Monday, 25 January 2021

This Kerala couple documents stories of travelling in a refurbished car

 The couple, who run the YouTube channel TinPin Stories, started a new travel series two months ago in which they plan to cover 13 states in India by car.

A young couple from Kerala’s Thrissur, Lakshmi Krishna, 23, and Harikrishnan J, 31, are behind TinPin Stories, a travel vlog that has been accumulating followers on social media by the day. The couple’s travel stories are unique in the sense that they are leading what they call a ‘car life’ – they travel in a refurbished car – sleeping, eating, travelling and living in it.

While their YouTube channel has been around for a year now, documenting travel stories from India and outside, they started a new travel series two months ago. Vlogs from this series have created quite a buzz. Till now, the couple has covered four states – Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan. They will cover Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu before returning to Kerala.

Within a few days of the journey, their vlog has been amassing oodles of subscribers with a tremendous increase from 9,000 to 68,000 by the day.

Harikrishnan used to work as an inside sales officer in Bengaluru and Lakshmi had completed her internship as a graphic designer. The couple decided to quit their jobs to chase after their dream to travel and explore the wonders of the country.

“When we first started talking after our marriage was fixed last year, we realised that both of us share a passion for telling stories and we both love travelling. Once we got married, we started travelling more and decided to share the interesting moments in our journey through our YouTube channel,” says Lakshmi.

“We even thought of travelling to Thailand on a motorbike. However, we had to call off our plan due to the pandemic. When the country was returning to normalcy after the lockdown, we began planning new trips as we were tired of the humdrum routine at home,” Harikrishnan adds.

The idea of travelling by car began with the concept of making the trip budget-friendly, and on October 28, 2019, they set out to chase their dreams in a car. Now Lakshmi and Harikrishnan are Kerala’s first ‘Car Life’ couple.

The refurbishments to the car, done by the couple themselves in a low-cost manner, can easily be adjusted or removed when not in use. The changes are only for privacy purposes and no illegal modifications have been done.

“We have set up a bed in the car by folding the back seat. A small extension of a plywood piece attached to a steel rod is inserted into the back seat’s headrest slot, the height of which can be adjusted. We have also set up an exhaust fan using a laptop cooling pad on a polycarbonate sheet. The USB cable attached to it can be plugged into a power bank that works for 8-10 hours on a single charge,” explains Harikrishnan.

For privacy, a cut-out flex piece pasted with black vinyl paper is used to cover the windows of the back seat and the trunk. A curtain has also been set up to separate the front and back seating areas.

They carry a single-burner stove and use a 5 kg cooking cylinder that can be refilled, to cook at stopovers. To avoid using plastic water bottles, they carry three water cans of 10 litres each. Two are used for drinking purpose, usually refilled from RO filter stations, and the other for cleaning. The minimalistic setup has been done at the cost of only Rs 4,000.

“We prefer to explore rural areas and showcase the countryside, which are rarely known to people. Each place has its own beauty, dignity and culture. Our favourites are Kutch district in Gujarat, Gokarna in Karnataka as well as Badami, a historical place with lots of stories that is famous for its incredible rock-cut structural temples,” says Lakshmi.

Savouring authentic cuisine is an enticing part of their travel experience. They list Kutchi dabeli from the Rann of Kutch, the popular Maharashtrian dish Misal pav, and Aurangabad’s famous Naan khaliya as some of their favorites.

Talking about the practical difficulties of travelling by car, they said at times finding a safe place to park the car at night took a little longer than expected, which led to delay in sleeping.

“We try not to make it obvious. I make the bed and Lakshmi sleeps for a few kilometres before we can find a petrol bunk or a safe place to park the car so that people notice us less,” says Harikrishnan.

The couple also had some issues while editing and uploading videos in a timebound manner. Though their daily routine is a mess, they say they enjoy it. After seeking permission to use washrooms, they freshen themselves up mostly at petrol bunks.

