#DHRecaps | A look back and let’s move on

One last look at what has generally been a year defined by several highs and lows, joys and sorrows, and the battle for power

The most unthinkable happened this year. Who would imagine that one day Padmavati would marry Alauddin Khilji? Cut to the 14th century, when Queen Padmavati jumps into the pyre to save her honour rather than be captured by Khilji, the Sultan of Delhi who is besotted by her exceptional beauty. This is also the storyline of the Bollywood blockbuster, Padmaavat, where Bengaluru-lass Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh play the role of Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji. But real life can be very different from reel. Deepika and Ranveer fall madly in love and unite in one of the most-talked-about weddings of the year.

Barely had the mehendi on Deepika’s hands dried, when news came of another high-profile Bollywood wedding, that of Priyanka Chopra to American singer Nick Jonas, 10 years her junior, complete with 10 truckloads of fireworks that lit the Jodhpur skies. The year ended with the big-ticket wedding of Mukesh Ambani’s daughter Isha with Anand Piramal.

The royal marriage between Prince Harry and American actor Meghan Markle in May grabbed eyeballs across the world, while in the United Kingdom, the unconventional couple drew racial abuse. Markle, a divorcee of mixed race parentage, is three years older to Harry, something that traditionalists have not been able to fathom.

In India, it was a year of liberation, as the Supreme Court decriminalised homosexuality, legalised adultery, and permitted women in the reproductive age group to enter the shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala. The court also held that every adult has the right to marry anyone, and nobody, including parents, can question their choice of spouse.

Ireland became the first nation to make it illegal to pay men more than women, the Canadian Senate made the national anthem ‘O Canada’ gender-neutral, Saudi Arabia ended its ban on movie theatres with the screening of Black Panther, and allowed women to drive. But it was not as gracious with the regime’s critic, journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was allegedly murdered in the Saudi Embassy in Turkey.

It was a mixed bowl for women. While some scaled new heights, there was no let-up in the atrocities against them. In Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, a 17-year-old job-seeker was repeatedly raped allegedly by a BJP MLA and his associates before being sold off. Her father died mysteriously in judicial custody after he was framed in a case. In Kathua of Jammu and Kashmir, an eight-year-old girl was found raped and murdered. In another case, 24 girls were rescued from a women’s shelter home in UP following complaints of trafficking. The MeToo movement brought down many towering personalities across the country, while in Sandalwood, actors Sangeetha Bhat, Sruthi Hariharan and Sanjjanaa Galrani had their own woes to narrate.

Win-win

In sports, India’s M C Mary Kom, mother of three, created history when she won the sixth gold in the world boxing championship. At the Asian Games, Swarna Barman became the first Indian heptathlete to win gold, while P V Sindhu won the silver in badminton. Other firsts included that of Manu Bhaker’s in shooting at the Asian Youth Games in Buenos Aires; Jeremy Lalrinnungathe at the Men’s Weightlifting 62-kg event, and gymnast Dipa Karmakar at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Challenge Cup. Bajrang Punia bagged two medals at the World Wrestling Championship. India put up its best-ever show after 2010 at the Commonwealth Games winning 66 medals including 26 gold. While Virat Kohli became the fastest batsman to reach 10,000 ODI runs smashing Sachin Tendulkar’s record, India emerged as the best team in international cricket winning 14 of the 20 ODIs played during the year.

At the Australian Open, Roger Federer retained his Men’s Singles title while Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark won the Women’s Singles. The FIFA World Cup held at Russia dominated the realm of sports. While France walked away with the cup, Croatia, with its spirited defence, won the hearts of the people across the globe.

In the realm of entertainment, Avengers: Infinity War, which grossed $2 million worldwide, led the pack of blockbusters like Black Panther, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Incredibles-2, while in Bollywood the talk revolved around Padmaavat, Padman, which is about a man who sets up a machine in rural areas to provide inexpensive sanitary pads to women, and Sanju, a biopic on the life of controversial actor Sanjay Dutt. The Rajnikanth-Akshay Kumar starter 2.0 came as the icing on the cake. In the Kannada industry, Naagarahaavu, which was re-released after a gap of 46 years, ran to a full house, while movies like KGF: Chapter 1The Villain, Tagaru, Sarkari Hi. Pra. Shaale, Ayogya, Humble Politician Nograj, among others, created waves.

The new year did not begin on a happy note for tipplers with news coming in of the death of Kapil Mohan, chairman of Mohan Meakin and the founder of the iconic Old Monk rum. Another shock was in store when Bollywood sensation Sridevi died of accidental drowning in the bathtub of a Dubai hotel in February. An era came to an end with the demise of former prime minister A B Vajpayee and DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi. Among the others who left a void in the world were former US president George HW Bush, Spiderman founder Stan Lee, Jagadguru Sri Jayendra Saraswati, veteran journalist Kuldeep Nayyar, former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee, senior politician N D Tiwari, cricketer Ajit Wadekar, and the actor of the popular television series Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmha, Kavi Kumar Azad. November was a black month for Karnataka with the passing away of union minister Ananth Kumar, actor and politician Ambareesh, and former railway minister C K Jaffer Sharief, not to mention the death of 30 passengers when a bus plunged into a canal in Mandya district. Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Vishwanath Shetty, who was stabbed multiple times in his office, had a narrow escape.

