21-27 Dec 2010
small world
Queer results
Mercury in Diet Turns Birds Gay

If the birdlife on earth didn’t have enough to worry about, like dwindling habitats, air pollution and the hostile ecosystem of cities, they now have the added perplexity of going gay. A study conducted by researchers from the University of Florida and Peradeniya University in Sri Lanka found that relatively low doses of methylmercury in the diet of male ibises resulted in their pairing up with each other, snubbing the females, to the extent of building nests together (in other words, moving in together).

Methylmercury has been seeping into groundwater from industries for ages now. Though the study took place in Florida, the implications apply to India as well. “It is possible that industries that work with mercury, like the pharmaceutical industry, may be adding some amount of mercury to the water they are discharging their effluents in,” says Prashant Rajankar of Toxic Links.

The researchers, however, say that this study has no implications for humans. “There have been numerous studies of humans and the effects of mercury, and sexual orientation has not been found to be affected,” assures Peter Frederick of the University of Florida, one of the researchers on the study. Nilimi Jayasena of Peradeniya University concurs: “The pathways by which bird sexual behaviour and preference are affected by exposure are not known with certainty—an extension to humans would be irresponsible and misleading.”

Alright, so humans may not be affected, but the question most bird lovers would be asking is: can this effect be reversed, can gay birds become straight again? The answer: “We do not know!  Unfortunately, our study ran out of funding before we could do the necessary experiments to determine this,” says Frederick.

Take Two
Bollywood Finds Its Tongue
What Sonam, Deepika and Vivek have in common

For an industry where a man’s word means very little, Bollywood sure takes words seriously. Rishi Kapoor’s response to his son’s trash-talking ex-girlfriends on Koffee With Karan was so over-the-top, it was filmi. Infuriated by the swipes they took at Ranbir, he said he would pull out of Karan Johar’s Agneepath. (A fortnight later, he was still part of the movie.) What Sonam Kapoor and Deepika Padukone said was hardly extraordinary, but still, you’ve got to hand it to them. One is a stranger to the industry, while the other belongs to a film family; neither was intimidated by the thought of going up against one of Bollywood’s biggest actors and the family behind him. By doing this, they broke away from long-standing industry convention. Vivek Oberoi knows the price for doing this is a heavy one, even if you’re right.

Mumbai’s film folk, all frenemies, manage to get along by falling in line. This means looking the other way when a powerful producer-director filches ideas from here and there, including one from a close friend, also an influential producer and director (who did not speak up). It means ignoring all kinds of inconvenient things.

The industry has used this fear as an excuse to pardon far too many things. Aborted careers, sexual harassment and the non-payment of salaries continue to remain hidden from public view because people fear the repercussions of speaking up. The industry works on all kinds of connections; the ones who try to test these tend to lose out.

There’s a larger thing at stake: the truth. Journalistically, this sense of self-preservation is disastrous. No one, least of all the reader, knows what’s really going on. Senior actors continue to work their legend, confident that the truth about their on-set harassment of actresses and assistant directors will stay in the realm of innuendo. Producers continue to be arbitrary in their financial dealings with their employees. These are issues Bollywood would rather not address.

Rishi Kapoor was upset because things weren’t done the way they usually are—quietly, in the dark, where people’s actions and reactions reveal who they really are.

Pats are back
Saina Brings the House Down

All the hard work she is putting in on the court is paying off for Saina Nehwal. Recently, Maruti Suzuki gifted her a Maruti SX4 for winning her gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. When she won the Hong Kong Super Series a few days later, Saina was given the honour, if it can be called that, of an applause in the Lok Sabha. Speaker Meira Kumar read out a message lauding the 20-year-old baddie player, as Parliamentarians thumped their tables. “Her achievement is a matter of national pride,” Kumar said. “She is a source of inspiration for many budding sportspersons of our country. Our best wishes for Saina.”

Bottoms Up

Finally, a list that being at the bottom of isn’t depress­ing. Indians finished last in a ‘booziest people in the world’ survey. Apparently, only 27 per cent of all Indians, according to the survey reported by a leading UK daily, have ever had a drink! Hard to believe, given the ubiquitous ‘wine and beer shops’. And let’s not forget the booming business of ‘Happy Hours’ driven by younger and younger Indians under the influence of affluence. Britain was named the booziest nation with 84 per cent drinkers.

The Little You Pill

The US Food and Drug Administration is inching closer to approving Contrave, the first new diet pill in a decade. This is after the experimental obesity drug manufactured by Orexigen Therapeutics got a favourable vote on its risk profile. It has been deemed capable of effecting clinically significant weight loss—that is if you don’t swallow it with a cola and dunk down a doughnut for good measure. This biopharmaceutical company that focuses on obesity has already seen its stock value on Nasdaq soaring by 80 per cent. Watch this space. We’re keeping tabs on Contrave.

Star-Stricken Govt

Officials of Maharashtra govern­ment’s Public Works Department are going through a trying phase, astrologically speaking. With a change of regime under Prithviraj Chavan, requests are piling up from newly-appointed ministers to align their offices with the stars.  “One minister in the last cabinet wanted the door aligned more to the left, this time another wants it to be centre-right. Some of them want yellow or orange coloured lights outside their doors. How many times can these changes be made? These requests are mind boggling,” says a PWD official who naturally wants to stay anony­mous. A majority of ministers have got astrologers, numerologists, vaastu shastra and feng shui experts to design their offices. Every request to the PWD is backed by superstitious mumbo-jumbo from an ‘expert’. Gurus walking in and out of cabins, exercising their divine powers and links in search of the perfect office, have become a common sight at Mantralaya. PWD officials can’t deny these requests. It would be a career hazard.