Friday, July 5 2019

Quote of the day

Days after tweeting out his resignation letter, a feisty and seemingly buoyant Rahul Gandhi resurfaced outside a Delhi courtroom—where he is named in a defamation case brought by an RSS activist. He said, "Aakraman ho raha hai, maza aa raha hai” (I am being attacked and am enjoying it)—and vowed to fight ten times harder than he did over the past five years. Watch the clip here. Hmm.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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A royal Emirati divorce making waves in London

The sixth wife of the ruler of Dubai has fled the country and is in hiding in London. They are now embroiled in a divorce case in the UK courts which threatens to blow the lid on human rights abuse within the ruling Emirati family.


First, some background: In recent years, there have been a number of high profile cases of wealthy Middle Eastern women attempting to escape their abusive families. For example, this Saudi woman who ran away to Thailand, and managed to livetweet her way to safety. 


And an India link: Far less lucky was an equally desperate Princess Latifa—daughter of the Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. Her yacht made it to the shores of Goa, but it was then boarded by the Indian Coast Guard and Emirati security forces (fiercely denied by both governments). Latifa simply disappeared from view—until she resurfaced in a staged photo-op in December.


Why did she try and escape? In a video recorded before she fled, Latifa said she was being beaten and tortured—as a punishment for an earlier escape attempt when she was 16 years old. She also talked about her older sister, Shamsa, who made it to London for a month, but was abducted and returned to Dubai in 2000.


So now it’s his wife who has fled? Yes. Princess Haya Bint al-Hussein is the daughter of the now deceased King Hussein of Jordan, and the half-sister of the current ruler. She married Sheikh Mohammed in 2004 and is his sixth wife. He has 23 children by his different wives—but Haya is the most visible and glamorous of them.  Haya fled months ago and is in hiding with her two children. Meanwhile, her husband has been penning poetry on Instagram.


Poetry? Yes. The sheikh is known as a prolific poet and frequently marks great occasions of state, and family events with poems. Since his wife’s departure, his verse has veered from anguished—“O sweetheart, there’s nothing more to say. / Your deathly silence has worn me out”—to angry: “You betrayer, you betrayed the most precious trust, and your game has been revealed. Your days of lying are over and it doesn’t matter what we were and what you are.”


Ok, so why did Haya leave? No one has been able to contact the princess. But sources close to her told BBC that she had discovered “disturbing facts” behind Latifa’s return to Dubai and was now “afraid for her life.”


What happens now? Haya is hiding to ensure that she doesn’t meet the same fate as her two step-daughters. And she is reportedly close to the British royal family, and is seeking political asylum—all of which is likely to be awkward for the UK government which has close ties with Dubai. And also for Jordan as a quarter of a million Jordanians work in the UAE, sending back precious remittances. But now that the divorce case is in court, human rights lawyers hope that it will shine a spotlight on gender abuse in seemingly shiny, happy places like Dubai.


Learn more: BBC has the most details on Haya’s escape. Emirates Woman carried a photo gallery of the seemingly perfect and glammed up couple at the races. Economic Times has the details of Latifa’s abduction, and the Indian government’s murky role in it—there’s a whole Christen Michel and Sonia Gandhi angle to it. Business Insider has the details on the divorce case which now involves a high profile lawyer who also represents Princes Harry and William.

The government’s Economic Survey 

Ahead of the 2019-20 union budget—which will be unveiled today—Chief Economic Advisor Krishnamurthy Subramanian offered his assessment of the economy in 2018-19. It gives a general sense of the Modi government’s broader vision and philosophy as it enters its second term. Here are the main highlights:


  • The survey projects a modest 7% growth rate in the coming year—up from 6.8% in the past year. And it projects 8% thereafter—which it argues will be sufficient to turn India into a $5-trillion economy by 2025. Unlike previous surveys, there is no talk of double-digit growth.

  • The main driver of that projected 8% growth rate will be private investment—which has been decreasing year on year. In a press conference, Subramanian clarified that he expects foreign investment to play a big role in pulling those numbers back up. Also: banks which he says have mostly cleared their books of bad loans. 

  • The survey underlines a declining population growth rate, which in turn means an increasingly ageing population. The government will have to raise the retirement age, prepare for great investments in healthcare, and consolidate schools to prepare for this fundamental demographic shift.

  • While much of the survey was ‘more of the same’, it broke new ground by touting learnings from behavioural economics. Example: creating a social norm that “paying taxes honestly is honourable” and cementing it by giving special privileges to the highest taxpayers. These could include expedited boarding privileges at airports, fast-lane privileges on roads and toll booths, and special “diplomatic” type lanes at immigration counters. And the highest taxpayers over a decade could be honoured by naming important buildings, monuments, universities and airports after them. 

Learn more: Indian Express explains what an Economic Survey is and why it matters. Mint offers an overview of this one. Hindustan Times argues that the Modi government cannot overcome a slowing economy and rising unemployment by sticking to a tried-and-tested approach. Meanwhile, former RBI governor Urjit Patel made his first public—and very revealing—remarks since he quit. Times of India has that story.

