It is that time of year when one sits down and takes stock of the last 365 days gone by — particularly stock of social moments that mattered and, in truth, moved one’s mind and soul.
Here are the five social moments that moved me most in 2018:
1) Media coverage of Sridevi’s death
On the night between February 24-25, India lost a Bollywood superstar loved by millions of fans, one who bridged the cultural gap between the north and the south.
Her death was sudden and the circumstances mysterious. Sridevi was discovered dead by her husband, Boney Kapoor, in a bathtub in a top Dubai hotel.
If death was unfair to her because it came so utterly unannounced, a few weeks literally before her daughter's Bollywood debut, the media coverage of her demise was tragic. Rumours were made to look like reportage. National news channels on prime time speculated whether Sridevi was under danger from steroids or from countless surgeries. Some went to the extent of enacting the actor lying dead in a bathtub.
At a time when the country should have been celebrating Sridevi's immense contribution to the film industry, a needless controversy also broke out over who ‘gave’ the superstar her Padma Shri. TV channels showed political parties fighting over this — like they fight over everything else.
It was painful to see Sridevi’s life (and death) thus reduced to a subject of titillation.
She deserved better.
2) Death of Delhi air hostess Anissia Batra
Thirty-nine-year-old Anissia Batra, daughter of a retired Army officer, died on July 13 by jumping off the terrace of her South Delhi home. She worked with the German airline Lufthansa.
Whether Anissia committed suicide or was killed by her husband Mayank Singhvi is under investigation, but the details of her death left me shaken.
Here was a young and talented woman who could have conquered the world — yet, she chose to remain in an allegedly abusive marriage for over two years.
The abuse apparently ended only when she died.
The tragedy made me question why educated and financially independent women choose to remain in abusive marriages and relationships. Will we, as a society, ever empower these people to walk away — and not have to make that heartbreaking leap of utter despair?
3) The BJP’s tribute to Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s failing health had forced him to retreat from active politics almost immediately after the BJP's defeat in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections.
He died on August 16, 2018. The BJP, showing sharp political sagacity, made it known that it hadn’t forgotten one of its tallest leaders.
The glorious tribute the BJP paid to Vajpayee is one that came to underline 2018.
In the hot and humid conditions of August, former PM Vajpayee’s hearse was followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and BJP chief ministers from various states and central ministers, for five kilometres on foot.
Yes, the BJP was trying to claim Vajpayee’s legacy and the move had politics written all over it. But political parties are supposed to make political moves, so this should have been expected.
Vajpayee's final farewell, beautifully carried off, will be hard to forget for years to come.
4) The MeToo movement in India
The MeToo movement came to India with Bollywood actor Tanushree Dutta accusing co-star Nana Patekar of allegedly harassing her on the sets of Horn 'OK' Pleassss in 2009. In the wake of Dutta coming out about her alleged trauma, women across India started to open up about the ordeals faced by them in their respective workplaces.
That men harass women wherever and whenever they can is an open secret and yet, the individual stories of how women were subjected to repeated abuse — forcing many to leave the workforce entirely — was painful to come to terms with.
The whole backlash to discredit women, which included questioning their intentions in naming their harassers to threatening them with massive legal suits, made me cringe over just how long this fight is going to be and when — if ever — women will enjoy the same dignity and security in a workplace that men do.
5) The simplicity of Saina Nehwal’s wedding
This year seemed absolutely dedicated to marriages of the most successful folks in all walks of life. From Deepika Padukone to Priyanka Chopra to Sonam Kapoor, several Bollywood actors tied the knot, with everything, from their wedding venues to invitations and attires, hitting the headlines.
But the one wedding that completely stood out — not for its pomp and show, but for its simplicity and ‘no show’ — was that of badminton ace Saina Nehwal to fellow shuttler Parupalli Kashyap.
If marriages are between two people, Nehwal ensured hers stayed that way, with only close friends and family getting to see the proceedings.