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The Subcontinental Menu

When they were returning to shore on Mumbai-Palghar coastline, fishermen brothers stumbled upon 'sea gold'. And why residents of a village in Rajasthan’s Barmer wanted to get village's name changed. Read all this and much more in The Subcontinental Menu.

The Subcontinental Menu
Illustration by Sajith Kumar
The Subcontinental Menu

Pure Ghol: Gift From The Sea

Almost three days at sea on Sai Laxmi, their small boat, fishermen brothers Mahesh and Bharat Meher were returning to shore on the Mumbai-Palghar coastline with the usual catch—a few pomfrets and other fish—when there was a heavy tug  in the net. They pulled up to see what they had stumbled upon…wait, had the sea given up a precious parting gift—why it was a whole 30 kilos of sea gold, the Ghol fish, aka the Blackspotted Croaker, aka the Protonibea Diacanthus, one of the most expensive marine animals! As soon as they hit shore, news spr­­ead like wildfire. It took only 20 minutes  for an auction to be arranged at the bazaar. The closing price settled at Rs 5.5 lakh, brought by a merchant to be sold off in bits to respective industries: the collagen-rich skin for cosmetics, the fin for dissolvable stitches, omega 3, vitamin C, etc.

#Not Our Name

One imagines that little thought would have gone when this vill­age in Rajasthan’s Barmer district was christened Miyon ka Bara (litera­lly: colony of Muslims). It is likely that the name came from what the majority community referred to the hamlet as a matter-of-fact identity epithet. Somewhere in time, probably post-Partition, the demographics of the village changed to a largely non-Muslim populace but Miyon ka Bara never changed its name. Today, anxieties of a different kind seem to be troubling the long-time residents of the village. They applied to the Union home ministry to get the name changed to Mahesh Nagar. The reason they cited was that they were having difficulty in getting matrimonial matches because their village’s name gave people the impression that it was a Muslim village. The ministry has approved their application.

Draped In Control

India forges ahead, adopting newer mores, inhabiting new ideas, trying to fall in step with the world it aspires to be part of. Yet the residual reactionary pull offers a stiff fight. In 2008, after inputs from woman teachers from across Kerala that saris were often a tiresome chore, the state government issued an order that they could choose between saris and churidar/salwar to wear to office. However, on the ground, schools bully teachers into wearing saris, saying it’s a ‘symbol of dignity’ and earn teachers more respect. Now that complaints of such imposition kept pouring in, the directorate of public instructions issued a circular emphasising the 2008 order. It had mixed results. At least the Kerala School Teachers Association is supporting teachers in their battle to wear the dress of their choice.

Against Her Blue Period

Calcutta’s tryst with the colo­urs white and blue—public buildings, fences and walls, lamp posts, edges of pavements—has Mam­ata Banerjee to thank for. It has gained momentum with, alas, the agg­­ressively garish ‘beautification’ drives Didi has set her heart on. Now she has her sights on further afield, on the Massanjore dam on the Mayurakshi river in Jharkhand. But isn’t that beyond her remit? No, because the dam, commissioned in 1955 and vital for irrigation in Bengal, is maintained by the state’s irrigation department. So, all seemed well when the department allotted Rs 1.35 crore to beautify the dam. But no one had reckoned with Jharkhand’s BJP workers, who stopped work in a spirit of hostility after two-thirds of the dam had been painted blue and white. A police complaint was lodged, but one-third of Massanjore remains whitewashed.

No-Dowry Pledge

The practice of demanding dowry continues in India despite being illegal. It is well known that the amount of dowry demanded goes up proportionately with the groom’s social status or position of auth­ority. As being a police officer comes with a heady dose of power and authority, it also fetches high dowries. This is where Jharkhand deputy insp­ector-­general, Sangeeta Kumari, hopes to make a difference. She has made it mandatory for newly selec­ted assistant sub-inspectors (ASIs) to submit affidavits pledging against the giving and taking of dowry. A total of 2,645 trainee ASIs will be submitting them.

End Of His Small Knowledge

Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero, leader of the extremist Bodu Bala Sena, which has been accused of orchestrating hate crimes against the Muslim minority, has been sentenced to six years’ rigorous imprisonment for contempt of court. In a country where the jailing of Buddhist monks is almost unheard of, this is the second time Gnanasara has been sentenced. The first time  was in June this year, when he was sentenced to six months for criminally intimidating Sanya Eknaligoda, wife of a dissident cartoonist who had ‘disappeared’ in 2010, at a court in 2016.

New Duo In Pakistan

Panama Papers did not only unleash a political storm that cost Nawaz Sharif his prime ministership. It has also shifted the political spotlight on the lesser-known branch of the Sharifs—brother Shahbaz and his son, Hamza.

Despite being chief minister of the most important and populous province, Punjab, younger brother Shahbaz was willing to play second fiddle to Nawaz. But it seems he may not want to do this anymore. Surely,‘the times they are a-changin’ in Pakistani politics.

Shahbaz is the PML(N) president and possible leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, since Nawaz is barred from holding any formal post. The possibility of the father-son duo occupying the two most important party positions in Punjab and at the national level had led to some disquiet in the organisation.

But reservation among sections of Nawaz loyalists notwithstanding, the PML(N) par­lia­­mentary meeting has nominated Hamza for the CM’s post. The PML(N) clarified that in case it lost out in the chief ministership race, Hamza will be leader of the opposition in the assembly.

Hamza Sharif has been declared the CM candidate in Punjab by the PML(N). Shahbaz sought Nawaz’s permission for the move.

Imran’s Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI), which leads with 179 members in the 371-seat assembly to PML(N)’s 164 members, is yet to nominate its candidate for the CM’s post.

Support from at least 186 members is required to win the chief ministership.

According to Dawn, the party had unanimously chosen Hamza for both the posts. “No other name in the party came forth against these two positions,” Azma Bokhari, party MP, said. Former provincial minister Chaudhry Iqbal was the party’s candidate for the post of speaker. Shahbaz Sharif, who met Nawaz recently at the Adiala jail where he is lodged, sought his approval for Hamza’s nomination.

The Dawn quoted a source, saying, “There has been a debate in the party, especially in the Nawaz camp, which is not in favour of Hamza as opposition leader, since his father has already been nominated as the opposition’s joint candidate for the post of prime minister.” But Shahbaz Sharif does not want to leave the party reins in Punjab to someone outside the family and finally his decision prevailed.

Naturally, the father-son duo holding two important posts in the PML(N) may come up for criticism. But as of now, it is the junior Sharifs who are gaining prominence with the party outfit.

Illustrations by Sajith Kumar


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