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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Samit Basu

On the face of it

Bus conductors in Mumbai are going through intensive training courses to help their city deal with the terrorist threat ' they are being taught to read faces, to help them spot terrorists riding on their buses. While the other subjects in their courses ' disaster management and suspected object disposal ' are clearly steps in the right direction, how effective is face-reading as a crime-fighting tool' My workout regimen through most of my student years consisted entirely of getting squished to a pulp on a daily basis on Calcutta buses, so when I look at the new guidelines for passengers ' look out for people who appear tense, overcautious, have shifty eyes and who keep looking over their shoulder. Look out for people who are in a hurry to get off the bus ' I would definitely have suspected almost everyone on those buses.

Words worth

It’s been a terrible week for Indian literature, with the passing away of three shining lights ' Amrita Pritam, Nirmal Verma and Madhavan Kutty. Sahitya Akademi and Jnanpeeth award-winner Amrita Pritam, born in 1919, wrote over 100 books and was easily the best known name in contemporary Punjabi writing. Nirmal Verma was a pioneering Hindi novelist, a St Stephen’s graduate who spent the 1960s translating Czech literature into Hindi. He created the modernist Nai Kahani school of writing, a variant of the French Noveau Roman. Madhavan Kutty, journalist, writer and one of Malayali literature’s leading stalwarts, was best known for the intricate, nostalgic The Village Before Time, a ‘biography of memory’ constructed through vignettes of rural life in Kerala. They will be sorely missed.

Bollywood stars, meanwhile, are facing a new threat ' The Attack of The Indiscreet Secretary. Meghna Naidu, that cerebral starlet, is the latest in a growing list of actors whose secretaries have quit. Why' ‘She’s a flop actress’.

All in the game

Hooked on to Sudoku' So is everyone else. British Airways crew have just been banned from doing Sudoku puzzles, because airline bosses read reports of the cabin crew working those 9x9 grids obsessively even during take-off and landing. If this news has just made you paranoid about flying, you need to distract yourself quickly. I recommend Sudoku.

New birth

If you’ve been alive and awake in India this week it cannot possibly have escaped your attention that Shah Rukh Khan is now 40. King Khan is easily one of the most admired men in the country, and his promise to keep acting as long as his fans want him to (backed by his decision to quit smoking) has rendered his devotees delirious with happiness. A question doing the rounds, however, is this: he is clearly a gentleman worth emulating, so when he declares, as he did recently, that he never watches Shah Rukh Khan films, should his fans do the same'

AWARD OF THE WEEK

Award

To Pakistani activist Mukhtaran Mai, who travelled around the US drawing attention to the plight of victims of repression and natural calamities in Pakistan, and is now Glamour’s Woman of the Year.

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