World Inthavaaram, 2020–43
About: This is what happened this week, in our World.
One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognise a problem before it becomes an emergency — Arnold Glasow ( A successful American Businessman)
New Zealand finished voting, last Saturday, in the triennial General Elections and Labour Party’s Jacinda Arden sprinted-off, from we left her last week, to a landslide win. A majority that is real, the first time since the new Election System kicked-in, with the highest percentage of Party votes (about 49%) in over 50 years. Jacinda Arden gets back to keeping her job as Prime Minister. She would like this ‘second wave’. Ask her daughter, Neve, I bet she must have demanded a sibling to play with — as gift — and to celebrate a ‘second term’. Well, maybe some Prime Ministers have a knack of ‘making’ the best use of everything.
On winning she said, ‘We are living in an increasingly polarised world, a place where more and more people have lost the ability to see another’s point of view’. That’s so awfully true.
The Government also sneaked in two referendums, first, on personal use of cannabis, and a second, on euthanasia, for New Zealanders to vote on. All final results will be declared on 6th November, though we might get a direction by the end of this month. And perhaps a new compass for the rest of the world to navigate these infectious issues.
They were an owner’s pride and the envy of Europe, being one of the most successful countries in controlling the spread of the coronavirus. They smartly capitalised on a business opportunity in manufacturing masks and supplying the world — in a wartime effort. And also wore them diligently — everyone, everywhere outside their homes, and anywhere else required.
The Czech Republic’s first wave of infection peaked in late March at 408 cases in one day. The highest single-day death toll was just 18, in April. On 30th June, the Czech Republic recorded no new Covid-19 deaths. Then they started celebrating, maybe a tad too soon.
“We didn’t see dead people, we didn’t see people with coronavirus in hospitals”. The Czech people thought that the pandemic was nonsense and they don’t need to wear masks. This is about the same thing my maid told me more than four months ago — ‘I don’t see any dead bodies on TV, in India’, she argued. Now, there are currently more new Covid-19 cases per million people recorded in the Czech Republic than in any other major country in the world.
No Time To Celebrate — the virus still has the license to infect.
My Opinion: We cannot afford to let our guard down. And it’s so obvious that following the basic ‘spread-prevention rules’ can work wonders. The Czech Republic has demonstrated that a simple measure as wearing a mask can successfully keep the virus away… and that by removing them we dashingly welcome the virus inside — lurking behind the door . Can we learn a better lesson in such a bitter time? Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told us about the same, in a Televised address to the nation, even while I was grabbing a brass plate and stick to bang-on. Beware the Festival Season — he warned. Thumbs Up!
If reports are to be believed, UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson is mulling quitting as Prime Minister as the salary of GBP 150,402 isn’t enough for him to live on, compared to the GBP 275,000 he was earning as columnist with The Telegraph.
I would agree with him given that he has a truck-load of children (six at the last count) many who are too young to live without support. Plus, he has to pay his ex-wife a ton of money, as part of their divorce deal.
It isn’t safe to marry, it isn’t safe to divorce, it isn’t safe to have lots of children ? Ask Boris.
This is another kind of SARS… no relation of the nano one circulating around, which we have been desperately trying to wash our hands off, over the past nine months.
Nigeria is having a dead serious problem with its infamous Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Police Force. SARS has been riddled with allegations of unlawful arrests, extrajudicial killings, theft, extortion, abuse, and brutal use of force.
Sounds familiar? Our minds race to count the ‘Encounter Killings’ in India. And what rings is, the familiar Police version that the arrested criminal(s) was shot dead, trying to escape custody.
Having had enough of SARS, Nigerians hit the streets to protest, demanding the end of the rule of SARS. Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, agreed to disband SARS but has been silent thereafter. Instead a new force called SWAT has been formed whose officers are to be trained, by the International Committee of the Red Cross, on policing duties. However, protesters are not convinced and fear this is just a change of gears, and that SARS officers will dissolve into the new unit without facing any accountability for their previous crimes.
Meanwhile, the protests are swelling. We are witnessing a wave of protests that is the biggest display of people power, in years, in Nigeria, as young people demand more sweeping changes. The Nigerian Army was called in to help the Police control the situation and at least 12 peaceful protesters have been killed in the process.
SARS has definitely ‘trigged’ a movement in Nigeria. World over, the Police Force is under immense duress with almost the same accusations of ‘excessive use of force’ in Country after Country. Maybe the United Nations would have to set-up a mix & match Peace Keeping Force in every country — to watch over the Police? Or better still, if all of us take it upon ourselves to keep the Rules of the Land, and do better that what they specify, we won’t need policing at all.
