The year is coming to an end and overall, it's been one hell of a year!
We have had our share of ups and downs and we look forward to a better 2020.
While we count down the days to the new year, let's also reflect on those who gave us strength to stand up in what we believe, the courageous who didn't bow down and the ones who inspired us to be better.
We, Rediff.com, have selected 26 personalities, who we think are worthy of the title -- HERO OF THE YEAR -- and we want you, dear readers, to choose your hero!
The Indian Air Force's Wing Commander became the face of the military confrontation between India and Pakistan in February 2019. The IAF foiled the Pakistani retaliation, and in the dogfight, Abhinandan Varthaman downed an F-16 fighter jet of the Pakistan air force, showing grit, determination and bravery.
The Indian-born economist won the Economics Nobel Prize along with Esther Duflo, his wife, and another US academic for their research on how to alleviate poverty that has helped education of the poor in India. He was also the brains behind Congress's minimum guaranteed income programme.
When Afroz Shah and an army of volunteers cleared mountains of trash from a beach in Mumbai, India, the world noticed. Now, he's mobilising a new generation on his mission to fight plastic pollution in the ocean.
The young actor has had a phenomenal year -- on personal and professional fronts. She was applauded for her portrayal of Safeena -- the uninhibited, sharp, ambitious, unorthodox and resilient -- in Gully Boy. She’s currently working on Brahmastra with her beau Ranbir Kapoor.
From scripting the Bharatiya Janata Party's stupendous success in the general elections, to earning flak over the controversial National Register of Citizens and being a major player in the Maharashtra debacle, Shah has been hailed and derided in equal parts.
What a year this actor has had! From Article 15 to Dream Girl to Bala. His films, from different genres, have all proved to be successful at the box office and have received critical appreciation, too. He also won a National Award for his performance in Andhadhun! No wonder it's been a special year for him.
It was the greatest ODI match ever and the possibly the best-ever final witnessed at a cricket World Cup! England edged out New Zealand via the controversial Super Over rule to claim their first-ever 50-overs World title. It was Stokes all the way as he came up with a sensational catch to dismiss South Africa's Andile Phehlukwayo, before he provided the fireworks in the finale to carry England into the history books.
Dutee Chand made headlines both on and off the field, in the process becoming the first Indian athlete to reveal a same-sex relationship. This record-breaker is now focusing on qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The Briton sets the tracks ablaze yet again, in 2019. Hamilton clinched his sixth F1 World Championship -- his third in a row. He is just one short of the record held by retired Ferrari great and seven-time champion Michael Schumacher.
Social activist and soccer icon Megan Rapinoe has had one heck of a year. She led the US Women's National Soccer team to a World Cup title in June. She also challenged US President Donald Trump and filed a suit against the United States Soccer Federation for alleged gender discrimination.
Saalumarada Thimmakka, a 105-year-old environmentalist from Karnataka, has reportedly planted over 8,000 trees in over 80 years. She is known for having grown about 400 Banyan trees on a four kilometre stretch between Hulikal and Kudur, and nurturing them as a mother. She was awarded the Padma Shri for her conservation efforts.
The Indian-American executive's astronomical rise from a middle class family in Madurai to heading tech giant Alphabet, Google's parent company, makes him one of the biggest newsmakers this year.
With Virat helming the team, India has been unbeaten in Test matches in 2019, with seven wins in a row -- including four victories by an innings or more. In the ODIs and T20Is too, India fared well despite trying out several new players. Kohli continued to excel with the bat, hitting 612 runs in eight Tests at an average of 68, while hitting 1,288 runs in 23 ODIs.
Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl, inspired a global movement to fight climate change. Last year, the teenager started an environmental strike by missing lessons most Fridays to protest outside the Swedish parliament building. It sparked a worldwide movement that became popular with the hashtag #FridaysForFuture. Since then, she has become a strong voice for action on climate change, inspiring millions of students to join protests around the world.
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's youngest prime minister, showed what true leadership is when her country faced one of its most horrific terror attacks in March -- a gunman attacked Muslim worshippers during afternoon prayers in Christchurch, live-streaming the atrocity to Facebook. She reached out to the Muslim community, wearing a hijab in a show of respect. But her acts weren’t purely symbolic. Ardern moved quickly to ban the weapons used in the massacre. She also rallied the leaders of countries such as France, the United Kingdom, and Canada to support her push to pressure social media platforms to stop the spread of hate speech. And not to forget, she broke barriers for women in 2018 by becoming the first prime minister since Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto to give birth while in office.
