Thursday 1 October 2020

Again and Again

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Sanity Break #1

This stunning—and heart-wrenching—photo was the cover of a 1998 issue. It captures a mother and her children in Mali which was in the midst of a decade-long drought. We offer it as a reminder of the many Indians who are struggling in our midst today. A befitting precursor to Gandhi Jayanti.

Sanity Break #1

Headlines that matter

A BIG INDIA COVID STUDY Indian health authorities have always been stingy with pandemic data—making it impossible for experts to draw any meaningful conclusions about its spread. But two states—Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu—have finally shared data from 575,000 contacts of 84,965 confirmed Covid-19 patients with a group of US-based scientists. And this is : * There is a strong risk of transmission among similar-age contacts, with the highest such risk among children aged 14 years. * The chance of catching the virus when exposed to an infected person was only 1.2% in healthcare settings, 2.6% in the community, 9% within households and 79% if travelling in the same vehicle for six hours or longer. * Half of 5,733 Covid-19 deaths in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu occurred within six days of diagnosis and 1,042 (18.2%) within 24 hours or even before a test result.  * This tells us that Indians only seek or get help in the later stages of the disease—typically after developing severe breathlessness. * Interestingly, much older Indians are not any more likely to become infected. This could be due to stringent stay-at-home orders for the elderly.  * But it can also indicate a “survivability bias”—i.e. those who live to a very old age in India (and beat the average life expectancy of 69 years) are likely healthier and wealthier than average. * A related good read: lays out theories that explain why the death toll is lower in India.   In related news: As per the latest Unlock , theatres can throw open their doors from October 15—with only 50% occupancy. States have been left free to take their call on schools. But since 71% of Indian parents to send their kids to school, a big reopening is unlikely. Also: central air conditioning and smoking breaks at the workplace are .   Elsewhere in the world: Japan plans to distribute to all its citizens. Half a million sharks because their liver is an essential ingredient in certain Covid vaccines. And in the US are planning to leave their jobs, cut back hours, or otherwise scale back work due to childcare burdens.   BABRI MASJID ACCUSED GO SCOT-FREE A special CBI court all the 32 people accused of tearing down the mosque—including former deputy prime minister Lal Krishna Advani—in a verdict that shocks nobody. What was somewhat unexpected: the creative reasoning offered by the judges. : "The accused tried to stop the demolition." If you care, has a solid explainer on the case. The best belongs to Nidhi Razdan: “The mosque just fell down on its own”—despite Advani-ji’s best efforts to hold it up a la Samson, of course.   THE UGLY-ASS PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE There’s been plenty of ink spilled on the ugliness of the first presidential debate—so ugly that magazine is demanding that the rest of them be cancelled. ICYMI: Here’s Joe Biden to shut up—and which is far more remarkable. jumped into the mix on Twitter. A compare and contrast that tells you a lot about the Trump marriage. Also: Trevor Noah’s is the best recap of the hot mess. The upside for Biden: He a record $3.8 million during the debate.   IN CHINA’S CROSSHAIRS: GOOGLE Egged on by Huawei, Beijing is planning to open an into Google. Why Huawei? The US government banned all US companies from sharing tech with the Chinese telecom giant. That means Google had to stop providing technical support to new Huawei phone models—and block its access to Google’s developer services (which is critical for Android apps). Tit for Tat for Tit…   The good Google news: Gmail users can make free and unlimited Meet calls until . The bad news: Google is on any app offering gamified cashback incentives related to the IPL—including Zomato and Swiggy. The good Amazon news: Prime just rolled out its in India. It allows you to get an exclusive sneak peek at coming attractions. A bigger Amazon rollout: Americans may soon be able to pay for their shopping by simply at offline Amazon stores. The company plans to offer this tech to other retail chains as well.   ANURAG KASHYAP IS SUMMONED The director has been asked to come for questioning by the Mumbai police—in connection with the sexual assault allegation made by actor Payal Ghosh. This is after Ghosh and a Union BJP minister met with the Maharashtra governor to demand action on her complaint. ()   Related ‘clean chit’ tamasha: did a big splash claiming that Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan and Shraddha Kapoor are likely to get a clean chit from the Narcotics Control Bureau. The reason:   > “Padukone and Prakash on Saturday reportedly told NCB officials that in 2017 WhatsApp chats, they had used the words maal, weed, > hash and doob as code names for various kinds of cigarettes ‘for fun’. The two said they referred to low quality cigarettes as > maal, slim and better quality ones as hash and weed, and thick ones as doob. NCB officials asked Padukone and Prakash the same > set of questions in separate rooms. ‘We were satisfied as both corroborated the codes,’ said an official. NCB was questioning > the duo over their 2017 WhatsApp chats where they had discussed certain code words and it was assumed they were discussing > drugs.”   NCB officials have vehemently receiving any such enlightenment and called all reports of leniency “devoid of the facts and truth."   PLANTS ARE GOING EXTINCT A based on the research of 200 scientists in 42 countries suggests that two-fifths of the world's plants are at risk of extinction—including 723 that are used for vital medicines.   > "We're losing the race against time because species are disappearing faster than we can find and name them. Many of them could > hold important clues for solving some of the most pressing challenges of medicine and even perhaps of the emerging and current > pandemics we are seeing today."   In other worrying news: A new US study suggests that queer folks are more likely to suffer from migraines than others: “One in six adults overall experience migraine headaches in their lifetime, but among lesbian, gay, and bi people, that figure jumps to one in three.” One possible reason: the stress induced by discrimination. has that story. In better news for the planet: Back in 2018, Japanese researchers revealed an engineered version of an enzyme that literally eats plastic. Now, researchers have built a super-enzyme that can do it six times faster. The really good news: Given the pace of progress, it could be used for recycling within a year or two! has more.