The challenges that the pandemic threw their way were significantly less when the country was gradually returning to a semblance of normality in most places. However, after entering Rajasthan, they unexpectedly had to take a room as most of the districts in the state were under a curfew from 8 pm to 6 am.

The couple had begun their expedition with their modest savings and now their source of income are their YouTube channel and TinPin Stores, an Instagram store for ladies clothing and accessories run by Lakshmi.

“We would recommend such trips to any couple. The experience we get from the journeys is beyond words, it has made us better human beings. We get a chance to interact with so many people and learn from them. Travel make us humbler and we feel blessed to have been given these wonderful experiences. Our country is very vibrant and each place has incredible stories to share,” the couple conclude.

(Source: TNM)

Sunday, 24 January 2021

The Case of Gujarat: An extract from Khushwant Singh's "The End of India"

 There are days when speeches made by our netas and so-called sants distress me so much that a voice within me screams, “Let all of them go to jahannum (hell). I’ll get on with my life as best as I can.” When I get over the depression, a wave of anger surges within me and I say to myself: “This is my homeland, I will not let these medieval-minded fanatics get away with wasting precious years squabbling over where exactly a temple should have its foundation-stone laid. I will shout my protest from the roof-tops.”

Then comes the ghastly carnage in Gujarat.

Much has been written and said about the riots of 2002. But not enough. I would like to quote from a document from another time. Summing up his report for the Maharashtra government after the riots in Bhiwandi and Jalgaon in 1970, Judge Madon wrote: It was a lonely, arduous and weary journey through a land of hatred and violence, of prejudice and perjury. The encounters on the way were with men without compassion, lusting for the blood of their fellow men, with politicians who trafficked in communal hatred and religious fanaticism, with local leaders who sought power by sowing disunity and bitterness, with police officers and policemen who were unworthy of their uniform, with investigating officers without honour and without scruples, with men committed to falsehood and wedded to fraud and with dealers in mayhem and murder.


He could have been writing about Narendra Modi’s Gujarat. But at least the Maharashtra government under SB Chavan accepted Judge Madon’s damning report with all its recommendations. Modi’s government dismissed the report of the National Human Rights Commission as incorrect and biased. The Central government’s attitude was no different. Cabinet ministers like Arun Jaitley shamelessly supported Modi’s stand. To them it was mere propaganda by the ‘pseudo-secularists’.

What can one expect from an administration that has openly sided with murderers? It is clear that the attack on the train at Godhra was pre-planned. Far from putting the perpetrators down with an iron hand, the government colluded with the mischief-makers as its police and its chief minister were imbued with the spirit of badla—revenge. It is also clear that the revenge was so vicious and effective because it was also pre-planned. There have been credible reports that within hours of the Godhra massacre, armed mobs were out in different parts of Gujarat with detailed lists of Muslim homes and establishments. Several hundred Muslims were hacked to death or burnt alive, women raped, homes and shops looted and burnt down.

I have seen it before with my own eyes in 1947 and 1984. The police stood by like tamashbeens (spectators) watching the carnage. They had been tipped off not to interfere but let looters and killers teach hapless men, women and children a lesson they would never forget.

In Gujarat they went several steps further. Not only did the police remain inert, when the army arrived on the scene, it was not deployed. Flag marches are spectacles which don’t frighten evil-doers. What does frighten them are orders to shoot at sight which were issued too late, only after many lives had been lost. Officers who tried to do their duty and foil the plans of the mobs were transferred out. Even in the camps set up for the riot victims there was harassment.

There can be no doubt there was serious dereliction of duty on the part of the chief minister, his cabinet colleagues and the IG of police. Even a year after the rioting, many Muslim victims remain homeless. Those who have returned to their homes have been forced to withdraw all complaints filed with the police. They are at the mercy of their Hindu neighbours who have warned them never to forget their subordinate status. I won’t be surprised if Muslims in Gujarat one day have to start paying religious taxes like the jazia which medieval Islamic rulers imposed on their non-Muslim subjects.


