About –the stories of the world this week, 28 August to 3 September 2022: a third of a country under water; a flock gathers under a Shepherd; death by stalking; dying in Home, alone; and the Mark of a Man.


Pakistan Under Water

They say one-third of Pakistan is under water in the worst ever floods in over a decade. The United Nations (UN) which became a Word-Play expert with new names for the COVID19 causing virus, in the last season, came up with a phrase this time: “Pakistan is facing a monsoon on steroids” – said wordsmith, Secretary General, Antonio Guterres.

The floods are due to the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain: water gushing down streets, swallowing villages, and destroying bridges. More than 1,140 people have been killed since June and roads, crops, homes, and bridges washed away across the country.

This best sums up the catastrophe, said a flood-water survivor, “when the water entered my house the only thing left untouched was the ceiling fan”.

This year’s record monsoon is comparable to the devastating floods of the year 2010 – the deadliest in Pakistan’s history – which left more than 2,000 people dead. It is estimate that more than 33 million Pakistanis have been affected by the flooding. And described as a ‘climate-induced humanitarian disaster of epic proportions’.

Pakistan produces less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but ranks consistently in the top 10 countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. A warming atmosphere caused by climate change makes extreme rainfall more likely. The world has already warmed by about 1.2 Centigrade since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world take action and make steep cuts to emissions.

No doubt at all that all other countries will have to work ‘damn hard’ to keep Pakistan above water!

The Pope and His Pack of Cardinals

The Pope was in an expansive mood and last Saturday in a quiet, Godly ceremony held at the Ordinary Public Consistory, Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome, he created 21 new Cardinals to ‘bring fire to God’s love to all’.

This is Pope Francis’ Eighth Consistory and among the newly created Cardinals, 16 are under the age of 80-thus electors in a future Conclave- and four non-electors, over the age of 80. Members of three religious orders entered the hallowed College of Cardinals, and four new countries got representation: Mongolia, Paraguay, Singapore, and East Timor.

Eight of the newly named Cardinals are from Europe, six from Asia, two from Africa, one from North America, and four from Central and Latin America.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Cardinals approved the canonization (sainthood) of the founder of the Scalabrinians, Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, and Salesian layman, Artemide Zatti. The Scalabrinian Missionaries called the Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo was founded in Italy in 1887. The Salesiaans (of Don Bosco) was founded by Saint Don Bosco in 1859, in Italy. And Artemide Zatti was responsible for an inexplicable cure of disease after which he remained a Pharmacist and healer -rather than Priest- in Argentina where he had emigrated to from Italy.

In the Cardinal list, two are from India: Anthony Poola – Archbishop of Hyderabad and Filipe Neri Antonio Sebastiao Di Rosario Ferrao – Archbishop of Goa & Daman.

Anthony Poola, 62, is the first Telugu-speaking person and also the first Dalit Christian to enter the College of Cardinals, which elects the Pope. This is a historic moment for Christianity in India.

Anthony Poola hails from Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. He led the diocese of Kurnool for over 12 years before being appointed as Archbishop of Hyderabad in 2020. Filipe Neri Antonio Sebastiao di Rosario Ferrao, 69 was Born in Aldona Village near Panaji and has been heading the local Church since 2003. He was ordained as a priest in 1979, and in 2003, he was consecrated as Archbishop of Goa and Daman.


In India’s State of Jharkhand, known for a history of lawlessness, a 17 years old school girl, Ankita Singh was doused with petrol and set on fire. This was by a stalker, Shahrukh Hussain, who had been harassing her to become his friend, which advances she spurned. Ankita Singh died in the early hours of Sunday in a hospital in Ranchi, where she had been admitted with severe burn injuries.

Ankita’s death has sparked protests by Hindu organisations who claim that Shahrukh, a Muslim, wanted to commit ‘Love Jihad’ by converting the victim, a Hindu, to his religion. Love-jihad is a term constantly used by Hindu groups to accuse Muslim men of converting Hindu women by marriage.

Shahrukh was arrested after being identified by the dying Ankita, and is in police custody.

Home Alone

Known as the ‘Man of the Hole’, the last remaining ‘nameless’ member of an un-contacted indigenous group living in the Tanaru area, Rondonia, in Brazil, which borders Bolivia, died of natural causes at an estimated age of 60.

The majority of his tribe are believed to have been killed in the 1970s by ranchers wanting to expand their land. In 1995, six of the remaining members of his tribe were killed in an attack by illegal miners, making him the sole survivor, and ever since – over 26 years- the man has lived in total isolation. He earned the nickname ‘Man of the Hole’ because he dug deep holes, apparently to trap animals or for hiding in them, himself.

His body was found on 23rd August in a hammock outside his straw hut, covered in macaw feathers. There were no signs of violence. And the finding was that the man knew his end was coming and prepared for it.

Brazil’s Indigenous Affairs Agency (Funai) became aware of his survival only in 1996, and had been monitoring the area ever since for his own safety. It was during a routine patrol that a Funai agent found the man’s body, which has now been sent for a post-mortem. And maybe used for research…to fill the holes in his life and his origin.

The Mark of Gorbachev

This week, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, the Soviet leader who helped end the Cold War, died at 91, of a ‘serious and protracted disease’ after a period of illness. He presided over the dissolution of the Soviet Union-Union of Soviet Socialists Republics (USSR)-that had existed for nearly 70 years, dominating huge parts of Asia and Eastern Europe. Gorbachev was one of the most influential political figures of the 20th Century.

Most of us would remember that the most distinguishing feature of Gorbachev’s appearance was a large, deep red blemish on his almost bald forehead. The mark started high on his head and came down to a little above his right eyebrow: it was a birthmark called a ‘port wine stain’, a name that is derived from the way it looked. That mark marked the man.

Gorbachev was born in March 1931 to poor peasant parents who worked on Collective Farms in the village of Privolnoye, Stavropol Krai, when Russia was under the violent rule of Joseph Stalin. Russia and the Ukraine were then living through one of the most brutal acts of political terror ever devised: with Stalin forcing the population into, what was called, Collective Farms, purging successful peasants and creating an artificial famine, which killed millions.

Gorbachev had one sibling-a brother called Alexander -who was born 17 years after him. And maybe there was a total disconnect with Gorbachev, because of the gap.

