DailyOh! Cyclone Yaas ravages eastern coast, a triple treat from the Moon

True to its name, Yaas continues to leave behind despair and destruction across the coasts of Odisha and Bengal.

 |  6-minute read |   26-05-2021
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It came, it crossed and it is now leaving a trail of destruction behind. You might be tempted to think it is the virus (or the fungus, take your pick) that we are talking about. And we will be. But later. Now we are talking about the cyclone that has hit eastern India. Didi liked to call the storm that hit Hooghly and North 24 Parganas districts yesterday "a tornado", but call it by whatever name, the storm before Cyclone Yaas was not calm.

Yaas — the name of the cyclone — was given by Oman. Our Word Of The Day has two contradictory meanings in two languages. In Persian, it means ‘jasmine’ — innocuous enough. But far from the fragrance, in Arabic, it translates to ‘despair’ or ‘desperation’. Since the name was given by Oman, where the primary language is Arabic, we want to go with their translation. And also because that accurately sums up the trail of destruction and the tale of despair it has already started leaving behind.

West Bengal, Odisha and Jharkhand are on high alert as the cyclone’s landfall commences. It has intensified into a “very severe cyclonic storm”. Red alert has been issued in Odisha and Bengal coasts and over 12 lakh people have been evacuated so far. Didi, meanwhile, has firmly parked herself in a control room to monitor the situation first-hand. The rising river water levels have inundated large parts of Bengal's coastal districts. The waters have breached embankments in Purba Medinipur and South 24 Parganas districts, where sea waves were seen touching coconut tree-tops and cars were seen floating.

main_odisha-jagnnath_052621051722.jpgSaving the Gods: A priest carries an idol of Lord Jagannath from a seafront temple to a safer place as Cyclone Yaas hit Odisha today. (Photo: Reuters)

Yaas pounded Odisha’s Balasore and Bhadrak districts, where it made landfall this morning, and continued to wreak havoc till the afternoon. The wind swept at 150 kmph accompanied by a torrential downpour. Rivers swelled, seawater entered the villages, huts were swept away, kutcha houses were flattened, trees and electric poles were uprooted. A picture of destruction. Despair, as they rightly said in Arabic.

From the cyclonic despair to the microscopic despair that we battle along with the rest of the world — the Coronavirus. 2,08,921 more infections were reported in the country on Wednesday morning accounting for the past 24 hours, along with 4,157 deaths due to the infection.

A bigger menace than the virus itself is misinformation, and that is what the Indian Medical Association is up against. IMA has written to PM Narendra Modi, urging him to stop the "misinformation campaign on vaccination by Ramdev". In the letter, the medical association has also urged the PM to take "appropriate action under sedition" law.

main_baba-ramdev_052621053629.jpgIMA has written to the PM urging him to stop the "misinformation campaign on vaccination by Ramdev".

While the misinformation campaign and the virus are relentless, the fungus seems to be catching up fast. As black fungus (mucormycosis) cases surge, there is fresh debate brewing on whether the spurt could be because of the unhygienic delivery of oxygen to Covid-19 patients along with dirty water in humidifiers. Experts say yes. Escape the virus and the fungus is already on your trail.

But the world is on Mehul Choksi’s trail, as the man vanished from the Antiguan beaches to the Cuban ones ostensibly, just before being extradited to India. As we told you yesterday, we don't have an extradition treaty with Cuba. Adding to our shame, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, has said his country wants Choksi out as he was a “liability” bringing dishonour to their nation. Not just yours, Mr Browne, but ours too. But we would rather have him in our country than out to make him pay (literally) for his crimes.

While Choksi may or may not get PM Browne’s message, global messaging giant, WhatsApp is entangled in a legal battle with the Centre. Recently the Centre laid down a set of IT rules for the tech giants. These rules are wide, giving the government incredible power over any company that deals in information and content within India. The deadline to accept the rules was today.

WhatsApp said nothing doing, and sued the government. It has said that adhering to the new rules would mean that it would have to break encryption for users sending and receiving messages. In short, WhatsApp would have to compromise your privacy if it has to obey the law. How? The new rules require WhatsApp to "trace" the origin of messages. "Requiring messaging apps to 'trace' chats is the equivalent of asking us to keep a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp, which would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermines people's right to privacy," said WhatsApp in a statement. The message from WhatsApp is that it is a violation of privacy. For now, we will not go into WhatsApp's own problems on the violation-of-privacy front.

main_whatsapp-logo_r_052621052053.jpgNo compromise on user's privacy, says WhatsApp, suing the Indian government. (Photo: Reuters)

The messaging app has nearly 400 million users in India and about two billion active users worldwide. And how many people work at WhatsApp? 55. No, we are not forgetting to add any zeroes in the end. Only FIFTY-FIVE employees. Wait, it gets even better. Until the app reached the download limit of more than one billion in February 2016, there were only four employees, with one person heading the team. As of date, WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) is worth USD 25 billion. Now if one were to live in a Utopian world where each employee was given an equal share, it would be around USD 455 million. But then, that is in an alternate reality. A Utopian world. It's like reaching for the moon from your balcony.

But tonight, do reach your balcony to see the moon. You will get to see not one but three celestial phenomena — the total lunar eclipse, Blood Moon and Flower Moon. No, there will not be three moons. Just one, displaying all three spectacles. Before you ask, Blood Moon does not have any blood on it, neither will you see a bouquet in a Flower Moon. Blood Moon is thus called because the Moon will get darker during a total lunar eclipse, taking on a rusty or blood-red colour. Tonight will be one of the biggest Blood Moons that you will see this year.

Similarly, the Flower Moon is when a full moon is illuminated as the light of higher wavelengths strikes its surface. The term comes from the native American tribes as it is the time of year when spring flowers appear in abundance. According to Nasa, the Flower Moon tonight will be the closest to Earth as compared to other full moons this year, making it the largest full moon. This big moon is also called Supermoon. So expect a BIG, radiant, red moon tonight. 

main_lunar-eclipse_r_052621052217.jpgBlood Moon is when the Moon takes on a rusty or blood-red colour during the total lunar eclipse. (Photo: Reuters)

Today also happens to be Buddha Purnima. Whether or not we follow Buddhism (or any religion for that matter), we cannot deny that Buddha’s preaching went beyond the paradigm of religion and was more about the purest of emotions and feelings — peace, non-violence and harmony. On this day, we recommend you to read Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha. It could be nothing about the Buddha, but also be everything about him. Do read the classic to find out what we mean.

With all the moon talks, we are sure you are already planning the romantic moonlight dinner. But, as we said, plan it in your balcony or terrace. It is not safe to venture out, because full moon or new moon, the virus does not care.

Stay safe, stay happy, and we will meet you tomorrow.

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Also Read: 31 extraordinary stories in the second Covid wave


Rajeshwari Ganesan Rajeshwari Ganesan @rajeshwaridotg

The author writes on wildlife, environment, gender issues, science, health, books and a host of other topics. A professional journalist and a passionate environmentalist. Former Assistant Editor, DailyO.

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