The medical scene flourished like Old McDonald’s farm, here a quack, there a quack, everywhere a quack quack. Qualified Doctors and Health providers, on the other hand, felt increasingly alienated and persecuted. Incidents of patients and attendants metamorphosing into violent mobs were widely reported. The state and courts weren’t sympathetic either with unheard of compensation being awarded for medical negligence. Legislation to safeguard the interests of patients from ‘real’ doctors and hospitals were dutifully implemented, simultaneously, laws to allow AYUSH doctors practice modern medicine were passed! Hope better sense and trust prevails in the new year.
Elsewhere too, it was an year of contrasts and contradictions. The holy cow was made holier than thou! In what can only be described as an outbreak of mad cow disease, abusing or killing a human became a lesser sin. People grew scared of the sacred cow and its nuisance value. So some were garlanded and worshipped. The ‘not so sacred’ ones continued to roam the streets ravaging garbage dumps and drinking out of drains. A styrofoam cow flying in the Jaipur sky was hurriedly pulled down, putting an end to an artist’s misguided attempt to create awareness about abandoned bovine. Pigs don’t fly, cows shouldn’t either!
While the cow was indisputably declared the mother of all Indians, the question whether Ms Indrani Bora is the mother or sister of murder victim Sheena was debated till the cows came home. The year seemed like a never ending soap opera with a shrieking adolescent media going berserk over one non issue after another. Hope the fourth estate grows up and starts acting responsibly before it is declared irrelevant. Even a mother can’t tolerate teen tantrums forever.
When not dwelling on trivia, we were busy being outraged and offended. A group of moviegoers was heckled and forced to leave because they didn’t stand for the national anthem, ink was thrown for organising a book launch, concerts and cricket matches were cancelled, online porn was censored , Bond girl was toned down as were Angry Indian Goddesses. The popular snack Maggi was banned and fifty million dollar worth of it was burnt in incinerators due to alleged lead contamination. Within months it was back on the rack, in a welcome pack!
The year began with our Prime Minister calling the Master of the universe by his first name and ended with an impromptu gate crashing at a neighbour’s birthday bash. In between were a series of whirlwind tours addressing Non resident Indians across the globe. As he continued to gather frequent flyer miles the native Indian felt neglected. When our interest in his oratory skills waned, the other Modi, the non resident one, supplied much needed spice from UK. We continued to obsess over our neighbours, blaming them for everything which was wrong with our nation. Pakistan tourism was promoted enthusiastically with most arguments ending with a recommendation to visit the country and stay there. After the Delhi debacle came the bashing in Bihar as a result of which Pakistan presumably celebrated Diwali ahead of us. But after a distant hand wave at the UN Peacekeeping summit, the two Premiers merrily celebrated Christmas together. It was perceived as reason to cheer in the new year.
Delhi was compared to a gas chamber and some bold steps were proposed to bring down the pollution. As the list of exempted dignitaries continues to grow, the plan seems oddly uneven. Earthquakes in the Hindkush, an unprecedented heatwave followed by floods in Chennai diverted attention from the skirmishes in the parliament to Mother Nature. But not for long, degradation and abuse of natural resources lacks the requisite drama. The political circus aired into our living rooms, showing heated exchanges between our elected representatives are much more engaging. Parliamentary language was redefined with parents admonishing their children for using it.
Despite their superpowers, Godmen continued to be exposed in scams and scandals. The garishly dressed Radhe Ma and Dera Sacha Sauda chief vied for our attention. The lady in red was carried around in her devotees arms, the Messenger of God in their hearts as followers thronged cinema halls to watch him mouth cheesy dialogues and perform logic defying stunts. The year brought a mixed bag for the Khans. One was exonerated of all wrongdoing, the other was penalised for airing random thoughts, and the third was trolled for voicing his wife’s fears. The ‘ intellectuals’ made more news for returning awards than when they had first received them. Many in the public got to know of the honour bestowed on some writers decades after the state had recognised them. It proved a win win situation even though some called them losers.
In her less than three minutes as Miss Universe, she waved, blew kisses, waved her little flag and waved some more. All the while looking a bit bewildered why the camera didn’t move away. Given the circumstances all three beauty queens ( the past, present and transient!) conducted themselves with utmost dignity. Ms Philippines displayed restrained jubilation and Ms Columbia wasn’t overtly despondent as her confused predecessor ceremoniously uncrowned her and placed the tiara on the right head. Had politicians been involved the organisers would still be dealing with stay orders. In what will go down as the shortest reign of a beauty queen Ms Ariadna managed to teach the world the art of losing with grace.
We worried more about interpreting the past than working for our future. No one was above ridicule and derision, Nehru or Patel, Akbar or Ambedkar. We debated culturalization of politics and religious stances, defined morality and righteousness and found little time to ponder on our own misery caused by rising prices, pollution and lawlessness. Meanwhile, I took to reading pulses, I can no longer afford to eat them!
(published in the Sunday Tribune as part of my column on 3/1/2016)