2017, the year of craziest trends

This year, social media platforms witnessed a swathe of stranger things right from viral death game to triple talaq.

The Blue Whale Challenge

The first strange trend which was strangest of all was the Blue Whale Challenge in which kids carved blue whales on their arms and vied for spots in an online suicide challenge

The Blue Whale Challenge was baffling in a way few other things have been. Amid a government crackdown, a new hashtag began trending, #CuratorFindMe. Why were so many Indian children desperate to sign up for a game that offered no perks, threatened to hurt their family if they tried to opt out, and demanded strange things of a player… leading up to suicide? Things got even murkier as people began to cry ‘Blue Whale’ for a series of unrelated deaths. By August, the union ministry of electronics and information technology was demanding that internet companies remove links to the game. The Supreme Court (SC) asked the government to ban the game

Avocado Toast

Instagrammers turned #AvocadoToast into an inexplicably popular catchphrase, food fad and eventually, slur so adults will remember 2017 as the year Western millennials ruined breakfast for everyone. Two bland ingredients, avocado and toast, combined to create a dish so insipid and so pretty, it inspired more than five lakh Instagram posts.

Aadhar card

The Aadhar card took the country by storm because the Central government made it mandatory to provide the Unique Identification Number or Aadhaar for obtaining a death certificate in order to prevent identity fraud. That’s a good objective, and Aadhaar does seem like a good idea – but one which is clearly being over-used. Civil society and privacy activists dragged the government to court over Aadhaar. In response, the deadline for Aadhar linkage to bank accounts and phone numbers has been extended to March 31, 2018, from December 31, 2017.

Standing for national anthem

Standing to sing the national anthem is routine in school. In 2016, the Supreme Court acting on the petition of a Bhopal resident ordered that the anthem be played before the screening of films in public theatres. In October Justice DY Chandrachud of the SC observed that sitting while the song played must be allowed. But in between 2016 and 2017, much water had flowed under the bridge. A wheelchair-bound person was called a Pakistani at a Guwahati cinema. A group of men and women in Chennai, who had decided on principle not to rise when the song played, were heckled. Whether one sits or stands is hardly the issue anymore. In the hyper-nationalistic mode that India finds herself in today, it doesn’t seem as if the pressure on citizens to enact their nationalism will go away anytime soon.

Triple Talaq made invalid

From talaqs over phone to writing talaq in an email, the practice of instant triple talaq - where a man could say talaq thrice and end his marriage on the spot - was getting stranger by the day, forcing women to move court in 2016. A Bill making instant triple talaq illegal and void and awarding a jail term for anyone resorting to it was also introduced in the Parliament on December 28.

Women cricket team won hearts

The situation for women cricket team is vastly different for men’s cricket in the country either. Cricket crazy as Indians are, not many can sincerely claim to have sat through a women’s cricket match. Before the 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup, that is. While the women in blue did lose the finals to England, they managed to win national adulation and ensure that cricket in India will never again be only about the men in blue.

“Newton” made it to Oscars

Newton, an acclaimed film, a dark comedy on the country’s election system starring Rajkumar Rao became a huge success story this year. Even before it got its glowing reviews here, the film had opened to a positive response in the international film festival circuit, including the Berlin Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival. The same day it released in theatres, Newton was announced as India’s entry to the Academy Awards in the foreign language category. The film did not make it to the shortlist, but director Amit Masurkar’s film is a reminder of the quiet revolution brewing in small-budget Hindi filmmaking in India.

Rohingya crisis and Suu Kyi

Suu Kyi found herself on the other side of the human rights debate.The year 2017 saw the clear fall from grace of one of the greatest icons of democracy of our times. Aung San Suu Kyi’s non-violent protest against the military junta endeared her to the democracy-loving West. But when reacting for the first time to the Rohingya crisis in September, Suu Kyi told Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyin Erdogan, that the situation was being distorted, it didn’t take long for the world to gasp in disbelief. The New York Times called her the “much-changed icon”, and in November, the city of Oxford stripped her of the Freedom of the City of Oxford award. It is today almost an irony that Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize for her “struggle for democracy and human rights”.

Dhinchak Pooja became a celebrity singer

Wikipedia describes cringe pop as a genre of music in which the videos are so bad that people cannot stop watching them. Pooja Jain aka Dhinchak Pooja — the Delhi girl everyone woke up to this past year — may or may not be aware of this description, but it is likely she doesn’t care. Pooja is a star in her own right. The YouTube singer found herself crooning all the way to the Big Boss house. For those wondering how far being bizarrely bad at something could take someone, Dhinchak Pooja was a case study.

Twitter’s increased word limit

In the past, Twitter’s character limit, one of the key features of the micro-blogging site. But in November, Twitter doubled its character limit from 140 to 280.

