Researched and collated by: Sara Varghese
The gorgeous Splainer X Champaca gift box
We’re a bit nervous about this one as it’s our very first gift box—curated with great love and care by the team. We teamed up with our partners Champaca—a wonderful women-run independent bookstore—did our collective best to create a goodie bag designed to inspire wonder, laughter and delight. It makes a lovely gift for any occasion—weddings, festivals or birthdays. Or you could just treat yourself!
Please note: This gift box is part of our promise to offer special value to our subscribers. So this is just for you—we don’t make money off this box :)
What you get: The box includes three books—each unique and wonderful in its own way. And to add a splash of beauty, the package includes a beautiful box of silkscreen cards that you are sure to treasure. We have lots more detail on the books and the cards over here.
The big bonus: The box comes with a quarterly gift subscription worth Rs 900. You also get two specially-illustrated Champaca bookmarks—so you can keep track of your reading in style ;)
The very big discount: You pay only Rs 2,500 for this gift box valued at Rs 4000—a massive discount that is available for just 30 days. In other words, be sure to snap these up before November 20.
The Morbi bridge tragedy: The latest update
We continue to get more details of the police’s version of why the suspension bridge collapsed—killing 140 people on October 30. They say that the contractor hired by Oreva did not conduct any “scientific assessment of structural stability.” Also this:
“A one-page contract was signed between Oreva and the contractor company, awarding Rs 29 lakh for the bridge repair and with no specification on an SOP for the work or the works that are required to be completed.”
More astonishingly, of the two managers assigned to supervise the repairs, one was a media manager and the other was in the clock manufacturing division. (Indian Express)
New US fears about Russian nukes
US officials claim that they have inside information that senior Russian military leaders recently discussed “when and how Moscow might use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine”—although President Putin was not part of these conversations. Apparently, this internal debate took place just as Moscow was accusing Ukraine of planning to use a ‘dirty bomb’—which disperses radioactive material in a location. Reminder: it is always good to take any media leaks from official sources about ‘intelligence’ with a pinch of salt—even when it is carried by the New York Times.
In happier related news: Russia has agreed to rejoin the agreement to restore wheat exports out of Ukraine via the Black Sea. It had recently withdrawn from the treaty claiming that Ukraine drones attacked its naval fleet in the region. Why this is good news: since Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest suppliers, wheat prices would have soared once again—exacerbating the global food crisis triggered by the invasion. The other silver lining: a great part of the Ukrainian grain will go to poorer nations in Africa—and not to the West—as per Moscow’s demands. (Associated Press)
World Cup T20: India scores over Bangladesh
India managed a much-needed five-run victory, but the real highlight: Virat Kohli overtook former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene to become the all-time leading run-scorer in T20 World Cup history. And Suryakumar Yadav is now the world's #1 batter in T20 Internationals—toppling Pakistan opener Mohammad Rizwan from his top spot. There was also an unsavoury ‘fake fielding’ controversy over Kohli’s attempt to fake out batter Litton Das. This is when a fielder “wilfully attempt(s), by word or action, to distract, deceive or obstruct either batsman after the striker has received the ball." Yahoo News has that story.
Bad news about extreme weather in India
According to a new report, locations in India recorded extreme weather events on 242 days between January 1 and September 30. That’s a whopping 88.6% of the 273-day period. These events—which include everything from heavy rainfall to landslides, floods and cyclones—took a heavy toll. They claimed 2,755 lives, destroyed 1.8 million hectares of crop area, damaged 416,667 houses and killed nearly 70,000 livestock. And researchers think this is an underestimate—lowballed by unreliable government data. Public databases do not accurately track extreme weather events or their impact. Scroll sums up the highlights or you can read the report, as well.
One airline to rule them all
The Tatas continue to consolidate their vast aviation empire. They have bought out their Malaysian partner AirAsia Bhd—to gain full control over Air Asia. It will continue using the name until it is merged with Air India Express. This leaves Vistara—in which the Tatas have a 51% stake, and are a majority partner with Singapore Airlines. The two are in “confidential discussions” to merge the airline with Air India. The big plan: “The Tata Group is working towards getting all four airlines on one platform, with two models —low-cost and full-service.” (Mint)
Two new food-related revelations
Downside of caffeine: A new study shows that even a daily cup of coffee or tea consumed by pregnant women can affect the height of children: “To be clear, these are not huge differences in height, but there are these small differences in height among the children of people who consumed caffeine during pregnancy.” The difference becomes apparent around the age of four—and widens until the child turns eight. But the data does not establish a causal relationship between the two—and it isn’t clear if the gap persists into adulthood. Even the lead authors don’t think parents need to panic, but recommend being more mindful of their caffeine intake. (CNN)
About those teflon pans: New research shows that non-stick pans may be releasing thousands to millions of ultrasmall Teflon plastic particles during cooking—as they gradually lose their coating. In fact, a single small crack on the surface can release about 9,100 plastic particles. Teflon is a kind of PFAS—per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances—which are also found in waterproof cosmetics, firefighting foams etc. And they have been linked to health issues such as reduced immunity, hormone disruption and increased risks of different types of cancer. (Independent UK)
Your potty-mouth is good for you!
“Swearing can have a positive impact on our relationships when used to express joy or solidarity, it can make us seem more persuasive, can make people laugh, can help us to deal with road rage and can even lower our perception of pain.”
Interestingly, they also found cursing was “undeniably different from and more powerful than other forms of language use” and may even come from a different part of the brain from normal speech. (Times UK, paywall, Huffington Post)
A Romeo & Juliet theatre row
A London theatre company is staging an, ahem, unique production of the Shakespeare play. The lead lovers are non-binary and it is set in Nazi Germany—where a Jewish Juliet falls in love with Romeo, a Hitler Youth member. The description:
“In defiance of their entire society and in secrecy from their closest friends, hopeful young lives burn amidst a cataclysmic backdrop of impending war and the horror of the Holocaust. Sun and moon shine down on star-crossed lovers as a Jewish girl falls for a member of (Hitler) Youth and the boy questions everything he was taught to believe.”
Just the setting has made anti-semitism groups unhappy: “It is staggering that anyone would find this play about morally equivalent feuding families to be an appropriate way to explore Nuremberg-era persecution of Jews by Nazi Germany.” But what made it worse was the casting call—which namechecked every ethnic category—“non-binary artists, and/or those of global majority, black or Asian heritage" but forgot to mention any Jews! (The Telegraph UK, paywall)
Two things to see
One: This Piet Mondrian painting—titled ‘New York City I’—was hung upside down for more than 75 years… or was it? An Italian art historian points to a photo of the unfinished painting from 1947 to insist that it is indeed the wrong way up. But other experts are not convinced—and claim that Mondrian was even known to flip his pieces while working on them. What makes this entire debate a bit amusing to a layperson: this is actually a fight over whether the packed cluster of taped lines belong in the bottom (left) or on top (right). In any case, the German museum that owns the artwork has no intention of flipping it—since the painting is too fragile to survive such ‘correction’. (CNN)
Two: The great inventor Thomas Edison was hard of hearing—but found an innovative way to still enjoy piano music. His solution: “As someone played, the great inventor would lean in close to the instrument, right above the keys, and he’d bite the piano”—so he could experience the vibrations and “hear through my teeth.” One of these pianos owned by Edison is now up for sale. The Associated Press video has all the details—including the bite marks! (Associated Press)