WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2021–51
About: the world this week, 12 December to 18 December 2021, tearing tornadoes, F-1 racing, a new Miss Universe cat-walks, an ancient Temple shines, a hero flies away, and an animal shows off its thousand legs.
Amercia’s Tearing Tornadoes
We have, during the course of our life, torn paper, clothes, or many other things on numerous occasions, and rightfully or wrongfully worn deliberately torn jeans as well. Now Nature is doing about the same, with 30 tornadoes tearing through and ripping apart six states: Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, and Tennessee, of the United States (US). This happened last Friday and Saturday. The pictures of the devastation-before and after-showed shreds and tatters like pieces of clothing, the mangled remains of houses, cars, railway carriages, and residential communities. More than 70 people have died in the mayhem caused by the tornadoes.
“It’s changed the landscape, here in Mayfield (one of the affected areas),” said an Official. “We’re seeing destruction that none of us have ever seen before”.
A tornado is a violently rotating column of air, in contact with the ground, and often (but not always) visible as a funnel cloud. They can have wind speeds between 180 and 480 km per hour. Tornadoes occur most frequently in North America, particularly in central and southeastern regions of the US colloquially known as ‘tornado alley’; the US and Canada have by far the most tornadoes of any countries in the world.
Formula -1 Motor Racing: New Formulas
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is a Formula One (F-1) motor racing event that takes place every year on the Yas Marina Circuit located on the Yas Island of United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Grand Prix launch was first announced in early 2007 at the Abu Dhabi F-1 Festival in the UAE and the first race took place on 1 November 2009.
This year’s Abu Dhabi F-1 Championship has a new winner. Belgian-Dutch Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing-Honda won the Drivers’ Championship for the first time in his career. Four-time defending and seven-time champion British, Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes finished runner-up. Mercedes won the Constructors’ Championship for the eighth consecutive season. But there was a controversy on the conduct of the race and decisions made by the Race Director.
Let’s take a ‘pit stop’, and get familiar with a few F-1 terms, before we drive on.
Pole Position: is the most favourable place for a car to start the race, situated on the inside of the front row. It’s a place that has to be earned, going to the driver with the best qualifying time.
Pit Stop: This is a permitted stop during the race to change tyres. Current F-1 regulations dictate that a F-1 Driver has to make at least one pit stop, of the about 3 allowed stops. This is because at least two different tyre compounds have to be used during a race. The harder tyre, referred to as the ‘prime’ tyre is more durable but gives less grip, and the softer tyre referred to as the ‘option’ tyre gives more grip but is less durable. And the racing team has to be smart to use pit stops to the advantage of the Driver in the hot seat and the race track.
Safety Car (SC): In F-1, if an accident or lousy weather prevents normal racing — a caution period — from continuing safely, the Race Director will call for a ‘safety car’ period, which would see marshals wave yellow flags and hold ‘SC’ boards. The SC limits the speed of competing cars on a racetrack during the period and enables the clearance of any obstruction under safe conditions, especially for marshals. The SC which generally consists of an aptly modified high-performance production car that enters the track ahead of the leader. Depending on the regulations in effect, competitors are not normally allowed to pass the safety car or other competitors during a caution period, and the safety car leads the field at a pre-determined safe speed, which may vary by series and circuit. At the end of the caution period, the safety car leaves the track and the competitors resume normal racing.
Now, over to the controversy.
Verstappen took the pole position in Abu Dhabi, ahead of Hamilton, ‘earning it’ on performances over the week. During the race, Hamilton had a better start and took the lead into the first turn. At turn six, Verstappen attempted to pass, forcing Hamilton to evade by going off the track. Emerging from the corner still in the lead, Hamilton was instructed to give up the advantage he had gained. The pair settled in their positions until the first round of pit stops, with Hamilton gradually extending his lead. Later, a virtual safety car period allowed Verstappen to change tyres without losing track position; however, despite the tyre advantage Verstappen was unable to challenge Hamilton. With seven laps remaining, the safety car was brought out again for a crash involving another car. Red Bull used the opportunity to give Verstappen a fresh set of soft tyres, while Hamilton, still on his now-quite-old hard compound tyres, was not pitted. The Race Director took the decision to allow the five lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to un-lap themselves before restarting the race with only one lap remaining. Upon the restart, Verstappen quickly passed Hamilton and held him off for the remainder of the lap to win the race and the championship. Mercedes immediately lodged two separate protests against the race’s result. Both protests were rejected, and Mercedes said it intended to appeal the decision, but later announced that it has decided against it, ‘in the spirit of the game’. The winner takes it all!
