Indian rhinos have skewed sex ratio

Photos by Rajibaksha Rakshit

THE ONE-HORNED rhino has defecated its way to a worrisome revelation – its sex ratio is more skewed than that of humans in India.

The first ever rhino census through genetic analysis of dung samples collected from Gorumara National Park in West Bengal in April 2011 put the number of the armour-plated herbivore at 43. More importantly, it confirmed what error-prone conventional animal census methods said earlier this year – rhinos have a male-female sex ratio of 4:1.

The census was carried out by Assam-based NGO Aaranyak, which developed the technique of DNA fingerprinting by analysing dung over a year. The NGO has also provided technical support to genetic population estimation of Javan and Sumatran rhinos, the other two species of Asian rhinos.

“Dung provides the source of DNA sample of every individual and find out its sex. Besides being error-free,this method negates catching of animals which is easier said than done,” UdayanBorthakur, Aaranyak’s dung analysis expert said. “The only thing we cannot estimate is the animal’s age.”

The conventional method – headcount by field workers – applied by the West Bengal forest department at Gorumara almost matched with the genetic method. It revealed the park had one female for 3.5 males.

“The conventional method is suspect because it is not easy to ascertain the sex of rhinos in the field, particularly the sub-adults whose genitals are difficult to notice,” Borthakur said.

According to Assam chief wildlife warden Suresh Chand, the skewed sex ratio is a matter of concern since it could impact the animal’s reproduction. “The dung route to DNA fingerprinting will be taken for rhino habitats in Assam too,” he said.

Assam has 55% of the world’s one-horned rhinos, the bulk of them in Kaziranga National Park followed by Orang National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary. These three habitats together have 2,483 rhinos.

“We hope the rhino population in these preserves do not turn out to be as skewed as in Gorumara,”Aaranyak secretary Bibhab K Talukdar said.

Crap concept 2: Mathematical

  • Trash is jabor in Assamese
  • In Bengali it’s jabra
  • Arabs found it doubly apt
  • And called their stuff Algebra
  • Tri is three, gund buttock
  • And friendship is maitri
  • So gay triangular love
  • Did sire Trigonometry
  • Butt naturally comes anus
  • And all that it releases
  • Brains who shat in the fields
  • Found in crap the plusses
  • The pyramids they left behind
  • And cylinders and pellets
  • Shaped shitty Geometry
  • Thrust down our gullets
  • A chap with semi-loose motion
  • Studied his spherical goo
  • “All I ate has come to nought”
  • The Zero he thus gave you
  • Zero’s the greatest invention
  • Despite Stats and Calculus
  • If it butts in, into your sum
  • You’re left holding your phallus
  • What zero tells us is so plain:
  • “Math is crap, you bum
  • It screws up your budget –
  • The income-outgo sum”
  • What you add up in life
  • They multiply with zero
  • So just crap your ass off
  • Not be a calculating hero

The cow strikes back

Netted from

COWS GIVE us gobar. Bulls shit.

We weren’t aware of this gendered faecal fact when we wrote those essays in school. Heck, we didn’t even know a cow wasn’t a ‘he’ that gave us milk. Until we were old enough to find out writing on ‘The cow’ for 10 marks was basically bullshitting.

If you consider half the children on this planet went to school since 1912, the cow is the most written about earthling. This assertion is based on those who opted for ‘Our school’ but ended up writing on the cow that ate grass on the field behind/beside their school and possessed a range of assets from the grass swallower to the gobar ejector.

Before we could master B for bull – oops, ball – and C for cow (cat?), we knew the creature in old McDonald’s farm that moo-mooed everywhere and the one that jumped over the moon because the cat was in the fiddle. We could make no head or tail of those nursery rhymes, but the teachers ensured they were moosic to our ears.

As we grew older, books told us pigs, horses, dogs, cats and donkeys – rats and cockroaches too – were more equal than cows. George Orwell didn’t live long enough in his Bihar birthplace to make the Animal Farm cows ruminate on fictitious chara, but those bechara bovines were traumatised by Napoleon’s milk-pinching pigs. Walter Wangerin’s Dun Cow was more fortunate as a riddle-happy messenger god sent to help a rooster king battle the forces of evil.

