We can all agree that 2021 has been a year! As we emerged weary from 2020, the new year already had a lot in store for us and by us, I mean people hoping that this would be a better year. Well, spoiler alert but this year was somehow still bad. Sure, parts of the world lifted their coronavirus related restrictions and regained some form of normalcy. But we largely remained amidst a global pandemic. In fact, countries were hit by new mutations of the virus with Omicron arriving on the scene. Among the headlines was the announcement of Parag Agrawal taking over as CEO of Twitter, a historic presidential inauguration in the U.S. and Britney’s freedom (one of the few good things we get to hold on to). It has been a tumultuous ride and to pack it all in a neat little bow to be stowed away for the new year would be futile. Instead, let’s try to make sense of the kind of year we’ve had by looking back in retrospect at some of the major events (out of many) that took place over the past twelve months.
So in no particular order, here are some wildly different things that happened in 2021:
Indian farmers protested for their rights and after a long, painful struggle, the three controversial farm laws were repealed.
At the beginning of the year, Indian farmers had already been protesting three harmful farm laws proposed by the government for weeks. In what can be described as one of the largest protests in the world, thousands of farmers camped at the borders of Delhi to get their demands heard. Many died due to harsh weather conditions but their protest continued till the government agreed to repeal the controversial laws. Social media also played a role as farmers received support and solidarity from all parts of the world including Tweets from Rihanna who urged people to take notice. On the occasion of Guru Nanak Jayanti this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the repealing of the Central laws. All credit goes to farmers and allies who braved much brutality during their protest spanning months. Their win came as a powerful testament to not only the resilience of farmers but the effectiveness of protests.
Joe Biden was sworn in as the President of the United States and Kamala Harris as Vice President on a historic Inauguration Day.
After winning the historic elections, Joe Biden took the oath of office and was sworn in as the 46th U.S. president. The day didn’t just mark the start of a four-year term that promised a departure from former president Donald Trump’s “America First” policies but also the history-making inauguration of Kamala Harris as the first woman of colour to be sworn in as Vice President. And Twitter was elated for “Madam Vice President”. This is also the event that saw Bernie Sanders go viral as an image of him sitting alone wearing mittens became the most relatable meme material.
Kangana Ranaut was finally suspended by Twitter after months of hate-mongering and spreading misinformation.
2021 was also the year Kangana Ranaut was suspended from Twitter. The social media platform finally realised that her malicious account that she used to routinely spread misinformation – everything from romanticising the pandemic to political propaganda, does indeed violate community guidelines. And netizens celebrated the suspension by giving thanks in the form of memes. Ranaut announced that she is joining the Indian platform Koo (no clue what became of that site). She also eventually tried to share misinformation on Instagram but that didn’t work either as her post about coronavirus was taken down.
Parag Agrawal replaced Jack Dorsey as CEO of Twitter, sending Indians on a bragging spree.
In more important Twitter news from this year, Jack Dorsey took the world by surprise as he resigned from his post as Chief Executive Officer one fine Monday. He dropped a tweet that read “not sure anyone has heard but, I resigned from Twitter.” Shortly after, Parag Agarwal was announced as the new Twitter CEO. The Ajmer-born tech executive made headlines with his new history-making position. Meanwhile, Elon Musk rightly pointed out that “USA benefits greatly from Indian talent!” as the microblogging platform joined tech companies run by Indian CEOs – Google, Microsoft, Adobe, IBM and more.
Deep gratitude for @jack and our entire team, and so much excitement for the future. Here’s the note I sent to the company. Thank you all for your trust and support 💙 https://t.co/eNatG1dqH6 pic.twitter.com/liJmTbpYs1
— Parag Agrawal (@paraga) November 29, 2021
The Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan causing a devastating human rights crisis.
In one of the biggest humanitarian crises of 2021, the militant faction Taliban took control of the capital of Afghanistan. The group of extremists moved in as American troops withdrew from Afghanistan and the President of the country Ashraf Ghani fled the scene. The United States 20 year long war in Afghanistan ended but it led to political turmoil that left Afghan citizens desperate to flee from the country. Soon heartbreaking videos of civilians trying to escape on planes designated to evacuate U.S. military personnel emerged. Many died clinging to planes that were taking off in an attempt to leave from Kabul airport. The Taliban’s first order of business was to seize cities and establish their regressive laws. From trashing public spaces to imposing draconian restrictions on women, the group spread terror in the nation. And they continue to do so while residents especially Afghan women march for their human rights.
