21 moments that won 2021
Before we bid goodbye to the most confusing year of our lives, let’s take a look at the highlights reel
The first time you go camping, you quickly learn that the Hallmark movie version of bonfire-roasted marshmallows and cutesy singalongs couldn’t be further from the mosquito-infested reality where you poop behind shrubs and run out of snacks on the first day. But the second time around, you’re better prepared. With a party pack of Odomos. A travel bidet spray. And a secret stash of snacks in case of emergencies. You recognised your camping disaster was a teachable moment, and levelled up. Call us eternal optimists, but that’s exactly what we’re doing as we reach the butt end of this whirlwind year. Looking at the moments that won 2021, and taking notes for how we’re going to bulletproof our bodies and minds for 2022.
It’s hard to believe that the second wave, the vaccines, people upping and moving to Goa like it was nani’s house, the billionaire’s cockfight… err space race, and Vicky-Kat’s wedding all happened in the same year, but happen it did. Before we step into 2022 — or 2020, too, as our TL likes to remind us — here are 21 moments that won 2021, the year nobody knew what day or time it was.
21 moments from 2021 to be thankful for
Thank you Neeraj Chopra for reminding us that success is a by-product of discipline
In the world of instant gratification, it’s easy to expect success at the double-click of a mouse. It’s harder, then, to find a better role model for Gen Z than 24-year-old Olympian Neeraj Chopra. The son of a farmer from Haryana, the javelin star brought home our only gold medal, becoming the first Indian to win an Olympic medal in track and field in 120 years.
And to think his history-making journey began because he weighed 90kgs at the age of 12, and took up sports in order to get fit.
Thank you Adele for teaching us that it’s okay to put yourself first
Look back to the last time your mom made her favourite sabzi for lunch. Come to think of it, do we even know what our moms like, outside of what they make to please us? It might seem trivial but it shows the superhuman expectations we have of mothers. Through her long-awaited record, Adele decided to speak honestly about divorce, and making room for her own happiness.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, she elaborated that while her reasons for ending the marriage weren’t dramatic, she’d realised “I’m really not happy. I’m not living, I’m just plodding along.” Like the high standards she sets with her music, Adele didn’t disappoint here either.
Thank you celebrity weddings for being a constant source of entertainment through this turbulent year
Some chose hush-hush ceremonies, like Ariana Grande-Dalton Gomez and Katrina Kaif-Vicky Kaushal. Some went the taboo-busting way, like the eco-conscious wedding of Dia Mirza to businessman Vaibhav Rekh that made headlines for having a woman priest preside over the ceremony. But whatever the event planner had lined up, celebrity weddings kept us as entertained as videos of cats getting freaked out by cucumbers.
Whether you were swiping through a dating app or nursing a broken heart, you couldn’t help but give in to the romantic spirit looking at photos of Rajkummar Rao’s wedding to Patralekha. Other celebrities who put a ring on it this year were Paris Hilton and Carter Reum, Varun Dhawan and Natasha Dalal, Yami Gautam and Aditya Dhar, and Rhea Kapoor and Karan Boolani.
Thank you Kamala Harris for breaking barriers for the next generation
Google’s Year in Search report 2020 put Kamala Harris, the first female US Vice-President, on India’s most searched personalities. That’s proof of the impact she’s had on young women and Indians around the world, becoming meme-worthy for her composure when faced with haters and trolls. Her determination to stay on course while dodging obstacles would put even Super Mario to shame
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Thank you social media photo dump for teaching us it’s okay not to be so polished all the time
Think of these photo dumps as Mona bua’s random Facebook albums, with no one photo related to the other and dumped straight from your camera to your followers.
These photo dumps gave us a feeling of kinship with other people on social media when there was no other way to feel that kinship. Our lives are fragmented and at odds with each other, and so are our photos, but we don’t care anymore.
Thank you Falguni Nayyar for proving we’re never too old to pursue a new passion
At 49, when most people are thinking of their retirement plans, Nayyar launched Nykaa, a multi-brand beauty marketplace that is now worth $14 billion. In less than ten years, Falguni went from having three employees and working out of her father’s small office to running a company with over 1,500 employees. With little to no background in the tech space or retail industry, she decided to not look at her age as a setback but used her wealth of experience as a strength, while learning on the job.
In an interview with Business Today, she said, “I think many women do not build networks. They must build the right networks and relationships that are required to succeed. No one can be a one-woman army.” That’s definitely going on our 2022 resolutions list.
Thank you Simone Biles for exhorting us to protect our mental wellbeing
With a total of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals, 24-year-old Biles is the most decorated gymnast of all time. Winning at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, an event she trained five years to compete in, would’ve been the crowning moment in her career. Except right in the middle of it, Biles announced that she would not be competing anymore. She’d developed a case of “the twisties” — a gymnastic term for when the mind and body are not in sync — which put her at great physical risk.
She took to Instagram to say, “It wasn’t an easy day or my best but I got through it. I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard. The Olympics are no joke.”
