Monday, July 22, 2019
Quote of the day

“Those boys who carry guns are unnecessarily killing their own men, killing PSOs (personal security officers), killing SPOs (special police officers). Why are you killing them? Kill those who looted your mulk (homeland), those who looted the entire wealth of Kashmir. Did you kill any of them so far?” J&K Governor Satyapal Malik declared. His shocking call to violence didn’t specify the identity of these ‘looters’, but Malik has repeatedly accused the main Opposition party leaders—Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti—of looting the state. In response, Abdullah tweeted, “Save this tweet - after today any mainstream politician or serving/retired bureaucrat killed in J&K has been murdered on the express orders of the Governor of J&K Satyapal Malik.”

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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India's journey to the moon

The launch of Chandrayaan 2 was cancelled last week due to technical problems. It has been rescheduled and will launch today at 2:43 pm.


Chandrayaan 2 explained: Remember the Mars Rover which gathered and transmitted data from Mars? Well, Mission Chandrayaan 2 aims to land a Moon Rover which will do the same. The GSLV Mk-III rocket will deliver a module containing Orbiter, Lander and Rover into the Moon’s orbit. Once the Orbiter is circling the moon, the Lander will detach itself and land on the surface. Once there, it will release the Rover which will carry out experiments. The primary aim: study the extent and distribution of water on the moon’s surface and below it.


Ok, so why did it get cancelled? Right before the scheduled launch, scientists detected a sudden drop in pressure in one of the rocket’s tanks which contains helium gas. ISRO hasn’t shared the reason why this happened, but it’s presumably fixed now.


So all good now? Yes. The biggest challenge is that the new date offers a very narrow launch window. While ISRO had at least a ten-minute window last week, that time period has shrunk to just a few minutes today. Why? Because the moon has moved. The timing of the launch is critical as it has to accurately calculate the intersection of Chandrayaan 2 and the path of the moon—so that the Orbiter module can fire its thrusters at exactly the right time to enter its orbit. 


Why is this mission a big deal? India will be the fourth nation to land a rover on the moon, after the US, Russia and China. The achievement gains greater significance due to its timing. The world’s richest men—Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, or even Richard Branson—are currently vying with one another in a race to the moon. And Chandrayaan 2 ensures India remains part of that race—even as the debate over the role of private vs government actors in space continues.

Learn more: Firstpost has all the information you need to watch the launch today. Indian Express has the most details on today’s launch, and a cheatsheet for all the technical jargon you’ll encounter. BBC has an excellent explainer on the mission with pretty infographics. Mint looks at India’s relationship with the moon. Washington Post explains why Bezos, Musk et al are obsessed with going back to the moon—and why NASA is struggling to stay relevant in that race.

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strutting your chanderi just because…

Your Sheila Dikshit remembrance is here: The former Delhi CM’s funeral marked a rare moment of political amity as leaders across party lines mourned her death. Here’s a quick round-up of the best coverage:

  • There were many sentimental tributes and obituaries, but these two in The Telegraph and The Print are the least clichéd.

  • The Wire carried an excerpt from Dikshit’s autobiography. This bit reflects on her demoralising loss to AAP in 2013.

  • We greatly enjoyed listening to Dikshit talk to BBC Hindi about her romance with husband Vinod as a graduate student in Delhi. If you prefer English, then you can read this excerpt from her autobiography that covers the same.

  • It is unbecoming to speak ill of the dead. And certainly none did over the weekend. But here are two older reads that remind us that Dikshit was far from perfect. One: A scathing Rediff 2013 analysis of the rise and fall of Dikshit in politics. Two: Women’s rights activist Kavitha Krishnan’s letter explaining why protesters asked for Dikshit’s resignation in the wake of the Nirbhaya rape. 


Is Dhoni done? The cricketer opted out of playing the West Indies tour. The reason: He will be spending two months training with his regiment in the Territorial Army (If you don’t know what that means, it’s all explained here). But now media reports claim that he was never under consideration. According to “reliable sources,” Dhoni met with chief selector MSK Prasad and made it clear that he has no plans to retire. However, Prasad told Dhoni that “he’s not in the scheme of things.” The board is now “looking ahead,” and he is “free to retire today, tomorrow, or whenever he wants to.” Brrrrr! (Times of India


Imran Khan’s aam aadmi arrival: The Pakistan PM arrived for his state visit to the United States at Washington’s Dulles airport—on a Qatar Airways flight with nary a red carpet or a senior US official in sight. He didn’t even have a car waiting for him on tarmac! Times of India has the story, but you can cut straight to the video here.


Priyanka Chopra has a ‘smoking’ problem: Photos of her smoking on a beach in Miami went viral yesterday. The problem is not that she’s been caught being an a-pavitra bharatiya naari. Her bigger sin: hypocrisy. Last year, Chopra cited her asthma in a campaign against Diwali crackers, saying, “Please meri saans ko berok rakhiye. Diwali pe patakho ko skip kijiye.” (Never mind, her wedding had fireworks galore.) Also a problem: a 2010 tweet which declared, “Smoking is awful!! Yuck!!" Our reaction: Whoa, is that PC’s mom wielding a big, fat cigar? (India Today)


It’s official, the Kiwis were robbed! The umpire who awarded England that extra run in the last over of the World Cup final now says, "I agree that there was an error of judgement when I see it on TV replays now… But we did not have the luxury of TV replays at the ground and I do not regret the decision I made." (NDTV)


