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2014: Happy that it’s ending

As 2014 slips into the ever-filling but ever-lengthening abyss of history, the one defining word to sum up the entire year would be: Happiness. Happy that it is ending. Happy that didn’t get any worse than it did.

It was the year that Narendra Modi stormed to power at the Centre based on the sterling qualification that he was not Manmohan Singh. In other words, a fairly seasoned doorknob with reasonable marketing push could also have made it to the top. It was the year when the results of the elections were more or less clear to everyone in the country, except the ones that were in the actual business of predicting the polls. But to be fair, many of the pollsters and political journalists did get the election dates right.

It was the year when e-commerce came of age in India as young and savvy business startups showed that there are big bucks to be made on the internet if you are ready to spend bigger bucks on marketing blitz and manage to get the biggest bucks through venture capitalist funding. It was the year when drones from being carriers of weapons of mass destruction became carriers of mass creation, as in pizza. Drones have become dime-a-dozen that in future it would be cheaper to send large Whatsapp attachments on them (drones) rather than the conventional method of tying them (attachments) on to pigeons that are trained to drop them on to your inbox.

It was also the year when media in India crossed a major threshold and came to the simple realisation that, in this era of financial problems for the industry, a newspaper can, at a time, either supply paper or news only. Eventually, the formula arrived upon is: Readers will pay for the paper, the ‘newsee’ will pay for the news. In other words, paid news is here to stay. The nation’s largest media group has rightfully set the agenda in these matters, and we are in a situation where, if you pay the right amount, it wouldn’t mind featuring an opinion piece that Suhel Seth invented the steam engine. Talking of Suhel Seth, we as a nation owe an apology to future generations on behalf of him as he is too busy being Suhel Seth.

It was the year when taxi/cab services, the four-wheelers that you hired to drop you from one location to another, became in a trice —- this is the beauty of modern-day technology companies —- modern-day technology companies. Auto-drivers, if they charged extra fare at peak hours, were fleecers. Cab services charging premium at peak hours is legitimate even smart business strategy because — wait for the surprise — they are modern-day technology companies. It was a year that saw everything getting an app on your mobile. Dating and dying, food and films, sleep and spirituality… you name it. There may be an app that keeps all your apps under one giant umbrella app.

It was the year when the BCCI, after riding rough shod over legitimate criticism at its working under N Srinivasan, was finally and firmly taken to task by the Supreme Court of this great nation. Thanks to its spirited intervention, Srinivasan who was calling all the shots from the centre, is now calling all the shots from the sidelines. As far as the IPL spot-fixing case goes, the Supreme Court is so fully seized of the matter that nobody else knows what stage it is in now.

It was the year that Bollywood would look back and recall matter of factly, ‘2014, yaar the year that saw the release of Humshakals’, and high-five to itself. It was a film that was crude, crass and coarse, and naturally, quite successful at the box-office. With crude, crass, and coarse you will also have to bring up Rampal, the godman whose story would be too unreal for fiction but in fact was every-day actuality in a corner of Haryana. After his real-life shenanigans anything that you read in made-up spoof is bound to be wanting.

But we will still begin at the beginning, and 2014 like all years, unlike the ones charted by our pollsters, began with…

January

The nation wakes up to the sound of huge bang and realises that it is not the fireworks to welcome the New Year, but the blast of Narendra Modi still continuing his oration that he possibly began a couple of years ago or from his previous births, when India undeniably was a superpower with advanced science and technology at its command, including Uber cab services.

On the economy front, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, responding to Sonia Gandhi’s clarion clamour to contain the surging inflation, decides to take the bold but logical step of ‘not calculating the inflation rate henceforth’. Half the economists in the RBI immediately realise that they will have nothing much to do in office, except collect their salaries. The remaining half is, however, busy immersed in the other important job of the nation’s economists: Attending seminars in touristy locations abroad.

The organisers of Jaipur Literary Fest invite, in a spirit of intellectual understanding, three hard-core LeT and JuD terrorists for a freewheeling chat on a range of issues with a panel moderated by Barkha Dutt. The Union Home Ministry is unimpressed and tells in no uncertain terms that India won’t give visas to terrorists, who, however, keeping up the word they had given to the organizers, attend the event. ‘We came the usual route without much problem,’ is what they said.

