Sunday, May 28, 2023

The Subcontinental Menu

The Subcontinental Menu

The Subcontinental Menu Illustration By Manjul

Loneliest Place, With Covers

BJP MP Varun Gandhi feels the library at Parliament is the ‘loneliest place’ on earth. “I often go to the Parliament library because that is supposed to be one of the repositories of knowledge…. Every time I go there, the librarian hugs me, because she hasn’t seen a person in about 10 days,” he said at a conclave. Wonder how many parliamentarians knew they have a library before Gandhi made it cool and viral. And what percentage of MPs actually reads a book or two?

Witch Memorial

The statue of a woman at a square in Odisha’s Keonjhar won’t draw much attention, but plaques surrounding the black sculpture would. It’s a first-of-its-kind memorial dedicated to victims of witch-hunts, an outlawed practice that thrives in poor and tribal communities where illiteracy, superstition and a rigid caste hierarchy ensure women are branded witches and persecuted. The plaques bear the name of 55 women killed over suspicion that they were ‘witches’. Women are beaten, sexually assaulted, stripped naked and paraded or thrown into wells after being branded witches and blamed for everything—from a poor monsoon to illness, or sudden death. The statue is part of the campaign to exorcise the evil.

Romeo Hijacker

For all the husband-wife-and-woh jokes, this one is fatally serious. It so happened that Mohammad Polash Ahmed of Bangladesh had a tiff with his missus, like they often did, and their domestic disharmony flew out of control. A depressed Polash—condition unstable, say authorities—booked a Biman Airlines flight to Dubai, slipped a toy gun into his cabin bag, held a member of the cabin crew hostage and tried to hijack the plane carrying 148 people. The 25-year-old demanded an audience with the PM to discuss his family “issues”, and he forced the plane to land in Chittagong, where commandos cut his miserable life down. A day later, his father said his son was in love with a film-star. The influence of a third party was further corroborated by intimate images of the pair on social media.

Vastu’s Non-Bungalow

C-7, Civil Lines, Professor Colony, Bhopal. That’s the address to a spacious government bungalow earlier allotted to foreign minister Sushma Swaraj as she is a parliamenterian from Madhya Pradesh, representing Vidisha constituency for the past two terms. Former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who had to vacate his official bungalow after the BJP lost power in the assembly elections, was eyeing the house allotted to Swaraj. But he backed out when a vastu expert from Delhi found “flaws” in the construction. Thereafter, finance minister Tarun Bhanot cited similar reasons when the bungalow was allotted to him.

Sunny, The Examination Topper

Bihar probably would have had the oomphest junior engineer on the pla­net, but for a prank that catches the competent clerical cadre or bumbling bureaucracy in various stages of undress. Well, Sunny Leone ‘topped’ the merit list of the Bihar public health engineering department’s exam for hiring 200 junior engineers. She scored 98.50 points, while another candidate, “bvcxzbnnb” (father’s name: “mggvghhnnnn”), came third with 92.89 points. Sunny was registered in the general category with her father’s name as Leona Leone. The Bollywood pin-up—whose photos find space in many places, including the voter card of a woman named Durgawati in UP—tweeted that she was glad “the OTHER me has scored so well”.

Nepal Has A Gag Bag

Nepal’s elected Communist government doesn’t tolerate any criticism as it hampers the good work it is doing, like buying a helicopter for the president. So, the government has introduced a bill in Parliament that allows it to punish people for posting anti-­administration content on social media. Punishment includes a fine of Rs 1 million and/or five years in jail. The opposition Nep­ali Congress called the bill a move towards authoritarian rule. Ole, Oli, Oligarchy!

Cure-All Khaire

Chandrakant Khaire is the Shiv Sena’s Lok Sabha MP for Auranga­bad. Last week, he told a congregation of medical professionals that he had cured people by feeling their pulse, chanting mantras, and giving them vibhuti (residual wood ash from ritual fires) to eat or to place under the pillow in a pouch. Khaire said he wanted to treat BJP leader Pramod Mah­ajan after he was shot but couldn’t because of the strict security. That, apparently, was the only failure of this amazing apothecary. Hope this BSc from Marathwada University, who also has a diploma in personnel management, can feel the pulse of the nation.

Imran’s Modesty

If fawning supporters of Imran Khan have their way then the Pakistani Prime Minister will soon join the ranks of both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin as a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. It is another matter if he will win the coveted honour, if nominated. But his nomination alone can make him rub shoulders with a host of other world leaders that range from Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin to Fidel Castro.

A resolution was submitted recently in the Pakistani parliament by information minister Fawad Khan. He felt Imran was a deserving candidate for the “sagacious role” he played in reducing tension between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of last month’s Pulwama terror attack.

While turning down the proposed nomination for the Peace Prize, the Pakistani PM tweeted, “The person worthy of this would be the one who solves the Kashmir dispute according to the wishes of the Kashmiri people and paves the way for peace and human development in the subcontinent”.

Former Pakistani cricketer Wasim Akram also joined Imran’s camp-followers in singing his praise. He said the country has taken a giant leap since the Pak­­istan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government came to power. “Our country has taken a gigantic step in the right direction since you became our leader. The people are positive and feel safe for the first time in years. Skipper, you don’t need to be awarded the Nobel Peace prize, in our eyes you already have it!” Akram said.

Much of the hype about Imran’s statesmanship came from his decision to hand over IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman to India. The IAF pilot, caught in a dog-fight with an intruding Pakistani fighter, landed in Pakistani territory when he bailed out of his damaged aircraft. He was in custody for a day but Imran made an announcement in parliament that he had decided to release Abhinandan as a “peace gesture.”

Last year, two Norwegian right-wing parliamentarians had decided to nominate Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize for his initiative to denuclearise the Korean peninsula through talks with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean supremo.

Of the five categories for the Nobel awards—physics, chemistry, medicine and literature, the peace prize has often run into controversy. Among others it was awarded to Men­achem Begin and Anwar Sadat, two controversial leaders of West Asia. Since Barack Obama also won it in 2009, barely a year after assuming the US president’s office, few can fault Imran’s supporters for hoping that the Pakistani PM may also have a handy chance to win the peace prize.

Illustrations by Manjul; Curated by Alka Gupta