Monday, February 24, 2020

City of the day

Delhi is officially the most fat-addicted big city in India. A new survey of seven metros shows that the average Dilliwala consumes 44.4 grams of fat per day. Ahmedabad is hot on Delhi’s heels at 43.9 grams. The healthiest metros: Hyderabad and Mumbai at 25.1 grams. The survey’s most surprising result: Vegetarians eat nearly 35% more added fat than non-vegetarians. Also, attention South Indians: bisi bele bath and puliyodharai have just as much fat as dal fry or stuffed parathas.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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Donald Trump's excellent Indian adventure

The glorious day has finally dawned. Donald, Melania, Jared and Ivanka will soon descend on Indian soil, kicking off a 36-hour maha-tamasha that will be big on optics—and likely low on real diplomatic progress. Here’s what the First Family’s Day One itinerary looks like:


The fun lead up: Trump is clearly looking forward to his trip, and has been tweeting many things India-related. Someone created a morphed video from ‘Baahubali 2' featuring Trump—which the prez gleefully RTed. More surprisingly, Trump also RT-ed a tweet praising Ayushman Khuranna’s upcoming gay romcom Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’. Daily Mail has that story.


First stop, Sabarmati Ashram: The Trumps are expected to land at 11:30 am in Ahmedabad and head straight to Sabarmati Ashram. 

  • Yes, Bapu-ji managed to wedge himself into Trump’s packed calendar after all. But the Trumps will have only 15 minutes to spare since the ladies (Ivanka and Melania) are keen on seeing the Taj at sunset. The Telegraph has that story.
  • And the uninspiring full ashram menu is here (broccoli and corn button samosas?!)
  • One potential downside of this last-minute addition: The Trumps will see more of Ahmedabad than expected. So maybe that six-foot high wall hastily constructed to hide our slums won’t suffice. Here’s a pic that shows exactly what we’re hiding.


Next, Namaste Trump: At 1:05 pm, the Modi-Trump jugalbandi kicks off at the Motera stadium in front of 100,000 super-fans. Celeb performer on the playlist: Kailash Kher. One potential cause for worry: the VVIP entry gate crashed to the ground yesterday. Watch it here. A great read: Indian Express on the stormy political history of the cricket stadium.


Then on to Taj Mahal: At 5:15 pm, the presidential posse will arrive in Agra to check out our national treasure. 

  • The city is crammed with welcome banners that oddly declare: ‘Bhagwan Shri Ram ki dev bhoomi mein aapka swagat hai’; ‘Heartiest welcome to the land of Lord Krishna’. 
  • Also this: “[A]long the route, 21 designated areas have been marked, some with stages and others on the ground level, where artistes will present the dance forms of Brij region (Mathura-Vrindavan), like Krishna Lila, dances themed on Radha, and other cultural assets of the region.”
  • The city too has been given a hasty makeover a la Ahmedabad. Times of India has more on the great Agra clean-up. Or watch the full safai here.
  • Poor Shah Jahan has been whitewashed along with the rest of the city. But his grave—and that of Mumtaz Mahal—did receive a clay pack ‘facial’. See pics here.


Finally, New Delhi: The Trumps will arrive in the capital around 7:30 pm, and head straight to the hotel: ITC Maurya. And the security arrangements are expectedly OTT. 

  • Police personnel from six districts have been deployed, as have 40 companies of Central Armed Police Forces. 
  • Also this: “Anti-drone detachment of NSG, snipers, elite SWAT commandos, kite catchers, canine units, sharp shooters on high-rise buildings and Parakram vans have also been deployed along the routes and areas in and around the hotel where Trump will be staying.” 
  • Point to note: When the Obamas came visiting, the Delhi Police spent more than Rs 1 crore in renting, installing and later removing 605 CCTV cameras.

Coming up tomorrow: Bapuji redux: The Trumps will lay a wreath at Gandhi-ji’s samadhi in Rajghat at 11:00 am. Trump and Modi will finally get down to diplomatic business at 11 am in the Hyderabad House. At some point, Melania will visit a Delhi school—but CM Kejriwal and Deputy CM Manish Sisodia have been uninvited by the US embassy. Sad! Trump’s last pit stop: Rashtrapati Bhavan to meet President Kovind before he flies out at 7:30 pm.


Learn more: Reuters reports on the stalemate over a trade deal, while The Hindu has the history of India-US trade squabbles. Indian Express  explains the relationship of two nations who have been more often frenemies than friends. New York Times takes a look at the fate of Trump properties in a slowing Indian economy. Also in Indian Express: Plans to set up a Blue Dot network to counter China’s influence in Asia.

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being embarrassingly excited about the 'Friends' reunion

A global spike in the viral outbreak: New cases are popping up in the most unexpected parts of the world, sparking new worries.


  • Italy is scrambling to contain the biggest outbreak outside Asia—with the number of cases soaring to 152. Three people have already died, and officials have yet to identify ‘patient zero’—the person who triggered the spread. Italy has called off the popular Venice Carnival, scrapped major league football matches and shuttered theaters. 
  • With the virus popping up in unlikely places like Italy, Lebanon and Iran, the World Health Organisation warned, “The window of opportunity is narrowing to contain the outbreak… We have to prepare at the same time for any eventualities because this outbreak could go in any direction.”
  • The majority of coronavirus infections are concentrated in mainland China (78,800), followed by Japan (738) and South Korea (602). So far 2,300 people have died. CNN has a comprehensive list of confirmed cases outside China.


Supreme wisdom from the Supreme Court: Two Supreme Court justices separately made bizarre remarks over the weekend. 


