Monday, September 30, 2019
Sales of the day

Both Amazon and Flipkart launched their big festival sales over the weekend—and they have been a huge hit, especially with Tier 2, 3, and 4 cities. These new customers account for Flipkart’s 2X jump in sales from last year. Amazon India claims it had the biggest opening ever and that 66% of its Prime shoppers were from smaller towns. In other words, Bharat is slated to outshop India this year (at least online)—and right in the midst of worries about slowing consumer demand. 

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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Floods, floods everywhere

Large parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were under water over the weekend due to torrential rains. This trend isn’t an anomaly but the ‘new normal’ created by climate change and uncontrolled development—which may put the economy ‘under water’ as well.

What happened? As of the weekend, 110 people have died in four days across the country due to flooding. Worst hit states are Uttar Pradesh and Bihar—where the capital, Patna, resembles a giant lake. These floods come on the heels of others which ravaged Kerala, Maharashtra and Karnataka in August (see our explainer here). 


Why is this happening? The immediate reason is out-of-season rainfall. Normally, the rains would have receded by now. Instead, we are on course for the wettest September in 102 years! More importantly, we are witnessing a new and pronounced monsoon trend. When the season began, key parts of the country were experiencing severe droughts—and there was a 33% shortfall in the average rainfall received in June. In September, the average is 48% above normal. We’ve been deluged by torrential rain for the past two months. But these are symptoms not the disease. 

Explain that to me: The real problem is that we are entering a new era of erratic and unpredictable monsoon seasons. We will increasingly witness droughts (as we did in Bihar, Maharashtra and Karnataka earlier this year) followed by unpredictable and devastating rains. We can expect this yo-yoing trend to become the new normal for India in the years to come.

And this is because? Of climate change. The warming Arabian sea (and India) is putting the monsoon cycle severely out of whack. According to the Indian Meteorological Department, over the past four years, we have experienced more extremely dry days (where rainfall is less than one millimetre a day) and extremely wet days (more than 80 millimetres a day). But the effects have been made worse by disastrous development policies.

Such as? Destruction of forest cover due to mining etc.—which has triggered devastating landslides in Kerala and Uttarakhand. Reckless construction over wetlands, flood plains and riverbeds—all of which act as buffers against flooding. (See: the effect of the ravaged mangrove forests in Mumbai) Then there are our cities where every bit of land is being cemented over without proper drainage planning. In Patna, for example, the government built flyovers indiscriminately—and many of them are now flooded as you can see here. Activists had raised the alarm about the destruction of the city’s critical wetlands two years ago.

How will this affect me? Setting aside the number of people who actually die due to floods or droughts, this new pattern has serious long-term implications for all of us. 

  • The drought-and-flood cycle has a huge impact on our agriculture—nearly 60% of which is reliant on the monsoon. The droughts result in barren fields, and the floods drown the crops. This has huge implications for our food security and economy—as agriculture contributes to 18% of our GDP and employs half our working population.

  • Then there is the cost of the damage. The 2017-18 Economic Survey tracked a 14% fall in agricultural revenue due to extreme rainfall. The floods in Kerala in 2018 caused Rs 40,000 crore in damage. Already under pressure, the state government simply can't afford another year of flooding.

  • Now add in costs of evacuation. Extreme weather requires moving millions of people to shelters—creating severe displacement and at a high price tag. And paying those bills year after year wreaks significant damage on the economy. 

  • Recent studies show that the Indian economy is 36% smaller than it could have been due to climate change—and will shrink a further 10% by the end of the century for the same reason. 

The bottomline: is best summed up by the below:

  • Faced by devastating floods in his state, Chief Minister Nitish Yadav said, “Such a situation is not in any one's hand. It's a natural thing.”

  • The Environment Ministry has drafted a new law that will allow massive development projects (including mining) to go ahead without any assessments of their environmental impact—a significant rollback of already weak protections in place.

Enuf said.

Learn more: News 18 and Yale Environment 360 have the best pieces on the impact of climate change on the Indian economy. India Today offers a damning overview of the price of flooding—human and economic—over the past 65 years. Hindustan Times reports on the new plan to gut environmental oversight of development projects. We all know the human cost of extreme weather, but this sobbing rickshaw puller in Patna truly brings it home. 

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trawling festival sales for clothes you totally don’t need

Boris Johnson’s updated list of woes: include a couple of very unhappy developments over the weekend. One: He is now officially under investigation by a police watchdog agency due to allegations of conflict of interest—which involve a potentially inappropriate relationship with an American businesswoman. Axios has a quick recap of the sordid details. Two: A journalist has published a column accusing him of groping women under the table at a lunch party.