It is ironic that the highest incidence of violence against Muslims and Christians has taken place in Gujarat, the home state of Bapu Gandhi. It has been going on for years. Before the 2002 riots, Christian missionaries were being attacked in the tribal districts of the state. There were reports of violence and intimidation coming in almost every day. We will see more of that.

Since the late 1990s, newspaper reports have put the blame for this communalization squarely on neo-fascist members of the Sangh Parivar: the RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena, with the collusion of the BJP government. Reports of the Minorities Commission substantiate what has appeared in the national press. For those interested, photographic evidence of destroyed churches, dargahs, Muslim homes and shops is available. 

Among the most ludicrous is the state-sponsored attempt to wipe out remnants of Muslim presence. I first saw this in 1998. Gujarat’s capital, Ahmedabad, was built by a Muslim ruler in the middle ages. I noticed that milestones on the main highway leading to the city had dropped Ahmed from its name and made it into Amdavad.

How did Gujarat become the laboratory of Hindutva? It did not happen overnight. The Sangh and its sympathizers began poisoning Gujarat not long after Independence. Even the Congress took advantage of the slowly vitiating atmosphere to divide Gujarati society for electoral gains, unwittingly helping the RSS. The 1969 Ahmedabad riots were the first triumph of the RSS in Gujarat. Its fortunes began rising after that. I went to Ahmedabad in 1970, five months after the riots. I quote from the article I wrote after my return:

I had constituted myself into a one- man commission of enquiry to find out all I could in three days and pass on my verdict to my readers. My object was not to discover what had happened . . . but why it happened. And, even more, what the people of Ahmedabad thought about it today and what they would do tomorrow if some incident again strained relations between the city’s 90% Hindus and 10% Muslims.

I start my investigation by visiting the temple of Jagannath . . . I detect no signs of damage. To make sure I ask (a) priest. He tells me to look outside. I go outside and look. Above the entrance gate is a glass pane to cover an effigy of a mahant. The pane is splintered in three places. I approach a band of ash-smeared sadhus lolling under the shade of a banyan tree and ask them if anything else had been damaged . . . They express themselves in unholy language.

I walk around the bazaar and come to the dargah where it is said to have begun—with the herd of temple cows stampeding into pilgrims going to some Urs. The dargah gate is barred. A posse of constabulary guard the entrance. I ask the caretaker seated outside if this is the right place. He looks at me suspiciously. For an answer he spits a blob of phlegm on the pavement. The sub-inspector of police gives me a dirty look. I do not like policemen. I move on.

I go to the Sindhi Bazaar. It is a cluster of cubicles made of plywood and corrugated tin. Row upon row of mini-shops cluttered with bales of cloth and hung with multicoloured saris. The place looks as inflammable as an Indian Oil petrol carrier. I was told that the bazaar had gone up in smoke. I can well believe it. But I see no sign of damage. Sindhis are an enterprising race; they must have re-built it and resumed business. I accept one of the many invitations hurled at me to buy something . . . I pay for a dhoti to buy information. I get an earful of hate.

I hire a scooter. From the Arabic numerals 786 painted on the metre I know the faith of the driver. A scooter is not the best mode of transport for a friendly dialogue. I yell my comment on the ‘bad days’. The driver turns back, “You take me for a sucker? I know on which side you are!” He doesn’t say so with his tongue but with his doleful eyes.

I try paanwalas, chanawalas, fruit vendors. The result is the same. If they talk, they are Hindus. If they do not, they are Muslims. Both speech and silence are pregnant with hate...

I remind myself of my mission. It is not to probe into the dead past but to gauge the prevailing mood and so forecast the future. But the yesterdays of September are always with me. I drive out of Ahmedabad along the Sabarmati. I pass a mound of debris. A half-broken minaret reveals its identity. I pass graves with their gravestones smashed. And my temper mounts and tears come to my eyes.

