WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2023–06

Kumar Govindan
9 min readFeb 11, 2023

About-the world this week, 5 February to 11 February 2023: a devastating earthquake; a balloon in the sky; an ex-Dictator dies; and the sound of the Grammys.

Everywhere

Turkey is Shaken

Long before it struck, the birds seemed to know it would come, behaving strangely as only nature can trigger, to announce an impending disaster in its own mysterious and unique way.

In the early hours of this Monday an Earthquake measuring 7.8 magnitude (moment magnitude scale) hit Turkey and Syria causing deadly devastation. More than 20,000 people have died, close to 80,000 injured and tens of thousands rendered homeless. While that’s the count at this time, an earthquake expert estimates that 180,000 people or more may be trapped under the rubble, nearly all of them dead!

A video of a multi-storey building on a busy Turkey street showed it crumble like a pack of cards leaving behind nothing but dust and rubble. In another, a photograph, a man could be seen holding on to ‘only the hand’ of his 15 year daughter crushed to death under the rubble — it was heart-wrenching.

The main earthquake was followed by about 60 aftershocks and another quake measuring 7.5 and yet another at 5.9. The epicentre is estimated to be 23 kilometres (km) east of Nurdagi, in Turkey’s Gaziantep Province, at a depth of 24.1 km.

Monday’s earthquake is the strongest to hit Turkey since 1939, when a similar one killed 30,000 people. Earthquakes of this magnitude are rare, with fewer than five occurring each year on average, anywhere in the world. Seven quakes with magnitude 7 or greater have struck Turkey in the past 25 years. Why Turkey?

Turkey lies in one of the World’s most active earthquake zones, being at the intersection of three tectonic plates that make up the Earth’s crust: the Anatolian, Arabian, and the African plates. Arabia is moving northwards into Europe, causing the Anatolian plate -which Turkey sits on-to be pushed out westwards. The movement of the tectonic plates builds up pressure on fault zones at their boundaries. And a sudden release of this pressure causes earthquakes. Monday’s earthquake is likely to have happened on one of the major fault lines that marks the boundaries between the Anatolian and Arabian plates: either the East Anatolian fault or the Dead Sea Transform fault. These are both ‘strike-slip faults’ -meaning they accommodate some motion of plates moving past each other — without creating much of a fuss.

Modern seismologists use the ‘moment magnitude scale’, which represents the amount of energy released by an earthquake. The Richter scale-that we often hear-is outdated and is sometimes wrongly quoted. This moment magnitude scale is non-linear: each step-up represents 32 times more energy released. A magnitude 7.8 actually releases around 6,000 times more energy than the more moderate magnitude 5 earthquakes, that usually happen in the region.

The World has quickly rushed aid to Turkey and Syria and I hope they climb out of this disaster at the best possible pace.

China’s Balloon Eyes

William Wordsworth would have been excited to see a Chinese Balloon ‘wander lonely as a cloud, floating on high over vales and hills’ when all at once it looked down the United States (US) of America, beside the lake, up above the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

The balloon, about 60 metres tall, with a solar panel array, started its journey from over Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and wandered through Canada before appearing over the city of Billings in Montana, US, last Wednesday. Montana is home to some of the US’s nuclear missile silos.

The United States believes that the balloon, seen above sensitive areas, was in fact a high-altitude surveillance device. But China said it was a Weather Balloon mainly used for meteorological purposes and regretted the unintended entry of the balloon into US airspace and that it had been blown off-course by unexpected winds. That’s a brilliant filling of air in the balloon!

Initially, the US decided not to shoot down the balloon because of the danger posed by falling debris, and the limited use of any intelligence the device could gather.

To add perspective: a surveillance balloon usually flies in the sky range between 24 and 36 km, Fighter Aircraft at 20 km, and Commercial Airlines at 12 km.

When the balloon was near the Carolinas above the Atlantic Ocean, the mighty US finally woke up and dispatched its revolutionary Fighter Jet F-22 Raptor to fire a single AIM-9X Sidewinder heat-seeking missile to take down the balloon- while another F-22 watched the proceedings. The accuracy was pin-point and China cried fowl on the ‘excessive reaction’. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken’s upcoming diplomatic visit to China bursted with the balloon. Last heard America was fishing for the remnants to determine what it could have done, or not done.

