Thursday, 17 August 2017

Breakfast for Rs 5 and meals for Rs 10 at Indira Canteens in Bengaluru

Subsidised canteens, or soup kitchens, exist across different states in India. They’re slammed as a ‘populist measure’ by critics, but it can’t be denied that they help do the job – feeding the poor.

Popularised by late Tamil Nadu CM, Jayalalithaa, other states that run similar programs are Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh.

Joining the troop is Karnataka with Indira Canteens – one of the state government’s most ambitious projects to serve affordable food, which rolled out with 101 canteens.

Here is what you need to know about the Indira Canteens:

  1. Breakfast is available for ₹5 and lunch and dinner for ₹10 each. The menu is based on Karnataka’s traditional cuisine, and apparently designed by leading chefs of five-star hotels, India Today reported.
  2. A few select canteens will have a more extensive menu, with up to 25 items on offer daily.
  3. There will be a kitchen in each of the 27 assembly constituencies, and one canteen in each of the 198 wards in Bengaluru. A single canteen can feed anywhere from 300 to 500 customers in a day.
  4. Interestingly, the canteens are designed to be built quickly. A single canteen structure can be constructed in just eight days.
  5. While idlis are the mainstay for breakfast, and rice-sambhar for lunch, the canteens also provide a variety of rotating options throughout the week.
  6. Five of the 27 kitchens have been reserved for women self-help groups.
  7. On the off chance that you do not find a canteen within close quarters, you can download the Indira Canteen app on Google Play. It tells you where to find the closest option and what the day’s menu has to offer.
  8. And wait, you can provide feedback too! Rate the canteen and file a complaint on the app, if need be.
(Source: The Better India)

Irom Sharmila defies opposition, gets married in Kodaikanal

Their wedding was devoid of any fanfare, with family members of both the bride and groom not present, says a report on TNM:

With a cream shawl draped around her head, renowned human rights activist Irom Sharmilla walked into the registrar office in Kodaikanal to get married to her British partner Desmond Coutinha on Thursday. Standing beside the bride, was CPI(ML) activist and documentary filmmaker Divya Bharathi, who held a small bouquet of roses.

In a crowded room at the sub-registrar's office in Kodaikanal, a media contingent waited with the couple and Divya. As soon as the three witnesses, all residents from Kodaikanal. turned up, the wedding was formalised.

The couple spent two months to complete legal formalities. The activist from Manipur went ahead with her decision on the location, despite opposition from various groups. They had alleged that her presence in Kodaikanal would lead to social unrest.

The couple obtained their marriage papers under the 'Special Marriage Act 1954' from the registrar office on Thursday morning. Their wedding was devoid of any fanfare and even family members of both the bride and the bridegroom were not present.

On August 4, the Hindu Makkal Katchi filed a petition in Kodaikanal against the proposed wedding of the human rights campaigner. The organisation alleged that allowing Irom to stay and get married in the hill station would ruin the peace and tranquillity of the city. Before that, in July, a social activist made the same arguments.

Irom had responded to this by saying, "I don’t know why they are scared about us getting married. It is a private life of two persons. Whether we are getting married or not, we will live together in the house in Kodaikanal. I don’t know what kind of threat a marriage of two persons could pose to the beautiful State."

Asked about her plans after marriage, Sharmila reportedly said she will be settling down in the hill-station and is set to embark on her new mission against AFSPA for bringing about peace and justice in the country. 

Saudi king orders reopening of Qatar border to pilgrims

Saudi Arabia's King Salman has ordered the reopening of the border with Qatar to facilitate the annual hajj pilgrimage, state media said Thursday, in the first signs of a thaw after the region's worst diplomatic crisis in years.

The Salwa border crossing had been shut after regional kingpin Saudi Arabia as well as Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing the emirate of fostering Islamist extremist groups.

The announcement to reopen the border for Qatari pilgrims came after Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received an envoy from Doha, according to the official Saudi Press Agency, in the first public high-level encounter between the nations after the crisis erupted.

The king has permitted "the entry of Qatari pilgrims to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through Salwa border crossing to perform hajj, and to allow all Qatari nationals who wish to enter for hajj without electronic permits", a statement on SPA said.

He also ordered that private jets belonging to Saudi airlines be sent to Doha airport "to bring all Qatari pilgrims on his expenses".