A crying CRPF shame! The security forces are typically paid a Rs 3000 ‘ration allowance’ along with their salary each month. However, that extra perk will be missing this month end because the Home Ministry has not released the funds required. According to a senior officer: “This is the first time the ration allowance has been stopped. We spoke to ministry officials last week about the pending money and they mentioned the faltering economy.” Point to note: The ration allowance is given to non-gazetted CRPF personnel: constables, head constables, assistant sub-inspectors, sub-inspectors and inspectors—i.e not officers. (The Telegraph)

Bye bye Vodafone? The Indian subsidiary is “hanging on by a thread” thanks to the Jio effect. Based on its current burn rate, it may not last more than 4-5 financial quarters. (Mint)

Samsung’s foldable phone still a dud? When the Galaxy Fold was distributed to reviewers in April, there were multiple complaints about easily and mysteriously damaged screens. The company promised to fix the issues before its release. But the final version which is now on sale in the US isn’t much of an improvement. (TechCrunch)

Debbie Harry’s memoir is truly a tell-all: The Sunday Times UK (paywall) has highlights from Blondie lead singer’s upcoming book. They include:

  • A memorable scene where David Bowie whips out his penis after doing some coke: “David’s size was notorious, and he loved to pull it out with both men and women. It was so funny, adorable and sexy.”

  • A matter-of-fact story of being raped by a thief in her own apartment: “In the end, the stolen guitars hurt me more than the rape. I mean, we had no equipment.

  • A bizarre story about a close encounter with serial killer Ted Bundy.

  • This take on her iconic beauty and having plastic surgery: “Some days I’m happy with the way I look and sometimes I’m not, and it’s always been that way. But I’m not blind and I’m not stupid: I take advantage of my looks and I use them.”

The Sun has an interview with Harry which covers a lot of the same ground.

Can’t afford a fancy pair of AirPods? Don’t worry. ASOS has your back. The fashion brand is selling fake earpieces that look like silver ear buds because—to quote the website copy—“We're all about those finishing touches.” It’s kinda like those fake mobile phones that sold like hot potatoes back in the day. Moral of this story: there is no generation gap in stupidity. (ASOS)

A new dating app study for nervous texters: Finally, your most burning question has been answered. Here’s how long you must wait before sending a second text if the first one is ignored. (Quartz)

An airline for crybaby-hating flyers: To help you steer clear of bawling or noisy spawn, Japan Airlines now lets you know exactly where those crazy-making tots are located on its seating plan. Or as Twitter points out, you can just invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones. (BBC)

McKinsey sets up new shop: The company best known for slick powerpoint presentations offering overpriced management gyaan to other companies is taking market research to a whole new level. It plans to start selling undies, makeup and jewellery at a gigantic mall in America to gain insights into customers’ use of new technology. (CBS News)

Weekend reads you may have missed: include the following:

  • This in-depth, wonderfully reported piece in Mint explains why adopted children are being ‘returned’ at an alarming rate. (That the reporter is one of our Ambassadors Shabonti Bagchi makes us proud 😊)

  • This interesting study in The Conversation on the downside of hiring attractive people in the service industry. Customers don’t always warm up to a ‘hot’ waiter or air steward.

  • National Geographic takes a closer look at the amazing people who are working hard to rescue and rehabilitate animals who survived the Amazon fires.

  • Do you really want to know who are the VSCO girls—the Gen Z “iteration of ‘preppy ‘style with a casual beach-inspired flair”? Ok, here you go.

  • The Hindu has an amusing read on why people fall asleep at conferences—and how to avoid sending your audience to sleep.

  • Indian Express has a must read and illuminating travelogue of a reporter who retraces the steps of Gandhi-ji in 2019. A related read: Gandhi’s letters to Hitler.

  • Quartz explains why humans can do pretty much anything to the planet—except wipe out their own existence. It’s a bit of a good news/bad news kind of thing. 

  • Art isn’t making the world any better? So what’s the point of it? Michael Chabon makes a powerful pitch for art in the time of dystopia. 

  • Want more on Rajneesh’s wild, wild antics? The Sun has more dirt from a former disciple on the rampant sexual activity that often crossed into abuse.


Your Monday quota of sunshine items: includes the following:

  • The festive news that you are eligible for a 10% GST refund if you paid Rs 7,500-plus for your hotel room.
  • Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University’s exam instructions are ROFL—especially the gratuitous GoT reference.

  • This hilarious Insta post by Rakhi Sawant of her grand home in ‘the UK’—which looks suspiciously like somewhere very close to home.

