About-the world this week, 14 May 2023 to 20 May 2023: Turkey Presidential Elections; G7 Hiroshima; Karnataka Elections, India; Tennis in Italy; and the Cannes Red Carpet.
In recent times, Turkey has been grappling with many serious issues: especially economic, in the aftermath of the recent earthquake that tore through the country, and neighbouring Syria. Now it’s Election time and the current Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the Justice and Development Party-who has been President for over two decades-has failed to secure the absolute majority needed to keep his job. He secured 49.5% of the vote, facing fierce competition from Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the Republican People’s Party, who secured 44.89%.
With voters making their voices heard at the polls, both candidates fell short of the 50% vote they needed to become President. The race is headed toward a runoff, meaning another election by the end of May 2023.
The Turks are at a kind of turning point, having to choose between two leaders offering dramatically different visions for their country’s future. Erdogan promises a strong, multilateral Turkey, creation of six million jobs, and harps on his long rule. Kilicdaroglu, backed by a broad opposition, wants to steer Turkey back towards a pro-Western, more democratic state. And wants to roll back Erdogan’s policies.
The presidential elections are being held alongside parliamentary elections, to elect a President for a term of five years.
G7 Hiroshima, Japan
The Group of 7 nations summit- the 49th- is being hosted by core member Japan in Hiroshima, Japan, between 19 May and 21 May 2023. Other participating members are United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. And The European Union. This is the first summit for both British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, since being elected to Office.
India is an invitee along with Australia, Brazil, Ukraine, and a few other countries. And the United Nations.
This year, the agenda in addition to the usual climate change, sustainable development, food, and health goals…the focus would be on upholding the international order based on the rule of law, in the light of Russia’s uncalled for aggression in Ukraine.
India’s Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi is on a flying visit abroad: first to the G7 summit; then to Papua New Guinea, followed by a series of engagements in Australia’s Sydney, including a bilateral meeting with PM Anthony Albanese.
While India’s PM was flying, back home it was turbulence in the air, with the Reserve Bank of India announcing withdrawl of those lovely pink colour Rs 2000 notes from circulation. And the Finance Ministry blundering on levying 20% ‘Tax Collection at Source’ (TCS) on international Credit Card Transactions – which it quickly rolled-back. Staggering incompetence?
Elections, Karnataka, India
Karnataka was the only state in South India that was ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which also rules at the Centre. In Elections held last week and votes counted at the end of the week, the BJP was routed by the Grand Old Party of India- the Congress Party. They won an absolute majority and proved the Exit Polls right.
The BJP was found licking its wounds, and it’s a tails-up for the next round of Elections – every failure is a lesson. Whatever the angles the analysts may spin, people throw out the Government that fails to deliver and meet their expectations. And bring back the previous one, which was also kicked out in similar fashion.
Meanwhile, the Congress went back to doing what it does best – High Command ruling. There is a tussle between two senior leaders on who should become Chief Minister and the Bengaluru-New Delhi flights are operating to capacity. If it was not a decisive mandate for one Party, the Resorts and Spas in the region would have been fully booked for parking and feeding the horses – else they might run and be traded in Government formation.
Simple, pure democracy demands that the elected Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) meet and elect a leader among themselves for the top job. But then what is the High Command for?
Towards the end of the week, the logjam was resolved, and the Challenger was felled by the come-hither looks, and dimples of the ‘High Command’, meekly agreeing to be a deputy. Somebody said double-engine sarkar: a ’stable’ government to keep the horses in the stable.
In one of the biggest upsets of this year’s Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) season, a qualifier, 23 year old Hungarian, Fabian Marozsan shocked World No 2 Carlos Alcaraz with a stunning 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory in the third round of the Italian Open, this week. Marozsan ranked No. 135, is the lowest‑ranked player to defeat Alcaraz since July 2021. Until he came through the qualifying draw in Rome and defeated the No. 67 Corentin Moutet, Marozsan had never won an ATP match. This is his first ever ATP main draw and also the first ever Masters 1000 Tournament.
On his first appearance on any major stadium court, Marozsan approached the in‑form Player on the tour fearlessly and calmly. From the very beginning, Marozsan served precisely and controlled the baseline. He forced Alcaraz back with consistent aggression and his sweet two-handed backhand while offering the Spaniard a taste of his own medicine: an endless stream of unbelievable, winning, drop shots.
Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal announced that ‘his body has made a decision’ to withdraw from the upcoming French Open 2023. And he will not be playing for the following months. He is targeting Wimbledon 2024 for a ‘swan song’ end to his career and saving-up for one last season. The 2023 Roland Garros will be the first without Roger or Rafa since 1998 – that’s heart-wrenching for Tennis fans.
The Cannes Film Festival offers unparalleled fashion moments year after year and this year 2023 it ‘catwalks the screens’ between 16 May and 27 May, on the French Riviera.
This year’s 76th event will feature screenings of the latest films from acclaimed directors such as Wes Anderson, Todd Haynes, and Martin Scorsese. And red carpet appearances from those films’ stylish stars, including Margot Robbie, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, and Tilda Swinton.
Johnny Depp walked the famous red carpet, with the premiere of his Louis XV period drama, ‘Jeanne du Barry’, opening the event. Jeanne du Barry has been billed as Depp’s comeback film, following his explosive trial last year with ex-wife Amber Heard.
She’s got glamour in her genes. Carys, the daughter of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones –my favourite actress-proved she’s a natural in front of the camera during a rare red carpet appearance. Unlike her mother, who matched the carpet in a flowing, red gown with a long draped shoulder, Carys wore a delicate white lace dress featuring a deep V-neck and back cutouts.
Actress Uma Thurman presented Michael Douglas with the event’s highest honour, the Palme d’Or lifetime achievement award. Taking the stage, Douglas was given a prolonged round of applause. Meanwhile, ‘Indiana Jones’ Harrison Ford was also awarded Palme d’Or, which he emotionally accepted- being his last in the role.
India’s all-time beauty, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is still finding it hard to slay the red carpet. Aishwarya walked the red carpet at the screening of ‘Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny’, dressed in an outfit completely out of her comfort zone – a black gown with a giant silver hood that extended into a train. Aishwarya finished her look with her signature crimson lips. I just could not find Aishwarya – no matter how hard I searched in the great mass of aluminium foil. Why do they keep doing this to her; to her beauty?
More stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Dress cleverly, don’t foil your beauty with the wrong aluminium. Stay with World Inthavaaram.
About: the world this week, 20 March to 26 March 2022, war, prison, a plane crash, girls education, killing fields, and not saying goodbye.
The Russia-Ukraine war bangs-on and Ukraine is hanging-on out there against the unrelenting Russian attack, even pushing them back from a suburb around the capital, Kyiv. Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine is facing the brunt of the attack, mercilessly bombed with about 80% of the city destroyed, but it isn’t giving up. Not yet.
Over a month into the invasion, Ukrainians continue to defy the odds, showing a deadly fighting streak in defence of their country and in keeping alive freedom. Outnumbered in tanks, troops, aircraft, and in other armoury, the highly motivated Ukrainian forces, reinforced with steely citizen volunteers, have in many places fought the Russian Army to a standstill.
The command and control, steadfastly operating out of Kyiv, is effectively co-ordinated over several battlefronts. Sound battle tactics are being deployed to outwit the Russians. And Ukraine is far ahead in the information war. Is victory in sight?
During the week, Anatoly Chubais a key aide of Russian President Vladimir Putin stepped down from his role as an international envoy. This is the senior most official to resign since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Chubais was responsible for coordinating Russia’s sustainable development goals internationally. After the war began, he posted a picture of a murdered opposition figure, in what was seen as a critical gesture. Now, he has followed-through and given-up on Russia’s unholy aggression.
