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From G20 Summit to Chandrayaan 3: 2023 – The Year That Was

ByNirmalya Dutta
Dec 29, 2023 06:27 PM IST

Decorum – and WB Yeats – dictates that before we go forward, we cast a cold eye on the year that was:

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known by his nom de plume, Vladimir Lenin, once mused: “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” The former statement is not an argument that one would make for the decade that started with the 2020s.

2023 - The Year That Was
2023 - The Year That Was

As we roll into 2024, looking back at the last four years, we’ve seen a global soul-crushing pandemic, two humongous wars (and the numerous small-scale conflicts that don’t always warrant mainstream wall-to-wall coverage) that threaten to upend the old world order and the birth of what seems like omnipotent AI suggesting we are approaching the phase that movies like The Matrix and The Terminator have warned us against since time immemorial.

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Closer home, we might be looking at the first three-term Prime Minister since Jawaharlal Nehru while we look forward to a T20 World Cup to hopefully vanquish the ghosts of the ODI World Cup 2023 final loss.

However, decorum – and WB Yeats – dictates that before we go forward, we cast a cold eye on the year that was:

January

The first month of the Gregorian calendar saw an Indian SC constitution bench upholding the validity of demonetization.

In the financial world, the Hindenburg group published a report that accused the Adani group of “brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud”.

Meanwhile, some of India’s top wrestlers, including Olympic medal winners, launched a protest at the Jantar Mantar against WFI president Brij Bhushan, accusing him of “sexual harassment” among other charges.

The month also saw Novak Djokovic win his 22nd Grand Slam at the Australian Open to equal Rafael Nadal’s record. In the course of the year, he would win two further slams (French Open and US Open) and the ATP finals, and was only prevented from a clean sweep by wunderkind Carlos Alcaraz who ended his reign at Wimbledon.

February

February saw Cyclone Freddy, an intense tropical storm, bring Mauritius to a standstill and kill almost 1,500 people. An earthquake in Turkey-Syria left 59,000 dead, causing widespread damage to an area roughly the size of Rajasthan. Closer home, political upheavals in the capital saw Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia arrested.

March

Beware, the Ides of March, Caesar was warned, a warning that could also apply to Rahul Gandhi, who was disqualified as a Lok Sabha MP after a Surat court verdict in the “Modi-surname remark” case. However, it wasn’t as bad as Caesar for Rahul Gandhi, as a Supreme Court ruling stayed the decision, and he was reinstated as an MP. The month also saw IMF sanction a $3 billion bailout for Sri Lanka.

On a brighter note, Naatu Naatu from RRR and Netflix’s The Elephant Whisperer brought Indian laurels at the 2023 Academy Awards. The year’s first state assembly elections saw the BJP retain the states of Tripura and Nagaland, while the NPP coalition won in Meghalaya. The month also saw a new shot in the AI arms race, with Open AI launching the GPT-4.

April

While the exact date is difficult to pinpoint, experts believe India overtook China as the most populous country in the world in the month. Meanwhile, Khalistani separatist Amritpal Singh, who had styled himself as Bhindranwale’s successor – including getting cosmetic surgery to look like him – was arrested in Moga, Punjab.

Space X’s Starship, billed the world’s biggest rocket that was meant to send astronauts to the moon, Mars and beyond, exploded minutes after take-off.

May

The fifth month of the year saw ethnic violence erupt in Manipur between Meiteis and the Kuki-Zo tribal community. Officially, 175 have been killed in the conflict that ensued.

The month also bore witness to PM Modi inaugurating the new Parliament building. May also saw Congress win a whopping victory in the Karnataka state elections by its biggest vote share in 34 years.

Speaking of ending streaks, WHO declared that Covid was no longer an “emergency”, even though it was still labelled a “pandemic”.

And finally, Charles III was officially coronated as the monarch of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, forcing the United Kingdom to change its currency, stamps and even anthems.

June

June saw a tragic three-way train collision in Odisha that left almost 300 dead. Another calamity saw Titan, a deep-sea submersible that set out to explore the wreck of the Titanic, explode, killing all five on board.

A private mercenary group led by Yevgeny Prigozhin – sometimes called Putin’s “chef” – went to war against Moscow. The rebellion came to an end soon, and Prigozhin died in a plane crash a couple of months later.

Meanwhile, the silver lining in a dark month saw scientists create a synthetic embryo without sperm or eggs.

Of course, sci-fi fans might worry that at the rate at which AI is growing, it might reach singularity soon, and Ultron getting a synthetic Vision-like body won’t be a Marvel plot anymore.

