Tuesday, December 25, 2018

2018: The Year Gone By

The year 2018 AD is coming to a close leaving behind random memories – some fleeting and some of a little more permanent nature. Here is a personal compilation of events/non-events to remember the year gone by. 

1. Social Movement - #MeToo 
The #MeToo movement finally reached India. The entertainment industry as expected was where the biggest scandals lay but Corporate India was no less culpable. And to think it all began with a comedian’s tweet on the Pan Masala company’s antics on a cruise liner abroad! 

2. The Identified Flying Object 
Elon Musk launched a car in space with a mannequin in the driver’s seat listening to music. We finally have our own hitchhiker moving through the galaxy. 

3. Sporting Caption of the Year 
It was the year of the Football World Cup. We Indians chose our favorite teams rooting behind the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Spain, Croatia and France. Meanwhile our neighbours on the West sent out this tweet “Dear World, thank you for playing with our balls” to announce the fact that Telstar 18, the balls were manufactured in Pakistan. 

4. The Rescue 
A bunch of Thai boys, from a local football team, stuck inside a flooded cave for many days without food and water and in the dark and finally getting rescued. Gripping drama in the age of 24x7 media and social media coverage. And pretty sure there is a movie in the works as well. Yet much closer home, in Meghalaya, 13 miners were missing and barely a mention anywhere. 

5. The Political Reality TV 
Rahul Gandhi hugging PM Modi in Lok Sabha, to a shell-shocked House and then following up with a wink. The moment when Lok Sabha TV provided more drama than all soap operas combined! And with elections approaching expect more such drama. 

6. The Battle of the Jokers 
Trump vs Kim Jong-Un - after bouts of some childish name-calling (Dotage, Little Rocket man were some of the affectionate terms used), they indulged in a discussion on the size of their respective nuclear buttons and then ended up meeting as if nothing happened. Unfortunately these jokers are also controlling nuclear arsenal. 

7. Data Privacy discussions 
Widespread debates & discussions on how user data is being mined from social media to influence political outcomes and possibly cause targeted individual harm as well. This also led to hilarious outcomes where tech honchos like Zuckerberg & Sundar Pichai patiently explained to Congressional committees how internet and social media worked or that iPhones were made by Apple and not Google. In India, we had our own issues with Aadhaar database and its access, leading to the TRAI Chairman publicly giving out his Aadhaar number and asking all to hack him. (Well, a bit like Mad-Eye Moody teaching the Unforgivable spells to a bunch of teenage wizards) Never got to know the results of this challenge though. 

8. Newton’s Law of Gravity – things which go up have to fall down 
Bitcoins and the multiple crypto-currencies which had spawned all over the place, was the bubble which pricked just enough for many to lose out (and the smart ones to make money) while the underlying blockchain technology kept going places.

9. Headline of the Year 
Seal slaps man with an octopus - Wonder what the poor octopus would have felt and what outraged the seal so much!

10. The 15 seconds of Fame 
Priya Prakash Varrier - the winking girl, or Sanjeev Srivastava - the dancing uncle. All but forgotten by the end of the year. 

So that was 2018 events wise. Lets see what 2019 has in store. After all 2019 brings in the Lok Sabha elections, and the epic culminations of events in Westeros and the Avengers finale! 

Wishing all readers a very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2019.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

BookMarks #48: Chanakya’s Chant

Title: Chanakya’s Chant 
Author: Ashwin Sanghi 
Genre: Historical Fiction 
Setting: Mauryan Empire & Modern India 
Published: 2010 

In the 4th century BC Chanakya plots to overthrown the Nanda dynasty from Magadh and install his protégé Chandragupta Maurya on the throne. In the 20th century, Gangadhar Mishra attempts to put Chandini Gupta as the Prime Minister of India. 

An interesting way to tell a story. There are actually two stories running here in parallel, separated by a timeline of two and a half millennia. One is a fictionalized take of the ascendancy of Chandragupta Maurya to the Magadh throne and the other a modernized version of the same, set in 20th century India. 

Key message of the book is while settings may change, the basic politics remains the same. Use every means to pin down your opponent while moving up the ladder yourself. And it is the backroom players who play the key role in propping up their candidates. 

Overall quite an engrossing account! 

Previously on BookMarks: The Time Machine