Gorbachev’s maternal grandfather was a committed communist and became the chairman of a Collective Farm. He was a solid influence on Gorbachev’s early development, providing him with advice on farming and opening him to good books such as Pushkin’s poems, Lermontov’s ‘A Hero of Our Time’ from the farm’s unusually good library.

Gorbachev excelled in academics in his village school, where he learnt to read voraciously, moving from the Western novels of Thomas Mayne Reid to the works of Vissarion Belinsky, Nikolai Gogol, besides Alexander Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov.

After primary school he moved to the high school in Molotovskoye where he stayed during the week and walked home 19 km every weekend to be with his parents. Over the course of five consecutive summers, from 1946 onward, he returned home to assist his father in operating a combine harvester in the Collective Farms, during which time they sometimes worked 20 hour days. In 1948, they harvested over 8,000 quintals of grain, a feat for which his father Sergey was awarded the Order of Lenin and he, the Order of the Red Banner of Labour.

In June 1950, Gorbachev became a candidate member of the Communist Party-the only Party in Russia. About that time, he also applied to study at the prestigious Law School of Moscow State University (MSU). And secured admission without appearing for an exam – likely because of his worker-peasant origins and his possession of the Order of the Red Banner of Labour.

At MSU, Gorbachev, met Raisa Maximovna Titarenko, a student from Siberia who was studying in the university’s philosophy department, and they began a relationship, which progressed to marriage in September 1953. Perhaps it was love at first sight, or Raisa was struck by the mark of Gorbachev, and he in turn by her classic looks!

After graduating in 1955, he returned to Stavropol and then began a rapid ascent through the ranks of the Communist Party, rising to the very top.

Gorbachev was expected to succeed Yuri Andropov when the latter died in 1984, but instead, the ailing Konstantin Chernenko became General Secretary of the Communist Party because it was thought that at 53, Gorbachev was too young. Within a year, Chernenko too was dead and Gorbachev, the youngest member of the Ruling Council called the Politburo, succeeded him – being the personal choice of both Andropov and Chernenko.

In March 1985, Gorbachev at 54, became General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, and de-facto leader of the country, up to collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. When he reached the top of that hierarchy he began to transform the world’s last empire, reshaping not only the foundations of his country but also the assumptions of his youth.

He was seen as a breath of fresh air after several ageing leaders and the stagnation of the Leonid Brezhnev years. He was the first General Secretary to have been born after the 1917 Russian Revolution.

Gorbachev’s leadership style differed from that of his predecessors. He would stop to talk to civilians on the street, forbade the display of his portrait at the 1985 Red Square holiday celebrations, and encouraged frank and open discussions at Politburo meetings. Gorbachev’s stylish sense of dressing and direct manner, was also unlike those before him, and his wife Raisa was more like a warm American first lady than a cold General Secretary’s wife. And she had a high public profile of her own.

Few leaders have had such a profound effect on the global order, but Gorbachev did not come to power seeking to end the Soviet grip over Eastern Europe. Rather, he hoped to revitalise its society.

His first task was to revive the moribund Soviet economy, which was almost at the point of collapse and nowhere near being any kind of a competition to the booming economy of the United States. He was also shrewd enough to understand that there needed to be a root-and-branch reform of the Communist Party itself if his economic reforms were to succeed.

Gorbachev’s solution brought two Russian words that Russia and the world became familiar with. He said the country needed ‘perestroika’ or restructuring and his tool for dealing with it was ‘glasnost’ – openness.

“You’re lagging behind the rest of the economy. Your shoddy goods are a disgrace. Some of you look at the market as a lifesaver for your economies. But, comrades, you should not think about lifesavers but about the ship, and the ship is socialism”, he told his communist bosses.

But it was not his intention to replace state control with a free market economy. His other weapon for dealing with the stagnation of the system was democracy. For the first time, there were free elections for Russia’s Congress of People’s Deputies.

Gorbachev also wanted to end the Cold War, and successfully negotiated with US President Ronald Reagan for the abolition of a whole class of weapons through the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty. And he announced unilateral cuts in Soviet conventional forces, while finally ending the humiliating and bloody occupation of Afghanistan.

However, Gorbachev’s efforts became the catalyst for a series of events that brought an end to communist rule, not just within the USSR, but also across its former satellite states.

Here openness and democracy led to calls for independence, which initially Gorbachev put down by force. The break-up of the USSR began in the Baltic republics in the north. Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia broke free from the Soivet Union, starting a rollercoaster that spread to Russia’s Warsaw Pact allies. It culminated on 9 November 1989 when, following mass demonstrations, the citizens of East Germany, the most hard-line of the Soviet satellites, were allowed to cross freely into West Berlin. Gorbachev’s reaction was not to send in tanks, the traditional Soviet reaction to such blatant opposition, but to announce that ‘reunification of Germany was an internal German affair’. And then the Cold War era German Wall was broken and Germany became one.

In 1990, Gorbachev was awarded, deservedly so, the Nobel Peace Prize for the leading role he played in the radical changes in East-West relations.

But by August 1991 the communist old guard in Moscow had had enough. They staged a military coup and Gorbachev was arrested while holidaying on the Black Sea. The Moscow party boss, Boris Yeltsin, seized his chance, ending the coup, arresting the demonstrators and stripping Gorbachev of almost all his political power in return for his freedom. But in the new Russia that emerged after 1991, he was on the fringes of politics, focusing on educational and humanitarian projects.

Despite warnings from his wife Raisa, he stood for the Russian presidency in 1996 and received less than 5% of the vote. During the 1990s he took to the international lecture circuit and kept up contacts with world leaders, remaining a heroic figure to many non-Russians.

Gorbachev doted on his wife Raisa, whose constant presence at his side lent a humanising touch to his political reforms. And when she died in 1999 of leukaemia, he suffered a personal blow. They’d been married for nearly 46 years and from the tender way in which he talked about her, in later years, it was clear that Gorbachev missed her deeply.

Gorbachev maintained a close relationship with his only daughter, Irina Virganskaya-Gorbacheva. After her mother fell ill, Virganskaya-Gorbacheva was tapped by her father to be the vice president of his organization, The Gorbachev Foundation, which aimed to help children who have leukemia — the same form of cancer that killed her mother.

Said Gorbachev’s biographer, William Taubman of him:

“Gorbachev succeeded in destroying what was left of totalitarianism in the Soviet Union; he brought freedom of speech, of assembly, and of conscience to people who had never known it, except perhaps for a few chaotic months in 1917. By introducing free elections and creating parliamentary institutions, he laid the groundwork for democracy. It is more the fault of the raw material he worked with than of his own real shortcomings and mistakes that Russian democracy will take much longer to build than he thought”.