China — US relations now enter a ‘cold stage’ to complement the freezing weather in many parts of America.

Pakistan’s ex-Dictator

Pakistan’s ex-Dictator General Pervez Musharraf died in exile in Dubai at the age of 79 after a prolonged illness. He was know to be a smooth-operator mixing State Terrorism with Politics and tried to get the better of India over its Jammu & Kashmir State, and failed. He is known as the architect of the Kargil War, fought between May and July 1999, which saw India hand out a humiliating defeat to Pakistan when Nawaz Sharif was Prime Minister (PM) of Pakistan and Pervez Musharraf was the Chief of Army.

Kargil is one of the two districts of India’s Union Territory of Ladakh and is the second largest town in Ladakh, about 200 km from Srinagar.

Pakistan Troops had infiltrated into India crossing the Line Of Control (LOC) in Kargil, Kashmir, and the Kargil War saw them driven out by a resolute and clinical India. Infamously, Musharraf did not bother to recover or accept the bodies of Pakistani soldiers killed in the fighting, and it was left to India to do the job of giving them a decent burial!

This was at a time when India’s then PM Atal Behari Vajpayee, with the intent of improving bilateral ties and resolving the Kashmir problem, undertook a path-breaking Bus Journey to Lahore, for talks and engagement with Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif blamed the Kargil infiltration and misadventure on Musharraf and a few of his cronies: only four Pakistani Army Generals, including Musharraf, knew of the plan and he claimed that he himself was kept in the dark. Musharraf, however, asserted that Sharif had been briefed on the Kargil operation 15 days ahead of Vajpayee’s famous bus-ride to Lahore. Took India for a ride?

Later, with calls of a court-martial against General Musharraf growing louder, he staged a bloodless coup ousting PM Nawaz Sharif and went on to establish military rule in Pakistan, as President between June 2001 and August 2008.

Musharraf resigned in 2008 to avoid impeachment and emigrated to London in a self-imposed exile and thereafter to UAE’s Dubai.

Charges of high treason were brought upon Musharraf for implementing emergency rule and suspending the constitution in Pakistan. And he was declared an ‘absconder’ in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case by virtue of moving to Dubai. In 2019, Musharraf, in absentia, was sentenced to death for the treason charges but the death sentence was later annulled by the Lahore High Court. It is debatable whether the General left Pakistan for better or the worse. Whatever, Pakistan finds itself in a ‘general’ mess today.

Please Yourself

The Grammys

The 65th Annual Grammy Awards 2023 took place in the Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, United States, this week. This Sunday night was a history-making show, filled with dynamic performances from iconic music artists. And the sound of music could be heard in all parts of the world.

English singer, songwriter, and actor, Harry Styles, who once swiftly dated singer Taylor Swift, picked up the coveted Album of the Year for ‘Harry’s House’. Others in the run were Abba’s ‘Voyage’, Adele’s ’30’, Beyonce’s ‘Renaissance’, Cold Play’s ‘Music of the Spheres’, Bad Bunny’s ‘Un Verano Sin Ti’, Brandi Carlile’s ‘In These Silent Days’, Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Mr. Morale & the Big Steppes’, Lizzo’s ‘Special’, and Mary J Blige’s ‘Good Morning Gorgeous (Deluxe)’.

The Best New Artist Grammy went to 23 years old, jazz singer, American, Samara Joy who also lingered on to win best jazz vocal album for her album ‘Linger Awhile’. Joy was an outlier in this category and the win was considered an upset and a jaw-dropping moment when last year’s winner Olivia Rodrigo announced her successor.

The Record of the Year went to American Singer and Rapper, Lizzo for ‘About Damn Time’. She dedicated the award win to Prince, explaining, “when we lost Prince I decided to dedicate my life to making positive music”. The song has a theme of allowing us to take a moment and celebrate our survival, and celebrate how far we have come.

