POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Jul 03, 2015 AT 22:43 IST ,  Edited At: Jul 03, 2015 22:43 IST

Tarek Fatah, the renowned Pakistan-born Canadian writer and liberal activist, was on a four-month long trip to India. Upon his return, he gave a rather interesting interview to Tahir Gora where he spoke of his experiences in India.

Fatah believes that India is such a large and diverse country that even a lifetime is not enough to experience the nation. However, the most startling observation he makes is about Indian women. And this is what he had to say:

Women inhabit a different India. The most civilised, disciplined kind of people, who dress well and work and drive by traffic rules are women. No matter what they do, from cleaning streets to driving, even when they are driving a Mercedes they do it better than their male counterparts. Men just don't have it in them to drive well. Women hardly use horns, men use it too much. 

In the next five years, make all the men sit at home and let women run India, it would be a member of the Security Council. It will know how to talk, it will know how to sit. Women know things because they are mothers and they bring human beings into this world. Men know nothing of birth. That is why women cannot be that harsh. 

I saw women ride scooters, young girls going to college or where ever, and there is something very admirable about Indian women, their writers, newscasters...where ever men turn up, it seems as if something is going to go wrong. 

Fatah who has been associated with the Left also spoke at length about class difference in India:

One can see the economic progress but it seems that the upper middle class is not very attached to the nation and is more fond of money. It is a dangerous thing when every individual starts paying attention to their individual prosperity over the welfare of the nation. People start lacking wisdom and vision about the future of the nation. Before people would think of the future of the country above themselves. 

It is sad that very often Indians treat their fellow citizens with disdain. The upper middle class has no guilt about what is happening to the lower classes. They can't even fathom the of idea sitting at the same table and drink a cup of tea with a taxi-driver. 

The kind of gap between the rich and the poor that exists in India should not exist in any civilised country. A man is sleeping on the road and Salman Khan runs him over with his car and then people take to the streets to say nice things about Salman Khan, then that means there is something rotten about India. People said let him die, why was he sleeping on the footpath in the first place? Some people said that they are dogs and they deserve to die. People don't have empathy. 

On Urdu and its position in the sub-continent, he said:

Indians have an inferiority complex about Urdu. It was their language, they should have kept it. I don't know why they sent it to Pakistan. For Pakistan the language became an instrument of colonial oppression. One million people from Uttar Pradesh came to Karachi, the capital of Sindh and said let's ban Sindhi. They banned Punjabi. They banned Bengali. They banned Balochi, Pashto, etc and made an Urdustan.

Tarek Fatah also seemed to be unimpressed by India's knowledge of Geography:

Indians don't understand Pakistan...they don't even know where Sindh is. A civilisation which associates itself with Darya-e-Sindh and doesn't know where the river actually is, and thinks the whole civilisation is about Ganga-Yamuna whereas it is all about Lahore and Punjab. 

Despite that, he considers India to be the embodiment of human civilisation and that it is poised to become the world's greatest country.

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FILED IN:  Indo-Pak|Urdu|Women|Pakistan
POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Jul 03, 2015 AT 22:43 IST, Edited At: Jul 03, 2015 22:43 IST
POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Jul 01, 2015 AT 06:40 IST ,  Edited At: Jul 01, 2015 06:40 IST

Haryana's Bibipur Village Panchayat initiated a unique #SelfieWithDaughter contest to drive home the importance of a girl child. The media was abuzz with the story which reached our Prime Minister who is known to engage in selfie-diplomacy. So this time he decided to try his hands at some selfie-activism. Little did he know that his endorsement for the above contest on his 'Mann ki Baat' radio show would generate so much heat and debate that the real message would ultimately get lost.

The Prime Minister had said:

It gives pleasure that in the same Haryana, a Sarpanch of a small village can give such a dimension to the 'Beti Bachao' programme. It raises new hopes. That is why I appreciate this initiative. But it also gives me an inspiration and that is why I urge you to click pictures with your daughters and post those on #selfiewithdaughter.

Among those, whichever are more inspiring, will be retweeted by me. In this way, we can convert the 'beti bachao, pedi padao' effort into a mass campaign.

