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The Subcontinental Menu

Malaysian PM's liking for Tamil movies and politics over fish, read the juicy gossip from the neighbourhood....

The Subcontinental Menu
Illustration by Sajith Kumar
The Subcontinental Menu

A PM’s Love For Idli And Rajnikanth

Idli, the much-loved south Indian snack, has been the favourite of people all across the country and even abroad. Now, it has started tickling the taste buds of a prime minister as well. The Malaysian PM, Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, admits that idli has become his favourite breakfast dish. “I am beginning to consider idli as my favourite breakfast item and you can see how much of India has crept into our Malaysian way of life,” the visiting dignitary confessed, while addressing Indian leaders during a luncheon meeting in New Delhi. Not only that, Razak also gushed about his meeting with Rajnikanth, with whom he had taken a selfie during their meeting at the superstar’s bungalow in Chennai . “I am beginning to like Tamil movies, apart from Bollywood,” he said. Rajnikanth’s Kabali, incidentally, was shot extensively on Malaysian locations.

The Nosy Bravehearts

Every dog has its day, and nobody would know it better than Oscar, or for that matter, his friends and colleagues such as Shotgun, Max, Sandy and Naughty, who have all retired from their police service recently. The student council of Bombay Veterinary College has decided to honour these retired police personnel during their annual college festival. Such felicitations are, however, not new for these braveheart canines, who had dedicated their lives to keep Mumbaikars safe by sniffing out suspicious objects. Oscar, for one, was deployed during the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai to check railway stations for explosives during his eight-year tenure with the GRP.  He had won a gold medal at an all-India police dogs’ competition too.

85-Year-Old Young Climber Trains Sight On Everest

A Nepali citizen who was once the oldest person to have climbed Mount Everest now wants to regain that distinction yet again at age 85. Min Bahadur Sherchan,a grandfather of 17 and great-grandfather of six, had achieved the feat when he was 76. Now, he wants to try scaling the 8,850-metre peak once again next month. The spirited, ever-youthful climber says his aim is to spread a message of peace and good health to the elderly and to encourage the young. “It will be a message to everyone that age is no obstacle to achieve anything,” says Sherchan. Though not too many may follow his footsteps, it is indeed an inspiring message.

Panvel Party For Salman, One More Time!

Bollywood superstar Salman Khan loves to slink into his farmhouse at Panvel, near Mumbai, with precious time stolen from his hectic shooting schedule. When far from the madding crowds of admirers, he is also known for throwing parties for his family and friends, whether he has a good reason or not. Now, he has a valid reason to organise a bash there. The  Maharashtra government has formally cleared the diversion of 1.28 hectares of private forest land for his father, script-writer Salim Khan. Khan senior had purchased the land way back in 1993 and constructed a bungalow with all modern amenities there two years later, but it ran into administrative hassles, since the area was said to be in an eco-sensitive zone. But the state’s revenue and forest department has cleared the project and recommended that Salim be declared the legal owner of the property.

Hasina’s Hilsa Directive

Asking a Bengali, that too a Bangladeshi, not to have Hilsa, is nothing short of committing a sacrilege. But the country’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, seems to have done so recently. While cautioning people not to be misled by religious fanatics who had been trying to describe Poila Boishakh as a Hindu festival, Hasina explained that celebrating the event was part of Bengali tradition and that draws its origin from the Mughals. But she advised them to refrain from eating Hilsa on the new year’s day, as this was the breeding season for the prized fish. It is sage advice indeed, but are their many takers for it?

Travails Of A ‘Stone’ Boy

A rare skin disease, epidermolytic hyperkeratosis, was turning Mehdi Hassan into a ‘stone’ boy. His whole body was covered in thick layers of itchy skin, making it tough for him to walk, even touch anything. The eight-year-old Bangladeshi had become an outcast in his village too. Thankfully, his story, reported in the international media prompted a charity to sponsor his treatment. His condition has since improved. His treatment will continue for four years but doctors hope he’ll lead a normal life.

No Chatting, No Live Streaming

Elections in Pakistan may not have been perfect exercises in dem­o­­cracy, with overt and covert influence of the military, but its election commission is trying its best. In its latest dir­ective, the commission debarred the use of all social media websites, even YouTube, in all its offices. This has left employees at its national headquarters and at all provincial centres twiddling their thumbs. Though the decision to ban Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, along with live str­­e­­aming channels has apparently been taken to minimise malware attacks, it has made many EC personnel virtually jobless.

An Incident Of Light

From the time it was created, Pakistan has always had a sizeable Parsi population. However, some Pakistan census officials now doubt whether there is anything called Parsi. In the past 70 years, many Parsi families have left Pakistan for countries in Europe and the US. Pakistani-origin author Bapsi Sidhwa is one of them, who now resides in America. But several Parsi business families are still in Pakistan, who continue to live and thrive in the country. Owner of the popular Muree Brewery, the Bhandaras, and hotelier Awari, who run the Awari hotel chain, are just two such examples.

But a Christian lady married to a Parsi in Karachi had a tough time in making a team of census officials, who came calling at her residence recently, understand what a Parsi is.

Visited by the three-member team, comprising a police constable, a Pakistani Ranger official and a government sch­­ool teacher, who came to her house as part of a census survey, the lady was asked whether she and her husband were Pakistani citizens when she told them that their mother tongue is English, though she and her spouse could also speak Urdu.

Census officials in Karachi admitted that the fact that Jinnah’s wife, Ruttie, was a Parsi was kept hidden from them all this time.

She tried hard to explain to them that though their names sounded strange to them, she and her husband were both Pakistani citizens who have been in the country since their childhood.

When she gave her husband’s ethnicity as Parsi, she drew a blank from all three members of the team, who wanted to know what the word meant. When the helpful lady tried telling the visitors that her husband’s religion was Zoroastrianism, the team went through all the options in their form, which had Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Ahmadiya and Schedule Caste, but no Zoroastrian.

Not to give up that easily, and seizing this opportunity to educate the census team a little more about other faiths, the lady asked them whether they had heard about Qaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s wife Ruttie. The men nodded their heads vigorously. But when she told them that she too was a Parsi, they sheepishly admitted that this bit of information was always hidden from them.

The matter was finally resolved and the complicated census form was ultimately completed when the policeman came up with a solution: why not put her husband’s religion in the category marked “others”! While this issue was resolved, the question remains whe­ther Parsis in Pakistan would now be lumped under “others”, instead of the faith of their forefathers, Zoroastrianism.

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