ByÂ Thomson Chakramakkil:
Epochs in the history of civilizations have been marked by the glorification of great human deeds. In the flow of time, the definitions of greatness have evolved considerably, leaving the basic need for manufacturing celebrities intact. The following list of top-nine-people-of-2013, from a very Indian perspective, which doesn’t allow room for many surprises, can be seen as such a well-intentioned attempt at lubricating the social machinery.
Arvind Kejriwal: The new Delhi Chief Minister and the AAP leader is incontestably the occupant of the top spot in the list, and that comes as no surprise. In the course of the year, this man has managed to do much more than hold the attention of the Indian public. Kejriwal, as a matter of fact, has changed the political course of the nation by leading a revolution that was well beyond the public imagination and managed to challenge the notion that ‘change’ is still a utopian dream in the Indian political landscape. Not a single day has passed this year without a mention of his name in the media, and multiple news agencies have, with very little hesitation, declared him as the Indian of the year.
Narendra Modi: If there is somebody who can compete with Kejriwal for the top spot, that would most definitely be the abundantly celebrated Prime Ministerial candidate, whom the youth of the nation hail as the progress-friendly leader. The reason why Kejriwal wangled more screen-time than Modi in the political theatre is probably because of the fact that the former tax-inspector’s growth in politics was rather radical and fast-paced as opposed to Modi’s steady, perceptible growth, which managed to create what I call a Gujarat-model-ripple-effect.
Sachin Tendulkar: ‘God of Cricket’ would be an understatement if an attempt is made to describe a man who unites the entire country. The pain his retirement inflicted on his near-religious fans is well beyond words. Tendulkar leaving the crease marks the curtain call for a long history of sportsmanship that moved a generation that grew up watching the master blaster’s straight drives.
Prannoy Roy: When Prannoy Roy started NDTV two and a half decades back, he could not have possibly imagined the part non-governmental media was to play in the country, as the watch-dog of democracy and voice of the people. Earlier this month, during the 25th anniversary speech he gave at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, he reminded us once again that the sole attribute journalism thrives on, is trust. As one of the most influential Indians on the planet today, Roy seemed to have grown so much with the media-house he founded, and garnered the trust of the nation by setting the path for the new, free fourth-estate.
Nelson Mandela: The great African leader’s demise brought the entire world to tears and marked a poignant closure to this eventful year. Mandela’s memorial service, which was graced by numerous world leaders, was surrounded by a great deal of controversies, which gave the function some undesirable media attention. Nevertheless, the past year witnessed the whole world coming together to commemorate the legacy of the peerless revolutionary, who will continue to live in the hearts of the people.
Arnab Goswami: Arnab Goswami is a name that generates mixed responses in any given part of the country. Over the years, this news anchor has come to represent the glamour and vigour of neo-journalism in an unparalleled manner. He’s probably the best at what he does, and his followers love him for not mincing his words. In the past year, blogs and social networks have either heartily glorified or severely condemned him. The Newshour clips and its parodies that filled the cyberspace, in an evidently overwhelming fashion, itself is a testimony to how strongly the nation feels about Goswami.
Pope Francis: The new Pope seems to the coolest of Peter’s successors till date, going by what opinion polls have to say. Considering the moral authority rested in the leader of one of the largest religious establishments, the Pope’s unorthodox, non-judgmental way of approaching and spreading his faith is definitely worth remarking upon. Going by how things are working out for the Catholic Church, there is hope left for religions of the world, which were previously heading in the wrong direction.
CNR Rao: Rao is probably the only chemist who received a celebrity-like coverage by the Indian media. And interestingly, the Bharat Ratna he was awarded with, this year had very little to do with it. Just after the announcement of his award, Rao went on to call the politicians of the country “idiots” in a press conference, which made him the centre of media attention and, possibly, the most controversial scientist India has ever seen.
Maria Alyokhina: Maria Alyokhina, the political activist/prisoner and the member of the feminist-punk-rock band Pussy Riot, captured a fair amount of media attention with her fierce criticism of Putin and the Russian socio-political machinery. Though, she and her band members were penalized severely by the Government on charges of hooliganism, religious hatred and other violations of similar bent, the past year bore testimony to international community stepping up for them.
While such lists are inherently incomplete and brutally subjective, I feel that the individuals mentioned here have been successful in affecting us in some way or the other, and teaching us that there is a lot to learned from a year passed.