Farewell 2023!

Looking back at the year gone by and gearing up for 2024 — it’s that time of the year again

Farewell 2023!

When the year draws to an end, I often wonder what we truly celebrate with the loud music parties, unending founts of alcohol, and boisterous merrymaking? Is there a sense of relief that the year finally ended and we made it to the end? Or is it to welcome yet another annum of life replete with hopes and challenges, dashed dreams peppered with a handful of happy moments? Do we, at new year’s bashes, use liquid courage to strengthen our own resolve? For there’s yet another 365 days (366 days as 2024 is a leap year) to get through. Mine may seem a rather grim perspective on year-enders, but frankly, brazen celebrations make little sense, except for a chance to party, which as an escape from the monotony of life, is an otherwise perfectly acceptable reason.

To me, the end of every year is a time for self-introspection. We look back at the year that’s been, the lessons learnt, the journeys that changed our life’s destinations. Perhaps we excelled, perhaps we failed, perhaps we stayed in status quo all year round — however much ground we covered or what we lost, the end of the calendar tunes us to slow down, rest, and gear up for what lies ahead.

We are living through turbulent times, and every year is terrifically more different than the previous one, sometimes more scarier and uncertain. If 2022 introduced war into our current reality through the Russia-Ukraine strife, 2023 normalised it with the Israel-Hamas tensions. Back home, violence between the Kuki and Meitei tribes in Manipur brandished the ugly face of ethnic violence and divisive politics. There were religious clashes between Hindu and Muslim groups in Nuh (Mewat) district of Haryana propelled by a malicious use of technology that urged both sides to resort to violence. Isolating and disabling Muslim businesses came out as targeted attacks against the minority community.

In India, we raged in 2023 — medal-winning wrestlers protested against sexual harassment, the LGBTQI community drove the plea for same sex marriage — but the end results were disappointing. We strived for our identity — should we be known as India or is Bharat more apt for a new ambitious nation or was there space for an amalgamation of both?

Our Parliament building changed, top leaders of opposition parties were thrown out, crucial criminal laws were passed without debate or the presence of the Opposition — the Parliamentary process today seems more unfamiliar than ever before. Will 2024 make this the new legislative normal? In good tidings, the long-awaited Women’s Reservation Bill was passed in Parliament after 27 years! The majority party strengthened its political reign in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, even as southern India declared itself BJP-free. In 2024, all acts will rapidly move towards the imminent general elections, where the BJP-led government is a cinch to win a third term.

From the downfall of the edtech sector to scrapping of vital chapters of history from school books and good and bad teachers who taught dangerous or worthy life lessons — the education sector grabbed a lot of eyeballs and headlines in 2023. In the startup world, pink slips were handed out with double the swiftness of job offers. 16,398 employees were fired from Indian startups in 2023; over 15 per cent higher than in the previous year. With funding on the decline and startups being forced to reduce cash burn, the bloodbath is expected to continue well into 2024. Global recessionary winds are strongly predicted but the India story is touted to remain positive (fingers crossed!).

Technology witnessed and triggered the most dynamic changes. The advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in daily lives threatened jobs while also improving ease of work. Generative AI such as ChatGPT continued to startle with its ability of becoming increasingly human-like while other tech innovations improved and endangered the world at large. New ways of payments went hand-in-hand with novel ways of duping people as deepfake emerged as the latest cyber enemy — there never was a more exciting and awe-inspiring tech times as now.

The past year has been an emotional ride. We were euphoric at touching the Moon and also experienced the depths of sadness as India lost out on the ODI World Cup dream. And now we end the year with the news of yet another Covid-19 variant on the prowl. In 2023, there were joys and heartache, apathy and empathy, fear and courage — and that’s how all years should be, innit? Having emotions is a sign of being alive, an indication of not just accepting the verdict handed out to us, a signal to persevere. So, go on, party into a state of inebriation but don’t forget that a new year is a gift of life, a chance to right a wrong, a blessing to start anew.

The writer is an author and media entrepreneur. Views expressed are personal

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