Friday, January 10, 2020

Announcement of the day

Big changes are afoot at Twitter. The company has announced plans to test a range of settings that determine who can reply to your tweet: “It has four options: Global, Group, Panel, and Statement. Global lets anybody reply, Group is for people you follow and mention, Panel is people you specifically mention in the tweet, and Statement simply allows you to post a tweet and receive no replies.” But other people can still quote your tweet. So a whole lot more passive-aggressive trolling then.

Share | Facebook logo WhatsApp logo Twitter logo


The biggest news story today, explained.

image orange sidebar everyone's talking about image orange sidebar

JNU’s controversial Vice Chancellor

Yesterday, JNU students flooded the streets demanding the removal of their Vice Chancellor—who has become a lightning rod in the fight over JNU’s future, and played a suspect role in the recent violence. (Need a refresher on recent events? Read our explainers here and here)


Who is this guy? Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar is a former IIT-Delhi professor who took over the reins of JNU in January, 2016. Born in Andhra Pradesh, he has a PhD in nano-electronics from IIT-Madras. Also, he is very into shito-ryu karate and is fond of random quotes such as: “Life is unfair. Sensible persons take what they get and find a way to work around it. They don’t sulk in a corner.” How do we know this? We read his super-long TMI bio on his blog.

And he’s a Modi appointee, right? Nope. His was one of four names submitted to then President Pranab Mukherjee by the Human Resources & Development Minister—who was Smriti Irani at the time. Neither she nor senior HRD officials were keen on Kumar. They felt that his IIT background made him a poor fit for JNU’s “culture, structure and functioning.” But Mukherjee overruled their objections—and their top pick, the highly respected scientist, VS Chauhan—and picked Kumar. 

But, but, but…: Kumar’s worldview puts him squarely in the BJP/RSS camp—and he’s made no secret of his loyalties.

  • In 2017, when the BJP won the UP elections, he tweeted: “People of India have once again demonstrated overwhelmingly that we stand for development and inclusivity.”

  • In a convocation speech, he warned JNU students against the threat of “illegal immigrants.”

  • He asked the government for an Army tank so it could be displayed on campus in order to instil “love for the army.”

  • During his tenure, the administration has organised a number of “patriotic” events—where speakers praised the VC’s “victory over JNU.” Foreshadowing the events of this week, one military veteran declared: “We will create a situation where people will love the nation. And if they don’t, we will force them to love it.”

Sounds like a bad fit for JNU: Yup, and that’s why he has been in the midst of the universities biggest controversies. 

  • The most prominent was the row over a student event to protest the hanging of Afzal Guru—which resulted in sedition charges being slapped on Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid. Kumar had withdrawn permission for the event, and appeared to support the student arrests. 

  • He has been repeatedly charged by the JNU Students Union of being in cahoots with the ABVP, the student wing of the RSS—especially with regard to the disappearance of a Muslim student, Najeeb Ahmad.

  • More generally, Kumar has no patience for dissent in a campus that has a long and rich tradition of protest. The results: an almost constant state of hostility between the administration and students.

Didn’t I hear something about fee hikes? Yes, that’s the larger context for the recent violence. In October, Kumar suddenly doubled the university’s annual fees from Rs 27,600-32,000 to Rs 55,000-61,000—making it the most expensive public university. The students launched massive protests, arguing that it would be a disaster for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. They boycotted the semester exams in December, and refused to register for the new semester in January. And the mob attack took place on the last day of registration.

Point to note: In December—at the height of the protests—the HRD ministry came up with a compromise that rolled back the fees. Ministry officials gave Kumar an ultimatum: accept it or resign. And here’s the funny thing: within 48 hours, the HRD secretary was transferred out—while Kumar stayed firmly in place. Also: Kumar has been steadfastly ignoring the advice of the current secretary as well.