What species of monstrous swine were those who spared neither places of worship nor the peace of the dead?

At the end of my visit I told the then Mayor of Ahmedabad about what I had seen and heard. “It is all over,” he assured me. “It will not happen again.” I hoped he was right. But I was not so sure.

Of course it did happen again, more than once, and most tragically in February 2002. Those deep divisions I saw over thirty years ago were not allowed to heal. The Sanghwalas were never interested in bringing communities together. In Gujarat, a border state, they have terrorized and alienated the state’s 10% Muslim population. History will judge them for the damage they have caused, but that will happen in the future. Meanwhile, with a triumphant Modi as their mentor, they will repeat the Gujarat experiment all over India, unless we stop them.

An extract from The End of India by Khushwant Singh (Pengiun, 2003). 163 pages, Rs 200. Reproduced with the permission of Penguin Books.

(Source: The Caravan Magazine)

Saturday, 23 January 2021

From Bengaluru to the airport for Rs 10: Why new train service is a game changer

 Five trains are now plying between the city and the airport, offering a new path for thousands of passengers and workers.

On Monday evening, Rahul Bhakta, a 27-year-old resident of Bengaluru, frantically checked cab fares to Bengaluru International Airport, located 35 km from the city centre. The aircraft maintenance engineer had a flight to Chennai at 8.30 pm but scrolling through his phone, his face fell as he saw that the cab fare was almost half the cost of his flight ticket. 

“It looked like it was going to rain and that would mean a price surge in getting a cab,” Rahul said. He considered taking the bus to the airport but it still set him back by Rs 270. “There was also the evening rush-hour traffic,” says Rahul.

Until Monday, a bus or a cab were Rahul’s only options of public transport to the airport from his home in Kalyan Nagar. But a newly-launched service is now changing that and adding a third option to the mix  — a suburban train from the city to the airport at just Rs 10. 

“The timings matched my flight. The station was 15 minutes from my home so I went there and asked at the counter. They said that the train to the airport has started,” said Rahul, holding up his ticket. 

Five trains will operate from Bengaluru to the airport for the next few months — two trains will leave the KSR Railway Station at 4:45 am and 9 pm and three other trains will operate from Yelahanka (7 am), Yeshwantpur (8:30 am) and Cantonment (5:55 pm) stations. 

Five more trains will operate in the other direction from the airport to the city, with the earliest train at 6:23 am and the last train at 10:38 pm.

The five trains plying between the city and the airport could make a world of difference for the 25,000 people who work at the airport as well as flight travellers and those who accompany the passengers to the airport. 

According to officials at the Bengaluru International Airport, the daily traffic at the airport is around 30,000. The halt station was built by Bengaluru International Airport Limited (BIAL), the company which manages the airport.

“Till yesterday, there was no option to go to the airport without spending at least Rs 250. The train service is also a cheaper and safer way to commute to the airport since you are not exposed to the pollution of road traffic. These trains can take around 700 people considering the [physical] distancing rules. So the service can now be used by around 3500 people every day. The railways should aim to increase this number,” Rajkumar Dugar, convenor of  Citizens for Citizens (C4C), and one of the activists who advocated for the airport halt station, said. 

Rahul boarded the train at 6 pm and was the sole passenger to disembark at the airport about an hour and seventeen minutes later. Though the train provides an affordable and traffic-free path to Bengaluru’s airport, and has been a long-standing demand from activists, there is still little awareness among prospective passengers. 

And while Rahul was familiar with the service, he still nervously glanced at his phone every few minutes to follow the train’s path. Channasandra station: 6:24 pm. Bettahalasur station: 6:55 pm. 

“It is a new route and there was confusion among travellers. I kept checking the progress of the train on my phone because after all, I had boarded after seeing a Facebook post. I was still unsure that the train would take me to the airport,” said Rahul. 

To his relief, the train reached the newly-built airport station at 7:12 pm after leaving Cantonment Railway Station at 5:55 pm. The halt station is located near the boundary of the airport and a free shuttle bus awaited Rahul. 

