Year of: #covfefe

When 2016 ended, we thought it was the pits. But we now know it wasn’t. Because we have a new contender in 2017.

2017 turned out to be year when practically all men in Hollywood have been outed to be as sexual predators of some kind. Harvey Weinstein has emerged to be the Adolf Hitler of sexual crimes. It was a Festival of Sleaze as every day some man or the other was revealed to have done something unspeakable to the opposite sex. But true to the spirit of the year, not one of the perpetrators has been tried so far, but plenty of searching questions have been asked of the victims.

In India, however, things were different as women had little to complain. To be precise, women are given very little space to complain. So things, on the surface level, never seem all that bad. But we did have our Dashvanths (he sexually assaulted and killed a toddler, and then took out his own mom) and the cult leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. The latter’s heinous sex and murder crimes did not come across that horrendous because he was also, for all practical purposes, a bumbling clown. That he had thousands and thousands of devoted followers also point to an important fact: This world is far crazier than we believe it to be.

In India, much of the focus was on economy, or at least whatever that was remaining after last year’s demonetisation. Using the rich experience of demonetisation, the Finance Ministry went ahead and made a similar spectacular boo-boo with the GST rollout.

Then there was the Aadhaar conundrum. At the moment of writing, the official status of Aadhaar is: It is not mandatory in any place, except in places that it is mandatory. Seriously, this is not a joke, and the courts have allowed things to such a pass. If Aadhaar was a conundrum then the protests over the film Padmavati was a paradox, a film that has been declared outrageous by people who have not seen it.

There were plenty of elections for States, and plenty of stupid things were said about, and by, the PM. The BJP won a clutch of States, but Rahul Gandhi won the most important election — the president election of his party. This was the year of National President election too. The Vice President, as is the norm, was, however, selected through a national lucky-dip.

The media was buffeted by falling revenues, falling readership/viewership, fake news. The media rose up to these challenges manfully by making big news out of tweets and memes.

On the twitter platform, trolling, racist slurs and downright nasty comments became order of the day. And that was just from Donald Trump. He also coined the word ‘covfefe’, which is an understandable misspelling of ‘Harry Potter’. Understandable because it’s Trump. He makes strange connections. (The year has to be hashtagged #covfefe, as it was basically nonsense and the world had to make sense of it).

And closer home: Tamil Nadu. Allow us to laugh our hearts out first. It was less a State more a stand-up comic show. The developments were as many as they were bizarre. The political lows that the State touched this year were so deep that they would have reached the other side of the globe. Rajini and Kamal made plenty of headlines. Not surprising as they are the reigning top film stars. Just that they did not have even a single movie release this year. The biggest woman star proved to be Oviya, who, of course, we can recall from her film…hmm, whatisitsname…never mind. We can’t remember even a single movie of hers ever. But she was the sensation of the year. Towards the end of the year, the 2G accused A Raja and Kanimozhi were acquitted on the grounds that the 1.76 crore lost was in bitcoin transactions and not in rupees.

State Minister Sellur Raju was in the running for physics Nobel prize, though he lost out, he was not to be denied the Oscar for the best comedian.

On the sports stage, Roger Federer kept himself going spectacularly, while Usain Bolt dropped out to end a remarkable career, Indian cricketers kept playing against Sri Lanka that it became so boring that the BCCI had to come up with something interesting to keep the fans interested. So the BCCI smartly organised Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma’s wedding.

To be fair, there were many good news too. Samsung Note 8 did not explode or catch fire even once. We heard little from Digvijay Sigh for a large part of this year. But we heard Jimikki Kammal a lot. A passable Malayalam song, it became a raging national hit. The reason? Any dance movement, including kicking and wincing, could be synchronised with the song, as was proved by the many WA forwards.

Though 2017 was eminently forgettable, we will take one last look at the year that began with February. Okay, that would have been the case if those who were in charge of the GST rollout had handled the schedule of months. Luckily, that wasn’t the case, so we open, as ever, with…

January

The New Year dawns resplendently across the globe, except in New Delhi where thanks to smog and air pollution the visibility is below zero and nobody can see the calendar. By the time New Delhi realises what date it is, it is already Republic Day, the ceremonial day when India showcases its military might and cultural heritage to Doordarshan camera persons.

In America, Donald Trump is sworn in as the President. Right at the inauguration, Trump makes an inspired speech to the public, and in a symbolism that is very powerful and passionate, he wears a cap that is blazoned with the words: “Сделаем Америку снова великой!”. 