What did Kumar do on Sunday? At 6:24 pm—when the mob was already on a rampage—Kumar sent a WhatsApp message to the police. It said: “Considering the volatile situation in JNU campus, I request you to station police at the gates of JNU campus so that they can quickly reach the trouble spot in the campus if a law and order situation arises.” And a letter requesting the police to enter the premises was issued an hour later. Also: Kumar did not reach out to the injured students and faculty, and continues to blame those protesting the fee hike for the violence.

Are they going to sack him now? Nope. The present HRD secretary is willing to negotiate with the students—but has made it clear that replacing Kumar is not on the table. OTOH, senior BJP leader, Murali Manohar Joshi unexpectedly tweeted: “It is shocking that the VC is adamant for not implementing the government proposal. This attitude is deplorable and in my opinion such a VC should not be allowed to continue on this post.” File that under ‘things that make you go, hmm’. 

Our big question: How can the VC of a publicly funded university repeatedly defy the government and its directives? What gives him that kind of chutzpah? That’s the real mystery of Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar.

Learn more: The Print has the details of Kumar’s appointment. Indian Express has an explainer on the fee hike protests. Also in Indian Express: an exclusive on what Kumar did during the Sunday attack. Huffington Post reports on the project to remake JNU. Salil Tripathi in Mint argues that the Right should set up its own version of JNU.

In related news: Your protest update is here:

  • The police lathi-charged the JNU protesters last night. Here’s the clip.

  • Otherwise well-behaved St Stephen’s kids joined the anti-CAA protests. The Telegraph has the story, and Indian Express has the video. 

  • Shiv Sena’s publication, Saamna, stepped up to the plate to staunchly defend… the young woman charged for holding up a ‘Free Kashmir’ poster. And this after CM Uddhav Thackeray compared #JNUViolence to 26/11. Look Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

  • A reminder that protests are not a big metro monopoly: an inspiring map of anti-CAA protests around the country.

  • Meet the nine JNU mess staff who saved 30 students from the rampaging mob.

  • Director Anurag Kashyap read a protest poem written specially for him.

  • Also: a massive crowd of protesters sang ‘Jana Gana Mana’ at the Delhi Jama Masjid. Watch.

  • Reading the Preamble may soon become compulsory in school and college assemblies in Kerala.

  • A Gujarat school that tried to force its students to write pro-CAA postcards to the PM got a rude shock… from their parents!

Share | Facebook logo WhatsApp logo Twitter logo


wondering WTF is ‘Megxit’

Iran may have shot down that plane: US officials say that the Ukrainian International Airlines flight was brought down by two Iranian missiles—and they have satellite data to prove it. However, everyone—including President Trump and Canadian PM Trudeau—also says that it was most likely “unintentional.” Also: CNN and the New York Times have unverified video footage that appears to confirm the claim. Iran has issued a strong denial, and says it will work closely with Ukraine, France and Canada to decode the black box—which is apparently damaged. CNN has the story. Watch the video here.

The great Megxit saga continues: Yup, that’s the new buzz phrase being used to describe Harry and Meghan’s decision to “step back” from their royal responsibilities. Here’s the best of the coverage that followed their big announcement:

  • The Atlantic has a thoughtful piece analysing the move as a necessary part of the royal family’s evolution: “Harry has always been a royal rebel: smoking cannabis, partying in Las Vegas, admitting how close he came to a breakdown. With his wife by his side, he may now be making his most significant contribution to the royal family—by walking away from it.”

  • BBC News digs into the couple’s finances—and tries to figure out how they plan to become “financially independent.”

  • Daily Mail and The Guardian have the thousand memes and jokes launched by Megxit.

  • PS: after all that drama, the UK Parliament quietly approved the Brexit deal. The nation is readying to head out of the EU come January 31.