Rahul reached the airport at 7.30 pm, an hour before his flight. “I spent Rs 60 for the auto and the train ride and I didn’t get late for the flight. Even though the train was delayed by 20 minutes, the ride was definitely more comfortable than being stuck in Bengaluru traffic,” a beaming Rahul said. 

Delays mar first day of service

However, all was not well during the launch of the service on Monday. The first train left KSR Station at 4.45 am amid fanfare and with high-profile passengers on-board. But commuters complained that the train from Yeshwantpur to the airport at 8:30 am was delayed by an hour. The train travelling from the airport to Cantonment Station was similarly delayed and only arrived at 9:30 pm, an hour late. 

Mohan, who manages an electrical shop in Chikkaballapura, is a regular commuter on the route from Yeshwantpur which extends beyond the airport. He said that there were no delays in the route in the weeks before the airport service was launched. “Today was the first time in a while there was a long delay, both while going towards the airport and later while coming back to the city,” Mohan says. 

A railway official played down concerns over the delays stating that it will review the trains in the line and decongest it. “We will be addressing the issues that came up on the first day,” a railway official says. 

The 24-km of rail line between Yehalanka and Devanahalli is a single track, which means that trains can only go once every 30 minutes in either direction. The airport halt station lies in between these two stations. “Ideally, the railways should take up doubling work on this line,” Mohan says.

Rajkumar Dugar however explains that since a double line may take years to build, upgrading the railway station in Doddajala to a crossing station at the cost of Rs 10 crore will ease the congestion. The Doddajala station, which is over 100 years old, is the penultimate station before the airport halt station while travelling from the city. 

Despite the challenges, commuters like Rahul say that the airport train is the only sensible mode of transportation to the airport. 

“When a cab ride can cost as much as a plane ticket, having a cheap train service to the airport is essential. I will be encouraging people to use this service. It can be improved but if you plan in advance, this is a great alternative to go to the airport,” Rahul said, adding, “The railways should ensure that there are minimal delays.”

(Source: TNM)

Judi Dench: 'In my mind's eye I'm six foot and willowy and about 39'

 At 86 and in lockdown, the actor finds herself in the rare position of not working. Instead, she talks about theatrical ghosts, her friendship with Harvey Weinstein and definitely not being a national treasure

It’s all go for Judi Dench, stuck at her house in deepest Surrey. What a freewheeling week; she is beside herself with excitement. Yesterday, she explains, she received her Covid vaccine. This required a trip to the village and was the first time she had left home since she can’t remember when. Then today it’s a phone interview, the thing she is doing right now. Her cup runneth over. Her world has turned Technicolor. “I’m not even joking,” she says with a sigh. “It’s nice to actually have something to do.”

Lockdown, I fear, is not the life Dench was born to. She used to practically eat and drink on the stage, but the theatres have closed, who knows for how long. She used to bounce from one film set to the next, but now production is mothballed and the industry has gone to ground. All of which means that she is confined to the house, an 86-year-old actor shoved into what she hopes is a partial and temporary retirement. She gets up each morning determined to keep herself busy. She crawls back to bed with most of the tasks left undone. After a while, she admits, the time starts to drag.

Dench recently learned a new word: synesthesia. “And I thought; ‘Well, that’s me.’ Because I always saw the days of the week in colour. I never gave it a second thought, it’s just how my mind works. And all of a sudden it’s not there any more. The days of the week have no colour at all. There’s no structure, no planning.” She is marooned with her memories and mementoes and various unquiet ghosts.

