Business Standard

The handful of people who managed to make us happy in a gloomy year

The year 2019 saw many leaders asserting themselves in their respective fields, and there also were some who emerged on the scene this year and went on to make it big

India's Jasprit Bumrah, right, celebrates the dismissal of South Africa's Quinton de Kock during the Cricket World Cup match between South Africa and India at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton, England, Wednesday, June 5, 2019. (AP/PTI)

India's Jasprit Bumrah, right, celebrates the dismissal of South Africa's Quinton de Kock during the Cricket World Cup match between South Africa and India at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton, England, Wednesday, June 5, 2019. (AP/PTI)

Ritwik SharmaAmrita Singh
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The singer-songwriter from Jaipur managed to capture the heartbreaks of today’s youth like no other Indian musician. His poetic lyrics, relatable themes and soft melodies were somehow perfect for everything from work, solo-listening sessions and even house parties. While Kuhad has enjoyed a decent fan following since 2015, his song “Cold/Mess” starring Jim Sarbh and Zoya Hussain, brought him to the attention of the masses. His song about a couple recovering from their break-up made many young people particularly happy also because of the way the music video was shot — real and unapologetic. Kuhad has come to define India's indie music scene, bringing a breath of fresh air to mainstream music.

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It’s a somewhat peculiar but now happily familiar sight. With a short run-up, left fist trained on the batsman and hyperextension of his right elbow, Jasprit Bumrah hypnotises his prey before felling them with a signature whiplash yorker. In 2019, Bumrah had a memorable World Cup, helped India win its first-ever Test series in Australia and fashioned a clean sweep in the West Indies, proving his supremacy across formats. The 26-year-old gave us plenty of occasions to smile and a precious opportunity to boast — of possessing the world’s best pace bowler, an exalted position arguably never truly occupied by an Indian cricketer before.

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The 34-year-old became the world’s youngest sitting prime minister after replacing the nation’s former leader, Antii Rinne. Marin, the current leader of Finland’s Social Democratic Party, brought cheer for women all over the world, as someone who not only rose from the position of cashier to become prime minister, but also as the daughter of a lesbian couple. The working mother also normalised taboo subjects such as breastfeeding by posting pictures on social media of her nursing her daughter. She is the third woman to assume office and heads a parliament that is led by women, four of whom are also in their 30s.

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Businesses are often risk-averse, to the extent that we are used to corporate leaders not wading into social or political issues for fear of losing customers. Deepinder Goyal, the founder of food delivery service Zomato, proved to be an exception that gladdened our hearts. A customer in Jabalpur refused to accept food delivered by a Muslim courier and sought a replacement. Zomato stood by its courier and, in response to the customer’s complaint, tweeted that food has no religion but is a religion. Goyal won much appreciation on social media, and Zomato retained its place as one of India’s top food aggregators.

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Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics next year, the powers that be should consider changing the motto to “Citius, Fortius, Eliud”. Long distance runner Eliud Kipchoge, hailed as the greatest marathoner in the world, etched his name in history with the first-ever sub-two hour marathon. His feat in Vienna didn’t count as a world record because he enjoyed benefits that are not normally available in a competitive run, such as being supported by pacesetters. But in one hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds of breathtaking skill, the Kenyan showed the world how sheer ability and a little bit of science can help redefine what is humanly possible.

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Call him the professor of public debates. Gourav Vallabh's rise has been swift for a man who joined the Congress in 2018. But as a party spokesperson, he gained prominence this year for his clinical takedown of Bharatiya Janata Party’s Sambit Patra at a panel discussion. Vallabh quizzed Patra if he knew how many zeroes a trillion had, as he questioned the government’s claim that the Indian economy was set to reach $5 trillion in 2020. As Patra evaded the question, the audience cheered a politician who, for a change, relies on facts . It’s no surprise that Vallabh is a professor of finance with a doctorate degree in credit risk management.

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India’s fastest woman — she currently holds the national record in the women’s 100m — came out as homosexual this year, thereby becoming the first sportsperson in India to publicly reveal her sexuality. Despite hailing from a conservative family, Chand won the hearts of millions as she spoke about her partner, a distant relative from her village, Chaka Gopalpur in Odisha. Her family refused to accept Chand’s revelation, but that did not deter the athlete’s quest for equality and respect. Swift and incredibly brave.

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The first Indian-American to host a weekly comedy show with the Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, he was named among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people this year. Hasan Minhaj pulled off a difficult trick — entertaining viewers with sharp political satire on issues that concern us all. While he emerged as an important Muslim comedic voice in the Trump era, his journalistic take on hot topics in India amused and generated as much interest among Indians. Born to migrants from Aligarh, Minhaj talked about the Lok Sabha elections and cricket, and also took up the Citizenship Amendment Act on his show. The organisers of “Howdy Modi” didn’t find him funny and denied him entry to the event.

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The 36-year-old former refugee became the first Somali-American to serve in the US Congress, and one of only two Muslim women to do so (Congress had to change its rules so that she could wear her hijab on the floor). Despite racial attacks by President Trump, Omar continued to wear her politics with pride, declaring that she didn’t feel indebted to the country for accepting her as a refugee but is working to improve conditions for others like her. The articulate politician made many happy when she delivered a measured but devastating takedown of a television host who made the mistake of asking her template “Muslim” questions.

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The woman behind the eponymous fashion brand has been environmentally alert since she launched her label in 2001. In the last two decades, McCartney has tackled the complex relationship between fashion and nature more frontally and has been a vocal advocate of sustainability when it wasn’t even in vogue. Fashion may matter most to this McCartney, but that has not deterred her from expressing outrage at its appalling environmental footprint. Her label has become a model for brands that are only just opening their eyes to the crying need for sustainable fashion.

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As a wave of agitations gripped India at the year-end in reaction to the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, unknown youths came to the fore instead of usual public faces. And perhaps no one articulated the resistance better than Aamir Aziz. The singer-poet from Patna, who studied at Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia — one of the epicentres of the ongoing protests — had earlier composed songs on lynching victims and “achhe din”. In a recent poem that went viral, he infused hope as he sang, “... zulm se inkaar karna inquilab ki oar barha hua pehla kadam hai, main kadam peeche hatane se inkaar karta hun” (to oppose oppression is the first step towards revolution, I refuse to step back).

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Their hit song, “Senorita”, attracted the attention of millennials across the world this year. But the icing on the cake for legions of fans was the off-screen couple’s admission in public that they were also in a relationship. Since then, Cabello and Mendes have come to represent the epitome of “couple goals”, sporting bond-touch bracelets (the kind that light up if a partner touches a bracelet). Mendes has also reportedly been secretly pining for Cabello for a very long time, which makes this latest love story all the more thrilling for adoring fans.

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First Published: Dec 27 2019 | 11:43 PM IST

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