The 2021 Athlete of the Year is known for pushing the boundaries of sport and she did exactly that by knowing when to walk away.
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Thank you billionaires for your space race that taught us that no amount of money can satisfy human greed
Feeling low because your neighbour just bought her first Audi while you’re still bargaining with dad for the keys to his little hatchback? The good news is, even billionaires suffer from the “mine is bigger than yours” insecurity. Apparently, being richer than god does nothing to soothe the human ego.
In the cockfight of the year, billionaires Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson battled it out to get to space first. And of course, we can’t forget Elon Musk, whose SpaceX has a declared aim of “making humanity multi-planetary”.
Thank you Meghan Markle for showing us how to stand up for ourselves
In the last two years, a lot has been said about Meghan Markle and her husband Prince Harry. But we would like to acknowledge her for showing us what it means to stand up for yourself. Last year, Prince Harry and Markle announced that they would be stepping back from their royal duties because there was a “lack of support and lack of understanding”.
Since then, the couple has moved to California and welcomed a daughter. If that wasn’t enough of a happy ending to an ugly chapter, Markle also won her court case against Associated Newspapers. This case launched in 2019 after the Daily Mail published excerpts of private letters with her father.
After her victory, Markle said, “In the nearly three years since this began, I have been patient in the face of deception, intimidation and calculated attacks. The courts have held the defendant to account and my hope is that we all begin to do the same. Because as far removed as it may seem from your personal life, it’s not. Tomorrow it could be you. These harmful practices don’t happen once in a blue moon – they are a daily fail that divides us and we all deserve better.”
Thank you Britney Spears for showing persistence in the face of adversity
For more than half of her career, singer Britney Spears hasn’t held full control of her life. Twelve years ago, after her infamous public breakdown, Spears was placed under the strict and borderline abusive conservatorship of her father, Jamie Spears. As a slew of new documentaries shone a light on the ongoing miscarriage of justice, the law was forced to catch up.
After years of sharp turns and one massive public campaign, Britney’s luck finally turned. She was allowed to hire her own legal representative, and her father stepped down as her conservator. The filing read, “She wants to control the money she has made from her career and spend it without supervision or oversight. She wants to be able to get married and have a baby if she so chooses. In short, she wants to live her life as she chooses without the constraints of a conservator or court proceeding.”
Amid this battle, American lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill to free Britney and victims of conservatorship abuse.
Thank you Squid Game for being a crash course in financial management
As we watched the incredibly addictive show about 456 cash-strapped players lured into playing a series of children’s survival games to win a sizeable cash prize – or die trying, we were time and again reminded to spend our money wisely unless we want to face a grim future.
As much as it pains us to say it, we’re planning to say goodbye to our salary-defying fetish with online shopping, so no more ordering from Amazon like our life depends on it. We need all the help we can get so we’ll listen to expert advice to stop ourselves from burning our money on that incredibly beautiful pair of heels just because we felt like it.
Thank you Leena Nair for inspiring us to break the glass ceiling
At 52, Indian-origin British national Leena Nair has been named the first female and youngest-ever CEO of French fashion brand Chanel. If that was not inspiring enough, she was also the first female, Asian and youngest-ever Chief Human Resources Officer at Unilever. When she first started out at Unilever, she was one of the rare female employees working on-ground at factory locations.
Having to “claw her way up in a largely male-dominated space”, Nair has been a pioneer in everything she’s done, breathing the rarefied air of Indian-origin people at the helm of international companies. But even she’s had moments of doubt, and sought guidance from her mentor, Indra Nooyi.
“I’ve asked questions to Indra… ‘am I good enough or why me’. She has given me the proverbial kick in the pants to go and get over myself…” said Nair, as reported by Money Control, during a discussion about Nooyi’s memoir.
Well, we might not be the global CEO of a fashion behemoth, we can steal some of her good habits: writing in a gratitude journal every night, and doing a 20-minute meditation practice in the morning in 2022.
Thank you Avani Lekhara for reminding us to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone
At 19, Lekhara became the first Indian woman to win a gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics. The promising shooter hoped her win would be a win for all differently-abled people, helping them believe in themselves.
“I hope to be that one person people with disabilities can look up to and think, ‘if she can, why can’t I?’ I want to make them believe that nothing is impossible and motivate them to achieve their dreams,” she told the Paralympic Committee of India.
Her dedication to her sport at such a young age is commendable, especially after having been left paralysed by a car accident at the tender age of 11.
Thank you Saisha Shinde, for courageously embracing your true self
The fashion designer bravely shared her transition with thousands on Instagram, opening herself up to the criticism, misunderstanding and abuse that goes hand-in-hand with being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community in a conservative society like ours. But by her own account, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Born Swapnil Shinde, Saisha told Tweak India that the frenzy around her announcement was “insane”, in the best way.
“The feeling is inexplicable. The reactions just go to prove how we as a human race has evolved, to how inclusive we’ve become. And we should be proud of the people in India as they have shown the highest levels of love and acceptance.”
Coming out so publicly and confidently, Saisha’s taking her place in the sun, being an inspiration and positive role model for us all.