What ordinary Russians thought of him was perhaps encapsulated in a Pizza Hut advertisement-designed for the US market-that he took part in 1997.

In the advertisement, diners debate the chaos unleashed – or the opportunities created – by the end of the USSR, before toasting him.

Gorbachev indeed left an indelible mark on the world. Unforgettable.

I had planned to write on NASA’s Artemis Mission to the Moon, which was to be launched early this week. But the lift-off was put-off to end of the week, due to a technical defect, which was subsequently set right. I hope NASA launches Artemis on the 3rd September, as scheduled. Good luck to them. Return to the Moon.

More ‘marking’ stories coming-up in the weeks ahead. See the world with World Inthavaaram.



About: the world this week, 27 February to 5 March 2022, war, a country fights for its life, Operation Ganga, Justices, and floods.


Russian Aggression

This week was almost surreal with a full-fledged war developing right in front of our eyes and we being powerless, in the face of numerous odds, to do anything to stop the fighting; despite all the right noises we made at the start. And we, Homo Sapiens, thought we had advanced far enough to call weapons of killing and destruction, that we had cleverly invented, just that. And not use them at all.

The war in Europe between Russia and Ukraine galloped across new frontiers driven by an irrational President of Russia. Sirens howling, guns firing, tanks rolling, missiles flying, and people fleeing to basements of buildings for cover or to the borders, from the ever-growing hot-spots. Unbelievable that this happening in our time when we thought the World’s superpowers would behave with utmost sacred responsibility.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is fast acquiring a pariah status for his dangerous act of invading Ukraine and the unholy, brutal devastation unleashed in the process. If he had hoped for a quick victory it evaporated in the face of fierce resistance by Ukrainian soldiers and its armies of citizen volunteers.

Let’s face it. Russia is attacking-without the slightest needle of a physical provocation-a sovereign, independent, fledgling country, Ukraine, on a perceived, imagined threat to itself, despite it having one of the world’s most advanced and sophisticated security apparatus. In the aftermath of its break-up from the Soviet Union, Ukraine had given-up its nuclear arsenal to Russia with a guarantee that its sovereignty and borders will be respected. Its people freely and overwhelmingly chose to align with the West-the market of the European Union, for their betterment – it’s their choice, and rightfully so. And they were taking the first baby steps in joining the defensive North Atlantic Treat Organization (NATO) – for their own safety against the bewildering next-door giant. The Russian President decided that he did not like a neighbour freely doing all of this-sleeping with the enemy of his mind-hence the invasion. The goal seems to be to overthrow the democratically elected Government and perhaps install a puppet regime that would dance only to its tunes on strings pulled from Moscow.

Death defying circumstances such as these often throw up a hero, and a young Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky, 44, is turning out to be exactly that. He refused to be cowed-down by the might of Russia and lay down arms; and in what I call a ‘Winston Churchill moment’, broadcasted to the Russian people on the ills of war, appealing to their belonging as people from the same land, and a call to reign-in their wild President. And to his own people he inspired and motivated them to come out and fight this together, shoulder to shoulder. Blood, sweat, and tears.

When offered an escape from Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, by the United States, Zelenskyy was awfully quick to reject it saying. “I need ammunition, not a ride.” It showed selfless leadership and a kind of ‘Hollywood courage’. Zelensky has suddenly emerged as a convincing war-time leader alongside the greats of Winston Churchill and George Washington. He has rallied the nation with his addresses and video selfies and given voice to Ukrainian anger and defiance of Russian aggression.

Going back to his origins, Zelensky’s entry into politics is a case of life imitating art; reel turning into real. Initially, he performed on Ukraine’s version of the American dance competition, television series ‘Dancing with the Stars’, which in turn is the US version of the UK series, ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. The show pairs celebrities with professional dancers. And from 2015 to 2018, he played a history teacher frustrated with corruption who accidentally becomes President of Ukraine on a popular TV show called ‘Servant of the People.’ Zelensky then parlayed his success into politics, running for office in 2019 on the back of a political party named after his show, ‘Servant of the People’. He went on to win with 73% of the vote, promising to fight corruption and bring peace in the faction-riddled east of the country.

Zelensky is the son of Jewish parents. He married his school-mate Olena Kiyasko in 2003 and the couple have a daughter, Aleksandra, and son Kyryli . Wife Zelenska studied architecture at the Faculty of Civil Engineering at Kryvyi Rih National University.

Ukrainians have been fending off the Russian army for over a week. But attacks have intensified on cities throughout the country: in Mariupol, Kharkiv, and the capital, Kyiv. Now, Russian forces have made key advances on Kherson-a strategic Black Sea port in southern Ukraine. And suddenly Russia is seen to be attacking on all fronts.

Meanwhile, the toll on civilians is mounting with an estimated 2,000 civilians dead as more than 1 million fleeing the country as refugees.

The US, UK, and other Western countries came to Ukraine’s aid by imposing economic sanctions to cripple Russia. The measures imposed are so potent that they have triggered chaos in Russia’s Trillion Dollar economy and prompted Vladimir Putin, to issue nuclear threats by putting the country’s nuclear forces on watch. The instant impoverishment of a big economy is unprecedented and will cause alarm around the world. The West’s priority appears to be, to win the economic confrontation with Russia.

Germany has long soft-peddled policies targeting Russia, but its chancellor, Olaf Scholz, made a moving and extraordinary change, committing an additional USD 100 billion to defense-spending immediately, shipping weapons to Ukraine, and ending the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was constructed to bring gas from Russia to Germany.

Switzerland, which steadfastly held a neutral position over so many decades decided to give up its neutrality and joined the sanctions bandwagon, sanctioning Russia and closing its airspace to Russian aircraft. These are never-before decisions – waking up other kinds of ‘unknown’ powerful sleeping giants.

Civil activism is the lifeblood of free societies, and Ukrainians have been excelling, including the sunflower lady, who cursed Russian soldiers; civilians lining up to collect arms and make Molotov cocktails, or change out street signs to confuse the invaders; and breweries retooling to produce weaponry. These stories will live and be told to build a new nation.

