Narendra Modi lands in America

Sep 27, 2014.

The world we live in always has something scary at any point in time.

We have an unmanageable Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a terrorist movement flexing muscles in Iraq and Syria and presumably thirsting to wreak destruction on the world at large.

Ebola is spreading faster than expected. 2,800 people have died so far. African countries reeling from the aftermath of civil wars and sheer lack of resources and discipline are struggling to contain it.

And we have another frightening scourge in Vinod Mehta whose incoherent rant on the US, Modi and NRIs displayed his fine ability to hide lack of cognition and introspective thinking beneath a cloak of drunken stupor.

[Vinod Mehta asks “India loves the people of US. But is the reverse also true?”]

Notwithstanding these Damoclean swords hanging over its vulnerable head, the world saw a week filled with events considered improbable not too long back.

President Obama assembled an impressive coalition of world forces to counter ISIS. There are fifty countries in the alliance although it remains to be seen how many will put troops on the ground for the cause. China and Russia unsurprisingly continue to stand aloof.

Speaking of Russia, Vladimir Putin displayed admirable restraint in the last couple of weeks in not invading a neighbor.

Narendra Modi landed in America to a rockstar’s welcome. It’s been a long journey from being denied a US visa to a State Dinner, proving that lion hearted Gujaratis will do anything, including winning elections and becoming Prime Minister, in order to get a visa to the land of milk and honey. The satisfaction of having a Prime Minister who is in charge and takes the world stage with aplomb and assurance is immeasurable.

The likable and self-avowed lifelong bachelor George Clooney married Amal Amaluddin in Venice. Let’s hope that he enjoys a long and happy married life, for he’s just an all round great guy and deserves it as much as or perhaps even more than any of us.

There was more to cheer about. Apple began selling iPhone 6. Consumers voted with their wallets and Apple sold 10 million phones worth $6 billion on the first weekend alone. Apple amply demonstrated its mojo and ability to win in the post-Jobs world.

Emma Watson gave an outstanding speech on gender rights at the UN and caught the attention of the world. As someone remarked, the only regrettable aspect of Watson’s speech was that it is even required in 2014. As she points out, “There isn’t yet a country in the world which can claim to provide equal rights to men and women.”

[ Emma Watson speaks about her HeForShe campaign and gender equality at the UN]

Indian Space Research Organization pulled off a magnificent feat by putting an unmanned probe into Mars orbit on its first attempt. ISRO’s probe, called Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), weighs about 3000 lbs (slightly more than a Honda Civic) and travelled for about 300 days before entering the orbit. Kudos to ISRO for bringing us a truly memorable and celebration worthy moment in India’s history.


[Pic: The second photo from Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), ISRO’s unmanned probe to Mars. Source: ISRO]

Considering that MOM travelled nearly 780 million kilometers, its cost works out to less than Rs 8 per kilometer, which makes ISRO staggeringly less expensive than an average auto rickshaw in Bangalore on any given day.

What makes this even more of a spectacular achievement is that ISRO’s Mars mission cost $74 million, a tenth of what it cost Americans to put Maven, their own probe, into the Martian orbit. How was this possible? A couple of factors: ISRO engineers make between a tenth to a fifth of the salaries made by their counterparts at NASA. Another contributing factor is that MOM carries 30 pounds of equipment and material and is designed for a much shorter term life than Maven, which is carrying over 150 pounds of equipment. It’s not a competition. It’s a noteworthy accomplishment by India which bodes well for attempts to deepen our understanding of the red planet.

Have a good weekend, folks. And this is my version of news as I see it.

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