The Pulwama effect: Since the terrorist attack on CRPF soldiers, many nations have issued travel advisories telling their citizens to give Kashmir a wide berth. And it’s proving disastrous for the tourism industry in the state. Compared to 13 lakh tourists in 2016, the first six months of 2019 recorded just 3.54 lakh visitors. (The Hindu)


Avengers fans rejoice! Endgame has officially toppled ‘Avatar’ as the #1 box office hit of all times. (Hollywood Reporter)


Hima Das fans rejoice! She has won her fifth gold medal in a single month! (India Today)


Sugar is ruining everyone’s teeth: “Ninety-five percent of 12-year-olds in the Philippines have tooth decay, or cavities. And cavities affect seven in 10 children in India, one-third of Tanzania teens and nearly one in every three Brazilians.” These are among the alarming findings of a new global study which blames the dire situation on our increasingly sugary diets. (NPR)


Winners of #SareeTwitter: The hashtag trended last week with many sharing photos of themselves in one of the world’s most beautiful garments. Our nomination for the winner: this priceless clip of a pitch-invasion from a 1975 cricket match. Also: This fascinating Twitter thread explains why we wear the saree the way we do: pallu on the left, blouse plus petticoat.


Weekend reads you might have missed: include the following:

  • Upset by images of drowning or stranded wildlife during the Assam floods? This Print piece argues the real hazard faced by the Kaziranga sanctuary is not floods but roads and hotels built for us tourists. Also includes: a must-see photo of a stranded tiger which went viral last week. 

  • New York Times marked the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with this amazing interactive feature. 

  • If you plan to read just one thing on future UK PM Boris Johnson, then make it this incisive and illuminating essay from New York Review of Books

  • Things we love most about Twitter are threads like this one on the history of peeing and pooping in space. It’s both disgusting and delightfully informative.

  • ‘A Ferocious Heat in Delhi’ is the title of this powerful essay, also in the New York Review of Books. It brings home the lived-experience of climate change in the capital city.

  • Mission Mangal’—the Akshay Kumar/Vidya Balan movie—is an ode to India’s first mission to Mars, especially the women scientists who made it happen. But according to this Quint piece, the trailer promises a movie far detached from the reality of both ISRO and the women behind the mission.

  • A famous Carnatic music singer’s daughter chose to marry a black man, and it fueled outrage in some circles. This Wire essay explores what the response reveals about the Chennai music world’s ugly history of prejudice.


Your Monday morning pick me ups: include the following:

  • The brilliant news that the two women lawyers who were at the forefront of the legalize homosexuality in India just outed their relationship.

  • The Top Gun 2’ trailer because we can never have too many reboots or sequels.

  • If the monsoons give you potholes, then please, please don’t consider doing this

  • A funny doggie clip made for IT departments. Related puppy cuteness: two dachshunds and a lion. 

  • The trailer for ‘Pariah Dog’, an award-winning documentary on the relationship between Kolkatans and their streetie dogs. We discovered it courtesy this interview with the filmmaker in The Hindu Business Line.

  • This amaaaazing goal courtesy beach football.

  • How do turkeys cross the road? The answer is surprising and inventive.

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The best place for the best advice

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How to embrace happiness

Don’t worry, be happy! Well, that kind of advice is easier sung than done. We dutifully read all the guides to happiness, but much of it feels vague and abstract. Here then are some very concrete ways to up your happiness quotient on an everyday basis. (Note: ICYMI, we are reupping this guide that we published in the early months after our launch.)


First, choose to be happy: Here’s the bad news: A full 50% of our happiness is genetic. The good news? Only 10% is determined by circumstances; e.g., our bank balance. And a whopping 40% is determined by our thoughts, actions, and behaviour patterns. 


Then embrace your woeful ignorance: Every piece of scientific evidence proves that the human brain has no clue about happiness. So make a list of everything you think will make you happy—losing a few kilos, buying that cool car, getting a raise—and throw it in the bin.


Now, take a quiz: The “Authentic Happiness Inventory” questionnaire, developed by psychologist Christopher Peterson, establishes your baseline happiness, and then monitors your progress toward a happier life. (Learn more about it here, and register to take the free quiz here.)  


Finally, follow four simple rules, every day:


Prioritise and nurture relationships: The simple act of spending time with a loved one is medically proven to make you instantly happier. Make dinner plans with mom, call your college mate, put away the laptop and cuddle with your partner.


Do things for the ‘right’ reason: All humans do things either for extrinsic reasons, where we do ‘x’ in order to achieve ‘y’. Example: getting on a treadmill to lose weight. Or we do ‘x’ because it has intrinsic value in itself. Example: that daily morning run some of us so enjoy. Now, grown-ups can’t always escape extrinsic choices (take boring project to pay bills). But we are happiest when we maximise activities that are a reward in themselves. Ergo, it’s a waste of time posting that cool selfie to score all those Likes.


Practice gratitude: This is exactly the kind of happiness advice that seems too wishy-washy to follow. But you can indeed turn gratitude into a daily practice: 

  • Write down one thing you are grateful for every night. 

  • Take a moment to imagine your life without one thing that makes you happy; e.g. your dog, a work assignment, meeting your spouse. 

  • Express your gratitude to someone: say it out loud. 

  • And surprisingly this: think of something awful that happened to you in the past, and appreciate how you’ve overcome it.


Help others: Yes, a single act of generosity can make you feel instantly better. Donating money is good, but donating time is the best. Most importantly, the rule of intrinsic value applies here, as well. Volunteer for work that you will enjoy, or which will expose you to new experiences, or help you acquire new skills. Self-focused volunteering may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s the best guarantee that you will stick with it.


Learn more: about the rules of happiness below:


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