Actor Shruti Seth gave her piece of mind to the Prime Minister through her tweet:

Activist Kavita Krishnan took a jibe at the PM with reference to Snoopgate giving the PM's message a total spin and attacked the PM:

This almost invariably led to the all too common war of words on Twitter where Twitterati bombarded each other with their opinions on the matter and subjected the two women to some trolly, while others came in support of the actor and the activist highlighting misogyny in Indian Society.

Actor Alok Nath known to epitomise the 'Indian Culture' in his #Aadarsh roles almost gave somewhat of a heart attack to his ardent followers with his tweet:

While he realised his folly and immediately deleted his tweet. Much damage had already been done. Kavita Krishnan came up with an article in response:

On Sunday, the actor Alok Nath, known for film and TV roles of the kindly father/uncle who lectures people on Indian culture and values (and also lately for tele-marketing gemstones to suit various superstitions), tweeted a selfie with his daughter with the hashtag #SelfieWithDaughter. This was in response to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call to tweet with that hashtag and share the photographs with him. Soon after that, he responded to a tweet of mine criticising the prime minister, with the words "jail the bitch".

What really is the point of a public display of pride in your daughter if you find it acceptable to shower sexist abuse on women whom you disagree with?

While some tweets were just downright racist:

A tweet with Ehsan Jafri and his daughter's picture started doing the rounds to remind the Prime Minister of Godhra riots:

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POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Jul 01, 2015 AT 06:40 IST, Edited At: Jul 01, 2015 06:40 IST
POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Jun 30, 2015 AT 23:11 IST ,  Edited At: Jun 30, 2015 23:11 IST

People across the globe are set to gain a second as time keepers prepare to add an extra second to world clocks. 

Reason behind this generosity is that there's a slight difference between how fast the earth spins and official world time. So this extra second helps bridge the gap.

As the Telegraph puts it:

Immediately before midnight dials will read 11:59:60 as clocks hold their breath for a second to allow the Earth's rotation to catch up with atomic time. 

You might want to ask why bother if it's just a second. Hence, the BBC got in touch with Robert Edwards, head of science at the Royal Observatory Greenwich to explain this baffling practice who said:

You could ignore this over a short timescale.

After a century the time given by our atomic clocks might disagree with the time given by the Sun by about one minute.

After 6,000 years they might disagree by an hour.

After roughly 72,000 years they might disagree by 12 hours and midday according to our atomic clocks would take place at midnight according to the Sun.

Taking a second's leap might sound quite simple, but tinkering with time is never a good idea.

Peter Whibberley, Senior Research Scientist in the Time and Frequency group Britain’s National Physical Laboratory who is better known as the 'Time Lord' said:

There are consequences of tinkering with time. Getting leap seconds wrong can cause loss of synchronisation in communication networks, financial systems and many other applications which rely on precise timing. Whenever a leap second occurs, some computer systems encounter problems due to glitches in the code written to handle them. The consequences are particularly severe in the Asia-Pacific region, where leap seconds occur during normal working hours.

When the last leap second was added in 2012 Mozilla, Reddit, Foursquare, Yelp, LinkedIn, and StumbleUpon all reported crashes and there were problems with the Linux operating system and programmes written in Java.

The BBC reports:

The atomic clock expert Professor Judah Levine, from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, warns that "it's a major interruption mostly because there are a lot of systems that aren't prepared to handle the leap second correctly".

Here's hope that all goes well with the leap and the world puts the extra second to good use.

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FILED IN:  Space
POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Jun 30, 2015 AT 23:11 IST, Edited At: Jun 30, 2015 23:11 IST
POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Jun 30, 2015 AT 20:18 IST ,  Edited At: Jun 30, 2015 20:18 IST

Suspended Delhi University professor G N Saibaba, arrested for alleged Maoist links, was today granted temporary bail for three months by the Bombay High Court considering his deteriorating health condition.

In May 2015, Outlook carried a cover story by Arundhati Roy on the professor who taught English at Ramlal Anand College:

"Why did they abduct him in this way when they could easily have arrested him formally, this professor who happens to be wheelchair-bound and paralysed from his waist downwards since he was five years old? There were two reasons: First, because they knew from their previous visits to his house that if they picked him up from his home on the Delhi University campus they would have to deal with a crowd of angry people—professors, activists and students who loved and admired Professor Saibaba not just because he was a dedicated teacher but also because of his fearless political worldview. Second, because abducting him made it look as though they, armed only with their wit and daring, had tracked down and captured a dangerous terrorist. The truth is more prosaic..."

