08 May 2010 - 14 May 2010
small world
The Many Indias of America

You can still call Bombay Bombay, and Madras remains Madras. And the likes of Raj Thackeray can’t do a thing about it. Both these places, though, have little in common with Mumbai and Chennai. Bombay is a town in Franklin County, New York, named after an Indian princess who was born in Bombay, India. Her husband, Michael Hogan, an early landlord, gave the town its name in honour of his wife’s birthplace. That’s where the similarity ends. With a population of 1,200 people (as of Census 2000), Bombay, New York, a sleepy dairy town, is nothing like Mumbai with over 10,000 times the population. It has had no terror attacks, no bombings, and no underworld mafia is at work there. The worst disaster the town encountered took place in 1877, when a plague of grasshoppers consumed half the crops and killed many cattle and sheep. 

Madras is a city in Jefferson County, Oregon (United States). Pronounced Mad-res, it was originally called The Basin. The name was changed to Madras in 1903—it is believed after the light, cotton fabric that goes by the same name. The city spans just 5.6 square kilometres and is home to 5,000-odd people. While our Madras is home to the flamboyant Tamil film industry, for Madras, Oregon, the most notable connection to cinema is River Jude Phoenix, an Oscar-nominated actor who died of drug overdose on Halloween morning in 1993. 

Washington DC might be the capital of the United States, but there are actually two Delhis in that country.  In southwest Illinois, between Jerseyville and Godfrey, is New Delhi, with a population of less than 100 people. The second Delhi is in California, about 30 km west-northwest of Merced with a population of around 15,000. The name comes from Del-High, the Delta-Highline Canal nearby. 

In fact, there is a Delhi in Canada too, located in Ontario. Predominantly rural with affordable housing, residents there spend afterwork hours at the golf course, on the beaches of Lake Erie or in small clubhouses. Not quite the Delhi we know, is it?

take two
This Master’s Voice
Sunil Gavaskar owes it to his many admirers to not be so strangely muted on the IPL scam.

During last year’s IPL in South Africa, Sunil Gavaskar uttered these words while commentating: “That’s the beauty of Lalit Modi.” 

It is not a crime to compliment Modi. Whatever his faults, he has valuable skills that kept a lot of people employed and entertained. But this was more than a compliment. It was gushy propaganda about a smart but far from spotless character with criminal cases against him in India and overseas. It was unbecoming of a legend and senior statesman like Gavaskar to eulogise him on air. 

Cut to IPL 2010. It was the third edition of the tournament, yet the most ground-breaking. Modi, despite his beauty, stands suspended. A Union minister, also known for his beauty, was forced to resign. There must be few sports events in history that triggered upheaval within their own administration as well as the central Government. Yet, Gavaskar, a member of the IPL Governing Council and a prolific columnist with powerful news organisations, has written just about a paragraph on the issue (the preceding two paras were rants against the media and IPL-bashers). 

Last Sunday, Gavaskar wrote that the cricketers within the governing council trusted the financial experts and vice versa. But he did not go into details, which was unfair to his readers and the Indian public. As Indian cricket’s most influential (and caustic) columnist, it is his responsibility to write on matters of urgency. Why, then, has he not done justice to a matter of such significance and about which he is much in the know? 

Earlier, MAK Pataudi, Gavaskar’s colleague on the governing council, sounded a little more frank and contrite, even calling the council a “failure”.  “It [the governing council] has been a failure certainly because we should have been more aware of what is happening,” Pataudi said in a television interview. “We should have been doing the questioning, but we didn’t because everything seemed okay. We were all carried away by how well he (Modi) was doing.” 

Gavaskar is not morally bound to comment on the IPL’s financial aspects. But he owes us in-depth answers to some of the questions in our minds. What has been the cricketers’ role in the council? Who employs them as commentators? If it is the IPL, does not this come in the way of honest analysis? What about Modi’s style of functioning, one of the counts on which he was suspended? Surely, you don’t have to be a financial expert to understand rules of professional and decorous conduct. 

One hopes the original Little Master reveals to us what is our right to know and does not see an enemy in those who only demand a few answers.

Blood (bank) Hounds

Blood banks are really not news but this one is. April last week, on World Veterinary Day, the country got its first blood bank for dogs. A black Labrador named Hot Dog became the first to donate blood at the bank in Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (Tanuvas) in Chennai. Dogs constitute the majority of animals visiting the hospital on the university’s premises. Half of them suffer from hypoproteinemia, a condition that requires blood transfusion. 

“There are at least two cases that require blood transfusion every week in Chennai. So we thought of the blood bank,’’ says Tanuvas vice-chancellor Dr P Thangaraju. Dr S Prathaban,  who is in charge of the blood bank , says the biggest obstacle to a bank of this nature is blood typing. “Like in humans, dogs too have various blood types and even a universal donor type. But now we have the equipment to do blood typing so the facility is all set to store blood for use,” he adds.

shooting star
The Nick Clegg Phenomenon

As the UK goes to the polls in what was supposed to be Conservative Party leader David Cameron’s election, a man called Nick Clegg has whooshed out of nowhere and notched up top points in the first ever televised election debate in the country. Cameron is leading after the third debate but Clegg has been hailed by some as the British Obama. And The Sunday Times has even anointed him ‘the most popular leader since Winston Churchill’. So, who is this man?