The crown prince emphasised the "historical relations between Saudi and Qatari people" after his meeting with Qatari Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Jassim al-Thani, the statement added.

The Qatari side of the Abu Samrah border crossing with Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia had last month said that Qataris wanting to perform this year's hajj would be allowed to enter the kingdom, but imposed certain restrictions including that those arriving by plane must use airlines in agreement with Riyadh.

Qatari authorities had subsequently accused Saudi Arabia of politicising hajj and jeopardising the pilgrimage to Mecca by refusing to guarantee their pilgrims' safety.

Some observers cautioned that the diplomatic crisis was far from over despite the apparent bonhomie.

"This is a goodwill gesture towards the Qatari people and not a breakthrough with the Qatari govt," Ali Shihabi from the Washington-based think tank Arabia Foundation said on Twitter, referring to the reopening of the border.

Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies shut down air, maritime and land links with Qatar, and imposed economic sanctions, accusing Doha of supporting "terrorists" and of being too close to their regional nemesis Iran.

Qatar denied the allegations and denounced what it called a "blockade" aimed at bringing the wealthy emirate to its knees.

The tiny emirate with a population of 2.6 million, 80 percent of them foreigners, ranks as the world's richest on a per capita basis, according to the International Monetary Fund.

It holds a staggering $330 billion in a sovereign wealth fund, with assets heavily invested abroad.

The hajj, a pillar of Islam that capable Muslims must perform at least once in a lifetime, is to take place this year at the beginning of September.

More than 1.8 million faithful took part in last year's hajj. The pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam and all Muslims who can must perform it at least once in their lives.

(Source: AFP)

‘Happily-ever-after doesn’t exist’

In a recent email, Suki John and Horacio Cocchi attempted to sum up their 20-year marriage in one paragraph, which read like a grocery list. It included: 8 homes, 9 housemates, 1 foreclosure, 21 jobs, 3 layoffs, 2 miscarriages, 1 birth, 3 parents and 2 friends deceased, 1 bankruptcy, 1 set of dentures, innumerable road trips, 3 days in Amarillo waiting for parts, 9 cars, 5 billion phone calls, far too many dance performances, 5 weeks in Europe, 17 weeks in Cuba, 1 summer in Vermont, 6 mattresses, 2 bread machines, 9 espresso machines, countless bottles of extra virgin olive oil, 5 tango lessons and 2 wedding rings.

Suki John and Horacio Cocchi in a tunnel beneath Lincoln Center. The couple, who met at a cafe on the Upper West Side, were featured in Vows 20 years ago. Credit Kholood Eid for The New York Times

The couple met 21 years ago, when she approached him in a coffee shop on the Upper West Side. “I saw him across the room and it was like a magnet,” said Ms. John, 58, who is as excitable as her wild, curly hair. At the time, she was a modern dancer and choreographer sleeping on a futon in a friend’s kitchen in Brooklyn. She traveled as often as possible. “I was totally uninterested in domesticity,” she said.

After she and Mr. Cocchi married on July 6, 1997, they moved into an attic apartment in the Marble Hill section of the Bronx. She became enthusiastically domestic, in part because Mr. Cocchi, 59, is such a good cook. “He’s always saying, ‘Baby, want some pasta? Let me cook you some pasta,’” she said. “He’s very nurturing and grounding. He tethered me.”

They are not a quiet or even-tempered couple. Living next door to them is probably akin to living next to trombone players. They argue often, about the symbolism of tango dancing, or which rug would look best in their living room, or whether God exists (she’s Jewish, he’s an atheist). “It’s noisy and messy and emotional,” she said. Mr. Cocchi describes their relationship as “marital blitz.”

Over the years, they have struggled with infertility, alcoholism, money, and have somehow remained lighthearted about it all. “My whole life, I have always had financial insecurity,” said Mr. Cocchi, who grew up in Uruguay and has a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from the University of Connecticut. “It’s comic. I don’t pursue the goal of making money.”

Suki John, Horacio Cocchi with their son, Rafael.
Credit Kholood Eid for The New York Times
While trying to conceive Ms. John had two miscarriages. “Devastating.” she said. “I was already what they call a ‘mature’ mom. It was not clear to me that I was going to be able to sustain a pregnancy.” She added: “I remember being in my garden in the Bronx and thinking, ‘Maybe I’m never going to have a baby. I guess I’ll have some plants.’”

