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Barkha Dutt

Stringing along the year

To all those who complain that the daily news these days is written most uninspiringly, I tell: ‘Wait till you read the year-end compendiums’. The tinned collection of news happenings are so boring and laborious that people are forced to go to parties and drink liquor in quantities that lead to tennis-elbow to bar tenders.

The point is all the news happens away from the screaming headlines and screeching anchors. But tradition is tradition; We have to fill space. So, as a responsible journalist, who has the responsibility to call himself responsible, here I present the collation of events of 2010, which you obviously missed in the newspapers because you were reading them.

January

The New Year arrives. So does the New Decade. Or did it? Whether 2010 is the birth of a new decade or does it mark the end of one? It’s an acrimonious debate.  The Opposition seeks JPC (Joint Parliamentary Calendar). The ruling coalition says the PAC (Politically Accepted Calendar) is enough. Both decide to bunk Parliament in protest, unmindful of the fact that it’s not in session. This sets the tone for the rest of the year and probably the decade, which may have ended or just begun.

Arundhathi Roy writes to the UN seeking permanent membership for Maoists in the UN Security Council. The courier guy refuses to ferry the letter as it weighs several thousand kilograms over the allowed weight for a parcel. The letter, for the record, runs into 32 kilometres. Arundhathi Roy tries sending the letter through email. Telecom Ministry tells the Supreme Court Arundhathi Roy’s email has eaten up all the allocated 2G spectrum.

Sachin Tendulkar creates a record for being Sachin Tendulkar for the maximum number of hours in the history of international cricket (in all the three formats of the game). Asked to compare him with Donald Bradman, Sunil Gavaskar says it is an unfair situation. ‘In his playing days, Donald Bradman never had the pressure of having himself compared with Sachin,’ the original Little Master reasoned.

Ajmal Kasab asserts he was not a terrorist and was merely stringing along, carrying a machine gun, with the Mumbai 26/11 attackers. Barkha Dutt, who is at hand, takes copious notes.

February

Suresh Kalmadi says a sum of Rs 25,200 crore has been allocated to hire a time machine for Commonwealth Games organisers to have a look at how much toilet paper was bought during the conduct of 1896 Athens Olympics. When asked where the time machine was, Kalmadi pointed to a Raleigh Cycle parked at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium. ‘Pretty timed machine, na?’ he confidently said.

Technology giant Apple announces the impending launch of new breakthrough product that helps save precious spectrum by blocking calls from corporate lobbyists (ibad).

Telecom Ministry tells the Supreme Court that Facebook’s Farmville game has eaten up all the allocated spectrum.

BCCI serves notice on Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals, accusing its respective owners Preity Zinta and Shilpa Shetty of gross impropriety of having acted in Akshay Kumar movies. Lalit Modi says he was just stringing along with the two franchises. Barkha Dutt takes note of it.

March

India commits itself to a $ 300 million aid to several African nations, where several hundreds of innocent men and women have become indigent just by offering to transfer huge tranche of money to you because you have an email id. India’s diplomatic overtures in Africa pay rich dividends as Burundi, notwithstanding the fact that it is neither a member of the UN and nor does it have a government, supports India’s candidature to be a candidate for a permanent seat to the UN Security Council cafeteria.

Tickets of Rajnikanth starrer Enthiran, to be released later in the year, are leaked on the internet. The Telecom Ministry tells the Supreme Court that Rajni fans have eaten up all the allocated spectrum.

Unveiling the new education policy, Union Minister Kapil Sibal announces free marks to all those school students who cannot attend classes. He also says grades will be provided instead of the dreaded salary for 10th and 12th standard teachers.

In a bid to cleanse the system and restore the much-needed decency and decorum, Rakhi Sawant is appointed a Supreme Court judge.

April

IPL Kochi comes into being. But it runs into immediate problems, as Sreesanth announces his desire to play for it. Shashi Tharoor, who has got nothing to do with the IPL Kochi franchise, saus he is just stringing along with Sunanda Pushkar, and for further proof, ties the knot with her. Barkha Dutt duly notes it down.

