The Economic Times
Mythili Bhusnurmath

Time magazine's 'Person of the Year' is one of the most eagerly-awaited announcements made around this time of the year. So last week when the magazine named Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook Inc its 'Person of the Year' for 'creating a new system of exchanging information' and 'changing how we all live our lives', I found myself wrestling with the question of who could I possibly single out for the same honour in India.

For the minority of readers of this paper who are not yet hooked on to Facebook, Zuckerberg is the second youngest winner after Charles Lindbergh. His social-networking site, started in 2004 now has more than 500 million users. He won the coveted title over Julian Assange,founder of Wikileaks, who many might argue is likely to end upchanging the way we live our lives far more fundamentally than Zuckerberg.

So who should we chose? Should it be Nitesh Kumar, the much-feted Chief Minister of Bihar for ending (?) the hold of caste politics in Bihar and giving development a chance? Perhaps, except that Nitish still has a long way to go before Bihar can be said to be out of the woods. As Anil Bairwal of the National Election Watch, an NGO dedicated to cleaning up the election process, points out 141 newly elected MLAs have pending criminal cases against them according to their self-sworn affidavits as against 117 in the previous Assembly.

So if not Nitesh, should it be batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar who became the first batsman to score a monumental 50 centuries in the 133-year history of Test cricket last Sunday. I can hear a resounding 'yes' from besotted cricket fans. After all, the master batsman, still going strong at age 37, has amassed more than 1,500 runs in thirteenTests this year. That's an amazing average of more than 85 runs per innings.

Or should it be Saina Nehwal, who's moved up an incredible ten places in world rankings, from No 10 in December 2008 to No 2 after defeating her Chinese rival to whom she had lost in the Asian Games at the Hong Kong Super Series? Or should we make that 'Persons of the Year' and confer the honour on the Jat trio of Krishna Pooniya, Harwant Kaur and Seema Antil, who did the country proud by bagging the gold, silver and bronze medals respectively at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October?

Theirs was no mean feat considering women from the community are usually in the news for all the wrong reasons: dowry deaths, adverse sex-ratios, khap panchayats, that are little better than kangaroo courts, and so on. Or should we reserve that honour for PM Dr Manmohan Singh for his remarkable ability to beguile us all into thinking he is blameless for the present state of policy drift? So much so that whenCongress President Sonia Gandhi describes him as the embodiment of 'sobriety, dignity and integrity' we find ourselves agreeing with her and making excuses for him.

Never mind that in a cabinet system of government, the collective responsibility of the cabinet with the PM at its head makes him no less culpable than the 'Rajas' of his cabinet.Each one of these choices has a great deal going for it. But they all pale in comparison with my final choice, the long-suffering aam admi/aurat. Despite the endless scams, the impasse in Parliament, visibly-widening income disparities, rising inflation and now soaring onion prices to add to their woes-politicians, bureaucrats,and even the media, taking the poor sod for a ride, he/she has not lost heart.

Sure in large parts of the country there are people who have given up hope and have turned to violence. But for the most part they have not. According to the London-based Legatum Institute's Index of Prosperity comprising both wealth and general wellbeing despite huge inequalities in social and economic opportunities across different socio-economic strata, a majority of Indians continue to have faith in their public institutions Better still, nine out of 10 people believe that hard work allows people to get ahead!

Net-net, the Mungeri Lals and Kalavatis of this world are still willing to beaver along and give their leaders yet another chance. They genuinely believe tomorrow is another (better) day! For that and much more, my choice for Indian of the Year is the Aam admi, more correctly, the aam aadmi/aurat!

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