It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
We had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way-
-Charles Dickens, The Tale Of Two Cities
Far from the mundane days when mercury unambiguously travels north, the morning in my city down south, on that specific day, was especially cold. I was kept awake by the unceasing trains of thoughts chugging along in my head sans any destinations. Voices from inside my head were providing an unending food for thought. I doubted if I was living through my own little “BODHISATTVA MOMENT” despite falling short of the Banyan tree. Confused, I turned heavenwards for advice from where it came thick and fast. Perhaps one of the most liberal souls of our time seemed to convey from the skies that I in fact was DREAMING. Because, A.P.J. ABDUL KALAM believed that it were only dreams which could deprive one of his slumber! Only dreams transform into thoughts resulting in actions! Thus, on that cold January morning, despite breaking up with slumber, I was dreaming and managed to prolong it throughout the year! En route, I discovered Socrates through Plato and later Aristotle and many great minds joined the list. It was the desperate intellectual warm up which I needed as I plunged headlong into the depths of the most happening place on earth: India! It is beyond question that I need more than a lifetime to get a hang of the astounding diversity of events hosted by the nation and the world at large! Thus, finally in 2015, I too was having a shot at what has been touted as the EXAMINED way of LIFE. And this is where the rubber meets the road!
The philosophical trinity above never saw eye to eye when it came to who should exercise legitimate authority over the masses. While Philosopher King became the be all and end all for Socrates, power to the people was an anathema for Plato but not for Aristotle who was open to experimenting with a range of regimes. Sixty eight years before, when we started building our nation, the atmosphere was not pregnant with such suspicions. Without blinking an eyelid, NEHRU, PATEL, AMBEDKAR and company laid out the red carpet for Democracy with all its shortfalls. Just as I started going down India’s memory lane through Jawaharlal Nehru’s “Discovery of India”, the changing realities of 21st century had already prompted our new Prime Minister to bury the anachronic PLANNING COMMISSION and usher in the NITI AAYOG. Just as the last rites of Planning Commission was being performed, from its ashes emerged the indomitable spirit of SUBHAS CHANDRA BOSE! After vacillating for a while, it was eventually decided to throw some light on the life of Netaji which until then was shrouded in mystery. But luck never smiled upon AURANGZEB since the Emperor was discarded by the roadside halfway through India’s journey to prosperity!
Burying the vestige of the Hindu rate of growth was indispensable for blazing a new trail. Trailing: That’s what India was doing all these decades after Independence according to some fellow “hot-under-the-collar” Indians. Hence, the clarion call from all the think tanks today is the overwhelming need for us Indians to put on our thinking caps and embrace the defining spirit of our times which goes by the name: INNOVATION. It is the magic wand which could, undoubtedly, lead us to prosperity and build an inclusive society. In line with the zeitgeist, the state’s bugle sounding across India resonated with chants to kill mediocrity and embrace pioneering.Such scintillating endeavours usually ennoble the leaders at the helm and inspire all and sundry to roll up their sleeves. But there was more to this mission than what met the eye. The rhetoric masquerading as the call to innovate was painted with varying HUES OF SAFFRON by vested interests. Thus when the rest of the world fell head over heels in love with the salacious 50 SHADES OF GREY, India opted to go SAFFRON!
Hence mumbo jumbos in all size and shape, tinged in cultural nostalgia, flew thick and fast. Imagination ran riot to demonstrate that India, during her long lost, pristine, innovative, glorious golden past played host to Inter planetary planes, Aircrafts, Automobiles and Embryo researches. The icing on the cake was the novel twist given to LORD GANESHA’s tale! Blockheads claimed that Elephant’s head stitched to the Lord’s body prove beyond doubt that Plastic surgery was child’s play for Indians of the yore. That’s what you call a head start! This MASH UP of Innovation, Imagination, Mythology and Religion formed the template for the rest of the year!!