Back home in India, it is two months since the demonetisation move, and there are signs that it is already a big success, as an RBI press release, with specific numbers pointed out, that it was the 375th press release it was issuing on demonetisation. Meanwhile, the actual unveiling of new Rs. 500 and Rs. 2000 notes are delayed, as due to a technical glitch, noticed only at the last moment, “they were found to be round in shape”.

In a major success for the much maligned pollsters, almost all of them correctly predict that some States will go to polls later in the year.

While it was winter cool every where, in Tamil Nadu things come to a boil over Jallikattu, as youngsters in a much-inspiring show of unity and strength do what they always do: Hang around at the Marina beach well past sun down.

Even as the protests swelled, the Tamil Nadu government, in a smart move, no doubt suggested by Minister Sellur Raju, shut down the entirety of the beach using collapsible metal doors.

In sports, Chennai Open ends its association with the city. The Tamil Nadu Tennis Association assuages fans’ feelings by announcing that it will organise in the vacant slot, as is the tradition, an India- Sri Lanka cricket series.

In a foreshadowing of things to come, Aadhaar is made compulsory for all purchases of undergarments.

Global warming gets worse, winters become more pronounced and January gets three more days which naturally delays the onset of…

February

In a major boost to Indian economy, but a major dampener to T N Ninan personally, the general Budget and Railway Budget are merged.

Reacting to the axing of the railway budget, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tells, at a meeting in UP, “I express my complete solidarity in this hour of grief for pilots.”

Elections to many States, including the pivotal Uttar Pradesh, are announced and all parties agree that they will not foment communal trouble or seek vote on caste considerations or speak demeaningly of their rivals. They also agree to not give election tickets to people with criminal track record. They further accept that precedence has to be for women and candidates belonging to Dalit communities. In the end, they decide all these measures will give heart-attack to the public, and hence decide to revert to their status quo which is the exact opposite of all the above.

Prime Minister Modi, in a bid to build strong ties with Asian countries, embarks on a 4-nation trip, but two of those countries turn out to be in Africa. Needless to say, the trip schedule was worked by the same gents who will be later put in charge of the GST rollout.

In international news, North Korea builds a Uranium plant and says that it will “use it for domestic purposes like gardening.”

In Tamil Nadu, things go topsy-turvy as Sasikala is sentenced to 4 years of imprisonment, but the AIADMK general council in an unanimous show of solidarity, debar the Supreme Court from contesting in AIADMK party polls.

The beleaguered O Panneerselvam, in a dramatic show of defiance, comes to the Jayalalithaa samadhi and sits to do what no man has done in recent times: Not check his mobile for 40 odd minutes.

Since February managed to link itself to Aadhaar, the government is able to roll out to the country…

March

A big month for politics in India, as the election results to five States including the bell-weather State UP, are out with the BJP winning in four of them. The opposition cries wolf against the EVMs, especially the AAP candidates who are routed in Punjab. They allege that “when our volunteers and supporters tried to register our votes, the EVMs laughed maniacally and gave out the message: ‘You think we are going to register that in your party’s name!’

The BJP picks Yogi Adityanath for the UP Chief Minister’s post based on his impeccable credentials that his name anagrams to: “Ahoy! A Tidy Giant”.

Aadhaar is made mandatory for playing Candy Crush

In a revelation from Hollywood, actor Kevin Spacey is accused of groping the Oscar statuette. Many feel — not unreasonably — the statuette might have been drunk or provocatively dressed.

Meanwhile, In Tamil Nadu, the TN Assembly, in a historic sitting in Koovathur, unanimously vote to make the Secretariat (Fort St George) a holiday resort. It is a formal quid pro quo, they said.

In foreign news, the Britain formally began the first step towards Brexit from the European Union by using heavy-duty industrial chainsaw at Dover beach. We will first cut ourselves from the French, the British PM said.

In America, President Donald Trump launches nuclear-powered tweets at Mexico.

Closer home, music director Ilaiyaraja and singer SP Balasubramaniam are in a bitter royalty fight. SPB, ever the kind soul he is, says in the field of music the idea of royalty is quite wrong. The seven swaras belong to all. ‘My name may be mine. But I allow others to use it to call me,” he said genially.

In the blinding onset of early summer many failed to see the early onset of…

April

Narendra Modi, in a major coup on the foreign affairs front, sets off to Uruguay even though the pilot protested that he doesn’t know the way. “We will ask somebody enroute,” the Prime Minister said pragmatically, “It is the relationship with the Uruguayan Prime Miniter or President, whatever system they have there, is most important”.

