Dear Reader,

It was World Tiger Day yesterday and I remembered a story my mum loves to bring up. It’s from a time when my parents were looking to change my pre-school status. With interviews lined up, they were counting on their outspoken four-year-old to be at his best.

Amateurs.

Not only did I scoff at the interviewer when asked if I recognised the animal she was pointing at in the chart, but told her that I had, in fact, seen it in real life. On a hunting trip. In the jungle. With my father.

It was a tiger. There was no truth to it, obviously. In 24 years, I haven’t even been to a zoo. And I live on Bannerghatta Road.

Real stories involving fake things amuse me greatly. But the suits at PepsiCo don’t quite see it the way I do.

If you grew up in India, you’ve been denied your right to eat Kurkure at some point, and it is likely that the argument that swung it against you was Kurkure’s supposed plastic nature.

For the uninitiated – and probably extremely healthy – for nearly a decade, before the days of WhatsApp, many believed that some of PepsiCo’s products, like their Lay’s chips, or corn puffs in Kurkure’s case, contained plastic. I haven’t been able to track down the origins of the myth, but one of the ways it was perpetuated was through videos of people holding the chips or puffs against fire, and filming them melting away.

Melting = plastic = Kurkure = death = eat Patanjali products only. Hence proved.

One of the big ironies in a country where the majority lunges at “science stream” during admissions, is that the scientific method is barely, if at all, part of elementary science education. So why would Pankaj uncle think twice about melting objects? After all, having avoided drinking Thums Up due to its largely pesticide composition and making yoga his favourite beverage, it was only logical to give up on the crazy foreign company selling him plastic munchies.

Unfortunately for Pankaj uncle, he is no longer allowed to propagate this gyaan. PepsiCo, having proved the “purity” of their products, have now got an interim order from the Delhi High Court to delete posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube that furthered the myth that their products contain plastic. They’ve been rampaging on social media, even managing to get platforms to take down jokes that, in some cases, are in their favour.

An impressive operation, if you ask me, to manage to dismantle a massive fake news rung in 2018. According to this report, 3412 Facebook links, 20244 Facebook posts, 242 YouTube videos, 6 Instagram links, and 562 tweets have been ordered removed.

There was a little detail in this real-story-involving-fake-things that left me very amused.

What the court passed in this case was a “John Doe” order, which is an order against anonymous people or entities – those who are unidentifiable because they are veiled by being in large groups, like on Facebook or Twitter, for example.

In India, this is called an “Ashok Kumar” order.

I must confess that I chuckled for a while when I learnt of this. What a lovely nugget! Don’t invite me to parties, because I WILL open with this fact.

Through some half-assed research, I’ve understood that it isn’t a technical term, just one that is accepted usage. Nevertheless, I will run after it and will hope to find the desi equivalent for a Jane Doe order in the process. You tell me if you know.

In return, I have a think piece as story of the week. It’s Manu Joseph in Livemint, ruminating on whether the umbrella has reached peak utility as a technology. Can it, realistically, get any better?

It narrowly edged out my other favourite from the week, an account of Clay Skipper’s social experiment where he asked his friends to rate him. A dodgy, anxiety-ridden experience that I could never imagine trying.

Yes, dodgier than hunting down a tiger with my father.

Yours,

Varun

 

Articles:

Story of the week – Will the umbrella never evolve?

What happened when I made my friends rate me

No, you probably don’t have a book in you

How to steal 50 million bees

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