Motor Racing happens in the circuit and off the circuit as well. And all the while, the mind races tirelessly in many lanes.
Meanwhile, soon after the race, maybe to enliven his racing spirits, Lewis Hamilton was knighted this week, with Britain’s Prince Charles doing the honours. Henceforth, it will be, Sir Lewis Hamilton.
India’s Meow Comes After 21 Years
India’s ‘cat works’- including the original sound — and the usual cat-walking, won the day at the 70th Miss Universe Beauty Pageant, which culminated this week at The Universe Dome, Eilat, Israel.
Miss India-Universe, Harnaaz Sandhu, 21, was crowned Miss Universe 2021 in a stunning display of presence of mind, beautiful costumes, and among other things, meowing like a cat. The first runner-up was, Miss Paraguay Nadia Ferreira, and the second runner-up, Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane. Andrea Meza, Miss Universe 2020, crowned the new Miss Universe 2021.
That’s an amazing sequence: a 21 year old winning a Beauty Title for her country, after 21 years, in the year 2021. Wish Mathematician Ramanujan (and Hardy) was around to find any fascinating meaning to this number combination.
The last time India won the competition was in the year 2000 when Lara Dutta wore the Miss Universe tiara; and the same year that Priyanka Chopra won the Miss World Title. Sushmitha Sen was the only other Indian-the first ever -to win a Miss Universe Title in 1994; and the year that Aishwarya Rai won the Miss World Title. Those were the days when India won beauty titles on the double. This means Harnaaz Sandhu was just born when the Miss Universe crown was finding head space on Lara Dutta.
Harnaaz was born in Chandigarh in a Punjabi family and schooled at the Shivalik Public School. She started modelling at a young age, gradually walking her way to beauty pageants and won her first Beauty Contest in 2017 as Miss Chandigarh. This was followed by the LIVA Miss Diva Universe 2021 Title. While she was growing in beauty, she has also acted in two Punjabi movies.
After School, Harnaaz Sandhu studied Information Technology to earn a Bachelor’s Degree, and is now pursing her masters in Public Administration. She draws inspiration from her mother, who broke generations of patriarchy to become a successful gynaecologist.
She has a talent for mimicry and can mimic almost anyone, including animals and when during the contest, host Steve Harvey challenged her, she actually meowed like a cat. I could hear my neighbour’s cat (I don’t have one) meow in delight, acknowledging an original.
Harnaaz showed a great sense of style in her choice of outfits. In the finals she wore a silver gown- a sign of victory- inspired by Phulkari motifs, a geometric design unique to Punjab, designed by fashion designer Saisha Shinde. Embellished with sequins, stones, and embroidery, the gown featured a deep V-neck and a thigh-high slit in the centre, which complimented Harnaaz’s hour-glass figure. The winning sparkle was there for all to see through!
Her superb answer to the question of what advice she would give young women on coping with pressures of every day life was, ’to believe in themselves, to understand that they are unique and that is what makes them attractive. Stop comparing yourself with others and instead focus on significant issues affecting the globe’.
This beauty surely has the strength of inner beauty, and the brains. Cats Beware.
Kasi Vishwanath Shines
Varanasi, located on the banks of the River Ganges, in India’s Uttar Pradesh State, is regarded among the holiest of Hindu cities.