US diplomats send reports to Washington on the propensity of the Indian Foreign Minister to wear toupees. It’s immediately christened as ‘Wig’ileaks.

In a much-needed boost to the Indian economy and the sagging rupee, RBI unveils new symbol for the Indian rupee. The Telecom Ministry tells the Supreme Court that the email forwards announcing the new rupee symbol have eaten up all the allocated spectrum.

Amitabh Bachchan gets the National Best Actor award for his portrayal of a youngster ridden with progeria, a disease where he technically inherits all the old age genes. ‘It’s a remarkable performance considering the fact that in real life Amitabh has overcome the grief of his son Abhishek suffering the exact opposite of progeria, unable to inherit even a single molecule of acting gene from his dad,’ the award selection committee said in its citation.

May

In Tamilnadu, the local BJP, preparing itself for the elections in 2011, announces that it is ready for an alliance with any like-minded party that manages to locate its address.

Extreme hot weather conditions prevail across India, while the Telecom Ministry tells the Supreme Court that the heat might have evaporated up all the allocated spectrum.

CWG head honcho Suresh Kalmadi files a police complaint as a huge stadium, apparently constructed to accommodate over one lakh spectators, goes missing. Kalmadi  vows to capture the pickpocket behind the daring heist.

Reacting to banking crisis all over the world, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee tells Parliament that India may not feel the problem as most people here these days depend more on the ATMS than on the banks.

June

Monsoon arrives on time, but there is still a water crisis, as director Maniratnam’s movie Ravanan is released around the same time.

Maoists are an integral part of India, succinctly asserts Arundhathi Roy in a 76,098676-worded essay. The Hindu alone publishes it and also writes a dense editorial on the whole matter. Rahul Gandhi naturally complains of the Hindu terror.

Doordarshan bags the exclusive rights to re-telecast the live recordings of the soccer World Cup of 1988. After every newspaper points that there was no football World Cup held in 1988, the Prime Minister appoints a committee to file a report on whether it is a scam worthy of further denial. The Union Telecom Ministry tells the Supreme Court that no amount of spectrum allocation can save Doordarshan.

Vir Sanghvi puts out a column on two warring brothers. Queried on that, Sanghvi retorts that it his review of the film Deewar, albeit dressed up.

July

Swami Nithyananda pulls off a miracle that only evolved sadhus can: Clad in saffron robes, he is magically caught with his pants down. Actress Ranjitha says she was in Nithyananda’s ashram for true love. ‘True love means never having to wear sari, na?’ she said.

Pakistan cricketer Salman Butt is caught offering to fix a World Cup match. Commenting on it, an ICC spokesperson said: ‘Initially we thought this to be pretty routine stuff for a Pakistan cricketer. But things got a bit bizarre when we realized that the offer was for a match played in the 2003 World Cup.’  Pakistan cricket authorities quickly ordered an inquiry and also suspended Hafeez Kardar, the country’s first cricket captain who is long dead now.

Indian External Affairs Ministry puts out a press release saying that the SAARC summit is put off. But there is no SAARC summit scheduled. ‘We knew there was no summit set to happen. But we still didn’t want to take any chance. With SARS or SAARC, it’s better to be safe than be sorry,’ said an Indian External Affairs spokesperson from Switzerland. (Foreign Affairs officials in New Delhi are known to repair to Switzerland for their daily morning briefing).

The Union Telecom Ministry says all the allocated spectrum allocation may have been eaten up by the rats at the North Block.

August

Octopus Paul, the underwater soothsayer who captures the imagination of the world by correctly predicting Spain will win the soccer World Cup, doesn’t foretell the fortunes in the cricket World Cup. ‘Sorry. Pakistan is involved,’ is the gist of the noise it made before it chose to commit suicide.

Italian fugitive Ottavio Quattrocchi is the special invitee for the Independence Day parade. Later the CBI sleuths reveal that though they could identify him, but did not arrest him because they did not know his spelling. ‘There was no way we could have prepared even an FIR,’ an exasperated CBI officer said. ‘We saved the country from a major embarrassment,’ he added sagely.

