August 02, 2020
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Illustration by Saahil
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The Pigeons Who Fly Marathons

Y. Syed Ahamed Ibrahim’s pigeons do not copulate on windowsills or bestow droppings on AC compressors. Instead, his talented pets compete in 1,000-km races and win prizes. He has 350 pigeons, of which 100 are for breeding and 150 for racing. Their latest accomplishment was winning the 500-km and 750-km races for male and female pigeons, and coming second in the 1,000-km race for female pigeons at a competition organised by the South Indian Racing Pigeon Society. Such was their performance that Ibrahim won the overall performer award—a Maruti car. The prize was instituted in 2017, but nobody won for the past two years. But the victory did not come cheap. Ibrahim lovingly lavishes Rs 12,000 a month on his brood.

From Pistol To Pen

One of Karachi’s most dreaded hitmen assassinated his father and the Taliban murdered his colleague. But these did not depress Omar Shahid Hamid, a deputy inspector-general who has been working with the Karachi police for two decades. Instead, they motivated him to spin gritty narratives around these events and become one of Pakistan’s most popular English-language authors. It all began in 2011, when he took a sabbatical after he was advised to leave Karachi and take a break from his job following threats from extremists. “I had a lot of frustration.... I felt a need to vent,” he says. What’s the secret behind his success? “Books like mine wouldn’t work if I pulled punches. It’s that grittiness, that uncompromising reality that I think readers enjoy,” he now confesses.

Don’t Want To Be A Gandhi No More: Rahul

Never could have Rajesh ‘Gandhi’ imagined that giving his son a generic name like Rahul would be his undoing. “They make fun of me,” bemoans Rahul, whose applications for a driving licence, SIM card and bank loan were rejected as people consider him an impostor. “When I call strangers on the phone and introduce myself, they hang up or laugh at me.” It is the noble actions of Rahul’s forebears that are to blame for his predicament. “BSF officials called my father, Rajesh Malviya, a washerman in the force, Gandhi because of his good deeds,” he laments.

Breaking Rice With Burglars

‘Paddy thief’ are the words etched on the back of a dead female elephant on the outskirts of Tezpur, Assam. It is a testament to the dire human-animal conflict in a state where tuskers routinely raid fields and lay entire harvests to naught. However, the residents of Ronghang-Hathikuli village have come up with a unique solution to this problem—growing rice for elephants. Once the elephants have their fill and return to the forest, they will sow paddy again for themselves. While the efficacy of the measure is yet to be tested, one can’t help but wonder—having relished a delectable repast, what’s to keep the jumbos from enjoying a second helping? “It is a temporary measure,” acknowledges an official of a local NGO.

Curious Case Of Kidnapped Cattle

When Angoorbala Hada from Madhya Pradesh received a call late at night, little could she have guessed that it was to extort a ransom for her prized Murrah buffaloes. A gang abducted five of her herd and demanded a hefty sum for their rel­ease. Hada immediately went to the police, after which the kidnappers sweetened the deal—she would have to pay Rs 1.35 lakh to get them back. But Hada’s case is not an anom­aly—kidnapping buffaloes can be a remarkably profitable proposition. Nine-year-old Yuvraj from Haryana, in demand for his virile semen, has a price tag that rivals a sea-facing condo in Mumbai—Rs 9.25 crore.

Secureddy Cost? Rs 5 Lakh A Day

Jagan Reddy is going to Israel on a four-day ‘personal trip’ and the security cover is going to cost the exchequer a staggering Rs 22.5 lakh. But the figure pales before the Rs 1.89 crore sanctioned to upgrade his sec­urity arrangements in Andhra Pradesh and the Rs 5 crore lavished on a road connecting his residence with the highway. Ironically, the CM had called for austerity measures after getting elected, which inspired an engineer to work for the state without a salary till his retirement. And what is Jagan planning to do after his jaunt? What else but meet Modi and the finance minister to seek financial aid for his cash-strapped state.

For Them The Bell Tolls

After the Easter att­­acks in Sri Lanka, Muslims in the Buddhist-­majority country had to suffer boycotts and violence. Even Muslim ministers had to step down after Buddhist monks acc­used them of supporting Islamic extremists. Nine ministers and two governors resigned, saying the government had failed to protect minorities. Yet the situation remains tense. Muslims for­ced to leave their homes are yet to be resettled; Human Rights Watch has war­ned that the community was facing arbitrary arrests, vio­lence and discrimination.

Vyleesi, Wunderdrug

A new drug to boost women’s sex drive has recen­tly been vetted in the US. A shot of the drug in the thigh or abdomen, according to the makers, could raise women’s sexual desire for several hours. The medication, approved recently by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is only the second approved drug to increase desire in women—a market that drug makers have been trying to cultivate since the blockbuster success of Viagra for men in the late 1990s, according to agency reports.

The upside of the new drug “is that you only use it when you need it,” Dr Julia Johnson, a reproductive specialist at UMass Memorial Medical Centre has said. “The downside,” she added, “is that it is a shot and some people are very squ­­e­amish.” A report pointed out that the drug’s developer, Amag Pharmaceuticals, could also face some of the same hurdles that have plagued Viagra, including side-effects and limited insurance coverage.

Though many doctors think low sexual desire in women isn’t a medical condition, drugmakers have long targeted it as a lucrative goal.

The most common side effect of the FDA-approved drug, called Vyl­eesi, in company studies was nausea, flushing, injection-site reactions and headache. The approval, apparently, was based on women’s responses to questionnaires that showed increase in sexual desire. But women didn’t report having more sex, which was the original goal of the drug.

“Women are not desiring more sex. They want better sex,” Amag’s chief medical officer  Julia Krop argued.

Women with high blood pressure or heart disease are advised not to take the drug as it increases blood pressure after it is injected, according to the FDA. It could also inter­fere with oral naltrexone, a drug for people with alcohol and opioid dependence, it added.

Because many factors affect sexual desire, doctors must rule out other causes before diagnosing the condition of low sexual desire, including relationship issues, medical problems and mood disorders. The condition, known as hypoactive sex­ual desire disorder, is not universally accepted, and some psychologists argue that low sex drive should not be considered a medical problem. Still, the pharma industry has long pointed to surveys—some funded by drugmakers—suggesting that it is the most common female sexual disorder in Amer­ica, affecting 1 in 10 women. Amag estimates nearly six million women meet the criteria for the drug. The Massachusetts-based firm plans to pitch the drug to consumers through social media, including on that tells women low sex drive “is nothing to blush about.”

Illustrations by Saahil; Text curated by Alka Gupta

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