Just like that it’s time to bid adieu to 2017 and look ahead to another year. As I sit here, on this brumal day, with my hands wrapped around a hot mug of coffee, I cannot help casting my mind back to the year that was.
A farrago of events made this a covfefe of a year.
It started out pretty bleakly with the world favourite, Barack Obama, handing the reins to America’s most controversial and colourful president. A reign starting with women the world over marching to protest his brand of politics while he inflated the numbers attending his inauguration. And thus it began. It’s a rare day in the Trump Presidency without some or the other headline grabbing news. A new tweet here. A sacking there. An indignant rant against fake news or a false claim of praise. World leaders, other than Putin, are shying away while North Korea is trying hard to push every button of his. Trump is ready with fire and fury but in the meanwhile is busy pushing aside the Montenegro President or pushing through deals in Saudi Arabia. It’s a relief he spends a third of his presidency golfing else there would be even more damage.
A damaged reputation is what’s left for many stalwarts knocked off their perch. Weinstein was always a known offender and Cosby was on trial but they have been joined by the likes of Spacey, Charlie Rose and in India Ram Rahim and his ilk. A public stage notwithstanding, the US President leads from the front, with comments such as the good shape of President Macron’s wife. Groping women, rape, sexual harassment is a global phenomenon and more women are exposing the men behind this malaise. 2017 saw this number reaching a new high. Breaking the silence has led to the #MeToo movement that gathered momentum the world over. It also led to Time magazine’s path breaking cover for Person of the year as the ‘The Silence Breakers’.
Breaking barriers is what a number of Indian Americans have done by winning big in elections and becoming more active in US politics. Indians are increasingly seen in important roles or as experts on television talk shows. The traditional immigrant desire to dominate the field of medicine, law, engineering, business is slowly giving way as the new generation shakes off these limitations. Meanwhile in India, Modi is still flexing his muscle with wins in elections. Despite becoming more belligerent and even articulate, the Congress Crown Prince has been unable to shake the status quo.
Meanwhile India’s neighbour, Aung San Su Kyi shocked the world with her silence on the plight of the Rohingya refugees. The worldwide refugee crisis has not dissipated be it Syria, Cuba, Serbia. Trump hung up on the Australian Prime Minister after reneging on a promise to welcome refugees to the US. Meanwhile, candy boy Trudeau, racks up the popularity rating with his heartfelt speeches, his integration effort and open arm welcome for refugees.
Angela Merkel is another leader who stoically goes about trying to do the right thing. She managed a victory but still conceded seats to a populist right alternative nationalist party; the worst results for Merkel during her entire tenure. It is a Catch 22 situation, since unfortunately, much of the global fundamentalist rise to power stems from the refugee crisis.
Other than the refugee crisis, 2017 also saw many natural disasters needing crisis management. Between earthquakes in Mexico, hurricanes in the Caribbean, US, Dominican Republic and Peurto Rico, flooding in Bangladesh, mudslides in Colombia and Sierra Leone and even the annual Mumbai flooding, it has been a non-stop onslaught. Apart from natural catastrophes, there have been many man-made calamities with terror attacks reaching a new level. Ramming vehicles on busy pedestrian thoroughfares has become the modus operandi with attacks in London, Stockholm, Barcelona, New York as well as random shooting during concerts such as the Arianna Grande concert and the concert in Vegas. Whether it’s the Louvre, St Petersbug, Kabul, Damascus, Aleppo, Mogadishu, the attacks never seem to cease.
Crisis reporting ceased, albeit momentarily, when the world was taken up by the total solar eclipse. For the hours during this natural progression, the world cast its eyes skyward. The internet was swamped by images of the diamond ring as the moon passed between the sun and the Earth, turning day into night. Times like this are eye-openers. No matter what damage is thrust on the world, there is an energy beyond human comprehension. Whether its opioids, terrorists, crazy world leaders or sexual predators, nothing or no one can control the force of nature.
What could have been controlled but became a human gaffe was the announcement of the winning movie at the Oscars. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced La La Land the winner but even as applause broke out, it was announced they had been handed the wrong envelope and Moonlight was deemed the actual winner. Heads must have rolled at this man-made error. talking of Oscars and Hollywood, the year saw the death of many famous celebrities such as Roger Moore, Mary Tyler Moore and in India, Vinod Khanna, Shashi Kapoor, Om Puri and Reema Lagoo. Playboy founder, Hugh Hefner finally put aside his bunnies and laid down to an eternal rest.
Talking about eternity and 2017 did have some redeeming moments. The introduction of the triple talaq bill could mean eternal bliss for many abused spouses. Hopefully, talaq won’t be a word in the dictionary for Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma who finally laid to rest all speculations and tied the note in a romantic setting far away from prying eyes. Having said that, Indian politicians are happy to use any situation to their benefit and Virushka have been accused of being anti-national for marrying outside India. With such ridiculous statements, how can anyone take our politicians seriously. Are they really interested in the good of the country or in self-promotion? As we look ahead to 2018, the Brits can turn their attention away from Brexit what with their Princes providing excitement with a third child for William and nuptials for Harry.
Meanwhile, the bookaholic in me is looking forward to the new Ashwin Sanghi book, ‘Keepers of the Kalachakra’ scheduled for release at the end of January. After reading 40 books this year, my aim is to beat that number. Its time for me to stop banging at the laptop keys and return to Pakistani author, Mohsin Hamid’s “Exit West’, a Man Booker shortlisted book based on the globally relevant theme of migrants, refugees and related problems.
Hopefully a better year awaits the world. Au revoir 2017. Bienvenue 2018.