India begins cultivation of Asafoetida, a smelly spice, for the first time, in Kwaring Village, Lahaul Valley, Himachal Pradesh, this October. This is a growing effort of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Institute of Himalayan Bio-resource Technology. India imports about 1,200 tonnes of raw Asafoetida from Afghanistan, Iran, and Uzbekistan — native to these regions — at an annual cost of about Rs 700 crore. However, you may find them ‘struggling to be smelt’ in some parts of Kashmir and Punjab. It is unbelievable that India never grew this ‘inherently Indian’ spice before.
Asafoetida is a staple ingredient in Indian cooking, known as Perunkayam in Tamil, and Hing in Hindi (I’m for learning at least three languages, in India). It is the dried sap extracted from the stems and root of Ferula Asafoetida plants, which hardens into a brownish-yellow sap. The Ferula is a perennial flowering plant that mainly grows in the wild, and thrives in dry soil in temperatures below 35C. India’s tropical plateaus and plains, humid coast, and heavy monsoons makes it almost impossible to grow the Ferula. But, now India is find a way to make the Spice ‘grow in India’.
Europeans call Asafoetida the ‘Devil’s Dung’, because of its strong aroma. If the Devil is around surely God must be nearby: others, around the world, call it ‘God’s Food’. The choice is yours!
Now we can smell, for sure, that the Government has put its nose into import substitution. Challenge that?
Navaratri is one of Hinduism’s most celebrated festivals, essentially signifying victory of good over evil. Let me refresh the legend, for a better understanding of what it means to celebrate. Stories are good for the soul. “To survive, you must tell stories,” said someone. Survive we must.
The force of Hinduism is represented in the Hindu Trinity Gods of Brahma — the Creator; Vishnu — the Preserver; and Shiva — the Destroyer. Simply put, whatever is created by Lord Brahma (inherently good, with best intentions) is attempted to be preserved (a case of good turning bad) by Lord Vishnu, failing which Lord Shiva steps-in to destroy and level the field. It then goes back to Brahma’s drawing board to start the process of a new creation, and the cycle repeats. The three Gods take different avatars to go about their business in ensuring the checks & balances, and peace & tranquility in the World. Between the main Trinity, up there somewhere, and the mortals on Earth there are layers — Heaven and Hell — filled with many other Gods with different tasks: Sun God, Wind God, Sea God, etc. There is also a boss of the Gods, Indra — King of the Gods.
Mortals living on Earth use different tricks to please the Gods to achieve their goals, which is often to obtain maximum, far-reaching superhuman powers. Most bypass the layers of Gods and try to directly draw the attention of the Holy Trinity by means of severe penance, great faith and undying worship, as a result of which the mortal is given a boon — mostly with strings attached (to ensure some means of a control). The most common ‘boon request’ is of one being closest to immortality — cannot be killed by an earthling, or cannot be defeated. It is hoped, by the God, that the receiver of the boon uses it wisely to make the world a better place. But then it doesn’t work this way, as a bad Demon, a priestly Sage or a well-meaning King have equal opportunities to obtain a boon. How they go about using this acquired power it is another story.
Now a demon called Mahishasura obtained a boon of immortality from Lord Brahma. The rider in this case, as defined by Brahma, was, ‘Immortality-yes, subject to the condition that you can be defeated only by a woman’. Clever (in hindsight)?
Armed with the power of immortality Mahishasura, goes berserk and attacks the three worlds of Earth, Heaven and Hell, unsettling and stirring just about everyone. With the Gods trounced in Heaven and wrested from their abode, they scurry to seek the help of the Holy Trinity to defeat Mahishasura. The Trinity agree and combine their powers to create Goddess Durga — a woman — to exterminate this growing evil power. It is believed that Durga is a reincarnation of Goddess Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva.
Durga descends on Earth and engages in battle with Mahishasura, who keeps changing his form hoping to confuse and out-wit Durga. After fifteen long relentless days of fierce battle Mahishasura is finally killed by Durga’s trishul piercing his chest, while fighting in the form of a buffalo. Evil is vanquished and the World gets back on its feet. Celebrate that!
The nine nights of Navaratri are solely dedicated to Goddess Durga and her nine Avatars — the Navadurga, with distinctive colours for each day. Navaratri culminates on the tenth day with the festival of Vijayadashmi or Dussera.
There are other stories ascribed to this Festival season, such as those from the Ramayana, Mahabharata; and about Saraswathi, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, learning, music and arts. She is worshipped, along with instruments of one’s trade during this time.
