August 01, 2020
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The Subcontinental Menu

In The Subcontinental Menu this week, the story of a 20-year-old former Buddhist monk who is now the biggest star in the community to why that cow urine may be a reason for global warming, among many other interesting snippets.

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The Subcontinental Menu
The Subcontinental Menu

They Beg Hunting Dollars, Too

Pakistan’s wildlife conser­vation policy is as much a donkey-brainer as the country itself. It has made it illegal for locals to hunt wildlife, but foreign trophy hunters can pay thousands of dollars to kill 12 a year. The money is apparently used to bankroll conservation efforts. Besides, the hunting prevents overpopulation and gives the lawless country an image makeover (the trigger-happy millionaire foreigners tell the world that Pakistan is safe). But the world went tchk tchk tchk when a fat-cat American banker paid $100,000 to slaughter a rare Himalayan mountain goat, the screw-horned Astore Markhor, and boasted of his “easy and close shot” with a high-powered rifle. “I have hunted almost all animals here. I saved the markhors for the last,” bragged Bryan Kinsel Harlan after the hunt this February. He has gone into hiding since.

Cleared, The Scam Daddy of ’em All

When Mallya and Modis (Lalit and Nirav) are hogging the headlines, it is refreshing to find the ‘original’ finding space in the news—on his own, not as a cross-reference. Yes, the late Harshad Mehta, the stock broker who exploited loopholes in our system, manipulated the stock markets by issuing fake securities to banks and thrust upon us a word that became part of our everyday speech: Scam! After decades since the scam was exposed in 1992—shaking the country and changing Dalal Street’s rules of the game—the income tax tribunal has scrapped almost the entire tax demand (Rs 2,014 crore) on Mehta, wife Jyoti, and brother Ashwin. That means the Mehtas’ attached properties, worth crores of rupees, could now be freed.

Queer Icon, Former Monk

Tenzin Mariko, a former Buddhist monk, was called “Pholo-molo”, a derogatory Tibetan term for transgender, when a video of her dancing unabashedly at a friend’s wedding in New Delhi, wearing women’s clothing and a wig, had gone viral amongst Tibetans. Born Tenzin Ugen, the fourth of five sons, in a village in Himachal, people warmed up to her when she gave up monkhood in 2014 shortly after her video scandal. Today, this 20-year-old aspiring makeup artist and dancer is perhaps the biggest star in a community that, until her arrival, had been bereft of LGBT idols. She has 22,000 followers across Facebook and Instagram; is a fixture at Tibetan events; and spends most of her time jetting across India, performing live.

That Urine Is Gas

For all those who thought the benefits of cow urine are all but gas, they weren’t off the mark. A study conducted by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Colombia, says the waste from a cow’s bladder may be a reason for global warming as this liquid is a source of nitrous oxide (N2O), a gas more dangerous than carbon dioxide. That cattle wind and dung contain methane, a greenhouse gas, is well-known, but researchers have now found that moo pee in degraded pastures emitted significantly more N2O. Farmers often use a dung and urine mix as crop manure in India, which hosts the world’s largest lives­tock population and is home to large tracts of degraded land. Every action has an equal reaction, right?

Police Station’s Anthill Shrine

Most of us visit a police station with a prayer. But people at Gonibeedu village in Karnataka’s Chikkamagaluru district go to their local station to offer prayers. Well, legend has it that the premises once housed an anthill where people prayed but that piece of holiness got annihilated when a secular place for upholding public order was built. Over the years, drought and business failures began to be attribu­ted to the neglect of the sac­red anthill. So, on a tantrik’s advice, a Ganesha temple was built at the site, with contributions from across the socio-religious spectrum. Police played along and the shrine was inaugurated this February.

Ask Your Tracks From Jail FM

The loudspeakers crackle at the stroke of noon. Good afternoon, Taloja jail! This is your RJ Sadiq and today we will be playing on-demand songs from Kishore Kumar’s ’70s hits. Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana lifts the dungeon spirit. Inspired by the radio station at Pune’s Yerawada prison where actor Sanjay Dutt played RJ, Taloja Central Prison in Navi Mumbai started one recently—managed by the prisoners, with a little help from an NGO in writing scripts. Most days they have a theme, such as zindagi, or life, an existential subject for anybody serving a sentence or on trial.

Karachi Makeup Mode

Road-hog hawkers and their tarpaulin-covered stalls are an entre­nched part of Karachi life since it morphed from a port village into Pakistan’s commercial mega city of 15 million souls. But the commerce that spills into streets and parks is a pile of rubble today: the result of a government bulldozing operation against unofficial tent stalls that had long encircled colonial-era Empress Market and across town. The “anti-­encroachment” demolitions are part of a campaign to reverse Kar­achi’s reputation as one of the world’s least livable cities. And, like things Pak­istani, the rubble hasn’t been cleared and displaced shopkeepers are back selling spices and lentils, parrots and pigeons.

Driving The Prince

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent state visit to Pakistan became a great opportunity for PM Imran Khan not only to send a signal to India, but also to his political opponents within the country.

Imran, who went out of his way to honour the Saudi guest by escorting his royal aircraft with a Pakistani Air Force fighter jet escort, made every attempt to ensure opposition leaders were not to be seen in the presence of MBS.

“There appears to be no end to the PTI’s bitter feelings for its political opponents and critics,” says English daily Dawn. It pointed out in its report that this “truth was und­erscored by the government’s steadfast commitment not to invite Pakistan Muslim League-N and Pakistan People’s Party leaders to official engagements during the state visit of Saudi Crown Prince.”

At official engagements during MBS’s visit, Imran left out his political foes. He was insulted by Nawaz Sharif when Xi Jinping visited Pakistan.

Faced with rising criticism from his political opponents, the government argued that the banquet was not big enough to accommodate all and that since many of the leaders had corruption cases against them they should have stayed away.

“It is an unfortunate reality that our political leaders, both new and experienced, lack the maturity to handle such events,” the paper observes ruefully.

But Imran’s decision to leave out PML-N and PPP leaders seems to have a history when he was slighted by former PM Nawaz Sharif in front of a foreign guest.

Dawn said that not too long ago, during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to parliament, Sharif, then the PM, had made a special effort to embarrass Imran. After greeting his Chinese guest, Sharif reportedly broke into Urdu and said that perhaps Imran should explain to President Xi that his earlier scheduled visit to Pakistan had to be postponed because of a sit-in demonstration organised by Imran’s PTI.

“Routine as it is, such tit-for-tat behaviour does not behove any prime minister—especially in the presence of world leaders and diplomatic delegations, as it lays bare our internal discord and disunity before the international community,” commented the daily. It went on to add prime minister Khan should have set differences aside and fought against the impulse to settle political scores.

The paper added, “It would serve the PTI well to rem­ember that the visiting Saudi delegation was a guest of the state and not personal friends of Mr Khan. The state, which is represented by its elected representatives, should have displayed more tolerance.”

Illustrations by Manjul

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