Blog Posts by Bijoy Venugopal

  • Grim Fairy Tales for Troubled Times

    Apathy was just another word for me until recently. And then three leaders, two of them at the helm of the sled-team drawing our nation through these cold, unfeeling times, broke the silence – and expanded my vocabulary. Apathy is no mere word; it is not just the gloomy, all-consuming emptiness in place of an emotion. It is in fact a god for our politicians – a worshipful, omnipotent deity that must be propitiated and appropriated to win those much-coveted keys to the nation’s governance -- and, I say this contentiously, for its coffers. And just as the rest of us may worship Ganapathy or Venkatachalapathy or Umapathy, our netas worship Apathy.

    And just as some of us believe that God made Man in his image, Apathy, too, manifests in a face. Witness, hereunder, the three faces of Apathy that we have seen in the week that was in these Grim Fairy Tales for Troubled Times.

    Grim Fairy Tale # 1 – Nero’s Fiddling Lesson
    Grim Fairy Tales - Nero's Fiddling Lesson - Bijoy VenugopalGrim Fairy Tales - Nero's Fiddling Lesson - Bijoy Venugopal
    Great Nero was in the midst of his fiddling lessons administered by his

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  • Million Dollar Mary

    With pride, privilege and immense pleasure we announce Yahoo! India’s first-ever Person of the Year 2012. MANGTE CHUNGNEIJANG MARY KOM, Olympic boxer, five-time world champion, model Indian woman, ambassador of the northeast, mother, daughter, wife, friend, teacher, muse… it was not a difficult choice to pick the one Indian whose life story begs to be told. Editor BIJOY VENUGOPAL and photographer HARI ADIVAREKAR travelled to India’s far-flung, forgotten, troubled northeastern state of Manipur to discover the Mary behind the publicity photographs, the video grabs, the adulation and the awards. They came back with one verdict: she’s a champion you'll love.

    WHAT DOES a champion’s handshake feel like?

    This five-time world champion hand-fed her twin sons, did the dishes, and mopped her hands before she shook mine. Her handshake was self-assured and heart-warm, with just a touch of lingering moistness. It spoke reams about Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom.

    In the year that women boxed for the first time at the Olympics, we haven’t stopped gushing about Mary’s hard-won bronze. London 2012 threw her an unsettling gauntlet: the lowest admitted weight category in the Olympics was 51 kg. Mary, who had won one silver and five gold world championship titles in the now defunct pinweight (below 46 kg) and light flyweight (45-48 kg) categories, weighed in at a shade under 51. And this after she had beefed up to add three kilograms to her petite, 5’2” frame. She had boxed in the 51-kg flyweight category once before – at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China – and won bronze.

    In London this August she gamely took on opponents naturally taller and heavier Read More »from Million Dollar Mary
  • Have we closed the book on 26/11?

    For three years we observed the anniversary of 26/11 with tears and rage. This year, strangely, the wails are muted. The remembrances are scant. If anything, the saddest murmurs doing the rounds in Mumbai have come from cricket jingoists mourning India's defeat to England in the Wankhede Test.

    For three years our rage simmered from the fact that we kept in our custody an unwelcome guest who fuelled our vengeful hate by the very news of his presence. As we fed, clothed, medicated and kept Ajmal Kasab alive in his high-security prison cell, we wished him dead with all our hearts. For three years we dangled justice before the world and then, in one swift surprising move, resolved it before further questions could be raised. Those who had expected more prudence from this great democracy were distraught.

    Was it all a travesty, then?

    It mattered not that Kasab was a mere puppet on a string, a souvenir, a prisoner from a war we can never mourn enough. He was ours for the killing, anyway. We

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  • Van Wilks welcomes you to Guitarland!

    Visitors to Van Wilks' home in deep South Austin, Texas, are arrested by the sign "Welcome to Guitarland." In a state teeming with A-list guitarists, that sign packs quite a statement. And Wilks' claim to that heavyweight list is more than justified. None less than another distinguished Texan, ZZTop's acclaimed guitarist Billy Gibbons, tipped his hat to Wilks' electrifying talent. In Texas, where Wilks is reputed as a player of uncommon depth, he has been voted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame. He also took home two Austin Music Awards at SXSW 2009 and was voted Best Electric Guitarist and Best Acoustic Guitarist, a rare double win, in The Austin Chronicle's annual Music Poll.

    Van Wilks has performed with Willie Nelson on the Geezinslaw Brothers' The Eclectic Horseman and with Eric Johnson on the Texas Christmas Collection. "I don't have any choice, playing guitar is a natural extension of my soul," muses Wilks ahead of his first-ever concert in India.

    Van Wilks Band is one of the

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  • Drugs and alcohol never did any good for anyone’s music: Bobby Whitlock

    Bobby Whitlock with CoCo CarmelMusic aficionados who trace Eric Clapton's career before he shone as a solo star argue that there has never been a better Clapton than the maverick of Derek and the Dominos. Those are the very loyalists who will raise a glass of whatever they are swilling at the mention of Bobby Whitlock. Yet, despite his monumental contribution to the making of "Layla", the singular hit that looped the lives of Clapton and that late great Beatle George Harrison around common love interest Pattie Boyd, Whitlock himself did not become much of a household name. On the turntables of the faithful, however, he played on. He continued to anchor Clapton, assisting with writing memorable songs such as "Tell the Truth", "Keep on Growing", " I Looked Away", "Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad" and "Roll It Over".