The United Nations is struggling to tame the Russian rogue, but Russia’s veto power renders any effective action from emerging, beyond some kind of a strong-worded condemnation. India abstained from voting due to its own compulsions. I wish it had voted along with the majority of nations, condemning Russia’s unwarranted aggression. India is a great civilisation and has always stood by dharma. I hope it shows more backbone in the days to come.

Now, the build-up on the other side. Russia friendly Belarus announced it was revoking its non-nuclear status after a referendum, allowing Russian weapons to be placed in Belarus. The move provoked rare protests in the country. What’s even more alarming is that Belarus may be preparing to send its soldiers into Ukraine in support of the Russian invasion.

There was a fire near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant- the Zaporizhzhia Power Plant responsible for about 20% of Ukraine’s power generation- following ‘unacceptable’ Russian shelling in the vicinity. And there is an imminent danger lurking in such places. For e.g., if something were to happen to this nuclear power station, the impact could be ’ten times larger’ than the Chernobyl disaster. With missiles shattering buildings and killing civilians in Kharkiv, Mariupol and Kyiv, and Russia continued to warn of further escalation, there is little reason for hope for an immediate reduction in hostilities.

Where do we go from here? How do we stop the war in the event there is no clear victory on either side and the fighting drags on?

Russia and Ukraine have met on the border of Belarus to hold two rounds of negotiations, but nothing concrete has emerged, as yet. Still, the two sides are talking. Sooner or later, if a deal is to be reached, concessions will need to come from both sides.

Ukraine will certainly not undergo any ‘denazification’ by ousting its own democratically-elected government led by President Zelensky who happens to be Jewish. He is the strongest person to negotiate with at this stage.

On the Ukrainian side, Zelensky may need to promise Ukraine will not join NATO. This is at the core of Putin’s illogical reasoning for the invasion, and he is unlikely to back down from this demand. Russia will press for demilitarization in Ukraine, and it will be a non-starter for the Ukrainians. But they might well be willing to think about it once peace is clearly established: maybe accept limitations on the amount and types of weapons they can maintain, and also agree not to have foreign forces based in Ukraine. Of course, hedges should be built-in if there is an external threat to Ukraine.

Crimea appears destined to remain under Russia’s control, and Luhansk and Donetsk may likely be granted significant autonomy within the Ukrainian system.

Ukraine will expect commensurate concessions from Russia. Paramount among them will be a complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. The withdrawal will need to be accompanied by a drastic reduction of Russian forces away from Ukraine’s borders, including eastern Ukraine, Belarus and the Black Sea. Ukraine cannot be expected to rebuild and return to peacetime life with the Russian mill-stone around its neck.

There is talk of imposing a No-Fly Zone over Ukraine, which experts say, should not be done. A no-fly zone is airspace where certain aircraft are not allowed to enter. In the context of conflicts and wars, it is typically used to stop banned aircraft from entering airspace to launch attacks, transport troops and weapons, and conduct surveillance. But then, you need someone to enforce it, which may trigger its own problems. It is best US and NATO avoid stationing their forces in Ukraine; the intent being to avoid pushing a nuclear superpower into a corner when it has no other option than to use it.

The concessions that come with negotiations are often painful when they are a climb-down from the original hard stances. But they are infinitely preferable to an indefinite continuation of battle, and even when conflicts are driven by irrational acts, the logic of diplomacy can take hold. The World prays that is the case here. Meanwhile two countries are being destroyed and one of them can stop it.

Operation Ganga

India has near about 20,000 of its nationals, including students studying in Ukraine, and this week India scrambled its forces to get them out safely, naming the mission as ‘Operation Ganga’. Besides evacuation, another goal was to provide humanitarian assistance to Indians who had crossed over to the neighbouring countries of Ukraine: Romania, Hungary, Poland, Moldova, and Slovakia.

Operation Ganga is being planned and executed by India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Indian Armed Forces. Airlines that were roped in are Air India, IndiGo, SpiceJet, and Air India Express. Four Union ministers were flown to the neighbouring countries to expedite the evacuation.

The first flight happened on 26 February and over 10,300 Indians have been brought back to India, in 48 flights in a massive exercise. Most had crossed the borders into neighbouring countries. However, one Indian student lost his life in the city of Kharkiv due to Russian shelling, when he went to buy groceries during the curfew relaxation period. Along with him, ten others died in various attacks by Russia. Another was reportedly shot and is recovering in hospital.

Supreme Court Justice

US President Joe Biden fulfilled a campaign promise by nominating the first Afro-American woman Justice to the Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson a 51 years old former public defender turned federal appellate judge. She’s been a leading contender to replace the retiring Justice Stephen Breyer (who she clerked for). Now, the Harvard-trained judge hopes to head to the Supreme Court of the United States. Jackson may be confirmed as soon as April this year.

The US Constitution states that Justices ‘shall hold their Offices during good behaviour.’ This means they can serve for life– their terms only ending if they resign, pass away or if they are impeached and convicted by Congress.

The President nominates someone for a vacancy on the Court and the Senate votes to confirm the nominee, which requires a simple majority. In this way, both the Executive and Legislative Branches of the federal government have a voice in the composition of the Supreme Court.

Australia Down Underwater

Australia is experiencing its worst floods in decades. Intense rain and record-breaking floods have hit eastern Australia.

A river in the northern New South Wales town of Lismore broke its banks and rose to a level of near about 14.40m, which quickly earned it a place between the ‘once in 500 years to 1000 years flood event’. And in Queensland, the Brisbane River flooded, causing extensive damage.

Nothing better explains the speed and severity of the flooding than the sight of some people with their cars, and a few horses being caught on a bridge over the Richmond River on Woodburn, outside Lismore in northern New South Wales when rising floodwaters cut them at both ends leaving them stranded in the middle, overnight. They could be rescued only in the morning, when the lights came on. Such was the suddenness of the water rise.

This is becoming a recurring event in Australia. Either it’s fire, water, or spiders and rodents giving them one hell of a time.

I’m not leaving Australia, not yet: the last news, I spin this week is the unexpected passing of legendary Australian Cricketer, Spin-bowler Shane Warne at the age of 52, due to a cardiac arrest. His spin was so good that even God did not know it was coming! RIP Shane Warne: you did teach India how to spin better.

More fire and water stories spinning-up in the weeks ahead. Live with World Inthavaaram.