Again and Again

Sanity Break #2

London-based Somaya Critchlow offers a powerful, erotic—and humorous—reimagining of the Black nude and the female body. A perfect : “Inspired as much by Rubens and Velázquez as Cardi B and Nicki Minaj, Critchlow’s kitschy canvases abound with full lips and hips, big breasts and cartoon curls, and exaggerated nipples that protrude like Hershey’s Kisses.” See the rest of the collection .

Sanity Break #2

Feel Good Place

A LIST OF LONG WEEKEND REMINDERS Never accept the unacceptable. Example: Rakmabai Raut, born in 1864, married at the age of 11. She sued for divorce at the age 22—and won her case thanks to the intervention of Queen Victoria. Oh, she went on to become one of the first women doctors of British India.   : Good friends are priceless… even if they are, er, of the bony kind. The backstory is . : Or of the not-really-your-kind. : A cat makes everything better… even SATC. : When all else fails, you can always—and we mean, always!—quote Shakespeare! (h/t Amita Shah)   : If you can’t cure the disease, just fall in love with it!  

Feel good place

Reading Habit

READING HABIT EDITOR’S NOTE Rega Jha would like to be introduced as “a freelance writer and columnist, and the founder and former editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed India.” But that does little justice to her wonderful , brilliant Instagram or her keen intelligence and innate generosity. We’re delighted she agreed to take our Book Addict’s Quiz! What is your most powerful childhood memory of a book? Having laughing fits—like, full-body, eyes-tearing laughing fits—completely by myself in my bedroom, in the dead of night, over the .   <excellent choice!>   What line of literature or poetry do you quote ad nauseam?  I haven't (yet) allowed myself to become that tweed-wearing, booming-voiced uncle who goes around quoting poetry in casual conversation, but the lines I think of in full most often are probably : "I have no joys that are not yours, no aches which are not yours. I too call myself I."   <Whoa… we googled that asap!>   What book do you regret re-reading?  I regret trying to re-read , because it brought me to the conclusion that I was much smarter in college than I am now.   <Now that’s an A-grade humble-brag>   An author you adored as a child and have not thought about in years? Huh. I guess all the ghostwriters who wrote the books? I also need to have grown-up reconvenings with some childhood faves—Roald Dahl, RK Narayan.   <RKN—the Amul butter of every Indian’s childhood!>   What book would you gift to your worst enemy? !   <Of course, right after you let them know you’ve read it… lol!>   I would love to see a movie/series adaptation of __ starring __ as __   , with (from Churails) as Joey. (Not picky about the rest of the cast but NEED that movie made ASAP.)   <Perfect! Then we can all be saved the guilt of not having read Samit Basu’s excellent novel>   A book review that was better than the book? Is it bad to say I... I don't read book reviews?   <Yes, it is. Some of our best friends are book critics. We take minor offense on their behalf>   What book do you pretend to have read? I very recently realised I've never read  and have been lying that I have, not only to others but to myself even. Thanks, Keira Knightley. Thank you.    <Not the one with Colin Firth? Sad!>   What is the first “forbidden” book you read in secret?  I don't remember being forbidden any books! I'm realising that right now for the first time. Should thank my parents.   <A shame-free relationship with sexual content? Your therapy bills must be high.>   What book/author still counts as guilty pleasure?  Most of my guilty reading now is on my phone (advice columns! can't get enough. also—. a relevant, spot-on take). But I recently picked up and flipped through a  book. Was both pleasurable and deeply, deeply guilt-inducing.   <JK Rowling: The Enid Blyton of our times.>   Send us a photo of your tsundoku pile The best I can do is this Kindle screenshot which nicely demonstrates how shamelessly I hop book-to-book, actually finishing about one in eight, it seems.   <120/100 for eclectic and erudite procrastination>   Thank you for playing, Rega! Also: do follow her on . She’s a goddamn rock star!   BONUS READS FOR THE LONG WEEKEND Because we won’t be keeping you company tomorrow:   * Manu Joseph in argues that it’s never been more expensive or miserable to be a celebrity in India.  * explains how backpacks and even purses ruin your posture and cause back pain. * does a deep dive into the connection between a parent’s childhood and how they attach to their own child. * explains how our armpits can offer clues to the state of our health. * Swachchhasila Basu in pens a delightful essay on her childhood in Bokaro Steel City—surrounded by Russians, especially Mrs Kasalova.  * Tavneet Suri kicked it all off with a tweet about Bata shoes: “I always thought they were a Kenyan company... I learnt today my Indian friends always thought it was an Indian company... turns out the company started out in what is now the Czech republic…” What happened next is pure global Twitter magic. We loved browsing brimming with amazing facts and photos. * Vinay Kumar’s thoughtful essay in looks back at his family legacy of Dalit cuisine—and his childhood memories of blood fry.  * offers a meditation on the ‘Grey Sweatpants’ phenomenon—i.e. leching at men in grey sweatpants. We’d say more except we sadly still don’t get it. A LIST OF LONG WEEKEND REMINDERS Never accept the unacceptable. Example: Rakmabai Raut, born in 1864, married at the age of 11. She sued for divorce at the age 22—and won her case thanks to the intervention of Queen Victoria. Oh, she went on to become one of the first women doctors of British India.   : Good friends are priceless… even if they are, er, of the bony kind. The backstory is . : Or of the not-really-your-kind. : A cat makes everything better… even SATC. : When all else fails, you can always—and we mean, always!—quote Shakespeare! (h/t Amita Shah)   : If you can’t cure the disease, just fall in love with it!  

Reading Habit