In the face of rising fiscal deficit, Finance Minister Arun Jaitely said that he would set up a committee to figure out whether it is a good thing or a bad thing or what. He also said the Finance Ministry was battle ready for the GST rollout. “ To take on the early load of GST, we have ordered for four scientific calculators,” he added.

In a breakthrough in the Bofors corruption scandal, a Bench of the Delhi High Court met and said it was totally unacceptable that the case was dragging for so long. But after completing such an enormous task, the Court adjourned the case, on a fast-track basis, to 2021.

In a setback to ISRO, a satellite launch is aborted at the last minute as the rocket was found pointed at the ground. The technicians work day and night to change ‘This Side Up’ arrow.

Aadhaar linkage is made compulsory for all WhatsApp forwards.

Feisty and iconoclastic musician T M Krishna, in a bid to unchain Carnatic music from the tyranny of traditions, performs with his troupe at Sikkil Gurucharan’s concert. Music is universal. Everyone should get a chance to perform. The stage should not be a limiting factor, he said quite logically.

Violent protests break out in Venezuela as its economy crumbles and its inflation grows enormously that, as a report in Economist said, “it was possible to view it from outer space”.

In IPL contests, during strategic timeouts, India and Sri Lankan Boards agree for a bilateral book cricket series.

Speaking of strategic timeouts, April took one to usher in ….

May

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have summit-level talks at the VIP lounge of De Gaulle airport in Paris. Trudeau is in Paris as — he is so unassuming you see — a tourist guide to a group of Canadians on a budget trip to France. Modi, for his part, is returning from a 6-city bilateral visit to Liechtenstein.  The Canadian Prime Minister, who is described by Modi as “my friend Justin” and his Indian counterpart discuss wide-ranging subjects, and India and Canada sign a far-ranging deal in which the two Prime Ministers agree to share each other’s selfies on their official Instagram accounts. 

Back in India, the impending GST rollout is the focus as the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley promises to remove the confusing multi-State, multi-tax structure with one-country one-tax, multi-multi-confusing regime. And boy, he doesn’t disappoint, especially with the last part.

Aadhaar is made compulsory for all those who rush to reach for their overhead luggage before the plane comes to a halt at airports. This is as good as making make Aadhaar mandatory for all Indians, civil rights activists rightly argue.    

In Tamil Nadu politics, actor Rajinikanth makes the first of his many firm moves towards making firmer moves towards we don’t know what. For more on Rajini’s future plans, watch this space, or even outer space. You will not find anything concrete.  In a typical speech, though, Rajini tells his fans to be ready for the war. His fans, smartly taking the cue, join the Indian Army en masse. Some opportunistic Tamil movie distributors re-release his yesteryear starrer Ranuva Veeran

Donald Trump, the American President, warns, in a series of sub-tweets, that America will “*&ck the hell out of North Korea” if it continues with its exuberance on the nuclear front. Pyongyang, for its part, clarified that it was only test-firing a nuclear scientist. 

Rahul Gandhi, in a sign of his growing confidence as a politician on social media platform, starts using Tweetdeck.

In a major breakthrough, scientists say that the distance between the Earth and the Jupiter is 7.85675 billion kms and not as originally believed, which was 6.85765 billion kms.  With more grants, they promise, they will be able to zero in on a different number the next time. 

In sports news, some team wins the ICC Champions Trophy. For some strange reason, no one in India can recall anything about the finals. 

But the world doesn’t forget that it is already time for…

June 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi travels to South America “to meet with South American leaders”. Unfortunately, none of them is at home.

In India, history is made with a midnight sitting of Parliament to roll out GST. But confusion breaks out immediately whether the samosa-tea supplier should be billed under the previous day tax regime or the new one. The Constitution, unfortunately, turns out to be totally silent on this matter.

On the judicial front, Justice Karnan makes his own history of sorts by filing a case against the Supreme Court Justices. Justice Karnan also decides, as a Judge, to hear the case filed by Justice Karnan, as an advocate. And in a sensational verdict, which will be quoted for years to come, Justice Karnan adjourns the case.

Meanwhile, Aadhaar is made compulsory to all who are part of “one or more WhatsApp groups”. 

Elsewhere, in Mosul, forces of Al-Sharaki and Jain-ul-Abedeen along with Shamsi-Adad troops involve themselves in one of the most fierce fights, leaving us, Indians, to wonder, that in these increasing stark times, we have no idea who these folks are.

In Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisami and his arch rival O Panneerselvam work out a patch up formula, which in the words of Sellur Raju is: H2SO4 + NAOH. “Because this will give a strong base for us,” he said.    

In sports, sprinting legend Usain Bolt runs his last race. Alas, he is beaten by an American runner who is suspected to be on what Tour de France riders also regularly use — a cycle.