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


War (and Peace?)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Please Yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About: the world this week, 19 December to 25 December 2021, the thing of the year, the country of the year, signs of an invasion, bad behaviour by lawmakers, an antediluvian egg, and movies – in and out of prison; and a stylish, smashing brother helps.


My ‘Thing Of The Year’, the coronavirus and its evolving mutations, continues to hold the world in thrall, and by the throat. The latest avatar, Omicron, is already dominating infections in the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK), and most of Europe. To give a statistic: Covid19 deaths in the US now exceed all deaths, military and civilian, in all American wars since the Revolutionary War (1775-76).

India is watching with ‘masked breath’, the cases are slowly growing in numbers and that dreaded word, ‘lockdown’ is unlocking in our minds. Many of us hope it dare not get a stronghold, the way it tossed us up, gasping for breath, in the so-called second wave.

Latest studies say that the Omicron variant isn’t as bad as the Delta variant, but certainly more infectious. We just need to keep ourselves ahead of the spikes: do what it takes to stay safe this Holiday Season – get and wear that armour.

With Christmas approaching, I hope everyone’s wish is a ‘stocking filled with the belief that the world will see the last spike of the coronavirus in 2022 – and others of its kind’. It may be a tough load for Santa to reindeer-in through the chimney, but faith is everything.


Italy was crowned the ‘Country of the Year’ by The Economist newspaper, in its annual honouring of the country that, in its view, improved the most in the year 2021: mind it, the award is not given to the biggest, the richest, or the happiest country! Central to the honour was Mario Draghi, described as a ‘competent, internationally respected Prime Minister’. Meanwhile, disgraced former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is modelling a comeback! Auguroni (Best Wishes).

Russia and Ukraine

Russia invaded the headlines this week, firing the eternal question, ‘is Russia going to annex Ukraine -like it did Crimea-are Russian forces getting ready for war in Ukraine?’ Oops, since when did invasions become fashionable again; ask the Vikings in Valhalla?

It was only seven years ago, in 2014, that Russia seized and then annexed the southern Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, when Ukrainians were busy deposing their pro-Russian President. And Russian-backed separatists captured large swathes of Ukraine’s two eastern regions collectively known as the Donbas.

There is a mind problem here with Russia developing a mindset that Russia and Ukraine are one nation, after the fall of the Soviet Union: a twin brothers-separated-at birth-thing. Russian is the second most spoken language in Ukraine after Ukrainian. Another cause for Russia’s concern is that Ukraine is ‘sleeping with’ NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and may marry into the Western Alliance. And Russia is demanding guarantees that the wedding will never happen.

NATO is a defensive alliance and its Secretary General, has made clear that any military support would be purely along those lines. The UK is set to help Ukraine build two naval bases, at Ochakiv on the Black Sea, and at Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov. The US’ anti-tank Javelin missiles have also been sent to Ukraine and two US Coast Guard patrol boats have been given to the navy. And Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is watching closely.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is looking for a clear timeline from the alliance. Wedding bells adding sound to the jingle of Christmas?

Russia is threatening military measures, and the US says if it invades Ukraine it will hit back with sanctions on an unprecedented scale. This is a place to watch. Maybe it’s just a Russian posturing, to prevent NATO from marrying more nations and bringing many children into the world opposed to Russia…and in Russia’s backyard.


India’s Opposition continued to ‘dishonour’ Parliament – in my view – sulking and striking over a well-deserved suspension of 12 fellow Members of Parliament (MP) for unruly, unacceptable behaviour, in the previous session. And wasting tax-payer’s money. Late in the week, another Quiz-Master turned MP joined the gang after flinging the Rule Book at the House Speaker. The best part is, these MPs wore the suspension as a badge of honour and along with ‘their partners in crime’ ensured Parliament work was disrupted.

MPs should set an example by setting in motion thoughtful discussions, artful debates and, agreeing to agree and agreeing to disagree.

Meanwhile, the Government rammed through Lower & Upper Houses of Parliament some much-needed electoral reforms, linking the unique Identification, Aadhar Card, with the Voter’s Identity Card – an obvious attempt a controlling election voting fraud.

The Government also tabled a bill, after Cabinet approval, to increase a woman’s age of marriage to 21, from the earlier 18, bringing it on par with a man. Women should be able to make better choices at this age and overcome a constant Indian pressure to marry-off the girls when they are just beginning to get the hang and the bang of things.


Over the years, we have become used to news of Dinosaur bones being discovered while digging in some corner of the World and put together to find a big name for it: many have landed up in museums where we can see the past ‘assembled and standing still in front of us’. Dinosaurs were real.

Now comes a more real story, announced by Scientists this week, about an unprecedented fossil, a perfectly preserved baby dinosaur curled up, almost life-like, inside its egg and obviously preparing to hatch, just like a chicken. The fossil is about 70 million years old.

The egg is around 17 centimeters (cm) long and the Dinosaur is estimated to be 27 cm long from head to tail. The researchers believe as an adult, had it lived, it would have been about two to three meters long. The fossil preserves the embryonic skeleton of an Oviraptorid Dinosaur, which has been nicknamed ‘Baby Yingliang’ after the name of the Chinese museum which houses the fossil. Baby dinosaur bones are small and fragile and are only very rarely preserved as fossils, making this a very lucky find, indeed.

All birds directly evolved from a group of two-legged dinosaurs known as Theropods, whose members include the towering Tyrannosaurus Rex and the smaller Velociraptors. This find is expected to shed more light on the links between dinosaurs and birds, among other things.

The specimen was among several fossils discovered about two decades ago in the China’s City of Ganzhou in the south-eastern province of Jiangxi but not recognised to be fossilised dinosaur eggs until 2015, when evaluated by an expert. The fossils were acquired in the year 2000 by a director of a Chinese stone company called Yingliang Group and ended up in storage, largely forgotten until about 10 years later, when museum staff sorted through the boxes and came across the fossil during the construction of Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum. Eventually, the egg shell slightly cracked and the fragile bones inside became visible, prompting a peek-in.

Researchers then led a study of the fossil, which was published in the journal iScience this week. Well, they hatched the egg for us to see.

Please Yourself

Over the week I watched the magnificent Sandra Bullock movie, The Unforgivable’ about a woman who tries to re-enter society, after serving a 20 year sentence in prison: to a society that is unforgiving and refuses to allow her to forget her past. Her only hope for redemption is finding her younger sister who she was forced to leave behind without a care-taker. Her mom dies in childbirth after giving her a little sister. And upon the death of her Dad she brings up the sister in her childhood home until ‘the crime’ when the Sheriff who comes over to evict them is shot dead in the ensuing war of words.

