WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2022–14
About: the world this week, India all the way-beginning to the end, a massacre in Ukraine, the Genetic Code, the virus-again, and the Grammy Awards.
It suddenly dawns upon you that India is living in a mighty dangerous neighbourhood — in an ocean infested with sharks of every kind, as if it were, but with ‘one pod of happy dolphins’ in one small corner. And thanks to the great Himalayas in the north and the oceans in the south, India has some height and depth of protection, at least in some dimensions.
Pakistan split decades ago into the present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh, and they predominantly occupy the west and the east of India. While Pakistan tries its best to constantly be at war with India, Bangladesh is only slightly better -almost a friend- but both countries have shaky Governments of various degrees and leaders who rarely last an elected term.
Look at the present political turmoil spinning in Pakistan: the Deputy Speaker threw out a non-confidence motion, brought up by the opposition parties, as illegal, and the Prime Minister rushed to advise the President to dissolve the National Assembly and quickly announce fresh elections. It almost worked, but Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled the Deputy Speaker’s action as a no-ball -unconstitutional-and restored the status quo. And now the sitting Prime Minister, Imran Khan, will have to face a no-confidence motion; may be sent back to the pavilion and replaced with a new one, until the next twist, at the next bend. I was awfully surprised that rules are being applied in Pakistan. And the Courts are beginning to see and read them well. Hail the Constitution!
In the Himalayan north, years ago, Nepal took a painful, tumultuous, tortuous path to its present Federal Democratic Republic status. This was after the massacre in the Royal family which killed King Birendra and the Crown Prince leading to his ‘unfit’ brother Gyanendra inheriting the throne in the 2000’s. During the 1990s dozens of short-lived governments walked in and out. And Nepal is infamous for perennial instability primarily- a signature tune- because of personal disputes among its leaders rather than policy disputes. ‘Nepali Politics is disgusting’ said a Nepali.
Nearby Bhutan looks steady, having changed from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck transferred most of his administrative powers to a Council of Ministers and allowed impeachment of the King himself by a two-thirds majority vote in parliament. In recent times, Bhutan has been continually ranked as the happiest country in all of Asia.
Myanmar is under bloody military rule, for over a year now, with the Junta having over-thrown a democratically elected government. It generated and fuelled the Rohingya crisis and seems to have forgotten how to hand back power to the people. It keeps piling up cases on its famous Nobel Peace Prize winning prisoner-who failed to make best of an opportunity, when it mattered.
Nearby Sri Lanka is falling apart economically. Years ago it was devastated by a fight for freedom by the minority Tamil population, with a ‘militant beast division’ hijacking the cause and having to be militarily eliminated. This time it’s bad governance and ‘militant’ mismanagement of the economy.
Maldives, in the Indian Ocean, appears to be riding a good wave ever since the current President, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih was sworn into Office in November 2018, for a five-year term, on the strength of a massive election victory. And it looks like he is upto the task of holding and keeping the Government afloat.
For many years Maldives surfed in political turmoil with everybody trying to overthrow everybody else, including mercenaries from far away lands. And even the water is trying to overthrow the Government.India was called to help flush out the dirt many a time-talk about draining the sump! A paradise lost: a paradise regained?
In contrast to all its neighbours India is standing tall, splendidly, with a thriving noisy democracy, despite parochial State Chieftains (trumpeting their stock origins) looking for every opportunity to widen fault lines for their selfish gains. Ever wondered how India does it? Staying fit with yoga?
Ukraine: The Bucha Massacre
This week the gruesome killings in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha traumatised the world to the very depth of its soul. The murder of scores of civilians, as much as 300, was uncovered after Russian troops withdrew from the Kyiv suburb.
On the grounds of a church was an open mass grave with the dead still inside and some in body bags, poking out in the loose graveyard sand. Houses have been bombed and found caved in by Russian shelling with the driveways ploughed over by tanks. The streets were littered with bodies with hands tied behind and obviously tortured and shot dead. It was a horrific sight.
The Pope stepped in, condemning the massacre in Bucha. He kissed a Ukrainian flag and cried for the war to be stopped, the weapons to fall silent and to stop the sowing of death and destruction. He also called the helpless situation as ‘Impotency of the United Nations’. Rightfully so.
After the failure of the League of Nations in preventing World War II, the United Nations (UN) came into being with the sole lofty aim of ‘preventing wars’. Sadly wars have only been increasing while various other arms of the UN are winning Nobel Prizes and awards in doing many other jobs extremely well-except preventing war! A snake which never had fangs at all? What next, we disband the UN and start a brand new ‘Union of Countries’ with super poisonous fangs and an ability to act as true deterrent to war?
Whatever, late this week, finally, in a small step, Russia was suspended from the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) due to its unjust invasion of Ukraine and colossal human rights violations. This happened with a two-thirds majority voting and the usual countries, including India, abstaining.
