July 08, 2020
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The Subcontinental Menu

In The Subcontinental Menu this week, read why dozen of women employees in Faridabad took maternity leave 3-4 times a year; and what happened when the obituary of a cat appeared in newspaper's classifieds.

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The Subcontinental Menu
Illustration by Manjul
The Subcontinental Menu

Sickly & Sweet, That’s Pure Sin

The overtly masculine image of amber liquid sloshing gently on rocks of ice as gentlemen hold their glasses and clouds of cigar smoke swirl around is changing rapidly, with whiskey brands tapping into a diverse customer base and experimenting with flavours as diverse as coffee and tea. Well, that’s for those who despise the mus­­cle of whiskey and stick to sweeter fruity cocktails. Like Whi­skey Sour—a sweet-n-sour concoction that mellows the flavour of hard liquor with a sweetener, a dash of lemon and sometimes egg white. It’s a bid to attract non-conventional whiskey drinkers; make millennials aware of the versatility of a robust Scotch. Flavours like ginger and lemon are safe bets for beginners—something light on the palate. Next step: Pure Sin, a creamy cocktail of Irish whiskey and crème liqueur, topped with vanilla ice-cream and frozen berries.

Pregnant Any Time

Basic biology tells us that it’s nine months from conception to childbirth. Even the cave-folks were aware of this. But in this age of large-scale fraud, human reproduction can be sped up to no less than four times a year, and in some cases even more...with forged reports. That’s what an internal audit of the Employees State Insurance Corporation’s (ESIC) regional office in Faridabad found. Dozens of woman employees of private sector companies linked to the ESIC took insurance and maternity benefits like paid leave for 26 weeks, ‘showing’ themselves pregnant three-four times a year. Biology also tells us only rodents have this capacity of rapid-reproduction among mammals.

RIP Chunchu

The internet had not even gotten over grieving for Grumpy Cat—“the face that launched a million memes”—when another feline’s death broke our hearts. An obituary of a cat, Chunchu Nair, appeared in a newspaper’s classifieds and soon took over memes, tweets and posts. Thanks to her beguiling cuteness, Chunchu was mourned not only by her amma, achan, chechis and chettans, but also by netizens across India. But not everybody was impressed with the obituary. “India is the only country where even cats have a caste,” a tweet complained. A particularly anguished tweeter, Bhagwan Gaytonde, decried the “heatless humans” criticising the obituary and composed a requiem on Chunchu.

Monkey On Back

This is one of those stories that starts off badly and just ends up getting more and more awful. An impassioned monkey entered an Axis Bank branch in Delhi and made himself comfortable on an employee’s back. The terrified man hunched forward, put his hands over his head and lay motionless on his desk as the monkey pulled off an amorous act of inter-species what-the-f***, much to the amusement of bankers and clients milling around. Videos were shot and uploaded. The story ended without an M. Night Shyamalan-level twist. The monkey got bored and jumped away. One thought: Is this how the mysterious ‘monkey man’ that terrorised Delhi in the ’90s originated?

Poll-Hardened Spender

It’s not the heartbreak of losing the poll deposit that rankles more than the agony of being rejected wholly by the electorate—as in the case of Ramesh Kumar Sharma, the country’s richest candidate in this election with assets of  Rs 1,107 crore. This Independent got only 1,558 votes (0.14 per cent of total polled) in Pataliputra constituency of Bihar. The 63-year-old ent­repreneur based in Mumbai is used to such defeats since the 2005 assembly elections in Bihar. The losses remain inconsequential for this die-hard who, in 2005, made a film, Vasundhara, with him as the hero. The film’s opening was set before the assembly polls in Patna, but the Model Code of Conduct got him. What! Vivek Obe­roi is not a first? No, RKS beat him to it.

Smell The Coffee

Cricketers do what they must do—play cricket. Well, he also takes selfies, giggle a lot, and boogie woogie. That’s India’s star all-rounder Hardik Pandya, so says Rohit Sha­rma, ‘Hitman’, in a 90-second video about his colleagues’ quirks posted on the ICC’s Twitter handle. Pandya, too, is always on the phone, as is Chinaman Kuldeep . Batter Rohit—grumpiest in the morning—calls Shikhar the worst roommate, but won’t tell us why. Bhuvi enjoys romantic comedies; captain Virat is a gym zedi.

A Moonsite To Impose Order

It is a controversy that puzzles Muslims the world over—when to celebrate Eid. The festival depends on the sighting of the moon, and cloud cover or a whimsical cleric can determine if people are in for another day of fasting or a bout of feasting. So contentious can it be that even neighbours end up celebrating Eid on different days. To end the confusion, Pakistan has launched a moon-sighting and lunar calendar website, pakistanmoonsighting.pk, which predicts the dates of major Islamic festivals until 2020. What it couldn’t predict, however, was the ensuing controversy—many clerics insist that only a sighting by the naked eye is valid.

A Lashing Of Warm Air

Faster than the F16s his military could scramble for Indian MiGs, a message went out from Imran Khan’s Twitter handle after the Lok Sabha poll results were ann­ounced on May 23. “I congratulate Prime Minister Modi…Look forward to working with him for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia,” Khan tweeted. Modi respon­ded: “Thank you PM @ImranKhanPTI…I have always given primacy to peace and development in our region.” The exch­ange of pleasantries barely hid the mixed metaphors and non-sequiturs that ringed a campaign leaning heavily on relations with Pakistan.

India-Pakistan ties were already tottering since the terror strike in Uri in 2016. Relations nosedived further after a Jaish-e-Mohammed suicide bomber killed 40 CRPF troopers in Pulwama on February 14. Twelve days later, India conducted airstrikes on a Jaish camp in Pakistan’s Balakot, which bolstered Modi’s stron-man image. In April, Imran said that he saw a better chance of peace talks with India if the BJP won back power.

Pakistan downplayed the decision not to invite Imran at the swearing-in, saying India’s ‘internal politics’ did not permit such a move.

Meanwhile, Imran called Modi on May 26 and expressed his desire to work together for the people of the two countries. The gesture is seen as a sign of the easing of tension between the two neighbours, The Express Tribune commented. Modi and Khan are scheduled to meet at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, next month.

The moves are significant, given the fact that Modi hasn’t invited Imran to his swearing-in, unlike in 2014, when then Pakistan premier Nawaz Sharif attended the ceremony in New Delhi. Leaders of SAARC countries were invited then. This time around, the invites have gone to leaders of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), comprising Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal. Pakistan downplayed India’s decision not to invite Imran, saying Modi’s “internal politics” does not permit him to invite his Pakistani counterpart.

But Pakistani tentativeness towards India has not been lost in the media reports on Modi’s re-election. The Dawn newspaper wrote in an editorial: “The results are astounding, and depressingly show that religious hatred and sectarian politics can be exploited to lure voters. Notably, the months leading up to Mr Modi’s campaign were marked by anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan rants, with India going so far as to escalate tensions by conducting air strikes inside Pakistan in order to whip up nationalist sentiment.”

Illustrations by Manjul

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