The future is forever uncertain, unless, of course, you are endowed with the grand vision of the likes of Nostradamus, who, it is said, threw himself at the feet of a young Franciscan monk destined to become the Pope more than a decade after the French seer’s death. In India, too, there are myriad ancient references to the prowess of its soothsayers and their mythical prophecies coming true. The millennia-old tradition of forecasting based on astronomical indications continues to coexist stubbornly with modernity, having encroached onto various facets of human life, from weddings to holidays and financial decisions to IPOs.
Even so, any prognosis for the year that has just dawned—2019—and what it has in store for us appears impossible. Like the cycle of birth-and-death, of economic upheavals and market recoveries, and of ideological swings to the right or left, exceptions tend to be as frequent as the rules. Human intelligence, given all the advances in science and technology, has been able to rise above many of nature’s constraints, but certain goals—be it beating death or seeing the future—remain as elusive as ever. And that is the profound truth of human existence from mankind’s days as hunter-gatherers to the online cloud users we now are.
Indian politics has a long history of unexpected twists and turns, fortunes and reverses, and the trials and tribulations of its players, active or recessive. Drawing upon the country’s chequered past as a democracy and turbulent present as an emerging economy to make sense of its future continues to be a nightmare in crystal-gazing. Yet, to give gazers their due, there is a method in the madness of trying to foretell the future of Indian democracy: the country’s coordinates; trends that a chunk of its 1.3 billion dwellers are about to discard; how its teeming millions want to shape their own futures, preferences and aspirations; the way they want to live their lives; their obsessions of sports, entertainment and personal finance; and their anxieties in a wired world.
This is an election year for India and political parties have begun strutting their stuff for top honours; 2014 was to Narendra Modi what the 1986 World Cup in Mexico was to Maradona: one man made all the news. Modi and his party would want to see a repeat of the General Election five years ago, but challenges abound. In the pages to follow, Open delves into Modi’s political blueprint for the year.
Besides, this special issue examines where India stands in the chaotic world of today with China exercising power beyond its borders; risks for online ventures that have crept too closely into our lives; fads of New Age diets and tech-enabled fitness; sports events that will rivet eyeballs; and films likely to shape trends in entertainment. We also take a look at the books to watch out for this year.
One cannot foresee the future, but one can certainly assess signposts of the past and present to project their impact on it.