Even though, the elephant god engaged us ephemerally, the real elephant in the room was the Holy Cow! No cow in the world has ever had voting rights or political affiliations or for that matter labour unions. Despite the deprivation indicators being very heavy, Cows in India this year found their knights in shining thrishuls and barged into editorial boards and newsrooms across the country. Up in the north, where the sword of Islam thesis was getting an audience amidst the Love Jihad, the communalist hitchhiked the SACRED COW AND BEEFED UP VEGETARIANISM only to trample MUHAMMAD AQLAQ to a brutal death. As the dust settles down, it turns out that the whole fiasco helped kill minority’s CASH COW. Meanwhile down south, fed up with THE KISS OF LOVE protest, BEEF FESTS were organized in God’s own country. Delicacies, in all sizes and shapes, made of beef were offered to all and sundry with no strings attached. Beef was baked, grilled, steamed and fried.
But the recipe which stood out was THE ROAST concocted by the A.I.B. in the Maratha heartland. Hence, abuse became the new in thing! Thus, before MAD MAX even thought about it, our culture brigade had already taken to the fury road. They turned “Swaraj is my Birthright” quote on its head into “GETTING OFFENDED IS MY BIRTHRIGHT”. What started as a one horse race soon turned into a tooth and nail fight to grab the eyeballs. THE BLACK SHEEPS of cosmopolitan Mumbai added another feather to their cap when they poured barrels of ignorance and parochialism over hapless visitors. The year ahead for the Fringe groups is shining bright with numerous possibilities but, regrettably, the State seems to be groping in the dark to bring back the BLACK MONEY! Stealing a march, Pakistan condemned that India is intolerant! Amidst the absolute pandemonium hosted by Moral Policies and Cultural Vigilantes across the length and breadth of the nation, TOLERANCE became a scarce commodity and went down the Tur Dal way.
Just as we were crying rivers over the spiralling price of Onions, THE DAL BROTHERS rubbed more salt into our existing inflation inflicted wounds. Adding insult to injury was THE PLIGHT OF THE FARMERS who yet again harvested a season of discontent. They found an everlasting solution for their never ending problems in a piece of rope or a few drops of poison invariably. This turned bittersweet when the capital witnessed a farmer ending his life live through breaking news. The future, especially of the sugarcane farmers, remains sour. But THE RAIL BUDGET, far from being sour, was sugary for the progressive Indians since it heralded the arrival of THE BULLET TRAINS and High speed ones in India. As the nation was busy acknowledging the magnanimity of Japan, another trigger happy brigade TOOK A LEAF OUT OF THE BULLET TRAIN CONCEPT for an entirely different motive. Fed up with their constructive criticisms, one fine morning, some fanatics sprayed bullets into the hearts of rationalists GOVIND PANSARE and M.M.KALBURGI! The trend here as well as in BANGLADESH was to end debates forever by killing the messengers rather than calmly listening to their MANN KI BAAT!
The pro civil liberties brigade, standing for rationalism, asked searching questions about the assassins and their whereabouts. In return the state, after taking a deep breath, arrested another smiling assassin called MAGGI NOODLES on charges of LEADing us astray. It just took two minutes to ban Maggi. Surviving all the decoys, the free speech brigade persisted and still asked “WHY WAS KALBURGI AND PANSARE KILLED?” This question was met with equal aplomb by the cyberspace which was busy deciphering another equally significant question which went like: “WHY DID KATTAPPA KILL BAAHUBALI?” Fed up, the free speech unit turned AVENGERS not to prevent the age of ultron but to check the increasing AGE OF INTOLERANCE through THE AWARD WAPSI CAMPAIGN. A slugfest ensued where hitting below the opponent’s belt became the thumb rule. When the artists en masse ran out of patience and decided that SILENCE WAS NOT AN OPTION anymore, the silence of the man at the helm became deafening.
