Monday, April 29, 2019
Reminder of the day

Lest you forget, our partner Bumble is rolling out a brilliant campaign to highlight game-changing, inspiring women who are entrepreneurs or leaders in business, government, medicine, or something else. Go ahead and nominate yourself—or a woman you know—by downloading Bumble in the App Store or on Google Play. Or head over to Bumble Bizz.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The cross-border mission to search and destroy terror units

In the aftermath of the Easter attacks, both Sri Lankan and Indian security forces carried out raids to apprehend individuals and groups with ISIS connections.


The raid in Sri Lanka: At least 15 people, including children, were killed in a raid on a house in the coastal town of Kalmunai. The dead included the father and two brothers of Zaharan Hashim, the founder of National Thowheed Jamath. Hashim, a radical clergyman, was the mastermind behind the attacks, and also one of the suicide bombers. The sole survivors were Hashim’s wife and one of his young children.


The raid in Kerala: On Sunday, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) raided two houses in Kasaragod and one house in Palakkad. While the three men targeted were not arrested, they are suspected of having links to a 2016 disappearance of 21 people in Kasargod who left to join the Islamic State. The NIA also seized mobile phones, SIM cards, memory cards, pen drives, diaries with handwritten notes in Arabic and Malayalam, DVDs and books of controversial radical Islamic preachers.


So what’s the connection? Hashim is reported to have made multiple trips to India. And the Sri Lankan plot was first uncovered by Indian agencies after raids on an ISIS-related cell in Coimbatore. In the wake of the Easter attacks, national and local security agencies in Tamil Nadu and Kerala have launched a sweep to find and eliminate sleeper cells.


The bottomline: To be clear, there is no imminent threat of an ISIS-inspired or ISIS-funded attack in India. One reason is that despite a very large Muslim population, India has sent very few recruits to the Islamic State. And the few ISIS-related groups that have been uncovered in India have been small and self-organised. There is no evidence that they’ve received funding or guidance from the outside. These are preemptive raids to detect and eliminate any possible threat.

Learn more: Indian Express has an explainer on IS in India. This Quint op-ed offers a grimmer take on the “clear and present danger” of an ISIS attack at home. Here is a video of the Sri Lanka raid (no blood or gore, but seeing Hashim’s surviving child wailing for his mother is a wrenching reminder of the collateral damage of terrorism). BBC reports on the destroyed innocence of the first generation of Sri Lankan children who grew up outside the shadow of violence. And here's an inspiring video report on a Sri Lankan town that has spontaneously come together in grief, determined not to let the terrorists divide them.

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enjoying your long, hot glass of dal-chawal

Attention, Mumbai voters! The fourth phase of the Indian elections unfolds today across nine states and 72 constituencies—including aamchi Mumbai. Here is your list of election essentials:

  • First, check out this guide to find your constituency and polling station.

  • Huffington Post has the list of constituencies, leading candidates and links to the best available information on them and their races.

  • A tongue-in-cheek list of reasons why South Bombay won’t be voting today—which looks suspiciously like the longer list of reasons they didn’t vote in 2009.

  • This gorgeous ode to a lost Bombay by Imtiaz Dharker—slated to be UK’s next poet laureate. (She was once married to Anil Dharker of Debonair and Mumbai litfest fame, and describes herself as “a Pakistani Scottish Calvinist Muslim, adopted by India and married into Wales.”)


The other hate crime in America: Most of the headlines in the US right now are about the synagogue shooting in California which killed one person and left three injured—reinforcing the frightening trend of terror attacks targeting places of worship on holy days, in this case, the last day of Passover. Less visible but no less scary: this tragedy in Sunnyvale, California, where a military vet in a car tried to mow down a group of Indians because he thought they were Muslims. A 13-year old girl is in critical condition and fighting for her life, while others sustained major injuries.


‘Avengers: Endgame’ breaks every record ever: The movie made $1.2 billion worldwide over its opening weekend, shattering the previous record held by ‘Avengers: Infinity War’. In India, 2.5 million tickets were booked in advance on BookMyShow, which is the highest ever for any Hollywood film. One reason, of course, is the sheer number of 24-hour back-to-back screenings. The other: it’s Disney, dammit! The company holds all but one of the top 12 box-office openings of all time—the exception being Universal's ‘Jurassic World’. (CBS News)


Things we learnt on Twitter: This Indian map shows that we are overwhelmingly a nation of meat eaters. Also: the Indian government’s colour of the year is vomit green (at least for its currency).


Idris Elba is officially unavailable: Yes, he got married to Sabrina Dhowre in Morocco. And he sadly looks very very happy. (Vogue UK)


Taylor Swift dropped a new song: called ‘Me’ and it is a duet with Brendon Urie from Panic! At the Disco. It’s insanely quirky, colourful and fun—instant earworm material. For serious Swift fans, People magazine decodes the many visual references and easter eggs. For everyone else, here’s the video.


Weekend reads you might have missed: include the following


  • A Bloomberg analysis that shows China is way ahead of us in military strength, and its implications for India and its defence strategy.

  • This data analysis from The Wire concluding that the BJP is likely to lose up to 40 seats in Uttar Pradesh. And another long-ish (nearly 10 min) interview by Vikram Chandra of Editorji with a UP expert that arrives at a similarly pessimistic conclusion.

  • Former Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash’s must-read warning in Firstpost against the politicisation of the military: “Appropriation of military achievements by politicians could trigger a reverse process, whereby ambitious generals start initiating military operations to please politicians--a frightening possibility.”

  • This Washington Post op-ed on why destination weddings are just plain wrong.

