Monday, July 29, 2019
Video of the day

Is there anything we Indians like more than freebies? The answer: freebies stolen from our hotel room. This family outdid themselves and were caught by the hotel staff in Bali. The cringey video clip is the perfect example of casual and shameless thievery. Classic quote from irate uncleji: “Yaar tum mereko yeh keh do na, bhaiya, ki 50 lakh ka maal dila do, I am ready. Yeh koi achaar daalne ki cheez hai? What is this? Sorry, I will pay.” (If you ask me now to give you Rs 50 lakhs worth of stuff, I am ready. What will we do with these items any way? What is this? Sorry, I will pay). Translation: We didn’t even really want this stuff. We stole because, well, we could. Now pliss to be taking bribe.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The tragic and alarming twist in the Unnao rape case

A woman who has accused a BJP MLA of raping her is in critical condition after a truck smashed into her car. It is the fourth such calamity suffered by the survivor’s family ever since she filed her case. 


What’s this rape case? Here’s the tragic and twisted timeline of this case:

  • June 4 2017: a young woman in UP files a police complaint that she was raped by BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar when she went to his house seeking his help to get a job.

  • June 11, 2017: The family reports her missing to the police. She alleges that Sengar’s men kidnapped and gang-raped her. She says that they then tried to sell her for Rs 60,000 but decided against it once the police became involved. 

  • June-April, 2018: The family struggles to get an FIR registered, and flees to Delhi fearing their safety.

  • April 3, 2018: Her father comes down to Unnao for a court hearing, and is instead assaulted by Sengar’s brother. In a bizarre twist, the father is charged with illegal possession of firearms and thrown into custody—where he dies of his injuries. 

  • April 8, 2018: Sengar’s brother is not charged and remains free. The victim and her family set themselves on fire outside CM Yogi Adityanath’s residence in protest. The case finally makes media headlines.

  • April 13, 2018: Sengar and his brother are arrested after the Allahabad High Court issues an order noting “this is a classic case where we find that the accused persons have not left a single stone unturned to terrorise not only victim/prosecutrix but her family members and other witnesses.” The CBI takes over the investigation.

  • August 18, 2018: A key witness in the murder of the survivor’s father dies. Her uncle alleges he was poisoned. His family and the police insist he died of liver disease.

  • December 23, 2018: The survivor, her mother and uncle are charged with forging her birth certificate. The FIR is filed by the father of one of the men jailed for gang-raping her.

  • July 2, 2019: The survivor’s uncle is sentenced to 10 years in prison for attempted murder—on charges brought by Sengar’s brother. Yes, the same one who is awaiting trial in her father’s murder case.


And that brings us to…


July 28, 2019: The car carrying the survivor, her two aunts and a lawyer was hit by a truck. Her two aunts died, and she and the lawyer are in critical condition. They were headed to Rai Bareily to visit her uncle in jail. Her cousin says, “MLA Kuldeep Singh [Sengar] and his associates planned the attack to threaten us so that we stop pursuing the case. Everyone in the village knew they were going to Rae Bareli jail.” 


Ok, so what does the police say? They’re calling it an accident. And they are looking into why the two court-ordered guards were not with the survivor. But the political wrangling has already kicked off. Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav is calling it “a murder attempt,” while local BJP leadership insists, “Our government follows a zero-tolerance policy on crime. The road mishap is unfortunate.”

Point to note: Last month, Unnao’s newly elected BJP MLA Sakshi Maharaj went to visit Sengar in jail. Maharaj told reporters, “Our ‘yashasvi’ (renowned) and popular MLA Kuldeep Sengarji is lodged here for quite some time. I thought it appropriate to thank him after the elections.”


The bottomline: The Unnao rape case reads like cliched Bollywood script: the evil netaji raining terror on a young woman and her family. Except in real life, there is no avenging hero or heroine to save the day. And even the stereotypical happy ending—the arrest of the politician—proves to be false. All we’re left with is a truck that happens to skid out of control on a rainy day. 

Learn more: The Wire has details of the ‘accident’ and a must-watch video, which revisited the survivor and her family in April.  The Print has the survivor’s detailed account of her rape and the persecution that followed. Frontline’s 2018 cover story has the details of the case. India Today profiled the powerful Sengar and his notorious family and their long record of intimidation and murder. Mint explains the three factors which ensure that women rarely get justice in rape cases in India.

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trying to remember the last time you wrote a letter


Hong Kong protests rage on: They were first sparked by an extradition bill that would allow Hong Kong residents to be tried in China. Now the mass protests have snowballed fuelled by a broader rage at and fear of Beijing. And the police has cracked down with tear gas and rubber bullets. The Guardian has the latest. Here’s what the airport looked like on Friday. The best protest photo: this elderly lady with a walking stick facing off against a line of riot police. 


