June 06, 2020
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The Subcontinental Menu

The Subcontinental Menu
Illustration by Saahil
The Subcontinental Menu

The Doodah Over Hooda

In the faction-ridden Haryana Congress, the captain himself is leading the mutiny and the adm­iral might be in an unenviable position of watching the ship keel over. Former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda wants interim party president Sonia Gandhi to settle the party’s state leadership question in his favour. Hooda has been threatening to break ranks, form his own party before the assembly polls scheduled for October, if bitter rival and state Congress chief Ashok Tanwar, a Rahul Gandhi appointee, is not replaced immediately. Now, endorsing Hooda will not be an easy choice for Sonia. Most Congress satraps believe that Hooda Sr, embroiled in investigations of graft, has become a liability. But, given Hooda’s capacity to mobilise people and resources, his exit could be a death blow to the Congress.

No Belly Buttons

After the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) made online registration compulsory for entry in competitions, it got a barrage of bizarre photos. A shirtless man standing strong amidst CGI waves, another showing a finger to the camera, a third pretending to be a prisoner, with a slate in front of his chest are some of the highlights. Candle-lit restaurants, gaudy weddings and flowery lawns are preferred backdrops, though one talented athlete managed to photoshop the London Eye behind his stately frame. Thanks to these, the organisation had to reject one-fourth of the 3,000 applications received.  A bemused AFI has now humbly requested applicants to share “simple passport photos” instead of “all kinds of weird and colourful pictures”.

The Cost Of Being A Politician’s Fan

Who needs shady electoral bonds and black money when you have a winner scheme like Vaiko’s? The MDMK chief has been charging Rs 100 from his admirers who want to be immortalised in a photograph with him. And no matter what your circumstances, there are no discounts, as one follower found out. When Vaiko was in Ambur, his supporters chanted slogans, burst crackers and slipped Rs 100 notes as they shook hands with him before taking selfies. However, the leader thundered when one turned out to be empty-handed. He was pressed for a ‘donation’, but was escorted away when he couldn’t pay.

Laloo’s No Apple A Day

The repercussions of the Centre’s abrogation of Article 370 are reverberating as far away as in Patna and Ranchi. RJD leader Laloo Prasad Yadav, presently in prison, eats two apples a day to keep the doctor away. And he swears by Kashmiri apples—Himachali or imported varieties won’t do. But with the Valley in lockdown, fruit vendors have been unable to contact their suppliers, leaving Laloo bereft of vital vitamins. “The BJP has again caused inconvenience for our leader by scrapping Article 370. It has a caused a shortage of apples from Kashmir, which our sahib eats,” griped a RJD member. But the imprisoned sahib’s dietary affairs are not as dire—he is making up for the lack of the forbidden fruit with generous helpings of egg whites, almonds, walnuts and a mango a day.

The Great Indian Heist…On Scooters

A 275-km distance cove­red in two months, a motorcycle used to transport 16,000 kg of rice and 2.6 lakh kg of grains pilfered on scooters. These are some of the bizarre details of a complaint by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) that the CBI is probing. The FCI dispatched 9.19 lakh kg of rice from Salchapra in Assam to Koirengei in Manipur on 57 trucks. The grain reached after two months INS­tead of the usual nine hours. The transporter blamed the trucks, but the vehicles that replaced them turned out to be scooters and motorcycles. The icing on the rice cake? On arrival, the consignment of 16 vehicles, worth Rs 85 lakh, was missing.

To Love A Good Flood

Maharashtra elections? Two months away. Floods? Licking at the backyard. What’s best to contain bad press? Ferry 87 jou­rnalists to Yavatmal to attend the launch—by defence minister Rajnath Singh—of Deve­ndra Fadnavis’s Mahajanadesh Yatra. The press posse had the option of returning to Mumbai after the August 1 event or accompanying the CM for two more days. Only 30 returned. Yes, not a word on the floods and their devastation made way into the papers, while reporters raved about the crowds Fadnavis drew. The reverie was broken by the pesky Opposition, forcing the CM to cut the yatra short to monitor relief work in Mumbai and seek the Centre’s help.

From Gujarat, With Moo

The road-hog cow belies her exotic provenance—descendants of Dutch and American breeds. Such is their preponderance that indigenous varieties, resilient to diseases, are being ignored for the foreign high-yield milch moos in India pens. But the National Dairy Development Board has a plan to restore a place in the heart for the desi cows, the holy one. To spread the desi genes the board has shipped indigenous strains from Gujarat and Rajasthan—seven high milk-yielding Rathi and Gir cows—to Jharkhand. Their male calves were distributed for free through a lottery to farmers. The benefits: Jharkhand’s milk production is up five times compared to 2014. Take that you Holstein Friesians and Jerseys!

They Didn’t See The Sun

The issue of ‘comfort women’ has always made the Japanese leadership and large sections of its people uncomfortable, especially when it has been discussed or displayed in public. Adding to the ongoing Japan-South Korea trade war is a fresh controversy on the issue that has forced the cancellation of an international arts festival in the country.

The cancelled exhibition, ‘After Freedom of Expression?’, was displayed at the Aichi Triennale 2019, which began in central Japan from August 1 and was scheduled to go on until October 14, featuring works of 80 international artists.

Among its themes was an attempt to explore the power of art in the age of simulation, particularly over women’s bodies. The Triennale’s controversial theme was a follow-up to a previous show that explored topics deemed taboo by public cultural institutions in Japan. One of these was the issue of the ‘comfort women’, who were pressed into sexual slavery all over Asia by the Japanese military during World War II.

One exhibit featured a ‘Statue of a Girl of Peace’ by South Kor­ean sculptors, symbolising the 2,00,000 women trafficked and enslaved by Japan.

‘Comfort women’ are a sensitive issue in Japan. A statue by Korean sculptors symbolising the war crime angered many in Aichi.

The threats began immediat­ely after the ‘comfort woman’ statue was unveiled on August 1. Besides a flood of hateful emails and phone calls, a Japanese man with a long history of anti-Korean hate speech sent a fax to festival organisers, threatening to burn down the venue unless the statue was removed. In light of a recent deadly arson attack on a Kyoto animation studio that killed 25 people, organisers were forced to shutter the exhibit for several days.

However, Triennale organisers received even more criticism about the statue and other perceived anti-Japanese artworks, such as a video of a photograph of Japan’s wartime emperor, Hirohito, being burned. Kawamura Takashi, the right-wing populist mayor of Nagoya, one of the cities in Aichi Prefecture hosting the Triennale, demanded the statue be removed.

Omura Hideaki, the governor of Aichi Prefecture, accused Kawamura of censorship, but as chairman of the Triennale organising committee, Omura announced on August 4 that both the statue and the ‘After Freedom of Expression?’ exh­ibition would be removed from the Triennale programme because of safety concerns.

The decision did not go down well and many of the 80 artists invited to participate asked organisers to remove their work from the show as a mark of protest.

Illustrations by Saahil; Text Curated by Puneet Nicholas Yadav, Jeevan P. Sharma, Alka Gupta

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