Friday, May 31, 2019

Video of the day

Back in 2015, two young girls in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh, were found hanging from a tree. The horrific caste killings caused global outrage but were eventually covered up as suicide. These murders may finally get their due in an upcoming Ayushmann Khurana movie, ‘Article 15’. The trailer looks brilliant. We can’t wait to see it.

Share | Facebook logo WhatsApp logo Twitter logo


The biggest news story today, explained.

image orange sidebar everyone's talking about image orange sidebar

All the Prime Minister's (wo)men

The PM took the oath along with his cabinet yesterday. There were surprise inclusions and omissions, but the biggest news—the much-anticipated ascension of Amit Shah.


What happened? Fifty-seven ministers were sworn in yesterday. They include 24 Cabinet ministers, 9 Ministers of State with independent charge and 24 Ministers of State. There are 24 new faces, while 37 members from Modi 1.0 failed to make the cut this time. However, at this time, we still don’t know who will get which portfolio.


The biggest new mantri news: is, of course, the inclusion of Amit Shah who was sworn in third, right after Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh. This is typically an indication of seniority, but who are we kidding? Modi held two marathon meetings with Shah on Wednesday and yesterday. And it is Shah who made ‘the call’ to the lucky winners of cabinet seats. This guy didn’t just pick his own job, he helped decide who else got one.


What ministry did Shah get? It’s not clear as yet, but the choices will be either Finance or Home—the portfolio Shah held in Gujarat back in the day. A thought that ought to give even ardent Modi supporters some pause. Now, Shah is likely to continue as party president until the end of the year -- and after the three upcoming state elections. He will most probably be replaced by JP Nadda who wasn’t sworn into the cabinet yesterday. But expect Shah to continue to call all the shots.


The other notable inclusion: S. Jaishankar. The former Foreign Secretary became the first IFS officer to join the Union Cabinet without being a member of the ruling party.  He is slated to replace Sushma Swaraj. Jaishankar has an excellent reputation as a career bureaucrat, having worked with both Manmohan Singh on the nuclear deal with the US and with Modi until 2018. According to Indian Express, he is seen as “politically savvy, skillful in managing big-power relationships and capable of managing a key, high-profile ministry.” But will he be as kind, accessible and helpful as Swaraj? We hope so.


The list of notable omissions: includes Suresh Prabhu, Maneka Gandhi, and Hindutva provocateur Uma Bharti.


Bharti’s mantle has been passed: on to Giriraj Singh who was promoted from Minister of State to a full cabinet rank. Singh is most notorious for declaring, “If Rajiv Gandhi had married a Nigerian lady and not a white skinned woman, then would the Congress have accepted her leadership?” He is always in saffron, sports a big tilak, and makes offensive remarks about Muslims on a regular basis.


What about the allies? Akali Dal and Shiv Sena received one cabinet seat each. But negotiations with JD(U) chief and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar ended on a bitter note. Kumar wanted one MoS pick plus two union minister posts. But his party was only offered a single cabinet portfolio. Kumar rejected the offer, calling it “symbolic participation.”


The bottomline: Irrespective of how the portfolios are distributed, the massive election victory and the new government further cements the enduring bromance of the Modi-Shah jodi.

Learn more: Indian Express offers a closer look at Jaishankar’s ascendance. The Telegraph has the backstory on the Nitish Kumar walkout. Quint explains how the allies have been firmly kept in their place. Times of India looks at the caste calculus of the cabinet—which, btw, has only one Muslim and one Sikh.

Share | Facebook logo WhatsApp logo Twitter logo


arranging your social life around India's World Cup calendar

The ICC World Cup kicked off: with cup favourite England thrashing South Africa by 104 runs. The Field has the highlights, but here’s what caught our eye:

  • This incredible catch by England’s Ben Stokes which is being billed as the “greatest ever.”

  • South Africa’s Imran Tahir becoming the first spinner to bowl the opening over in a World Cup. Making it sweeter still: Tahir taking John Barstow’s wicket in his second delivery.

  • The unveiling of Virat Kohli’s wax statue at Lord’s courtesy Madame Tussauds. Not all Tussauds statues are impressive, but this is a good one!

  • This psychologically insightful essay in Huffington Post on why the World Cup is Virat Kohli’s one shot at true greatness.


A highly polarised victory for Modi: Post-poll surveys show that the BJP swept into power with predominantly Hindu support: “Only 8% of Muslim voters nationally ended up voting for the BJP, the same as last time. Christians and Sikhs too largely kept away from the BJP. Among Christians, 11% voted for the party. Among Sikhs, the number was the same.” It’s also the reason the party did poorly in minority-concentrated states like Kerala and Punjab. (The Hindu)


The women who beat the bada Khans of Bollywood: Deepika Padukone (Rs 68 crore) and Alia Bhat (Rs 75 crore) earned more than SRK (Rs 56 crore) and Salman Khan (Rs 40 crore) in brand endorsements. But the top of the list is still dominated by men with Akshay Kumar earning Rs 100 crore and Ranveer Singh at Rs 84 crore. (Business Today)


Disney takes an unexpected stance: It’s one thing for Netflix to be the cool kid on the block and oppose abortion laws. But it’s something else when CEO Bob Iger of Disney—the company that has built its entire business around monetising wholesome American values—sticks his neck out. He said,  “I rather doubt we will” shoot in Georgia if it passes its highly restrictive abortion legislation. In related ‘brands flying the pro-choice flag’ news: Here’s what the recent Gucci runway looked like.  (New York Times)