Ram Rahim jailed; Aarushi’s parents bailed

In October, Nupur and Rajesh Talwar walked out of Ghaziabad’s Dasna jail after the Allahabad High Court acquitted them in the double murder case of their daughter Aarushi and domestic help Hemraj. The case remains one of the most sensational in the country. No one knows who killed Aarushi and Hemraj. Meanwhile, in August the CBI court in Panchkula convicted Dera Sacha Sauda chief and self-styled Godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim for raping two woman disciples. His supporters created mayhem in Haryana, Punjab and Delhi, leaving 41 people dead. But one of the strangest images of 2017 has to be that of the once-flamboyant Dera chief in tears, begging for mercy.

Bhansali’s film “Padmavati” criticised

Ever since the sets of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s upcoming film Padmavati was vandalized in January – explaining that the first mention of Rani Padmini can only be traced back to Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s poetry, but it wasn’t enough to change popular belief. For many, the queen is an epitome of Rajput honour, and hell broke loose when it was rumoured that Bhansali’s film showed a romance between Padmini and Alauddin Khilji in a dream sequence. The filmmakers tried their best to quell such rumours, but the first promos of the film had the Rajputs up in arms again over the depiction of the queen and alleged distortion of facts. The film is as of now awaiting the Censor Board certificate for release.

The controversial Taj

2017 was a difficult year for the Taj Mahal. First, the Uttar Pradesh government reportedly did not include it in the list of heritage sites then, it was not included in a list of tourist attractions in UP. No sooner had chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, cleared the air, than the Taj found itself at the centre of another debate. Members of a Hindu group chanted Shiva Chalisa at the Taj, and said that if namaz could be held at the Taj – there is a mosque at the heritage site comples – then Shiva chalisa could also be read there.

Why did Katappa kill Baahubali ?

Katappa ne Baahubali ko kyon maara (Why did Katappa kill Baahubali)? For weeks before the release of the second and last installment of the Baahubali franchise, this was the question on everyone’s mind and social media walls. The answer was finally out on April 28 and even the success of the original Baahubali film had not prepared us for the phenomenon that the concluding part would be. The dubbed Hindi version of the film alone earned Rs 125 core at the box office in its first weekend. The film’s opening weekend earning worldwide was more than Rs 400 crore. It zoomed past the Rs 100 crore mark on the very first day of hitting screens in India, became the first Indian film to enter the Rs 1000 crore club and one of the biggest Indian hits worldwide.

The Sarahah app

An anonymous messaging platform named after the Arabic word for ‘frank’, was meant to show us the truth about ourselves “to enhance our strengths...”. Instead, it revealed not just the funny and sweet but also the abusive and nasty truth about people, when given the power of anonymity. For every “ur smile makes me believe in magic”, there was a “Why are you gay? Why don’t you cure yourself of this disease”. Facebook timelines were flooded with screenshots aimed at women, even children. It was a harsh reminder that behind a mask, many of us are as much beast as beauty.

Air Pollution in Delhi

The air quality index (AQI) in Delhi remained at “severe” (polluted) levels. On November 14, after a week of foul air, the AQI finally came down. But what caused this air apocalypse which saw schools declare holidays, trucks being stopped at the Capital’s borders and all constructions halted? Two air circulatory systems — one bringing pollutants from crop burning in Punjab and Haryana, (and according to one theory, dust from multi-day dust storm in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia) while the other bringing moisture from the east — collided over the National Capital Region.

ISRO launched 104 satellites at one go

In 2014, ISRO became the first Asian country to launch a Mars Orbiter. A sneering New York Times cartoon drew flak after it showed India knocking on the doors of the elite space club represented as a dhoti-clad farmer with a cow in tow. In 2017, ISRO responded to that jibe in kind, creating history by launching 104 satellites into orbit — three for India and the rest for a range of client countries that included the US, Israel, UAE, Netherlands, Kazakhstan and Switzerland. The feat broke the previous record of 37 satellites launched in one go, by Russia in 2014.

The BrahMos Missile

The satellite launch record was not the only aerial triumph of India this year. We successfully tested the fastest supersonic cruise missile, BrahMos, from a Sukhoi-30 warplane for the first time against a target in the Bay of Bengal. With a range of 290 km, it makes India a leader in supersonic missiles. An Indo-Russian joint venture, it is named after the Brahmaputra and Moscowa rivers. The missile is now ready to be launched from land, sea and air.

Sexual Harrasment hashtag #MeToo

The hashtag found resonance with nearly half the online world. When actress Alyssa Milano urged netizens to use #MeToo (initiated by activist Tarana Burke in 2006) to highlight how pervasive misogyny was, the trend quickly went viral. It trended in India and garnered more than six lakh uses worldwide, across social media platforms. #MeToo was 2017’s #YesAllWomen – and stories are still coming out. The hashtag got women talking about their experiences with sexual harassment, got men to stop and think about the cost of casual sexism, and men and women talking to one another about the need for change.

Shubhangi Swaroop, the first woman pilot in the Indian Navy

 

Three other women cadets, Astha Segal, Roopa A and Sakthi Maya S also became the country’s first women officers at the Naval Armament Inspectorate branch. For years, the armed forces were a male bastion, and women were only employed in non-combat roles. But change is underway. Last year, three female fighter pilots were inducted in the Air Force for the first time. This month, the IAF inducted two more women fighter pilots.

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