WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2022–43

Kumar Govindan
10 min readOct 29, 2022

About -the stories of the world this week, 23 October to 29 October 2022: unpredictable Britain, deadly Myanmar, unusual China, surgical ISRO, spectacular Indian Cricket.

Everywhere

Unpredictable Britain

In recent times British politics as become unpredictable and in keeping with the trend, the United Kingdom (UK) inaugurated its first British-Asian Prime Minister (PM), which is a truly significant historical moment. And we thought only the weather is unpredictable in London. Talent, if used wisely has a way of climbing to the top, no matter what race one belongs to, or religion one follows, or country one originated from. For the moment, it has stopped at №10.

Speaking outside 10, Downing Street, Britain’s newly-appointed PM, Rishi Sunak said on Tuesday that he has been elected (as the leader of his Party) to fix some of the mistakes made by his predecessor. He promised to place economic stability and confidence at the heart of his government’s agenda; he would confront the profound economic crisis-that the country is facing-with compassion; and lead a government of integrity, professionalism, and accountability. And the work begins immediately.

The 42 years old devout Hindu, formally took charge as Britain’s first Indian-origin Prime Minister, after an audience with the freshly minted King Charles III, this Tuesday, a day after he was elected the leader of the Conservative Party. The investment banker-turned politician is the youngest British PM in 210 years.

Rishi Sunak was born in Southampton, UK, to Indian-origin parents who migrated to the UK from East Africa in the 1960s, and before that from India. Sunak’s grandparents were born in the Punjab Province, British India. He is the eldest of three siblings: brother Sanjay is a psychologist and sister Raakhi Williams works in New York, as Chief of Strategy and Planning at the United Nations Global Fund for Education in Emergencies. Sunak’s father Yashvir Sunak was a General Practitioner with the National Health Service and his mother Usha Sunak runs a local Pharmacy. Yashvir and Usha Sunak were born in Kenya and Tanzania respectively. That’s a whole lot of countries in the bag!

Sunak was educated at Winchester College, studied philosophy, politics and economics at Lincoln College, Oxford, and earned an MBA from Stanford University as a Fulbright Scholar. While at Stanford, he met his future wife Akshata Murty, the daughter of Narayana Murthy — Indian billionaire and founder of the Indian software Company, Infosys — Fortune had listed Narayana Murthy among the ’12 Greatest Entrepreneurs of Our Time’ in 2012.

After graduating, Sunak worked for Goldman Sachs and later as a partner at the hedge fund firms, The Children’s Investment Fund Management and Theleme Partners.

Sunak was first elected as an MP in 2015 — for Richmond in North Yorkshire — but rose quickly, and was made Finance Minister /Chancellor of the Exchequer, in February 2020, under former PM Boris Johnson.

Wife Akshata did a fashion designing diploma from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, which followed a short work stint at Deloitte and Unilever. Thereafter, she went on to pursue her MBA at Stanford where apparently ‘Rishi Sunak was waiting to meet’ her!

Sunak and his wife are one of the richest people in Britain, with a combined fortune of GBP 730 million as of 2022. The couple have two teenage daughters, Krisna and Anoushka; and a family dog, Nova — a fox red Labrador Retriever. The story goes that the daughters met Boris Johnson’s dog Dillyn and immediately fell in love with it, and begged their father for a pup of their own.

“British Indian is what I tick on the census, we have a category for it. I am thoroughly British, this is my home and my country, but my religious and cultural heritage is Indian, my wife is Indian. I am open about being a Hindu,” Sunak said in an interview in 2015.

I’m sure the United Kingdom is in a good pair of brown hands.

Deadly Myanmar

Myanmar has been under draconian military rule since February 2021, when an elected government was overthrown in a bloody coup.

This Sunday, over 60 people were killed in military airstrikes at a celebratory event in Myanmar’s mountainous Kachin State drawing international condemnation of the ruling military junta’s actions.

The victims were attending an event organised by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) to mark the 62nd anniversary of the armed ethnic rebel group’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). KIO personnel were in attendance, not as military personnel, but as entertainers helping welcome guests and performing.

The military junta said it was hunting down the KIA and was not deliberately targeting civilians. Hard to believe, but that’s the word!

