The Rat People

Utterly tragic and cant-peel-my-eyes-away fascinating. A Breitbart story + video tells the tale of Pakistan’s “Rat People” born with a sad heriditary disorder, Microcephaly

Outside a Muslim shrine in this dusty Pakistani city, a “rat woman” with a tiny head sits on a filthy mattress and takes money from worshippers who cling to an ancient fertility rite.

Nadia, 25, is one of hundreds of young microcephalics — people born with small skulls and protruding noses and ears because of a genetic mutation — who can be found on the streets of Gujrat, in central Punjab province.

…According to local legend, infertile women who pray at Shah Daula’s shrine will be granted children, but at a terrible price. The first child will be born microcephalic and must be given to the shrine, or else any further children will have the same deformity.

…”The myth of the chuhas [rat people] has been exploited by beggar mafias and religious groups,” said Nasiruddaula, a former science professor in his 70s.

“They roam the villages and if the real chuha is born they give them some money and they take them,” he said.

How did the cluster show up here? Well, consanguinity plays a huge role – Continue reading

Econ 101 Works: Call Centers

It’s pretty much a staple of Econ Development 101 that all economies start with crap jobs and that, overtime, competition for workers grows, productivity grows, and thus salaries grow. The amazing thing about India is how quickly we’re seeing it work right before our eyes –

Young people say it is no longer worthwhile going through sleepless nights serving customers halfway around the world. They have better job opportunities in other fields.

…As recently as four years back, the choice was pretty clear,” Karnik said. “Either you got a high paying, good job at a call center or no job at all. Today, not only are there other options, but they are pretty close to the call centers [in terms of salaries].”

“Earlier it was considered cool to work at a call center,” said Nishant Thakur, 19, after the group had dispersed. “That died out quite quickly.” Added Thakur’s friend, Vishal Lathwal, 19, “If you work at a call center today people will think you don’t have anything else to do or were a bad student.”

From wired to tired in 4 years…. wild stuff.

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The Caption Game: The “Surjeet-o Bandito” Edition

Hold on, let’s get this over with…

Okay, now that I’ve stood in the corner and thought about what I’ve done during my time-out, I half-heartedly apologize for being so insensitive as to vaguely reference a politically incorrect, wayyy-before-your…and-really-my time cartoon character/mascot.

My bad. If it helps, it’s a rather obscure ref and I did change the “first name” to something browner (shout out to my friend Surjeet, who is sure to be THRILLED about this). Anyfoo. cricketers before one-day vs australia.jpg Monday came and went, with nary a caption game in sight; I blame you. What, on top of everything else in my disorganized, estrogen-powered day, I need to discover non-existent time with which to ferret out funny pictures?

Wait, what?

I do? Meh.

Well, if we’re relying on ME, then prepare for tardy everything (including me). I saw this on the BBC website yesterday and that is why we have an uber-late* CG today, which is THURSDAY for those who are either hung-over, a disciple of Rip Van Winkle or too confused to keep count.

So, now that you’ve seen the amusing picture, kindly be doing what some of you do best– caption away. Why should you expend such effort? Because a photograph like that deserves more than this (you know there’s no-o-o-othing):

Indian cricketers pose with turbans, before a one-day international against Australia. [Beeb]

Perplexed? Bemused? Constipated? Consider previous editions of the Caption Game, awailable for procrastinating purposes here: éka, dvá, trí, catúr, páñca,, saptá , as.tá, návaContinue reading

The Most Powerful Desi Women in the World

Forbes‘s annual “100 most powerful women” list names Indra Nooyi, Chairman & CEO of PepsiCo the #5 most powerful woman in the world and the most powerful Desi woman. She edges out #6 – Sonia Gandhi, President of the Congress Party — thus creating a pretty impressive showing in the top 10. The final desi on the list, and a previously unknown one to me – #97 Vidya Chhabria – hails from the UAE.

A hearty SM congrats all around.

Worth noting – Pratibha Patil gets a nod as a “powerful woman behind the woman”; now that will get some SM tongues wagging.

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Gregory Clark @ GNXP

Gregory Clark is quickly becoming the economist du jour due to his recently published (and quite controversial) A Farewell to Alms. Late last year, Sepia Mutiny had a preview of some of the book’s content and, as schedule permits, we will likely cover more of it moving forward. As we said back then, for Mutineers Clark is definitely an economist to watch relative to others due to his outsized focus on Indian economic history.

So, until we get a chance to dive into more of the detail here, GNXP (Razib’s home when he’s not a 1-man comments machine on SM) has a great interview with Clark up right now and question #1 hits squarely into desi territory

1) In some early work, you wondered why workers in British cotton mills were so much more productive than workers in Indian cotton mills. You discuss this in the last chapter of A Farewell to Alms. You looked at a lot of the usual explanations-incentives, management, quality of the machines-and none of them really seemed to explain the big gap in productivity. Finally, you seemed to turn to the idea that it’s differences between the British and Indian workers themselves-maybe their culture, maybe their genes-that explained the difference. How did you come to that conclusion?