‘Chhapaak’ is being sued: by the lawyer of Laxmi Aggarwal—the acid attack survivor who inspired the film. The reason: the filmmakers did not give Aparna Bhat adequate recognition in the movie credits. And as per her latest Facebook post, she appears to have won the case. According to the court order, the real-life footage in the movie will be accompanied by a line that says “Aparna Bhat continues to fight cases of physical and sexual violence against women.” SheThePeople has all the details, and an interview with Bhat.

Also, the ‘Chhapaak’ reviews are in: and they are all raving about Deepika Padukone. Times of India praises Padukone’s “brilliant, immersive performance.” Hindustan Times agrees and calls the movie “a sensitive, brave and gut-wrenching story.” Huffington Post calls it the best performance of Padukone’s career. And everyone agrees that the second half is very slow. 

The economy must be in serious trouble: The reason: Indians are spending less on band, baaja and baraat even if it “compromises their social standing.” Week-long celebrations have been hacked down to a 36-hour window. Some people aren’t even inviting their neighbours to keep costs down. TBH, we’re not sure if this is a bad thing—but we're jerks like that. (NDTV)

We regret to inform you: that leading a healthy lifestyle does indeed ensure you live longer—by a decade, in fact! A new study looked at five healthy habits: never smoking, a healthy body mass index (BMI) of 18 to 25, moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 30 minutes per day (including brisk walking), moderate alcohol intake and a healthy diet. Then it looked at how many more disease-free years people will live after the age of 50. For women: ‘good girls’ can expect to live until 84.4 years without diabetes, cancer or heart disease. The average life expectancy for ‘bad girls’: 73.7. For men, that gap is smaller, around 8.3 years. Want to live just 15 months longer? Drink pots and pots of tea. (The Guardian)

Fish meal and oil is decimating Indian seas: Once upon a time, fish meal and fish oil (FMFO) were an opportunity for fishermen to make some money from their “waste”—juvenile fish or other marine species caught unintentionally while hunting for a particular fish. But now trawlers intentionally go after that "waste". As one expert explains: “Earlier only a small portion of the catch was waste and that used to be given to the FMFO industries. But things have changed and to generate more income fishermen have started fishing everything in the sea. Juvenile catch is the most serious threat because of which many species have declined in the sea.” The end result: fish extinction. (Quartz)

Things that make you go WTF: include the following:

  • New York Times has a list of 52 places to head to in 2020—and #1 is Washington DC? Also: the only Indian city to break the top 20: Jodhpur (yawn) at #15. 

  • Kim Kardashian’s “minimalist” fridge which enraged, bemused and fascinated the internet. 

  • You can now text a US number and get an infinite feed of AI-generated… feet?! Yes, there are photos.

Cool stuff we learned on the internet: includes the following:

  • BBC News has an excellent and important read on medicines that change our personalities—including painkillers like paracetamol.

  • Fashion’s biggest trend-spotter predicts the top trends of 2020. We are most intrigued by: ‘Non-fashion’ fashion. Because that would make us totally ahead of the curve—a lifetime first!

  • This demo video of Samsung’s bot chef—robot arms that are intended to be affordable kitchen helpers in the future. 

  • This Medium essay on how Disney and HBO are trying to kill binge-watching 

  • A new study that shows that cuttlefish appreciate 3D glasses as much as the rest of us. Also big fans of 3D glasses: praying mantises. Yes, there is a ridiculous photo.

  • This book excerpt which makes an alarming case that almost all our fave Indian restaurants—be it Olive or Diva or Social—are not very profitable.

  • Athletes who attend the Tokyo Olympics this year will be sleeping in beds made entirely out of cardboard. Japanese officials insist they are stronger than wooden beds—and will be recycled into paper products after the event.

Your daily quota of sunshine items: include the following:

  • The best and most hilarious way to torture a Golden: ask Alexa to play different animal noises. 

  • These gorgeous, gorgeous pics from China’s Ice Festival. 

  • These hilarious ‘shot on iPhone’ parodies on Tik Tok. 