Still suffering from THE INTERNATIONAL YOGA DAY HANGOVER, the Prime Minister, remaining calm, collected and composed, maintained a studied silence throughout. One can silence RAJDEEP but you will never, ever, ever, find the word “Silence” in ARNAB GOSWAMI’s dictionary. After assembling his motley crew, Arnab perhaps for the first time shot scathing questions to sadhus and sadhvis about THE BAN CULTURE. You see, no one can Censor Arnab! So, the CENSOR BOARD, already frustrated that AIB couldn’t be reined in, went after 007 turning him into a SHUDH, DESHI, and SANSKAARI JAMES BOND!! When the overwhelming atmosphere was dictated by intolerance, dominated by chauvinism engineered by Bans, the only beacon of hope was the Supreme Court which struck the final nail in the coffin of SECTION 66A.
The partisan attitude displayed by the state and the society spilled inevitably into the social media where Feminists became FEMINAZIS, Secularists became SICKULARISTS and netizens were either branded M*** BHAKT or a C******* CHAMCHA. Amidst and overwhelming atmosphere of Partisanship how on earth can you expect MARK ZUCKERBERG TO SUPPORT NET NEUTRALITY? An American company whose server is located outside India and which doesn’t pay Income tax is being given the crusade of closing in the DIGITAL DIVIDE. This flies in the face of logic. The Free Basics is the means to attain the end called Meta data which means gold mine for Facebook and co. No wonder why the lad has still kept his “UNLIKE” BUTTON in the pipeline. Zuckergerb, without an iota of doubt, would’ve earned overwhelming “Unlikes” from the Indian Netizens. Mark Zuckerberg should TRAI and TRAI until he succeeds!!
You cannot be blamed if you thought Facebook had an axe to grind when it promoted the Digital India Campaign. Despite the unceasing calls by the government to usher in Digital Equality, the omnipotent state and the free spirited Internet make STRANGE BEDFELLOWS. The state waxes eloquent about the need to usher in e governance and transparency on Sunday and goes for a blanket ban on websites and books on Monday. The BAN LOGIC reached stratospheric proportions when PORNOGRAPHY became the next victim for allegedly corrupting the minds of youth. Instant reactions followed in the wake of porn ban. It hit the crescendo in Gujarath where the shrewd Hardik Patel turned the collective frustrations of youth around by channelling them into an ANTI-RESERVATION STIR. My heart really goes out to those legislators in a state assembly who watched porn when a debate on drought was on. Truly, there could be NO EASE OF DOING BUSINESS when the society is preoccupied with unease! As a postscript to this I won’t blame you if you thought CHENNAI SUPER KINGS was banned by the government!! No! No one has banned BAN KI MOON!!
While BAN, BAN, BAN was the overwhelming call emerging across the length and breadth of the nation, it was BANG, BANG, BANG ACROSS THE LINE OF CONTROL once again. This continued even after BHAI TRANSFORMED himself from BEING HUMAN to BEING HANUMAN through BHAJRANGI BHAIJAAN! Alas! Not even Bhai could stop the belligerent standoff between India and Pakistan. “Instead of talking about each other, India and Pakistan should talk with each other”, remarked someone. And when the THINKING KHAN did talk, the “I-was-born-to-get-offended-gang” accused him of being an alien and wanted him dispatched to Pk’s planet.
When India’s Oprah was becoming a REFUGEE IN THE MAKING, Europe was already feeling the heat as a consequence of the EXODUS FROM SYRIA. They seem to be learning the hard way about the consequences of maintaining an impeccable human rights record at home and a miserable one abroad. Europe should stop being ROHIT SHARMA, who has a terrific home record and a dismal one abroad, once and for all. While Team India is yet make its mind whether to make him open the innings or send him down the order, the Supreme Court was concentration personified when it put an end to N.SRINIVASAN’s REIGN in BCCI. He and his son in law blamed ANUSHKA SHARMA for the whole IPL fiasco for bringing bad omens!! While GURUNATH MEYAPPAN was done in by betting, the government won the wager against the protesting FTII students by persisting with GAJENDRA CHAUHAN! In an age when even the DHARMAPUTRA – YUDHISTIR pays no heed to morality, how can you expect a LARGER THAN LIFE figure to take the blame for culpable homicide? At a time when CONCEPT CARS are still on papers, the foreigners were in awe about the fact that BHAI owned a DRIVERLESS CAR way back in 2000s! Hence Silicon Valley offered a red carpet welcome to the Prime Minister to talk seriously about Technology and Innovation!
