YOU can’t judge a book by its cover. And the year 2000 came with a fiendishly deceptive one. So you thought Atal Behari Vajpayee was the moderate in a party of hawks? So you thought cricket was a gentleman’s game and the probity of its practitioners would never be put to question? So you thought the economy would be on a roll, fuelled by a resurgent stockmarket and the government would be breathing free with funds from selling its stock? So you thought there were no full-stops at dotcoms? And, yes, you also thought that in that fountainhead of democracy, the United States of America, the much tom-tommed presidential system exemplified the world’s fairest, cleanest and most ideal form of polity.
You were, obviously, wrong. The millennium year turned out to be the year of the grim reality check. Vajpayee’s friendly nationhood mask proved to be misleading, cricket’s reputation lay in tatters after match-fixing claimed some of the game’s finest players, the economy spluttered along with rising deficits, bankrupt states and skewed reforms. The law of diminishing returns took over dotcom fortunes. And yes, the agonising neck-and-neck presidential election in the Disunited States of America betrayed a messy, mean and partisan polity.
Hope, hype and hoopla quickly vanished into thin air in India 2000. Droughts starved villagers, middlemen cheated farmers, who in turn took their lives, ill-treated tigers dropped dead in zoos. The Kandahar kowtow and the Veerappan vaudeville betrayed a pathetically soft and ineffectual state, or what remained of it. On the other hand, peoples’ aspirations soared and greed became legit with a surfeit of get-rich quiz shows. We live in a shadowy world of mediocrity, spin doctors, page-three glitz-prop, and illusory triumphalism. So when bleak reality comes knocking on your door, there’s no escaping it. But then dreams die hard. Even as the year ended there was a glimmer of hope in Kashmir, and some effort seemed on to clean up Indian cricket. Y2K, year of the reality check, brought us back on terra firma.