Whatever, the stories give us a reason to celebrate, and Festivals are a time to set aside our differences, keep away the shining screens, look each other in the eye and talk only about love and the good things.
The IPL 2020 Cricket Tournament running-between-the wickets at this time in the UAE will be finishing its 43rd Game — what a coincidence with week no 43 — this Saturday.
Mumbai Indians lead the points table quickly followed by Delhi Capitals and then by Royal Challengers Bangalore. Last week’s tail, Kings XI Punjab, have wagged and the bite is on Three-Time Champions, Chennai Super Kings, hugging the bottom, and refusing to leave the spot.
KL Rahul of Kings XI has the most runs to his name, 540 in ten games, Shekar Dhiwan of Delhi Capitals is the closest with 465 runs.
The Nobel Prizes — Never Say Never Again.
I’m not done with talking about the Nobel Prizes, not yet. Latching onto a tweet by Dr Atul Gawande, I read Jina Moore’s article, ‘Just Give Poor People Money’ published in the Boston Globe this October. She argues that the Nobel-winning World Food Program (WFP) is one of many agencies increasingly handing out cash rather than goods. But the international aid system still isn’t putting this powerful idea to its full potential. In 2019, the WFP handed out more than USD 1.2 billion in cash and more than USD 860 million in vouchers to nearly 30 million people in 64 countries. “Households that got cash instead of standard aid packages saved 60% more, consumed 32% more, & expanded productive assets like livestock by 76% more; Recipients’ diets improved and so did their kid’s height, weight, and survival”
The Indian Government is listening hard and putting this to use in the form of direct cash transfers to people’s Accounts. It’s only a trickle, in these times — but do keep checking, hoping for a swell. Remember, someone promised fifteen lakh in each Indian citizen’s Bank Account? If done, this very noble act could fetch the Government of India a Nobel in the future! Let’s vote!
Frogs and Rains
Facing a severe drought in 2019, priests in Bhopal, India, married two frogs to please the Rain God into opening the skies. Two months later, they had to divorce the frogs to provide relief from the relentless rain that destroyed more than 9,000 houses.
Did someone try this in Hyderabad? File a Right To Information (RTI) Petition to the Rain God…and wait for an answer. Meanwhile, it’s still raining cats and dogs in Hyderabad.
Lots happening up there: as busy as a beehive, searching for the Queen.
This week, on 20th October, NASA’s OSIRIS-REX space mission craft, touched down — meaning within one metre- on the surface of Asteroid Bennu, cooly extended its robotic arm, quickly grabbed a sample of the surface material and scooted back — called a ‘back-away burn’. The site ‘lending’ the sample form where it was collected is called ‘Nightingale’. The sampling head of the robotic arm, touched Bennu’s surface for approximately 6 seconds.
Flashback, and the Future: The OSIRIS-REX mission was launched from America’s Cape Canaveral on 8 September 2016 to explore and collect a sample of rock & dust from Asteroid Bennu, which is over 321 million km away from Earth. Bennu has a mean diameter of about 490m and is as tall as America’s Empire State Building. The Spacecraft reached the Asteroid target in the year 2018, and after quietly spying on Bennu for two years, successfully performed this grab stunt. The Spacecraft will return to Earth on 24 September 2023 and release the asteroid sample in a capsule that will land in America’s Utah Desert. Here’s cheers to a successful mission!
Meanwhile, NASA Astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner have safely landed in Kazakhstan this week, spending about 196 days in space, aboard the International Space Station. The spacemen flew out using a Soyuz Spacecraft and touched down with parachute-assistance. Welcome back Home.
In the middle of the week, I stopped on the Highway of Work and took a break to watch Kevin Costner’s 2019 movie, The Highwaymen an American period (1934) crime drama film, on Netflix. I was enthralled by the beauty of film making. Kevin Costner as Frank Hamer, and Woody Harrelson as Maney Gault, played to their age, as two former retired & idolised Texas Rangers, called back to track down two notorious, vicious, murdering, psychopath criminals, Annie and Clyde.
The movie Director does not show us the faces of the villains — who the people try to bring on par with Robin Hood — until the end, when they are gunned down in a hail of bullets. The picture frames do most of the talking, with smart one-liners filling the gaps. Kevin Costner is one of my favourites, in a long playlist of Hollywood Heroes, and he ‘lived’ up to my expectations. Worth a watch.
Happy Navaratri, have a wonderful week ahead. More stories coming up, more reasons to do good, and to love one another — I’m sure.