Monday, May 20, 2019
Winner of the day

Dutee Chand is India’s fastest woman. She holds the 100 metre record at the Asian Games, where she also won two silver medals in 2018. Chand is also now the first Indian sports star to openly acknowledge being in a same-sex relationship. She told the Indian Express, “I have found someone who is my soulmate. I believe everyone should have the freedom to be with whoever they decide they want to be with.” Amen.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The NDA sweep signalled by the exit polls

The flood of exit poll results vary widely in their projected numbers. But they unanimously project an NDA victory on May 23—and an electoral map that looks astonishingly unchanged from 2014 (shown above).


Exit polls explained: These surveys are conducted when voters are exiting the polling booths. As per Election Commission rules, their results cannot be released until after the last day of voting—to avoid influencing voter behaviour. Hence the flood of results which were released last night.


What do the polls say? The numbers are as follows:

  • They all agree that the NDA will secure the 272 seats required to form the government, but the projected seat totals range from 277 to 352.

  • The numbers on Congress—which secured a paltry 44 seats in 2014—vary more wildly. The India Today poll predicts as few as 38 seats for the party, while ABP-Nielsen projects an 87-seat tally. However, no one expects Congress to break the triple-digit mark.

  • The overall UPA totals range from 70 to 132.


What’s with the wide variation? The overall tallies disagree primarily due to two states: Uttar Pradesh and Bengal.

  • In UP, the alliance between Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav is expected to secure between 13 to 45 of the state’s 80 seats. The Republic-CVoter poll gives the mahagathbandhan 40 seats, but Nielsen-ABP gives it 56 seats (which is a near sweep).

  • Similarly, in Bengal, The NDA is expected to gain at least 11 seats, but one poll claims that the two rivals may even split the 42 seats evenly.


What do the polls agree on? Other than an NDA majority, they all seem to conclude the following:

  • The Congress has not been able to build on its Assembly wins in either Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan. In general, it has been swept aside by the BJP in the Hindi belt, including UP and Bihar.

  • Delhi will be a near-sweep for the BJP, likely because Congress and AAP were unable to join forces and consolidate their vote.

  • The BJP has been unable to make inroads in the South, be it Kerala, Andhra Pradesh or Telangana. The only exception is a strong showing in Karnataka, where it is expected to win anywhere between 15 to 25 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats.


Ok, how reliable are these results? In 2004, exit polls wrongly predicted an NDA victory. They underestimated the UPA total in 2009. But the projections were mostly on target in 2014 in predicting a BJP majority—though they missed the size of the Modi wave. That said, exit polls anywhere in the world are a hit-and-miss. For example, in the recent Australian elections, the ruling Conservative government returned to power defying all exit poll predictions. Other infamous exit poll flubs: Brexit and the 2016 Trump win.


The bottomline: The results will be announced on Thursday. Voters might as well wait a few more days to celebrate or mourn, accordingly.


Learn more: Hindustan Times has the most comprehensive breakdown of the eight exit polls. Indian Express offers a solid overview, and an explainer on exit polls. Economic Times has the best take on how much value to place on their numbers.

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trying to get that Sheeran-Bieber jingle out of your head

Modi-ji had an eventful weekend: The exit polls marked the happy end of what was a weekend of bad PR for the PM which included the following:

  • Breaking from his previous policy of staying silent on controversial issues, the PM weighed in to vociferously condemn Pragya Thakur. She had described Gandhi-ji’s assassin as a ‘deshbhakt’. But his own ally, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, says she ought to be expelled from the party.

  • The PM attended his first-ever press conference where he didn’t answer any questions—which was, umm, weird. The Telegraph led with this funny front-page headline, but was outdone by its Bengali counterpart, Anand Bazar Patrika.

  • Then Modi-ji went to Kedarnath to meditate. The event included a red carpet moment and odd photo-ops of his meditation. Twitter went into full snark mode (see photos and memes here),  and the news media made hay of the fancy “cave" where he took refuge from worldly concerns. Our fave troll is this clip set to a Bollywood tune.


Men are too scared to mentor women: after the #MeToo uprising, proving once again that no good turn goes unpunished. (Axios)


In related bad news for women: According to a new study, even holding a beer in our hand makes us seem “less human,” and more “sexually available.” And that perception holds true for both men and women. (Daily Mail)


Bollywood went to Cannes: And gave us this delicious Deepika Padukone moment as a pista super-sundae. We think it’s kinda fun and silly, but this grumpy NDTV fashion expert does not. In other Bolly-at-Cannes news, Priyanka is still channelling her inner bride (yes dear, we know you got married, and we are very happy for you). And Kangana did something odd with a corset and a long pair of gloves—though, happily, not at the same time. Aishwarya’s look is being compared to a goldfish… which is not nice, but not necessarily inaccurate.


In other Kangana-related news: Aditya Pancholi released edited video clips to news channels of Ranault's lawyer blithely discussing filing a rape case against him.


NRI actors in music nostalgia flicks: So here’s a fun new trend in upcoming movies: Take South Asian Brit, throw in iconic pop star/group, and make possibly funny, heart-warming movie. We have two such flicks set to release:

  • ‘Yesterday’ is about a musician who—thanks to some freak accident—is the only one in the world who remembers The Beatles. Trailer is here, and learn more about the breakout star Himesh Patel in Vogue.

  • No less fun: ‘Blinded By the Light’ from the always fun Gurinder Chadha about a working-class teenager who adores Bruce Springsteen. Check out the trailer, and the overview of the plot in The Hindu.


In entirely unrelated movie news: This is the Netflix trailer of ‘Leila’, a first-of-its-kind dystopian Bolly flick based on a novel by Prayaag Akbar. The Hindu's review of the novel offers more on the plot.