As luck would have it, her most recent film similarly throws her in among ghosts – although here, again, the experience soon starts to grate. Blithe Spirit is a galumphing reanimation of Noël Coward’s 1940s farce, played with gusto but fatally heavy-footed. Dench co-stars as Madame Arcati, a preposterous old medium who was previously embodied by the likes of Margaret Rutherford and Angela Lansbury. Down the years we have grown accustomed to seeing Dench making herself blissfully at home in any film, big or small, but her role as Arcati feels like so much heavy lifting. She huffs and she puffs. She falls into the orchestra pit. If the film is a notch or two up on 2019’s calamitous Cats (in which she played Old Deuteronomy), it is still a far cry from the heyday of Philomena, or Notes on a Scandal. Blithe Spirit is running on vapour, shouting to be heard. In the end it is a bit of a ghostly presence itself.

Dench says that in real life she probably has seen a ghost. She is reluctant to discuss it. People will think she’s gone daft. “But I remember being at [the actor] Michael Dennison’s memorial, which was at the Haymarket theatre, early in the morning. And I was walking down the stairs to the stalls and saw somebody in a black tailcoat run down in front of me. And then at the bottom there was nobody there at all.” She pauses. “But a lot of people say they’ve seen ghosts at the Haymarket, or at theatres all over. Ralph Richardson was certain that he did. And it makes perfect sense to me. There’s always a lot of spirits in the theatre, I think.”

Dench spent decades haunting the theatre herself – first in her home town of York, then at the Old Vic, then all over. These days, she tires more easily: an extended run can feel like a marathon. Also, her eyesight is almost completely shot (macular degeneration; she doesn’t want to harp on about it). But before that, good heavens, there was no stopping her. Directors knew her as “the Mighty Atom”, a 5ft 1in ball of fire, versatile and enduring. She says that when she wasn’t on stage, she would hang about in the wings, simply watching the show, drinking in the experience. She loved the interaction with an audience, the endless possibilities; the sense that a play could change and grow over time and that no performance was the same as the last.

It’s ironic, she says. She never especially wanted to be a film actor anyway. “Recently an American journalist said to me, ‘Oh, and I believe you did a little theatre as well’, and it was like an arrow going through my heart. I thought: ‘Oh dear, there goes the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, the 90s.’ Thousands of performances, gone in a flash.”

Besides, she adds, it’s not as if Hollywood was knocking the door down. When she was first starting out, a well-known film director turned her down for a role. He said that she was altogether too short and too plain. She should stick to the stage and leave cinema to the thoroughbreds.

I have heard this story before, but I don’t believe she has ever named the culprit. “No,” she says sharply, like a schoolmistress scolding an unruly pupil. “I never have and I never will. I’m not going to break my word today. The film in question, though, went on to be enormously successful. And I’m not going to tell you the name of the film, because then you’d know who it was right away.”

In which case we’ll move on from one louse to another. Dench’s film career is her own handiwork. She is a peerless performer; a commanding screen presence, as comfortable in a Bond film as she is in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. But her Hollywood breakthrough was engineered at least in part by Harvey Weinstein, who is serving a 23-year prison sentence for third-degree rape and first-degree sexual assault. It was Weinstein who spearheaded the awards campaign for 1998’s Shakespeare in Love. In her role as Elizabeth I, Dench was on screen for all of eight minutes. She went on to win the best supporting actress Oscar.

Besides, she adds, it’s not as if Hollywood was knocking the door down. When she was first starting out, a well-known film director turned her down for a role. He said that she was altogether too short and too plain. She should stick to the stage and leave cinema to the thoroughbreds.

I have heard this story before, but I don’t believe she has ever named the culprit. “No,” she says sharply, like a schoolmistress scolding an unruly pupil. “I never have and I never will. I’m not going to break my word today. The film in question, though, went on to be enormously successful. And I’m not going to tell you the name of the film, because then you’d know who it was right away.”

In which case we’ll move on from one louse to another. Dench’s film career is her own handiwork. She is a peerless performer; a commanding screen presence, as comfortable in a Bond film as she is in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. But her Hollywood breakthrough was engineered at least in part by Harvey Weinstein, who is serving a 23-year prison sentence for third-degree rape and first-degree sexual assault. It was Weinstein who spearheaded the awards campaign for 1998’s Shakespeare in Love. In her role as Elizabeth I, Dench was on screen for all of eight minutes. She went on to win the best supporting actress Oscar.