On the professor's deteriorating health conditions in prison, Roy wrote:

"In the year he’s been in prison, his physical condition has deteriorated alarmingly. He is in constant, excruciating pain. (The jail authorities have helpfully described this as “quite normal” for polio victims.) His spinal cord has degenerated. It has buckled and is pushing up against his lungs. His left arm has stopped functioning."

Professor Saibaba has been charged under the UAPA, Sections 13 (taking part in/advocating/abetting/inciting the commission of unlawful activity), Section 18 (conspiring/attempting to commit a terrorist act), Section 20 (being a member of a terrorist gang or organisation), Section 38 (associating with a terrorist organisation with intention to further its activities) and Section 39 (inviting support and addressing meetings for the purpose of encouraging support for a terrorist organisation.)

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POSTED BY Outlook Web Desk ON Jun 30, 2015 AT 20:18 IST, Edited At: Jun 30, 2015 20:18 IST
POSTED BY Freya Dasgupta ON Jun 29, 2015 AT 23:48 IST ,  Edited At: Jun 29, 2015 23:48 IST

It perhaps is just a coincidence but countries — where at one point in ancient history, successful, prosperous civilisations flourished — seem to be in the doldrums. Some are in the grips of major financial crises while others are zones for major conflicts. 

One needs only a brief glance to realise that these major civilisations aren't quite living it up in the 21st century. 

Ancient Greek Civilisation:

The Greeks don't have the oldest civilisation but clearly it has been one of the most influential. Unfortunately, Greece is on the brink of bankruptcy. With an austerity referendum scheduled for July 5, Greece is struggling to pay back its creditors, known informally as the Troika (consisting of the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank). If in the upcoming referendum, it votes for "yes" it will be subjected to "strict and humiliating" austerity. If it goes with "no" it might no longer remain a part of the European Union. 

Mesopotamian Civilisation:

The region between the Tigris and the Euphrates river systems — presently known as Iraq — was once where civilised societies started to take shape. Already a land plagued by years of dictatorship and ravaged by war, it is now under the "caliphate" of the Islamic State who have been seizing one city after another. Once the intellectual centre of the Islamic world, Baghdad under constant threat from the IS and frequent air strikes by the US targeting the militants is a distraught city today. With the IS cutting off water supply and deliberately drying up marshes — much like dictator Saddam Hussein — Iraq is definitely headed towards an environmental catastrophe.

Ancient Egyptian Civilisation:

The land of pharaohs and pyramids and sphinxes saw a revolution in 2011 that put an end to dictator Hosni Mubarak's rule. Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi took over and was ousted in no time by the military leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Morsi, an Islamist, has been sentenced to death which if carried out will enrage Brotherhood's supporters and lead to widespread protests if nothing else. Getting rid of a dictatorship hasn't done much for the freedom of press in Egypt either since more often than not, journalists are imprisoned, mostly for having affiliations with the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. 

Indus Valley Civilisation:

The region witnessed the largest exodus in history during the Partition in 1947. Well, at least a portion of the exodus while the other bit took place on the Bengal frontier. The region remains a conflict zone for the two brothers separated at birth — India and Pakistan — and their never ending squabbles over border issues, more importantly Kashmir. Frequent ceasefire violations, infiltration and military green define the land of the five rivers. Add to this Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Indian Mujahideen and you have the perfect recipe for a civilisational disaster. 

Chinese Civilisation:

At least 30% of China's Great Wall from the Ming era has disappeared over time due to adverse natural conditions and reckless human activities. But that's not the only thing in China that is crumbling. The Chinese stock market took a 7.4% dive on June 26 that left it down 19% in just two weeks. Once the fastest growing economy in the world, China suddenly seems unable to keep up with itself. In the meantime, it remains embroiled in the South China Sea dispute, vehemently defending its claim over the largest portion of the territory which is supposed to be rich in natural resources even as it pledged to cut down on its carbon emissions.

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POSTED BY Freya Dasgupta ON Jun 29, 2015 AT 23:48 IST, Edited At: Jun 29, 2015 23:48 IST
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