Gimme my pandas: The trade war between China and the US has claimed its first casualty: the San Diego Zoo which has lost its most famous panda (and her baby). The 27-year-old Bai Yun arrived in the US from Beijing 20-odd years ago as part of a conservation loan program—which has been scrapped in the midst of all the feuding. (The Observer)


Weekend reads you might have missed: include the following:

  • Indian Express on the Indian woman’s evolving relationship with love, sex and dhokha on dating apps.

  • Wired on how Chernobyl—the world’s worst nuclear disaster (outside of Hiroshima)—has unwittingly created a wildlife paradise.

  • Telegraph India on the genes that determine why you love dogs (or don’t).

  • Times of India’s report on Indian art at the Venice Biennale after being iced out for eight years.

  • Sanjaya Baru’s provocative op-ed in Indian Express. He argues that the US confrontation with Iran is actually an attempt to disrupt the oil supplies of Asian powers like India and China.

  • This Christian Science Monitor report on how Belize saved its beloved coral reef—a needed antidote to our collective climate change anxiety.

  • Fountain Ink on how Tik Tok is changing India’s notion of celebrity.


Your Monday morning pick-me-up: includes the following:

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The best place for the best advice

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How to take good care of your face

 We know what you’re thinking: Like any of us need more advice on skincare 🙄.  But it’s precisely the sheer deluge of beauty tips, products and reviews that leave us feeling lost and bewildered. Here then is a set of basic guidelines to help you do what is best for your face and your wallet.


Keep it simple: Lathering on multiple products will not give any of us perfect skin. More likely, they will overwhelm and clog our pores—or worse, react with one another. All you need is the following:

  • Cleanser: Make sure it is suited to your skin type and age. Basic rule of thumb: If your skin feels ‘tight’ after you wash it off, then it is over-drying your skin. Go for a milder option.

  • Toner: but not necessarily of the old astringent kind which is best for oily or acne-prone skin. For example: We use rose water to soothe and hydrate our dry skin. Others opt for toners fortified with vitamin C or E. Toners are a no-fuss way to add supplements to your daily regimen. Some of us skip them entirely, and that’s okay if your serum is doing double duty.

  • Serum: We are spoilt for choice when it comes to serums so it can be confusing. Simply put: Those with hyaluronic acid boost hydration; vitamin C will amp up the glow; retinol is a fave anti-ageing measure.

  • Moisturiser: Yes, everyone needs moisturiser irrespective of skin type. It may seem like a burden if you have oily or acne-prone skin. But drying out oily skin actually stimulates it to produce more oil. Go for a gel-based version to keep it light. Or opt for a heavier cream if and when you need to amp it up.


The New York Times put together this excellent, super simple guide on ingredients suited for different skin types and needs. We recommend you check it out.


Pay attention to your unique skin type: Products that work brilliantly for friends or users of five-starred products on Amazon or beauty mag editors may not be right for you. Why? One, our skin doesn’t always fall into neat categories like oily, dry or combination. We, for example, have an oily t-zone except our forehead is always super dry. Also: beauty solutions must necessarily change with age. Acne solutions that worked in your twenties may be unwise in your thirties as your skin starts to dry out. And also this: a number of us are mildly allergic to products (example: retinol) which beauty experts swear by. So please pay attention to what works for you.


Pay attention to the weather: Our skin behaves differently in different weather—which varies by season and location. So a heavy-duty moisturiser that is perfect in Delhi winter may feel like face-grease in Goa or Mumbai. We recommend investing in at least two variations for your most basic beauty product, i.e. your moisturiser and cleanser. They may have to do more or less heavy-lifting based on time and place.


Exfoliate, but with care: We Indians tend to over-exfoliate—especially when battling the heat and dirt of summer. We also over-exfoliate as we age because we are told it is the best way to stimulate skin regeneration. We now have so many different ways to scrape of those dead cells: serums, cleansers, scrubs, peels. And there are multiple ingredients which act as exfoliants—retinol, BHA, enzyme-based products, glycolic acid. So you may end up over-exfoliating without even realising it. The result: stressed and damaged skin which looks like this. Here are two rules of thumb:

  • Only use a gentle acid-based exfoliant every day, and only if you need it. Look at your ingredients, and make sure you aren’t using more than one.  

  • Do not use anything more heavy-duty—scrubs, peels, masks, brushes—more than twice a week. Avoid heavy-duty scrubs with large particles like walnut which will damage your skin. In all cases: gently rub, do not scrub.

  • Pay attention to how your skin looks and feels. Tight or red or more pimple-prone? Your forehead is too shiny? Dial it down asap.


Give your face a break: The best treat for your skin is an occasional holiday from all products. No makeup, no moisturiser, nothing. We’re not suggesting an extreme break of a week or a month—like those beauty addicts who go cold turkey and then boast about it. Just give your skin a day or two a month to just chill.


Heed the cardinal ‘Don’ts’: Don’t burst a pimple until it turns into a full-on whitehead. Don’t go to sleep without cleaning your face. Don’t ignore your neck and chest -- which is delicate and requires moisturising.


Heed the four ‘Dos’: Do always wear sunscreen—and reapply it at least once or twice during the day. Do drink lots of water. Do stick to a (mostly) healthy diet, which also means watching your intake of junk food, booze and cigarettes. Do invest time in some form of exercise—yes, it does wonders for your skin as long as you clean up properly after.


Learn more: Here’s the New York Times guide to help you choose the right daily skincare products—we like that it is based on ingredients rather than specific brands. Who What Wear has a longer list of skin care tips culled from facialists. Well+Good has a good piece that covers everything you need to know about over-exfoliating.

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