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Human Spit Could Cause Indian Bridge to Collapse

Howrah Bridge, located in Kolkata,  India, is a cantilever bridge that spans over Hooghly River. Built during the British rule, in 1943, it is one of the most famous symbols of Kolkata.

The nearly 70-year-old bridge however, is in danger of collapsing, not from age, but from human saliva. It is common to find many locals chewing paan (a mild intoxicant containing betel nuts and leaves), and then spitting out red-tinged saliva on the steel hangers of the bridge. This is not only unsightly, but the corrosion caused by the accumulation of several years worth of saliva, is a cause of serious concern. Bird droppings are also a major cause for the corrosion of the bridge, and regular cleaning was undertaken ever since this threat was identified. The cleaning is apparently not good enough to work its way through the layers of spit and local authorities say the corrosion has caused so much damage that the thickness of the hangers has reduced to half of the original, from 6mm to 3mm.

Photo: Deshakalyan Chowdhury/AFP

Efforts are being made to salvage this old Indian monument from disgrace. Engineers have come up with an idea to cover the steel with sheets of fiberglass. There are other factors that are a cause for concern in the maintenance of the bridge, such as damage from vehicles due to rash driving. Over 100,000 vehicles are known to cross the bridge every day, along with around 150,000 pedestrians on the walkways.

Designer Creates Shirt That’s More Expensive Than a Car

The Royals of ancient times wore clothes that were studded with precious stones and metals. Now you can too, if you are ready to pay an arm and a leg, that is. Or just five million rupees ($97,500).

This pricey shirt was created by an Indian designer, Amitabh Chandel. A descendant of a royal family himself, he says he wanted to create a shirt suitable for today’s royalty. What makes the shirt so expensive is the fine silk it’s made of, and the diamond buttons, set in gold. The shirt is in fact part of an entire collection, the price range starting at around 50,000 Rupees ($950). He says that modern royal men, as well as commoners are welcome to place orders for the shirts. Mr. Chandel says claims these shirts are a perfect blend of the practical and the royal. Since traditional royal attire cannot be worn every day, these shirts allow a sense of richness to pervade regular clothing.

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Mauth Ka Kuan – India’s Well of Death

Circus shows have been getting censored, simplified and overall less exciting just about everywhere. Not in India though, that’s the place where the infamous phrase “death defying stunt” lives on through Mauth Ka Kuan, or the Well of Death.

Though originally performed all over the world, riding a bike on a vertical wall can now only be seen live in the “Land of contrasts” and it makes visiting the place even more tempting. The stunt is old so you’d imagine India’s bike riders have honed and perfected it to the highest level. Actually, the Well of Death – as the arena is referred to – isn’t just a marketing ploy.Riding on incredibly old bikes that haven’t seen maintenance since they left the factory, the Indian bikers ride with absolutely no safety gear at break neck speeds. The walls on which they ride are vertical and built from salvaged wood.

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Mata Amritanandamayi Devi – India’s Hugging Saint

Mata Amritanandamayi Devi is a spiritual leader of a different kind. She doesn’t preach, she doesn’t ride around in a massive bullet proof Mercedes, she doesn’t sit atop a mountain and she’s really ruining the business for everybody else as she allows commoners to touch her. In fact, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi is such a spiritual person that when the occasional reference of a saint is attached to her name, nobody seems to mind.

Achieving this level of notoriety was, as you’d imagine, not easy, but not for reasons you might imagine. Amma, as she’s commonly refered to, is famous for having touched the lives of more than 20 million people.Unlike your average politician, Amma (which translates into English as “mother”) has gotten this far by offering each and every one of them a motherly hug. Unlike your average free hug mob situation, when Amma is in town nobody shies away from the proceedings.

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Fan Turns His Home into Altar for Bollywood Star

Shah Rukh Khan is one of the most popular actors in the world, but no one’s a bigger fan of the Bollywood actor than Vishal Singh, a man who has turned his home into an altar to the movie star.

