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 world this week, 27 March to 2 April 2022, the Butcher, an Economy in the doldrums, reverse swing in politics, and the power of the slap.


The Butcher

Russian President Vladimir Putin is accumulating various degrees of notorious names for his mad ‘loose gun’ adventure war in Ukraine, and over the week he came to be called ‘Butcher’. What next, ‘Terminator’, or perhaps ‘Loser’ in the end?

Reports of another Russian General-in quite a forceful list-being killed in Ukraine came in late last week, making me wonder whether Russia has only Generals in its Army?

Meanwhile, the President of the United States (US), Joe Biden, wrapped up his visit to Europe and meetings with fellow NATO Heads, deciding that it’s time for Vladimir Putin to go: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power”, he thundered. This was in Poland’s capital, in front of Warsaw’s Royal Castle where he opened with words from the Polish Pope John Paul II, “Be not afraid”.

Biden also met Ukrainian refugees in Poland and lifted a few kids into the air-to feel the weight of their suffering.

Soon after the Regime Change comment, the equivocating battle began with the White House clarifying, “The President’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbours or the region. He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change”. Wow, we learn something new each day! Twist, bend, cut and paste words and lines-until it doesn’t make any sense?

Ukraine is fighting on, defending their land against the Russian invasion, and there seems to be no let-up in the proceedings or progress in the ongoing peace talks. Russia is definitely faltering in its battle plans and its fighting machine appears to have messed up big time in underestimating the resolve of the people of Ukraine.

Could Ukraine win the war? They better!

Sri Lanka: It’s the Economy, Stupid.

Once upon a time, India was flooded by refugees fleeing the deadly Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) generated internecine war in Sri Lanka. Now, long after that menace was killed and buried in unmarked graves, a new kind of refugee influx into India is happening. Sri Lankans are fleeing a burgeoning economic crisis in their country.

Typically, in the capital Colombo, for a middle-class family, there is no cooking gas; there is a 10 hour power outage every day; people mainly eat frozen bread, using the hot plate occasionally whenever the ‘power visits’; the fuel supply to the Fuel Stations has come down to a trickle, resulting in long queues and even fist-fighting, with the Army having to be called-in to keep the ‘people-fire’ down in ‘Fuel Less Stations’.

How did all this come to be in the island country?

To serve it in one line, Sri Lanka has, no great manufacturing, no high-end services, is heavily dependent on a tourism-led economy-which was killed and masked by the pandemic, imports even essential food items, and has a huge debt with remittance dependency.

Tourism contributes 10% of the country’s GDP and Sri Lanka is highly dependent on imports for essential items.

Digging deeper: The present Government had announced huge tax breaks, a number of tax cuts such as, no capital gains, VAT cut from 15% to 8%, half tax for construction companies etc. This ensured that hardly any cash flowed in to the Government coffers. Even before the pandemic, spending by the government was on the rise. As a percentage of GDP, government spending, which was 18.8% rose to 21.9%. Due to lack of tourism, which is one of the largest forex generators for the country, forex reserves nose-dived. There was just USD 1.6 billion dollars in November. Sri Lanka has to repay over USD 7 billion in the next 12 months in loans alone.

Sri Lanka is deep in Debt – owes over USD 80 billion to various lenders. It owes USD 5 billion dollars to China alone and took an additional loan of 1 billion last year from China to help with the financial crisis. And is struggling to repay these debts.

Due to money printing, Inflation has risen to above 14%. People are finding it difficult to afford even the basic necessities, food, water, rent, electricity, etc. And is using credit lines to buy these and medicines, and fuel from neighbouring countries. There is also a growing Agricultural Crisis. Due to the low forex reserves, the government banned the import of chemicals and fertilisers and announced that it would make agriculture 100% organic, which decision had a negative impact on the economy. Farmers who were reliant on these fertilisers found it difficult to produce healthy crops. Many didn’t plant at all, fearing a bad produce.

Late this week protests heated up after hundreds of protestors tried to storm the home of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa demanding his resignation over handling of country’s worst economic crisis, since independence.

India is out on the Island lending a helping hand, extending an USD 1 billion line of credit and is actively finding ways and means of helping its now ‘poor’ neighbour.

Pakistan: Reverse Swing and The Islamabad Drift

Pakistan’s Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan once led Pakistan to a fabulous first Cricket World Cup victory in 1992. He pioneered the reverse swing bowling technique in cricket fast bowling, and developed all-round skills to emerge as one of the best cricketeers Pakistan has produced. Now in his new innings as PM, since 2018-far away from the world of cricket-he will have to counter every kind of treacherous swing to continue batting as PM. And Pakistan’s infamous Army does the umpiring (and maybe someone remote doing the third umpiring?)

A quick flash back: Imran Khan is the son of a civil engineer in Pakistan. He and his four sisters had a privileged upbringing in Lahore where he was schooled, before studying at London’s Oxford University and finding place and pace in cricket. He went on to join the Pakistan Cricket team and later become its Captain. He had ‘killer’ debonair looks and is said to have a way with women. And it’s a long list of broken hearts! Recall the famous yesteryears ‘Thumbs Up’ advertisement with India’s Sunil Gavaskar: nobody saw Gavaskar or the Thumbs Up cola drink-they only saw Imran Khan.