United States (US) President Joe Biden travelled to Europe’s Brussels to meet with his NATO allies. He thundered that any chemical attack launched by Russia in Ukraine would be met ‘in kind’ by NATO. One clear winner of this outrageous war is that the NATO Allies have become ‘great FRIENDS’ again. They put up a united front and told Ukraine that they are with them through this unfolding disaster-supplying them with copious amounts of arms, ammunition, training, food, supplies… and morale.
In another front, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said it will seek payment in rubles for natural gas sold to ‘unfriendly’ countries, and European Union (EU) gas prices soared on concerns that the move would exacerbate the region’s energy crunch. Russian gas accounts for about 40% of Europe’s total consumption. The EU continues to buy about USD 600 million of oil & gas, daily, from Russia. USA lifts and pays for 8% of its energy needs from Russia.
The ‘unfriendly countries’ are, the US, EU member states, Britain, Japan, Canada, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, and Ukraine. Some, such as the US and Norway, do not purchase Russian gas.
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky is continuing his address to the World, garnering support and requesting Governments to do what it takes to put pressure on Russia to pull back from its egregious invasion. This week, Swiss Firm Nestle, ‘under ferocious attack from Ukraine for selling in Russia’, withdrew some of its brands such as Kit-kat and Nesquik, from Russia while keeping only the essential food items in supply, on the shelf.
Every week I write about this war, I’m flabbergasted and pained by the destruction and inhuman cruelty happening in Ukraine due to one man’s crazy mind driving the proceedings. How can he get away with such a brutal act with others just watching? We have to find a way to stop this war.
Alexei Navalny, remember him? This week, the 45 years old Russian Opposition Leader was sentenced to nine more years in prison for fraud and contempt of court, in a maximum security prison. Navalny is already serving more than two years for a parole violation. Despite being lodged in jail, he has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And called on people to protest, leading to thousands of arrests.
Will Alexei Navalny’s time come? He faces a seemingly endless series of ‘prejudiced’ prison sentences based on bogus charges; and maybe, the result of the Russia-Ukraine War would liberate him!
This Monday, a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800, with 132 people on-board crashed in a wooded area of the Guangxi hills in Southern China. Flying at a safe cruising altitude of about 29,100 feet, the plane took a sudden nose-dive to 7,425 feet, recovered briefly to 8,600 feet, and was last tracked at 3,225 feet, before plunging down almost vertically. This, at about the time when it would normally start to descend ahead of landing. The plane disintegrated, starting a fire in a heavy bamboo tree filled area. There were no survivors reported. China has a healthy record of aeroplane flight safety and this crash was unexpected.
Flight MU5735 was flying from the city of Kunming, capital of the Yunnan Province to Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong, bordering Hong Kong, when the tragedy occurred.
It’s estimated that there are 4,208 Boeing 737-800 passenger planes in service, with over a quarter of them based in China.
Boeing 737-800s, which were first produced in the late 1990s, have a strong safety record. The plane involved in Monday’s crash was about six years old. Boeing has been struggling to recover from two fatal crashes involving its 737 MAX aircraft, which claimed the lives of 346 passengers and crew.
The reason for the crash is under investigation, and among the usual technical and weather issues, pilot illness or suicide is being seen as a possibility. The pilot and co-pilot had more than 39,000 hours of combined flying experience, adding to the mystery of why the plane crashed.
Still Flying on Mars
Meanwhile, with sufficient rest, NASA’s Helicopter Ingenuity is still ‘alive and kicking’ on Mars? Over the weekend, the Mars Helicopter took its 22nd flight: the trip lasted 101.4 seconds and Ingenuity got up to 10 meters in the air. The team is busy planning the next flight while Ingenuity conquers a tiny amount of Mars air-space, every time it grabs the Martian air.
Girls in Afghanistan: We Need Education
I follow BBC’s Yalda Hakim on Twitter, and she has been diligently keeping a count on the number of days teenage girls across Afghanistan have been prohibited from secondary school (grades 6 to 12) education, and kept away from classrooms, by the Taliban-ever since they took control of the country (in a manner Russia’s Putin thought he could, in Ukraine). The count stood at 186 days!
This week was expected to be a turning-point with the Taliban announcing that 23 March 2022 will be the date when teenage girls can return to their classrooms. During its previous rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban had banned girls from receiving education and this time around it did just that. On introducing the ban last year, the Taliban claimed that their restrictions on girls studying was ‘temporary’ and will be back in place once they are able to ensure all workplaces and learning environments are ‘safe’ for the girls.
However, on 23 March when girls turned up at school gates, the Taliban reneged and sent the girls back to their homes, saying that the time is still not right for them; that officials are yet to draw up a plan for schools that aligns with their interpretation of Islamic law. And that an appropriate Islamic dress has to be designed for them before opening the schools. This brought tears to the eyes of many girls and parents were visibly outraged by such a U-turn.
One million girls in the country are affected by the Taliban’s stance. And if they aren’t back in class soon, it could impact the aid that Afghanistan gets, since Western countries have made it clear that girls’ access to education is a ‘sine quo non’ for the cash to flow.
Amazing that after all the far-reaching development of humankind brought about by education and learning, some are being denied such a basic right, in the name of religion.
Killing Fields of West Bengal
Over the past month, it has been a horrific state of affairs in India’s State of West Bengal, ruled by a ‘permanently scowling and endlessly fighting-with-the-Centre’ Chief Minister (CM) of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) Party, Mamata Banerjee. Her only superpower has been that despite what happens, or does not happen in the State, she keeps winning election after election. If such people-power cannot be used to ensure the safety of people and their betterment, of what use is it?
A student activist was killed by local Police on 18 February, a Congress and TMC Councillor were shot dead on 13 March in two different incidents. And worst of all on 21 March, a TMC deputy Panchayat head of Barshal Village, Rampurhat, Birbhum Disctrict was killed. The same day, it what appeared to be a revenge attack, eight people, including women and children were burnt alive inside their homes in Bagtui Village, Rampurhat. The Television channels showed charcoal-black charred bodies being piled up and taken away, in a heart-wenching scene. Most of these incidents seem to be related in some way to the TMC, the ruling party, headed by its woman CM.
Such medieval violence has no place in a democracy and the buck stops at the CM’s table. Act or leave?
An Ace Tennis Shock
Women’s Tennis World No 1, Ashleigh Barty of Australia announced a shock retirement from tennis at the age of 25 (and Roger Federer is still hitting those balls at age 40 upwards).
Ash Barty is quitting the sport at the peak of her powers, as the reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon Champion. She has held the world No 1 position since winning the 2019 French Open Title.
Barty said, “I just know that I am absolutely spent, I just know physically I have nothing more to give. And that to me is success. I have given absolutely everything I can to this beautiful sport of tennis.”
Turns out that Ash Barty has superb talent in cricket and golf, and maybe we could see her in new avatars on these green fields. Or has somebody seduced her to change track at this station of her life?
Whatever, Ash Barty has redefined sporting success as Quality, not Quantity.
Over the previous weekend, tired of the news headlines and the macabre incidents swirling around the world, I crashed into the movie, ‘Without Saying Goodbye’ (2022), on Netflix, and promptly fell in love with the romantic, finding-your-purpose-film. It stars Maxi Igelsias and Stephaine Cayo in the lead roles.
It’s about a successful workaholic, ‘gadget-tied’, Spanish Architect, Salvador (Maxi Igelsias) who travels to rural Peru to buy tribal land -in front of a world wonder, Cuzco, navel of the world -and build a luxury hotel for his father’s Business. He is constantly working, scheduling, and getting tasks done. He stays in a little House-Hotel run by Lichi (Wendy Ramos)- who’s land he intends to buy for the project-and bumps into Ariana (Stephanie Cayo), Lichi’s free-spirited artist niece; when a broken-key takes him to her side of the House, watching her sing and dance. And he ‘lights her tail’-a piece of protruding paper in the rear of her dress -with a candle, while dancing, as a way of signalling interest. And it works; love catches fire!