  • At an international conference, Justice Arun Mishra declared: "India is a responsible and most friendly member of the international community under the stewardship of internationally acclaimed visionary Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi... We thank the versatile genius who thinks globally and acts locally.”
  • Why this is odd: The judiciary is required to maintain its independence, and not openly support political leaders, including the Prime Minister. And he made these remarks in the presence of the PM who also addressed the conference. 
  • At the same event, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde offered a worrying take on fundamental rights, saying “real rights are a result of performance of duty.”  
  • The CJI also said: "At the heart of the Constitution is the individual whose rights are recognised as 'fundamental'. These rights have been beautifully balanced with the demands of public order, morality and health.” Of course, he didn’t say who gets to define “public order, morality and health.”


Attention, gentlemen! Pizza is killing your sperm: A typical Western-style diet—i.e. pizza, snacks, sweets and processed foods—is damaging male fertility across North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The average sperm count dropped 60% between 1973 and 2011, and continues to free fall—along with testosterone levels. FYI: Men who eat a typical Western diet produce around 68 million fewer sperm upon ejaculation than men who watch their plates. (CNN


A clash with protesters sparks worries: In Jaffrabad, anti-CAA protesters clashed with a group led by Delhi BJP leader Kapil Mishra (yup, the same guy who lost the election thanks to his ‘goli maaro saalon ko’ chants). Stones were thrown by both sides (footage here), and the police used tear gas to bring the crowds under control. Mishra has issued an ultimatum to the Delhi police: “We will not do anything till Donald Trump leaves. But after Donald Trump leaves India, we will not even listen to you if the roads are not vacated.” Protesters, OTOH, are calling on everyone to stay calm: “No matter what the provocation, they should not have done that. It will send a wrong signal, especially since the Supreme Court will hear the pleas against the protest at Shaheen Bagh tomorrow (Monday).” (The Telegraph)


Giorgio Armani’s controversial ‘rape’ allegation: The 85-year-old fashion designer compared the fashion industry’s exploitation of women’s bodies with rape:  “There is so much talk about women being raped, but women today are regularly ‘raped’ by designers… I am thinking of certain ads where women are shown in a provocative way, half naked, and many women feel pressured into looking like that. That for me is rape. It’s unbefitting.” His comments sparked an angry backlash with folks on social media calling the analogy “nonsensical and dangerous.” (The Independent)


Friends is having a big-ass reunion: Yes, it’s finally happening: an exclusive unscripted HBO special to mark the 25th anniversary of a show that never gets old. Expected air date: some time in May. The Guardian has the details. Also: Jennifer Aniston posted the most awesome Insta pic to mark the announcement. 


Elon Musk’s having a baby: with pop star Grimes. And she will not reveal—or even decide—the gender of her soon-to-be-born baby. The reason: 'I don't want to say the gender of the baby… because I feel like their privacy should be protected… And I don't want to gender them in case that's not how they feel in their life. I don't know, I just feel like it doesn't need to be known.” But she has, however, picked out a name: “I have a name for the baby, but I don't want to say what it is because everyone I've told it hates it, and everyone's gonna make fun of it… But it is, in fact, a genius name and people just don't appreciate it yet because it's too avant-garde.” We have no comment. (Daily Mail)


Things that make you go WTF: College officials in an all-girls institute stripped and inspected 66 female students to check if they were menstruating. The reason: a used sanitary pad was found in a garden outside the hostel. At the Shree Sahajanand Girls Institute in Bhuj, students’ periods are strictly monitored, and they are kept in isolation during menstruation. The principal and other senior officials have now been arrested for ‘outraging the modesty of a woman.' (Indian Express)


A victory against bullying: An Australian mum posted a heartbreaking video of her child, Quaden Bayles, weeping because he is being bullied. The reason: he suffers from a form of dwarfism. Then Hugh Jackman stepped up and spoke out. Watch both those clips here. Also: a fundraiser to send Quaden to Disneyland has hit $300,000.


Weekend reads you might have missed: including the following:


  • Piyasree Dasgupta in the Huffington Post pens a brilliant read on the women in Imtiaz Ali’s movies—and the relationship between women and work on the Bollywood screen.
  • New York Times charts the five stages of earring loss—and what to do when one ear lobe is left bare.
  • National Geographic reports on the largest known cave fish—recently discovered in Meghalaya. And explains why their enormous size poses a big mystery to scientists.
  • Also from National Geographic: Meet the very awesome Bob the flamingo—the poster boy for his species conservation.
  • Indian Express has the inspiring story of four Kashmiri boys who invented an anti-pollution device—and how they made it to the Indian Science Congress against all odds (including lockdowns and internet shutdowns). Related watch: This News18 video that offers a close-up look at the steep price paid by ordinary Kashmiris.
  • We enjoyed reading Atlas Obscura’s deep dive into what makes a language less or more hard to lipread. It’s not just lip movements but also facial hair. Hence, Indian languages tend to top the list in difficulty.
  • And speaking of language, Vulture’s excellent takedown of corporate bhasha is a must read.
  • If you read just one piece on Wendell Rodricks, let it be this one on how a sleepy Goan village fell in love with an openly gay fashion designer. 


Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:


  • This must-watch music video featuring Modi, Mamata and Rahul. Nope, we’re not saying any more.
  • Noida metro’s new program: squatting (literally) for free tickets.
  • This awesome deepfake version of a Star Trek scene featuring Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.
  • The reincarnation of Michael Jackson as a wrestler in Brazil. You gotta see it to believe it.
  • This list of hilariously wild confessions by celebs. Like the time Sandra Bullock talked up ‘penis facials’.
  • The animal version of the great blue/gold dress debate.
  • 12 exquisite photos of Rihanna. Enuf said.
  • Finally, a genius piece of cutlery the entire effing spaghetti-loving world was waiting for.
  • Rescued elephant breaks sprinkler, discovers absolute joy!
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