  • An India Times quick read on how the Kumbh Mela has left the Ganga in a dire state thanks to untreated waste.

  • The Economist on how the fiercely contested Indian election is likely to produce a coalition of mercenaries—irrespective of who scores the most seats.

  • This Quint video we stumbled upon on the women in Jodhpur who are given the ‘freedom’ to unveil themselves for one night. We learnt so much about their fierce desire for freedom and the contradictory acceptance of misogynistic restrictions, and their love for Modi. It’s a valuable glimpse of a segment of women who are mostly invisible in the media.

  • Terrified of spoilers that will ruin ‘Avengers: Endgame’ or ‘Game of Thrones’ for you? This Medium essay uses research to explain why knowing what happens can actually be a good thing.

  • Despite the dire fate of Jet Airways and Kingfisher, the future of the “Indian aviation boom” looks bright, according to this CNN report. One likely outcome: Cheap international flights that fly through places like Baku and Tblisi.


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


  • Bhai-behen pyaar between Rahul and Priyanka. Is it good PR? Yes, but this affectionate moment in front of the cameras is no less lovely and relatable.

  • Neil Armstrong’s customs declaration form after he returned from the moon.

  • Dal-chawal served in a cocktail glass. As it is with all faux-gourmet food these days, it looks Insta-lovely and likely tastes like shite. But totally worth an early am chuckle.

  • Stunning photos of the world’s oldest trees, seen by starlight.

  • This Twitter story about the time when Salvador Dali designed an ashtray for Air India—and asked (and received) a baby elephant as payment. Also: the photo of said ashtray.

  • This lab puppy which seems to think it is a ‘rooster ka beta’, and a very good one at that.

  • A new Banksy mural, maybe.

  • This story about a viral image of the muscle system of a human chest… except for once, it was the chest of a woman, and not a man. And the world was like, ‘What? Those are milk ducts?!”

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The best place for the best advice

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How to remove that goddamn stain!

We spill things all the time on clothes, sofas, carpets, tablecloths, sheets etc. And there is a plethora of advice on stain removal available online—way too much, and a lot of it contradictory and confusing. So we’ve done the work of assembling a few simple rules and basic hacks to keep in mind the next time you or someone around you is a klutz.


Basic rules of engagement: are as follows:

  • Act ASAP: Speed is of the essence in stain removal. The longer it sits unattended, the more time the spill has to seep into the fabric.

  • Remove the excess: The first step is to mitigate the damage by taking away any excess liquid or matter. Use a table knife or back of a spoon (anything with an edge). Then use a white napkin or towel to gently blot away the moisture.

  • Always dab, never rub: Irrespective of what you use, work on the back/underside of the stain. And gently dab at it with the cleaning product, working from the outside toward the centre to keep the stained area from getting larger.

  • Always use cold water: Hot water will typically set a stain and make things worse. And water is your best and safest bet EXCEPT when the culprit is oil-based. Think oily foods and even certain kinds of makeup.

  • Test before proceeding: Always test a cleaning product on a seam or hidden area of the garment. Many fabrics like silk are delicate and not always colourfast.

  • Never dry a stain: Ever. Heat will make any stain near impossible to remove. The very last step of any stain removal operation is to carefully check that it’s truly gone before you chuck it in the dryer or hang it on a line. If you must speed-dry something, use the cool air of a fan.


Basic guide to materials


Cotton is the safest and the most sturdy. You can be aggressive with synthetics, as well, but stay away from harsh chemicals like bleach. Keep store-bought stain removers away from wool. Silk is prone to water spotting, so soak the entire garment if you’re cleaning the stain at home. In general, with delicate fabrics, the aim ought to be to mitigate the damage ASAP, and leave the rest to a trusted dry cleaner.


Kind of stain: These are the most effective hacks for the most common kinds of stains:


  • Liquid: Unless it contains oil, the best immediate bet is to flush with cold water (always from the back to force out the stain). Then dab with club soda or white vinegar. If it’s really bad, then soak the entire garment in soda or a mixture of one part water and three parts vinegar.

  • Oil: Stuff like curry or pasta sauce are combination stains. You will first have to absorb all the grease, and then remove the colour. So use baby powder, salt, or cornstarch to soak up the oil. Then use water and vinegar etc to remove the stain before washing. Boiling water can also work on oily stains on tablecloths etc., but we wouldn’t try it on clothes.

  • Makeup: Avoid using water with mascara and lipstick which are oil-based. The best bets for any kind of makeup stain are to soak in an eye makeup remover or apply either shaving cream or hairspray to the spot. Many online swear by dishwashing detergent… but we’re not sure if it applies to brands available here.

  • Sweat and yellowing: Either soak for a couple of hours in a mixture of vinegar and water (see above). Or make a paste with either baking soda or ground up aspirin and apply it to the affected areas. Let it sit for an hour before washing.

  • Blood: Your best bet is a diluted mixture of EITHER hydrogen peroxide OR Ammonia. Please never mix the two. Lemon juice will also work in a pinch.


Learn more: Real Simple takes all the gyaan on busting almost every kind of stain and distils it into one ‘Ultimate Stain Removal Chart’. Molly Maid offers a printable pdf version of the same in the form of a nifty, colour coded infographic. Want more in-depth instructions? The Spruce has a brilliantly organised collection of articles that tackle everything from bleeding dyes in laundry to enzyme cleaners to an A-Z guide for every kind of stain. There’s plenty of advice on red wine but La Crema has the best guide on how to remove it from almost anything, be it clothes, carpets or upholstery. In related advice: Bustle offers eight tips on how to tackle smelly clothes.


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