Ariana helps her Aunt run the place, and also takes tourists on treks through the spectacularly beautiful region. She is vehemently against her Aunt selling the land to build a ‘huge chunk of concrete and cement’.
Salvador first falls in love with Ariana and the land, and easily glides into acquiring appreciation for a more eco-friendly way of life, sustainability, and the local culture. Ariana, who has no interest in romantic love, happy endings, or marriage, resists his kind of approach to life and work. Their values are at odds, but he begins to consider the benefits of a less hyper-scheduled life, and she opens up to the idea of sharing her life with someone who’s so willing to change his way of thinking. They discover each other over a ‘bag-pack trek’ through the luscious land, where Salvador learns the yoga of meditation. How can you stop thinking?
Salvador quits his father’s company, takes a sabbatical, and goes on a search to find Ariana, who left in a huff (without saying goodbye) disagreeing over selling the property. Ultimately, as he persists, she comes to value what they have together.
The views of Peru are breathtaking, and we get to see the 15th century Inca citadel Machu Pichhu – one of the seven wonders of the world. And of course, the beautiful chemisty between Salvador and Ariana.
I cannot leave without saying, goodbye. Fall in Love with World Inthavaaram. Discover more wonders. Goodbye, until next week!
About: the world this week, 5 September to 11 September 2021, musings on mankind, abortion, the Kingdom of eSwatini, a Bishop in Spain, Tennis and Football, and a brand new Superhero movie.
Mankind has grown beyond the wildest imagination of our cave-dwelling, hunter-gatherer, stone-tool forefathers. And we are growing our known Universe every single day: we sight a new Star, a new Galaxy, a new Black Hole; spy a fiery Meteor, stare at a beautiful shooting star; find a new Sun-spot…the list goes on. Then we send out space-ships to get as close as possible, tickle them, even land and dig on them – ingeniously fly above too, testing space.
On dear Planet Earth, we discover a new kind of frog in the thick plant and leafy forest undergrowth, or a new species of fish, or my favourite sharks, in the depths of the mighty oceans. All this is made possible by stupendous, never-before in-existence technology, invented by the ever hard-working, relentlessly exploring man. On the way, we designed and manufactured ferocious weapons that can wipe out all of us – without a trace- from the face of the Earth, within seconds. We also created computers and networking – sewing the world together – and suddenly, knowledge is strewn all over the place; you just need to pick it up and use it to make your own thing.
Then it hits you like a sledgehammer: a narrow-minded, cave-thinking force, with their beards, menacing weapons, and disrespect for the woman of mankind emerge from the darkest corners of Earth and occupy centre stage in a country. Do they realise that their mothers are women? And there is a fear of that Country returning to antediluvian times. Have we come full circle? Should we?
This week, such a force, called the Taliban, which had with unbelievable ease gained control of the country of Afghanistan, lazily announced the formation of an Interim Government. It was bulleted with the Who’s-Who on the ‘Wanted List’ of the United Nations and many Countries. Where does Afghanistan go from here?
Unconfirmed reports fire-in that the Panjshir Valley, the last region holding-out, which is not under Taliban rule in Afghanistan and which has steadfastly remained out of any occupying force during its entire history has also been defeated and taken. But there is still signs of a resistance hanging out there.
There is nothing but hope to hold on to. Meanwhile, the rest of the world may start growing a beard and cover itself up!
Eswatini: A Last Kingdom
Eswatini is a tiny, land-locked country in Africa bordered by South Africa and Mozambique with a population of about 1.2 million ‘swazis’. It is officially known as the Kingdom of Eswatini – Kingdom of eSwatini- and was formerly known as Swaziland: the name change happened in 2018. It is the last standing, absolute monarchy in Africa. The country gained its independence from Great Britain in 1968 and is celebrating 53 years of Independence. Well, actually it is not.
Over the past months people are spilling on to the streets, protesting the strangulating monarchy, the brutality of Police and Military action, and clamouring for democracy and a better life, with over 60% of the population living in abject poverty. There are certain parts of the country, which even in this year 2021, do no know what electricity is or what it means to have clean drinking water.
Eswatini is ruled by the ‘superhuman’ King Mswati III, since 1986. He lives an obnoxiously extravagant lifestyle and has over 30 children from a ‘bevy of wives’ (at least 15, on the last count). He owns expansive mansions, a flat of expensive vehicles, and a top-of-the-line personal jet. While the poor people struggle for a livelihood, the King is hoping to surpass his father, King Sobhuza II, who had accumulated 70 wives and over 200 children, in the wife development department. Age is on his side and being in the fifties he may well get past his father. The famous annual reed dance festival of Eswatini helps him find suitable women to add to his collection. And it goes on…
With his talent for adding wives and planting seed, the King should be able to find the means and resources to improve the lot of his people and multiply their incomes. And crown himself with true people’s glory. Or, maybe Kings & Queens are an old-fashion item that need to be thrown out? Over to Eswatini. They decide.
Early this month, the State of Texas, United States, brought-in a new law banning abortions once a foetal heartbeat is detected, which is as early as six weeks. Many women don’t even know that they are pregnant around this time. Further, there are no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. Means, you have to carry on with having the baby. The Texas Law is one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the US. And Texas is also doing things differently. It’s giving private citizens the power to enforce the abortion ban. i.e., people can sue abortion providers, friends, and family members who they believe violated the law or helped someone get an abortion. And they can get a prize of at least USD 10,000, if they are successful.
India is, by far, more progressive that the US, on abortion. Recall the recently amended Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act of 1971, which allows women to seek abortions as part of reproductive rights and gender justice. The upper limit of MTP is twenty-four weeks for women including rape survivors, victims of incest, differently-abled women and minors. Failure of contraception is also acknowledged, and MTP is available to ‘any woman or her partner’. The Indian law is definitely empathetic and sensitive, rightfully allowing women to be in control of what happens in their bodies.
Continuing with the pregnancy theme, this week, Mexico’s Supreme Court has ruled that criminal penalties for terminating pregnancies are unconstitutional. The decision to decriminalise abortion in Latin America’s second largest catholic nation brought hopes that throughout Mexico women with the ability to carry a child have the conditions and freedom to determine their reproductive destiny.
The US takes many steps forward and least a few steps backward every once in a while. It can take ‘baby steps’ and learn from India, and Mexico. Some hand-holding is required!
A Spanish Bishop: Falling in Love
Xavier Novell became Spain’s youngest Bishop in the year 2010, at the age of 41, in Solsona, North-Eastern Catalonia. He was a strident critic of homosexuality, advocated gay conversions, and carried out exorcisms; holding on to traditional values of abortion; and being an outspoken supporter of Catalonian Independence. Despite being a a rising star in the Spain’s Catholic Church, last month he gave it all up and secured the Vatican’s approval to resign as a Bishop, citing ‘personal reasons’ – most of us have used this ‘pregnant-with-meaning’ phrase so often in our lives, haven’t we?
Turns out that he had fallen in love with a divorcee, who is a psychologist and novelist, writing Satanic-tinged erotic fiction. In his youth Xavier Novell had fallen in love with a 18 year old girl and wanted to marry her and raise a family, before deciding on the path of God, culminating in his becoming a Bishop.
Wow, what a way to fall – in love!
Paralympic Games, Tokyo: The End
The Paralympic Games came to an end on Sunday and India finished with a fabulous haul of 19 medals – the highest in its History. More sportspersons added glory than ever before.
In total, India bagged 13 medals (Gold-5, Silver-8, Bronze -6) and was placed 24th with China, Great Britain, and the United States topping the tables on most medals won – in that order.
I hope such medal winning unleashes the sporting spirit in India and every State competes with each another, to send the best Athletes to all forms of the Olympic Games.
