This article originally appeared on VICE India.
2019 was a weird year for India. We know that’s what we think every time we come to the end of another trip around the sun, but seriously guys, just look at how the last year of this decade went—from all the stuff that went down and is still going down in Kashmir, to an economy that is tanking faster than our energy levels (so tired all the time, no?) to millions of people about to lose their citizenship, to simultaneous floods and droughts wrecking many lives.
But while we’re all wondering how the hell we got here, we’re also thinking of what we learned on the way. For instance, we woke up to the terrifying future that awaits us due to climate change and have been mobilising in better ways to do something about it. We also became generally more empathetic towards the lives of others around us and made compassion cool again.
As we near the end, beautiful friend, we revisit some of the best stuff we wrote this year that kind of encapsulates the mood that was through 2019. Have a look.
The big, fat Indian election pretty much occupied our consciousness all through the first half of this year. We captured the saga as it played out—from those cashing in on election tourism, to young law students fighting for the voting rights of 400,000 prisoners, to political parties believing that meditation and being nice to cows will solve India’s problems, to the fuck-ups during voting, to what Modi 2.0 really means for us.
The most exciting and controversial social media app v/s a “nanny state” that is too eager to ban—we chronicled the rise and rise, despite an almost-ban, of TikTok in India. It is essentially, and scarily, the story of our collective lives and times.
2019 was Indian hip-hop’s biggest year yet, and you can’t address this without mentioning the Bollywood movie Gully Boy that catapulted the underground scene to the mainstream. Still, even as gully boys caught attention, VICE staff writer Shamani Joshi dug further into where the female representation in this burgeoning scene is.
We also revisited and questioned some age-old societal traditions that continue to remain exploitative towards a pretty large section of the society—mostly women—and see how change is happening within, slowly but surely.
India is a country where everything from government office pens to train toilet mugs come with strings attached for one simple reason: We’re used to getting our way. But ever since an Indian family got busted in the act of stealing pretty much every amenity—from a hairdryer and hangers to a mirror and towels—from a hotel in Bali, everyone on the internet lost their shit on Indian travellers who get down to all kinds of embarrassing things in a foreign land. We asked Indians whether our fellow countrymen make for shitty travellers, a story that blew up because everyone kinda knows what the answer is.
Some call Modi a visionary and what he did with regards to Kashmir a masterstroke. Some are silent on it. Some are calling this repression, plain and simple. Here though, we’ve tried to uncover heartbreaking human stories from the region that continues to suffer under a clampdown—from speaking with mothers and wives whose husbands and sons have been detained in mass arrests, to how journalists continued to operate in this atmosphere, to how young Kashmiris are functioning without the internet and social media.
Poppers found fame mainly in the disco era of the ’60s and ’70s, before popping back in the rave era in the ’90s. Gay men, like the pioneers that they are, wouldn’t stop telling the world how awesome it was. And while the scene was revolutionary in the LGBTQ circle, it was also rife with problems. One of our favourite writers, Navin Noronha, reveals how poppers almost ruined his life, and how they continue to ravage the lives of other Indian gay men around him.
From September 16 to 20—ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit on September 23 and the global climate strikes later that week—VICE offices across Asia-Pacific set out to dig deeper into our own versions of environmental extremes. One of the big stories that came out then was the dystopian nightmare that is the neighbourhood of Mahul in Mumbai. Read the heart-wrenching stories of people who live in a literal “human dumping ground”—as chronicled by VICE staff writer Pallavi Pundir.
As the glaciers melt, dead bodies—some that have been lost for years—have started emerging from the ice on Everest. And along with the bodies are tons of garbage—cans, bottles, discarded climbing gear and human waste—that are defrosting along the route used by hundreds of mountaineers over the decades. The story is, well, chilling.
Hemp in need is hemp indeed.