India Insight

Not funny – jokes Indian politicians crack

(Any opinions expressed here are not those of Thomson Reuters)

Politicians facing outrage over their comments often say that they didn’t mean what they said to come out that way. Lately in India, they say they were joking.

One of the latest was Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, whose self-confessed attempt at a joke earned him the ire of the Election Commission of India just before the beginning of this year’s elections that could boot the Congress out of power. Addressing a community of labourers in Maharashtra last week, the chief of the Nationalist Congress Party urged listeners to vote twice for his party – and told them how to do it.

“This time, Election in Satara is on 17 and as per my information election here is on 24. So cast your vote on ‘clock’ (party symbol) there and cast your vote on ‘clock’ here. Wipe the ink,” he said, referring to the indelible ink to mark the fingers of people who have voted, noting that people should be able to remove it.

For those unfamiliar with how it works, the ink blot is supposed to make sure that people don’t con election officials into allowing them to vote more than once.

When the statement led to a media uproar, Pawar said he was joking. Political commentator Manisha Priyam called it a judgment error. “It is the politicians who belittle the act of voter rights and citizens’ power who [make] statements of this kind. You don’t crack that joke,” said Priyam, a senior lecturer at Delhi University.

Accomplished women in India face higher risk of domestic violence: study

Women in India who are more educated than their husbands, earn more or are the sole earners in their families face a higher risk of domestic violence than women who are more dependent on their partners, according to a new study.

Much of India is still deeply patriarchal and there are wide gaps in the status of men and women. And this form of violence could be a way for men to reassert their power or maintain social control over their wives to preserve the “status quo” in the relationship, said the study’s author Abigail Weitzman.

Weitzman, a graduate student at New York University, looked at data from the female-only module of India’s National Family Health Survey (NFHS) collected between 2005 and 2006, concentrating on married women.

Markets this week: M&M, GAIL top Sensex losers

By Sankalp Phartiyal and Ankush Arora

India’s benchmark indexes ended lower this week after scaling fresh peaks on Tuesday. The Sensex ended the week down 0.26 percent in its second consecutive week of falls. Indian markets were shut on Monday for a public holiday.

While strong buying by foreign investors bolstered blue chips, profit-booking and worries U.S. interest rates would rise sooner than expected kept shares under pressure.

On Tuesday, Goldman Sachs upgraded Indian shares to “overweight” from “marketweight” and raised its target on the Nifty to 7,600, citing lower external vulnerabilities, and chances of gains ahead of general elections.

Movie Review: Ankhon Dekhi

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The protagonist in Rajat Kapoor’s “Ankhon Dekhi” will remind you of some relative that you may have encountered at numerous family gatherings — the talkative, eccentric but loveable uncle who arouses mixed emotions.

The rest of the film’s characters, including Bauji’s lovelorn daughter; the babbling, hot-tempered mother; and his brooding brother are all sketched by Kapoor with such affection, that in spite of their quirks and idiosyncrasies, they are recognizable as people in our daily lives.

Bauji, played by Sanjay Mishra, is a travel-agency employee who has an epiphany. He decides to believe only what he experiences and not rely on what other people tell him to make crucial decisions. This causes much upheaval in the lower-middle-class family that he heads. Bauji quits his job, his brother’s family leaves the house, and he is accused of disrespecting religion.

Movie Review: Lakshmi

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Nagesh Kukunoor’s “Lakshmi” is supposed to be a no-holds-barred, searing look at the world of human trafficking and prostitution. The protagonist, a wide-eyed, innocent girl of 14 is sold to a pimp, raped several times, and forced into the flesh trade.

When Lakshmi finally gets the courage to fight back, she finds that the law is not necessarily on her side and the rot is deep inside the system. Kukunoor, who in the past has made films that demonstrated ample sensitivity and emotions, seems to have let go and concentrate merely on shocking and titillating the viewer.

Under the guise of portraying the plight of these women, Kukunoor focuses on blood, gore and stomach-churning violence. He plays a pimp in the film, one who assaults women at will with his weapon of choice — a wooden plank with nails attached.

A Minute With: Rajat Kapoor on ‘Ankhon Dekhi’

Over the past decade, film-maker Rajat Kapoor has found a niche for himself in Bollywood, writing and directing movies that rely more on unusual plots than glamorous movie stars.

His latest film, “Ankhon Dekhi”, has actor Sanjay Mishra playing a man who refuses to believe anything that he hasn’t experienced himself. The film opens in Indian cinemas on Friday.

Kapoor, 53, spoke to Reuters about “Ankhon Dekhi” and why he doesn’t work with Bollywood movie stars.

Photo gallery: The body as an art form in India

Bodhisattva Head, 1st-2nd century AD (Lucknow State Museum)

Bodhisattva Head, 1st-2nd century AD (Lucknow State Museum)

‘The Body in Indian Art’, on exhibit at the National Museum in New Delhi, is a pan-India project showcasing over 300 artworks from 44 institutions. The show is an exhaustive study of the body’s myriad representations in Indian art, roughly covering a period of 4,000 years across regions, religion and culture.

The exhibition has been put up in eight adjoining galleries, each with a specific theme such as death, birth, divinity or rapture.

Chances are you may get lost during the tour as the show is cyclical in its set-up, representing the circle of life the body stands for.

Writer Khushwant Singh dies at 99

Khushwant Singh, one of India’s best-known writers and columnists, died of a heart attack on Thursday. He was 99.

Singh was the founder-editor of Yojana and served as the editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India, the National Herald and the Hindustan Times. He practised as a lawyer before moving to journalism and writing, eventually authoring as many as 85 books.

In his last days, Singh had been interested in political developments ahead of the general election in April, his son Rahul told reporters in New Delhi on Thursday.

Blind foodie seeks Braille menus in Delhi restaurants

Baldev Gulati loves to eat out. Friends and family often join him, but sometimes he likes to go on a date with himself. There’s one problem — Gulati is blind.

The 43-year-old businessman, sightless since birth, was tired of asking waiters and fellow diners to read restaurant menus out loud. Gulati’s food choices were restricted and he couldn’t experiment with cuisines. That’s when the thought struck him — why not get restaurants in Delhi to introduce menus in Braille?

“[Eating out] was always a pain to me. When I am paying equally to the restaurants, why restaurants are not taking care of my needs?” said Gulati, the owner of a department store in west Delhi that employs the visually impaired.

Markets this week: Infosys, Sesa Sterlite top Sensex losers

The BSE Sensex closed in the red twice this week, eventually ending with losses of 0.5 percent. The week began with the benchmark index touching an all-time high of 22,023.98 points in trade on Monday, aided by strong foreign buying.

Shares retreated from record highs as investors booked profits and by Friday, some caution was setting in about the pace of recent gains.

Key economic data released this week showed prices cooling as wholesale and consumer inflation eased and industrial output rose slightly, raising hopes that the Reserve Bank of India would leave its key interest rate unchanged at its policy meet in April.

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