A little-known senator who became president of the US after a punishing two-year campaign. And much more. Barack Hussein Obama’s story is a spellbinding one of the rise of a man of multiracial lineage, from a humble background, to the pinnacle of political power.
When the unassuming economist surprisingly became prime minister in 2004, he was known for his personal integrity, professionalism and intellectual ability, not for his political skills. Singh has proved the sceptics wrong by surviving a full term in the hot seat. The high point was his relentless pursuit of the Indo-US nuclear deal, which he pushed through last year after breaking off with allies from the Left, who were determined to kill the agreement. Congress party president Sonia Gandhi has hinted that Singh will remain the party’s candidate for prime minister.
Adiga won the £50,000 (about Rs36 lakh) Man Booker prize for his debut novel The White Tiger, a portrait of the dark side of the new India. Adiga emerged as a surprise winner—his competitors included veteran writers such as Sebastian Barry and Amitav Ghosh. He is only the fourth first-time novelist to win the prize, after Keri Hulme in 1985, Arundhati Roy (1997) and D.B.C. Pierre (2003).
One of the most critically acclaimed movies of recent times, which now boasts of 10 Oscar nominations, director Danny Boyle’s film continues its unlikely rise from a low-budget, little-known film to a Hollywood blockbuster winning awards at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Golden Globe Awards and British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards, among others.
G Madhavan Nair
The new star of Indian space science, Indian Space Research Organization chairman G. Madhavan Nair made the country proud when he and his team sent the country’s first unmanned mission, Chandrayaan-1, to the moon in November. The event not only marked a turning point in Indian space history, but also made India only the fifth nation to send missions to the moon. Nair has also been at the forefront of the effort to commercialize India’s space programme, competing with space agencies from the US, Europe, Russia, China and the Ukraine for a piece of the multi-billion-dollar satellite launch business.
The Indian farmer
Who would have thought that the humble farmer would be wooed by all kinds of companies—from consumer goods retailers to car makers? With the urban consumer cash-strapped, companies have turned the spotlight on the rural market. And in this election year, the Indian farmer will be pursued by politicians as well.
After Bollywood, A.R. Rahman, gifted musician and composer, is making the world dance to his tunes. With Oscar nominations for best music in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, Bafta awards and a Golden Globe Award, the first Indian to win it, Rahman is on song.
Not many had heard of boxer Vijender Singh till he brought India its third medal at the Beijing Olympics 2008. Singh went on to the semi-finals to fight for a silver medal with Cuban boxer Emilio Correa Bayeaux but had to settle for a bronze one.
The 94-year-old investment bank Merrill Lynch and Co. Inc., whose corporate logo—a bull—had long symbolized the optimism of Wall Street, fell from grace after a series of bad acquisitions. In September, Merrill Lynch, stuck with billions of dollars in mortgage and loan losses, was sold to Bank of America Corp.
The former US president’s image hit an all-time low in 2008 and not without reason. Here was a president who, apart from everything else, failed to manage US’ economic challenges.
The former chairman of National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations, or Nasdaq, and founder of Bernard L Madoff Investment Securities Llc., known for his campaign for greater transparency within the stock exchange, was arrested in December on charges of cheating investors of $50 billion (about Rs2.43 trillion) in a Ponzi scheme.
US Federal Reserve chairman from 1987 to 2006, Greenspan was one of the most ardent champions of free markets. Last year, as the US economy battled its worst crisis since the Great Depression, Greenspan conceded that he had put too much faith in the free markets’ ability to correct themselves.“Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief,” he said.
Real estate developers
The turmoil in the US financial market has grounded real estate developers who had been over the moon as Indian property prices soared in the last few years. With a liquidity squeeze, these developers are stuck with bad debts, weakening prices and stalled projects.
Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., an investment bank—which survived two world wars and the Great Depression in its 158-year history—could not tide over the housing debt crisis. Beset with losses totalling $7.8 billion (about Rs37,985 crore), it filed for bankruptcy last year.
‘K’ serials, such as Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki i, lost their connect with consumers—and how. Soaps that had been the daily dose of entertainment for many middle-class viewers for at least seven years remained rooted in their past success and plot, while the audience outgrew them.
B Ramalinga Raju
The founder of India’s fourth largest computer services firm, Raju confessed in January that he had been cooking the books of Satyam Computer Services Ltd for years to the tune of Rs7,136 crore, giving India its version of the Enron scandal.