Eventually she became pregnant with their son, Rafael John Cocchi, who was born in 2001. “I really liked the way I was with Horacio and a child,” she said. “I liked how the focus wasn’t on me. It was on the next generation. It felt really right.”

Soon after Rafael was born, they moved to Connecticut, and bought a house in 2006, at the height of the market. In 2007 Ms. John was offered a job teaching in the dance department at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. Mr. Cocchi, who was happily teaching environmental planning at the University of Connecticut, did not want to move.

After a lot of arguing, he acquiesced. “My wisdom is, it’s very hard to have a long-lasting relationship,” he said. “For me, it was about how much am I willing to give up to keep this marriage growing?”

They tried to sell their Connecticut house, but the real estate market was crashing and soon their mortgage was greater than the value of the house. “We are poster children for the mortgage crisis,” Ms. John said. “We drained all of our savings to try to hold on to the house.”

They ended up declaring bankruptcy and losing it in a foreclosure. “We cried,” she said. “We felt shame. We didn’t tell anybody. But, I want people to know: You go through a lot when you’re married, and if you come out the other side, you are very strong.”

In Texas, things did not improve immediately. While she loved teaching at T.C.U., Mr. Cocchi couldn’t find work — he estimates he applied for 500 jobs — and began drinking. “I’d start cooking around 6 or 7, and drinking,” he said. “By midnight, I was intoxicated. It was part of my routine.”

She said, “It eventually became clear our family would not remain intact if he continued drinking.” So, five years ago, he quit.

“I was making everyone around me unhappy,” he said. “Nobody wants to be around a drunk.”

After passing their 20th anniversary last month, they reflected on how they have stayed together through so many crises. “Our commitment to monogamy was a big part of our ability to weather all the storms,” she said. “For me, that was essential to the idea of marriage.”

Plus, she finds Mr. Cocchi hilarious. “He’s very, very funny, and that helps so much,” she said. “We call him the ‘Naked Cowboy.’ Like, right now, he’s sitting here on my exercise ball with no shirt playing the guitar.”

Ms. John is currently creating a story ballet called “Havana Love Letters,” about the importance of resilience and realism in relationships. In conversation she often says, “Happily-ever-after doesn’t exist.”

He likes to say, “Bad times will be followed by good times,” which seems true at the moment. She now has tenure at T.C.U., and he is an adjunct economics professor at Tarrant County College. In 2016, they became homeowners again. They even have a swimming pool.

They also have a new ritual. They regularly meet at home in the afternoon, between teaching responsibilities, to take a “siesta” together. They lie next to each other in their dark bedroom. “It’s so sweet,” she said. “We just want to be with each other. I still think he’s absolutely adorable.”

(Source: NYT)

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Air Koryo: The world’s only ‘One-Star’ carrier

Air Koryo is the flagship carrier of North Korea and have almost daily flights to and from Beijing, as well as weekly services to Vladivostok, Shenyang and occasionally Shanghai. They also run a number of charter flights to and from south-east Asia, as well as a number of other destinations at more sporadic intervals.

After years of being ranked by Skytrax as the world’s worst airline, national carrier Air Koryo is undergoing a revolution, according to interviews with passengers and travel agents. New planes, new in-flight entertainment options, smart new uniforms for the cabin attendants, even business class.

The communal screens that drop down from the ceiling will keep you entertained with propaganda broadcasts and concerts by supreme leader Kim Jong Un’s favorite all-female band, Moranbong. They sing patriotic songs about, well, Kim Jong Un. Bring noise-cancelling earphones. There’s no volume control.

While the food, especially in the new business-class lounge, has improved, the most-photographed component of a trip remains the famous “mystery-meat” burger.

A hamburger offered on Air Koryo
Business Class Customers are invited to use The Air China Lounge in Terminal 2. Most airlines that operate out of Terminal 2 also use this common lounge (including Korean Air, who departs at the same time as Air Koryo!).The lounge is spacious but in need of refurbishment. There is however, plenty of food and beverages on offer.

Air Koryo are just like any other airliner in the world. They take aviation safety very serious with a safe flying record for decades now. The only known fatal accident Air Koryo has suffered was in 1983 when the airline was still named CAAK, according to Harro Ranter, founder and director of the Aviation Safety Network, which has compiled detailed descriptions of over 10,700 incidents, hijackings and accidents going back to the 1950s.

(Source: Aviation CV