Stranger things: Was 2021 the weirdest year ever?

Leaking toilets in outer space. A fictional crime fiction writer. A shot of radioactive booze

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There have been weird years in the history of the world, and then there’s 2021. Far removed from the public eye, unfazed by the second wave of the pandemic and a rumoured third, the world continues to be a place where oddity turns the head. 

Also read: A sport of bother

Consider Jayamangali in Karnataka, a sanctuary for blackbucks. Here, graceful spiral-horned males spar to win the fleeting love of a bevy of tawny-skinned does. For as long as most people can remember, this flat landscape of grasslands has been dry and arid. In a spate of strange weather that deluged the southern subcontinent with the highest-ever rainfall recorded this century during the northeast monsoon, something happened that had irrigation officials scratching their heads. A long-lost river born of two seasonal streams — Jaya and Mangala, giving Jayamangali its name — has risen from the dead, and is gushing merrily for the first time in three decades. Funnily, those who wrote off the river had built roads and homes along its course, and now it’s payback time. Did someone say thank heavens for that? 

Talking of heavens, what’s common to astronauts and babies? Diapers!

Imagine gravity-defying blobs of urine scattering into the airless interiors of a cozy little spaceship — that’s what pissed-off astronauts discovered when the toilet at the International Space Station malfunctioned. While the onboard plumber radioed earth for instructions to fix the pipes, those incontinent men and women who boldly went where no man or woman had gone before had to turn to their rationed stock of diapers. Very frugally. Shit happens when you’re least prepared for it.

Don’t write off plumbers yet, they’re the real heroes of this next story. While we continue to lose sleep over demonetisation, some noteworthy bill-collectors ensure that their ill-gotten gains won’t go down the toilet even if Captain NaMo pulls off Masterstroke 2.0. Until the news leaked. Anti-corruption sleuths, assisted by a plumber, raided the home of a PWD official in Bangalore and recovered lakhs in cash and jewels hidden away in drain pipes. Apparently, he was flush with funds. 

Also read: Pet peeves

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How far will you go to make your wife happy? A man who tried to be Shah Jahan V2.0 got trolled on Twitter for building a house modelled on the Taj Mahal. Unfazed, this resident of Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh went ahead with gifting the dream in white cement (marble being unaffordable) to his still-living wife. History holds that Mumtaz Mahal, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s favourite queen, died in childbirth at Burhanpur and the Taj Mahal erected in her memory was originally supposed to have been built in this town on the banks of the river Tapti. For various reasons, the site of the mausoleum was moved to Agra where it stands today beside the Yamuna, and the rest is history. Many centuries later, Burhanpur got the monument it deserved. Moral of story: Why wait until your wife is dead to celebrate her? 

Here’s another wife story with a happy ending. 

In Turkey, a concerned wife alerted the neighbours when her husband didn’t return home after he went drinking with his friends. The search party combed a forest near the couple’s home, calling out the man’s name. Turns out that the drunk husband had fallen asleep in a house in the forest. When he came to, he saw the crowd of villagers and, with all the goodness in his heart, decided to join the search party for the missing person. Nobody, particularly his wife, was amused when he put his hand up and announced that it was him they were looking for. 

Also read: A grown man's grief

Fact can be stranger than fiction, but can you say the same about your favourite author?  A university professor and mother of three, who taught algebra classes in the morning and wrote novels in her free time — that’s what fans of author Carmen Mola believed she was while they wolfed down her much-loved crime fiction series featuring the intrepid Inspector Elena Blanco. When Mola, known as the Spanish Elena Ferrante, won the Premio Planeta de Novela, a prestigious literary prize in Spain, three male television scriptwriters showed up to collect the award. The deepest mystery was solved — Carmen Mola was herself fictitious! 

Need something to wash that down? How about a swig of radioactive booze? 

Enterprising distillers created an artisanal spirit made with apples and other ingredients grown in the exclusionary zone of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Following the infamous 1986 meltdown, the site was shut down, and high radioactivity is still detected in the 2,600 square kilometres surrounding the plant. A batch intended for export to the United Kingdom was seized by Ukrainian secret service agents, although its makers maintain that the hooch contains no traces of radioactivity. Chernobyl is hot with curious tourists with an appetite for the bizarre, and now they have another high to go after. Guess what the drink is called? Atomik!

We might need a shot of that to brace for stranger things in 2022. Cheers! 

Also read: Let's make some space

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