Friday, December 23, 2011


Since every pundit, self styled analyst, interloper, philosopher and hack uses the end of the year to inflict torture and trauma on readers with 'annual' lists, why should I be spared the exquisite pleasure of doing so? If you are sadomasochistic enough to read beyond this, I promise to minimize your trauma by not inflicting another list; or a forecast for 2012 (by the way, if you flaunt an iPad, do download the Economist App on 2012" it is free and makes for fascinating reading). I will merely remind you of some words and terms that dominated our headlines and penetrated deep into our moronic psyches in the year that is fleeting by. And I ask you to ask yourself this question: will these words and terms have any relevance beyond 2011, or 2012, or...?

The first word that comes to my mind is 'extradition'. No, I am not talking about the usually ham handed efforts of Indian authorities to bring some old associates of Dawood Ibrahim back to India so that they can be fed more Biryani. I am talking about the extradition case that Julian Assange is fighting in UK. Assange happens to be an Australian whose Wikileaks mission continues to embarrass governments and authorities. America is trying damn hard to ensure that he can't even access a bank ATM and Sweden wants him to be tried for rape. If Assange loses his battle in UK, the word extradition will acquire a whole new meaning. It will no longer be associated with bringing criminals to justice; extradition will become a tool to silence whistleblowers too. Of course, folks in the West can learn a thing or two from China and India on dealing with whistleblowers who become pests. In China, they are airbrushed from Google and Baidu; in India, whistleblowers are simply blown away

The other word and term that I am going to remind you of has an entirely Indian flavour this year. And it exposes hypocrisy and double standards in the Indian establishment and Indian media with delicious cruelty. I am talking about the term 'amicus curae', which apparently means friend of court (given the never ending delays in our judicial system, how anyone can be a friend of court is beyond my understanding). Amicus curae became a – to exaggerate a lot – household name when these friends of court helped the Supreme Court unearth the truth behind the horrific 2002 Gujarat riots. The secular – that is another delicious word that will never fade away from India – establishment pounced upon the words of amicus curae to make Narendra Modi a demon worthy of Hindu mythology. So far so good. But another amicus curae recently revealed that the Delhi Police had deliberately and maliciously and brutally targeted Baba Ramdev and his supporters when they were protesting against corruption and black money to please their 'political masters'. The media merely reported this and promptly forgot the story. The secular warriors who use amicus curae to demonise Narendra Modi went curiously silent. If that sounds Latin to you, then most words uttered by secular warriors sound Greek to me.

Now allow me to go global again and remind you of another word and term that truly stormed the world and took it by storm. I am talking about 'Arab Spring'. It all started when protesters threw out the old and oppressive regime in Tunisia and inspired fellow Arabs in Egypt to do the same to Hosni Mubarak. Before the world could say 'Mubarak ho' to the protesters, the Arab Spring spread like wildfire across the Arab world. Heavy duty columnists in Washington and London pompously declared that democracy and freedom were now embarking on an unstoppable march. Suddenly, the Western media that habitually branded Arabs as terrorists fell in love with this bunch of freedom loving people. Of course, the Arab Spring inevitably turned into a winter of disbelief and rage for the same western media when genuine elections actually resulted in people with an Islamic bent coming to power. Suddenly, the Western media was no longer so much in love with the Arab Spring. And of course, the Indian media, true to style, faithfully repeated what came out in Western media. You see, it is OK for presidential candidates in the US to invoke God and Christianity at the drop of a campaign contribution dollar; but is unforgivable for the children of Arab Spring to invoke their own God. Not quite done, old chap.

Before the pundits could get disenchanted with the Arab Spring, they had discovered yet another set of words that compelled them to pound furiously at their keyboards in a frenzy of excitement. I am reminding you of the term 'Occupy Wall Street' that continues to reverberate not just across the United States but also across the world. When a ragtag bunch of 'misfits' announced that they will 'Occupy Wall Street' to protest the brutality of the 1% against the 99%, most media pundits tittered and sniggered. And yet, within weeks, Occupy Wall Street became a symbol of an outraged majority no longer willing to tolerate the excesses and the tyranny of the minority. There were commentators who said that the movement was incoherent compared to the ideological zeal of the Tea Party and that it would wither away in no time. But when cops in America started hitting innocent protesters with pepper spray, the whole damn thing acquired a new meaning. Suddenly, the hollowness and the arrogance and the inhumanity of the American Capitalist system stood exposed. Suddenly, the average citizen realised that she has handed over her money, her liberty and even her livelihood to a bunch of crooks, charlatans and robbers in Wall Street. Suddenly, from becoming a lame duck, Barack Obama became a President who could win a second term. That is the power of Occupy Wall Street.

After taking you through a tour of Tahrir Square, London and Wall Street, I now bring you back home to the words that really reverberated across India. I am talking about 'Team Anna'. When the government first caved in to Team Anna in April this year, the Lokpal movement acquired a momentum of its own. And when the media wholesale adopted Anna and his often hysterical and abusive team members as their mascots who would save the nation and the democracy, Team Anna acquired a whole new meaning in August this year. Indians couldn't care less about Tahrir Square and or Wall Street. For them, it was all about Jantar Mantar, Tihar Jail and Ramlila Maidan. The drama is still unfoldng as Anna Hazare and his merry band infuse the word 'fast' with shades and hues of a saas-bahu serial that keeps going on and on. When the rulers stand nakedly arrogant in front of the ruled, interlopers and ideologues do become messiahs. As far as most of the Indian media is concerned, Anna is a messiah and they simply refuse to accept any other version. Of course, the absolute ham handedness with which the government has been handling Team Anna has helped it acquire a halo far beyond its shine. Middle class India is mesmerised by the words from Team Anna and seems to be convinced that a new Lokpal will magically eradicate corruption from Indian society. Middle class India is in for a rude reality check and shock.

As a last throw of dice, let's take you back to the beginnings of Western civilisation. Even Noam Chomsky would admit that Western civilisation was launched in Greece and then flowered in Italy under the Roman Empire. Greece and Eurozone became two words that the media simply could not ignore. The fountainhead of Western civilisation, Greece has gone bankrupt, perhaps awaiting another Socrates to start asking uncomfortable questions. And the land of Julius Caesar became a new land of bunga bunga parties where the new ruler Silvio Berloscuni boasted that he couldn't have sex with too many women in one night because he was pushing 75. Shame on you, makers of Viagra. Eurozone is a word that is not going to fade away soon. Nostradamus might say that Greece heralded the beginning of the West and that Greece now heralds the beginning of the end of the European dream.

Bemused Indians like you and me might ponder over these powerful words and the even more powerful events and end up asking: Why this Kolaveri Di?


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