Year of: #covfefe

* A look back on the events and people who shaped 2017

When 2016 ended, we thought it was the pits. But we now know it wasn’t. Because we have a new  contender in 2017.

2017 turned out to be the year when practically all men in Hollywood have been outed to be as sexual predators of some kind. Harvey Weinstein has emerged to be the Adolf Hitler of sexual crimes. It was a Festival of Sleaze as every day some men or the other was revealed to have done something unspeakable to the opposite sex. But true to the spirit of the year, not one of the perpetrators has been tried so far, but plenty of searching questions have been asked of the victims.

In India, however, things were different as women had little to complain. To be precise, women are given very little space to complain. So things, on the surface level, never seem all that bad. But we did have

our Dashvanths (he sexually assaulted and killed a toddler, and then took out his own mom) and the cult

leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.  The latter’s heinous sex and murder crimes did not come across that horrendous because he was also, for all practical purposes, a bumbling clown. That he had thousands and thousands of devoted followers also point to an important fact: This world is far crazier than we believe it to be.

In India, much of the focus was on the economy, or at least whatever that was remaining after last year’s demonetisation. Using the rich experience of demonetisation, the Finance Ministry went ahead and made a similar spectacular boo-boo with the GST rollout.

Then there was the Aadhaar conundrum. At the moment of writing, the official status of Aadhaar is: It is

not mandatory in any place, except in places that it is mandatory. Seriously, this is not a joke, and the courts have allowed things to such a pass. If Aadhaar was a conundrum then the protests over the film Padmavati was a paradox, a film that has been declared outrageous by people who have not seen it.

There were plenty of elections for States, and plenty of stupid things were said about and by the PM. The

BJP won a clutch of States, but Rahul Gandhi won the most important election -- the president election

of his party. This was the year of National President election too. The Vice-President, as is the norm, was, however, selected through a national lucky-dip.

The media was buffeted by falling revenues, falling readership/viewership, fake news. The media rose up to these challenges manfully by making big news out of tweets and memes.

On the Twitter platform, trolling, racist slurs and downright nasty comments became order of the day. And that was just from Donald Trump. He also coined the word ‘covfefe’, which is an understandable misspelling of ‘Harry Potter’. Understandable because it’s Trump. He makes strange connections. (The year has to be hashtagged #covfefe, as it was basically nonsense and the world had to make sense of it).

And closer home: Tamil Nadu. Allow us to laugh our hearts out first. It was less a State more a stand-up

comic show. The developments were as many as they were bizarre. The political lows that the State touched this year were so deep that they would have reached the other side of the globe. Rajini and Kamal made plenty of headlines. Not surprising as they are the reigning top film stars. Just that they did not have even a single movie release this year. The biggest woman star proved to be Oviya, who, of course, we can recall from her film...hmm, whatisitsname... never mind. We can’t remember even a single movie of hers ever. But she was the sensation of the year. Towards the end of the year, the 2G

accused A Raja and Kanimozhi were acquitted on the grounds that the 1.76 crore lost was in bitcoin transactions and not in rupees.

State Minister Sellur Raju was in the running for physics Nobel prize, though he lost out, he was not to

be denied the Oscar for the best comedian.

On the sports stage, Roger Federer kept himself going spectacularly, while Usain Bolt dropped out to end a remarkable career, Indian cricketers kept playing against Sri Lanka that it became so boring that the BCCI had to come up with something interesting to keep the fans interested. So the BCCI smartly organised Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma’s wedding.

To be fair, there were many good news too. Samsung Note 8 did not explode or catch fire even once. We

heard little from Digvijay Sigh for a large part of this year. But we heard Jimikki Kammal a lot. A passable Malayalam song, it became a raging national hit. The reason? Any dance movement, including kicking and wincing, could be synchronised with the song, as was proved by the many WA forwards.

Though 2017 was eminently forgettable, we will take one last look at the year that began with February. Okay, that would have been the case if those who were in charge of the GST rollout had handled the schedule of months. Luckily, that wasn’t the case, so we open, as ever, with...

January

The New Year dawns resplendently across the globe, except in New Delhi where thanks to smog and air pollution the visibility is below zero and nobody can see the calendar. By the time New Delhi realises what date it is, it is already Republic Day, the ceremonial day when India showcases its military might and cultural heritage to Doordarshan camera persons.

In America, Donald Trump is sworn in as the President. Right at the inauguration, Trump makes an inspired speech to the public, and in a symbolism that is very powerful and passionate, he wears a cap that is blazoned with the words: “Сделаем Америку снова великой!”.

Back home in India, it is two months since the demonetisation move, and there are signs that it is already a big success, as an RBI press release, with specific numbers pointed out, that it was the 375th press release it was issuing on demonetisation. Meanwhile, the actual unveiling of new Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes are delayed, as due to a technical glitch, noticed only at the last moment, “they were found to be round in shape”.

In a major success for the much maligned pollsters, almost all of them correctly predict that some States will go to polls later in the year.

While it was winter cool everywhere, in Tamilnadu things come to a boil over jallikattu, as youngsters

in a much-inspiring show of unity and strength do what they always do: Hang around at the Marina beach well past sun down.

Even as the protests swelled, the TamilnNadu government, in a smart move, no doubt suggested by Minister Sellur Raju, shut down the entirety of the beach using collapsible metal doors.