Cows presumably began calling the shots after Dana Lyons and Jeff Sinclair gave us Cows with Guns, which a website said was a sure-shot Bullitzer winner. Another site listed the top 10 limericks on cows, the only printable among them being:

  • There lived a young cow in MA
  • He always had his own say
  • On the grass he would chew
  • Saying merrily moo-moo
  • He often even ate hay

Only a gai – the ‘he’ is a giveaway – could have written this limerick. He presumably hadn’t heard about Mangala’s academic appetite. If you didn’t know, Mangala is the cow that ate some 150 class 10 exam answer sheets in the western Assam town of Goalpara in March 2012.

Mangala probably chewed on Assamese answer papers to cownter decades of sexist exaggeration about her tribe. And on history to find out, in this land of holy cows, if the celestial Nandi and Kamdhenu were her ancestors. But experts couldn’t fathom why she also made a meal of science, if not to learn the art of making synthetic milk or to discover how security is beefed up in a rebel region.

For those bullish on education, Mangala’s was the final cowntdown for a system that has apparently discarded its archaic bovine craft to board the RTE flight. Her progeny will eventually find out if it is powered by gobar gas.

Let’s fasten the cow belt and wait until the cows come home.

(This appeared as a ‘middle’ on the edit page of Hindustan Times on 26 April 2012; RTE is Right To Education)

Footpathetic: Autobiography of a footpath

IF YOU feel for the downtrodden, you might feel for me.

I am not sure if you know me, though you see me often. But I know you from an angle even you don’t know yourself – feet up.

Rest assured. I look the other way when you walk across in a sari, skirt, sarong or lungi.

A bit of voyeurism, though, could have given me a break from the drudgery of being trod upon. But my masters are cruel; they make me to break me. I guess that’s the disadvantage of being laid, and re-laid.

I, footpath, knew I was born to be trampled. I did not mind because those who sired me had assured me that I would on any given day record more footfalls than the most desirable event on earth. They also told me I would set an example as a cover-up operation.

When I realized I was concealing Guwahati’s gooey filth, it was too late to refuse. And it drained my happiness forever.

My sorrow grew when I saw on Nat Geo – I do get to watch TV on this showroom display window beside – how footpaths are taken care of elsewhere. They even give my foreign counterparts fancy names – causeway, boardwalk, bridleway, walkway…

What’s in a name, you might ask. And a footpath by any other name would smell just as rotten, you might tell yourself. I am not sure if Shakespeare would have agreed.

Pardon my litterary outburst. This is the outcome of imagining things, such as those who plan, fund and execute me would feel for me. But they seldom use me to find out how I am, and those who do are too harried to really care.

I knew my time would come. All I had to do was sabotage the flow of the filth in my belly. My well-wishers helped by feeding me with everything from polythene to the biodegradables while my municipal masters let me be, perhaps inspired by the Bengali chartbuster Aamake aamaar mato thaakte dao (Let me live the way I am). Great guys, they anticipated I would suffocate from all the clogging within. So they left me uncovered in patches to help me breathe easy.

I saved my best – worst, if you may – for a rainy day, transforming into a man-eater as soon as I went undercover… oops… underwater. I thought getting even with those who squash me with missiles (footwear are weapons these days, aren’t they?) would be fun. Trust me, swallowing people wasn’t what I wanted to do.

Today, I miss the kiss of your shoes and sandals and the prick of your stilettos. I know you avoid me because I have tarnished my image. But I tell you I am not all that bad; you can ask any of the vendors who have made my unblemished portions their trade centers.

Sometimes I feel like yelling cavity… oops again… caveat emptor. But I am a dumb footpath that uses its many mouths to gulp waste or those destined to be wasted. And to think I was led to believe a roofed gutter could be guttural!

I presume in a place with a rebellious history, being holed up is more in fashion than picking holes. That’s why I am what I am – a fissured footpath that blames no one for being forced to deviate from its fundamental duty.

This, then, is my (w)hole story. But before signing off, I would like to tell you there are a few positives to my state of being. For instance, open drains no longer mock me for being elitist – the class divide has been removed. And like them, I have begun to offer my viscous bed to anyone who’s too intoxicated to go home.

Waste side story

Laden Bin

PEOPLE CALL me Dumpster, but my name is Laden Bin. And I am not a terrorist.

I am as harmless as the maggots I sustain in my system. Yet I am accused of waging a microbial jihad, of attacking passersby with stench guns and of sabotaging the surroundings in a city that got its name from fermented, smelly areca nut.

My cousin Trash Course nestled in the tutorial yonder had warned me that I would never get my due for accommodating throwaways. I thought he – I don’t care if you assert a waste container is female – was talking rubbish until I found out I was being taken for granted.