Indian hockey team goes to an international tournament. It turns out that the team has been selected without any goalkeeper. DD commentator Anupam Ghulati, who had been sent there without any mike (budget constraints), doubles up as the goalkeeper. India loses 75-0 to Costa Rica, which for the record, did not participate in the event.

The Union Telecom Ministry says all the allocated spectrum allocation may have been eaten up by their effort to explain all the spectrum allocation.

September

Commonwealth Games are a huge success, especially on the television. It is later known that the DD had inadvertently telecast feeds from the 1984 Olympics (wherever it was held).

More power for the judiciary. After Rakhi Sawant, Dolly Bindra seems to be in the running for a post in the Supreme Court.

Sachin Tendulkar signs a multi-crore contract will all the major companies across the globe. Tendulkar, who gets roughly Rs 35,0000 crore, says that he is accepting all the money due to his sheer love of cricket. The nation goes misty-eyed listening to him.

The Union Telecom Ministry tells the Supreme Court that Tendulkar may have bought all the allocated spectrum with the spare change in his pocket.

October

Barack Obama, the inspiring and intelligent US President, arrives in India, and discusses important far-reaching international happenings with a group of seasoned college and school students. Later they tag him in their Facebook photos.

Vice-President’s rule imposed in Karnataka. But since nobody recalls who the country’s Vice-President is. So the state of limbo continues in the State of Karnataka.

Pakistan wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider goes missing just ahead of the finals against South Africa in Dubai. Pakistan board officials, who fly out to Dubai immediately, smother the crisis by borrowing a pair of wicketkeeping gloves from a local schoolboy.

When the Supreme Court demands an answer as to what happened to all the allocated spectrum, the Union Telecom Ministry asks: ‘Whether phone-a-friend option is allowed?’

November

Some of the Indians, who don’t perform well at the Asian games in Guangzhou, take comfort from the fact that the medals they won at the Commonwealth Games luckily had the ‘Made in China’ mark. A small scam of a few thousand of crores follows over the minting of medals for the Commonwealth Games emerges. But the media chose to string along much to the satisfaction of Barkha  Dutt.

Ratan Tata moves the Supreme Court against publishing the ‘letters to the editors’ in the media as it invaded the privacy of individual editors.

A song from Kamal Haasan’s new movie Manmadhan Ambu runs into trouble due to some contentious lyrics. An unfazed Kamal later tells the press that he is happy that at least there is somebody who understands the meaning to actually feel offended. ‘Even to me it didn’t make any sense. But since it was K S Ravikumar’s movie I didn’t bother much. But now it turns somebody has found meaning in it to feel offended. It only shows the power of true art and a false artist,’ he says quoting Aristotle or some such.

Union Telecom Ministry tells the Supreme Court that the all the allocated spectrum is…, but before it can open its mouth the court is adjourned.

December

World leaders at the International Climate Talks in Cancun discuss the ways and means to control green gas emissions and also depletion in the world water resources. All the nations unanimously agree to ban Mani Ratnam from making any more movies. Half of Amazon’s waters is required to shoot one song in Mani’s movie, according to a statistic released at the meet.

A R Rahman announces an international rap album on Thiruvalluvar composed solely with the vowels of the English language. Or at least that is how it sounded.

Ayodhya imbroglio, with a crucial verdict in the middle of the year, threatened to infuse a sense of communal crisis in the country, but the government deftly tackled it by raising the prices of onion, which everyone will confirm is a secular vegetable.

Entertainment tax waived on Digvijay Singh, and he can now go with his show anywhere, anytime.

The Union Telecom Ministry tells the Supreme Court that there was no loss to the national exchequer due to the spectrum allocation. ‘All the money was actually recovered through the phone bills that Niira Radia ran up,’ the court was told.  Barkha Dutt strings along in happy unison with Vir Sanghvi.

A year, in which the chief protagonists, among others, are Barkha Dutt, Niira Radia, Dolly Bindra, Rakhi Sawant, Sunanda Pushkar…I don’t know about you, but I am already looking to move to 2011.