The other day the car cleaner was late, the milkman didn’t show up and neither did the newspaper. The maid walked in late too, looking scared, fear in her eyes that told many stories.
Out on the road, which otherwise bustles in the morning, there was little activity. For a Monday, it was rather silent. Even the stray dogs weren’t scampering around for food. There was nobody to offer them any.
Life seemed to have reached a standstill.
The car cleaner said he hadn’t slept all night and had left home early to find safety in an environment that he presumed was not filled with rumours and hate as much as where he had escaped from.
People were running around with knives and iron bars in their hands, looking for the presumed enemy who was on its way to kill, maim, rape, burn, pillage, he said.
Rumours on social media had spread fast — sending everybody out to the streets or under lock and key in their homes, he added.
The car cleaner, who usually drinks at night, had found refuge behind a garbage dump where he had finished his daily bottle of local liquor and had hoped he would be able to sleep it out. The ghosts of the latest riots in the Indian capital, however, kept coming back and he couldn’t.
The maid, who walked in with fear in her eyes, spoke of empty streets and downed shutters. The cheap electric rickshaws that transport thousands of low-end workers every morning were off the roads. Shops that sell stuff people buy in the mornings – milk, bread, sweets — were all shut. Vegetable vendors, who set up their stalls before the morning crush begins, were missing.
“I walked. It was very scary. The streets were like a cremation ground,” she said, wondering whether her husband and child back home would be safe.
The milkman said he couldn’t pick up the supplies for delivery. He didn’t want to take a chance; best to do no business than get killed!
The newspaper vendor said nobody went to the collection centre to pick up the morning editions. The petrol station across the road had few customers.
The previous night, there was commotion at a musical event in a large park in one of New Delhi’s toniest areas when the rumours of violence in different parts of the city started spreading.
The first ones to make a run were a dozen women guards, who fled leaving behind a large audience still distracted by some good Indian classical music. Soon, they too began dispersing.
One colleague messaged, saying the gates of his colony had been shut and residents were keeping vigil through the night. So scared was he that he shared his wife’s telephone number — just in case something happened to him.
Mercifully, nothing happened that night. But some of the worst rioting in the Indian capital in more than three decades that killed more than 40 people, injured hundreds and destroyed homes and properties, has instilled a deep fear in people.
Nobody feels safe. Neither the poor, nor the rich. There is a good reason to fear the mobs; they kill without fear because they want you to be afraid.
That night the police chipped in, neighbours stood for each other and the night passed despite rumours.
But the fear will live on because of the violence that the city has seen. And the violence has been because of hate, which is now out in the open. The curtain has dropped — it doesn’t hide anything anymore. It’s too heavy with history to be put back up.
If you follow Indian tennis, you would have definitely heard of Ankita Raina.
I don’t, so I hadn’t until I had her sitting next to me on a flight to Mumbai.
She walked into the aircraft with an air of quiet, matter-of-fact confidence – lugging a big, bulging sports bag that carried her gear and a small backpack.
She had a mobile phone, an extra charger and a book – all of which she laid out neatly on the seat as she prepared to settle in for the flight while looking around to get a fix on her surroundings.
At first glance, she could have been just another sporty young lady but then she wasn’t, as I realized when I woke up from my usual aircraft-taking-off nap routine. To my embarrassment I found that I was sitting next to a star – India’s top woman tennis player!
She was poised, but yet child-like, happy to engage in a conversation and laughingly share her stories from her travels to play in top tennis tournaments across the world – from the Wimbledon to Flushing Meadows and Roland Garros and Australia, China and even Morocco – mostly travelling alone as she can’t usually afford to carry her coach and family.
As I heard Ankita’s stories, I began to marvel this young lady who started playing tennis in Ahmedabad at the age of four (before moving to Pune for coaching) and has been hopping in out of international flights and checking into hotels in strange cities across the world all by herself since her teens.
With a twinkle in her eyes she told me how at a young age she pulled the chain to stop a train in Morocco, as she feared she had missed her stop as language barrier made it difficult for her figure out whether she had reached her destination.
Everybody on the train spoke French or Arabic, and not English. Helpless bawling helped when she was hauled to the station master and asked to pay a hefty fine, she said.
Or how once the airline staff wouldn’t let her go in Mumbai as she was a minor and her family had to drive up from Pune in the dead of the night to take her home!
And then how she had to show up at a tournament sleepless due to late flight changes for a match in China and still win it in straight sets. Impressive!
She also quietly and earnestly whispered that she had been bumped up into the business class thanks to an upgrade voucher one of her friends had given her.
Down to earth, realistic and supremely confident, the 26-year-old was also keen to get a picture with a well-known singer on the flight.
“Should I ask him,” she asked me.” I really want to get a picture with him.”
Will she put it on her social media handles, I asked. No, she replied, adding that she wanted the picture only because she loved his songs. She did put it on her Instagram page!
Ankita’s story of is one of determination, focus and dedication. It is also one of a young Indian who aspired to reach the top, worked hard and managed to get to there despite many odds.
She was in Mumbai to play in the premier tennis league before going back home to Pune – rest, eat home food (which she said she misses on her travels; the Gujrati thali is her favourite) and allow her mother – who works with an insurance firm – to embrace and pamper her.
She misses her family and coach during her travels, as others on the circuit travel with their parents and support staff, but she said travelling alone from a young age hasn’t made her lonely. It has made her stronger and more focused to achieve what she has set out to.
I wished her best of luck for the 2020 season as we parted ways and told her I would try and follow her journey to more success – breaking into the world top 100.