The 38-year-old businessman who runs a homeopathic medicine business in Lucknow, India says there’s nothing he wouldn’t do to make Shah Rukh Kahn happy. So far he’s covered every surface in his house and even his car with photos of the Bollywood icon, changed his name to Vishahrukh Khan, and even spent his honeymoon in front of the actor’s mansion in Mumbai, hoping to catch a glimpse of his idol. Although he says no one cam be like Shah Rukh, he wanted to bear his name and even gave his children names related to the Indian actor. His son is named like Kahn’s child, Aryan, and his daughter Simran, is named after one of the female leads in one of the actor’s biggest movies, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.

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India’s Richest Man Won’t Move into Billion-Dollar Home for Fear of Curse

The 27-storey, billion-dollar tower home in Mumbai, called Antilia, was completed a year ago but India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, and his family refuse to move in for fear of bad-luck curse.

Dubbed the most expensive home in the world, Antilia has been dominating the Mumbai skyline ever since it was completed last October, but Mukesh Ambani, who is ranked by Forbes as the ninth wealthiest person in the world with a fortune of $27billion, has been reluctant to move in. There’s been a lot of speculation around the subject, considering the chairman of Reliance Industries spent around $1 billion building the impressive tower home for him and his family, but according to reports cited by the Daily Mail, the reason is the building fails to conform with the ancient Indian architectural principles of vastu shastra.

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Vampire Husband Drank Wife’s Blood for the Last Three Years

Deepa Ahirwar, a 22-year-old woman from India’s Madhya Pradesh state, has recently accused her husband of drinking her blood on a regular basis, for the last three years.

Although it sounds like the story of a cheap vampire movie, young Deepa swears she’s telling the truth and even bears the scars to prove it. She and her husband, Mahesh Ahirwar, an agricultural worker, got married in 2007, in Shikarpura village. A few months later, he started drawing blood from her veins, emptying the contents of the syringe into an empty glass and drinking the contents. He threatened he would do terrible things to her if she dared tell anyone about his habit, and she kept quiet for about three years.

Mahesh claimed drinking his wife’s blood kept him strong and boosted his virility, so he didn’t stop playing the vampire even when Deepa was pregnant. After she gave birth, seven months ago, she started protesting for the first time, because she would feel weak and nauseated after each blood extraction. Every time she resisted, her husband beat her, and when she couldn’t take it anymore, she ran to her parents, who after hearing her disturbing story, alerted the authorities.

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Indians Swallow Raw Fish to Cure Asthma

India is known for the wide variety of folk remedies for various ailments, and one of the most popular right now is the raw-fish-swallowing therapy practiced by the Goud family, in Hyderabad.

Asthma is one of the most serious respiratory conditions a person can have, and since conventional medicine doesn’t offer a permanent cure, many are willing to try any kinds of treatment, no matter how bizarre. One of these is the fish swallowing cure offered by the Goud family, for the last 166 years. Every year, during the month of June, hundreds of thousands of people flock to Hyderabad to try this unusual remedy, on the day of Mrigashira Karthi. Around 500 volunteers administer the miracle cure: live 2-inch to 3-inch long murrel fish which have been fed a drop of the secret herbal formula the Goud’s claim cures asthma within three years.

Ingredients for the medicine are collected two-three months before the big day, mixed the day before using water from the Goud family’s well, and administered to asthma sufferers free of charge. The patient is advised not to eat or drink anything four hours before swallowing the raw fish and two hours after. Also, he must be aware that he must come back for the cure three consecutive years, if he wants to get rid of the asthma permanently.

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India’s Ram Ram Bank Gives Whole New Meaning to Banking

It has no guards, no locks, offers no interest or credit schemes, and doesn’t event deal in money. Still, India’s unusual Ram Ram Bank, in New Delhi, serves over 5,000 happy customers, with more signing up every day.