Tennis and Football
The US Open is nearing the stage of the final matches and I talked about Emma Raducanu in World Inthavaaram 2021-28
Two teenage women who were not too well known to anyone before this US Open will play for the singles championship on Saturday in what is probably the most improbable matchup for a Grand Slam Final since the modern era of tennis began more than fifty years ago. Emma Raducanu, 18 years old, of Britain and Leylah Fernandez, 19 years old, of Canada are the two teenage sensations who knocked off seasoned professionals in the world rankings to get to this stage. May the best ‘born in Canada’ teenager win.
In Football this week, Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick to give Argentina a 3-0 win over Bolivia in a World Cup 2022 qualifier, lifting him above all-time great Pele as South America’s top international scorer with 79 goals. It was Messi’s seventh hat-trick for Argentina.
I am already looking forward to the FIFA Football World Cup 2022 to be played in Qatar between 21 November 2022 and 18 December 2022.
There are two famous Comic Book Entertainment Companies based in the United Sates, that have, between them, invented all the Superheroes we know – to wow us. DC (Detective Comics) which first created the magic of Mandrake the Magician and then brought to Earth, Superman, flew Batman, ringed Wonder Women…among others; while Marvel Comics spinned Spider-Man (the all-time best superhero revenue earner), forged Iron Man, led Captain America, went green with The Hulk, hammered Thor, and painted Black Panther…among others.
Most of these superheroes were of Western origin and the Eastern World was ignored, kind of felt left-out – needed its own Superhero!
Now, Marvel (Marvel Cinematic Universe-MCU)after looking deeply at Asia produced its first Asian Superhero Movie called, ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ based on its titular Marvel Comics character. The Ten Rings are ten mystical weapons that grant their user immortality and great power.
The film stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, a brutally trained martial artist and assassin who leaves his father’s secret organization, known as Ten Rings, to live an ordinary life in San Francisco, United States. The Superhero lives as a Valet Driver, Shaun, parking cars and spending weeknight karaoke sessions with his co-worker and best friend Katy, from which stage the story rings out.
The goofy exchanges between Shaun and Katy are a stand-out and along with the superb action sequences and special effects, the film is already one of the freshest Marvel pictures to come along in a long time.
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, who is of Japanese descent, the movie is made up of a predominantly Asian cast of, Awkwafina (Katy), Tony Leung, and the unmissable, Michelle Yeoh.
The Film released on 3 September 2021 in the US and has become a box-office hit.
More teenage sport and superhero stories up ahead in the coming weeks. You’ll fall in love with World Inthavaaram.
About: This is illuminating news, from my perspective, on how we lived this week, in this Earth…and in other Planets as well – beyond Earth.
God Bless America
The United States of America (USA) went through the motions of impeaching its most recent ex-President, as second time, but could not muster the courage to vote him guilty of instigating the 6th January 2021 Insurrection at Capitol Hill – a huge blot on America’s democracy – visible from the Red Planet. Punishing him would have set a great example and cleared the cobwebs on an ambiguous law, which loopholes helped him survive.
A two-thirds majority vote was required to convict the not-so-great ex-President and with a 50-50 tie between the Democrats and the Republicans in the Senate, the final vote count stood at 57 (convict)- 43 (acquit), which was far from the required punishment threshold. Seven Republicans showed ‘great’ guts in agreeing with the Democrats that the ex-President was guilty.
He was acquitted by the Senate and lives to get elected another ‘great’ day.
What Next? More of ‘great’ golf, until the next Elections?
Bill Gates, now a Window to Climate Change
Microsoft Founder Bill Gates is turning out to be a damn good Astrologer, opening doors, windows, and many vistas: predicting infectious disease Epidemics and Climate Change, to mention a few. Nostradamus must be pleased, from up above.
Bill Gates has written a new book, ‘How to Avoid Climate Disaster. The Solutions We Have and The Breakthroughs We Need’. It’s a guide to tackling global warming. I haven’t read it as yet, but here are some insights I plucked out from various reviews.
He says, ‘solving climate change would be the most amazing thing humanity has ever done. By comparison, ending the pandemic is very, very easy’.
Fifty-one billion, is how many tonnes of greenhouse gases the world typically adds to the atmosphere each year. Zero, is what we need to get to.
Renewable sources like wind and solar can help decarbonise electricity, but that’s less than 30% of total emissions. We are also going to have to decarbonise the other 70% of the world economy – steel, cement, transport systems, fertiliser production, and much, much more. We simply don’t have ways of doing that at the moment for many of these sectors.
Consuming less stuff – fewer flights, local food, less electricity and gas – won’t solve the problem.
He argues political action is more important, demanding Governments across the World do the right thing, and using our voices as consumers, insisting the same of Companies.
‘If you buy an electric car, a hamburger made of a meat substitute, an electric heat pump for your home you are helping increase the production of these products and therefore helping drive prices down’.
There’s no doubt that the next best thing to destroying the human race – other than an epidemic – is the effects of climate change. It’s the Elephant in the Room that many haven’t noticed and those who did are trumpeting for immediate action. If we can find a Vaccine for a nano-virus, I’m sure we can herd Elephants out of the room, back into the lush green forests. I agree with Bill Gates, it’s hard to push an Elephant.
Sleepless in Texas – Shivering and Freezing too
Did Bill Gates predict this one?
Texas State in the USA is known for its sprawling deserts and intense heat waves, but, right now it is hiding under a thin layer of ice. Unbelievable?
Texas is in the grip of unprecedented freezing temperatures as a brutally cold, historic winter storm ravaged it, bringing snow, sleet, and freezing rain in its wake. Temperatures touched down to (- )39 Degree Centigrade in many cities.
The frigid cold, crippled giant wind turbines (an important source of electricity in the State), froze and paralysed vital equipment at gas wells, the natural gas system, and in the nuclear industry. Pipes froze and burst across the State.
The primary sources of energy in Texas – natural gas, coal, nuclear, wind and solar – have been affected by the cold and ice causing blackouts and ruinous power outages. The Power Supply Grid was overwhelmed and several parts were left without power, for basic chores.
Homes in Texas are not normally insulated for cold water, resulting in indoor temperatures quickly dropping to freezing point after heating systems failed.
Texas is the only state of the USA with an independent power grid, meaning it depends entirely on its own electricity supply means. In hindsight, it was a lurking disaster waiting to happen, and they should have had a means for connecting with the Grid of another State – at least for emergency power. How can you afford to ‘live off the Grid’ for so long a period?
India, for eg., has a National Electricity Grid – One Nation, One Grid – and power can flow from the top of the Country to the bottom and across, from the left to the right, in a seamless manner, delivering power to Consumers, anywhere in the country. India achieved this electrifying feat in the year 2014.
What caused the freeze? The US National Weather Service says that this is due to an ‘Arctic Outbreak’ that originated just above the US-Canada Border bringing winter storm and plummeting temperatures. Cold air outbreaks such as these are normally kept contained with the Arctic Zone, by a series of low-pressure systems. However, this one moved through Canada and spilled out in to the US. And it has touched down far South into Texas. Amazing reach!
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) – Starting to Trade
The WTO is the only global international organisation dealing with rules of trade between nations. Its main function is to ensue that trade flows smoothly, predictably, and freely as possible. It has 164 nations as its members.
This week, WTO finally got its trading biases right – after years of trading with males in the lead it has made the shift to females. On Monday, it appointed Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the first female and first African head of the WTO. This is a first in the 73 years of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and WTO.
Okonjo-Iweala will take up her job on 1st March 2021 and her term, which is renewable, will run up to 31st August, 2025.
One of the selectors said of her, ‘She was not chosen because she is female or because she is from Africa, but because she stood out as the candidate with the best qualifications, experience and qualities for the daunting task’. That’s well said. I just do not like making everything a male-female issue and would trade it for expertise and quality.
The Geneva-based WTO has been leaderless since Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo stepped down last August, a year ahead of schedule. The WTO appoints its leaders through a consensus-finding process, but former US President Donald Trump’s administration stood alone in blocking the consensus around Okonjo-Iweala.