Imran Khan retired from cricket after the World Cup win and went on to raise millions of dollars to fund a cancer hospital in his mother’s memory. In 1995, at 43, he married British heiress, Jemima Goldsmith, 21-the daughter of one of the world’s richest man at the time, Sir James Goldsmith. The marriage delivered two boys but the match ran-out in 2004. The pitch changed.

About this time, Imran Khan’s foray into philanthropy spawned a career in politics and in April 1996 he founded a Political Party called, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) (Pakistan movement for Justice).

A second marriage in 2015, to journalist Reham Khan, lasted less than a year. The former BBC Weather News Presenter found the climate in the marriage unfavourable -it rained almost every day-and stormed out.

Imran Khan married again, in a low-profile ceremony in 2018. His third wife Bushra Bibi, a mother of five, was and is his spiritual adviser, and the match played well with the public to show his devotion to Islam – a political reverse swing. And the weather always looked good for bowling (and batting). Never mind the pitch.

In July 2018, in the Pakistan General Elections that year, Imran Khan became the first person in the history of Pakistan general elections to win in all five constituencies that he contested. This surpassed former PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s record -he contested in four and won in three constituencies in 1970.

In the 2018 General Elections the PTI won 116 seats of the 270 it contested and won a plurality in the National Assembly. Later with a coalition of parties coming together Imran Khan became the choice of PM of Pakistan. Khan secured 176 votes and became 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan taking oath of office on 18 August 2018 promising to take Pakistan to victory over corruption and make it a humanitarian state based on principles of the first Islamic state of Medina. He has been slogging on in power for over four years now – running between the wickets, but not scoring too well.

During March 2022 a key ally and the main coalition partner Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM), bowled a googly, struck a deal with the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and the ball slipped out of Imran’s Khan’s hands – not that he is a bad fielder!

With the PTI government losing majority a no-confidence motion was called and is being put to vote. The math is against Imran Khan, but will be able to swing it in his favour and continue as PM? He refuses to step down. And I have a story to finish!

The Oscars: The Power Of The Slap

This year the best Actor Winner stole the show in the The Annual Academy Awards with some real action and not the slightest hint of acting. Award presenter Chris Rock was on stage and made fun of Best Actor nominee Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, over her shaven head (with hair lost due to a rare hair-loss disease called alopecia areata). Rock compared Pinkett’s shaved head to Demi Moore’s look in ‘GI Jane’, saying he couldn’t wait to see her in ‘GI Jane 2’.

This caused Will Smith to suddenly walk on to the stage, slap Chris Rock on the cheek and walk back to sit beside his wife (I did it for you, honey) in an apparent case of ‘losing one’s marbles’. Once firmly settled in his chair he shouted out, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f- – – – – g mouth”.

Meanwhile, Chris Rock lived up to the Rock in his name and stood unfazed, brushing it off. On his part, after the incident, when Will Smith was asked by the Academy to leave the Oscars Ceremony, he refused.

I’m awfully disappointed and stunned with Will Smith’s behaviour. After all these years in Hollywood he is unable to shake-off a joke and maybe return it with interest? He has been such a motivational example, but this one incident had brought him down to the depths of rowdiness. Has some pent-up anger found a seam to discharge? Is it the tightness of the pandemic, or the absurdity of the Russia-Ukraine war? We are living in slapping times!

The moment took away the glory of the movies, the actors, the technicians… levelling it down to a slap in the face of the Oscars!

Moving over to the Winners of this year’s Oscars:

The movie, CODA won the best picture award; Will Smith won Best Actor for King Richard; Jessica Chastain – Best Actress for The Eyes of Tammy Faye; Troy Kotsur – Best Supporting Actor for CODA; Ariana DeBose-Best Supporting Actress for Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story; Jane Campion-Best Director for The Power of the Dog. Bille Eilish and Finneas – best original song for James Bond’s, No Time to Die; Greig Fraser – Best Cinematography for the film Dune.

‘Drive My Car’ drove well to be declared best international feature film; ‘Summer of the Soul’ had real soul to win the Best Documentary Feature; Belfast won Best Original Screenplay; CODA won Best Adapted Screen Play.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling went to The Eyes of Tammy Faye; Best Visual effects, and Best Original Score went to Dune. Best Costume Design dressed-up Cruella.

CODA became the first movie from a streaming service-Apple TV-to win film industry’s biggest price. It’s a heartwarming film that tells the story of an aspiring singer who is the only hearing member for a deaf family. CODA is also an acronym of Child Of Deaf Adults.

This year’s Awards -The 94th Annual Academy Awards- was held in the Dolby Theatre, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States, and was hosted by Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes. It is marked forever by the Power of the Slap.

More hearing stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Play and swing with World Inthavaaram. And mind the slap.