  • Tennis ace and teenager Coco Gauff scolding her father for using the d-word

  • 22 movies that are so bad that they earned a 0% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Yes, this is how we entertain ourselves.

  • A time lapse video of one part of the Milky Way that allows us to experience the rotation of the earth.

  • Love cricket? Have you checked out the two Mohsins? Well, you should. 

  • Bismillah Khan explaining what the Ganga means to him. A timely reminder of values we are all fighting to preserve.

  • Ok, some Brits hilariously mashed together a video of raging Iranian politicians and Oasis’ ‘Don’t Look Back’. There is a football angle—but it’s entirely irrelevant to how funny it is.
Share | Facebook logo WhatsApp logo Twitter logo


Stuff we buy, use or love.

A basket of excellent breads
Tired of store-bought breads? Want to break away from the usual choices between whole wheat, multigrain or white? Well, you may have to work a wee bit harder, but these amazing bakeries are well worth the extra effort.
image blue sidebar The informer image blue sidebar

If you are a bread-loving Dilliwali...

Here are your choices. We totally heart Pao Bakery. The bakery is actually located up on a mountainside in Uttarakhand. But you can order online using this form, or walk on over to the The Earth Collective Sunday Market at the Sunder Nursery. We recommend the Chatola sourdough, miche, and walnut rye sourdough. What we love most: The bakery actively seeks out ‘lost’ varieties of wheat, millets and other local grains and seeds—and works closely with local farmers. Other Delhi options: our ambassador Ameya Nagarajan recommends Swiss Gourmessa, while Jyotsna Sharma swears by Artful Baker in Khan Market. In Gurgaon? Try The Bread Company, advises ambassador Preeti Khurana.

Price range: Rs 200-250 for a loaf | Pao Bakery

The informer 2

If you need a carb-loving option in Mumbai...

Check out PureBrot. Their German breads are made with just flour, water, yeast and a pinch of salt. Their USP: no additives, preservatives, oil, sugar, or added gluten. The really good bit: They deliver right at your doorstep on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. But you can also pick up a loaf if you drop by the local Nature’s Basket. Tired of the same ole multigrain? Try their Seedy bread with flax, black sesame, white sesame, watermelon, and amaranth seeds.

Price: Starts at Rs 275 | PureBrot

The informer 3

If you're looking for a good bread in namma Bengaluru...

Your best option for lovingly handcrafted bread is Off-Wheat. And it’s the perfect pick if you’re trying to avoid gluten—or on a keto kick. We recommend their jowar (sorghum) bread or the multi-grain spinach and dill bread. Oh, and they make delicious gluten-free cakes and crackers too! They don’t have a website but you can place your order via Facebook or WhatsApp the owner, Sonira Gulhati.

Price range: Rs 250-600 | Off-Wheat


PS: No, we haven’t forgotten you excellent folks in other cities. 


Kolkata: Miraj Vora recommends The Bakery at The Lalit Great Eastern. Other excellent options include Wild Yeast Stories for sourdough, Cocoa Bakery and Eighth Day Cafe. The Taj Bengal bakery is also a sound choice.


Chennai: Indrani Chalraverty swears by The Farm, describing it as “an amazing place in the heart of the city, and worth visiting if you are in Chennai.” They also make super yummy cheeses.


Pondicherry: Try Auroville bakery and Baker Street Café


Note: These products are personally picked by the editors and our trusted ambassadors. We do not receive any revenue from the brands recommended.

Share | Facebook logo WhatsApp logo Twitter logo

Or just select, copy and send this link to your friends and you score some cool swag in the process:
Follow us on
Facebook logo Instagram logo Twitter logo

Be an Ambassador

To connect with one another, get unique access, invites to private events,
exclusive content and much more.
Not a subscriber? Sign up here.
Unsubscribe Unsubscribe from this list.
Our mailing address is:
Copyright (C) *|CURRENT_YEAR|* *|LIST:COMPANY|* All rights reserved.