Okonjo-Iweala takes over a beleaguered WTO when it is facing a slew of challenges that have hobbled it in recent years, including how to best manage the increased friction between economic superpowers the USA and China. Critics of the WTO said it has failed to intervene over some of China’s most egregious economic offenses, which in turn has let the USA name its economic adversary a currency manipulator and impose or threaten billions of dollars in tariffs on goods from China.
Okonjo-Iweala is seen as a trailblazer in her homeland. She was twice Nigeria’s finance minister and its first female foreign minister in a two-month stint. A development economist by training with degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, Okonjo-Iweala has also had a 25-year career as a development economist at the World Bank, eventually becoming its number two. She has portrayed herself as a champion against Nigeria’s rampant corruption-revealing that her own mother was even kidnapped over her attempts to tackle the scourge. Okonjo-Iweala is married to Ikemba Iweala, a neurosurgeon. They have four children, including author Uzodinma Iweala who wrote, ‘Beasts of No Nation’ (adapted as an award winning film) and ‘Speak No Evil’.
I’m sure the WTO can build strong trade bridges and Okonjo-Iweala has already warned about Vaccine Nationalism, during the current pandemic, ‘a phenomenon where rich countries are vaccinating their populations and poor countries have to wait’.
Toolkits: Vocabulary Building
There is a new word ploughing around Town and it goes by the name of Toolkit.
A Tookit is a collection of documents that contain basic information on an issue, adaptable resources, and campaigning tips, such as tweet suggestions, hashtags, who to tag on social media, how to sign online petitions, etc., so that one can spread the word easily (on a issue) and build-up a momentum of social-media opinion, which could ultimately ignite physical action in terms of sloganeering or for & against rallies – peaceful or otherwise.
Most of us in India learnt about it when overseas Celebrities and Activists began tweeting in support of the Farmer Protests protesting the Farm Reforms – laws enacted by India’s elected Government following due process of walking it through Parliament. Obviously the ‘hand of Toolkit’ was visible in their actions. This lead to inland celebrities fighting back with their own tweets against outside interference. Meanwhile, someone who edited one of these Toolkits, said to have been first prepared by anti-India Forces, was caught and the Police are using all the tools in their kit to find out what’s happening. And now you have a full-blown social media tool war and attempts to unravel a ‘plot against the nation’.
I’m glad that the younger generation is coming out with guns blazing on issues confronting the World. I’m sure they want to add perspective and get in to the thick of things. But they need to be mighty careful on who they are dealing with. Reminds me of Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. Going to see grandma with sweets and biscuits is ‘very caring’. Beware of the Wolves, lurking in the bushes – and using toolkits for directions!
By all accounts the Farm Laws are very progressive, passed through an elected Parliament, and made into law. These reforms have been in the air for more than a decade and most of the Political Parties opposing them have sometime earlier supported the reforms now actually made into Law. Any changes should be made only through Parliament. Meanwhile it is best to try them out and I’m sure any shortcomings can be corrected by elected legislators. When it is time to vote, the overseas celebrities are welcome to vote, if the can.
Space: USA’s NASA lands on the Red Planet, Mars
On 18th February 2021, National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Perseverance Rover, weighing about a ton, landed, without incident, on Mars on a spot that has never-before been attempted by NASA – the Jezero Crater.
Perseverance is NASA’s ninth landing on Mars and its fifth Rover. And it had to go through the infamous ‘seven minutes of terror’ to land on Mars. The one-way time it takes for radio signals to travel from Earth to Mars is eleven minutes which means the seven minutes it takes to land on Mars occurs without any help or intervention from the NASA Control Centre, on Earth.
The Spacecraft reached the Martian atmosphere at a speed of 12,000 miles per hour and had to slow down to 1.7 miles per hour, seven minutes later, when the Rover landed. The spacecraft’s heat shield endured a peak heating of about 1300 Degrees Centigrade.
Perseverance has been on nearly a 472 million kilometre journey to get here since leaving Earth about 203 days ago (30th July 2020). It will explore the crater and search for signs of ancient microbial life, and collect samples for future missions over an expected life of two years.
There is a helicopter called ‘Ingenuity’ attached to the belly of the Rover and over a process of ten days the Rover will drop Ingenuity and roll away from it. After Ingenuity ‘finds its bearings’, settles down to the world of Mars and charges its solar panels, it will be ready for its first flight, which is expected to last about 20 seconds. This will be the first ever helicopter flight on another Planet and I’m sure the Wright Brothers must be looking down from Heaven, fingers-crossed.
Going back in time, the first Flyby of Mars happened on 15th July 1965, by NASA’s Mariner-4 and on 14 November 1971, Mariner-9 became the first space probe to orbit another planet. The first successful landing on Mars came on 20th July 1976 when NASA’s Viking-1 touched down in a spot named Chris Plantia – The Plains of Golf.
India’s, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) succeeded in its very first attempt to orbit Mars, with the launch of Mangalyaan, on 5th November 2013. And the space probe has been in orbit since 24th September 2014. Though ISRO planned a six-month life for Mangalyaan, it has exceeded expectations completing more than five years – and is still in a ‘circle of love with Mars’.
Surely, we need lots of perseverance to move ahead in life. While Perseverance used every ounce of it to reach Mars to try unlocking mysteries on the origin of life, those living in Texas, on Earth, will need all the perseverance and the ingenuity, they can muster to stay warm and alive.
Life in Antarctica, 3000 Feet Under
Scientists have found life buried deep under about 3,000 feet of ice in Antarctica, challenging the assumption that nothing could live in such conditions. It was thought that Antarctica’s frigid temperatures made it impossible for living creatures to thrive in these extreme locations, because they are so far from sunlight and any obvious source of food.
The strange living creatures were found attached to a boulder in the Arctic seas under an ice shelf. Experts from the British Antarctic Survey drilled through 2,860 feet of ice before making the discovery.
A collection of stationary animals, sponges and potentially several previously unknown species, were among the discoveries.
One of the Researchers explained, “If they are living somewhere as tough as this, they are probably specially adapted to being there. There is a good chance they might go weeks, months and years without food — you have to be pretty hard to cope with that.”
Australian Open in the Melbourne Park, Down Under
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic became just the second man in history to reach 300 Grand Slam wins with a fluent win over Canada’s Milos Raonic in the fourth round of the Australian Open. He whipped the big-hitting Raonic, in four sets, in just under three hours. On Thursday he beat Russian Aslan Karatsev to reach the finals.
Up ahead of Djokovic, in Grand Slam wins, is Switzerland’s Roger Federer – I miss him – the only man to previously reach the 300 win mark at Grand Slams, now sitting on a pedestal of 362 wins. Rafael Nadal is third, with 285 wins. And he is out of the Australian Open.
Meanwhile, Japan’s Naomi Osaka beat America’s Serena Williams to set up a Women’s Finals clash with American Jennifer Brady – happening this Saturday.
The Men’s Finals will be on Sunday, 21st February…and Novak Djokovic has never lost an Australian Open Final. Worth a watch!
England’s Cricket Team is touring India at the moment and India got whacked by England in the first test at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai, losing by 227 runs.
India came back strongly in the second test, also in Chennai, to wallop England by one of the biggest ever wins, beating them by 317 runs, levelling the four match Test Series. India was lying under a heap of a losing streak of Test Series under ‘new Father’ Virat Kohli’s captaincy and this win has put a stop to that. Kiss the baby? Ravichandran Ashwin scored a total of 119 runs and picked up eight wickets turning into a kingpin of India’s win.
The next two Tests are slated to be held at the Sardar Patel Stadium, Ahmedabad, 24the February to 28th February and 4th March to 8th March 2021.
India requires ‘Iron Wins’ in the Sardar Patel Stadium to weld the Test Series into a strong performance and qualify for the World Test Championships.
COVID-19, the Pandemic
New Zealand’s Fight
I have read and clapped my hands with joy on New Zealand’s superb handling of the coronavirus pandemic, going for months without reports of new infections. With a population of about 5 million it recorded just over 2,300 cases of COVID-19 and 25 deaths.