Journalist Ravish Kumar was honoured with the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for "harnessing journalism to give voice to the voiceless" and his "unfaltering commitment to a professional, ethical journalism of the highest standards". He was among the five recipients of the Magsaysay award for 2019. The 44-year-old television journalist is known to report real-life problems of ordinary people.
On December 2, 2019, Shivangi became the first woman pilot of the Indian Navy. She will fly the Dornier surveillance aircraft for maritime reconnaissance, search and rescue operations for the Indian Navy. Shivangi was commissioned into the Navy in 2018 after her training and joined operational duties at the Kochi naval base. She has made not only her home state of Bihar but also the entire extremely proud. She is the second woman from the state to become a pilot in the Indian armed forces. The 24-year-old is from Muzaffarpur.
PHOEBE WALLER BRIDGE
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the British phenomenon, had an incredible 2019, winning acclaim -- and Emmy Awards -- for the second series of her TV creation, Fleabag. Through its frank depiction of a woman struggling with love, grief, sisterhood, Fleabag spoke to women all over and made Phoebe a sensation. And if that wasn't enough, we shall all see her work in the next Bond film, No Time To Die, arriving in April, 2020.
HONG KONG PROTESTERS
Tens of thousands of mostly young demonstrators have taken to the streets of Hong Kong over the past six months, hitting the headlines all over the world. The protests initially began in response to a controversial extradition bill, but have since grown into an outright rebellion demanding greater autonomy from China. The protesters prompted the Hong Kong government to formally withdraw the bill, and have been credited with inspiring a record turnout at local elections held in November.
SABARIMALA WOMEN PROTESTERS
Two women breached a centuries-old ban on entering an ancient Hindu temple, despite strong protests by right-wing conservative groups. Bindu and Kanakadurga, who were in their 40s, walked into the Sabarimala Temple. The temple had been closed off to women of menstruating age until India's Supreme Court overturned the ban in September. However, opponents of the ruling continued to block women between the ages of 10 and 50 from entering the shrine.
He stuck to his guns and didn't bow down to ally -- the Bharatiya Janata Party -- leading to a political drama in the state of Maharashtra. But, Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena chief, came out the winner -- as he was sworn-in as the 18th chief minister of Maharashtra, becoming the first from his family to ever hold the post.
The chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation, earned wide accolades for spearheading the Chandrayaan-2 mission. Though the mission didn't go as planned, as Isro lost contact with 'Vikram' lander in the last minutes, K Sivan won a million hearts with his outstanding contribution towards the mission. He was also honoured with Dr A P J Abdul Kalam Award by the Tamil Nadu government this year.
The Nationalist Congress Party chief proved that age is no deterrance. The 76-year-old veteran outfoxed Amit 'Chanakya' Shah and was able to achieve mission impossible -- forming an alliance between the Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. He single-handedly managed to bring the Congress and the Shiv Sena -- parties with opposing ideologies -- on the same table and came out the winner from the political stalemate.
Kannan Gopinathan quit the Indian Administrative Service citing the clampdown in Kashmir as the reason for his decision. The former collector of Dadra and Nagar Haveli on his decision to resign, said, "Freedom of expression is a right guaranteed by our Constitution and when it is challenged, public servants committed to protecting the sanctity of the Constitution cannot sit back and relax." Gopinathan’s decision prompted many in the fraternity and outside to highlight the need for more freedom and autonomy in the service, which continues to attract the best among India’s youth.
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
The country's apex court pronounced a series of landmark judgments in 2019, which not only will remain embedded in history but also in our minds in times to come. From one of the most talked-about court cases in the history of India -- Ayodhya Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case -- to the verdict allowing entry of women of all age groups into the Sabarimala temple the court gripped the nation's attention through this year.
Sumit Nagal gave Indian tennis a blockbuster moment by taking a set off Roger Federer at a packed Arthur Ashe stadium in a US Open first-rounder. He lost, as expected, but not before getting on an erratic Federer's nerves by claiming a set. The 22-year-old Haryana-lad succeeded in doing something which only the Amritrajs, the Krishnans, the Leanders, the Bhupathis and the Sanias have done -- giving the sport a much-needed fillip. What was remarkable was the way Nagal handled the moment. He did not show he was nervous and refused to be intimidated by the presence of a player who is synonymous with the sport. The demeanour earned him some compliments from his great opponent at the end of the match. Federer also appreciated Nagal's consistency.
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