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The Subcontinental Menu

Juicy gossip from in and around the sub-continent...

The Subcontinental Menu
Illustration by Sajith Kumar
The Subcontinental Menu

Torture, Maid In Bollywood

Reports of shabby treatment meted out to domestic helps are old hat. What is shocking is that they are also subjected to torture and exploitation at the hands of Bollywood celebrities. If a Mumbai-based start-up, bookmybai.com, which provides maids to people in the maximum city, is to be believed, as many as 25 film and TV stars, including national award winners, have resorted to physical and mental abuse of their maids and other helpers. They have also been accused of withholding salaries and of misbehaviour. One star allegedly did not let his help attend his parent’s last rites until the agency sent a replacement. Exasperated, the agency has now resolved to not provide any domestic help to any Bollywood celebrity. It says it is not pursuing cases against the erring celebrities because the maids do not want to lodge FIRs. One star is learnt to have threatened to unleash nasty tweets about the startup among her 4 lakh followers.

Taxing Times In Nagaland

A paan shop owner at Dimapur has been asked to pay Rs 15,000 as adv­a­nce taxes for the fiscal year 2017-18. But the notice has not come from income tax authorities. It has come from the NSCN (Reformation), which has its headqua­r­­ters in Arunachal, and is a faction of NSCN (IM), which runs a parallel administration of sorts in Nag­aland. It has also served notices on all traders in Nagaland to pay amounts ranging from Rs 15,000 to Rs 50,000 for the current financial year. The move follows the decision of the Government of People’s Republic of Nag-alim, the political wing of  NSCN (IM), to reduce the “employee tax” from the existing 24 per cent to 12 per cent, which it is accused of collecting for long. Harried traders complain that they have informed the state governm­ent about the illegal extortion by various factions of NSCN, but to no avail.

A Centurion On The Run

Man Kaur may have turned 101 but age, as the cliché goes, is just a state of mind. The doughty centurion from Chandigarh proved that advancing years had failed to blunt her determination and will to succeed. Kaur won the 100-metre sprint at the recent World Masters Games in Auckland. She took one minute and 14 seconds to cover the distance. Kaur, hailed by the New Zealand media as “miracle from Chandigarh”, incidentally was the only par­­ticipant in the 100-years-and-above category among the 25,000 participants. But that only meant that spectators cheered lustily for her. And in case one thought it was her swan song, she emp­­hasised that she was ready for anot­her run. “There is no full stop for me,” she says.

A Novel Bidding: For The Last Rites Of A Spiritual Guru

What better way to pay homage to a guru than to get the rights to perform his last rites? A Gujarati business family bid for the last rites of Jayantsen Surishwarji Maharajsaheb, the spiritual mentor of the lakhs of Jains, who left for his heavenly abode at the age of 81 recently in Jalore district of Rajasthan. The Ahmedabad-based unidentified businessman’s family secured the right to light his pyre for Rs 33.50 crore. Bidding for other rit­­uals such as bathing the mortal remains of the monk, application of sandalwood paste on his body, covering the body with woolen shawl etc fetched a record Rs 57 crore for the temple connected with the monk. The family apparently owes its meteoric rise in business to the blessings of their departed guru. The practice of bidding, known as ghee bolo, had started about 450 years ago to catalyse community charity.

Scent Of A Promise To Temple

Kasturi, the musk collected from the male deer’s navel, is an essential commodity for rituals at the Jagannath Puri temple. But it has been in short supply for some time. During the recent visit of Nepal president Bidhya Devi Bhandari to the famous shrine, she assured the temple administration that she would resolve the problem after being apprised of it. The Jagannath temple used to receive kasturi from Nepal when the Himalayan nation was a monarchy, but it started facing a shortage after the Hindu kingdom turned into a democracy. The temple authorities prefer kasturi from Nepal for the shringar ritual of Lord Jagannath and his sibling deities during the annual rath yatra, because of its purity.

Bangladesh Brings Back Illegal Migrants From Europe

Bangladesh has started bringing back its nationals who had been living abroad without valid documents. Most of them live in Western developed countries. Large number of young Bangladeshis had been travelling to Europe for work for years. While many left with valid documents and stayed on after their visas expired, others don’t have valid papers. With right-wing European parties increasingly demanding stricter immigration laws, pressure is building on Dhaka take them back in recent months.

Loud Call For A Referendum

Sri Lanka’s decision to hand over the Trincomalee harbour to India is now being contested. The Pivthuru Hela Urumaya, a political party, has demanded that a referendum be held among the people on the government’s decision. The PHU says that handing the harbour to India, which has superpower aspirations, would amount to ask the fox to guard the henhouse. PHU general sec­re­tary Udaya Gammanpila said India was Sri Lanka’s “traditional enemy” and handing over Trincomalee would be disastrous. Bef­ore the step is taken, the PHU feels it should try to get a view from ordinary Lankans, hence the call for a referendum.

A Diplomatic Impasse

Pakistan is finding it exceedingly tough to strike a diplomatic balance between its two Islamic allies, who are at loggerheads with each other—Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The recent decision to allow its former army chief Raheel Sharif to head the 41-nation military alliance for the ongoing war in Yemen has landed Pakistan right in the middle of Saudi-Iranian rivalry in West Asia. The leadership in Islamabad is now busy convincing both the major Gulf players on how much it values their friendship.

But since the military alliance for Yemen is a Saudi-initiative, it is Tehran, more than Riyadh, that needs the soft touch from Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif’s envoy is trying to convince Iran to join the Islamic coalition to fight terror in Yemen, hoping to broker peace in the region.

General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan’s current army chief who replaced Sharif last year, has already had two meetings with the Iranian ambassador in Pakistan, Mehdi Honardoost. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who had been under growing pressure from political opponents back home for his decision, is now trying to convince the world that Pakistan’s involvement is solely to fight terrorists and not to get involved in Yemen’s ethnic war. But that does not seem to be such an easy task either. For the Saudis and its military allies, the Hout­his in Yemen are seen as terrorists who have to be destroyed merciles­sly. Iran, on the other hand, continues to be the main backer of the Houthis in Yemen against the Saudi-led military coalition. How Pakistan can maintain its neutrality in all this is question that is puzzling several observers both within and outside the country.

 But Prime Minister Sharif is not giving up his efforts of maintaining Pakistan’s ties with both Saudi Arabia as well as with Iran. He has deputed Pakistan’s attorney general, Ashtar Ausaf, a close aide of his, to travel to both Riyadh and Tehran to convince the leadership in the respective countries about Pakistan’s good intention. Sharif now wants to act as the peacemaker between the two Islamic rival powers and bring them together to restore peace and stability in the volatile region.

 As a move towards such an ambitious effort, the Pakistani PM’s envoy is trying to convince the Iranians to join the coalition effort to fight terrorism in Yemen. Sharif feels if Tehran agrees to join the alliance, it will be a big, first step to restore unity in the Islamic world and bring the various rival factions together. But identifying the right terrorist remain a difficult a task in Yemen, as it does in other parts of the world.

Illustrations by Sajith Kumar


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