The country closed its borders to people coming-in or going-out, early on in the pandemic, aiming to keep-out the virus. It maintains a tight vigil on the borders to make it a rock-solid buttress against the nano-invader. And it is succeeding.
However, this week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ordered the country’s biggest city, Auckland, to go into lockdown after the discovery of three new local COVID-19 cases. One of the cases was traced to the laundry department of an airline catering facility and with the obvious border connection, New Zealand is looking for holes to seal.
Three is definitely a small number but the country’s action is big and putting a mighty effort with the goal of stamping-out the virus. Keep it up New Zealand! Until the vaccines arrive, in many shots, we have no other option but to keep injecting ourselves with lockdowns?
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is still fishing in the troubled waters of Wuhan, China, to pin-down the source of the pandemic, but China keeps muddying the waters and is not supplying enough bait, leave alone fishing rods.
The speed of vaccination, to overturn the pandemic, is improving, but we need to jab faster. More than 199 million doses have been administered across 87 countries, i.e., roughly 6.50 million doses per day.
Israel is an outlier, with 79 doses given per 100 people. About 47% of the population has received at least one shot and 31.8% are fully vaccinated.
India has administered about 1.07 crore doses till date, at 0.76 doses per 100.
To provide a perspective, at current vaccination rates the prediction is that India will be fully covered by late 2022. And Israel, the USA, the UK, and much of Europe will be fully covered by the end of this year 2021.
India has seen a steady reduction in coronavirus infection cases across the States, but recently the States of Maharashtra and Kerala have seen a rising trend, which is a case of concern. This is not over and let’s stick to the basics of prevention dynamics until the Science and the Experts declare we are safe.
I’m a die-hard fan of Hollywood’s Tom Hanks and this weekend I’ve scheduled myself to watch ‘News of the World’, on Netflix.
I’ll be back with more news of the world…and we have that helicopter waiting to take us on flight, in Mars!
About: This is the news ‘boxed in the ring’ this week, in our World. And it’s a week loaded with looks. Look inside.
Everywhere I see lots of unrest and turmoil. Humans are perhaps becoming impatient and trying to grow in various dimensions at the same time. Is it the age of impunity? It seems to be spreading and non-accountability is going viral. Authoritarianism is the new normal. According to the latest, The Economist Survey, only 8.4% of the world’s population live in a fully functioning democracy, while more than a third live under authoritarian rule – and it is getting worse. Look at Russia’s Putin – the Underpants Poisoner, look at Myanmar – the House Arrestor, look at Afghanistan – the Home of Taliban, look at the oldest of them all, North Korea – the Lost Kingdom. Look at China, where the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has been banned this week over said to be spreading ‘fake news’, look at various African Regimes, and look at the Desert Countries. Why, look at what happened in America’s Capitol Hill, the trial of the second impeachment of the ex-President is underway. And we are looking to colonise the Moon! Somebody must be waiting for us, over there, with a lasso?
Once in a while, some fresh breezes do blow especially in deserts, maybe a fragrance. I talked about Saudi Arabia’s Activist Loujain al-Hathloul, in World Inthavaaram, 2020-45
This week she was finally freed, after spending 1,000 days in jail. Welcome back, hope to see her driving soon – she was responsible for women in Saudi Arabia being given the steering wheel, to drive a car! Something anywhere in the world women would take for granted.
Going back to Afghanistan, I liked this quote by Afghanistan Vice President Saleh, ‘We welcome the decision of the Biden administration to review US policy on Afghanistan with wide eyes and open ears.
Wow, we ought to look at this World this week, with wide eyes and open ears. And closed mouths?
Remember Boxing Champion Leon Spinks? He died last Friday, aged 67, in Las Vegas, USA. He beat the great Mohammad Ali in a stunning split-decision verdict to win the undisputed Boxing Heavyweight Title, in a 15 round fight, in 1978, at the age of 25. After the win, he famously said, “I’m not the greatest, just the latest.” Of course, later, the greatest beat the latest, again – Mohammad Ali beat Spinks in a rematch.
Spinks won the light heavyweight division gold at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. His brother, Michael Spinks, who would later become heavyweight champion himself, won the middleweight gold.
I can recall Leon Spinks with that big grin, often showing off his gap-front teeth. He had an easygoing personality, with a ‘well-developed, muscular’ drinking habit, and naturally, drank all his earnings. And for a time after retirement, cleaned locker rooms in YMCA, Nebraska.
Leon Spinks had been married thrice. He married his current wife, Brenda Glur, in 2011. He lived in Las Vegas and had three sons – one shot to death in 1990 and another son, Cory, becoming a Boxing Champion.
Spinks was part of a group of ex-fighters who had their brains studied for Brain Health. And was found to have brain damage and shrinkage, caused by a combination of taking punches to the head and heavy drinking.
’Boxing, and Drinking is a dangerous combination – inside the ring, and outside the ring!
Sighting an Outbreak: Dr. Li Wenliang
While we are surely climbing out of the coronavirus epidemic – at least in India – that locked down our lives, physically distanced, and masked us over the past one year, there’s one person we should remember and be ever thankful to: Dr. Li Wenliang, an eye doctor working at a hospital in Wuhan, Central China, where the first case of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, was detected at the end of the year 2019. Did he have a special sight, I wonder?
Right now there is a United Nations team ‘looking around’ the Wuhan area trying to find out how it all began.
Dr. Li was the first to raise the alarm on the outbreak and had tried to warn fellow medics of a disease that looked like SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which is another deadly coronavirus. But he was told by the Police to stop making false comments and was even investigated for spreading rumours. Eventually, Dr. Li himself succumbed to COVID-19 on 7th February 2019, after contracting it while treating patients in Wuhan. And this week we are at his first death Anniversary. A year gone by looking-out for the virus.
Dr. Li’s death prompted a rare wave of grief and public anger over the Chinese Government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak – downplaying the severity and concealing the extent of its spread. Later, in another rare instance, the Chinese Government, looked, listened, felt the anger, exonerated and honoured Dr. Li as a hero.
Public anger over a ‘clearly visible poor sight’ by the Government can always make corrections happen. And we should always be on the look-out of vital-signs of a disease outbreak – never take a myopic view of infectious diseases. Long sight is the answer. Lesson to learn. Looking helps!
The Glaciers Are Coming
Over many years, we’ve been hearing about the possible effects of Antarctica Glaciers melting, and raising sea levels. Without having to go that far, this week near Chamoli, in the North Indian State of Uttarakhand Himalayan Glaciers broke away from the bonding forces of nature – maybe due to mankind’s climate change needling – named itself a deluge, became a devastating avalanche of water. It bursted into the nearest valley river stream, effortlessly smashing its way through a hydro-electric Dam, flooding villages and small Towns, downstream. Dozens of people are missing and many feared dead.
The exact cause of the ‘burst’ is unclear and Scientists are trying to ascertain what triggered the Glacier to break-away. A 2019 study found that Himalayan Glaciers are melting twice as fast as the last century, losing almost half a metre of ice each year.
However small, our actions do influence something large somewhere in the world? Here we are talking about Glaciers and Avalanches.
India’s Prime Minister (PM): when he speaks you better listen.
India’s Parliament Houses, the Upper, Rajya Sabha and the Lower, Lok Sabha witnessed one of the best performances by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who made lucid and absolutely stirring speeches.
In the Rajya Sabha he defended the Government’s progressive Policies and clearly explained the Farm Laws to dissuade Farmers from continuing with their Protests of the past two months. He also shed tears for an outgoing Opposition Member, who was retiring, praising his work done over the many years of slogging in Parliament.
In the Lok Sabha, replying to the Motion of Thanks on the President’s Speech, he pitched for the private sector asserting that the culture of abusing it for votes is no longer acceptable. If the public sector is important the private sector is vital. I liked him using the word ‘Wealth Creators’, who he said are required to redistribute wealth among the poor. What can be achieved by handing over the nation to the ‘babus’ (Government Officials)?