In sort-of Disney related news: The future of fashion is Disney-meets-Gucci in overpriced retail destinations like the Haus of Gaga (yes, the Lady kind). Also: Tyra Banks’ Modelland which is being billed as “a new world of storytelling and adventure.” Wait, there’s more! The upcoming American Dream will contain: “an indoor ski hill with real snow, a DreamWorks water park, a Nickelodeon Universe theme park, a Legoland Discovery Center, an ice-skating rink, a giant Ferris wheel, an indoor garden with bunnies and an aviary—and assorted stores including Gucci, Saint Laurent and Tiffany & Co., along with the largest mall-based Zara store in the country (among other things).” (New York Times)


Congress party takes maun vrat: The party has banned its spokespersons from appearing on TV news debates. We approve, and eagerly hope that all other parties will follow its lead. (Times of India)


UK kids really, really want to be fair-skinned: Not-white kids are “whitening their skin to try to avoid a rising tide of racial hate crimes”—which have become so frequent in recent years that even babies under a year old have been targeted. We highlight this one quote from a 10-year old: “I’ve been bullied ever since I started school. The bullies call me nasty names; it makes me feel so ashamed. My friends won’t hang out with me any more because people started asking why they were friends with someone who had dirty skin.” (The Guardian)


How do you spell Naresh Goyal? This is the story of a misspelling of the Jet Airways founder’s name on a government notice to prevent him from leaving the country. It is also testimony to the incompetence of our security agencies—and the smarts of one airport official. (The Hindu)


Bad news for the infamous ‘Khan market gang’: The tony Delhi destination made headlines when Modi-ji coined the phrase “Khan market gang” to dismiss his liberal critics as out-of-touch elites. Then same liberal elites took photos of themselves outside Khan market to reclaim the label -- even while pointing out the inconvenient fact that most rich Khan market types are loyal BJP supporters. Turns out none of this really matters… because the whole damn place is a death trap just waiting to go up in flames. (The Print)


Bad news for Bollywood extras: The police arrested two ‘terrorists’ in Palghar, Maharashtra. Too bad they turned out to be extras in a Hrithik Roshan movie. The really bad news for these poor sods: they have still been charged by the Mumbai Police for “creating panic and disrupting peace among citizens.” (India Today)


Your feel-good Friday round-up: includes the following:

  • The miraculous story of the world’s smallest preemie who was born at 23 weeks, weighing 245g (8.6oz), the “size of a large apple.”

  • This very demanding lemur who is like every dog we’ve ever owned.

  • This dancing little boy in Kerala who reminds us that all you need to be happy is a bucket of water and the right attitude. It takes singing in the shower to a whole new level.

  • These awesome angrezi grannies rocking to ‘Patiala Peg’. If your Friday isn’t instantly better right now, we worry for you:)

  • The viral storm sparked by Contractor Nesamani, an insider Tamil joke which is now a global story.

  • Buzzfeed has a listicle of 15 extraordinary old pop culture photos grabbed from the Twitter feed of @historyinmoment. Our fave is this one with the caption, “14-year-old Gwen Stefani receiving an autograph from Sting in 1983.” OMG!

  • All humans know that moment—when someone, somewhere has been caught playing footsie. Now imagine that moment except with straying stray cats. It would look hilariously like this.

Share | Facebook logo WhatsApp logo Twitter logo


Stuff we buy, use or love.

Indian History Books We Love
A lot of us snoozed through history class as kids, and never ever developed a taste for the subject as adults. Well, these three rip-roaring non-fiction books will change all that.
image blue sidebar The informer image blue sidebar

When you are in the mood for a forgotten king…

Pick up Parvati Sharma’s ‘Jahangir’. Overshadowed by his father Akbar and his Taj Mahal-building son Shah Jahan, he is the forgotten Mughal (even the Hindutva types don’t pay him much attention!) But Sharma brings him to brilliant life in what Scroll describes as an “audacious, conversational history.” He drives bullock carts, shoots lions, shares power generously with his wife, and is almost always drunk. In other words, a perfect man to while away an afternoon with, if not a lifetime.

Price: Rs 449 | Jahangir: An Intimate Portrait of a Great Mughal l

The informer 2

When you’re in the mood for an exotic love story…

William Dalrymple’s ‘White Mughals’ is the perfect choice. James Achilles Kirkpatrick, British Resident in the Nizam’s court, is seduced by Begum Khairunnissa, a 14-year old Hyderabadi aristocrat. She becomes pregnant, he converts to Islam to marry her, and goes full-blown native. But the relationship is doomed by bad timing—an era of unabashed inter-racial coupling of all kinds is being replaced by the segregation of imperial rule. No, it doesn’t end well for the lovers, but the tumultuous ride is well worth your while. (Here’s Khushwant Singh on the ‘Lolita of Mughal Times’.)

Price: Rs 419 | White Mughals: Love and betrayal in eighteenth-century India |

The informer 3

When you're in the mood for Jane Austen-meets-India...

Read the ‘The Fishing Fleet’. It’s the title of Anne de Courcy’s brilliant book, and also the phrase used to describe boatloads of British women shipped off to go husband-hunting in the Raj. Using letters and diaries of the women themselves, de Courcy captures the desperate search for a "£300 a year man—dead or alive" with the sharp-eyed observation worthy of an Austen novel. From regimental dances at the club to the infinite boredom of playing memsahib, you won’t regret the time spent with these fishing fleet girls. (The Guardian has an equally fun review of the book)

Price: Rs 523 | The Fishing Fleet: Husband Hunting in the Raj |

Share | Facebook logo WhatsApp logo Twitter logo

Or just select, copy and send this link to your friends and you score some cool swag in the process:
Follow us on
Facebook logo Instagram logo Twitter logo

Be an Ambassador

To connect with one another, get unique access, invites to private events,
exclusive content and much more.
Not a subscriber? Sign up here.
Unsubscribe Unsubscribe from this list.
Our mailing address is:
Copyright (C) *|CURRENT_YEAR|* *|LIST:COMPANY|* All rights reserved.