The end brought tears to the eyes with the sisters ‘closing the gap’ with a simple hug and the body language doing all the talking. Brilliant. Before the end there is a twist, which tells us what actually happened on that fateful day. Watch the movie and find out for the sacrifices made by a sister to protect her 5 years old sibling and the never give-up spirit in finding and connecting with her again. Give purpose to life on Earth!

I had also watched the Rajinikant Tamil movie ‘Annaantthe’ and found it dumb to the core. But, I loved the way a brother does everything possible to be understanding, and building back the life of his sister, without showing himself-until the end, when the job is done. Here too the story ends with a hug, though a noisy one.

The sister elopes with her lover, when the brother fixes-up a marriage, and thereafter suffers terrible misfortune in business due to an ‘underworld rowdy gang’. And the brother comes to the rescue, unnoticed by the sister. Again, the brother raises the sister from a young age, when the parents die. He dotes on her expansively and refuses to fall in to the age-old trap of ‘finishing off a runaway bride’ to save the ‘family honour’.

Any sister would love to have such a brother watching over from behind and giving you the muscle to face and climb out of a treacherous situation. Call it strengthening the wings for the flight of life. And a permanent life support.

The superb Actor that Rajinikant is, there are not many film makers and directors who have done justice to his capabilities, calmly using his unique style. And Rajini has allowed himself to be dragged along the beaten path…punching dialogues, flicking cigarettes, and other things as well. He can do better.

More stylish sibling love stories coming up in the weeks ahead, hug World Inthavaaram. Careful when you break those eggs for breakfast – there may be a baby Dinosaur sleeping inside.

Season’s Greetings, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year 2022.


About: the world this week, 17 October to 23 October 2021, Haiti’s waywardness, shooting in Space, Hindus under attack, floods in Kerala, India reaches a vaccination landmark, and a shooting gone bad.



Haiti is a country located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles Archipelageo of the Caribbean Sea, to the east of Cuba and Jamaica and south of The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Haiti is the world’s leading producer of vetiver, a root plant used to make luxury perfumes and essential oils among other things. Vetiver is derived from the Tamil word ‘வெட்டிவேர்’ meaning ‘root that is dug up.’

About half the population of Haiti have roots in the agricultural sector but it still relies upon imports for most of its food needs. And Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the World.

In July this year, its President Jovenel Moise was assassinated in an attack on his private residence and the ‘root’ of the forces behind is yet to be dug up. Mercenaries appear with ease and ‘rowdy gangs’ seem to be able to spring-up from the ground at will and get away with whatever mischief they do.

Last Saturday as many as seventeen American Missionaries were kidnapped for ransom by gang members in Haiti, including three minors. The missionaries were travelling by a vehicle to Titanyen, north of the capital Port-au-Prince, after visiting an orphanage, when the kidnapping occurred.

Haiti may need to import help, to root out this ‘dangerous plant’ of violent gangs that is spreading through the country, keeping it the grip of violence, and strangulating its rise.


In a first of its kind, the Russians are ‘shooting’ in Space. Well, really!

Over the course of 12 days Producer-Director Klim Shipenko, Russian Actress Yulia Peresild, and cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy filmed a movie, called, ‘Challenge’ – the first feature film shot entirely in space – working from the International Space Station. The had docked on 5th October and undocked on 16 October 2021, to safely return to Earth.

The movie tells the story of a surgeon, played by Peresild, who has to operate on a sick cosmonaut in space, portrayed by Novitskiy, because the cosmonaut’s medical condition prevents him from returning to Earth to be treated.

Previously a few films have been shot on board the space station, including a 2002 IMAX Documentary that Hollywood Actor Tom Cruise narrated. ‘Apogee of Fear’, a 2012 science fiction film running for about eight minutes, was also filmed in space by entrepreneur and space tourist Richard Garriott. Tom Cruise and Director Doug Liman revealed in 2020 that they were working together on a movie to be filmed in space, with NASA’s cooperation. The project is being developed in collaboration with Elon Musk’s SpaceX. It’s a ‘mission possible’ that Tom Cruise could stay in the Space Station sometime this October. And he probably got the hang of it during a chat with the all-civilian SpaceX Inspiration-4 crew during their recent trip to space.

But, Russia has become the first nation to do this kind of shooting: they always seem to be one small challenging step ahead of America’s NASA. Some Big Steps coming up?


Muslim majority Bangladesh – a nation which India enabled to come into being, in the first place – in under severe stress with radical Islamists unleashing violence against the minority Hindus, under the garb of blasphemy.

Brutal attacks, vandalism, looting, and arson has returned to haunt Hindus in Bangladesh’s Noakhali district, as close to 150 households were attacked and at least three killed in a deadly clash on 13th October. A day later, a frenzied mob of radical Islamists attacked the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) temple in the Noakhali district in the Chittagong Division of Bangladesh. The sculpture of its founder, was burnt down during the arson attack on the temple. In another incident, in Hajiganj Upazila, Chandpur District in the Chittagong Division, Islamists also brutally raped an entire Hindu family including a 10 years old girl.

Attacks on Hindus is increasing at an alarming rate across the free World. In America a three-day online conference, ‘Dismantling Global Hindutva,’ which was held last month with at least 30,000 attendees generated a lot of heat & dust. Some said it failed to adequately distinguish between Hindutva, generally defined as Hindu nationalism, with Hinduism, the religion, which is a way of life.

Hinduism is the oldest religion in the World and has been harmlessly coexisting -even baby-sitting- with all the newcomers, over centuries. And it should be respected – left to be.


God’s Own Country, Kerala, as been on the Indian News headlines for many reasons, from initially being an example in tackling the pandemic – during the first wave- to having outrageously high and consistent daily infections – the highest in India – and maybe earnestly trying to set an example of how not to tackle the coronavirus – during the second wave. Poles apart, with the virus caught in between?

Now, Kerala is among the rains, with floods causing havoc, killing people and cutting off towns and villages when rivers started to overflow their banks. For eg.,several houses were washed away and people became trapped in the district of Kottayam. Days of incessantly heavy rainfall has caused deadly landslides and the Indian military has joined rescue efforts.