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple, in Varanasi’s Vishwanath Gali, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is one of the most famous and important places of worship in the Hindu religion. Varanasi was called Kashi (shining) in ancient times, and hence the temple is called Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
Inside the Temple is the Jyotirlinga, or Jyotirlingam — a devotional representation of the Hindu God Shiva Vishveshvara or Vishwanath- which has a very special and unique significance in the spiritual history of India. It is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas- the holiest of Shiva Temples in India. The main deity is known by the names Shri Vishwanath and Vishweshwara, literally meaning Lord of the Universe. The Temple is referred to as a central part of worship in the Shaiva philosophy (worship of Lord Shiva) in ancient Hindu scriptures.
The Kasi Vishwanath Temple had been demolished by many Muslim rulers during the numerous invasions of India: the last was by Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal Emperor who constructed the Gyanvapi Mosque on its site. The current structure was built on an adjacent site by the Maratha ruler, Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in the year 1780.
Many Indian saints such as, Adi Sankaracharya, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekananda, Bamakhyapa, Goswami Tulsidas, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Sathya Sai Baba, Yogiji Maharaj, Pramukh Swami Maharaj, Mahant Swami Maharaj, and Gurunanak have been in the Temple, in the past.
A visit to the temple and a bath in the holy River Ganges is one of many methods believed to lead one on a path to ‘moksha’ (liberation from the cycle of life). Thus, Hindus from all over the world try to visit Kasi once in their lifetime. There is also a tradition that one should give up at least one desire, after a pilgrimage to the temple, which would also include a visit to a Temple in Rameswaram (another one of the 12 Jyotirlingas) in Tamil Nadu, South India. People take water samples of the Ganges to pray at the temple and in return, bring back sand from near that temple.
Over the years, the Kasi Vishwanath Temple had literally lost its shine and the locality became wildly crowded and deeply congested with houses and shops making the best of any available area, in and around the Temple.
Then came India’s Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi, who represents Varanasi, having been elected twice to Parliament from the Varanasi ‘Member of Parliament’ Constituency. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple Corridor project was conceived in 2019 to connect the iconic temple and the ghats along the River Ganga. And to ensure an easy flowing movement of pilgrims and devotees between the ghats and the temple: earlier, they had to pass through stifling, congested streets. Over 300 properties have been acquired to implement the project with about 1,400 shopkeepers, tenants and homeowners rehabilitated. More than 40 ancient temples were rediscovered during the works, which were restored without any change in the original structure.
The temple area which was only three thousand square feet before the renovation has now grown to about 5 lakh square feet.
The testimony of the success of the project is the fact that there is no litigation pending in any court of the country regarding acquisitions or rehabilitation related to the development of the project.
This week, on 13 December, PM Modi inaugurated the completed works of the first phase and visuals of the ancient Temple were magnificent. “It is a symbol of our spiritual soul, it is a symbol of India’s antiquity and traditions, said the PM.
I’m almost 60, and maybe I should make that trip to Kasi?
Another Hero Flies Away
In last week’s deadly helicopter copter crash, which martyred India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, the lone survivor was Group Captain Varun Singh. And after a final struggle in Hospital he succumbed to wounds sustained in the crash. This wipes out the entire passenger list on that fateful day. Now it’s time the Government gets to the bottom of what caused the crash.
The Land of a Thousand Legs
When it comes to strange animals, there is no country in the world more fascinating than Australia, and throwing-up unique hidden ones ever so often.
Now Scientists in Australia have discovered a millipede with more legs than any known animal. The pale-coloured millipede has more than 1300 legs in an elongated body of about 95 millimetres length. It was found almost 60 metres underground in a mining region in Western Australia and has been named Eumillipes Persephone. In Greek mythology, Persephone is the Queen of the underworld — that’s a well deserved name! The previous record holder was a California millipede with 750 legs.
Millipedes first appeared more than 400 million years ago and there are about 13,000 known species. Most millipedes are blind, colourless and are presumed to live on fungi. They are believed to be the first animals to conquer land. Wow, that’s an awful lot of leg.
More shining stories coming up in the weeks ahead, meow and discover more legs with World Inthavaaram.