Unusual China

This week the President of China, Xi Jinping was re-elected as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party for a norm-breaking third term of paramount leader, which is unusual.

This Sunday, a day after the close of the five-yearly Communist Party Congress, Xi announced a new leadership team of six men loyal to him: Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang and Li Xi, to stand alongside him as members of the Politburo Standing Committee- China’s top ruling body.

Events of the day were briefly interrupted by an unexpected scene when Xi’s immediate predecessor Hu Jintao, who is 79 years old and has been in frail health in recent years, was escorted out of the Great Hall of the People from his seat next to Xi, for reasons that were not immediately clear, though Hu appeared initially reluctant to leave. Of course, the Chinese Press came out with a statement that he was unwell and ‘needed to be lifted-up and shown the way out’.

The sweeping reshuffle of the Standing Committee came after the departure of key party leaders not in Xi’s inner circle — Premier Li Keqiang and Wang Yang, head of China’s top advisory body. Both have been retired despite being one year below the party’s unofficial retirement age of 68 and eligible to serve another term. Xi, at 69, is one year above that informal limit. That’s again unusual.

Also absent is a clear successor to Xi Jinping.

Standing Committee lineups prior to the Xi era have included younger members as potential successors. But with the youngest member now 60 years old, there’s no stand-out name in the mix — a potential sign Xi is not planning to step down anytime soon.

That’s again unusual.

With neighbour Russia already having a President for life, is China following suit? The signs are out there for all to read.

Surgical ISRO

Early this week, precisely on Sunday, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) kicked-off the Diwali celebrations in India with a faultless, efficient launch of its heaviest payload ever of 5,796 kilograms in a maiden commercial mission of its launch vehicle LVM3-M2. The 43.5 metre rocket lifted-off from the second launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh State. Its payload consisted of 36 broadband communication satellites belonging to OneWeb. And ISRO perfectly placed all satellites in Low Earth Orbits (LEO) — about 600km above the Earth’s surface — four at a time. Imagine injecting 36 Satellites into LEO without allowing them to come too close together in the crucial 48 hours from injection. The satellites will be slowly pushed up to a final LEO of about 1000 km.

The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV)-Mark III developed and built by ISRO has been renamed as Launch Vehicle Mark 3 (LVM3). It is designed to carry 8,000 kgs of payloads into LEO (and 4,000 kg of satellites into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit — that’s about 35,000 km above the Earth). ‘M2’ refers to the fact that this is the second operational launch of LVM3.

The mission was undertaken as part of a commercial arrangement between New Space India Limited (NSIL) and OneWeb.

NSIL is the commercial area of ISRO which owns and builds satellites, provides launch vehicles and launch services, space-based services, satellite building and technology transfer to Indian Industries. Since inception in 2019, this is NSIL’s first commercial mission.

OneWeb (legally called Network Access Associates Ltd), is a communications company that builds and offers broadband satellite Internet services. It is building an advanced satellite constellation, consisting of 648 satellites, moving around Earth, in the LEO, to connect businesses, telecoms, and government partners with high-speed, low-latency, internet connectivity.

This is OneWeb’s 14th launch, bringing the constellation to 462 satellites representing more than 70% of its planned 648 satellite fleet. And has only four more launches to go. While 36 satellites were launched on Sunday, another batch of satellites was expected to be placed in the orbit by early 2023. And ISRO will be doing one more 36 satellite launch, as per its contract with OneWeb.

OneWeb is the world’s second biggest satellite operator — after Elon Musk’s Starlink, operated by SpaceX. OneWeb is headquartered in London, and has offices in Virginia, US and a satellite manufacturing facility in Florida — OneWeb Satellites — that is a joint venture with Airbus Defence and Space. In 2020, OneWeb was acquired by the UK Government and India’s Bharti Global, and has since welcomed leading satellite communications operator Eutelsat on board, as well as additional investment from SoftBank, Hughes Network Group, and Hanwha. That’s a lot of spin. With also those satellites hugging dear Earth, will it not be hard to find gaps for future rockets to fire?