I read this on Twitter and it pretty much sums it up, ’In our country a young man of 25 years of age gets more respect and recognition, just because he has got into IAS (Indian Administrative Service) or IPS (Indian Police Service), than a 60 years old Entrepreneur, who has created wealth of crores along with hundreds of jobs. This needs to change’. I am a nearing 60 Entrepreneur and you need to start looking-up at me. The PM just made me look majestic!
When the PM is at his convincing and talking best, there is none to equal him. No wonder the Opposition walked out to avoid being burnt and fried in the Parliament dish.
Kanaka Raju’s Gussadi Dance
The Padma Awards are one of India’s highest civilian honours, announced annually, every January, on the eve of India’s Republic Day. The Awards are given in three categories: Padma Vibhushan – for exceptional and distinguished service, Padma Bhushan – for distinguished service of higher order, and Padma Shri – for distinguished service. The intent of the awards it to recognize achievements in all fields of activities where an element of public service is involved.
The Padma Awards are conferred on the recommendations made by the Padma Awards Committee, which is constituted by the Prime Minister every year. The nomination process is open to the public. And self-nomination can also be made.
This year, a not-much heard of person, a Senior Citizen, an Adivasi from the Gond Tribe of Marlavai Village of Telangana’s Kumarambheem-Asifabad District, Kanaka Raju was awarded the Padma Shri. He won the award for his efforts to popularise the dying art, Gussadi, an ethnic tribal dance form of the Raj Gonds from the Telangana-Maharashtra border.
The Gussadi dance is performed during the harvesting season when Gonds wear a Gussadi Topi – a large header made of many peacock feathers, locally known as Mal Boora – and animal skin tied around their waists.
The 63 years old Kanaka Raju struggles to make ends meet, living in a thatched house with his eleven member family, relying on his 6 acre land for a livelihood. He teaches dance to the local children, who pay a small honorarium. To supplement his income, he works as a cook, on a daily wages basis, in a tribal welfare hostel in the village.
Kanaka Raju has said that while he is extremely happy to have won the award, he would be happier if shelter and food could be arranged for the rest of his life. For such an art form to survive, the artist has to survive. As simple as that!
With the Padma Shri Award, the Government has surely noticed Kanaka Raju, and I’m sure they are listening to his plight. I hope they dance to his tunes to keep him alive so that Gussadi dance lingers in our minds and hearts for years to come. There are many other dying arts around there India which need to fished out and stored in our tanks of knowledge.
Miss India for Miss World
We need to set our beauty sights on the Miss World Pageant to be held in December 2021 where India’s Manasa Varanasi from Telangana’s Hyderabad, will showing us all the beauty within and about her, in trying to win the Miss World Title. On 10th February, the 23 years old Financial Information Exchange Analyst was crowned Miss India 2020.
It’s been a long time since India won a Miss World Title. The last was in 2017 by Manushi Chhillar and before that, in 2000, by Priyanka Chopra, 1999-Yukta Mookhey, 1997-Diana Hayden. Aishwarya Rai won the title in 1994. This was 28 years after Reita Faria became the first-ever Indian to win an International Beauty Title, way back in 1996.
India surely misses the Miss World Title. Bring it Home, Miss Manasa.
The Nano of Reptiles
Talking of small things, Scientists believe they may have discovered the smallest reptile on Earth, a male Brookesia Nana, or nano-chameleon, in the montane rainforest region of Northern Madagascar.
The chameleon subspecies reptile is about the size of a seed with a top-to-tail length of just 22 millimetre (mm); the body alone is just 13.5mm. While the males are so awfully tiny, the females are only slightly bigger at 29mm.
You mention the word ‘Reptile’, and what springs to mind is something huge, which can make you feel nano size. Well, now it’s the other way around. The growth of mankind?
Scientists are in huge demand these days, across boundaries and of various colours. And in these times, everything appears to be at a ‘nano-level’! Hollywood Director Steven Spielberg’s next movie might well be ‘Nano-Jurassic Park – minus 1’.
Australian Open Opens – the 109th Edition
After being COVID-19 postponed many times Tennis’s first Grand Slam of the year, The Australian Open finally got started this Monday at the Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, and the balls started flying over the net, on to the net while all the time trying to stay inside marked lines.
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic is a clear favourite having won a record eight times at the Melbourne Park grounds. France’s Dominic Thiem, the reigning US Open Champion and a last year’s losing finalist at the Australian Open will be playing to open his account at this ground. Spain’s Rafael Nadal is also playing, eyeing his 21st Grand Slam. Meanwhile, ace veteran Switzerland’s Roger Federer, is recovering from knee surgery and should be watching from home, caressing his knees.
Among the Ladies, World No.1 and home favourite Ashleigh Barty hopes to serve and make a return. American Serena Williams will be wearing a one-legged, Nike made catsuit, purring for her 24th Grand Slam Title, while defending champion, also American, Sofia Kenin, and the current leading lady of Tennis, Japan’s Naomi Osaka, are the other top players hoping to ace here.
At the time of publishing World Inthavaarm 2021-07, Sofia Kenin’s bid to defend her title ended in disappointment on Thursday, after she was knocked out of the tournament by world No. 65, Kaia Kanepi, of Estonia. She lost 6-3, 6-2 in straight sets in over an hour and drowned herself in tears. Blame the pandemic?
Speeding-Up COVID-19 Vaccinations
Carrying-on from the previous weeks, more than 168 million doses have been shot across 77 countries, i.e., roughly 5.84 million doses per day.
Israel continues to ruthlessly dominate with 68 doses given per 100 people. About 41.8% of the population has received at least one shot and 26.7% are fully vaccinated. That’s amazing, look at what a small country can do?
India has administered about 7.5 million doses till date, at 0.55 doses per 100. But India has not been stingy, sending out its vaccine production to many other countries as well.
Please Yourself, e-bikes.
I saw this coming and was wondering why e-bikes weren’t happening in Tamilnadu. Finally, somebody heard me.
This Wednesday, a company called Pi Beam, an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Chennai-incubated startup launched an electric two-wheeler called PiMo, that can charge faster than a smartphone and can run 50 kilometres until the next charge.
Priced at Rs 30,000 it comes with battery swapping features and a top speed of 25 kilometres per hour (km/hr). Owning this two-wheeler doesn’t require registration or a driving licence. Pi Beam hopes to sell about 10,000 two-wheelers by end March 2021.
I wish they had given it a more dashing name.
That reminds of Ather an electric Scooter which also got its spark and wheels from IIT Chennai, and has been launched in eleven cities across India. Chennai, Bengaluru, Coimbatore, Kochi, Hyderabad, to mention a few.
The Ather is priced at over Rs 1 lakh and has a top speed to 80km/hr, and requires a driving licence.
The future indeed looks electric. I promised a lot of ‘looking’ this week. Hope you looked and noticed! More coming up.
‘Inthavaaram’ is a literal English Translation of the Tamil ‘This (Intha) Week (Vaaram)’.
In ‘World Inthavaaram’ I have collected news from all over the World, during the week – in a backstage inventory, in my corner of the World, Tamil Nadu, India – cherry-picking, and stringing together happenings that I think are interesting, and worth knowing about. I might add a ‘My Opinion’ paragraph at the end of a news item, which is entirely my own uninfluenced analysis, based on the facts and data available in the public domain. The intent is to give you – the Reader – a direction to form your own opinion.
My Opinion can change, as I learn more and grow in wisdom.
I’ll be doing this every week. Hence look out!