Ram Ram Bank was established 25 years ago, by Tewari, a retired school teacher from Sitapur, who quit his job in 1983, after his guru advised him to devote his life to Lord Ram. He got the idea of opening a bank where people could deposit their “Ram naam” (pieces of paper with the Lord’s name scribbled hundreds of times). He didn’t need any security, since the writings were of no use to mere mortals, and all he had to do was deposit them and ocasionally take them to be displayed at a temple in Ayodhya, the birthplace of Ram.

Scribbling Ram naam notes has always been very popular in India. Some people say it helps them connect with God, others say the faith helps them work harder to achieve their goals, but all of them claim that writing Ram’s name just makes them feel better. In the past, everyone who wrote these holy notes traveled to Ayodhya themselves and deposited them at the temple, but in this day and age fewer people find the time to do it anymore. That’s where the Ram Ram Bank comes into play. All a person has to do is write his Ram naams every day and send them straight to the bank, or hand them over to one of the many volunteers around the city, at their own convenience.The pieces of paper are deposited in a small room, and taken to Ayodhya every six months.

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This Is What I Call a Smoking Car

In celebration of the World Anti-Tobacco Day, campaigners in Mumbai, India, have created an impressive life-size car model from 200,000 cigarettes. The smokable installation was placed on display in a Mumbai shopping mall, where it attracted the attention of everyone who passed by. But it was the message in the background that really caught my eye; apparently an average smoker will make short work of the 200,000 cigarettes in just a few years…

India is currently the second largest producer and consumer of tobacco, after China. At least one fifth of India’s population (roughly 241 million people) consume tobacco in some form.

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Indian Sadhu Has Kept His Right Hand Up for the Last 38 Years

Sadhu Amar Bharati is an Indian holy man who claims he has kept his right hand raised in the air since 1973. Now, 38 years later, his hand is just a useless piece of skin and bone, but has become a symbol for Shiva worshipers around India.

Until 1970, Amar Bharati was an average middle-class man who lived a normal life. He had a job, a home, a wife and three children, but none of that mattered when he woke up one morning and decided to leave everything behind and dedicate his life to serving the Hindu god Shiva. He began wandering the roads of India dressed in his simple Sadhu clothes and carrying only his trusty Trishula (a metal trident). After three years, in 1973, Amar realized he was still too connected to the fading luxury and pleasures of mortal life, and decided to separate himself from them by raising his right arm and keeping it raised. 38 years later, his arm is still up and he couldn’t use it, even if he wanted to.

Other sources claim Amar Bharati felt disillusioned by all the fighting going on in the world, and decided to raise his right arm for peace. A respected Sadhu at the Kumbh Mela, in Haridwar, Amar has inspired other Sadhus to raise their arms for peace and harmony, and some of them have kept them raised for the last seven, thirteen, even 25 years. But doing something like this doesn’t just mean giving up the functionality of an important body part, it also implies dealing with a lot of pain. Bharati himself says he went through excruciating pain for a long time, but not anymore. That’s because his arm is completely atrophied and stuck in a bizarre, semi-vertical position, a useless bony structure ending in thick, twisted nails that he never clips.

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Indian Woodcarvers Give the Skateboard an Oriental Twist

What do you get if you combine the old fashioned skateboard with the talent of a dozen Indian woodcarvers? The answer can be admired in the photos below.

All commercially-available skateboards are artistically designed, but companies usually opt for spray paint, abstract graphics and prints to personalize the board. German curator Tobias Megerle teamed up with a dozen traditional woodcarvers from Mumbai to give the skateboard a brand new make-over inspired by traditional Indian patterns.

Megerle remembers “The very first time I drove past I was magically attracted to the carved wooden objects in Mahim, all the open workshops, the woodcarvers sitting on the floor with their traditional tools, working on their items, the whole atmosphere”. As an artist he wanted to do something with their work, and after several visits studying their craft, he picked the good old skateboard to undergo the carvers’ artistic treatment.