July

The seventh month of the year saw 21 Opposition parties including AAP, CPI(M), INC, AITC, CPI, JD(U), DMK, NCP, RJD, IUML and Shiv Sena (UB), come together to form the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, commonly referred by its backronym INDIA to challenge the Modi-led NDA in the 2024 Lok Sabha Elections.

Heavy rains led to flash floods in North India in various states, including Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Chandigarh, Uttarakhand, J&K, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Delhi.

July also saw the “biggest wildfire in the EU” in Greece, which led to the evacuation of tens of thousands.

August

August saw one of the most remarkable achievements of post-independence India as ISRO landed the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover on the lunar south pole, becoming the first nation to successfully do so, causing much consternation among India’s former colonial overlords.

There was a little consternation in Parliament as well, as the Modi-led NDA government faced a no-trust motion from the INDI Alliance over its “failure to restore peace and normalcy in Manipur.” The no-trust motion elicited a long speech by PM Modi (2 hours and 14 minutes), a flying kiss, and an Opposition walkout before the actual counting of votes in the No-Trust Motion.

In the neighbourhood, former Pak Prime Minister and Pak Army friend-turned-foe Imran Khan was arrested in a corruption case and disqualified from politics for 5 years.

On the other side of the planet, Donald Trump was arrested and released in the Georgia Election case. The Hawaiian wildfires saw over 100 killed and 17000 acres of land burned.

For England, the pain again came from Spain, as their women’s team was beaten in the Women’s World Cup final to ensure that once again, football “wouldn’t be coming home.”

September

September saw the G20 summit held in Delhi, as the capital hosted the who’s who of world powers with only Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, MIA among the key world leaders. The summit also saw the African Union become a permanent member of the G20. Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau’s assertion that Indian agents were involved in the murder of a Sikh separatist on Canadian soil was rejected firmly by New Delhi which called the allegation “absurd”.

The Women’s Reservation Bill – which seeks to reserve 33% of seats for women in Lok Sabha and assemblies – was passed in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and signed by President Murmu. Fresh from the success of Chandrayaan III, ISRO also launched Aditya-L1, India’s first solar observation mission. A devastating 6.8 Richter earthquake hit Morocco, leaving almost 3,000 dead and millions affected.

October

October 7 saw a Hamas-led incursion into south Israel from the Gaza Strip, almost exactly 50 years after the Yom Kippur War in 1973. According to Israel’s figures, 1,200 Israelis – soldiers, civilians, and children – were killed during the attack. Following the incursion, Israel declared a “state of war,” and the retaliation has seen the death of almost 18,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza Health Ministry figures.

October also saw Friends fans of various vintages heartbroken after the death of Matthew Perry, who played the sarcastic Chandler Bing in the show.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of India refused to legalise same-sex marriage and passed the ball back to the executive.

Microsoft acquired Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard for $69 billion in one of the biggest gaming deals in history.

November

There was heartbreak for cricket fans across the country when Australia beat India in the 2023 ODI Cricket World Cup final. Also, November saw a bizarre firing and hiring of Open AI CEO Sam Altman, which to the chagrin of Indian cricket fans, coincided with the Cricket World Cup final.

Despite the heartbreak of the World Cup loss, there was much to cheer about as 41 tunnel workers were rescued in Uttarakhand after 17 days in entrapment.

Meanwhile, far-right politician Geert Wilders’ party won the most seats in the Netherlands elections.

December

In what was termed a blockbuster semi-final ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election, BJP romped home in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh, while the Congress won in Telangana. Meanwhile, ZNP won in Mizoram.

Mahua Moitra, TMC MP and one of the Modi government’s most vehement critics, was expelled from Lok Sabha.

The last month of the year also saw Parliament breached in a conspiracy that involved six people, including one individual who jumped off the gallery and threw a smoke bomb inside Parliament, following which several elected representatives exercised their right to reply in traditional Delhi fashion.

Google released its AI model Gemini, ostensibly to compete with Microsoft on the cloud. And in a move that was viewed with controversy in the Catholic world, Pope Francis said priests can now bless “same-sex unions”.

And that's, to borrow a line from our friends at Looney Tunes, all folks. Perhaps casting a cold eye will make us realise that it was neither an annus horribilis nor an annus mirabilis, though to paraphrase Lenin, it did feel like a year in which decades happened. But if you’re reading this, the chances are you made out okay, and perhaps, that’s all we can hope to strive for in the cold Sisyphean struggle that we call life.

Happy New Year folks and keep reading Hindustan Times.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are the author's own.

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