The only other country suspended from the HRC was Libya in March 2011.
Towards the end of the week, a Russian strike in Kramatorsk Railway station killed many civilians including children: thousands of people were waiting for evacuation at the railway station when the Russians attacked. The Russian barbarism continues and something has to be done about it. What about the millions of refugees fleeing war-torn areas? How and where will they be accommodated? That’s a gargantuan challenge in itself (a friend of mine-a monk on a Parikrama, who bought a Maruthi Suzuki Baleno car to ride-called me a few days ago, from Shimla, to remind me).
The capital Kyiv is gathering its feet after the exit of the Russians. And that brings some hope.
The Genetic Code
This week, Scientists announced they have finally finished mapping the human genome — what is called, the genetic code. Mapping first started in 1990, and by the early 2000s researching scientists had sequenced a whopping 92%. Now, the last bit of 8% is done. With such an in-depth look into our very insides, we should be able to better understand human biology. It could also pave the way to greater medical discoveries. And even ‘leave the door to be pushed open’ to individualised medicine.
‘We are’ the World!
The Circulating Virus
This week America’s Centre of Disease Control (CDC) announced that ‘BA.2’, the highly transmissible Omicron variant is now dominant in the United States, making up nearly 55% of new cases. Globally too, this is the dominant variant in circulation. The announcement came as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized an optional second booster shot for people 50 years and above. The CDC is yet to officially recommend it, but is telling anyone who qualifies for such a dose, to consider getting shot with it.
Back to the country where it all started. This week Chinese authorities enforced a lockdown in China’s largest city, Shanghai: the partial lockdown of the previous week was extended to cover all areas of the financial centre. This despite growing anger over quarantine rules where latest test results show only about 268 symptomatic daily COVID19 cases. The broader lockdown came after testing saw asymptomatic COVID19 cases surge to more than 13,000.
This means more than 26 million residents will stay put indoors. Chinese officials described the outbreak as ‘extremely grim’ and sent tens of thousands of healthcare workers to help contain infections in the city, including military personnel.
Overall, some 23 Chinese cities are under total or partial lockdown. And we thought we saw the end of COVID19? Hang on!
Sri Lanka Woes
This week, the island country’s economic crisis only got worse and an emergency was declared to curtail violent protests against the hapless condition. The entire cabinet of the Government resigned, and a newly appointed Finance Minister quit after just one day in office. I reckon he had no food for thought? And perhaps he wisely decided he is incapable of finding food for others. This was just ahead of crucial talks with the International Monetary Fund for a loan programme.
Towards the end of the week President Gotabaya Rajapaksa revoked the emergency but the real emergency of life continues. The Government is working on patching together a crack team-good with the finance numbers-to find a way out. Better late than never?
The Grammys Song
Time for some music, to shake a leg, at the end of a barbaric week.
The 64th Grammy Awards Function was held on 3rd April, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, United States, hosted by Trevor Noah-the South African Comedian, Television Host, Actor, and Political Commentator.
The Grammy for the Best Album was won by Jon Batiste for ‘We Are’. The best Pop Duo/ Group Performance was won by Deja Cat for ‘Kiss Me More’ — go ahead and kiss the cat more!
The Grammy for the Best New Artiste went to Olivia Rodrigo who had a ‘good 4 u’ music start this year. She also won Grammys for Best Pop Solo performance for her song, ‘Drivers License’, and Best Pop Vocal Album for ‘Sour’. Her on-stage driving was put to a real test, when racing about she dropped a Grammy Gramophone causing it to break, but before the incident could ‘sour’, it was tinkered and repaired — hope she’s ok?
Silk Sonic won Record of the Year and Best Song of the Year for ‘Leave the Door Open’. Yes, it’s better we do that, otherwise who gets to hear the song if the doors are closed.
The Grammy for the Best Country Song went to Chris Stapleton for ‘Cold’ and also best Album for ‘Starting Over’. The Best Rock Song, and Album went to Foo Fighters for ‘Waiting on a War’-I wonder whether they meant the Russia-Ukraine war was coming. Best rap song went to Kanye West for ‘Jail’-most of us know who to ‘put-in jail’ don’t we?
Indian-American singer Falguni Shah, aka Falu, won best Children’s Music Album for ‘A Colourful World’. A Child’s world is indeed colourful — including the black & white!
Falu is known for her modern inventive style with a formidable Indian classical shaped vocal talent. She had trained in Hindustani Classical in the Jaipur Gharana musical tradition and in the Benares style of Thumri under Kaumudi Munshi and semi-classical from Uday Mazumdar. She also studied under the legendary Indian classical vocalist, Kishori Amonkar and must have rubbed off a lot from her. It showed!
More musical stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Play the Gramophone with World Inthavaaram. And don’t break it.