The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Samit Basu

Indian inspiration

Here’s some good news: Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) has released a comic book about the late American astronaut and Indian inspiration Kalpana Chawla. The book is aimed at children between seven and 14 and follows Chawla’s life from her birth in Karnal, Punjab, to the point where she becomes a NASA astronaut. India Book House, the publishers, are aiming to introduce a new aspect to ACK comics, moving beyond myth and history to profile important contemporary figures, giving 21st-century Indian kids role models they can relate to. Given the huge popularity and reach of these comics, this is an idea that could make a real difference. Hopefully, the execution will be as excellent as the intention; I’m looking forward to reading it.

Rocking the rockers

Last weekend, Mumbai police enraged rock fans all around the country when they stopped the 20th edition of Independence Rock, an annual rock festival, from taking place ' despite its organiser, Farhad Wadia, having run from pillar to post, procuring every permit necessary. The police claimed the music could damage the Gateway of India, near which the concert was to take place ' and that rock music was ‘inappropriate’ anyway. And 3,000 black-T-shirt-clad fans from all over the country went home meekly, proving every myth about rockers wrong in the process. Wadia, in an open letter, made a few salient points: how do the police decide what sort of music can be played at monuments' Why are Indian bands not allowed access to the same venues as foreign ones' And why was the concert halted at the very last minute after 14 permits had been obtained'

Zadie Smith’s new novel, on beauty, is drawing rave reviews. This one has no Indian connection ' it’s set in an east-coast American university not unlike Harvard. Asked about her Booker chances, Smith said, “Have you seen the f***ing list'”

Small men, giant step

Remember the 300 Keralite dwarfs who were going to star in a Ron Howard film' They’ve inspired a large-scale movement, the Kerala Small Man Association, hundreds of small men united to demand special recognition from the government ' job quotas, free bus rides and other facilities for people not taller than 54 inches.

Taxing taxis

After the whole brouhaha about removing rickshaws from the streets to improve Calcutta’s image, here is a possible next step our legislators might do well to consider. In Nanjing, China, they’ve just banned male taxi drivers who are bald, wear their hair too long or have strange hairstyles, moustaches or goatees and female taxi drivers who dress inappropriately or wear too much make-up. Cabbies who refuse passengers will be kept off the streets for 15 days. All this is part of a 10-point makeover plan for Nanjing, which is due to host the Chinese National Games this year.



To Sania Mirza, for a gutsy, high-power performance in the US open. Now if she can keep her feet on the ground and get that first serve in, the future can only be brighter.

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