Song of the Year and Best American Roots Song went to 73 years old American Blues Singer and Guitarist Bonnie Raitt’s, ‘Just Like That’. And it ‘went easy’ on Adele who won Best Solo Performance for ‘Easy on Me’; and almost ‘broke the soul’ of Beyonce who danced back with Best Dance/Electronic Music Album for Renaissance.

Though it wasn’t all too well, Taylor Swift easily carried away the Grammy for best Music Video for ‘All Too Well: The Short Film’.

American Actor, Viola Davis, 57, won a Grammy for Best Audiobook — her audiobook recording of her memoir, ‘Finding Me’. With this she achieved EGOT Status joining an elite group of 18 artists. Known as US Entertainment’s Grand Slam, the acronym EGOT stands for the recipient of an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony award. She joined the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Mel Brooks, Andrew Lloyd Webber, John Legend, John Gielgud, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jennifer Hudson.

‘Finding Me’ is about racist bullying that Viola endured while growing up in Rhode Island. And her journey from being an admired actor stuck in small roles to being cast as the lead in ‘How to Get Away With Murder’ — the Television Show that made her name.

Beyonce became the most decorated artist in Grammy history picking up a record breaking 32nd trophy. From her self-titled visual album in 2013, and the confessional masterpiece that was 2016’s Lemonade to last year’s Disco Fantasia Renaissance she has change the way pop music is written, produced, released, presented, and promoted. Beyonce is surely deserving.

Indian musician Annette Philip rocked the Grammy Red Carpet with a Kanjivaram silk sari and bindi. And completed her look with a golden choker set. Annette Philip founded the massive Berkeley Indian Ensemble’s first album, titled ‘Shuruaat’, which was nominated under the Best Global Music Album Category.

India’s Bengaluru based Music composer, and environmentalist Ricky Kej won his third Grammy along with the iconic ‘Police’ Drummer, rock-legend Steward Copeland for ‘Divine Tides’ in the Best Immersive Audio Album category. That was a divine collaboration between one of India’s best and the World’s.

Divine Tides featuring Artists from around the world is a tribute to the magnificence of our natural world. Contains nine songs and eight music videos from the exquisite beauty if the Indian Himalayas to the cold Forests of Spain and is about co-existence.

Previously Ricky Kej had won Best New Age Album for ‘Winds of Samara’ in 2015, and again Best New Age Album for Divine Tides in 2022. He is the only Indian to win three Grammys.

Ricky Kej schooled in Bengaluru’s Bishop Cotton School before studying at Oxford Dental College to become a ‘non-practicing’ Dental Surgeon. His Dad is a General Physician, Dr Gyan Kej, working in the US. His Grandfather from Mom Pammi Kej’s side is Janaki Das, Olympic Cyclist and Freedom Fighter. His wife Varsha Gowda, who he married in 2014, manages his music activities including public relations. His life and journey as a musician is taught in the 7th grade in India as part of ICSE syllabus English Text books. He is a Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies at Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.

Kej is credited with over 3500 placements for radio and TV jingles. He composed the music for the 2011 Cricket World Cup Opening Ceremony. Wonder why we never heard much of him, or did we?

While the Gramophones were changing hands during the presentation ceremony actor-filmmaker Ben Affleck looked miserable and like a fish out of water. Cameras repeatedly caught Affleck, known for his grimace and his penchant for looking morose while smoking cigarettes, glumly sitting next to his beautiful wife Jennifer Lopez during the show. Many Grammy watchers noted how Affleck seemingly wanted to be anywhere but the Crypto.com Arena. Others gave him a thumbs-up for being stoic in the face of the music buzz around him. Meanwhile, we kept our eyes on Jennifer. Could Ben Affleck have been disappointed that Jennifer did not wear that iconic green tropical-print silk chiffon Versace dress with a ‘never-ending’ plunging neckline that travelled beyond her bellybutton — of Grammys 2000 fame?

‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head’, remember that classic song? This week, legendary music composer and song-writer Burt Bacharach died aged 94, of natural causes. He was the brain behind ‘raindrops’ and dozens of hits throughout his over 70 years career. And ‘I Say a Little Prayer’. His songs will live forever.

More singing stories and raindrop songs coming up in the weeks ahead. Plunge into World Inthavaaram.

--

--

Kumar Govindan

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