Sunny side up!

Flashback Y2K9

Sunny side up!

Photo illustration: Yathi SiddakatteGeneral elections

The general elections in India, the world’s largest democracy, witnessed return of  the Congress-led UPA government. Congress did unexpectedly better, particularly in Uttar Pradesh. Muslims seem to be veering towards the party after a long spell of distancing. Manmohan Singh became Prime Minister for the second time winning the distinction of being the longest serving  Prime Minister in the country.

Flag of democracy kept aloft

Afghan President Hamid Karzai wins Presidential post, hits the perilous road stung by Taliban militants, for the second time. India continues development work, including laying of roads in Afghanistan amidst bomb blasts and repeat suicide attacks on Indian Embassy in Kabul.

Music maestro

Magic of A R Rahman casts it’s spell outside the country - wins Oscar for his music in the film “Slumdog millionaire”.  Rahman is the first Indian music director to win the coveted award. The Mozart of Chennai tunes into the west without missing out on the east.

The first tourist in space?

Kerala born Santhosh George Kulangara is the first possible future Indian space tourist and has been confirmed along with 37 others for space-tour operator Virgin Galactic’s spaceflight. Virgin Galactic, a company within Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group which plans to provide sub-orbital spaceflights to the paying public, hopes to offer orbital human spaceflights as well.

Talk time-long time

Mobile users party continued in 2009 with seconds billing  made compulsory (besides minutes). While the telecom companies cribbed as the decision impacted their profit, mobile users are happy chatting their way to infinite. The SMS charges also dived Southwards - bringing cheers and smiles to near and dear ones messaging happy news and views, who seemingly got a little closer than were in 2008. It is mobile warmth in the winter of 2009!

Raja visiting rank

Congress General Secretary and PM-in-waiting Rahul Gandhi continued his ‘fakir’ like rounds of poor and Dalit residents of Uttar Pradesh. The political masterstroke of the Congress youth leader has irked no ends the current Queen of Uttar Pradesh Mayawati. Rahul ate, chit-chatted and slept in the villages bereft of electricity and drinking water even after over 60 years of  independence. As a spin-off  affect, Congress leaders from UP followed the example of Gandhi carrying with them their own fresh bedsheets and pillows. It will take time.

Poster boy turns president

Nitin Gadkari, who by his own admission pasted party posters on walls, is in the top post of the BJP. The happy-go-lucky Maharashtrian Brahmin surprised many in the party by wresting the top seat from hot aspirants like Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, M Venkaiah Naidu, Ananth Kumar and Bal Apte. Gadkari, 52, is a foodie who managed to reduce his weight over a period. His weight, however, seems to be weighing heavily on the so called D-4 in the BJP. Asked about Rahul Gandhi’s village tour, the new BJP head said in a matter-of-fact manner: “It is good, let him do that”.

‘Rath Yatri’ stopped in his tracks

L K Advani , 82, stepped down as Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Moved away from the centre stage, the veteran leader was made chairman of BJP’s Parliamentary wing. The man who joined RSS at the age of 14 and spent 70 years in political life refuses to say quits. “I am not going to retire and will continue to be a political ‘rath-yatri’ till the end of my life”, said Advani giving enough food for thought to new dispensation in the party. Old habits die hard.

Yes, we can...maybe

It’s been a year since a healthy majority of American voters elected Barack Obama to change the world. That was the promise that emanated from his “Yes, we can” speech. But a year later, millions of Americans wish he had been tougher on Wall Street, quicker to close Guantanamo, more willing to investigate Bush-era excesses, bolder in seeking truly universal health care and, finally, shown greater courage in bringing home the boys from Afghanistan. Instead, in his Oslo speech, he ended up justifying a “just war”. He could summon rhetorical magic then. Now, the hard reality of being president of the world’s most powerful country appears to have sunk in.

Landmark N-deal

The India-US nuclear deal, clinched when one of the world’s most hated men, George W Bush, was still American president, was diplomacy of grand gesture. India will gain access to US civilian nuclear technology and fuel in return for inspections of its civilian, but not military, nuclear facilities. The deal would, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh put it, help India liberate itself from “the constraints of technology denial of 34 years”. But the Ameircans insist that if India tests another nuclear bomb the deal would be cancelled. Nevertheless, the deal paved the way for nuclear cooperation with France and Canada, followed by Russia. It’s been a good year for India’s (civilian) nuclear industry.

Happy adoptions

Hollywood  husband-wife actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie- Brangelina- who visited India last year, gave homes to more children in 2009. They adopted more and spoke of continuing with the good habit. Not to be left behind, the singer-dancer Madonna, who also visited India -Rajasthan and its temples last year - also announced taking more children under her protective wings. In India former Miss Universe and actress Sushmita Sen adopted one more girl child. She already has one adopted gild child. The kind hearted Sen is single but  is always ready to mingle. These are happy families internationally in 2009.