  • Attention, cat lovers! ArtNet has a fab photo gallery for you courtesy the Annie Leibowitz of cats, Walter Chandoha. For dog lovers: Here is a single but amazing photo of a dog catching a frisbee—its description is deceptive.

  • This super-fun music video for Camila Cabello’s catchy ‘Liar’ is perfect for Monday am blues—in case you missed out like we did when it released earlier this month.

  • The awesome kind of feline wingman every dog needs in a bar fight.

  • This very funny incident of pandas experiencing coitus interruptus.

  • Evil cackle-inducing clip of a puja in Karnataka to eradicate feminism.

  • This fab clip of cast members of ‘Family Man’ showcasing their ‘cricket dance’.

  • This excellent Twitter thread that accurately captures—in excruciating detail— the misery of catching a domestic flight in India.

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The best place for the best advice

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How to pack like a pro

Next week, Navratri will kick off the annual season of festive travel. We’ll all be packing our bags to head home or to a hotel or a destination wedding. And it will likely feel like a huge chore—more so if you have kids. But truly, all you have to do is master the basics.

What do I pack in? First rule of good packing is to make sure you have the right equipment.

  • The suitcase: Sturdy, good quality, with lots of compartments. Don’t go cheap or just for pretty. Or else that zipper will break, or the wheels will stick or come right off.

  • Ziploc plastic bags: They come in every size, and keep things that belong together in one place, be it your chargers, lotions, or travel docs. Also: zero leaks. 

  • Makeup bags: should have lots of compartments and plastic interiors. If you are travelling abroad, pick up the oil cloth variety, or ask someone to bring one to you. So easy to clean, and keep clean. If that sounds like work, see: Ziploc bags.

  • Packing cubes: These make unpacking super easy. Put your tops (or trousers, gentlemen)  in one cube, use another for your underwear. Going to a shaadi? Keep each event’s outfit together in its own cube. Make sure they are made of a stiff material (not easily crushed) and are see-through (so you don’t have to open each one to check what’s in there). And here’s the best-rated one on Amazon India.

What do I actually pack? The aim is always to avoid packing too much or the wrong things.

  • Wrinkle-resistant vs. Won’t-leave-me-sweating: Many recommend rayon and polyester, but they can be hell in Indian weather—especially as things get muggy in the post-monsoon season. Go instead for cotton blends or heavier cotton knits. Denim is a perennial, and wool is a great option for winter. Just stay away from light silks and linen, unless you can easily get stuff ironed.

  • Easy-to-match basics: Pack skirts or pants in black, white, navy, khaki and charcoal. This way you don’t end up lugging that pretty blouse only to find that you don’t have anything to wear it with.  

  • Dresses: Yes, life is always easier when you have one-item outfits.

  • Minimal footwear: Boots take up way too much real estate (unless they are a must because you are flying to colder climes). Always pack slippers for long haul flights and the hotel room. For everything else, stick to the black/neutrals rule, and that includes your heels.

  • Pre-packed toiletries/makeup bag: is perfect for the frequent traveler. Buy doubles of all your must-haves, and pack one lot away. You’ll never leave home without them. 

How do I pack? There are many methods, but some work far better than others

  • Roll it: This is the most popular travel hack. Clothes rolled up and tightly packed together maximise space. But you only want to do this with t-shirts, jeans, socks, pjs etc. It’s also the perfect solution for kids’ clothes—lots of shorts and tees.

  • Stack ‘em: You still fold your clothes but store them vertically, as you would with files in a drawer. They don’t crease any more than laying them flat, but it is easier to find what you need. 

  • Bras: Best method is to lay them flat at the very top, but hardly worth the perils of nosy airport security. Better to hook the hasps, tuck in the straps, and nest them together in a big Ziploc bag. Just remember to stuff some underwear into the cups so they retain their shape. (video here)

  • Formal wear: Expensive, delicate garments are best wrapped in tissue paper or clear plastic. Yes we all have sari packs but here’s how you pack a suit

Anything else? Yes, get the app. If you hate even thinking about what to pack, download PackPoint. Enter your destination and dates, and the app checks the weather forecast and creates a packing list with a best-guess of everything it thinks you might need. You can add/delete from there. Watch the demo video.

Learn more: Here’s a list of resources to get your started.

  • Expedia via Lifehacker has the best list of straight-forward packing hacks, illustrated in eights graphics 
  • Travel Channel tests three ways to pack booze. Spoiler alert: diapers don’t work.

  • Bustle offers nine tips on how to pack makeup.

  • Tortuga Backpacks Blog has the easiest guide to using packing cubes.

  • There are many guides to rolling clothes, but WikiHow keeps it simple and easy to learn.
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