WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2022–23
About: the world this week, 5 June to 11 June 2022, the American phenomenon, an unjust war rambles on, a debt ridden country thinks loans, faith matters and blasphemy, military justice, road-building, getting high, and sologamy.
Sometimes, a week sounds all too familiar, eerily similar to the previous one, at least in a few aspects. Maybe this is one such.
The United States of America (USA) continues with that unique American Phenomenon of shooting itself. And we have lost count of the shootings, the guns, the ammunition, the candles, and the songs.
Late last week, a man shot and killed two women in a Church Parking Lot near the City of Ames, Iowa, before turning the gun on himself. This was close on the heels of the Uvalde Elementary School shooting in Texas. There was at least 11 mass shootings over the first weekend in June this year, some of which are: Tulsa, Oklahoma-Warren Clinic Shooting; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Chattanooga, Tennessee. Leaving Schools, the shootings permeated graduation parties, nightclubs, and strip malls. What next?
A mass shooting is an incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, excluding the shooter. According to the Gun Violence Archives on mass shootings, 246 shootings have been reported thus far in this year, 2022. The USA recorded 693 mass shootings in 2021, 611 in 2020, and 417 incidents in 2019.
That’s definitely a fearful rising trend. Does statistics help? Will the shootings stop only when America runs out of ammunition?
The Ukraine war continues taking its own flight path and the World has seemingly gone into a shell with each country looking to strengthen its own walled boundaries and become self-sufficient, knocking globalisation hard on its head. Dependence on Russian oil & gas, among other things, across borders has woken us up to new realities, new risks, which need to be mitigated.
The fate of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region may be decided in the battle of Severodonetsk where fighting continues to be tough. Ukraine is suffering losses, but is also inflicting heavy casualties on the Russians. And Ukrainian forces have been pushed back from the city and control only its outskirts.
Russia refuses to call the Russia-Ukraine War a war or an invasion, still calling it a special military operation-a ‘war’ against Ukraine nationalists, radicals, and the Kyiv Regime. Nevermind they are doing this inside another independent democratic country, which integrity and boundaries Russia itself agreed to respect when Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal! Calling a spade a spade seems to be awfully difficult for Russia.
Meanwhile, The United Nations wants to find a deal with Russia that allows safe export of Ukrainian produced food through the Black Sea. And we have a fighting Sri Lanka, on stand-by, which can use all that food?
The decibel level of noises of economic ruin in Sri Lanka have come down and perhaps the only way Sri Lanka can rise again and recalibrate the life of its citizens is by the existing loans being written off, so that a fresh, handsome set can kick-in.
The 22 million Sri Lankan population requires USD 3.3 billion for fuel imports, USD 900 million(m) for food, USD 600m for fertiliser, and USD 250m for cooking gas. How do you cook all that money?
Sri Lanka accepted a USD 55m loan for fertilisers from India’s Exim Bank, and the United Nations has pledged USD 48m for food agriculture, and healthcare. Negotiations are on to renegotiate a USD 1.5 billion financial support deal from China.
Internally, Sri Lanka announced an immediate increase in Value Added Tax from 8% to 12%. Corporate tax is expected to rise from 24% to 30% this October.
Finally the mistakes of the past seem to be getting corrected.
In India, during a loud Television Debate about a month ago, ruling Party spokespersons, infuriated by incessant attacks on Hindu religious beliefs spoke that, since people are mocking the Hindu faith repeatedly, they can also mock other religions — referring to Islamic beliefs and also the marriage of Prophet Mohammad. And set off-a chain reaction with Muslim countries all over the world voicing concerns of ‘insult to the Prophet’. The Government stepped in a fire-fighting mode by reprimanding and suspending the spokespersons.
I recall a historic verdict by the Madras High Court in 2019, which clearly distinguished between Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression saying, ‘having an opinion on Prophet Mohammad is not derogatory, and Freedom of Expression is not blasphemy’. This was in the backdrop of allegations against a Political leader in Tamilnadu in 2019, for supposedly speaking against the Prophet.