In related protest news: Over a thousand people were arrested in Russia for staging anti-Putin protests. In Moscow, the police’s weapon of choice was the truncheon, well suited to break bones and heads. Best photo: a protester showing a policeman a copy of the Russian constitution. (Vox)


Speaker punishes Karnataka ‘rebels’: BS Yediyurappa has been sworn in as Chief Minister, but the Congress/JDS MLAs he poached are paying the price for his comeback. The Speaker has now disqualified all 17 of them and—to add insult to injury—declared that they cannot seek reelection until the current Assembly term ends in 2023. Translation: no cabinet seats for you! This doesn’t affect the BJP since the number of Assembly seats is now 207, and the party has 105 members plus the support of one Independent MLA. There will be Supreme Court petitions, of course, but Yeddy is sitting pretty—he has the gaddi and zero MLAs to pay off with ministry posts. The stranded ‘rebels’ now feel “let down,” and are threatening to expose all and sundry. (Times of India)


Is writing to the PM a crime? First, a number of prominent citizens such as Ram Guha, Aparna Sen, and Anurag Kashyap wrote a letter to the PM. In it, they flagged the lynchings of Muslims, weaponisation of ‘Jay Shri Ram’ etc. Then a number of other prominent citizens—Prasoon Joshi, Kangana Ranaut, and Sonal Mansingh—also wrote a letter to the PM. The second letter condemned the first letter for expressing “selective concern” and demonstrating “a clear political bias and motive.”  Now, a lawyer in Bihar wants the writers of the first letter to be hauled up on sedition charges. And he has cited the writers of the second letter as “witnesses.” The only thing worth reading on this matter: This Print op-ed which argues that it was foolish and futile for Guha, Sen et al to write the letter that sparked this tamasha. 


In related ‘Jai Shri Ram’ news: Jharkhand state minister CP Singh tried to bully Congress MLA Irfan Ansari into saying the three magic words. Only one man comes out looking good in this exchange… no, it isn’t the BJP fella. 


New details emerge in the Payal Tadvi case: and they’re appalling. New witnesses have offered testimony confirming the caste-driven harrassment of the young doctor who committed suicide. Get this: her abusers were outside the door of her hostel room, heckling her while she lay dead inside. Reminder: the hospital’s internal investigation found no evidence of caste discrimination. (Indian Express)


WTF is wrong with Kamal Hassan? While hosting a Bigg Boss Tamil episode, he began to lament the travails of bus travel. "To travel on a busy bus is a big hassle. While there are people who are rushing to reach office on time, there are those who get in just to touch women inappropriately," Hassan says with a smirk. That’s when one of the contestants—also an actor—happily offers up: "I have done it." Hassan thinks he is talking about beating up molesters, so this prince among men clarifies: no, he actually got on buses just to molest women but "it was long back, when I was in college." And then everyone laughs… including Kamal. (India Today has the story; clip in Tamil is here)


Scientists use phone data to predict personality traits:  The accelerometer in the phone tracks our movements—which is the same tech used to count steps, for example. Scientists have now linked that data to the five traits of extraversion, openness, neuroticism, agreeableness and conscientiousness. The finding that caught our eye: “Sensitive or neurotic females often checked their phones or moved with their phones regularly well into the night, past midnight. Sensitive or neurotic males did the opposite.” Hain? (Science Daily)


Say hello to the wearable air conditioner: Sony has unveiled a pocket-sized AC that slips into the pocket of a specially designed undervest. The Reon Pocket can cool a user’s body temperature by 13 degrees Celsius, and raise it by 8 degrees Celsius on cold days. Unfortunately, it will only be available in Japan. And even more unfortunately, it seems to be designed with only men in mind. But, hey, the video and idea is still, er, cool? (Gizmodo)


How long is this sentence?! One of this year's Booker Prize nominees is a 1,000-page-long sentence. Yup, that’s a 426,100-word sentence. (Quartzy)


This is every parent’s airport nightmare: Toddler sees baggage conveyor belt. Toddler gets on to baggage conveyor belt. Toddler comes out the other end with—lord have mercy—only a broken hand. Yes, there’s CCTV footage of it all. (BBC)


It rained in Mumbai Airport: Correction: It rained inside Mumbai’s swanky international airport.


Weekend reads you might have missed: include the following:

  • An excellent Guardian column on a talented woman’s greatest enemy: the lack of time. Related from LSE Business Review: professional success is closely related to divorce rates for women in top jobs but not men. 

  • Times of India follows up on the fate of the elderly bonded labourer who became famous when his photo went viral. He has been rescued but is still far from free. 

  • Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar explains why foreign investors are fleeing India.

  • Indian Express profiles the lives of Indian medical students who are now flocking to China.

  • Mint on the horrors of the IIT dream. A related IIT horror: this cow wandering through an IIT-Mumbai classroom.

  • An excellent first-person essay on the dark side of boxing by a reporter who loves the sport.

  • Quartz reveals how Sequoia Capital used Mauritius to funnel money into India and dodge taxes.


Your Monday morning pick-me-ups: include the following:

  • What’s better than one dolphin? An entire pod of about 100 dolphins swimming alongside your boat. Plus: this bird that really loooves its Bollywood music.

