May 31, 2020
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The Subcontinental Menu

Animal rights activists in Tamil Nadu are wary of protesting openly; the price of breathing at the Siachen Glacier; the only school for transgenders in any Islamic country in the world. Read all the juicy gossip here...

The Subcontinental Menu
Illustration by Sajith Kumar
The Subcontinental Menu

A Gory Tale

Blood sports take their toll. Thirty people and 12 bulls have been killed and 3,000 people injured since Jallikkattu was resumed in Tamil Nadu in January 2017, when the state government used legislation to get around a Supreme Court-imposed ban. At least one young man was killed by a rampaging bull and more than 40 were injured in events held in Perambalur and Ariyalur districts earlier this month.  PETA says the events are still taking place months later although supporters claim Jallikkattu is traditionally held in conjunction with the Pongal festival. It’s likely that this will continue through May, pushing fatalities up even higher. Animal rights activists are increasingly wary of protesting openly, as they fear being attacked by Jallikkattu supporters—many have left the state as a result.

Lakhs For Lungs

Rs 1.10 crore is the price of breathing at the Siachen Glacier, where panting Indian soldiers patrol the highest battleground on the pla­net. This amount is what is needed to construct an oxygen generation plant that would make the soldiers’ lives easier—and a Pune couple, parents of a serving officer, have taken the initiative by setting up a charitable trust and selling their jewellery to make a Rs 1,25,000 donation.  At present, oxygen cylinders must be delivered by helicopter from Chandigarh, and there is paucity of choppers. Oxygen generated at a plant close by would reduce transport cost and time.  Schoolteacher Sumeedha Chithade was quoted as saying, “I haven’t sold every ornament, but made a start. I will contribute more if required.” Her husband Yogesh said, “Other families should contribute too, at least Re 1.”

Thirsting Gods

The presiding deities of Puri’s Jagannath temple—lords Jagannath, Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra—have been missing their meals as the temple administration is locked in a faceoff with the cooks. A servitor who was to serve the ‘mahaprasad’ became ‘unfit for duty’ following the death of a relative, causing the temple administration to scramble in vain for a replacement. The gods had been dressed up in anticipation, but missed their breakfast and lunch as the food prepared for the maha­pra­sad was disposed of—and this caused the ‘supakaras’ (temple cooks) to protest and demand compensation of Rs 30 lakh for the wasted food. A meeting with the administration got nowhere, as the latter maintained that it wasn’t responsi­ble for mahaprasad cooked for commercial purposes.  Hopefully someone will resolve the dispute soon.

Pachyderm Polyglots

The immersion method of language learning wasn’t meant for elephants. When three jumbos—a tusker, a female and the latter’s calf—were brought to Jharkhand’s Palamu Tiger Reserve from Karnataka in March, they were used to the commands of their Kannada-speaking mahouts. The sudden imposition of Hindi has caused confusion, as the local mahouts were unable to communicate with their new charges. The reserve’s director, M.P. Singh, said the different phonetic pattern was “impeding their understanding.” This wasn’t entirely unan­ticipated, so a couple of mahouts did accompany the elephants from Karnataka. The plan is for these mahouts to teach their local counterparts the Kannada commands, so that they can use those at first before getting the elephants used to Hindi.

Change Channel For Darshan

An Indian icon that has been on the airwaves since Republic Day 1967 is moving to a more specialised venue, marking the end of an epoch. Krishi Darshan, which has always been broadcast on the national channel until now, will shift to DD Kisan, a new channel launched by the PM in 2015. It will also be bankrolled by the agriculture ministry rather than the information and broadcasting ministry. The move was prompted by low viewership figures for the analogue broadcast, and it is believed that the Kisan channel will give the programme a wider reach. The show will have a dedicated two-hour slot five days a week on the new channel.

Trans School In Lahore

The only school for transgender pupils in any Islamic country in the world (so it’s claimed) has just been opened in Pakistan. Located in Lahore, which is estimated to have a transgender population of about 30,000, the Gender Guardian school aims to furnish both a traditional education with a full 12-year academic curriculum (covering primary and secondary education), and vocational skills courses in fields such as cooking, fashion des­ign and cosmetics. Forty pupils have enrolled thus far, and there are 15 faculty members, three of whom are transgender themselves.

Entrapment Embarrassment

The police set up a meeting with a pair of investigative reporters at a restaurant, where they hand over some “secret documents”. Shortly afterwards, the reporters are arrested and brought to trial—a classic case of entrapment. Or so it would be, if a police officer appearing as a prosecution witness hadn’t revealed the whole scheme in court. Captain Moe Yan Naing testified that a police chief had ordered officers to “trap” Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who had been investigating the deaths of ten Rohingya men and boys in Rakhine state. The captain’s family soon paid the price—they were evicted from police housing less than a day after his testimony.

Hiccup At The Counter

Street food owners in Karachi are fighting a losing battle against the powerful Pakistani defence establishment and high-end Chinese investors to keep their business along the city’s famous coastline, Do Darya. The food street set up along the city’s coastline may soon be closed to make way for some upcoming high-end, seafront residential and commercial projects in Defence Phase VIII.

A major campaign is on in the social media with hashtags #Do Darya# and #SaveDoDarya# doing the rounds to build an opinion in favour of this attractive food street.

Unlike food streets in other parts of the city, the 1.5-km-long food street offers a fine dining experience along with cooling sea breeze and scenic views. It not only attracts visitors from all over Karachi but is also a major tourist draw and “must see” stops for foreigners.

Unlike in other parts of Karachi, the 1.5-km food street of Do Darya offers a fine dining experience, with cool sea breeze and scenic views.

According to a report in Dawn, around a decade ago, this barren area was notorious for drugs and other crimes. Most people living in the city would fear to venture on this side and those who had bought plots in Phase VIII often regretted their decision, says the Pakistani English daily.

However, investors who leased the spots at Do Darya took the risk and set up their food outlets in an outdoor setting. The concept took off and after that there was no looking back.

A Do Darya restaurateur was reported to have said: “This place was barren. We were given a lease for five years (by the Defence Housing Authority). We were given the assurance that it would be extended for another 20-25 years. We made sure to set up the place, bring value to the area and have thousands of people coming in every weekend.

“DHA had informed us that the lease would not be renewed, so we filed a case against them in 2014 and got a stay order...the tenure of that stay order is set to finish in about two months,” he said, requesting anonymity.

But the owners of the street food outlets say it will not be easy fight for them. “DHA hopes we will vacate the area in about two months, but we are resisting. It’s not an easy fight, but we are trying,” a restaurant owner said. “On an average, Rs 250 million has been spent on the property and this investment is not coming back,” he added.

The area offers employment to around 5,000 workers that include cooks, guards, waiters and valets.

The plots belong to the Army Sports Club and Navy Sports Club, while the other pieces of land have been earmarked for Chinese realtors.

Illustrations by Sajith Kumar

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