The problem, I suspect, is that Dench is a workaholic. She once claimed that she says yes to everything, never turns a gig down. I assumed this was a joke but she insists it is, by and large, true. Her agent reads the scripts first, weeds out the bad ones and provides a quick precis of what the good ones are about. After that, more often than not, it is simply a case of rearranging her diary.

What would it take to make her say no to a film? What is the one movie role she would totally balk at playing? “Probably an 86-year-old woman who’s not able to see.” She laughs shortly. “I’m not going to play that part, thanks.”

Ideally, she’d prefer some darker material. One of her favourite film roles was that of Barbara Covett, the vicious, miserable schoolteacher in 2006’s Notes on a Scandal. It would be nice to have the chance to make another picture like that one. “But I get put in a bracket. ‘Oh, would you like to play this person who’s sitting in a care home and she’s in love with a bird? And then she gets upset because, I don’t know, something happens to the bird.’”

Here, perhaps, is the downside of Dench’s film success; the consequence of being a part of the nation’s collective cultural fabric. We prefer our brightest stars to remain in one place. It is reassuring and soothing; it is how we plot our course through the world. When they start zigzagging about, it confuses the public; makes us lose our bearings.

Dench claims that she especially detests being described as a national treasure and who can blame her? It’s reductive and condescending. It puts lead boots on her feet. Others, though, have suggested that perhaps she doth protest too much. The late Geoffrey Palmer, her co-star in the BBC sitcom As Time Goes By, swore blind that she only pretends to dislike the term. “[That] would be an absolute bloody lie,” he said. “She loves it.”

I put this to Dench and she splutters with righteous indignation. That’s Geoffrey, she says, teasing her from beyond the grave, making her justify herself all over again. Because it is true that she hates it. Always has, always will.

“For one thing,” she says, “it’s a terrible label. So dusty, so dreary. For another, it relegates me to being an 86-year-old woman. Whereas in my mind’s eye I’m 6ft and willowy and about 39.”

She takes a breath and mulls it over. She says: “Do you know what it’s like? It’s like they’ve picked me up and put me inside a little glass-fronted cabinet. Then they’ve locked the door so I can’t get out.”

The line is breaking up. We have gone underwater again.

Smash the glass, I tell her, raising my voice to be heard. Smash the glass and run amok.

“Exactly,” she says. “And fuck being 86 years old.”

• Blithe Spirit is on Sky Cinema now

(Source: The Guardian)

Friday, 22 January 2021

After global criticism, WhatsApp delays new privacy policy by three months

 Amid global backlash over its upcoming privacy policy, WhatsApp has now moved back the date of implementation of the policy. WhatsApp users will now be asked to accept the chat app’s new terms sometime in May to continue using its services.

“We’re now moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms,” WhatsApp wrote in a blog. The Facebook-owned app also confirmed that no accounts will be suspended on February 8, which was previously meant to be the case for those who do not accept the new terms of services.

WhatsApp says that there is a lot of misinformation being spread about the app’s policies. It will now aim to clear up those and reiterate how the app handles privacy and security for its users. It will then “go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace” before introducing new business options on May 15.

The three month delay in the rollout of the policy addresses massive criticism of the app’s upcoming policy update. WhatsApp users cried foul as the app readied its plan to share its user data with Facebook, its parent firm.

Now WhatsApp claims that the update does not bring in any such data sharing with Facebook. This platform exclusivity applies to personal conversations as well as profile information of WhatsApp users. The data, however, will be used to address business chats in the event a user converses with a company's customer service through WhatsApp Business.

As part of the criticism, millions of WhatsApp users migrated from it to rival chat apps including Telegram and Signal, skyrocketing their downloads on Android and iOS. With the push back for the update, WhatsApp now aims to salvage what is left of the service.

(Source: India Times)