WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2022–16
About: the world this week, 17 April to 23 April 2022, a not-even-a-fly-can-escape kind of siege, the wind in the air, a champion of the Earth, and getting back your sleep.
I’ve tried to keep Ukraine off the headlines, but Russia’s abominable actions insist I keep it: no intimidation, though.
India struck a chord this week, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projecting that India is all set to bulldoze its way into becoming the fastest growing economy in 2022. IMF forecasts a GDP growth of 8.2% for India. India is a happening place. And despite all the noise there is a certain quietude in which you can go about your business.
The coronavirus is still around and cases are increasing in almost every state of United States and most parts of the world. Masking, physical distancing, and clever ventilation are the three mantras -in addition to the hand washing technique — we need to keep saying as often as possible.
The Last Man Standing
Near about 60 days of the Russia-Ukraine War and Russia is unable to gain control of any prominent city-primarily due to the fierce iron-resistance of the Ukrainians.
Last week Russia issued an ultimatum to surrender, to the last remaining Ukrainian troops holding out in the besieged port city of Mariupol, but it wasn’t heeded this week. The city has been facing a humanitarian catastrophe for weeks, as Russian tanks advanced pulverising everything in its path. The number of civilians killed is unknown.
Meanwhile, Russia’s President has ordered his troops to ‘put in place’ a ‘not-even-a-fly-can-escape siege of Mariupol.
The fall of Mariupol, the largest trading Port in the Azov Sea from which Ukraine exports grain, iron and steel, and heavy machinery, would be an economic blow to Ukraine and a strategic victory for Russia, connecting territory it holds in Donbas with Crimea it annexed in 2014: all stolen from Ukraine. Expect Russia to announce the ‘Liberation of Mariupol’, should they succeed.
In what is being called Phase-II of the Russian Invasion, an offensive in the eastern Donbas region is underway. The stated goal of the invader is to secure all of Ukraine’s eastern regions parts of which Russian-backed separatists have controlled since 2014. Another aim seems to be to crush the remaining resistance in Mariupol to consolidate a land bridge linking the Russian region of Rostov with Crimea.
The battle of Kyiv may be over, at least for now, but the battle of Donbas is becoming more intense and the West needs to keep pumping weapons into Ukraine to sustain the fight, while saluting the bravery of Ukrainians.
The Ukrainians have shown themselves to be canny tacticians in this conflict, ceding territory to preserve resources, but using their knowledge of the land and their mobility to inflict heavy losses on Russian units.
At this stage, Ukraine has its tails up. And I wish they capture a big victory in this senseless, inhuman war started by Russia.
Hanuman and Jahangirpuri
Hanuman is introduced to us in the Epic Ramayana. He is a wholesome devotee of Lord Rama and is his constant companion in the Epic; is a central character first befriending Rama, realising his divinity, and then helping Rama find and rescue Sita. In those days without GPS and Google how does one find a missing person? Hanuman did it with his special powers. And could have grabbed Sita and brought her back to Rama, but Sita insisted Rama do it.
Rama, we know, was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu who lived on Earth to show and set an example of how to rule righteously and teach people to voluntarily follow rules.
Hanuman, elevated to God Status also appears in the Mahabharata-as a retired Ram Bakth — where Rama returns to Earth in the avatar of Krishna. He can be seen in a miniature form nonchalantly perched on the flagstaff of Arjuna’s chariot, driven by Krishna, during the great Mahabharata war. It was a promise he made to his half-brother Bhima-to watch over Arjuna. Krishna and Hanuman do not fight in the war using any kind of weapons and remain mostly neutral watching the ultimate triumph of good over evil, first-hand, in close quarters. Hanuman is also the brother of Bhima-both being sons of the Wind God, Vayu.
Over the years, Hanuman’s stature has reached great heights in India — with many statues coming up all over the country, close to the wind of his father.
Hanuman is a divine Vanara (monkey) with supernatural powers which even Lord Rama does not have: He has immeasurable strength, cannot be burnt by fire, cannot be harmed by water, can shrink his size or hulk it at will, can move to any place he wishes to without restraint, and can fly like the wind. Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Iron-Man, Hulk…all in one. He has a special weapon called Gada, a mace — a round end mounted on a shaft made of wood or metal. Typically, wrestlers use the Gada and worship Hanuman for wrestling strength.
Legend says that Hanuman-the son of the Wind God Vayu and Anjana, a nymph-as a child when hungry sees the moon red in the sky, and thinking it to be a ripe fruit leaps up to grab and eat it. Indra, the Kings of Gods seeing the danger to the Moon, strikes him down with his thunderbolt and child Hanuman falls dead on Earth with a broken jaw. Angry on what happened to his dear son, Vayu withdraws all the air on Earth forcing Lord Shiva to step in and resuscitate Hanuman to life, to save mankind. The Gods then rush to pacify Vayu, loading Hanuman with various supernatural boons in the process. The best part is with all his mind-boggling powers Hanuman is always subdued and plays the ultimate devotee to Lord Ram. Due to a curse, earned during his child prankster years on Sadhus and Sages, he forgets and has to be reminded of his superpowers to be able to use them.