The stock market did something that was interesting for a full five minutes.

The judiciary, in the face of cries for fast-tracking long-pending cases, manfully rises to the occasion and announces that it might in the future decide to cut down on its summer and winter vacations. A related case on the matter has been posted for hearing on August 15.

Thanks to the global warming phenomenon, chill weather becomes more pronounced and biting, and in Chennai people complain that things have become so worse that they no longer keep the AC ‘on’ at midnight during winter. Luckily, even though the cold may be all-pervading, global warming still cannot prevent the onset of…

February

In the interim budget the Finance Minister P Chidambaram, in a last-gasp radical step to salvage the floundering economy, makes a sensational and sweeping cut in his customary Thirukural at the end. ‘It is a gamble. But gambles do work,’ sagaciously intoned Prannoy Roy and T N Ninan during their customary budget analysis on NDTV.

The BJP, perhaps scenting that it was closer to power at the Centre, decides to act graciously and quite becoming statesman-like its leaders cut down on four-letter words in Parliament and allow the House to stay chaotic at mild decibels.

The Left parties, smartly getting their act together ahead of the all-important elections, manage to find where their party offices are located. D Raja, the articulate CPI leader, was quoted as saying something to newsmen, most of whom, as is their wont while covering events involving Left front leaders, had switched off their mics.

In international news, the United Nations Security Council, in a much-needed intervention in the accursed Israeli-Gaza spat, announces a two-minute silence in a mark of respect to all those killed in the latest gunfire.

In a sign of things to come in the aviation industry later in the year, Spice Jet announces bonuses to its high-performing cabin crew in the form of ‘sparingly used parachutes’. Uber, meanwhile, announces that it was ready to absorb out-of-work pilots as cab riders if they have acquired valid licences to operate high-end mobile apps.

In sports, the Indian Hockey League reaches a climax and Delhi Waveriders, in a stunning upset, defeat Chinese Taipei at the Indore tennis stadium to lift the Ranji Trophy for the eighth time. Needless to say, it was a triumphant…

March

With the elections fast approaching, the Manmohan Singh government, faced with the mounting fiscal deficit and struggling economy on one side, decides to bite the bullet by cutting down on newspaper and magazine purchases by the PMO.

On the health front, the Central government, in a bid to eradicate dengue and malaria, announce a comprehensive (computerised) plan to register all the mosquitoes in the country. Nandan Nilekani, for his part, clarifies, there is no truth in the reports that the mosquitoes are to be given the Aadhaar card. ‘But now that you ask me, why not?’ he shot back at journos at a press conference.

The BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, in a to-the-minute-planned and smartly-executed campaign, formally begins criss-crossing the country in a chartered Uber cab service, which promises to charge him only ‘normal day tariff’.

Staying on with elections, opinion pollsters and political journalists too have their work cut out. The previous two elections they got it totally wrong. Come to think of it, nobody really remembers them getting it right ever. But they are wiser for all their bitter experience now. They now know which bases to cover. They understand all the problem areas now. They have modern technology to fall back on. Algorithms to analyse have gotten better. If they get it wrong again, you would think they could be the only group that is collectively more feckless than the UPA regimes. In short, they have to be illiterate. Let us see how it pans out.

In medical news, researchers at the Wolfgang University in Austria stumble on to what they announce to the world ‘as the oldest skeletal remains’. But on further probe, it was revealed that they are not — Beeep. Beep. Beep. Tasteless joke alert —— even as old as Advani.

Faced with unsavour match-fixing and betting allegations, the IPL needs to restore its tattered reputation. On cue, some of the Indian Premier League matches are held at UAE, the headquarters of the notorious Asian betting cartel. And mind you, that was a not a joke we came up with.

The Press Council sends a stinger of a notice to the nation’s leading English daily for publishing a series of photographs of top models in its lifestyle pages that was quite outrageous to its readers: No cleavage was visible from any angle. It turns out that was quite a prank for the All Fool’s Day that falls on the first of…

April

(This is the first installment of the two-part year-end review that inevitably runs beyond stipulated word limit. The second part will appear next week)