The week began with the infected President of the United States of America, flying down to Hospital to fight the coronavirus, lying down in bed, during which time, he got-up briefly, all of a sudden (thinking is was Easter), to take the virus for a deadly ride on the roads. And then flew back home to the White House, gasped for breath standing on the balcony and pulled-off his mask for all to see. Or was it for quicker air? He received the COVID-19 treatment that no man on Earth has ever received and declared, ‘We should not be afraid of the coronavirus’. I reckon we have no more breath to explain to this man how infectious diseases can spread, especially from a Rose Garden: the last count of fragrance was about 30 from that unmasked, close hand-shake and hugs-filled gathering on the green lawns. Is there a Centre of Disease Control mowing about in America? They need better machines.
My Opinion:The President is being reckless and irresponsible in ‘not respecting the virus’ and the Science, which specifies simple measures to keep infections under control, and from spreading. Being the commander-in-chief he should set an example in every way possible – including wearing a mask. The virus gives a damn about politics; all it needs is another body to propagate. Never mind you are the President!
The Armenia – Azerbaijan War.
Man keeps fighting for a piece of land to live and to die on.
The former Soviet Union Republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war in September this year over who fully owns Nagorno-Karabakh, and seven surrounding districts, an enclave internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but controlled by ethnic Armenians. Originally this was established, by the Soviets, as an Armenian-majority autonomous administrative region of Azerbaijan. During the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1988 and then in 1991 Nagorno-Karabakh first wanted to be a part of Armenia, and second, declared its independence, based on a referendum it held – naturally, the Armenian majority voted to break away from Azerbaijan – which is not recognised by the United Nations or any country, including Armenia. The self-declared unrecognised Republic is called Artsakh. This started a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in 1988, until Russia intervened to broker a cease-fire in 1994.
They have re-discovered their guns and ammunition this year. And yes, they are roaring. But over the weekend they have agreed to cease-fire. Hope it holds.
Sounds a wee bit like India’s Kashmir problem?
My Opinion: Going by the History and available facts: Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan, appears to have a rightful claim on Nagorno-Karabakh and it should continue as an autonomous region within Azerbaijan. Of course, I need more facts and to separately put myself in the shoes of Armenia and Azerbaijan to make a judgement. Whatever, looking from the Nagorno-Karabakh side, It should not matter, after all these years, on which side you belong, as long as you hold all sides and freedom within is unchallenged. Religion should not be a basis of division and Country boundary making – we differentiate to integrate, don’t we?
Rape is hugging the headlines, stripping the newspapers of other stories, with the ghastly, inhuman Hathras case in the State of Uttar Pradesh. Why does this keep happening in India? We need to look deep inside our homes, in the way we bring-up our sons and how we understand the many divisions in society. These layers were formed centuries ago, which are not relevant today. Maybe, we should ‘dissolve them with our actions’.
Meanwhile, the local Kallakurichi lawmaker, Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in Tamilnadu marries for love, but the girl’s father – a temple priest – cries foul saying the friends of the family cannot take such benefits. The MLA had asked for the girl’s hand, in the proper manner, which was, however, turned-down by the father for reasons known only to God. Whatever, the girl stood by the love of her life, accepted the knot-tying to bridge the gap of over 15 years between them. The families had known each other for quite some time; perhaps only too well. Well? The Press went to Town on the ‘divisions and ladders in society’, but I won’t beat down that path. Later, when the couple were dragged to Court, it ruled that it was alright, well within the laws. Go ahead and make your day, it said. Days to forget, nights to remember?
India successfully tested a Supersonic Missile Assisted Release of Torpedo (SMART) system, that could strike enemy submarines more than 643 km away. The weapon, a first of its kind in India, was launched from Wheeler Island, off the coast of Odisha State . The Government declared that all mission objectives have been met perfectly. Ready to strike.
With China trying to nibble at its borders, India has to climb-up to the challenge of its adversary. Eye of the Tiger!
The Indian Premier League Cricket Season – Twenty Overs matches – organised by the Board of Cricket Control for India (BCCI) is being held in an off-India venue, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), played on the sands of time. Due to the pandemic restrictions, all matches will be played without an audience, players will not be allowed to used saliva to shine the ball, and Captains cannot shake hands after the toss…among other wonderful rules.
The third Tennis Grand Slam of the year, The French Open, is rolling on the Roland Garros, Paris, about this time, and is drawing to a close. In a first ever, we have a Polish teenage sensation Iga Swiatek win the Title. It was deadly straightforward when she beat American Sofia Kenin in two sets. The 19-year-old claimed the French Open title without dropping a single set all through the tournament, becoming the lowest-ranked female Champion and the first Polish player to win a Grand Slam Singles Title. She is also the youngest French Open Winner since 1992. Time to celebrate, Poland.
Now, the men are at work: Spain’s Rafael Nadal has owned Roland Garros for nearly all of his career. And Serbian Novak Djokovic is trying to buy the lease this year. We are looking forward to this Sunday to see the Winner, of this land dispute.
Moving to bigger balls, it was enchanting to read about a young girl, Karishma Ali, living in a remote Village in Pakistan’s Chitral Valley, a mountainous region bordering Afganishthan, becoming the first woman, from her region, to have played football at a national and international level. This, in a Country where a girl can get shot for going to School. Last year Karishma was named among Forbes’ ’30 Under 30’ in Asia in the august company of Tennis Star Naomi Osaka and K-Pop band Blackpink. She has braved the mandatory threats to her life – for daring to play football – with her father strongly behind her, all the way. What a Dad!
The Nobel Prizes are announced in the categories that Swedish Industrialist and Chemist Alfred Nobel had willed in 1895 – a year before his death.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna for the development of a method for genome editing. They discovered one of gene technology’s sharpest tools: the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors. Using these, researchers can change the DNA of animals, plants and micro-organisms with extremely high precision. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, said this year’s prize was about ‘rewriting the code of life.’ Talk about playing God. Well, we’re getting there. Imagine going to a Science Saloon for a genetic cut.
The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Scientists, Sir Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for their work to understand Black Holes. Roger Penrose got the the award ‘for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of Relativity’, while Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez got it ‘for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy’. The winners share the prize money of 10 million kronor, about Rs 8.30 crore.
Black holes are just that – a region of space where the gravitational pull is so strong that not even light cannot escape. We can rightfully call them Monsters and they live at the centre of galaxies sitting quietly trying to swallow as much as they can, or at least to tug at the various stars. They are one of the most exotic objects in the Universe. Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez provided the most convincing evidence yet of a supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy – the Milky Way. They called in Sagittarius ‘A’.
The Nobel in Medicine was awarded jointly to Harvey J Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M Rice, ‘for the discovery of the Hepatitis C virus’. Did you know that Hepatitis C causes approximately 400,000 deaths a year? Now, you do. This is a decisive contribution to fight blood-borne hepatitis that causes cirrhosis and liver cancer in people around the world. Prior to their work the discovery of Hepatitis A and B viruses had been firm first steps, but the majority of blood-borne hepatitis cases remained unexplained. This discovery enabled the design of sensitive blood tests and new medicines that have helped save millions of lives.
The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to American Louise Gluck for her unmissable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal. Her debut novel was in 1968, and the most recent one was ‘American Originality: Essays on Poetry in 2017. She wasn’t the Firstborn, nor living in The House on Marshland but this October she triumphed over The Triumph of Achilles to win the Nobel.
The Nobel Peace Prize went peacefully to the World Food Programme (WFP) for its efforts to combat hunger, preventing the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict and for bettering conditions for peace in conflict -affected areas. In 2019, the WFP provided assistance to close to 100 million people in 88 Countries who were victims of acute food insecurity and hunger. ‘The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’, is a much ‘tasted’ old saying. Still works!
I got this information off Uber Facts: A single bat can eat up to 1,200 mosquito-sized insects in an hour. Bats eat an average of 6,000 to 8,000 insects every night. Despite the connection with the ‘best 2020 newsmaker, the coronavirus and its effect, the COVID-19, I think we should be best friends with Bats – only, mind the gap!
Hummingbirds, those tiny birds found mostly in the Americas and Europe – there are over 360 species of them – are the only birds that can fly backwards. Quiz your little kids on these facts.