Clegg is the leader of the Liberal Democrats, the proverbial third party in the UK, where the traditional rivals are the Conservative Party (Tories) and Labour Party. At 43, he is the youngest of the three candidates for prime minister. Cameron is 44 and current PM Gordon Brown is 59.  

Clegg studied anthropology and archaeology in Cambridge. He is married to the strikingly attractive Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, a Spanish lawyer.

In an interview with the magazine GQ, Clegg revealed that he has slept with ‘no more than 30 women’.

Parking for Luxury Boats

Billionaires have flaunted their yachts in India but found very little place to park them. Now, some of that crunch is being addressed with the opening of India’s first marina in Kochi. Built at a cost  of Rs 8.2 crore, the marina will have place for 37 boats. This will be increased to accommodate 50 in the second phase. Dr Malav Shroff, CEO of Ocean Blue Marine, the company which developed the marina, says, “There is a lot of potential across India’s coastline for such projects.”

A Retirement Plan for Sniffer Dogs

Often when Maoists and terrorists attack police forces, the weapons used by them are stolen from the state itself. But if the Central Paramilitary Forces (CPF) are granted their request, there will be at least one resource that will remain on this side of  enemy lines. The CPF has sought a ‘post-retirement resettlement’ plan for sniffer dogs to prevent them from falling into wrong hands. The CPF believes that if abandoned after its working life, a retired sniffer dog will be ‘vulnerable to manipulation by militants and terrorists’. With nearly 100 sniffer dogs being trained and supplied annually by canine training centres, the last thing we need is man’s best friend turning foe.

How to Arrest Husband Beating

We have all heard of wife beating, but have you heard of husband beating? Ask Selvam, he knows all about it. Last week, the 42-year-old casual labourer from Vyasarpadi in Chennai got drunk and then headed to the bus stop that was closest to his house. Once there, he threw two huge stones at a city transport bus. He then patiently waited for the police to come and arrest him.  Selvam told the police that he took this drastic action because he was unable to bear the daily beating from his wife. He preferred to be in jail than home and pleaded that he be remanded for at least 15 days. His wife was not violent in the early days of their marriage. After a quarrel, she would go to her maternal home. But later, she found that beating up her husband was a better way to express her displeasure. Sometimes, Selvam alleged, she bashed him up for no reason at all, and it was after one such session that he decided to get arrested.

The Great Maratha PR War

It was expected that the two parties which claim to represent the Marathi manoos would go on overdrive on 1 May, when Maharashtra Day is celebrated. Both the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena didn’t disappoint. The former collected 24,200 bottles of blood (in memory they said of the blood shed by martyrs to form Maharashtra). The MNS decided that the stomach was the best way to the voter’s heart and organised an exhibition of the state’s diverse cuisine.  The Sena one-upped the MNS by hosting an event in Shivaji Park, the heart of the Maharashtra movement. Reclusive leader Balasaheb Thackeray stepped out of his residence to inaugurate murals depicting Shivaji’s life. The MNS had been trying to get a court stay on the murals for a while, claiming they reduced the entry/exit points to the park.

No Ace on Facebook

Times have changed for Sania Mirza, the woman whose beauty and forehand once spawned fans by the thousands. A Facebook group ‘Thank you Pakistan for taking Sania Mirza, Now Please take Rakhi Sawant also’ has managed to get a whopping 170,000 members in 7 weeks. Clearly, the Sania- Shoaib match has been difficult to digest for some.

Here Valhi’s No. 1

Everybody meet Valhi 1-001, India’s first photo-identified whale shark. Considered the world’s largest fish species, whale sharks can be distinguished from each other by the pattern of spots between their gills and fins. This spotted male was classified as a creature of India’s waters after sifting through the global database maintained by Ecocean. This is the start of an initiative by the Gujarat Forest Department, Tata Chemicals  and the Wildlife Trust of India to track Valhis (gentle giants) and study the population of these enigmatic sea-beings found along the coast of Gujarat.

Making Churches Safe for Children

With the Catholic Church being plagued with child abuse charges in various countries, bishops in India are drawing up procedures to tackle such scandals if and when they happen. The primary objective of these guidelines is to ensure ‘wholesome safety of children in and outside Christian institutions’. After four days of deliberations by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) and the Conference of Catholic Bishops in India (CCBI), a draft is on the anvil. “As per general consensus, the conference will report any suspected case of child abuse to the police. Strict punishment like defrocking and expulsion will be meted out if the accused is convicted by court,” says CBCI spokesperson Babu Joseph Karakombil.

Uncle Assam’s Adopted Citizens

Two villages in Meghalaya’s backward West Khasi Hills district have shifted allegiance to Assam. The villages, which border Assam, find that the state provides them with all their needs while Meghalaya has only neglected them. The 350-odd residents of Barigang village have enrolled themselves through the ongoing census as residents of Assam. “For many years, we pleaded with the Meghalaya government to undertake development works here, but in vain. The Assam government, on the other hand, has provided water and electricity supply and built roads connecting Barigang to the state. We avail healthcare and education facilities in Assam,” says Ankline Sangma, the headman of the village. Sonapur, another village in Meghalaya, has done the same, and a few neighbouring villages are planning to follow suit.