TV justice for women, girl child

Some  respite from ‘Saas-Bahu home conspiracies’ a la Balalji production. A few television serials focused on the evil practises of child marriages, female infanticide and general discrimination against women. Serials like “Na ana is desh meri Lado” and “Balika Badhu” sought to attack time-held retrograde views by society, particularly by the men-folk. Another serial “Utran” depicted a real-life story of the struggle of a maid servant and her daughter who prove themselves against all societal injustice and biases. A happy feeling at the end.

Purulia girl dares to defy

Fourteen-year-old Ahalya Kumar who lives on a single daily meal of starched rice in Odlih village of Purulia district of West Bengal, packed enough power in her to walk out of an arranged marriage. One of four children in a family that earns a pittance by rolling bidis, her father Nemai regretted his decision later and resolved to continue her studies.

Mumbai dream homes

Owning a home in Mumbai is a dream of millions of people. The only dampner is price, which is beyond common man’s reach. The prices range from Rs 3000 per sq ft upwards and scale even higher as you move towards the island city.

But 2009 made the first break in this long chain of frustrations and improbability. The state-run Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) opened up 3,863 houses ranging from Rs 3.30 lakh to Rs 56 lakh at places like Chembur, Varsova, Mulund and Sion.

The response was massive. Long queues were seen outside HDFC bank branches across the metropolis to buy the application forms. The lottery was conducted in June and the lucky ones  allotted their dream homes. Overwhelmed by the response, MHADA is launching its second ad blitz within a year this month to offer 3000 plus new flats.

Nobel laureate

India born Cambridge chemist Venkatraman Ramakrishnan won Nobel prize in chemistry for showing how proteins are made in cells. He shares the prestigious award with Thomas Steitz and Ada Yonath. In the MRC lab in Cambridge where he has been working, “I go strictly by merit. I don’t care about nationality,” he said during an interaction with Madras University students recently.

Sea bridge ahoy!

After 10 years of long wait, stretched deadlines but at the same time hardcore planning and labour, the spectacular Bandra-Worli Sea Link was thrown open on June 30, 2009. Named after former prime minister late Rajiv Gandhi, the sea link is India’s first bridge constructed in open sea conditions.

The Rs 750 crore cable stayed link offers a new route between the island city and the western suburbs. Till then, the Mahim Causeway was the only route, and it takes about 35 minutes to travel from Bandra and Worli. During peak hours, around 7,000 to 8,000 cars use the sea link per hour.

They beat recession

The global recession which played havoc with most economies failed to make a dent in deposits from the 25 lakh Non-Resident Indians from Kerala employed in the Middle East till the second quarter of this financial year. Their deposits constitute the backbone of the state’s money order economy. From Rs 29,889 crore in March 2008, the figures jumped to a record high of Rs 37,019 crore as on March 31, 2009, said the State Level Bankers Committee. A positive development to cheer notwithstanding the marginal drop seen in latest quarter figures.

World's first cloned buffalo calf

Scientists at the National Dairy Research Institute at Karnal, Haryana cloned the world’s first buffalo calf through a unique “hand-guided cloning technique”. The technique is said to be simpler than the conventional methodused to clone sheep“Dolly”. Though the first calf died a few days after birth, the scientists were able to secure success with the second cloned calf that was born a few days later. Scientists claim the technique could create elite breed of buffaloes of desired sex and contribute to increasing India’s milk production.

Green politics

National leaders and sleep-deprived negotiators at the Copenhagen UN summit on climate change thrashed out a text late December 18 night that could determine the balance of power in the world and possibly the future of our species.

Cancer cure

Scientists have reconstructed the biological history of two types of cancer – lung and skin – in a genetic tour de force that promises to transform medical treatment of the disease.

The feat, a world first by Cancer Genome Project team at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge, gives doctors a profound insight into the biological causes of a patient’s cancer and marks a major milestone in personalised anti-cancer therapies and strategies to prevent the disease.

Yugratna, UP’s shining eco-star

Thirteen-year old Yugratna Srivastava created history by addressing top world leaders at the recent UN Climate Change Summit in New York. A ninth standard student at a local missionary school, Yugratna yearns to see a ‘Green India' and emphasises the need for massive tree plantation across the country.

Making an appeal to the people to save the environment, Yugratna said that every youth and child must plant at least one tree if we want to ensure a better world for the generations to come.

“Pretty woman” in Haryana

Julia Roberts went Indian during the launch of the shooting of Hollywood movie, “Eat, Pray, Love” in the Hindu way with the performance of Hawan (fire sacrifice). The Hollywood star was shooting in the premises of Ashram Hari Mandir in Pataudi, about 60 km from Delhi. Priests performed the ceremony for the movie’s success. The premises are owned by cricketer Pataudi and his film star son Saif Ali Khan.