Blasphemy-making reckless and derogatory remarks agent religious beliefs- is one thing and expressing religious opinion based on one’s knowledge of the subject is another and there is a fine balance between the two. Freedom of expression always gets challenged when touching upon religious beliefs. Not every expression will qualify itself to bring disharmony between various sects, groups, and religions.
Narrow-mindedness only seems to be growing more narrow instead of tolerance growing taller and wider.
The religious freedom in India is beyond imagination applying the muslim standards in other Countries. And this is so, for all other religions in India. Hinduism, being the majority religion seems to be taken for granted in the name of minority appeasement.
I think we need to watch our tongues and refrain from making fun, criticising, or mocking any religious faith, including our own. Remember the three monkeys parable: see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil! And someone said, ‘Your freedom ends where my nose begins’.
In Myanmar the elected government was ousted more than a year ago by its military, which ever since has unleashed waves of brutal crackdown on the opposition, democracy and freedom activists, and critics.
Late last week, Myanmar’s junta made its next move, announcing that that appeals by two prominent democracy activists against their death sentences has been rejected, paving the way for the country’s first executions in decades.
Kyaw Min Yu, a veteran democracy activist, and Phyo Zeyar Thaw, a lawmaker for the former ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party, were sentenced to death by a military tribunal in January on charges of treason and terrorism.
The outcry from a watching world is deafening but then who will bell the cat?
This week, on a completely different front- actually a road- India has created a Guinness World Record by constructing 75 km of continuous bituminous concrete in a single lane on National Highway (NH) 53 in 105 hours and 33 minutes breaking the world record previously held by Qatar.
This Week Thailand became the first country in South Air to decriminalise marijuana: It’s legal to grow and sell it. However, smoking for fun is still banned.
People can now grow marijuana at home, provided they register and ensure it’s used only for medical purposes. Restaurants and cafes can also serve cannabis-infused foods but have a 0.2% THC limit. THC-TetraHydroCannabinol-is the substance that is primarily responsible for the effects of marijuana on a person’s mental state.
The objective seems to be to boost the economy through agriculture and foreign trade. Call that kicking-up the spirits!
Over the past few yearsSologamy, a wedding ceremony where people marry themselves, has been a growing trend in the West. It has now touched India’s Vadodara City in Gujarat State.
Kshama Bindu, 24, a sociology student and blogger, has a traditional Hindu ceremony due to take place on 11th June. Decked up in her red bridal outfit, with henna on her hands and vermilion powder in her hair parting, the bride will do the customary seven rounds around the sacred fire.
Pre-wedding rituals such as Haldi — turmeric mixed with oil is applied on the bride- and sangeet -music & dance-will be held earlier in the day. After the wedding, she plans to visit Goa for a two-week honeymoon.
The only ‘non-essential/missing part’ from all the celebrations will be ‘a Bridegroom’, as Bindu plans to ‘marry’ herself in what is perhaps going to be India’s first case of sologamy.
“Many people tell me I’m a great catch. I tell them, I caught myself”, says Bindu. By marrying herself, Bindu would be dedicating her life to self-love. “It’s my way of showing that I’m accepting all the different parts of me, especially the parts of myself that I have tried to deny or disown such as my weaknesses — be they physical, mental or emotional. For me, this marriage is really a deep act of self-acceptance. What I’m trying to say is that I accept myself — all of me, even the parts that don’t look pretty.”
Bindu’s family signalled the green light, have given their blessings, and will be attending the ceremony along with her friends. She claims that her parents, who are very open-minded, took it in their stride. They said, “As long as it makes you happy, we’re fine with it”.
The idea of marrying oneself first made news about 20 years ago when Carrie Bradshaw, a character in the hugely popular American Comedy Drama series Sex and the City, raised it.
Since then, there have been hundreds of such marriages, mostly by single women. Brides have walked down the aisle dressed in pristine wedding gowns, carrying a bouquet, sometimes with families and friends cheering them on. And in one highly unusual case, a Brazilian model, 33, ‘divorced’ herself, three months after her marrying herself. Wonder which part, or was it all of it?
More love stories coming up in the weeks to come. Love yourself, but stay married to World Inthavaaram. And mind that tongue!