Thank you Stanley Tucci for proving that there’s no excuse for being boring
And looking mighty fine while you do it. The internet’s husband has been entertaining us all with his negroni mixing ways, cooking up a marinara storm on Instagram.
For us, Tucci was his characters, from Julie & Julia, The Devil Wear Prada, Deconstructing Harry, The Hunger Games, and more. He’d always been in the orbit of food and drinks, with not one but three cookbooks under his belt. It turned into his central passion in 2017, after he was diagnosed with a form of oral cancer. The treatment destroyed his taste buds, as he explains in an interview in The New York Times.
There’s been no looking back since. He’s now the host of Emmy-winning show Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy, and has a new memoir out. He’s serving meals along with serious zaddy energy, while finding a way to make mixing drinks and buying zucchini oddly erotic.
Thank you Lil Nas X for never bowing down to haters
In fact, the musician has made a sport of trolling the haters and harnessing that attention to further propel his career. Nas is perhaps the poster child of Gen Z. Audacious, self-aware and with little patience for bigots.
His queerness is part of his art. He continues to break down the toxicity of masculinity, homophobia, racism and does it with wit and pizazz that we wish we could channel. Imagine a hate mob of millions actively tearing you down on social media. Nas didn’t let it phase him, instead stoking the flames of their irrational fears. He poked at old-school satanic panic by twerking on the devil’s lap in Montero (Call Me By Your Name), while in Industry Baby he took “an overly masculine place and make it gay asf. I also wanted to visualise the theme of breaking free from the shackles society places on you,” as he puts it.
Thank you Logan Roy for showing us that even when you win the game, you can lose
Succession gave us another jaw-dropping season finale this year, cementing its place as one of the best TV shows of all time. Patriarch Logan Roy is a lot of things. A titan of industry, leading one of the biggest media and entertainment companies. An incredible businessman, always finding a way to come out on top, even when the cards are stacking higher and higher against him. A ruthless bull who can topple governments and sway elections.
Also, a terrible father who has put his children in a race against each other to win what he calls ‘the game’, the takeover of the company, his legacy. He knows they’re all vying for his attention and validation. But he does whatever it takes to remain in control. Even if that means emotionally and mentally breaking and bending his loved ones.
We saw his children finally come together as a unified front in the finale. But Logan beat them yet again, proving once again that he’ll do anything to win. And in that competitiveness, that hunger to always come out on top leaves behind him a wave of destruction, and now might be the moment he shatters and loses his family.
Thank you Faye D’Souza for teaching us that facts and opinions are not the same
In crisis, when no one was sure what to believe, Faye shone a bright light on facts and ground realities. During the lockdown, she used her platform to disseminate critical information, kept us updated on changes, new policies and rules.
Faye, along with her team, did the groundwork and shook off the fog of misinformation and confusion, providing bite-sized bulletins that were easy to comprehend and digest as viewers. That didn’t mean she shied away from hard truths. The news presented to us was free from drama and theatrics. Sitting behind her screen she used her talent, skills and network to create for readers a one-stop resource for reliable information at a time of insecurity and distrust in Big Media.
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Thank you Goa for helping us slow down and re-evaluate our priorities
If it felt like everyone and their Auntie Meenu packed up and moved to the Sunshine State this year, it’s because they probably did. As city apartments began to feel more claustrophobic than a dentist’s chair, those privileged enough to work from home refocused their attention on the modern Indian dream: living in a seaside villa in Goa. Suddenly, we realised the irony of having pots of money in the bank, but not a languorous moment to enjoy it.
We’d also like to credit Goa with the renaissance of the afternoon nap. The beloved local tradition has long been known to improve productivity, but was inexplicably discarded by the old capitalist system. The Goan way of life supports our right to find a hammock under the shade of a mango tree to digest lunch in peace. Viva la siesta.
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Thank you Zendaya for making fashion fun again
Remember the days of Pyjama Zoom Board Meeting? Where we rolled off our pillows just in time to log into the weekly review meeting. It felt like fashion had hit the snooze button indefinitely, that is until an alarm named Zendaya rang. A liquid leather Balmain dress. A Versace throwback to Beyonce’s Crazy In Love hit. Hitting high notes on all the major magazine covers.
Her one-woman style offensive warmed the cockles of our lewk-starved hearts and, if only for a moment, allowed us to forget we were still wearing the same clothes as yesterday.
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You can’t keep a good man down. Jonah Hill, a favourite target of body-shamers and internet trolls, decided that 2021 was going to be his year. For taking on exciting new work projects, for experimenting with fashion and for politely showing his inner demons the door.
In an emotional post, he said, “I don’t think I ever took my shirt off in a pool until I was in my mid 30s even in front of family and friends. Probably would have happened sooner if my childhood insecurities weren’t exacerbated by years of public mockery about my body by press and interviewers. I’m 37 and finally love and accept myself. For the the kids who don’t take their shirt off at the pool. Have fun. You’re wonderful and awesome and perfect. All my love.”