Many innocent lives were also snuffed out due to accidents, terror attacks and natural calamities. Plane crashes in Moscow and Nepal preceded the worst-ever accident of the year involving Lion Air in Indonesia which claimed 189 lives. Investigations later revealed that the plane, piloted by an Indian, was not air-worthy. In Amritsar, at least 60 people were killed and 200 others injured when a speeding train mowed through a large crowd witnessing a Dussehra event standing on the rail track.

While Tsunami left over 2,100 dead in Indonesia, Kerala, which was recovering from the Nipah virus attack, witnessed one of the worst natural calamities with floods leaving over 480 dead. Landslides and heavy rains devastated the picturesque hill district of Kodagu in Karnataka, even as rains and cyclones left a trail of death and destruction in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, Nagaland Orissa and Tamil Nadu.

In Pakistan, 149 people were killed in a suicide bombing attack, and in a sad turn of events, 39 Indian hostages who were kidnapped by ISIS in Iran were confirmed dead. Amidst all this gloom came the news of the miraculous rescue of 12 members of a junior soccer team who were trapped in a flooded cave in Chiang Rai province, Thailand, but American missionary John Allen Chau was not as lucky as he was killed by Sentinelese tribesmen when he trespassed into their forbidden island in Andaman and Nicobar. 

On the domestic political front, corruption charges over the acquisition of the Rafale fighter jet that dominated the national dialogue were thrown out by the apex court.

The tables threatened to turn against the previous UPA regime when the Modi government succeeded in extraditing the middleman in the AgustaWestland helicopter deal, Christian Michel, from Dubai. A UK court’s order in favour of Vijay Mallya’s extradition also came as a shot in the arm for the government. Meanwhile, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi had to face a setback in the National Herald case, while son-in-law Robert Vadra too came under the scanner of the investigating agencies.

The year did not augur well for the BJP. In Karnataka, attempts to install a Yeddyurappa-led government fell flat on its face, with the Congress throwing its weight behind Janata Dal(S) and making H D Kumaraswamy the chief minister. In Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party pulled out of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), while union minister Upendra Kushwaha resigned accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of betrayal. The elections to five states in December signalled the resurgence of the Congress, which won in the BJP bastions of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. The Chandrashekar Rao-led TRS retained Telangana while Mizoram slipped from Congress hands to MNF.

The NDA government faced its biggest embarrassment when RBI governor Urjit Patel quit before his term ended. The government, however, scored some brownie points when it launched the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana — the world’s largest state-funded health insurance scheme, designed to provide free secondary and tertiary healthcare to nearly 50 crore citizens. While fuel prices and the rupee rate against the dollar moved in opposite directions, the World Bank declared that India has become the world’s sixth largest economy, putting France in the seventh place. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) continued to break new ground starting with the placing of 31 satellites in orbit through the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

The heights

The statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the world’s tallest at 183 m, was inaugurated by Modi in Gujarat. China, on the other hand, built a 100-m tower, dubbed the world’s biggest air purifier, and also inaugurated the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, the longest sea-crossing bridge.

Coming to the states, in Jammu and Kashmir, the assembly was suddenly dissolved by the governor after PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti made a bid to form the government. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tasted twin victories when the Supreme Court clipped the powers of the Lt Governor and the Election Commission restored the membership of 20 AAP MLAs who were earlier disqualified over the office-of-profit issue. After a 34-year-long wait, the Delhi High Court convicted two people in connection with the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 following the assassination of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi. In UP’s Bulandshahr, cow slaughter-related violence claimed the life of a police officer, while in Assam the National Register of Citizens was the talking point. In Tamil Nadu, police firing on protestors agitating against the expansion of the Sterlite Copper Plant in Thuthukudi claimed 13 lives. In Shimla, which is reeling under a severe water crisis, drinking water had to be distributed under police protection.

In a first, four Supreme Court judges held a press conference levelling serious charges against the then chief justice of India, Dipak Misra, while the country’s premier investigating agency, CBI, tied itself in knots with the director and his deputy publicly squabbling with each other, forcing the government to send them both on leave. An attempt by the Congress to move impeachment proceeding against Justice Misra failed to see the light of the day.

On the global canvas, denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula moved closer to reality with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meeting his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in and holding a subsequent conclave with US President Donald Trump in Singapore.

In Cuba, six decades of Castro leadership came to an end with Raul Castro stepping aside as president in favour of Miguel Diaz-Canel. After nearly a decade in power marred by corruption charges, South African President Jacob Zuma resigned under pressure from his own party and was succeeded by Cyril Ramaphosa. Vladimir Putin won a fourth term in office in Russia, Chinese President Xi Jinping earned a second term, while 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia became the world’s oldest sitting head of government. In neighbouring Pakistan, former cricketer Imran Khan was elected prime minister.

In Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih became the president defeating Abdullah Yameen, whose desperate attempts to remain in power by declaring a state of emergency and other coercive methods did not succeed. Sri Lanka plunged into a constitutional crisis after president Maithripala Sirisena dismissed prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place, though he did not enjoy a majority in parliament.

The year, like any other, was full of ups and downs, highs and lows, joys and sorrows, beginnings and endings.

And now it is time to let it go along with all the thoughts that weighed us down and embrace the new year with renewed hope. As Alfred Tennyson would say, “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering: It will be happier.”

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#DHRecaps | A look back and let’s move on

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