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Person of the Year 2012

As usual, there were many contenders.

The world was supposed to come to an end today (21 December) as per the Mayan's predictions. Mankind has not only survived but also has opened a new gateway to Mars, hope somebody is there screaming, Oh My God!

While celebrating the survival, we shouldn't forget Sandy storming the mighty Manhattan and nature's rising fury witnessed across the planet earth. In craving for resources and comfort, we shouldn't borrow too much from the environment. Is Rio+20 listening?

The year of politics. President Obama got another 4 years but his White house will now have stains of a divided society. I hope this ultimate bastion of capitalism doesn't compromise with its core values. Mountain of debt or the cliff ahead are manageable challenges. I thought of Bernanke, not for throwing cash from helicopters and propelling the asset markets but for coining popular phrases (Green shoots, Operation twist, Fiscal cliff...).

Everyone was anxiously analyzing the fate of Euro and Eurozone while Europe remained busy with Soccer and Summits. The creditors have been assured with a 'Draghi put' and an alphabet soup of OMT, ESM and EFSF etc. while the EU was awarded a Nobel prize. Its Peaceful!

The future in the womb of Kate Middleton generated as much interest in UK as history and culture displayed in the Olympics opening ceremony and rise of the present day hero, Andy Murray.

The new Japanese Government is promising to do what every nation is doing - print more money and spend your way out of recession and deflation. The Land of rising sun may finally witness light at the end of the tunnel. Good for Nikkei, not so good for Yen and bonds.

The new leadership in China is steering the track change of its economy from a double digit sprint to a long steady walk. Moderation of investment by this giant guzzler means the "sky-fall" to continue on commodity producers. The supercycle may be behind us. The great wall of China is the only man-made structure visible from the moon, now this 800-pound gorilla is building a couple of sky scrapers to make sure if one goes to Mars and looks down on earth!

I looked at Korea with Samsung selling more smartphones than Apple and "Gangnam" making the world groove. The Philippines and Vietnam could be the next "Dark Knights" to rise. The great Indian growth juggernaut will keep rolling albeit with bumps in between. Investors looking for an oasis will find many in Asia, while growth could remain a mirage elsewhere. Piece of advice though, don't ignore "Muddy Waters". Also, keep a watch on the geopolitical events in west Asia and Korean peninsula. Economies here will face the real heat if oil starts to boil again.

I salute Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, though my all time sports hero remains Roger Federer. Dark clouds pervaded the Indian cricket team owners and players, we had 'mother' Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal and Sushil Kumar as the 'Silver' lining.

In India, it took a sliding currency, markets and economy, threat of sovereign rating cut and titles like "incompetent" in global media to awaken a government out of a long slumber. Finally. Foreign investors are offering 'GAARlands' while markets are sizzling. Huge Political capital has been spent to get foreign investment in Retail and support of middle class voters in Wholesale. Isn’t India steadily transforming from caste politics to class politics. A Unique project, 'Aadhar' (biometric citizen card) was another contender.

Should we consider Narendra Modi for a phenomenal hat-trick in Gujarat? Whoever wins India must restore 'Power' to not only the PM's office (authority and accountability) but also to people (electricity). I hope Indian politics transits from 2G (Graft and Greed) to 3 G (Growth, Governance and Goodwill). "The Avengers" here are the independent, powerful institutions like RBI, Judiciary, central auditor and election commission.

Angst against corruption among "Aam Aadmi" (public) was a strong contender. India is not alone, politicians have let people down everywhere, but are they not a reflection of the values of the society they represent. Let's reform ourselves first.

In the Indian corporate space, the "King of good times" had to sell family jewels, while bankers realized the hard way that the likes of "Deccan chargers" were running on poor batteries.

While the 'tea party' is losing steam in US, Tata brought Starbucks here and Indians are queuing up. Ratan Tata was among the strongest contenders for building a globally reputed empire. He is an icon, a true Ratan (Gem), a real Jaguar.

I wanted to crown 'Bond'. Not because James Bond in "Skyfall" drove Tata's Jaguar. Globally, the great bond bull run scaled new highs as yields plunged to historic lows. After the subprime bubble burst, I expected government bonds and precious metals to be the next big bubbles. Buyers beware, I think 2012 would mark a turning point. India is an exception, rates could move towards 007% here.

Vikram Pandit's departure from Citibank despite his stellar performance, Rajat Gupta's imprisonment and Lance Armstrong's Cycle of career getting off track were stories worth following than "50 shades of Grey."

Finance professionals are living "Life of Pi". Everyone is looking at them as easy prey. The industry is going through a grand 'creative destruction'. Let's focus on restoring trust and a culture of high ethical values.

Those who committed an indescribable sin against a young girl in Delhi, or innocent kids in a school in Connecticut were devils in human form. Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai was a strong contender as an icon of brevity and hope against the barbaric tendencies.

If "how many cry when you die" is the measure of a life, then Balasaheb Thackeray's funeral created a sort of record. Rajesh Khanna, the heartthrob of 70s left 'Pushpa' and us in tears while 2012 marked 70th anniversary of 'grandpa' Amitabh. Whitney Houston, the pop diva, 'I look to you' in the stars now. Stephen Covey left a legacy by preaching the 7 habits to be highly effective.

"This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind", said Neil Armstrong while standing on the moon in 1969. Successful landing of Curiosity rover on Mars this year was the best homage mankind could pay to this legend. As Clara, 12 year old girl, the contest winner for naming this rover said, "curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives."

And this same spirit of curiosity led to the discovery of Higgs Boson (better known as God's particle) through an ambitious Large Hadron Collider (LHC), an important move in understanding the universe.

History of scientific advances is interesting. A British General turned scientist used his prize money from winning the Battle of Plassey in the year 1757 to research the electrical properties of Torpedo fish. This led to the invention of the first battery and later helped in pathbreaking advances in telecommunication and along with other inventions created an industrial revolution. It may be tough to grasp the magnitude of importance of the Higgs Boson particle that gives mass to energy, but the point is the sheer curiosity that lead us to discoveries like this which solve bigger puzzles of the universe and create miraculous things for mankind.

Looking around, I get perturbed by the magnanimity of challenges humanity is facing, but when I look back in history and try to look forward to the future, it is this spirit of curiosity in mankind that makes me optimistic.

The curiosity to find Higgs boson, to make nano particles and robots, to decode the human genome, to find newer ways of generating energy, to desaline sea water into drinking water, to invent ways to produce enough nutrition for everyone, to create machines with intelligence more than human mind, to work on innovative ways for physical and virtual mobility, technologies that will Connect all of us for Collective betterment and Catapult us into a new horizon. The future is infinitely beautiful.

The Higgs Boson particle, the symbol of mankind's spirit of Curiosity, is my person of the year 2012. I give a Loving, Humble, Curious (LHC) standing ovation!


Navneet Munot

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