Image Credit: AP/AFP/ANI

Many images, thoughts, and memories spring to mind as 2022 comes to an end. For many, the year was a difficult one, even though the world was gradually returning to normality after recovering from the devastations of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But not entirely so, it would seem. The sudden spike in caseload in China is a worry. As if pestilence wasn’t enough, 2022 was also marked — or should we say marred — by war.

Russia-Ukraine war started in February 2022. As the conflict, as yet unresolved, heads into the severest winter in Europe in several years, the end is still not in sight.

Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence (fourth from right), Britain's Sophie, Countess of Wessex (second from right) and Britain's Prince Andrew, Duke of York (right) stands as Britain's Princess Anne, the Princess Royal curtseys to the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, draped with the Royal Standard of Scotland, as it is carried in to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh on September 11, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

Pestilence, war, and, of course, death — the demise of Britain’s longest serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away in September at 96. Elizabeth ascended to the throne when her father, George VI, passed away in February 1952.

Reigning for over 70 years, seven years longer than even Queen Victoria, she was witness not only to the end of the era of colonialism and imperialism, but also to very changed world order to the one she was born into. Charles III is the new king of United Kingdom.

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Empire strikes back

When it comes to other significant changes in leadership, Rishi Sunak’s elevation to the prime minister of United Kingdom, is perhaps the most significant symbol of decolonisation.

Would Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay have imagined that within 200 years of his infamous Minute of 1830, a person of Indian origin would be his nation’s prime minister?

Macaulay advocated that the British Empire in India should “do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern — a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.” Sunak has been accepted by Britain’s conservative party to lead the nation, ironically reversing Macaulay’s prophecy.

Rishi Sunak
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers a speech at a reception for world leaders, business figures, environmentalists and NGOs at Buckingham Palace in London, on November 4, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

Some familiar faces

Across the English (or French if you are on the other side) channel, Emmanuel Macron of the La République En Marche! Party (LREM), defeated Marine Le Pen, to be the first leader since leader since Jacques Chirac in 2002 to be elected to a second term as France’s president.

In another part of the world, the pendulum swung to the left, with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva re-election, in a closely contested election. He defeated Jair Bolsonaro by a margin of less than 2% of the popular vote. Lula was president of Brazil from 2003-2010, but was in jail till just a few months before the elections, having been convicted in 2018 on charges of corruption and money laundering.

Lula’s reelection proves that there are no full stops in politics. Speaking of returning to power, soon after Brazil’s election on October 30, the results in Israel’s parliamentary hustings were announcing in November.

Israel’s longest serving prime minister, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, of the Likud party, surprising many, once again assumed the political leadership of the land.

The year gone by will also be remembered for Xi Jinping’s election to a third term as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Without question Xi is China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.

Closer home, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf lost its majority in Parliament, forcing prime minister Imran Khan to step down. Shahbaz Sharif, of the Pakistan Muslim League, the younger brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, was sworn in as prime minister, with support from its erstwhile rival, the Pakistan People’s Party.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif
Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Image Credit: AFP

Leading the change

Protests against the hijab broke out in Iran but when it comes to women’s rights in the Middle East, UAE and Saudi Arabia are already leading the change. The most significant event in the region was the hugely successful football World Cup 2022, hosted by Qatar.

Soccer fans the world over are still watching reruns of the memorable finale between France and Argentina. This World Cup will be cherished as one of the all-time great players, Lionel Messi’s tribute to his country and to game.

At the same time, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better-known as Pelé, often dubbed football’s real GOAT (greatest of all times), having scored a staggering 1,279 goals in 1,363 games, battles from cancer.

20221222 messi
Argentina's Lionel Messi holds up the trophy flanked by FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani after winning the World Cup final soccer match between Argentina and France at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Sunday, Dec.18, 2022. Image Credit: AP

Year of the Tiger

For India, 2022 showed an uptick as far as the economy is concerned after two bad Covid-19 afflicted years. Even as it celebrated the 75th year of its independence under prime minister Narendra Modi of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India looks forward to continued strong growth in the years to come.

We also end the year on a high note having assumed the presidency of G20, the world’s most powerful association of nations. If India plays a constructive, if not decisive, role in ending Russia’s war in Ukraine, it would win the respect and approval of the world.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the world was in “goblin mode” during the pandemic. Merriam-Webster considered “gaslighting,” given all the fake news that was spread, as more appropriate to the year gone by.

Will 2023, the Year of the Rabbit, prove better than 2022, the Year of the Tiger? Yes, if all of us try to make this world a slightly better place.