Roberts is said to have rehearsed a 182-verse Sanskrit chant in English which she is required to recite as a part of her script. Roberts wore salwar-kurta,sported 'Rudraksh' (seeds of the tree Eleocarpus ganitrus) mala (rosary) and savoured the Indian cuisine.  The Oscar winner’s children , four-and-a-half-year-old twins Hazel and Phinnaeus and two-year-old Henry, too participated.

Rajmata Gayathri Devi

The just concluded Jaipur Jewellery Show captivated the visitors with its exquisite collection on display. The rubies, emeralds, diamonds and specially the theme stone, tanzanite, stole the heart of many beauties. But the most precious ‘jewel’ which mesmerised every one with the sheer elegance and beauty, was late Rajmata Gayatri Devi! At a special photo gallery to pay tribute to her, art lovers simply bowed down before the scintillating beauty. A connoisseur and designer of precious jewellery herself, she was the most loved pearl in the crown of Jaipur and fond memories of her, as people’s princess, endure in Jaipurites’ hearts.

BIZ BUZZ

Small wonder by Tata Motors

In one of the most important milestones in the history of India, the world’s cheapest car Tata Nano was launched in Mumbai on March 23, 2009, making four-wheelers affordable to lower middle class. The car not only evoked unprecedented response from people, but also led other automobile companies to think on similar lines and cash in on the lower income groups.

Satyam rises like the phoenix

Revival of the scam-tainted Satyam Computers is one of the most important developments in 2009. Soon after the company’s disgraced founder chairman Ramalinga Raju admitted to fudging the company’s accounts, the government took up firefighting and constituted a three-member board of directors, which subsequently led to the company’s take over by Tech Mahindra.

MF investors say cheese!

In a landmark decision, the Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI) abolished entry load charged by mutual funds on investors. It meant that mutual funds or distributors cannot debit the distribution and marketing costs from investors’ amounts. Though mutual fund houses were unhappy about the decision, it brought in transparency in mutual fund business.

Securities trading hours

The SEBI allowed Indian stock markets to extend trading hours by nearly two and a half hours – from 9 am to 5 pm as against the current practice of 9.55 am to 3.30 pm – provided the bourses have adequate support system. Following the  decision, the Bombay Stock Exchange and its bigger rival National Stock Exchange made an attempt to advance the trading hours to 9 am which met with resistance from  stock brokers.

SPORTS

India is Test No 1

In their 75 years of existence as a regular Test playing nation, India has achieved a lot in the longest version of the game. But one feat has always eluded them, the number one position in the ICC Test rankings. The Sourav Ganguly-initiated process, which was carried on with aplomb by Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble, reached its zenith under Mahendra Singh Dhoni when India registered a 2-0 series win over Sri Lanka.

Usain Bolt’s twin world records

The ace Jamaican sprinter has raised the bar in 100 and 200M events to a level that few imagined to have existed. The showboat from Caribbean stopped the clock at 9.58 in 100M while he went past the line in 19.19 in 200M in the Berlin meet earlier this year. Who can bolt past Usain?

Vijender Singh, latest pin-up boy

After winning a bronze medal for India at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, boxer Vijender Singh added another feather to his cap as he acquired the No 1 ranking in the 75 kg weight category in 2009. Born in a nondescript Haryana village, Vijender has emerged as one of the sporting icons in a country where sporting heroes are hard to come by in Olympic sport. He replicated his Olympic success by winning a bronze at the World Amateur Boxing Championships this year. Fittingly, he has become the latest pin-up boy with his forays in the entertainment biz ranging from ramp shows to appearances in TV reality shows.

Master blaster’s 20 years

Sachin Tendulkar, the jewel of Indian cricket, achieved another milestone in 2009 when he completed two decades in top-flight cricket. During a career that began in Karachi way back in 1989, Tendulkar has successfully covered the distance between a young protege and an all-time great, scoring runs against all opposition at every corner of cricketing world and under all imaginable conditions. Hope the journey continues!

Bravo Sri Lankan team!

The world cricketing landscape changed unequivocally on March 3, 2009. The day when terrorists hit and injured Sri Lankan cricketers on their way to stadium in Lahore, the Islanders showed remarkable courage to put the trauma behind them and continue to tour and play cricket.

Federer storms back

Roger Federer returned to the summit after being temporarily written off as a major competitive force as men’s tennis made a U-turn at the top. The Swiss, now the all-time record-holder on 15 Grand Slam singles titles, thanks to his sixth in seven years at his beloved Wimbledon in July, added that repeat honour to his career-first French Open trophy.

In addition to lifting the two Majors, the 28-year-old kept busy off the court, marrying longtime girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec in April. Three months later, the proud couple became the parents of twin girls, with infants Charlene and Myla already pegged as junior tennis royalty.

The new family made its first road trip together less than a month after the babies were born, travelling with a nanny and using private jets for the American events leading into the US Open.

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