After a massive fan movement #FreeBritney was revived, Britney Spears is free!
The #FreeBritney movement was in motion for a while. The American pop star and icon was the victim of a harmful conservatorship overseen by her father Jaime who profited off Spears’ work for years. And finally, after 13 years, an LA judge ruled that the conservatorship is no longer required in November. Britney was officially free of her conservatorship and of the control her father exercised. “Good God I love my fans so much it’s crazy,” she said in an Instagram post acknowledging the huge role her fans played. This feat was achieved after a highly publicized legal battle. She now has full autonomy (as she should) of her career, finances and personal life. Watching her post unfiltered details about her life online is pure joy and for a moment everything felt right in the world.
Good God I love my fans so much it’s crazy 🥺❤️ !!! I think I’m gonna cry the rest of the day !!!! Best day ever … praise the Lord … can I get an Amen 🙏🏼☀️🙌🏼 ???? #FreedBritney
— Britney Spears (@britneyspears) November 12, 2021
The virus mutated and along with the Delta variant, the world discovered Omicron.
And then the coronavirus upgraded..again! The WHO announced that Omicron a new variant of the virus detected first by scientists in South Africa is effectively a variant of concern. Meanwhile, countries braced for an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and people, in general, struggled to pronounce the Greek alphabet. Based on early studies, Omicron is reported to be more transmissible and linked to reduced vaccine efficiency. At the close of November, the UK had declared an “Omicron”, the US began detecting cases and India now has a sizeable number of cases (over 300 cases) in which the variant was found. Just when the world was feeling hopeful, expecting the worst to be over, the virus adapted. That being said, the country has ramped up its response to the pandemic. In fact, more recently, two new vaccines were approved with an anti-viral pill.
Indian athletes did the country proud at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with glorious wins from Niraj Chopra, PV Sindhu and Avani Lekhara.
At the 2020 Olympics (that took place in 2021 due to delay) in Tokyo, Neeraj Chopra won India’s first (after Independence) Gold medal in Athletics for his magnificent Javelin throw. His awe-inspiring performance in the men’s finals won applause from all corners of the world as he did the country proud. With his win, India earned 7 medals. Including a historic win by shuttler PV Sindhu who won a bronze medal at the Tokyo games making her the winner of two Olympic medals. She is the first Indian woman to do so. Another win that didn’t go unnoticed was a gold win by Avani Nikhara. The shooter finished first in the Paralympic Games. The athletes’ performances were a highlight for those watching the games from home.
India brought the Miss Universe crown home with Harnaaz Sandhu’s pageant victory.
While we’re on the subject of wins, Miss Universe 2021 is Harnaaz Sandhu from India! The Chandigarh-based 21-year-old actor and model made history by bringing home the crown, a feat that comes after 21 years since India last won the prestigious title. Apart from Sandhu, the only Indians to win the title were Bollywood stars Sushmita Sen in 1994 followed by Lara Dutta in 2000. Held at the Universe Dome in Eilat, Israel, the 70th Miss Universe pageant saw India beat contestants from 80 countries across the world while Paraguay’s Nadia Ferreira won second place and South Africa’s Lalela Mswane finished in third place. Sandhu was crowned by former Miss Universe – Mexico’s Andrea Meza who won the crown back in 2020. The celebration ended on an emotional high.
Meghan and Harry did a royal family expose in an interview with Oprah.
Bet you forgot that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry did a while royal family expose in a sensational sit-down interview with Oprah Winfrey. After the pair, still known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in February confirmed they wouldn’t be returning to their royal duties, they had a candid chat with the TV host to talk about their experiences as members of the British Royal family. And it was one big revelation after another. From facing racism to mental health struggles Markle detailed the rough time she had, calling it “unsurvivable”. This was a long overdue, full-disclosure talk about everything people had known from news headlines and it was well worth the wait. Easily, the second big event after Megxit.
Cover image: Bhavya Poonia/Mashable India