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The Subcontinental Menu

For the sake of Swachh Bharat, Jabalpur administration goes tough on pet owners. Another card for Sadhu babas? Read all the exciting stories from in and around.

The Subcontinental Menu
Illustration by Sajith Kumar
The Subcontinental Menu

All Bark And No Crap

Residents of Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh now face a stark choice: either be prepared to pay a fine of up to Rs 5,000 under the Municipality Cleanliness and Sanitation Act, or don’t take your pet dog out to defecate in the open.  The Jabalpur municipal corporation (JMC) issued a circular to this effect on October 11. Municipal corporation commissioner Ved Prakash was quoted in the press as saying, “The JMC has decided to impose penalty on the pet dog owners, whose can­ines are found littering in public places. We have issued a circular in this regard. Our field staff have been directed to keep a watch on the pet dog owners. The obj­ective behind the move was to keep the city clean.” Another municipal corporation in the state was in the national news earlier when it fined a rural family Rs 75,000 (Rs 500 per member per month) for defecating in the open.

Clockwork Culture

In the centre of Raipur, for a span of 30 seconds whenever the clock strikes the hour, one can hear the strains of a Chhattisgarhi folk song. There is a different song for each hour of the day. This is a recently added feature of the city’s clock tower, which is a well-known landmark that marks the spot known as Ghadi Chowk. The tower is central to the city’s distinctive identity even amidst the hustle and bustle of modern life.  The songs are played in order to promote Chhattisgarhi folk culture, and the initiative has resul­ted in the clock being inclu­ded in both the Limca Book and the India Book of Records.  Maintained to a high standard while many of its counterparts around the world have suffered dilapidation, the clock tower is still the point of reference for many local residents who choose to synchronise their watches with it. 

Avadhoot Card To Be Rolled Out

Sadhus across the country will soon be able to flash a credit card-sized plastic identity card that displays their credentials, according to plans that have been put in motion by the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad. The apex body of those who have abandoned material things and worldly connections is aiming to complete the distribution of the ID cards before 2019’s Ardh Kumbh mela in Allahabad. Parishad president Narendra Giri specified that each card would contain the name and photograph of the sadhu in question, along with the details of the relevant akhara, and the member’s length of service. The parishad also hopes to share its database of real babas with the government and opposition parties. Accredited members enjoy special access privileges at religious occasions such as Kumbh melas.

Cosmopolitan Coiffeurs

Walk into a Srinagar barber shop and you’ll probably be better off speaking Hindi than Kashmiri. Local barbers have become an utter rarity in the city and the surrounding region, with most of the younger generation having hung up their scissors as life in the Valley changed and militancy rose, while their elders have retired. The gap in the market was noticed and plugged promptly and smoothly by migrant workers from places such as Bihar, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, who now run hundreds of shops all over the city and its outskirts. Most will use some broken Kashmiri that they have picked up when they need to communicate with mostly elderly customers who don’t speak Hindi or Urdu.

Little Hilsa Being Eaten

It’s a perennial complaint of Calcutta residents: why is it that hilsa bought after Durga Puja are smaller than those bought before? West Bengal’s fishermen are prone to ignore the ‘strict orders’ of the state government during and after the festive season. Although they are instructed to catch only large hilsa and to leave the smaller specimens to grow, the fishermen find that they have little choice.  As demand is extremely high during festive periods due to the fish’s popularity and cultural significance, most of the choice pickings are consumed then, and only undersized hilsa remain to be caught afterwards. The buyers find little comfort in the fact that prices have also come down.

Booted And Ready To Climb

Every day, she walks 3 kilometres to reach a school located 10,315 feet above sea ­level. But Samina Fatima, a Class VII student and labourer’s daughter from the Nubra region of Ladakh, aspires to climb far higher.  Selected to attend the opening ceremony of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in New Delhi on Oct­ober 6 as part of the government’s Mission XI Million program, Fatima was inspired when Prime Minister Narendra Modi presen­ted her with a football, and was quoted as saying, “Now it is my ambition to play football for the country at the international level.”

Zoroaster’s Zapotas

Sporting sunglasses and clad in shorts, they sell their ancestral wares.  These youths, many of whom have left high-­flying careers to return to the farm, embody the only hope of Irani chikoo farmers. The sapodilla, in its Indian avatar of the chikoo, only dates to the 1890s, when it was imp­orted by a textile tycoon.  Some saplings were taken by his estate manager, an Irani, who set up a garden in Dahanu, off Mumbai.  The enterprise would expand and attract many Irani farmers, who would prosper over the ­decades. However, the farms are no longer as profitable as they were, and many farmers support ­themselves through side ventures or feel they must sell their land.

Civis Romanus Sum

At a time when the focus is all on the renewed faith between US President Donald Trump and the ­Pakistani leadership, the plight of one of their own ­citizens in the Guantanamo Bay prison has started ­grabbing the national headlines in Pakistan.

Ahmed Rabbani, a Pakistani national, has been on ­hunger strike in the notorious prison since May 9, 2013—which means for four years and four months—in protest against his unlawful detention.

Rabbani, a taxi driver from Karachi, was arrested by the Pakistani authorities in 2002 and handed over to the Americans under the claim that he was Hassan Gul, a known Al Qaeda operative. Though the US government soon realised that it was a clear case of mistaken identity since Gul was killed in Afghanistan in a drone attack, Rabbani continued to languish in the prison without any charges being levelled against him.

Under the US prison rules, the moment a person on hunger strike loses one fifth of his body weight, the authorities are supposed to force-feed him. He weighed 135 pounds when he started his hunger strike and now he is 109 pounds. He wants to reach 80 pounds but prison authorities are trying their best to force-feed him and keep him alive. His death will surely be a major embarrassment for the US as well as the ­Pakistani authorities. But so far no one from his own country’s government has come to see him, claims Rabbani, while detailing the years of ordeal that he had to go through in a letter dictated to his lawyer.

“I hear nothing from Pakistan that gives me hope. I fear that my love of my country counts for nothing, if my country will not stand up for me.”

Of Guantanamo’s 780 detainees, 730 have been released while nine have died in custody. But there seems to be no relief for Rabbani. “I hear nothing from the Pakistani government that gives me hope. I fear that my love of my country counts for nothing, if my country will not stand up for me,” the Dawn newspaper quoted his letter as saying.

There have been several attempts by the prison guards to dissuade him from continuing with his strike. But Rabbani is determined that he will not give up his peaceful protest till he is released. “I will get out of here one way or the other—either when I am freed from prison, or when I am freed from the bondage of life, or I leave in a coffin.”

The sad story of this hapless man clearly shows the ext­ent to which the Pakistani establishment would go to be in the Americans’ good books, even if it means sacrificing a few of their own innocent nationals.

Illustrations by Sajith Kumar

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