2023 in 12 parts – memorable, forgettable

If the ground was a bit shaky, the skies shone. Our Moon Mission stood out as the brightest spot in the year.
Chandrayaan-3. (Photo | Express)
Chandrayaan-3. (Photo | Express)

Seen telescoped from this end, the last twelve months seem to have sloughed off almost in a series of stark contrasts, as if conforming to some neat Manichean logic of light and dark. But when lived in the raw, it was a rather more messy and unpredictable assemblage of tragicomic events. The year began with a handful of Indian wrestlers putting their career on the line to protest against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, the burly BJP MP of Kaiserganj in UP, with most accounts painting the picture of a sexual predator. After months of recrimination and calumny, it ended with the government making a conciliatory gesture.

The second month, it was the turn of Delhi deputy CM Manish Sisodia to feel the heavy hand of fate. This didn’t end the same way. The list of AAP cabinet ministers in prison lengthened over time and, as the year closes, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, ‘Mr Clean’ himself, faces Enforcement Directorate questioning.

Events came in a repetitive mode, refrain-like, though the mirror magnified them each time. Rahul Gandhi got disqualified from the Lok Sabha in a defamation case involving PM Modi, but was reinstated finally. Months later, it was an expulsion that awaited TMC’s Mahua Moitra. And half-way through the winter session, pretty much the entire Opposition was to be suspended.

The BJP returned to power in Tripura, though initially projected as a loser. In fact, the party, once a stranger to the region, has entrenched itself in northeastern India, with Meghalaya and Nagaland almost adopting it as a surrogate caregiver. But it couldn’t necessarily portray itself as a paragon of good governance, as it may have wanted. In May, Manipur erupted despite the presence of the so-called double-engine government. Hundreds died, and an ethnic kaleidoscope lay broken irretrievably. For the first time in the history of the country, a government had to arrange for the mass funeral of 64 bodies to bring closure to victims’ families.

If the ground was a bit shaky, the skies shone. Our Moon Mission stood out as the brightest spot in the year. Chandrayaan-3 scripted history — India became the first country to land on the lunar south pole, a dark, cold part of the moon hidden from the Earth. The defining moment came on August 23 as the Indian lander touched down 600 km off the southern pole and soon the Pragyan rover rolled out to scrape the cheese off the moon for the labs, and ‘shook a leg’ to the music lovers back on earth. The lunar quest was all the more memorable as ISRO had managed to pull off the impossible if you consider that failure had greeted even a Russian attempt.

In a few days, ISRO added another milestone: Aditya L-1 zipped to the nearest point up to the Sun. Back on earth, the G20 Summit added to India’s glory. As the 5th largest economy of the world, India used its massive heft to put the African Union on the G20 pedestal. Domestically, the year brought good tidings for the BJP with three crucial elections in Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The consecration of the Ram temple in January will almost carry over the triumphal mood for the party and the vibes, it will be hoping, will last till the general election in April-May.

A tryst with destiny awaits India in 2024. Maybe, we will redeem our pledge — in full measure. Let’s hope.

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The New Indian Express