Akin to its experience with the pandemic, Kerala sees heavy rains every year bringing with it deadly floods and landslides- happening almost religiously despite its best efforts at managing the situation. Kerala probably has to do something new and different to prevent the effects of this almost recurring too-easy-to-predict event. You cannot expect different results doing things the same way. Can you? Stronger construction and clever selection of places to build Houses would be one approach; better preparedness and forewarning residents in flood prone areas would be another. Maybe moving-in to the famous backwater boats – with stronger moorings- during the rains, would be yet another? God and his country should decide!

COVID-19 Vaccination

India scripted history this Thursday by crossing a huge milestone in having done 100 crore or one billion vaccinations in less than 9 months, for a population of 1.38 billion.

So far, India has fully vaccinated about 30% of its adult population and given one dose to about 75%.

China is at the top spot with over 2.25 billion vaccine jabs and Russia is close behind India, having itself crossed the 1 billion mark, a day after India did.

Please Yourself

This Thursday, Hollywood Actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun that accidentally killed a 42 years old woman Cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, and injured the Film Director while shooting for his latest movie ‘Rust’, in a New Mexico set. For now, the film production’s been put on hold indefinitely as authorities investigate what happened.

Alec Baldwin famously played ex-US President Donald Trump in the Television series, ‘Saturday Night Live’. Some of the movies he has acted in are, The Hunt for Red October, The Marrying Man, The Getaway, Pearl Harbour, The Aviator, and Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation…

What are prop guns? What comes to mind is a non-functional weapon or a toy gun that fires caps to produce smoke. Actually the term refers to real guns used as props. The reason a film production company would use a real gun is to lend authenticity especially in close-up shots. Prop guns are used with blank cartridges that have all the elements of a real bullet/cartridge except the projectile at the tip, which strikes the target. When you pull the trigger, you only get the bang, the recoil, the muzzle flash, and an ejected shell. Tragedy can strike if the prop gun isn’t loaded properly – or from ‘rusty’ planning-say when a cartridge with a projectile tip had unknowingly become stuck and when fired the projectile hits the target.

This is not the first instance of a fatal accident on a film set due to a prop gun. Actor Brandon Lee, son of the legendary Bruce Lee, was fatally shot by Actor Michael Massee with a prop gun during the filming of the movie, ‘The Crow’ in 1993.

Similarly, in 1984, actor Jon-Erik Hexum fatally shot himself with a blank discharged from a Magnum Pistol, while jokingly playing with the pistol on set, amid repeated delays in the filming of the television series ‘Cover Up’.

More real shots coming up in the weeks ahead. Nothing to cover-up: it’s all in the open and everything to crow about. Stay with World Inthavaaram.


About: This is the bread we’ve baked this week, in our World, and I’ve cut it down for you, also adding a slice of history, on what was before us.


Pressure in Russia: From Russia Without Love

I’m tired of climbing hills in the US and my eyes have moved to what’s happening beyond the mountains, in Russia. Yes, it’s about Alexei Navalny, the Russian Opposition Leader who is having a very tough time out there in the awfully cold Russian winter. Arrested, jailed, poisoned, arrested, jailed. Repeat.

Navalny, a lawyer-turned-activist came out of the cold in 2008, when he began exposing high-level corruption in Russian politics through his blog. He has since spearheaded many anti-corruption rallies, is considered to be the face of the Opposition in Russia, and has been arrested numerous times. He was barred from challenging current President, Vladimir Putin, in the 2018 Presidential Elections because of a previous conviction for fraud in a criminal case said to be politically motivated. The conviction was overturned by Russia’s Supreme Court, but he was found guilty in a re-trial, which earned criticism from the European Court of Human Rights.

Russia is known to eliminate dissidents and political activists by poisoning them, and Navalny too had a taste of this when in August 2020 he was poisoned with the soviet-era banned lethal nerve agent Novichok, which almost knocked him off. Of course, it will be hard to prove it in Russia. He managed to get himself on a plane to Germany where he was treated and recovered from the poisoning effects. And this was not the first instance: two years before, he had a bright green liquid dye sprayed upon him in Barnaul, Siberia, by an assailant who pretended to shake his hand, resulting in considerable damage to an eye.

In the current upturn of events, Navalny was arrested, on return from Germany, on the bizarre rule-break that he violated a suspended criminal sentence by remaining in Germany for further treatment after being released from Hospital – following his treatment for poisoning. The suspended sentence was from a 2014 trial termed as ‘arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable’ by the European Court of Human Rights for which Russia was ordered to pay Navalny and his brother near 76,000 Euros in compensation. Instead of finding out who poisoned the victim, Russia is running after the victim?

Now you get the picture? Having grown really big as a country and lived this long there are many Laws & Rules, but legalities don’t really matter in Russia where the rules of the game are changed and the goal posts are shifted for any curling shot to become a goal. Look at what a man fighting the system is up against!

A very tough road ahead for Navalny, and he has unstinted support coming his way, with spontaneous protests against his arrest, erupting across Russia.

Let’s delve into history to understand the ‘coldness’ of Russia and its ‘Iron Curtain’ (coined by the then British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill) calling. The explosive Russian Revolution of 1917 – actually consisting of two cataclysmic revolutions, both happening in that one year, the February Revolution, and the October Revolution, changed Russia like never before.

In the first, the last Tsarist regime, represented by the Romanov dynasty, which celebrated a spectacular three centuries in power (Peter the Great and Catherine the Great were Romanovs), was overthrown, forever ending Imperial Rule, and in the second, the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks and Red Guards led by Vladimir Lenin staged a coup and established communist rule leading to the formation of what we all knew as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the Communist Party.

Nicolas-II, the last Romanov Emperor, abdicated soon after the February Revolution, and his family, Empress Alexandra, and their five children were taken prisoners. On a July night, in 1918, the family and four servants were ordered to dress quickly and go down to the cellar of the house in which they were being held, on the pretext that they are to be moved to a new location for their own safety. They were told to wait while the truck meant to transport them arrived. A few minutes later an execution squad of the secret police was brought in and the order of their execution, for countless crimes on Soviet Russia, was read out.

The armed men then gunned down the imperial family in a hail of gunfire. Those who were still breathing, when the smoked cleared, were stabbed to death. The bodies were disposed off in a chaotic manner and remained undiscovered for decades leading to speculation that someone from the family might have survived and actually be alive. It is said that the royals had diamonds and jewellery secretly sewn into their corsets, which had a bullet-proof effect, resulting in bullets not making their mark.