While Obama was having yet another CHAI PE CHARCHA with Modi , VLADIMIR PUTIN had already stolen a march over Uncle Sam by backing Assad and thwarting the ISLAMIC STATE. As THE NEW WORLD ORDER is being drawn and redrawn by Putin’s Russia, Xi’s China and Obama’s America through Silk Roads, Maritime Routes and Trade Partnerships, only CHARLIE HEBDO can tell the world how lethal some drawings could get. The men who talked truth to power irreverently through countless sketches were sprayed with bullets culminating in the slogan “JE SUIT CHARLIE”. When it was ONE DREADFUL DAY for CHARLIE HEBDO, the year brought TWO NIGHTMARES FOR PARIS. Staying true to the saying “What goes around comes around”; Paris witnessed the gagging of Charlie Hebdo when the year was still young. At the rear end of the year, violence revisited the city when ISIS staged TERROR IN THE BATACLAN THEATRE instead of ART. That was soooo RADICAL! As if that were not enough, ISIS let loose RADICALIZATION amongst the YOUTH through SOCIAL MEDIA! But DONALD TRUMP made a mockery of ISIS when he called to boycott Muslims!! When the reality about what corrupts the youth hit home, India, admirably, reversed its porn ban!
Although separated by space, an Indian city too had hiccups finishing off the year 2015. While it was Tsunami, many moons back, which brought the city to its knees, this time it was when the heavens opened and gods forgot to close the gates. No, Chennai didn’t sink because RAJINIKANTH started sweating incessantly. Chennai sank because, instead of SAINT NICHOLAS, a lesser known weather phenomenon called EL NINO visited the city during Christmas. We received a whole month’s rainfall in a matter of few days and all hell broke loose!!
By the end of the year, the sceptic in me was dying a slow death. The triumphalism vaunted by the majority was waning away partly due to electoral debacles and the spirited resistance by some sections of society! My waning Faith in Humanity was restored when the tale of three cities, separated by geography, unfolded after three shocking disasters. Paris didn’t witness virulent Islamophobia in the wake of terror attacks. Chennai divided by region, religion, wealth and status, came together to provide succour to the flood ravaged ones. Kathmandu, rocked by the quake, found an ally in India when the latter stepped on the gas! Spirit of Volunteerism went through the roof when the youth rolled up their sleeves and took the plunge to save Chennai and Greenpeace, despite taking a licking, kept on ticking due to its volunteers. This year will go down in memory as the year when the world leaders, shrugging off their lethargy, descend in Paris to strike a deal on Climate change through COP 21! I sincerely hope the world will stand up against the growing terror menace, intolerance, radicalization, the growing inequality in wealth and a permanent seat for India in UN Security Council! Back home, in India, quicker legislations, better debates, accountable politics, responsible media, empathetic executive are what I hope for!
I believe India will put up a better show in Olympics 2016. Bolt and Messi will redo what they are best at and F.C.Barcelona will yet again win the Champions League. But This Year I fell In Love with a gifted but humble woman: HOLLY HOLM, The New UFC Champion!And finally I rediscovered the fading empathy within me this year when I wailed for an unknown, cherubic three year old whose lifeless body lay by the beach lapped by the endless waves! As we all pick up the pieces and step into the new year let’s resolve not to have anymore AYAN KURDIS’.
“I’m sharing my #TalesOf2015 with BlogAdda.”