What we learnt this week: Communal violence in Vadodara & baguettes and bathroom breaks 

An irreverent column on new learning: facts, trivia and insights

Photo courtesy: PTI
Photo courtesy: PTI
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NH Web Desk

Communal violence in Vadodara

As many as 256 incidents of communal disturbances in Vadodara have been cited to justify restrictions on the transfer of immovable property in notified areas, mostly inhabited by Muslims, in the city. In a six-page affidavit filed in the High Court, Sub Divisional Magistrate Mahipal Sinh Chudasama annexed 70 pages to buttress the need for the Collector to notify areas where sale of property cannot take place without the approval of the Collector. Nor can tenants be asked to vacate premises without permission. Curiously, the SDM cited cases between 2004 and 2019 and admitted that notifications restricting sale were issued in 2009 for five years and renewed for five more years in 2014. The cases seem to deal, however, with petty disputes involving urinating in public places, parking of vehicles, use of loudspeakers, sexual harassment, love affairs, etc. Only two of the 256 incidents cited, say reports, seemed to involve serious disturbances.

Indian brand value

It has been known for long that while India is a world leader in producing several agricultural products, the country does not manufacture a single thing that has global recognition. The Jaguar made by the Tatas is an exception but then it is made in England. A recent survey once again confirmed India’s poor standing among companies with no Indian company figuring in the list of 15 most admired companies in the world. The list of course includes Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Starbucks, Walt Disney, Microsoft, FedEx and Facebook among others.

New York’s last single screen theatre closes

The Paris Theater, said to be New York’s last single-screen theatre, has shut shop after 71 years. The New York Times, in an obituary, attributed the causes of death to the usual suspects: the internet (streaming video); real estate (expired lease); changing demographics and shorter attention spans. NYT reported, “The final film to show there was Ron Howard’s documentary Pavarotti, a fitting coda for the theatre: a prestige movie, flattering to a well-heeled audience, that offered a certain demographic’s idea of a cultured night out.

Rich in the next birth

A week, that witnessed Jawaharlal Nehru University make a laughing stock of itself by calling for the CV of eminent historian Romila Thapar, also saw a video surface that featured Honorary Visiting Professor of JNU, Rajiv Malhotra. In the video, he can be seen explaining to Swami Nityananda how the latter can become the richest person on earth. If Malhotra and he could ensure a system of identifying people in their next birth, then the scheme could work, he is heard saying. Bill Gates could well be born very poor in his next birth. So, if Gates can be persuaded to part with half his wealth, assured that it would be transferred to him wherever he takes birth next time, he would be happy to oblige. While the video triggered a laugh riot, American historian Audrey Truschke tweeted tongue-in-cheek, “People sometimes ask me to debate Rajiv Malhotra, which I explain should proceed via peer-reviewed scholarship. If we debated on Malhotra’s terms, we’d prioritise this background and my book profits being transferred to my next life”!

Too many bathroom breaks

Lawn Tennis administrators are worried at the increasing frequency of bathroom breaks insisted on by players. The delays, they say, are ‘not good for television or the fans who are made to wait’. While tennis becomes more competitive, rallies and games are lasting longer. But while five minutes are allowed for injury timeouts, there is no such time prescribed for bathroom breaks. As a result, some players, usually the one who is losing, are taking as long as 10 minutes on bathroom breaks. Some coaches have admitted that the ploy is designed to break the rhythm of the winning player and make him/her angry and irritated. Administrators also admit that there is no uniformity on the distance between courts and bathrooms. “The rule is there to provide for a need for the players,” said Steve Simon, the chief executive of the WTA. “It is not meant to be strategic or a momentum changer.”

Bribes and ‘connections’

A typical Indian trait while visiting a government office is to look for people with connections. A confirmation now has come in a survey conducted over two years by Lokniti-CSDS (Centre for the Study of Developing Society) and in 20 states involving over 40,000 respondents. An overwhelming majority of respondents said they found it difficult to get work done at government offices without paying bribes or without falling back on connections of either influential people or people who work in the same office. Trust in government offices is low and people depend on their political representatives to pull strings. There seems to have been no change in the past five years. “Only around one-fourth (28%) of the respondents believed that work could be done without connections or paying bribes. On the other hand, more than four out of ten (43%) said that bribes were important and around one-fourth (24%) thought that prior connections or networks were required to get work done,” the survey revealed.

A ‘Grand Prix’ for the baguette

France takes its ‘baguettes’ seriously. The country even has a scientific ‘Bread Observatory’! France is said to consume 320 baguettes every second, half a baguette per person per day amounting to 10 billion baguettes per annum. So much so that every year a ‘Grand Prix’ is held in Paris to crown the best baker of the year. The prize not only includes a certificate that the baker can display but also the honour of supplying the bread, the first thing in the morning, to the Presidential Palace for a year. Each year, 200 bakers submit two of their best baguettes to the jury. They must measure between 55-65 cm in length and weigh between 250-300 grams. Those who qualify move to the second round. The 14 members of the jury then judge the remaining loaves on baking, appearance, smell, taste and the crumb, which should be tender but not damp. The entries are numbered and jurors have no clue whose loaves they are judging. Possibly that’s why, several winners in past few years have been French men of African origin, first or second generation immigrants from Africa.

Harry Potter banned

Several schools run by the Catholic Church in the United States have put a ban on the popular Harry Potter series of fantasy novels written by JK Rowling. The reason: priests and sorcerers have agreed that the magic spells mentioned in detail in the book are the real thing, that they can actually conjure evil spirits and invoke Satan! The schools therefore have been told to remove the popular series of novels from their libraries. While Rowling’s reaction is not yet known, she is known to be a believer.

Tailpiece: The Palestinian student who was deported from Boston airport, ostensibly because his Facebook friends had posted comments critical of the US government, has been allowed to return and attend classes at Harvard after the University authorities intervened and negotiated his return with immigration authorities.Tailpiece 1: A preliminary survey suggests that 25,000 Bodos, 9000 Reangs, 8000 Hojangs, all indigenous people of Assam, have been left out of the National register of Citizens.

Tailpiece2: The Central Vigilance Commission has directed the CBI to file a case against Karnal Singh, former head of Enforcement Directorate (he got 2 extensions from the Modi govt) for allegedly taking bribes (Rs 25 crore) from cricket bookies with ISI links.

Tailpiece 3: HAL had Rs 22,000 crore surplus funds. They were giving the government Rs 1500 crore in annual dividend. The government first took away their surplus funds, then did not pay Rs 20,000 crore against products delivered by HAL, claimed a tweet.

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