  • Yet another amaaazing catch, this time courtesy street cricket in Kerala. Hint: how many fielders does it take to catch a ball?

  • NDTV’s new ShorMeter is cracking down on shouty panel guests. Here it is at work.

  • Also from Kerala: the most delightful traffic jam ever. Think ducks, lots and lots of ducks!

  • There are a lot of ‘How Twitter Works’ jokes. This one is pretty funny.

  • Gujarat police officers who just can’t stay off Tik Tok… lol!

  • This clip where a ten-year-old learns never to underestimate his sardar grandpa. He got skiills!

  • Funniest cat & dog clip we’ve seen in a while.

  • This is Donald Trump trying to mediate between India and Pakistan—as illustrated by warring bulls.

  • Homophobia is never funny… but we couldn’t help but laugh at this insane theory of homosexuality.

  • Saving the best for last: check out the 500-year old ‘Thinking Tree’ in Puglia, Italy.

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The best place for the best advice

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How to let go of your beloved pet

Our pets are our babies. However, unlike the humankind, we have responsibility for both their lives and their deaths. Letting go is never easy, and when it requires a conscious choice on our part, it can feel unbearably painful. Not everyone believes in euthanasia for pets, preferring to let nature take its course. But having lost our dog (yup, that's Gauss in the photo)—after holding on to him for far too long—we agree with veterinarian Shivendra Rathore, “Taking responsibility for a pain-free, peaceful death is the kindest act an owner can do for a much-loved pet.”


The senior years: The last few years of a cat or a dog require the most care and attention. As your pet ages, you should:

  • Be more vigilant. Diseases to keep an eye out for include: arthritis (especially of the knees and hips), kidney disease, dental disease, dementia, heart disease, diabetes, urinary incontinence and cancer. In many cases, by the time the symptoms become obvious, it is usually too late to treat. So keep a careful eye for even small variations in thirst, appetite, sleep patterns, lumps and bumps etc. 

  • Take him/her more often to the vet for regular check-ups. As with humans, small issues can quickly turn into painful or chronic conditions when animals age.

  • Senility is an issue with senior animals, as well. Use the DISHA checklist to detect and track its onset: Disorientation, [altered] Interactions with their family members or other pets, Sleep-wake cycle changes, House soiling, and Activity level changes. PetMD has a handy ‘five signs’ checklist for dogs. Bark offers a guide to diagnosis and treatment. Cat Care offers the same for felines.

  • Expect to spend a lot more money. Healthcare for aging pets is expensive and they deserve every rupee of it.


Deciding when it is time: Quality of daily life is the single most important criterion for any animal because—as Rathore points out—they live in the moment. Neither past pleasures nor hope of future improvement are any comfort to them. The widely applied measure is the Quality of Life scale developed by Dr Alice Villalobos aka HHHHHMM (where each factor is measured on a scale of zero-ten):


  • Hurt: Is your pet in pain? Is it constant? Can it be managed? As Villalobos emphasises, “This includes the pet’s ability to breathe properly. Most people do not realize that not being able to breathe is ranked at the top of the pain scale in human medicine.”

  • Hunger: Rejecting food is a big red flag. But the good news is that pets can often be coaxed to eat more if you offer a bigger variety of foods—as opposed to the staple dog or cat food. And you can be far more indulgent with the diet of an aging pet at the end of its life than with a puppy or a kitten. 

  • Hydration: As vets often emphasize, water is far more critical to a pet’s health than even its food intake. Ideally your pet ought to be drinking 10 ml per pound per day. 

  • Hygiene: Cleanliness is important to an animal’s well-being. Cats especially deteriorate if they aren’t able to clean themselves. A highly diluted solution of lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide applied with damp cotton balls can help.

  • Happiness: We all know and love our pets well enough to know when they are anxious or depressed. If you’re not sure, use the Rule of ‘Five Good Things’: Pick the top five things that your pet loves to do. When he or she can no longer do three or more of them, its quality of life has deteriorated to a level where most veterinarians will recommend euthanasia.

  • Mobility: The standard for mobility varies with size and type of pet. Cats and small dogs that can be carried around, and still enjoy napping and cuddling are likely a-okay. But with a larger dog, there are worries about bed sores, being able to relieve themselves etc.

  • More good days than bad days: If there are too many bad days in a row, if those bad days are really awful (think vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, seizures), if it’s only going to get worse from here due to a disease… then it is time.

Learn more: Your Dog Advisor has the best guide to euthanasia. And it includes a description of the process of euthanasia and options (home or at the vet). New York Times has an excellent piece on the care of aging pets. We also recommend Alice Villalobos’ piece explaining her Quality of Life Scale. Shivendra Rathore’s Facebook post does a great job of framing the choice of euthanasia and is a must-read for all pet owners. Scientific American explains why grief due to losing your pet is important and needs to be taken seriously. There are lots of guides online, but Psych Central has the most simple and comprehensive guide to grieving a pet.

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