Krishna’s Butter Ball – A Precariously Perched 250-Ton Boulder Defying the Laws of Physics

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For over 1,300 years, this large rock has been confounding the locals of Mahabalipuram, a beach town near Chennai, in Southern India. The mysterious landmark is perched on hill at a 45-degree angle, balancing off an extremely small surface area without slipping or even budging an inch. Men and even elephants have tried moving it from its precarious position , but every attempt so far has failed.

The locals call it ‘Vaanirai Kal’ (Stone of the Sky God), but the rock is more popularly known as ‘Krishna’s Butter Ball’, referencing Lord Krishna’s favorite food, butter, fallen from the heavens. The gravity-defying rock, measuring 20 ft high and five meters in diameter, is estimated to weigh over 250 tons, which makes it heavier than the monolithic stones of Machu Picchu, or Ollantaytambo. Despite its massive size and weight, Krishna’s Butter Ball is firmly anchored on a four-foot base along the slope of a small hill located on the outskirts of Mahabalipuram. It looks like it might slip any moment and come crashing down the hill, but it has stayed that way for several centuries now.

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Restaurant Owner Installs Outdoor Fridge for the Homeless to Pick Up Free Food From

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Minu Pauline, a restaurant owner from Kochi, in southern India, recently made news headlines not for her culinary expertise but her awe-inspiring generosity. She maintains a fully stocked, unlocked refrigerator outside her restaurant, filled with free fresh meals for the homeless.

Minu, whose popular food joint Pappadavada has been operating since 2013, was struck by the sight of homeless people digging for food from the garbage bins behind her kitchen. “I have often seen the homeless and the hungry, especially the aged, rummage through garbage scouring for food,” she told The Hindu. “They are looking for some leftovers or stale food to quell their hunger, and it disturbs me.”

So when she opened a second branch in another part of the city last week, she also installed a fridge outside and named it ‘Nanma Maram’ (the tree of goodness). The fridge is always stocked with about 50 packets of freshly cooked food from the restaurant, for people to reach for when they are hungry. “I was asked, ‘What if someone, not necessarily needy, took the food?’” she said. “My answer was, ‘I’ll just put my faith in the goodness of the folks.’”

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Roadside Education – Indian Factory Worker Opens Street School to Teach Slum Kids

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For the past 15 years, factory owner Kamal Parmar has been running an after-school program for slum kids in Ahmedabad, India, helping them with basic skills like reading and writing and even preparing for their school tests. 

Parmar’s story begins one afternoon 15 years ago. He was standing outside his metal fabrication workshop, near the slums of the Bhudarpura neighborhood, when he met a few kids returning home from the local municipal school. They were ecstatic about the end of their exams, which they claimed to have aced, so he decided to stop them and ask them a few questions. That’s when he made a shocking discovery – the students, even the older ones, did not know how to read.

“I took their exam paper and asked a few questions to some of them,” he says in a 2014 documentary titled Footpath School. “But none of them knew any answers. I thought to ask a few others. I asked them to read, but they did not even know how to read. Surprised, I asked them what did they write in their exams. All they knew was identifying the alphabet. And that left me thinking that something should be done for these children. And that is how, 15 to 17 years back I started this school.”

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How India’s “Menstruation Man” Changed the Lives of Millions of Women

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Meet Arunachalam Muruganantham, an award-winning social entrepreneur from Coimbatore, India, better known as the nation’s ‘Menstruation Man’. Deeply disturbed by the unhygienic menstruation practices among women in rural India, Muruganantham took it upon himself to find a solution to the problem. After several years of hard work, he invented a machine that women can use to produce their own sanitary napkins, at less than a third of the cost of commercial ones.

Born in 1962 to handloom weavers in Coimbatore, Muruganantham was forced to drop out of school at age 14 to provide for his family after his father’s death. For years he lived in poverty, working a number of jobs – machine tool operator, farm laborer, welder, and sales agent – just to make ends meet. But things were about to change soon after his marriage to a woman named Shanthi, in 1998. He discovered that his wife used filthy rags during her menstrual cycle because they couldn’t afford to buy sanitary pads, and this troubled him greatly.

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Indian Army Applicants Take Exam in Underwear to Prevent Cheating

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In an extreme attempt to  prevent cheating during a written exam, Indian Army in the state of Bihar has asked over 1,000 applicants to strip to their underwear and take the test outdoors.

Images published by Indian media show the naked men in an open field trying to complete the test by holding the sheets of paper on their thighs or on the ground, under the watchful eyes of uniformed supervisors. “We were frisked and then ushered into an enclosure. Then the army officers asked us to remove all clothes except our underwear,” said 21-year-old Harishambhu Kumar. “I felt awkward, but the army people told us it was to check cheating, so I got used to it.”

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World’s Cheapest Smartphone – Indian Company Launches $3.67 Handheld

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Indian company Ringing Bells is making waves in the tech industry with its latest product, the ridiculously cheap ‘Freedom 251’ smartphone priced at an unbelievable 251 rupees ($3.67).