Dramatic events happen in China as President Xi Jinping strengthens his hold over the party, the government and the entire country and gets what no Communist head in the country has got before: Lifetime privilege delivery on Aliexpress.

Staying with China, even Xi Jinping could not stop the emergence of…

July

GST rollout runs into some unexpected glitch. The site allows for log-in only by those using: Windows NT, Internet Explorer and hotmail account. “We will soon upgrade it to the absolutely latest Windows XP,” said a Finance Ministry spokesperson.

Meanwhile, at the market, clarity remains elusive, as traders levy 3 slabs of State and Central GST on customers: 1) for the goods they had purchased, 2) for the cost of paper on which the bill is printed 3) for the printing cost.

In a major security breach, two robbers manage to break the cordon and enter  office of the Vice President, a feat that the Vice President is yet to manage.

In a major political development, Sonia Gandhi appoints Rahul Gandhi as an intern the Congress President’s office. “This, more or less, suggests that she, in all probability, maybe preparing him for a bigger role, most likely in the same party, some time in the future,” wrote S Varadarajan, using his decades long experience as a political analyst in the country. 

There is major confusion over NEET. Eventually, the courts step in and orders NEET is mandatory to get Aaadhaar. 

Economic crisis gets worse in Venezuela, and last heard, in a bid to avoid harassment from its creditors, it has changed its name to a much low-key Cyprus.

Not to be outdone, July too changes to…

August 

In India, the focus continues to be on economy. Banks have lost huge money through NPAs, unviable investments and basically poor management. So in a bid to improve the economic sentiment, the Finance Minister announces funding of several thousands of crores of rupees to those very same banks with very same executives at the top. Ivy league economists think this strategy will work.

As the summer is unrelenting, drought and other scarcity hits various parts of the country. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi, taking charge as only as he can, tours the length and breadth of the country personally, and tells the people that this year’s drought is because of 60 years of Congress rule in the past.

North Korea continues its nuclear intransigence leaving the US President Donald Trump with no other go but to unleash a series of surface-to-surface high combat tweets at Kim Jong Un. 

Yet another social media platform, Sarahah, makes its entry. It instantly becomes popular on Twitter. Sarahah’s USP is simple: One can ask questions anonymously about anonymous people and get anonymous answers that can be read anonymously.

Needless to say, Aadhaar is mandatory to log into Sarahah.

The SC sends notice to the BCCI asking it to explain as to why there has been no India-Sri Lanka cricket series for the last two weeks. Plenty of people have developed cold turkey, the SC said in a worried tone.

Writer, social activist TM Krishna, in an extraordinarily brave bid, announces plan to sing in a concert in an auditorium meant for such purposes. This, even by his high standards of experimentation, is an out of the box gambit.

Doubts emerge over the stay of former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in hospital. State Minister Sellur Raju alleges that he suspects that the kin of Sasikala might have committed suicide on Jayalalithaa. 

Cult leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim is found guilty of murder and sexual offence including rape and his followers understand that their guru had made a major error, and in a show of contrition and penance, they go on a rampage in Haryana destroying lives and properties of totally unrelated people. The government and the police, however, quickly intervene to control the media personnel so that nothing untoward, like news, happens.

But no amount of government intervention could stop the onslaught of…

September

In a first for an Indian premier, Narendra Modi flies to Gabasa, the famed African nation that is not in any world map. “So what, if there is no country by that name. It is the sentiment to improve the bilateral ties that is more important,” a foreign ministry spokesperson said.  T M Krishna notes down the name Gabasa and decides to hold a concert there.

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi says that he is ready to take bigger responsibilities in the Congress.  “Henceforth I will personally go and buy the groceries for the party,” he says.

Early monsoon rains bring in their wake the threat of dengue. But taking charge as only he can, Minister Sellur Raju firmly tells police to shoot-at-sight any mosquito moving suspiciously about carrying dengue-vector. “Nothing works like strong action,” he says. 

Massive I-T raids are conducted on properties and places of Sasikala’s kith and kin, and searches are also conducted at former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence Veda Nilayam where I-T department unearths plenty of voodoo dolls of  trial court and High Court judges. 

Government tells the Supreme Court in all seriousness that Aadhaar is not mandatory if a person has already acquired it.

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner dies, and the publication, in a heartfelt obituary, refrains from writing anything but puts out more pics of nudes.

In Hollywood, in a sensational revelation, disgraced movie moghul Harvey Weinstein is accused of indecent advances by yet another movie star. This time the one making the charge is the popular Disney star Daisy Duck. 