Tobias Megerle’s art project was named Final Cut, and its main goal was to keep the skateboards functional even after Mumbai’s carvers were done with them. The results are truly amazing, and the German curator hopes his project will lift India’s woodcarvers from the state of craftsmen to that of artists.

These traditionally carved Indian skateboards are currently on exhibit at The LOFT at Lower Parel, in Mumbai, where they will remain until April 12.

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The Incredible Story of Nek Chand’s Rock Garden

The Rock Garden of Chandigarh is a 40-acre park full of plazas, waterfalls and thousands of unique creatures made from recycled materials. It’s a truly impressive sight, but even more so is the story of how Nek Chand spent four decades creating it and how he kept it a secret, for years.

In 1958, Nek Chand was a road inspector for the Public Works Department, and was making rafts and boats to be sail upon the recently created Sukhna Lake, but peddle boats were soon made available for rent by authorities, and his craft was banned. This allowed Nek to devote more time to his passion for rocks and stones, and he began gathering them from the nearby Shivalik Hills, and the Sukhna Cho, Patiala Rao and Ghaggar rivers. It was around this time that the Swiss architect Le Corbusier was asked to design the city of Chandigarh, the first planned city of India, and the small villages around the area were demolished. This provided Nek Chand with plenty of material for his increasing collection of rocks.

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At 94, Indian Ramjit Raghav Is World’s Oldest Father

94-year-old Ramajit Raghav proudly claims the title of world’s oldest father, after his 54-year-old wife Shakuntala Devi gave birth to their first baby.

Both Ramajit and Shakuntala are equally happy and excited, considering baby Vikaramjeet as “God’s gift” and planning a second child for next year, although their ages are  past the normal fertility period.

Former wrestler, Ramajit strongly believes that he’s health will keep him around for many years, to see his soon grow up: “I will die only if a black snake bites me and that is very unlikely. Visit me after ten years and you will find me in the same appearance. My daily diet comprises three litres of milk, half a kilo of almonds and half a kilo of ghee [clarified butter].”

Mr. Raghav actually claims he is over 100 years old, but pension records state he is “only” 94. Still, doctors say that, although it can’t be ruled out, having a baby at this age is a very remote possibility. 

The former record holder was also an Indian man, Nanu Ram Jogi, who became a father for his 21st soon at the age of 90 in 2007.

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6-Year-Old Girl Is World’s Youngest Yoga Instructor

Yoga has been around for thousands of years, and the benefits it has for the mind and body are unquestionable, so its ever-growing popularity is not surprising . But what is very surprising is  6-year-old Shruti Pandey, who has been a successful Yoga teacher for two years now.

Interestingly enough, she is not the only “miracle” in her family, as her older brother, Harsh Kumar, mastered all 84 yoga positions by the age of five, making it into the Limca Book of Records and becoming a source of inspiration and motivation for Shruti. But he has never been interested in becoming a teacher.

67 year-old Hari Chetan, Shruti’s instructor, who set up the Swami Brahmachand Saraswati Kaivalya Dham Ashram 35 years ago, is simply amazed not only with her flexibility, which many may find normal for a child this age, but also with her talent and determination. She proved to be e vary quick learner and as she mastered this art for herself, it didn’t come as a surprise when she started teaching others, in classes of around 30 adults that start at 5:30am. Everyone is amazed with her talent and the patience she puts in for everything and every one.

“The best thing about Shruti is she tries to provide an alternative position for the complicated ones that are difficult for an older person like me to do. She’s very patient,” says 90-year-old retired teacher Swami Bhanu.

After only three months of attending Shruti’s classes, 48-year-old businessman Lokendra Pal Singh says: “I have noticed a positive change in my life. I used to be short-tempered, but now I’m able to control my anger to quite an extent and it’s all thanks to a little six-year old.”

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