…When I set out in my PhD thesis to try and explain differences in income internationally in 1910 I found that asking simple questions like “Why could Indian textile mills not make much profit even though they were in a free trade association with England which had wages five times as high?” led to completely unexpected conclusions. You could show that the standard institutional explanation made no sense when you assembled detailed evidence from trade journals, factory reports, and the accounts of observers. Instead it was the puzzling behavior of the workers inside the factories that was the key.

What was this “puzzling behavior”? Well, unfortunately, it appears a good chunk of it was IST.


p>Read the rest, let it whet your appetite for more, and expect to see Clark here on SM in the near future

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Watch out now!

Oh, we zimbly HAVE to play the caption game with the picture below. It was thoughtfully submitted via a tip to our news tab from Msichana (thanks!)


Granny, get your gun: Ladies of the Village Defense Committee squeeze off a few AK-47 bursts during training by the Indian army in Sariya, India. [SFgate]

I don’t mean to make light of serious issues like empowering women or self defense and I wish I didn’t have to explicitly declare that in my post, but there you go, in case you needed me to do so. Having reluctantly typed all that, I will return to the gleeful state I was in when I first gazed at this– what a capture! Now you all caption away. 🙂

Previous editions of caption-palooza: onnu, rendu, moonu, naaluContinue reading

It All Came from India, Ch LVIX

So here’s another piece of ammo for your “everything came from India” uncle –

Newton’s Infinite Series: We heard it in Malayalam first

NEW DELHI: A group of Malayali scholars had predated a ground-breaking Newton ‘discovery’ by over 250 years, according a research paper published on Monday.

The team of researchers from the Universities of Manchester and Exeter reveal that the ‘Kerala School’ identified the ‘infinite series’- one of the basic components of calculus – in about 1350.

And thus, by discovering one of the building blocks of calculus first, Mallu’s used the knowledge to, uh, well, uh, I’m not quite sure…. The researchers were quick to note that this discovery shouldn’t be used to reduce Newton’s stature but instead, add some brown names to the pantheon of genius –

[Dr George Gheverghese Joseph, one of the researcher and Honorary Reader, School of Education at The University of Manchester said,] “The brilliance of Newton’s work at the end of the seventeenth century stands undiminished – especially when it came to the algorithms of calculus.

“But other names from the Kerala School, notably Madhava, Valloppillil, and Nilakantha, should stand shoulder to shoulder with him as they discovered the other great component of calculus- infinite series.

However, Dr. Joseph does note that perhaps, just perhaps, Newton wasn’t inspired by the proverbial apple at all –

…there is strong circumstantial evidence that the Indians passed on their discoveries to mathematically knowledgeable Jesuit missionaries who visited India during the fifteenth century.

That knowledge, they argue, may have eventually been passed on to Newton himself.

Let the attribution games begin! (Hat tip – Venkat & Sindhya)

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More FREE fun for the People– in Berkeley

Em em eye eye ay ay.PNG

Via my Auntie Valsa’s kid, Jasmin, over at ASATA, news of an upcoming free M.I.A. show at Amoeba Records in Berkeley, this Saturday at 2pm.

I “hella” thought those of you in the yay area who have reconciled your inner turmoil regarding her connection with/representation of/grahpic allusions to the LTTE might want to know. Me? I’m still conflicted, so I’ll keep humming

Let you be superior
I’m flithy with the fury ya

…it’s easy being morally inferior when there’s such a sick soundtrack to feel shame to. I keed, I keed. Continue reading

“Trashed” Grandmother Passes Away.

A heart-breaking update to my previous post, “On Respect for our Elders“:

A SICK 75-year-old grandmother who was thrown in the garbage by her relatives in India last week has died, officials say.
Chinnammal Palaniappan, died on Sunday in a home for elderly people where she was taken after being rescued from the garbage dump in Erode town, 400km from Chennai, capital of southern Tamil Nadu state.
Palaniappan had told her rescuers that on July 19 she was taken from her home by her grandsons and on waking up found herself among a heap of rotting garbage.
“She was improving after she was fed and given necessary medicines in the facility but on Sunday evening she developed breathing problems and died,” an official said.

Thanks for posting this to the news tab, Anonymous. At least she’s finally at peace.

If anyone hears news regarding the worthless family who did this despicable deed, please let us know. I can’t be the only one who is interested in their fate, and how the TN government proceeds with this tragic case. Continue reading

Are you a Potterwallah?


Though I have never been a fan of Harry, I have always been an ardent devotee of pop culture, so Potter-mania interests me for that reason. I’m marinating in it here, but I’m tickled by what’s going on there, and by there, I mean India.

By 7 am, Strand Book Stall, Fort, Mumbai, who opened their doors at 6.30 am sharp on July 21, had sold 2,000 copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Queues of excited Potterwallahs, who had been in line since 6 am or earlier, wound themselves around the block in this busy Mumbai business district, where Saturday is usually a very quiet day.
Mothers and daughters, teenagers, young working people, plenty of youngsters with their parents and lot of oldies. all stood in a queue calmly clutching receipts for copies booked up to three months earlier.
The paan wallahs and chai wallahs nearby had seen this phenomenon before. “Yes it is for that book,” they said sagely. “I don’t know what the book is about.” [Rediff]

That is almost exactly what I said to a stranger, earlier today! 😉

And you muggle-borns? Did you skip to the last page, like the rowdy teens in Mumbai did? Continue reading