When I was being conceived in a metal factory, I overheard my makers say I was destined for literary greatness. My excitement knew no bounds when they made me stand near a bus stop soon after my birth; I thought I would be riding to a school or a library. But my dreams were shattered when I had my first polythene-packed morsel thrown in from a swanky car. The polythene burst on impact splashing some vegetable and animal remains in my abdomen. I realized then that I had heard my creators wrong; they had meant ‘litter’ary, literally.

Morning shows the day, I was told. But I didn’t want the morning of my public life to start with a repulsive breakfast, and the thought of having been grounded for good to gulp garbage was even more revolting. The more I thought the hungrier I became, and as the day turned into night I began wondering why nobody offered me lunch and dinner.

A missile woke me up the next morning; it was another plastic carry-bag containing some gooey substance, lobbed from another car. But why didn’t it satiate my hunger? I looked down to see the contents of the plastic bag splashed on my exterior. Then I looked around to see my ‘food’ scattered all around. I didn’t understand the logic behind wasting waste.

“This is human strategy,” some scavengers had told me once, grumbling that members of my untouchable community had taken over their job. “They make you starve so that you are compelled to eat garbage. And once you start taking crap, there’s no getting out of it,” said a vulture. “Make your presence felt,” said a crow, adding: “Stinkers can be thinkers too. Plan your revenge.”

I can’t refuse the bipeds’ refuse, I told myself. But I can give it back in some other form. So I began burping to burn the olfactory senses. I thought the smelly salvo would make the garbage throwers aim correctly. They continued to be off the mark, derisively so. Those who had better aim lobbed grenades killing a couple of my brothers. Call that an occupational hazard in an extremism-prone city.

I gave up. How could I teach these people a lesson when they just don’t bother? As I reconciled to being a dumb dump, I understood why they placed me and others of my ilk strategically at bus stops and outside shopping malls. If you have a bus to catch, you can’t really catch the smell, can you? And if you do, you can always step into one of those malls and buy perfumes and handkerchiefs to neutralize my putrid presence.

But all was not lost. My municipal masters found out I was bursting with power. They began emptying me regularly to feed an allegedly imaginary power plant near a wetland. The stuff I ruminated is yet to translate into wattage, but it is learnt to have empowered that wetland with wastage.

This reminds me of a 1996 song titled ‘Garbage’ by Australian alternative rock band TISM. The song goes: “I know that we should separate our garbage/The environment will give us thanks…” I hope the urban environment will thank me one day, whether you learn to separate your garbage or not. After all, I am the most happening in one of India’s most happening cities.

(Autobiography of a typical garbage container in Guwahati)

A cricket match should be over in 11 balls

ImageCRICKET IS a batsman’s game? My footwork!

It is a bowler’s game because a batsman’s score depends on how good or bad a bowler bowls.

As a mediocre leg spinner whose googly was the right ’un – I still have no clue how I bowled the occasional leg-spinning delivery between googlies refusing to stick to line and length – I have a soft corner for the cherry-hurling labourers on the cricket field.

I love it when a batsman, godlike or mortal, ducks to or is flattened by 150kmph deliveries (Hail Mitchell Johnson for scaring the shit out of the Englishmen at Brisbane). And hops, skips and jumps to prevent the traditional turners or doosras from going through the gate or taking the edge.

To put it bluntly, I hate batsmen getting on top. So much so that I want a 50-over cricket match to end in 11 balls. Or 31 balls in the case of a Test.

But having majored in Statistics, I cannot rule out the likelihood of a cricket match – Test, ODI or T20 – ending in fewer balls. Better still, no ball at all.

Here’s how.

Team A gets bundled out in 10 no-balls and wides. You can get run out off a no-ball and stumped off a wide, remember?

The extras, though, give 10 runs to Team A leaving Team B to score 11 to win.

Team B then gets two wide balls, each going to the boundary. It wins with the third delivery, a no-ball or a wide. History is created; a cricket match is decided without a single legitimate ball being delivered.

But someone with a bowler’s mentality wants his wickets the only way – one or two of the three stumps, preferably middle, uprooted. So let’s cut the sundries out and stick to balls that are counted.

The match starts. The ball is seaming and swinging and the bounce is uneven. All the Team A batsmen fall first ball, bowled, caught, leg before wicket, hit wicket or run out. The inning gets over in 1.4 overs or 10 balls. The scoreboard reads 0 against Team A.