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treating your period pain with a giant serving of junk food

Serena aur Andy ki unbeatable jodi: Serena Williams and Andy Murray are teaming up to play the mixed doubles at Wimbledon. They hold 26 singles majors between them—including nine at Wimbledon. Nobody wants to play against them. (Indian Express)


Mahua Moitra is not a plagiarist: The Trinamool MP made a speech in Parliament which argued that we can already see seven signs of fascism emerge under BJP rule. The speech went viral and some BJP supporters and one Zee News anchor accused her of ripping off this Washington Monthly article written by Martin Longman. Well, turns out Moitra’s speech and Longman’s article do have one thing in common: they refer to the signs of fascism listed on a poster displayed at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum—which Moitra made clear in her speech. While Longman applied them to America under Trump, Moitra did the same with India under Modi. An already weak case suffered even greater damage when the alleged victim of the alleged crime, Longman, tweeted, “I’m internet famous in India because a politician is being falsely accused of plagiarizing me. It’s kind of funny, but right-wing ass****s seem to be similar in every country.” Ouch!


Jadeja vs Manjrekar: Sanjay Manjrekar is not exactly popular as a commentator. And so a lot of people were delighted when Ravindra Jadeja lashed out at him on Twitter: “Still i have played twice the number of matches you have played and i m still playing. Learn to respect ppl who have achieved.i have heard enough of your verbal diarrhoea.@sanjaymanjrekar.” This thoughtful analysis of the ‘right to criticise cricketers’ explains why Jadeja is in the wrong. Related read: Dhoni’s team-mates rush to his defence, fiercely arguing the value he adds is way more than just his batting. The passionate quotes, though anonymous, are worth checking out. 


Treadmills can relieve period pain: provided you run on them three times a week for at least six months. The reason: “because exercise flushes out chemicals that cause discomfort.” (Daily Mail)


A reminder that poor people are not numbers: This is a photo of the graves of two little children who were killed when a wall collapsed during the Mumbai rains.


Is India staring at a water apocalypse? That’s the headline of this Asia Times story. OTOH, CNN asks, ‘Are parts of India becoming too hot for humans?’ No prizes for guessing the answer.


Gwynnie makes Goop fans mad: Folks who shelled out $5,700 to attend Gwyneth Paltrow’s Wellness Summit in the UK are calling her “a f ** king extortionist.” Apparently, the over-hyped event didn’t exactly meet expectations: “Gwyneth acts like she’s a health goddess, but actually she’s a pretentious, greedy extortionist. She had a ton of security . . . She was unapproachable. She did the minimum—a few fireside chats with Twiggy and Penelope Cruz, then she put on her Birkenstocks and snuck out . . . I was a huge fan of Gwyneth; now I feel like I have lost my faith in God.” Oh the agony of losing your religion! (Page Six)


Your feel-good Friday round-up: is here (lord knows we all need it!).

  • When Instagram went down on Wednesday, the CIA tweeted a pretty funny joke about it.

  • We love this clip of a crow in Kerala “haggling” for the best piece of fish—the commentary of the fish-sellers is priceless.

  • This amazing cat ought to be an Olympic athlete.

  • Two women got married in a Varanasi temple. The photos are lovely, but we’re not sure what to make of the ‘cousins’ angle.

  • An Israeli company put Gandhiji’s photo on its beer bottles—and then had to withdraw them when the Indian politicians protested. But ‘anti-national’ Indians that we are, we love that Bapuji looks so seriously badass.

  • This tweet on a millennial’s “sense of time” which blew up instantly. 

  • The #BottleCapChallenge rolls on. Tiger Shroff took it to a whole new and impressive level. Though we prefer comedian Kunal Kemmu’s tongue-in-cheek version.

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Stuff we buy, use or love.

A List Of Wellness Retreats
Sometimes a vacation isn’t about indulgence or luxury. We’re looking for something more… something that helps us deal with the stress and the grind of everyday life. Here are three very different options for you.
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When you want to deeply engage with spirituality...

Head to Dharamsala to the Tushita Meditation Centre. This Buddhist centre is not for tourists looking for a bit of Goop-style mindfulness. Even their beginner retreats require at least an introductory course to Buddhism. But for those seeking a deeper engagement with their spiritual selves, this bona fide institute offers an invaluable experience at a very affordable price.

Price: Donations start at Rs. 6000 (for a 10-day course) | Tushita Meditation Centre

The informer 2

When you really need to hit ‘reset’ over a weekend…

Head to Yogacara’s Mango Retreat in Alibaug. Not all of us can afford to take weeks off to disengage with our worldly selves. But Yogacara—which also conducts awesome yoga classes in Mumbai—offers the perfect Friday-to-Sunday solution: asanas by a very pretty beach. Go for the delicious food and scenery, but also to honour your commitment to upping your yoga game.

Price: Starts at Rs. 11900 (for weekend retreat) | Yogacara Institute, Alibaug Retreat

The informer 3

When you want a healthy holiday…

Opt for Amrutham Gamaya which offers a perfect recipe of comfort plus wellness. This Kovalam hotel offers the sense of indulgence you want on your precious vacay days—minus the binge drinking or eating. Their Svastii Wellness Curriculum offers a happy blend of Ayurveda, yoga and massages to help you feel both virtuous and indulgent—all at the same time

Price: Starts from Rs. 3540 (per night) | Amrutham Gamaya

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Note: These retreats are personally picked by the editors. We do not receive any revenue from places recommended.

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