In later years, the remains of Nicholas, Alexandra, and three of their children were excavated in a forest near Yekaterinburg, in the year 1991, and positively identified two years later using DNA fingerprinting. The Crown Prince Alexei and one Romanov daughter – Anastasia– were not accounted for, fuelling the persistent legend and fantasy that Anastasia was alive and had escaped: countless stories and movies have been made on Anastasia. In subsequent years, scientists were able to confirm the deaths and the Romanov family was finally put to rest in St. Petersburg. The Crown Jewels became the property of the Soviet Union and a large portion is held in museums in the Kremlin. Given those tumultuous times, some of the fabulous jewels went missing – unable to be traced, to this day.

To further thread the story of Russia, after Lenin, it was Dictator Joseph Stalin, then Nikita Khrushchev over to Mikail Gorbachev until dissolution of the Soviet Union, on 25 December 1991. Russia then held its original name, with Boris Yeltsin as President, who hands over to Vladimir Putin – with Dmitry Medvedev stealing some years in between, due to term limits. Putin has been President since 2012 and in January 2020 modified the Russian Constitution in a way that would scrap term limits for Presidents, paving the way for him to remain President indefinitely. Sounds typical African style ruling, doesn’t it?

I’m breathless…this is the perhaps the briefest history you can get on Russia.

Back from the past to the present, Russian police have detained more than 4,000 people – and counting – in a crackdown on protests in support of the jailed Alexei Navalny. Tens of thousands of people defied a heavy police presence to join some of the largest rallies against President Vladimir Putin, in years.

Russia is one hard country to crack and President Putin, with his KGB secret service background holds the aces, the iron, the jewels, and the aggression to controlling Russia. Who can poison that? Alexei Navalny needs all the bravery and smartness he can muster to melt this iron rule.

Wonder Women of Estonia

Women leaders are rising-up in many countries and are proving to be better rulers than men – watch out! On 26 January, 43 years old Kaja Kallas was sworn as Estonia’s first female Prime Minister since Estonia ‘regained’ independence in 1991. Estonia was an independent country until it was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. On the break-up of the USSR, Estonia restored its independence on 20 August 1991, which is celebrated as ‘Day of Restoration of Independence’. For a change we have a tame ‘Restoration of Independence Day’ rather than the fiery Independence Day most Countries in the world celebrate.

Kallis leads the Reform Party which was founded by her father, Sim Kallas, who was also Prime Minister in 2002-2003. Kaja Kallis studied to become a Lawyer specialising in Estonian and European competition law, and also holds a Master of Business Administration degree in Economics. She will need every letter of her education to stay competitive and administer well.

There’s another woman in the Estonian hierarchy, with the President also being a woman, Kersti Kaljulaid. She achieved that at the age of 46. In the year 2016. That makes Estonia one of the few countries where both the head of State and head of Government are woman.

In 2018, President Kaljulaid ran the New York City Marathon, during a working tour of the United States, and finished in just over four hours.

I’m sure both Women know how to run Estonia. For a start, one is a marathon woman.

Larry King (is) Dead: the Art of Conversation Lives On

After hosting ‘Larry King Live’ on CNN for over 25 years and retiring in 2010 to host ‘Larry King Now’, the legendary American talk-show host Larry King, 87, died on 24 January at Cedars Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles due to COVID-19.

Larry King had diabetes and suffered from a series of medical issues over the years including several heart attacks and a quintuple bypass surgery. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer and successfully underwent surgery to treat it. He also underwent a procedure to address angina.

Larry King married eight times (twice to the same woman) and has four children. Last year he lost two of his children who died within weeks of each other: a son of heart-attack, and a daughter of lung cancer.

King interviewed countless newsmakers and every-day people. He interviewed every sitting President from Gerald Ford to Barack Obama doing more than 30,000 interviews and listening-in to thousands of phone calls from viewers of his Call-in Show(s).

Larry King had a distinctive, unmistakable appearance in his Talk Shows: oversized spectacles and ever-present suspenders. He was known for not spending time preparing for interviews, preferring instead to let his natural curiosity guide the conversation. He read all day long and watched news which made him really well-informed. He would allow his guests to talk and then spring up the questions, with the flow. King adopted an affable easygoing demeanour and perfected a casual approach to the Question & Answer format, always leaning forward and listening intently to his guests, rarely interrupting. He treated every guest the same – Presidents, famous people, and the common man. And he loved being in front of the camera.

“I just love what I do, I love asking questions, I love doing interviews” said Larry King.

We would love him to do an interview with God and allow us a phone call to ask God a question? Rest in Peace Larry King.

COVID-19 Vaccination Updates

The biggest vaccination campaign in history is on a roll with more than 90 million doses in 62 countries have been administered, averaging 4.3 million doses a day.

Israel is on track to probably becoming the first country to achieve herd immunity (70% required) – expected in about 45 days – with about 26% of the population already vaccinated.

India has vaccinated near about 2.92 million (Source: Ministry of Health) people and the vaccination drive is gathering momentum after an initial tardiness, finding about 6 lakh arms per day. On the coronavirus infections front, India is counting about 13,000 downhill positive cases per day and Schools have been opened for Class 10 and Class 12, at least in my region. Getting back to normalcy for sure.

Nearer Home, in Attur, Tamilnadu, a good medical doctor friend of mine was one of the first to receive the Covishield Vaccine -made by the Serum Institute of India – and I’m sure she will frame the photo for the History records. I did share that photo-shoot within my Group, to inspire. And to dispel any doubts, the nay-say people might have. We should roll up our sleeves, when the time comes. We are not safe until everyone is safe.

Please Yourself

Planning to buy a car? Go Toyota, or go electric?

This week Japanese Company, Toyota drove up the ramp to wear the Global Crown of the World’s best-selling automaker. The one runner-up sash went to the German Volkswagen Group.

Toyota sold 9.5 million vehicles around the world in 2020, which includes its Daihatsu and Hino lineups. Volkswagen did 9.3 million units, which includes its brands of Audi, Skoda and Porsche.

Meanwhile, electric car-maker Tesla has set up shop in Bengaluru, India. The future is electric, and we need to keep looking out for the electrifying offers we can get to use clean energy, to clean-up the mess we made of relying on greenhouse gas-emitting petrol and diesel.

More interesting stories, coming-up, in the week(s) ahead