    Whitlock joined Clapton after parting ways with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends. Their profuse talents coalesced in Derek and the Dominos, a band where Eric was Derek and everyone else answered to nutty

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  • Billy Joel, collectible piano-maniac

    The Essential Billy Joel - CD coverBilly Joel once spat, "Have you listened to the radio lately? Have you heard the canned, frozen and processed product being dished up to the world as American popular music today?"

    Today he might as well clench his fists and ask, "Have you listened to Justin Bieber?"

    When he was Bieber's age, William Martin Joel boxed welterweight and broke his nose in a bout. Though he started taking piano lessons at five, Joel pursued a full-time career in music only after watching The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. The next year, aged 16, he began recording.

    With the Long Island band The Hassles, the boy from the Bronx cut two commercially doomed albums. In 1970 he formed Attila, an organ-and-drums rock outfit with Hassles drummer Jon Small and, through a creatively trying time where he carried on with Small's wife Elizabeth Weber (whom he later married), recorded an album that sank on impact.

    There was only so much battering even a young pugilist from a broken home could take. Joel bailed

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  • Can men produce breast milk?

    Much fuss has been made of a male goat in Lucknow that has started producing milk (watch the video). Now here's a primer for those who can't tell a male goat (for that matter, most four-legged mammals) from its biological mate: Look between the hind legs. This can be tricky, for the udders of female goats — or nannies — have two teats (unlike cows, which have four). In males, called billies, the corresponding appendage to be found there is the scrotum. Never expect milk from there — because that is NOT milk.

    But hello, Sheru in Lucknow actually produced milk. Proof is in the white liquid squirting from his barely visible udders.

    Is this some divine milkman at work? Sorry to burst your milky bubble, but no.

    NBS News video: Male goat in Lucknow produces milk

    The last time I wrote about goats, people ganged up to get mine. So I'll keep this one short and pointed — the horns of the dilemma, I mean.

    First off, Sheru isn't the first or the only billy-goat in the world to be the cynosure of

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  • My Nanny Diaries

    David Beckham, Robert De Niro, Jude Law... there's no dearth of celebrity husbands who have flirted with disaster for the misdemeanors of their kids' nannies. I've not been that unlucky -- or lucky, depends on how you look at it -- but my experiences have been enlightening on the run and entertaining in retrospect. Here's my story:

    Babysitting can be a nightmare, especially when taken literallyThe Greater Painted Snipe is one of the intriguing one-offs of the Animal Kingdom, and literally the closest living thing to a sitting duck. He is a drab, dull homebody whose singular goal is to keep his house in order and his brood well-fed. His sometime wife — the painted one — wears the proverbial pants and is an aggressive and promiscuous go-getter. She fights off other females for the attention of this dreary chump. Once he is suitably smitten, she conducts her business in a lustful frenzy. After she has accepted his seed, she potters around impatiently feigning interest in hubby and home. One stormy night, she lays her eggs and leaves. The next thing

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  • Seven billion and counting our blessings

    Just after midnight the stork flapped into the Philippines bearing Danica May Camacho, officially declared by the United Nations as the 7 billionth earthling. After the delirious jollity accompanying the newborn's arrival wore off, church bells that had started clanging to celebrate the announcement continued to peal. Could one detect a streak of despair in those strains?

    Bluntly put, little Danica had set off the alarm.

    On this overcrowded ark, that day-old Filipina is one more claimant to our meager resources. One more carbon footprint, albeit infant-sized, to hasten the juggernaut of climate change. One more mouth and belly to stake claim to precious — and increasingly scarce — stores of food and water. To chip away at diminishing fossil fuel reserves. To demand the denuding of another square kilometer of forest cover to sustain her burgeoning urban terrarium, the biodiversity of which is rapidly diminishing.

    One more person to press home the alarming reality that one earth

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  • Bet you didn't know this about Gaddafi!

    The former Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, now reported to be dead (see video) gave news editors a lifetime of nightmares with the stubbornly variable spellings of his last name. Variously spelled Qaddafi, Ghadafi, Gadafy and Kadafi, the confusion has not been cleared by the fact that his official website (link broken) spells it "Al Gathafi".

    But don't let such trifles stop you from being a Gaddafi expert. Here are ten cool facts about the late dictator. Flaunt them at will and power your way through a water-cooler conversation.

    Too bad we can't promise you a free return ticket to Tripoli — they aren't exactly in the mood to receive guests there right now.

    Gadhafi captured, possibly killedOfficials in Libya's transitional government say Moammar Gadhafi has been captured and possibly killed in the fall of his hometown but there is no confirmation from the country's most senior leaders. (Oct. 20)

    1. The dictator took his last name from Qadhadhfa, the name

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