Despite the phone’s low price, the company is promising a host of swanky features like 8GB storage, 8MP and 3.2MP primary and secondary cameras, pattern lock with face detection, 5-inch touch screen, 1080p video support, bluetooth, and of course, 3G support. “We will be the first Indian company to offer an incredible smartphone at a highly affordable price,” the Ringing Bells website states, adding that the phone will work on a “no-frills” platform that’s a “minimalistic and lightweight take on the Android 5.1 Lollipop operating system.”

According to a Ringing Bells spokesperson, the company believes that the phone – strongly resembling Apple’s iPhone 4 – will “bring a revolution” in the industry. While the initial promise was to price the phone under 500 rupees ($7.3), the actual cost was revealed at the launch event last Wednesday, creating a global stir. The high profile event conducted in Delhi was attended by members of the Indian Parliament and other state level leaders. The website went live for pre-orders the next day, but with 600,000 hits per second their website crashed within a few hours and they were forced to close bookings. The company later revealed that they received 37 million orders on Day 1 and 24.7 million on Day 2. They are now promising to deliver the devices to all their customers within four months.

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Indian Police to Use Slingshots and Chilli Balls as Crowd Control Weapons

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In a bid to better control unruly crowds that gather during protests, police in northern India have decided to replace their modern arsenal with rudimentary weapons like slingshots and chili powder balls. The decision was made after they realised that these “non-lethal” options might prove to be more effective than water cannons or tear gas.

“It is much better than firing plastic bullets that can cause bad injuries,” said Anil Kumar Rao, the Inspector General of Police in the state of Haryana’s Hisar district. “It will be used only in emergency cases so that we can manage minimum collateral damage.”

Police officers are currently being trained in the use of these “specially designed” locally made slingshots, learning to fire plastic balls filled with chili powder as accurately as possible. And if chili doesn’t prove effective enough, they plan to switch to marbles.

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Indian Girl Has Ants Crawling Out of Her Ears Every Day

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12-year-old Shreya Darji, from the state of Gujarat in western India, is suffering from a bizarre case of ants. Giant ants crawl out of her ears every single day, much to the bafflement of her parents and doctors. They have no idea where the ants are coming from or how to make them stop.

The problem started in August last year, when Shreya complained of ear pain and her parents noticed ants coming out of both her ears. They rushed her to the hospital where doctors conducted scans and found a large number of insects living in her drum canal. They’ve removed hundreds so far, but to no avail – the ants just keep multiplying at a faster rate.

Dr. Jawahar Talsania, a leading Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon in Gujarat, tried suffocating the ants with ear drops, but they’ve continued to breed anyway. He also used a camera inside the ear to check for an egg chamber, but didn’t find anything. A video filmed using an endoscopic camera shows him removing dead ants from Shreya’s ear.

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India’s Love Commandos – The Vigilantes Protecting Young Couples Against Prejudice

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Marrying for love is still taboo in many parts of India, especially outside the boundaries of caste or religion. But there are people who do sympathize with young couples, like the Love Commandos, a four-man activist organisation based in the nation’s capital, New Delhi. Their mission is to help couples elope and start a new life together, safely away from the wrath of their families.

“The main function of the Love Commandos is to allow people to do this in safety and in accordance with the laws of India, and to prevent honor killings happening to young couples,” Belgian author Hans Theys wrote in the introduction to photographer Max Pinckers book Will They Sing Like Raindrops or Leave Me Thirsty on India’s Love Commandos, a project that won him first prize in the Photographic Museum of Humanity competition in 2014.

And that’s exactly what the Love Commandos are all about. They encourage lovers to reach out to them via a telephone helpline, or their website, for any kind of assistance – including accommodation in safe rooms and shelters across India. They’ve even sent out rescue teams to protect newly-weds running away from enraged relatives. The group boasts of having helped over 40,000 couples in nearly six years of existence. Of course, they couldn’t have done it without the help of hundreds of volunteers and priests who agreed to organize and perform the clandestine marriage ceremonies and getaways.

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Meet India’s Moonwalking Traffic Cop

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Kunwar Ranjeet Singh, a self-confessed Michael Jackson fan, is also India’s most fascinating traffic cop. Drawing inspiration from his idol, he ‘moonwalks’ his way through his daily duties in one of the busiest intersections of the city of Indore, in central India.

The ‘dancing cop of Indore’ has actually come up with several routines to help manage traffic on the often chaotic streets, and the moonwalk is one of them. “Instead of walking back I do the moonwalk which sometimes amuses commuters,” he said. “That, in a way, encourages people to follow traffic rules.”

Singh apparently wanted to be a dancer, but chose to become a traffic cop after he lost two close friends to road accidents. He’s been controlling Indore’s traffic for the past six years now, and he’s found a way to incorporate his love of dancing into the job. He believes it’s is a great way to remain stress-free in the midst of chaos, and to really make a difference. “One should leave an impact in whatever he or she does and I bring the same while I am signalling people on the roads,” he said.

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Hiware Bazar – India’s Miracle Village

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The residents of Hiware Bazar, a remote village in the Ahmednagar district of the state of Maharashtra, India have managed to turn their fortune around in the span of just a few years – they’ve gone from being a drought-stricken populace in the mid-1990s to the richest village in the nation today. Their story is a truly inspiring one.

