Monday, February 28, 2022

Russian invasion of Ukraine - Two questions

Screenshot of a video on BBC 

The way Russia was amassing troops on Ukraine's borders, and warnings by the US that "an attack was a possibility", what we are seeing now was quite a certainty.

There are a couple of questions for which I am yet to get convincing answers.

1) The move to get Ukraine into the NATO has been going on for now close to a decade. Why didn't the NATO admit Ukraine, if they really wanted to? Being a full-fledged NATO member is far different from just being an ally receiving economic and military assistance from the West.

By giving this crystal-clear signal to Russia that Ukraine is their ally, the West was also implicitly telling Russia: "We are at your doorstep."

After all these years, Ukraine has been practically left alone to defend itself. Though of course they are getting support from the West.

2) If you remember, in the days preceding the launch of the Russian attack, while the US and its West European allies were constantly talking about the fears of an "impending Russian invasion", Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy himself was strangely cool and calm. 

In fact, multiple reports from Ukrainian capital Kyiv used to speak of how everything is absolutely normal; and no one believing that a Russian invasion would ever happen.

With all sophisticated intelligence-gathering mechanisms we have today, it's highly unlikely that Zelenskyy didn't know that an invasion would take place. They should have acknowledged that in some form.

That would have given foreigners a real picture of what was unfolding, and they could have left for their home country, or foreign governments could have evacuated their citizens well before things deteriorated to this extent.

Why did Zelenskyy give the impression that nothing untoward was ever going to happen? Was it part of a strategic game plan?

Now with airspace closed, evacuation flights are taking off from neighbouring countries. But not all are close to the borders. 

There is a reason I am saying this. Thousands of Indians, mainly medical students, are trapped in underground bunkers in Ukraine. With no basic amenities, and dire shortage of food and water, it's a physical and emotional trauma for them.

Of course a few hundreds have been brought back but thousands are still trapped. One medical student was pleading: "Please get us out of here before we die."

While I type this, we have news that Russian President Vladimir Putin has put his nation's nuclear deterrent on 'special alert'. This is obviously in response to the assistance that the West is giving Ukraine, which seems to be slowing down the Russian progress. 

Earlier today, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News that the conflict would last a number of years.

That means the suffering isn't going to end to anytime soon.

Thursday, February 17, 2022


There are so many word games out there. Another one!

I am a sceptic. I don't jump in when everyone jumps in. 

So, I took some time to get on to Wordle.

I am not hooked on to it every day. I play if I get time. 

I don't mind if I miss a day. So, I am not bothered about the streak.

A couple of good things about it. 

One, I am not competing with anyone. 

Two, I have full 24 hours to find the word.

A couple of downsides.

One, it's always only five-letter words.

Two, when you try out a word, you always have to start from the first letter. Meaning, you can't start placing the 2nd, or 3rd or the last letter first, and then guess the rest.

Yesterday's word was just out the world. I got it in the 5th attempt. I usually get it in the 4th try. 

After 'baulk' was marked wrong; since it couldn't be 'a', I tried C and it worked. And I learnt a new word. 

A waterproof filler is something that is so commonly used especially in construction and in house-repair work. But the word for it isn't that common. (At least I didn't know till yesterday!)

In fact, a few months ago, when water was seeping from our washroom to the basement wall, we had a worker coming in to fix it. Now I know what he applied.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

A golden voice falls silent

Lata Mangeshkar. Photo source: BBC

Lata Mangeshkar was truly unique: her mellifluous voice and her vast career span. 

I grew up listening to her songs right from childhood. She was such a dominant figure in the Hindi film music industry that it's simply difficult to even imagine that she is no longer around, having left for her heavenly abode this morning at the age of 93.

She was accorded a State funeral today evening. There is two-day national mourning when the national flag will fly at half-mast.

She began learning to sing at the age of 5, studied classical music from the age of 9, sang her first song at the age of 13 (that's when she lost her father); got national recognition at the age of 20 for her song Aayega Aanewaala lip-synced by actress Madhubala in the movie Mahal.

There was no looking back for her since then. For the next 70 years, till the age of 90, she lent her voice to songs for over a thousand films, mostly Hindi, and a lot of them simply unforgettable hits. The best ones are those sung between the 1950s and 1980s.

Some of my favourites:

Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua Hai Pyar Se 

Kora Kagaz Tha Yeh Man Mera 

Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi Shikwa To Nahin

Ajib Dastan Hai Yeh

Lag Jaa Gale

She lent her voice to songs in 36 languages, mostly Hindi and Marathi. Indian constitution has recognised 22 languages as official. Apart from them, there are scores of other local languages and dialects. I am just curious to have a list of all the 36 languages she has sung in!

The one song she sang in Malayalam (my mother tongue) is Kadali Kankadali is lip-synced by Jayabharathi in the movie Nellu

Her interview with NDTV in 2008.

Watch Lata Mangeshkar sing in this live performance of her most famous patriotic song: Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon, sang at the National Stadium, New Delhi, with Prime Minister Nehru and President Radhakrishnan on the stage, on January 27, 1963, after India's disastrous war with China the previous year. She later said that Nehru told her after the performance that he was moved to tears.

Here are some of the just 100 out of the over 30,000 songs she has sung.

Goodbye, didi. You touched a million hearts. Rest in peace.