Opinion Op Ed 31 Dec 2016 2016: The year of po ...
Irreverent, provocative, opinionated... Shobhaa De has been challenging status quo for four decades... and is at her best when she punctures inflated egoes. Readers can send feedback to www.shobhaade.blogspot.com

2016: The year of post-truth

Published Dec 31, 2016, 2:24 am IST
Updated Dec 31, 2016, 7:40 am IST
Cowards in designer bandgalas and Modi-bundis. Nobody expected better.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing at the launch of a new mobile app 'BHIM' to encourage e-transactions during the ''Digital Mela'' at Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi on Friday. (Photo: PTI)
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing at the launch of a new mobile app 'BHIM' to encourage e-transactions during the ''Digital Mela'' at Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi on Friday. (Photo: PTI)

Post-truth. Does anybody even know what that means? One always believed there was truth... just truth... only truth... and everything else was a lie. Now we are told truth has many interpretations. Fifty Shades of Truth. If not 200. Or 2,000. Take your pick. Choose the truth that suits you best. Discard the rest. Designer truth. I love it. Who designs? You do!

The world will henceforth be thus defined: Before Donald (B.D.) and After Donald (A.D.). President-elect Donald Trump declared himself the biggest game changer in the universe, and it is the universe that will need to bend over backwards to accommodate a megalomaniac with views that shatter most sane minds. So... is Mr Trump insane? Or are we nuts? Is Mr Trump the evil genius who may blow up the world? Or are we being paranoid? Like Arvind Kejriwal, like Narendra Modi, Mr Trump occupies a unique position and comes with a plan. A plan that appears demonic, diabolical to those who oppose those views... but perfectly logical to supporters. These are men on a manic mission. And they have enough people who believe in them, and keep them in positions that wield enormous power over those who fear them. Those who call them despots should remember all three are products of vibrant democracies — they are there because people voted for them. They will remain there till they are voted out. Pssst: Don’t forget the manipulation of social media that has got them there in the first place.

 

Demons and demonetisation. For the citizens of India, the two are interlinked. Demonetisation has been described by international economists as a “reckless bungle”. Desi patriots are retorting with a vociferous thumbs down to that put down. What about Brexit? They ask. Why don’t you firangs focus on that reckless bungle and leave us to deal with our cashless crisis. They have a point. Since we all love conspiracy theories, it’s tempting to think those broke blokes in Europe and England are gloating over Mr Modi’s fiscal blunder. Worse, their bosses may have orchestrated it indirectly. Ever since the Modi era, there has been muted international bitching about India’s aggressive growth plans. The bitching got less muted when Raghuram Rajan, Amartya Sen and other “foreign approved” voices joined the chorus against what they suggested were bogus economic claims and projections. The entire India: Superpower dialogue went for a toss when Mr Modi dropped the demonetisation bomb on an unsuspecting nation (November 8). The backlash was devastating. The “reckless bungle” has been Mr Modi’s boldest gamble so far. Cashless became the new backless or topless. Pink was declared the season’s hottest colour. Black took a beating. And was demoted to a decidedly “unfashionable” status.

 

At the end of 2016, nothing else mattered as much as the notes in your hand. Notes were the biggest levellers, as rich and poor alike scrambled to get their hands on “chhootta” currency.

This obsession with “chhootta”, affected “dhanda” across the board. The first few memes that emerged displayed wicked humour and satire at its sharpest. Bar dancers were shown showering customers with useless old notes, while customers wept into beers they didn’t have the cash to pay for. Black humour was rapidly replaced by rage, as citizens realised the “joke” had gone too far. There was resentment and frustration galore, as senior citizens queued up for long hours to withdraw cash from their banks — their own, hard earned cash — and got turned away as banks ran dry! Several stories started to appear in the national press reflecting the hardships faced by helpless citizens as ATMs ran out of money. Regardless of ground realities, Mr Modi kept talking about a “cashless society” to people who had absolutely nothing to fall back on — no bank accounts, no banks near their villages and no access to cash to pay for their daily rations. Cashless or heartless?

 

In any other country, there would have been a bloody revolution had people been forced to suffer like this, said thousands of irate citizens. Frustratingly, Indians remained thanda and philosophical. Grrrrr!

Corporate India kept mum. As usual. The captains of industry preferred to stay on Mr Modi’s good side, by zipping their mouths. As usual. Cowards in designer bandgalas and Modi-bundis.
Nobody expected better.

It was left to Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee to speak up and denounce demonetisation. Unfortunately, for Mr Gandhi, he lacks gravitas and credibility. He could have been the effective voice of people, but he simply doesn’t have what it takes to cut it. With his tall claims of causing an “earthquake” by exposing Mr Modi’s personal corruption, Mr Gandhi emerged as a monumental duffer when he produced nothing by way of evidence. Ms Banerjee was playing her own aggressive, manipulative game. With Jayalalithaa dead and gone, India has just two formidable women left — Ms Banerjee and Mayawati. 2017 may see both playing politically significant roles in challenging Mr Modi’s position.

 

The world of Bollywood wrestled with the box office — literally and figuratively. Dangal and Sultan grappled with more or less the same theme, with Sultan beating the more recent Dangal on the mat. At the time of writing, Virat and Anushka were still the nation’s sweethearts and no rings had been exchanged.

A baby named Taimur caused havoc on social media, while the proud parents, Saif and Kareena, ignored trolls and partied on.

Baby bumps made their debut on catwalks and yummy mummies stole the show. Apart from catwalk queens and stars, it was the three deviyan from the Rio Olympics who won the hearts of Indians. Start-ups, break-ups and make-ups come and go. Whether or not Katrina Kaif moves on post-Ranbir, nobody really cares, except for those who still enjoy their Koffee fix and look for clues between giggles, nudges and winks. Careless Whisper has always been the theme song of showbiz. With the tragic death of George Michael, there is added poignancy to his lyrics.

 

2016 has been a pretty tumultuous and traumatic year. I hate being a party pooper, but my gut feeling warns me that 2017 will be far worse. Reason enough to open that magnum, bring out the crystal flutes, clink glasses and say “Paneer”! Read my lips: More pain on the way. Inevitably, the world will be trumped by the Donald. And here in India, we will meekly surrender our souls to the nearest ATM. See you on the other side, readers.

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