Hiware Bazar currently boasts of having the highest GDP among all the villages in India. Its 1,250-strong population enjoys an average income of INR 30,000 ($450) per month, also highest in the nation, up from a paltry INR 830 in 1995. 60 of the 235 families in the village are millionaires. Every year, their fields yield bountiful crops of millets, onions, and potatoes that make it hard to imagine that only a few years ago they were barren stretches of land that no one cared about.

Yet, up until the mid 90’s, Hiware Bazar was indeed a poverty-stricken village reeling in the aftermath of a severe drought in 1972. “The peace was shattered,” recalls Raosaheb Rauji Panwar, an 82-year-old villager. “People became irritable and restless as the struggle to stay alive became severe. Petty reasons were enough to trigger-off bitter quarrels, as there was so much despair and frustration. Villagers started consuming liquor and it added to our ruin.”

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The Indian Village That Took Up Chess as an Alternative to Drinking

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The people of Marottichal, a sleepy little village in the state of Kerala in southern India, have a rather unusual passion for chess. Believe it or not, they’re all chess enthusiasts. Their love for the game is such that even when they’re not playing, they’re talking strategy all the time.

But villagers weren’t always interested in the checkered board game. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, their passions lay elsewhere – mainly in the local liquor that they made for a living. Many of the residents were addicted to the cheap brew, with disastrous consequences for the whole community. Things got so bad at one point that a few villagers actually requested government authorities to raid the village and get rid of some of their liquor stock.

But things began to change when one villager – a 10th grade student named C. Unnikrishnan – decided that he wanted to learn chess. Inspired by a news report about American legend Bobby Fischer, a grandmaster at age 16, Unnikrishnan traveled to a nearby village to attend classes and learn the game himself. And once he got the hang of it, he made it his mission to get everyone in the village hooked.

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The Artistic Water Tanks of Punjab

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The state of Punjab, in northern India, is well known for its rich, vibrant culture, including great food, music, and dance. But what most people don’t know is that the Indian state is also home to some of the most extravagant water tanks in the world.

The concrete structures that the people of Punjab use to store water on the roofs of their houses are hardly ever ordinary-looking or boring. Instead, these ‘designer’ tanks come in a variety of unlikely shapes and sizes inspired by people’s interests and experiences. It’s not uncommon to see water tanks modeled after airplanes, army tanks, ships, birds, animals, and even humans!

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The Childless Indian Woman Who Mothered Hundreds of Trees

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Meet ‘Saalumarada’ Thimmakka, an uneducated environmentalist who, along with her late husband, planted and cared for 384 banyan trees in her hometown of Hulikal village, in Karnataka, India. Now 103 years old, she lives on to tell the tale.

When Thimmakka was a young girl, she married a farmer named Chikkaiah and together they made a living out of tilling land and cutting stones. The couple remained childless for many years, enduring crude remarks from their fellow villagers. But instead of wallowing in self-pity, they decided to make the best of their situation. “One day, we thought why not plant trees and tend to them like we would our children,” Thimmakka said.  

They started by grafting 10 saplings from the banyan trees that grew abundantly in their village. Using their meager resources, they planted those saplings on an empty stretch of land about four kilometers from the village. There wasn’t any water available in the area, so they filled four pails at their home and carried them all the way to the trees every single day. They protected the saplings from the elements, from animals and disease, until they took root. The next year, they planted 15 more saplings, 20 the year after that, and kept going until they planted a total of 384 trees, worth about 1.5 million rupees.

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Indian Cook Can Dip Hands in Boiling Oil without Pain or Injury

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Prem Kumar, from New Delhi, India, regularly shocks people with his high tolerance to heat – the man can fry fish with his bare hands, dipping them into and out of a wok of boiling oil. The 65-year-old runs a street food stall in Karol Bagh, where he serves fried fish to thousands of customers each day. Most of them come just to watch him perform the rare feat of nonchalantly plunging his fingers into hot oil.

Kumar sells about 150 kilograms of deep-fried fish every day, along with other north-Indian delicacies like seekh kabab, mutton tikka, paneer tikka, and tandoori aloo. But a trip to his eatery is incomplete without witnessing Kumar prepare fish with his now-famous heat proof fingers. “I do not fry fish with hands all the time, it’s only when customers ask me for it,” he said. “I normally use kitchen utensils like tongs, but with people coming from all across India and requesting me to do hand frying, I cannot say no.”

Kumar claims to have inherited his special skill from his father, who opened the roadside eatery in 1960. Miraculously, the father-son duo have never suffered a single burn or blister during all these years of business. But Kumar says there’s no magic involved and attributes it to years of practice. “This is no miracle or gift of God,” he insisted. “As a child, I saw my father doing it and got curious how he could pull off that feat. I started with dipping my one finger in the boiling oil, then two, and so on. I realised that it did not cause any burns or injury whatsoever. Over the years, I built up confidence and now it as is easy for me as breathing.”

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