Two childhood images occupy the central space in my mind. One of Hanuman flying in the air, carrying a whole dug-up mountain when he cannot find Sanjeevani, a life-giving herb to cure a fatally wounded Lakshmana. And two, of him carrying Rama and Lakshmana on his shoulders while the two brothers shoot arrows in the war against Ravan’s evil.
The 16th April of every year is celebrated as the Birthday/Jayanti of Hanuman and worshipped to attain victory against evil and provide protection in the vicissitudes of life. It is typical to take out a procession on this day, which has been a practice over the years.
Jahangirpuri is a very dense and mixed, middle and low-income population locality situated in the North West District of (old) Delhi. It mainly holds Hindus and Muslims and some Punjabi and Sindhi communities living in harmony. There is also a considerable number of Rohingya Refugee Muslims settled here, over the years since the Rohingya crisis began in Myanmar. Jahangirpur is near Azadpur Mandi said to one of Asia’s largest fruit and vegetable wholesale market.
On 16th April in Jahangirpuri, a Hanuman Jayanti Procession was being taken out and when it passed a mosque, where Muslims were holding Ramadan prayers, trouble broke out this time. Stones were pelted and gun shots fired, triggering a violence in which nine people including a Police officer was injured. Both sides blame the other. The marchers say they came under an organised attack by Muslims, who threw stones and other objects from rooftops. Muslims say that Hindus yelled provocative slogans near the mosque, leading to an argument. The first stone, they said, came from the other side. However, some videos of the incident show that the, until then, peaceful procession was attacked from the rear, cascading to the violence. Many of us know how these begin and who starts the fire: over to the investigators to get to the bottom of the stone.
Delhi Police have arrested 23 people, mostly Muslims, including two juveniles. Five of the accused-including a the key conspirator- a Muslim, and another person who was seen on video firing a pistol during the clashes -face charges under the strict National Security Act.
A few days later on 19 April 2022 prompted by a complaint from a Party State President, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) issued a late-night order to demolish houses and shops on the street where the incident had occurred, claiming them to be encroachments into public areas. Bulldozers were called-in for the job and a rush approach to the Supreme Court resulted in a Stay to halt the proceedings: the court ordered the parties to cool their heels for two weeks- to consult with Lord Hanuman?
At Home in China
Carrying on from the previous infectious weeks, Shanghai continues to face the wrath of the coronavirus and is still reeling under a strict lockdown-fourth week running. Shanghai has recorded about 400,000 cases during this outbreak.
This week China adopted a strategy of moving COVID19 ‘tested negative’ (that’s awfully clever — the positives stay positive in their Homes) people to quarantine centres over 150 km away — relocating whole communities. They have done this before, moving entire populations, and they are hoping it works this time too. Residents were told to pack their belongings, leave their wardrobe doors open and also keep open the front door of their homes. Pets were disallowed from going with their owners: Authorities say they will be taken care of. Well, China sure is one helluva of a positive place to live in!
Champion of The Earth
Sir David Attenborough is a broadcaster, biologist, natural historian and author, famous for writing and presenting, in conjunction with BBC’s The Natural History documentary series, the ‘Life Collection’, a comprehensive survey of animal and plant life on Earth.
He is not to be confused with his bother Richard Attenborough best known for directing and producing the movie ‘Gandhi’ and also as the builder of ‘Jurassic Park’ in the movie of that name.
This week Sir David Attenborough was named a Champion of The Earth by the United Nations’ Environment Programme. The prestigious award recognises the 95 years old’s commitment to telling stories about the natural world and climate change.
Accepting the award, Sir David said the world must take action now to protect nature and the planet.
His celebrated documentaries including ‘The Green Planet’ and ‘A Plastic Ocean’.
Sir David said that environmental success stories should give us hope that change is possible. “Fifty years ago, whales were on the very edge of extinction worldwide. Then people got together and now there are more whales in the sea than any living human being has ever seen. We know what the problems are, and we know how to solve them. All we lack is unified action.” That’s well said.
Netflix, which remains the world’s leading streaming service with more than 220 million subscribers has enjoyed uninterrupted quarterly growth in subscribers since October 2011. However this week, it admitted it was losing customers to rivals, while struggling to expand due to password sharing. Shares of Netflix have slumped by 35% after it revealed a sharp drop in subscribers and warned millions more are set to quit the streaming service.
It also said a decision to raise prices in key markets had cost it 600,000 subscribers in North America alone, while its exit from Russia over Ukraine lost it 700,000. This wiped more than USD 50billion off the firm’s market value as experts warned it faced a struggle to get back on track.
With rising inflation and household budgets becoming tighter, people are finding ways of reducing expenses including ‘fixing the net’. Or perhaps sleep being the only competitor to Netflix, people are re-discovering the benefits of sleeping?
More procession of stories marching up in the weeks ahead. Don’t pelt stones — the bulldozers may come after you. It’s safe to drive with World Inthavaaram. Sleep well and wake up to read.