Spectacular Indian Cricket

Though I like cricket, I had given up watching tournaments a long time ago except for crossing the boundary when someone comes over to pitch-in and watch a match at home. This Sunday I did just that when a cousin whose monsoon-rain leaking house was under renovation came over to watch the India-Pakistan ICC T20 Cricket match playing at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) Australia. Little did I know there would be a fireworks display of cricket to announce Diwali being celebrated across India and the World, the next day. An India-Pakistan cricket match is always pregnant with possibilities of fierce competition and wild sensationalism. And I was not disappointed.

I lazily got into the match with India winning the toss and electing to bowl. Pakistan started badly, losing wickets, but gradually lit the first sparks, fired-up the stadium, and smoked-out with 159 runs on the board at the end of 20 overs.

India then entered the arena, with 160 runs to fire in 20 overs: expectations, as always, were as high as the Himalayas. A few quick wickets falling and the run rate going below that required for India to win on a trot brought the usual sighs: oohs, aayes, and aahs! With the score at 31 with 4 wickets down in 6 overs, India was in tatters and my cousin was crestfallen and gave-up, but I said I’m an incorrigible optimist and believed India can always hit six sixes — if required- in the last over to win a match.

Former Indian Cricket Captain and awfully out-of-form Virat Kholi was at the crease with Hardik Pandya — known for sending rockets to the spectator stands. And today it was packed with more than 90,000 of them.

Once upon a time, Kohli was a mean run-machine and arguably peaked in 2016, the year in which he scored a masterclass 82 runs of 52 balls again Australia in Mohali in the 2016 T20 World Cup. As the Covid pandemic hit the world, the crowds vanished, and so too Kholi’s form with cheap dismals becoming the norm. Kholi could not find a vaccine to boost his performance until this Sunday. Maybe he held on to self-belief and talked to all those tattoos on his body.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man, goes the tired old saying. Virat Kohli smashed an unbeaten 82 off 53 balls including four massive sixes, and in what could be called the innings of a lifetime to put India within reach of a stunning victory off the final ball. The winning runs were hit by the just-arrived-at-the-crease Ashwin Ravichandran.

Going back to how it all unfolded: after 15 overs, India had a score of 100 runs with the loss of 4 wickets; Virat Kohli was on 42 and Hardik Pandya on 32. And after the 18th over India needed 31 runs off 12 balls, to win; and well into the 19th over it became 28 runs to win off 8 balls. When poised at this stage, Virat hit two bold sixes in succession to bring the score to 144, with 16 runs to win in the last over off 6 balls.

Let me try to bring the intensity and the edge-of-the-seat twist & turns of the thrilling last over — the 20th.

In the first ball, Hardik mistimes a shot and it rises up for any easy catch. Now, it’s 16 runs off 5 balls. In walks wicket-keeper batsman, old warhorse, Dinesh Karthik who has been in this ‘India situation’ many times before. He manages to needle the ball and takes a single run to bring Kohli to bat. Now it’s 15 runs off 4 balls. Kohli hits the next ball and takes two quick singles to bring it to 13 runs off 3 balls. After gathering his breath and surveying a possible Kingdom to capture, Kohli whacks the next waist-high ball for a super six and it is called a No-Ball with a free-hit (add one run and an extra ball). Now it’s 6 runs required off 3 balls. The free-hit ball is bowled and ricochets off the stumps for three runs behind the stumps making it 3 runs off 3 balls and bringing Karthik to face the bowling. Karthik is stumped when he tries to go after the next ball and misses, and it becomes 2 runs off 2 balls. He leaves the field to send spin-bowler Ashwin Ravichandran, who cooly and cleverly leaves alone the last but one ball — judging it to be a wide. It becomes 1 run required of just 1 ball. And a watchful Ashwin hits the last ball to the boundary to win a thriller of a match for India. King Kohli looks on from the other end, sitting on a Throne. A commentator thought he saw a tear in the corner of the King’s eyes. Take a bow, Virat Kohli.

More free-hitting stories will be surgically launched in the weeks ahead. Connect with World Inthavaaram.

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Kumar Govindan

Once an Engineer, now a Make-in-India Entrepreneur; Wordsmith; Blogger; maybe a Farmer!