On my way out from the airport I kicked myself for missing out on a selfie moment. But then, there is always that next time!
You can follow her on @ankita_champ (Twitter) and #ankitaraina_official on Instagram.
Ten thousand desert rats, 10,000 fish, 14,000 sheep, 1,000 lambs, 1,000 fat oxen and many more creatures slaughtered, cooked and served: that is how Ashurnishabal of Mesopotamia (883-859 BCE) pampered almost 70,000 guests for 10 days. The Archbishop of York’s enthronement feast in 1466 CE required 104 oxen, 2,000 geese, 1,000 capons, 1,000 sheep, 400 swans, 12 porpoises and seals, and a great number of other birds and mammals. In an appropriately grandiose sidebar to his ornate reign as king of France, Louis XIV became incapacitated by overeating at one of his own weddings.
As e-mail was taking over the modern office, researchers in the theory of distributed systems—the subfield in which, as a computer scientist, I specialize—were also studying the trade-offs between synchrony and asynchrony. As it happens, the conclusion they reached was exactly the opposite of the prevailing consensus. They became convinced that synchrony was superior and that spreading communication out over time hindered work rather than enabling it.
From the start, it was hard to know whose side Ferdinand Magellan was on. Born in northern Portugal around 1480, Magellan, an orphaned son of lesser nobles, spent decades serving the Portuguese crown in its wars abroad, in India and Malaysia. One might think Magellan was the epitome of national devotion. But in 1518, after being rejected by the Portuguese authorities, Magellan turned to his country’s greatest rival: Spain.
By Rahul Sharma
Mr Jack Dorsey might have his political views and Mr Donald Trump might have many twigs to pick with Twitter, but there should not be any argument over who’s the best ambassador and brand builder for the social media platform.
It is the U.S. President – the most powerful man in the world — who has unabashedly taken the Twitter route to push his point of view and policy changes in a way no other global leader has.
His late night tweets may have more to do with him and his place in the sun than for Twitter, but indirectly he has shown the power of an idea that Dorsey introduced to the world and by doing so become its best advertiser.
Sometime after Mr Trump won the US presidency in a victory that left many wondering where the good old world was heading, a friend from New York stated rather eloquently that it was going to soon turn into a bad new world — one which many could see coming, but had chosen to shut their minds to.
The newly installed world’s most powerful leader hadn’t really started his tirades on Twitter by then; he was only beginning to learn the power of this communication tool that he would eventually put to very good use.
Mr Trump, the friend went on to say, would challenge everything that the good old world had to offer – ethics, civility, decency, equality, stability and most of all the status quo of an era that in his view had done no good to America and Americans.
History will begin with him, and he will ensure that it is he — and no one else — who takes the credit for the changes he was about to bring about to the ways the world’s most powerful nation ran, I was told over a long conversation interrupted only by sips of some awesome whiskey.
Mr Trump — despite his shortcomings and lack of political knowledge — would control the narrative thanks to his penchant of jabbing his fingers on the phone to tweet his what was once considered his silly world view late at night after a burger meal in reaction to television news he didn’t agree with.
Indeed, as Mr Trump prepares to contest his second term as the US president, it is clear how he has used Twitter to hugely impact both domestic and foreign policy — forcing many of his opponents, followers and some of the world’s biggest leaders running scared.
Imagine waking up to a tweet from Trump that just changed the course of global trade? Or the fate of a global corporation? Or one spooked that the leader of a neighbouring country? Or, for that matter, one that announced a meeting with the leader of a country the American establishment had bashed around as enemy number one for more than half a century – North Korea.
As a communication tool, Twitter could claim to be the most influential and impactful — allowing world leaders to send out crisp, concise messages that have the ability to change the course of the world, sometimes permanently.
The trade spat with China that Trump triggered through Twitter is a good example. Gone are the days when subtle, confusing and sensible messages were sent out of the White House through official leaks or briefings. This president is more direct and he really believes that he alone can make America great again. So be it!
In fact Mr Trump has used Twitter to slam Twitter too. On a day he was to meet Mr Dorsey, he railed against Twitter calling the company “very discriminatory” and said it did not treat him well as a Republican.
He also accused Twitter of playing political games and worried about a supposed non-conservative bias on the platform. The challenge probably works well for Dorsey, as it positions his company as one that is open to hearing from the worst of its critics.
As I said earlier, Mr Trump is possibly the best ambassador for Twitter. The tweeting blue bird that has taken over our lives may or may not be proud of that association, but we could well argue that a lot of its power, visibility and relevance emerges from the fingers of the current U.S. president.
And for those who fear Mr Trump’s so-called inconsistencies and unpredictability, there is hard lesson ahead. If he can do what he doing, there are others who are there to follow — if not already keeping pace.
In fact, there would be very few world leaders who are not on Twitter – reaching to their constituencies and stakeholders directly with messages that leave the middlemen and traditional media dumbfounded and very worried.
The good old world has finally turned into bad new world, one that many are still grappling to come to terms with. All thanks to Mr Trump and Mr Dorsey’s Twitter!
Why is it that some people seem to make constant progress in their professional and personal lives, while others appear to be doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over? While the answer isn’t cut and dry, I’ve noticed an interesting mindset difference between these two groups: they approach obstacles and challenges very differently.
This May should also be remembered for its cornucopia of outlandish riches — $900 billion in China’s save-the-world-from-poverty investment, a $350 billion envelope to President Trump to help Muslims defeat each other, and a $250 billion Indian plan to turn its traders into manufacturers of sophisticated weapons.