In sports, Chennai Open ends its association with the city. The Tamil Nadu Tennis Association assuages

fans’ feelings by announcing that it will organise in the vacant slot, as is the tradition, an India-Sri Lanka

cricket series.

In a foreshadowing of things to come, Aadhaar is made compulsory for all purchases of undergarments.

Global warming gets worse, winters become more pronounced and January gets three more days which

naturally delays the onset of...

February

In a major boost to Indian economy, but a major dampener to T N Ninan personally, the general Budget and Railway Budget are merged.

Reacting to the axing of the railway budget, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tells, at a meeting in UP, “I

express my complete solidarity in this hour of grief for pilots.”

Elections to many States, including the pivotal Uttar Pradesh, are announced and all parties agree

that they will not foment communal trouble or seek vote on caste considerations or speak demeaningly of their rivals. They also agree to not give election tickets to people with criminal track record. They further accept that precedence has to be for women and candidates belonging to Dalit communities. In the end, they decide all these measures will give heart-attack to the public, and hence decide to revert to their status quo which is the exact opposite of all the above.

Prime Minister Modi, in a bid to build strong ties with Asian countries, embarks on a 4-nation trip, but two of those countries turn out to be in Africa. Needless to say, the trip schedule was worked by the same

gents who will be later put in charge of the GST rollout.

In international news, North Korea builds a Uranium plant and says that it will “use it for domestic purposes like gardening.”

In Tamilnadu, things go topsy-turvy as Sasikala is sentenced to 4 years of imprisonment, but the AIADMK general council in an unanimous show of solidarity, debar the Supreme Court from contesting in AIADMK party polls.

The beleaguered O Panneerselvam, in a dramatic show of defiance, comes to the Jayalalithaa samadhi

and sits to do what no man has done in recent times: Not check his mobile for 40-odd minutes.

Since February managed to link itself to Aadhaar, the government is able to roll out to the country...

March

A big month for politics in India, as the election results to five States including the bell-weather State UP, are out with the BJP winning in four of them. The opposition cries wolf against the EVMs, especially the AAP candidates who are routed in Punjab. They allege that “when our volunteers and supporters tried to register our votes, the EVMs laughed maniacally and gave out the message: ‘You think

we are going to register that in your party’s name!’’’

The BJP picks Yogi Adityanath for the UP Chief Minister’s post based on his impeccable credentials that

his name anagrams to: “Ahoy! A Tidy Giant”.

Aadhaar is made mandatory for playing Candy Crush.

In a revelation from Hollywood, actor Kevin Spacey is accused of groping the Oscar statuette. Many

feel -- not unreasonably -- the statuette might have been drunk or provocatively dressed.

Meanwhile, in Tamilnadu, the TN Assembly, in a historic sitting in Koovathur, unanimously vote

to make the Secretariat (Fort St George) a holiday resort. It is a formal quid pro quo, they said.

In foreign news, the Britain formally began the first step towards Brexit from the European Union by using heavy-duty industrial chainsaw at Dover beach. We will first cut ourselves from the French, the British PM said.

In America, President Donald Trump launches nuclear-powered tweets at Mexico.

Closer home, music director Ilaiyaraja and singer SP Balasubrahmanyam are in a bitter royalty fight.

SPB, ever the kind soul he is, says in the field of music the idea of royalty is quite wrong. The seven swaras belong to all. "My name may be mine. But I allow others to use it to call me,”

he said genially.

In the blinding onset of early summer many failed to see the early onset of...

April

Narendra Modi, in a major coup on the foreign affairs front, set off to Uruguay even though the pilot protested that he doesn’t know the way. “We will ask somebody en route,” the Prime Minister said pragmatically, “It is the relationship with the Uruguayan Prime Minister or President, whatever

system they have there, is most important."

In the face of rising fiscal deficit, Finance Minister Arun Jaitely said that he would set up a committee

to figure out whether it is a good thing or a bad thing or what. He also said the Finance Ministry was battle ready for the GST rollout. “To take on the early load of GST, we have ordered for four scientific calculators,” he added.

In a breakthrough in the Bofors corruption scandal, a Bench of the Delhi High Court met and said it was

totally unacceptable that the case was dragging for so long. But after completing such an enormous task,

the court adjourned the case, on a fast-track basis, to 2021.

In a setback to ISRO, a satellite launch is aborted at the last minute as the rocket was found pointed at

the ground. The technicians work day and night to change ‘This Side Up’ arrow.

Aadhaar linkage is made compulsory for all WhatsApp forwards.

Feisty and iconoclastic musician T M Krishna, in a bid to unchain Carnatic music from the tyranny of

traditions, performs with his troupe at Sikkil Gurucharan’s concert. Music is universal. Everyone should get a chance to perform. The stage should not be a limiting factor, he said quite logically.

Violent protests break out in Venezuela as its economy crumbles and its inflation grows enormously

that, as a report in Economist said, “it was possible to view it from outer space”.

In IPL contests, during strategic timeouts, India and Sri Lankan Boards agree for a bilateral book

cricket series.

Speaking of strategic timeouts, April took one to usher in ....

(The second part of the series will appear next week).

e-mail the writer at

balakumarkb@gmail.com

 


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