Apple launches a new phone that also comes with the renowned Apple guarantee for costing more than the previous one.

Meanwhile, it is also the time to launch…

October

Prime Minister Narendra Modi leads a delegation to tie-up a bilateral agreement with Google Maps.

In one final move to combat drought, State Minister Sellur Raju and his team place an order, on Amazon Prime, for 15-million-foot hose to ply water from Mettur dam to Ramanathapuram district. DMK leaders, who had seen Veeranam canal project in the bygone era, look on admiringly. 

Twitter unveils its enhanced 280-character limit platform, which comes handy for Donald Trump to warn North Korea that if it continues with its malcontent ways in future too, the USA will have no other option but to issue stricter, longer warnings.  

In international news, there is unrest in Spain with the Catalan region wanting to secede as it was getting tiresome to be clubbed with people whose written sentences sometimes begin with question marks and, worse, end with inverted question marks. A Catalan leader described this practice as: “Aaargh”.  Inverted question marks are acceptable only if you are on cocaine, he added. 

New crypto currency Ethereum  gets hugely popular. The market is ‘bullish’ on Ethereum which is valued at several billions of dollars based on the impeccable market belief that a company helmed by a 23-year-old is bound to be full of traditional values and trust.

Indian Medical student Manushi Chhillar is crowned the Miss World and the MCI quickly slaps a notice on her to explain how she managed to cut classes and participate in the event.

In cricket, India defeats Sri Lanka by an innings and 16 sleeping spectators in a Test played somewhere. 

In a bid to appeal to the young readers, and taking cue from Twitter,  newspapers decide to publish Editorials within 140 characters. 

In a much-needed GST tweaking, Finance Ministry announces that all individual car companies will be classified as two two-wheeler companies and taxed thereof. 

Aadhaar is made compulsory to ring in…

November  

In Zimbabwe major winds of change blow, as the long-lasting president Robert Mugabe is unseated in a peaceful coup and in his place Narendra Modi, who is on a State visit, is appointed as the country’s new President.

Rahul Gandhi, in yet another show of his growing assertion, launches Congress party’s Zimbabwe unit.

America, finally acting on its words of serious action against North Korea, freezes Kim Jong Un’s American Express card. “There is an old dictum in America. When the going gets tough, the tough use a lot of swear words. Here it goes: &*%K you!”, tweeted Trump. 

Actor Kamal Haasan launches his political party. Or did he? But surely Kamal wins this round against Rajinikanth. When it comes to confusing people with political manoeuvres, ‘the Ulaganayagan‘ shows that he is right up there over his arch rival.      

Massive protests erupt in many parts of Rajasthan over the film Padmavati as it unmistakably  contains Ranveer Singh. Okay, that would have been reasonable.  Since the film is about rich royal families, the CBFC recommends that it be classified under the 28% GST slab.

Rani Padmavati did not have Aadhaar and hence her film can be frozen, the Centre government tells the Supreme Court.

US recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move that is totally resented by Muslim countries as all of them had already printed their school Atlases with Multan as its capital.

The date for the RK Nagar bye-poll is announced and thanks to the quick enforcement of EC’s model code of conduct arrives…

December

Gujarat and Himachal elections are out. But before that political experts on television agree that since they totally got wrong the previous election results, they will stop pretending that they have a clue about what the results are going to be and henceforth confine themselves to topics they can discuss knowledgeably, such as what day it is.

Just kidding. They would get that wrong, too.

In Tamil Nadu, actor Vishal is debarred from contesting the RK Nagar poll on the grounds his bank balance is less than Rs.50 crores, with which he could have realistically got only 39 votes.  

On the day before RK Nagar by-poll, a video of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, purportedly taken during her stay in Apollo Hospitals, emerges. The government does the most sensible thing: It sends the video for certification from CBFC.  

The RK Nagar by-poll is won by TTV Dhinakaran, who immediately promises his voters what they are looking for: A by-election in the constituency every year. “I will resign every year, ensure election every year and win every year,” he says amidst applause from the voters. 

Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma enter the wedlock in Italy in a simple, elegant ceremony with songs sung in classical Karnatik Italian by T M Krishna.

It is now compulsory to provide your Aadhaar number for temple archanais.

BJP just about wins Gujarat and HP; Congress is not in seat in both the States. Rahul Gandhi is congratulated by the media for his impressive show. That, folks, is verily 2017.  

Amidst great hope and expectation, the New Year dawns all across the globe with a lot of fireworks, which, alas, could be a North Korean missile, or worse, a Donald Trump tweet.