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The Subcontinental Menu

Why are Everest climbers in Nepal moving to China? Why are unemployed young people now selling Pakodas? Read all the juicy gossip here...

The Subcontinental Menu
Illustration by Sajith Kumar
The Subcontinental Menu

Garbage Singh Fine

Gabbar Singh rode in on horseback, flanked by a troop of henchmen, terrifying the denizens of Tikarpara, a posh area in Raipur, Chhattisgarh. He turned to his acc­omplice Samba, asking “Kachra fekne par kitne jurmana rakha hai re,” (what penalty has been announced for throwing garbage) to which the response came: “Rs 5,000, sarkar”. Local ward member Ejaz Tewar essayed the role of the iconic Sholay character, transformed into a garbage looter in this street play for a ­cleanlin­ess drive initiated by the Raipur Municipal Corporat­ion as part of Swachh Bha­rat. The press  quoted a corporation officer as saying, “We had rehearsed the drama well bef­ore starting the street play... People, in fact, were surprised to see ‘Gabbar Singh’ among them saying he landed in their area to loot garbage to gen­erate awareness among them on cleanliness.”

Fire In The belly

Stuck between a rock and a hard place, the Indian Hotels and Restaurants Association (AHAR) is asking if Mumbai restaurants can use wheat flour as a fire-fighting tool in the kitchens instead of keeping sand there. The sand is a requirement imposed by the fire brigade, and restaurants have now been pressured to comply it following a major fire in the metro recently. On the other hand, keeping sand in the kitchen would be a violation of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s norms. AHAR has asked civic authorities if flour can be considered for use as an alternative. An IIT professor says atta can become combustible gas, while a plastic surgeon finds atta a “good substitute” for sand.


Everest Exodus

Nepal is facing a serious blow as more and more Everest climbers decide to uproot themselves from the Himalayan nation and shift their bases to China. Reason: overcrowding and inadequate regulation that allows budget operators to lure inexperien­ced climbers into unsafe expeditions. Phil Crampton, who is moving his company Altitude Junkies to China, was reported as saying “The South side is way too overcrowded with inexperienced people.” His outfit is the third to make the move in recent years. Such foreign-owned groups have been demanding closer scrutiny of low-budget operators. Experts warn that budget operators send up expedition leaders who are ill-equipped for the challenge. Of the ten climbers who have died on Everest’s south side in the last couple of years, seven were with budget operators.

Piping-Hot Pakoda That Snowballs

The PM’s comment about pakoda sellers seems to have sparked off a movement, or perhaps a circus, in Uttar Pradesh. Even as parties vie to use it to win political points, the pol­ice have instituted a zero-tolerance policy. The AAP’s attempt to set up a pakoda stall in Lucknow was foiled when the police chased them away, while civic authorities sent packing two sellers posted outside the SP’s office. Meanwhile, a group of unemployed young people have set up their own Pakoda Chai Service in Lucknow. Whenever the cops come to drive them off, these educated youths, who count two law graduates among their number, do not hesitate to demand reasons. “We are fed up with this pakoda business,” sighed a cop. “We can’t shut it off without a reason and the netas won’t let it run.”

Pakistan Suspended From YouTube

The Pakistan government’s official account has been suspended from YouTube for copyright infringement. Footage from one of local vlogger Irfan Junejo’s popular travelogues, exploring a north-western hill station, was used without his permission in a video that aimed to promote “family-frie­ndly activities in Pakistan”. Junejo complained to the Google-­owned company, asserting that the government had never asked him if it could use the footage. When the government media cell’s coordinator Zaigham Abbas pointed out that the vlogger was credited in the video’s description, Junejo responded: “Just giving video credits does not mean you have permission to use the clips.”

The Notability Gene

Benazir Bhutto’s daughters Bakhtawar and Aseefa are not sufficiently notable by themselves to have their own pages, Wikipedia has determined. A discussion page for the proposed deletion of Bakhtawar Bhutto’s art­icle showed that most of the information was copied and pasted from the article on the PPP, and was mostly about Benazir. One comment on the page was, “Does not pass the Wikipedia Politician role, a little joke from my side as a Pakistani, we have had enough of morosi siasat (inherited politics). Let’s keep it away from Wiki.” Both articles have been deleted.

The Devi’s Dupatta

Devotees at a Tamil Nadu temple were in for a surprise recently when they found the presiding goddess dressed in a pink salwar kameez and blue dupatta. It is a custom at the Mayiladuthurai shrine to decorate Abhayambikai with sandalwood paste and coloured paper every Friday. The other week, the priests had done a Gujarati-style decoration, which won positive response. Not this time. A picture of the idol quickly went viral on social media. Devotees and senior priests were quick to claim that such a decoration violated aga­mic strictures and that the goddess should be dressed only in a saree. The priests have been suspended by the Shaivite matham that controls the temple.

Karachi Crime & Blame

Under pressure from Beijing for the murder of a Chinese national in broad daylight in Karachi recently, Pakistan is trying to blame India for the crime. Even as investigators are trying to find the culprits, interior minister Ahsan Iqbal told parliament that New Delhi could be involved in the killing of 46-year-old Chen Zhu, The Express Tribune reports. Chen, managing director of a Chinese shipping company in Karachi, was attacked along with his colleague Ye Fan while they were in their car after lunching at a restaurant. Chen received bullet shots in his head; Yen escaped unhurt.

Minister Iqbal told BBC in an interview that “Indian spy” Kulbhushan Yadav had admitted that India’s intelligence agency was sabotaging the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. “Representatives of our neighbour country have gone on record to say that India is against the deepening trade partnership between Pakistan and China,” the minister was quoted as saying. According to him, a confessio­nal statement by “convicted spy Kulbhushan Yadav in this regard” is proof to India’s involvement in subversive activities in the region.

The minister’s remarks hint at growing unease in the Pakistani establishment on ensuring the safety of the Chinese who work in Pakistan.

“Yadav has revealed that New Delhi continues to dedicate a sizeable amount of money tow­ards covert operations that aim to sabotage the CPEC projects,” he added. The minister further arg­ued that the recent killing of the Chinese national in Karachi was “another link of the espionage chain. Indian could be involved in this.”

Iqbal asserted the “nefarious designs of the enemy would not succeed, and the relationship between Pakistan and China will only improve”. Pakistan has deployed a dedica­ted force comprising 10,000 security personnel to protect CPEC-related economic interests, Iqbal told the BBC.

Iqbal’s remarks indicate growing unease in the Pakistani establishment on ensuring the security of Chinese nationals working in Pakistan on the CPEC and other projects. Islama­bad is already under US pressure for not doing enough on terrorist activities directing towards its neighbours from its soil. The Afghan leadership also blames Pakistan regularly for the terror attacks in its country. India had been for years trying to tell the world about Islamabad’s encouragement to such groups and using them as part of its foreign policy.

The apprehension of facing the Chinese ire now in addition to these criticism, therefore, is understandable. Interestin­gly, the company Chen was working for was not linked to the CPEC. The minister’s assertion of an Indian involvement will hence raise a few more eyebrows beyond Delhi.

Illustrations by Sajith Kumar

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