Team B has its job cut out. Only 1 run to get in 50 overs. Required run rate: 0.02 per over. Gettable.

Sure enough, Team B opener lobs first ball over the close-in fielders and doesn’t bother to run. Match over in 11 balls.

Imagine a similar scenario for a Test. Team A gets out in 10 balls without scoring a run in the first inning. Team B follows suit. Team A falter again in the second inning and Team B openers manage to scamper for a run first ball in their second inning.

The outcome is a world record. A five-day match is won in 31 balls and before lunch on Day One. It saves us time and money spent on watching 24 people (don’t forget the umpires) and those behind the scenes make money. And the agony of counting sixes and centuries scored by this god or that anti-god.

But such a result is as improbable as it is probable, unless you tip off a Mohammed Aamer or a Shantakumaran Sreesanth with or without a towel.

So here’s a quiz if you have nothing better to do. What is the least number of balls – with a maximum of two non-leg bye extras per over factored in – for an ODI or T20 cricket match to get over?

Mail your answer to Winner gets all-expense paid holiday to the fabulous island of Ocraposhitzska.

Milton and the English Revolution


Great piece

Originally posted on Marxist Marginalia:

Let us never forget Milton, the first defender of regicide.
-Frederick Engels, The Northern Star Dec 18th, 1847.

Biographies are bourgeois. More often than not, they are little more than the supports to Great Man theories of history, in which the dynamics of historical change are explicable through the actions of the most prominent individual actors. We can see this in the tremendous academic industry of biographies of the Founding Fathers of the United States, whose every whisper and fart becomes more relevant to national history than the culture (in Raymond Williams’ sense of a way of life) of the millions over whom they ruled. (Highlighting the genre’s ideological proclivities does not, of course, render it useless).

Christopher Hill’s biography of John Milton is particularly worthwhile for its interaction with the these strictures of the genre. Milton was one of the first bourgeois radicals, and in many ways…

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Smoking for a living: The strange tale of Li Hui, a Chinese tobacco appraiser


What a job!

Originally posted on Quartz:

As one of hundreds of “tobacco appraisers” in China, Li Hui, a petite, pony-tailed mother, has been smoking up to 30 cigarettes a day for more than 20 years.

“It’s my job, and I like it,” Li explained in a long profile in the Global Times, a Chinese state-run newspaper. “Besides, I haven’t seen anyone around me or my friends getting sick from smoking yet.”

Li’s attitude, and the fact that she works for an officially-sanctioned company, Heilongjiang Tobacco Industrial, encapsulate the paradoxes China faces in dealing with a smoking epidemic. The country has over 320 million smokers, more than the population of the United States and over one-third of the world’s total, and the government has been taking small steps to try to discourage smoking, as Quartz previously reported. But with the country’s tobacco regulator and much of the tobacco industry controlled by the state—and tobacco taxes…

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How cigarette companies use free trade deals to sell more cigarettes to women and kids



Originally posted on Quartz:

Global trade negotiations in Washington this week will determine how cigarette companies will be able to market their products in developing nations—and potentially, overturn smoking restrictions around the world.

As cigarette smoking has fallen in the United States and Europe thanks to public health laws and liability lawsuits, global tobacco companies have increasingly turned to developing markets to expand their business. Now they’re trying to make sure the largest trade agreement since the World Trade Organization gives them the tools they need to stop those countries from adopting the laws that cost them customers in wealthier nations.

“It is very important for people to understand that the industry is using trade law as a new weapon, and [the Trans-Pacific Partnership] provides an opportunity to put a stop to that,” Susan Liss, the executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, says.

Like everyone else, cigarette companies turn to emerging…

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The Only 17 Things That Should Ever Really Matter


In case you didn’t know

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

1. Knowing when it’s time to close yourself off and exit a conversation or a room or a relationship. Being able to grapple with the temptation to let yourself become enraged, and to know that that feeling isn’t the only thing that can give you a sense of duty and purpose.

2. That we learn to live within our means.

3. Having the understanding that we’ll only go as far as we let ourselves not be afraid to. Most of life is a mind-game.

4. That people can and should learn to be their own counsel, and can actually root themselves in their religion or spirituality or world-view or what-have-you enough to create for themselves a sounding board and a landing platform for when things really go awry.

5. That you come home at the end of the day without feeling genuine remorse or self-loathing for what you do: that…

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