"It's 2020, you know. People want to see the end of it," — said every other person struggling through the year that was already set on being hailed as a contender for "the worst year ever," merely halfway into it.
As several self-styled observers (and journalists alike) have had the occasion to note by this point in the year, 2020 did not begin with a bang, but a whimper.
The ones who toasted to a new year on December 31, 2019, with warm champagne and a houseful of guests certainly did not predict how a few months later, they would be sanitising their groceries, panic-buying toilet paper, and attending Zoom funerals, and be thinking of meets and parties as distant pipe-dreams in the age of social distancing and lockdowns.
Quite a lot of plans for the year ahead were ruined, and career goals went downhill for many. Even the most insufferable of optimists in the world would expectedly have ingested a pill of cynicism by now, so as to be wary of planning too far ahead in these uncertain times marked by a recurrent fear — "What if the next year is worse?"
Suffice to say, 2020 saw the news cycle spin into overdrive and the headlines seemingly getting heavier with each passing day.
Even so, as most people across the world stayed inside their homes for more hours than ever, reading/watching/listening to the endless feed of news media scrolling before their senses — there were stories which gripped the world on a hitherto unprecedented level. Social media buzzed voraciously over the leads, as hashtags and trends reached their intended zenith.
So without further ado, here's the definitive list of stories that gripped the world in 2020, likely to leave people with an overwhelming, perhaps somewhat perverse, sense of being a survivor when the year finally does get over.
A bit of a disclaimer here: With the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak personally affecting almost everyone in more ways than one, it kind of seems like a no-brainer to include the news of the pandemic in a list of stories that "gripped" the world this year.
Even so, though the world almost came to a halt in its tracks, there's no considerable power in the world to stop the flow of news, so thankfully, there's no dearth of issues to talk about. Here goes —
The long-drawn Brexit (a portmanteau of "British" and "exit"), the United Kingdom (UK)'s formal withdrawal from the European Union (EU), finally came to be on January 31, 2020, when Members of the European Parliament (MEP) finally ratified the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
That seems like an awful lot of abbreviations, but the news hit big across all quarters, especially since the ratification led to the UK being the first and only country to formally leave the EU after 47 years of membership since it first joined the bloc in 1973. There was also a lot of anticipation surrounding the event, preceded by high drama involving deadlocks after deadlocks in the UK Parliament and the resignation of two Prime Ministers.
The contention was finally resolved with the Conservatives in favour of Brexit leading Boris Johnson to a victory in December last year, following which the Parliament ratified the withdrawal agreement. However, what was supposedly set to be an unprecedented victory for him eventually got slumped under a tumultous COVID-19 response and the fodder for detractors over it.
'Brexit' simultaneously kickstarted the extended 11-month transition period, set to end on December 31, during which the UK and EU are negotiating their future relationship.
North East Delhi Riots
The beginning of the year was also marked by widespread communal violence in the northeastern parts of India's national capital, Delhi. It also went on to receive extensive media attention worldwide, with global news outlets criticising the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre over the violence.
Notably, communal violence had broken out in northeast Delhi on February 24 after protestors demonstrating against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) clashed against its supporters, leaving 53 dead.
With two-thirds of those dead being Muslims allegedly killed by the Hindu mobs, the violence fractured the volatile discourse over the communal fabric upon which this country stands. The dead also included a policeman, an intelligence officer and over a dozen Hindus, who were shot or assaulted.
The event remains significant for life in the national capital, as till date, several Muslims have abandoned their livelihoods in Delhi for their ancestral villages in the aftermath of the violence, fearful for their personal safety in India's capital.
Black Lives Matter
The United States of America were taken by storm of vexed parleys earlier this year in May when the death of Goerge Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man who was killed during an arrest, triggered worldwide protests in soldiarity with the racial minority community, bringing the 'Black Lives Matter' movement back into the national headlines.
Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis Police Department officer, knelt on Floyd's neck for nearly eight minutes as three other officers looked on and prevented passers-by from intervening, resulting in the death.
The movement thus saw a lot of action by anarchists, who at one point vociferously propagated defunding the police departments. The protests went on to become marked as the largest in the history of the United States, even continuing until early November, as over 200 cities in the country having to impose curfews with around 26 million people participating in the protests at some point.
SpaceX launches astronauts into space
Even in a year marked by negativity and gloomy leads, science finds a way to project human accomplishment in its continued trajectory of marvel.
Scripting a historic chapter in the history of US space programme, Elon Musk-run SpaceX sent astronauts of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to the International Space Station (ISS) onboard the reusable Falcon 9 rocket, developed by the company.
The event became a historic feat for space-age technology, since it is the first that US astronauts have been sent into space by a private company.
2020 US Presidential Elections
The high-profile presidential elections in the United States were the pinnacle of a contentious year that saw Donald Trump's nigh-invincible support base take a fatal blow, on a major part due to the largely irresponsible handling of the coronavirus pandemic outbreak.
Trump, once thought comfortable enough to secure his second term in office, eventually ended up being the first US president since 1992 to lose a bid, and his challenger Joe Biden instead won the largest share of the popular vote against an incumbent since 1932.
It was the onset of the proverbial 'turntables', and certainly the most-talked about event in the modern era of American politics.
Apart from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the election was marked by the civic unrest in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter movement and the judicial-executive upheaval following the death of US Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Trump was projected to be the loser in the elections with his 232 electoral votes, compared to his Democrat opponent's 306. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will officially be inducted as the 46th President and the Vice President, respectively, of the United States of America on January 6 next year.
(All photos via agencies)