Thursday, January 27 2022

Dive In


You're progressive in one way but you're still making that backward story of seven dwarves living in the cave. Have I done nothing to advance the cause from my soap box?

That’s actor Peter Dinklage questioning why Disney is ‘woke’ enough to cast a Latina as Snow White—but insists on rebooting a fairytale that casts dwarves as mythical or comical creatures. Dinklage previously criticised Hollywood’s depictions of dwarfism, saying it was “bad writing” to make it a “dominant character trait.” Disney’s response: “We are taking a different approach with these seven characters and have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community.”


Stuff to check out: On the latest episode of the splainer podcast ‘Press Decode’, the splainer team looks at the Great Indian Dreamers: Illegal immigrants and social media influencers. Be sure to head over to the IVM website, Spotify or Apple Podcasts to listen to it.


A super-duper event! The always awesome comedian Aditi Mittal will host our next AMA with Shrayana Bhattacharya—the author of the new book folks can’t stop talking about:Desperately Seeking Shah Rukh’. You can read reviews of the book here and here. The time/day: Saturday, January 29, 2022 at 6:30pm. Be sure to sign up for your slot here

Splainer is hiring! We are looking for a smart, scrappy and innovative growth manager with 2-3 years experience. Understanding data and using it to craft an effective marketing strategy is a must. As is finding nimble and innovative ways to grow our audience—be it via events, product tweaks or building communities. Above all, we are looking for someone who really gets splainer—and what it takes to grow a unique news service like ours. What won’t work for us: someone who thinks marketing is an Insta campaign. Please note: This is location-agnostic, at least for the next six months. Want to jump on this crazy ride with us? Reach out to us at talktous@splainer.in.

Big Story

The Indian Republic of Food: A tribute

The TLDR: As we recover from our collective R-Day hangovers, Sandip Roy pays a tongue-in-cheek tribute to our culinary culture—quirks, obsessions and fatal weaknesses included.


Editor’s note: We thought it would be nice to get a break from our usually weighty Big Story—and offer you something a little more fun. Do let us know what you think at talktous@splainer.in


A nation united by food

There’s something reassuring about the “What India ordered” reports that food delivery services like Swiggy and Zomato put out every year. In a country that often feels increasingly polarised, we seem to be heading towards some kind of food consensus.


All hail the biryani! If India is seen as a Republic of Food, biryani is its capital. According to Swiggy, in 2021 Indians ordered 115 plates of biryani per minute. In 2020, Indians ordered 90 biryanis per minute. Biryani also topped Zomato with 22 biryanis per minute in 2020 (and though purists might shudder that does include 1,988,094 veg biryanis). Incidentally it would be interesting to map the growing love for biryani with attitudes towards Muslims but that would just cook up trouble.


The bharatiya combo platter, BSG: The most ordered dessert was gulab jamun. In 2020, Zomato said one lakh orders were placed just during Diwali. The snack of the year as per Swiggy was samosa with about 5 million orders. The consensus seems pretty clear. India seems to be a biryani-samosa-gulab jamun country or BSG.  Does that mean we have a National Food, a National Snack and a National Dessert? To be fair BSG is what India eats when India orders in. What India loves to eat at home might be different altogether—as khichdi lovers would protest. 


Culinary cartography: Alternative approaches

The Swiggy-Zomato food map is just one way of looking at India. We could have different kinds of food maps of India as a Republic of Food that tell a more interesting story.


What India Drinks, for example


Or a somewhat controversial Street Food Atlas, perhaps?


Need more controversy? Why not Mangos of IndiaOr far more interestingly, the Bananas of India—including indigenous varieties you probably didn’t know about. 


Interesting fact: We have more than 500 varieties of banana of which 32 are so rare that only a single plant or two has ever been discovered. Now, this is a Banana Republic worth preserving.


There could even be a Biryani Atlas of India—which better reflects its staggering diversity, and made invisible by the catchall ‘biryani’ category used by Swiggy/Zomato data-crunchers. 


The lexicon of the Indian Republic of Food

Headlines that matter

SpaceX rocket to crash the moon

Launched in 2015, the rocket has been following a “chaotic orbit” around Earth—and is now on a collision course with the moon. This four metric tonnes of “space junk” will intersect with the moon at a velocity of about 2.58km/s in a few weeks. Don’t worry. The moon will be A-okay despite the rude intrusion. (The Guardian)

SAT is going digital

The undergraduate entrance test for US colleges will no longer require paper or pencils—at least in America. Starting next year, the test will be administered online, though students will have to go to exam centres to take it. Why the change: The change makes the test easier to administer, and “schools will have more options for when, where, and how often they administer the SAT.” The bigger reason for the change: The percentage of colleges that no longer require the SAT is now at 80% as compared to 45% before the pandemic. (Axios)

One thing to see

Five-year-old Goldie—a porcupine pufferfish—was losing weight because her teeth grew so long she couldn’t eat properly. So she did what any sensible fish would do: go to the dentist. The Guardian has this sweet story, and you can see Goldie’s perfected smile below.



In today’s edition

Sanity Break

  • Pau Buscató​'s real-life playful pictures of people, animals, and objects overlapping in unexpected ways


I Recommend

  • Samyukta Ranganathan offers a wonderful guide to a Goa few people know about

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