The Water Cooler
  • Smiling through the pain

    Cartoonist Pankaj Thapa captures the pithiness of the Northeast psyche with his hilarious cartoons. Even as Sikkim endures its worst nightmare, he finds time to etch a laugh line.


    It is no secret that Sikkim's connectivity with the rest of India depends heavily on one highway, and that thanks to the efforts of the Border Roads Organisation and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. The region's isolation became embarrassingly obvious when it took relief teams up to 72 hours to penetrate disaster-hit areas. Thapa's tongue-in-cheek reference to National Highway 31 and the price of potatoes drives the point hard.

    Bollywood is an enduring theme, even in farflung Sikkim where water woes plague the lives of the locals.

    Pankaj Thapa is a cartoonist who often publishes in the Sikkim Express, a local daily. These cartoons are from the section 'Quick Quips' in Sikkim Express. Pankaj also teaches English  at the undergraduate level  in Gangtok.

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  • Postcard in the time of disaster

    Guru T Ladakhi

    “Amidst the talk of El Nino and  global warming
    a Sikkimese man sticks his tongue out
    in a token grimace of fear.”
                            - the Sikkimese

    After the cable news withdraw their spotlight from Sikkim to chase other ‘breaking news”, we shall once again be relegated to the back-of-beyond on the national conscience, living as it were on the margins of a nation’s memory. Sometimes, it takes a disaster to remind the rest of the country that an India exists that defies the general image -- we look different, speak broken Hindi and our landscapes are crested. For those who have been guest to our part of the world you must fetch a reality that is beyond the picture postcards.

    Nevertheless, lessons will not be learned, we will continue to break rules, build badly designed infrastructure, and live on dole from Delhi. We make token gestures because of recent devastation, but our public memory is short and therefore our vision stunted.

    Imagine, a capital of a state serviced

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  • One (long) night in Gangtok

    Sarikah Atreya

    Gangtok on Monday woke up to a cold and wet morning.

    Scared to death by the 6.9 magnitude quake, most Gangtok residents spent the night outside. In spite of the biting cold and incessant rains. Any open space around the capital became the most sought-after place for shelter. Moms tightly clutching onto their handbags with whatever valuables they could gather before fleeing their homes. Babies wrapped tightly in blankets, elders assisted by family members, young children pacified with chips and cola drinks and men generally shepherding their families throng MG Marg, the heart of the state capital, through the night. Rumours of another major quake hitting the area anytime getting louder than people’s heartbeats.

    Gangtok was slowly closing down for the day after an uneventful Sunday when the massive earthquake hit the town at 6:11 pm – shaking multi-storied RCC buildings like they were made of cardboard, accompanied by the loud chasing noise of crockery falling off the

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  • Earthquake 6.9: Fault lines of Relief and Rescue

    Kishalay Bhattacharjee

    A man sits amid the rubble of a building which was destroyed by Sunday's 6.9 magnitude earthquake at Rangrang village north of the northeastern Indian city of Gangtok September 20, 2011. Air force helicopters flew rescue workers to a remote Himalayan region on Tuesday in search of survivors of a strong earthquake that killed dozens of people in India, Nepal and the Chinese region of Tibet. Most of the casualties were near the epicentre of Sunday's 6.9 magnitude quake that bucked roads and knocked down houses in the sparsely populated India state of Sikkim, popular with trekkers for its Buddhist monasteries and spectacular trekking. REUTERS/Stringer (INDIA - Tags: DISASTER)

    Having been born and brought up in a seismic zone I am familiar with earthquakes.

    Having worked across the Northeast for a little more than a decade in the same area prone not only to conflict but natural disasters, I have done the drill. But I have never had the opportunity to report the aftermath of an earthquake.

    Watching the reportage from a ‘capital distance’ has allowed me a perspective and an insight to the disconnect that geographical distances can affect.

    For someone who has been lamenting the disinterest of media in areas like Sikkim I must admit that the reaction time of the Sikkim coverage and the manner it has sustained is quite significant.

    The Richter scale has certainly shaken the media, bringing home pictures and stories of the disaster on the hour. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to negotiate that highway from Siliguri to Gangtok and then to Mangan. It must have taken hours of patience to overcome the landslips and broken bends

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  • ‘Falsified’ Beauty

    The title's a bit of a misnomer, actually. Beauty queens, by definition, are false in the strictest sense of the word, for the most part. There's not much under that gown, or indeed, under the bikini, that's au naturel, let alone the award-winning answers of noble aspirations of feeding the poor and the hungry.

    So why the big hue and cry about Miss Universe's crown princess of this year? Allegedly, this year's Miss Universe Leila Lopes used falsified documents to gain entry (Gasp! Who woulda thunk?) and win the contest (Double gasp! Sacrilege!) To be precise, she obtained documents that suggested she was a student of a British business school, even though she's never lived outside her home country, Angola, to enable her to participate in the beauty contest.

    Beauty pageants, even those that have garnered a loyal following over decades now find themselves mired in scandals and controversies, thanks to overambitious aspirants who will not let a small thing like their citizenship, risque

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  • Are Personal Affairs ‘Current Affairs’?

    If Omar Abdullah isn't in the news for his tweets on current affairs, he's in the news for his tweets on his, well, current affairs.

    Sorry about that.

    J&K's flamboyant chief minister has had to quell rabid rumours about his personal life via his chosen mode of communication, Twitter, as breathless speculation continues unabated, as is its wont, in the media, given to Page 3-ness, as is its wont, about his remarriage to someone who, well, might not really exist.

    Meteoric rise of stupidity, one would think.

    I guess it's pointless to ask what gives us the right to sit in judgement on the personal lives of public figures. Because, you know, the time-tested argument of 'the moment people choose to be in the public sphere, their personal affairs become issues of national importance' continues to hold sway, sometimes taking precedence over all other issues that continue to plague the nation. Right?

    Speculation and theorising are not new to media houses, honour-bound that they are to

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