What Was 2019’s Meme of the Year?

Pop Culture

What Was 2019’s Meme of the Year?

Illustration: Sid M

Gonna tell my kids 2019 was the year of the memes. And if you disagree, you can pehli fursat mein nikal. Memes traditionally only captured references from pop culture like films, TV shows, sports, and news. But this year was different, and as unemployment surged to a 45-year high in the country, millions logged onto YouTube to watch JCB Ki Khudai. Rumours suggest more people tuned in to watch tractors in a ditch than the last three Shah Rukh Khan films. Who knows, maybe King Khan is telling himself Apna Time Aayega in 2020. The josh is certainly high.

While Bollywood contributed its usual fair share to the meme community, India’s other religion, cricket, wasn’t going to be left far behind. Yuzvendra Chahal’s “chilling” pose encapsulated every uncle at a Goa beach ever. And Ravichandran Ashwin’s mankading incident was relevant up to the Maharashtra polls, as Devendra Fadnavis runs out Uddhav Thackeray before the ball has even been bowled. Geddit? The tables turned a few days later though, as Uddhav had the numbers and usne ekdum se waqt badal diya, jazbaat badal diye, zindagi badal di.

While meme templates and pop references come and go like rainfall in Mumbai, there are two pieces of content that stayed in our hearts. Just like that special song or that one movie of the decade, they captured the essence of this year quite succinctly. If this were an Olympic boxing gold medal bout and the title of “meme of the year” was on the line, these would be the two finalists. 

Yuzvendra Chahal’s “chilling” pose encapsulated every uncle at a Goa beach ever.

Paraglider – Bhai Land Kara De

In six minutes and nineteen seconds, everyone lived the highs and lows of the year with Vipin Sahu, the viral sensation who was losing his paragliding virginity in Kullu. Perhaps, the BJP Government in power would max relate to Vipin’s turbulent journey, that began with main aasman ki bulandiya chuh raha hoon, just the kind of exuberance we saw after BJP’s electoral victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Sab kora hi kora hai was their echo as well, as the Congress was being decimated in this political Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan. But things took a turn for the worst for Sahu, as he went from confident to fearful faster than corrupt people switched allegiances from Opposition parties to the BJP. With defeats in a few states and potests mounting from the Citizenship Amendment Act, BJP is also echoing the iconic bhai 200 extra le le bas land kara de as we head to the end of the year. Many citizens even referenced the meme in placards, saying main madarch*d hu jisne kamal ka button dabaya. If there’s something that we can all learn from Vipin Sahu, it is that both joy, sadness, fear are all temporary in life; and if a paragliding trainer tells you pair upar kar gandu, you better fucking do it.

Angry Pakistani Uncle 

With hands on his hips and an expression that had utter submission written all over it, the Pakistani cricket fan captured how we have all felt during various moments in our life. While the reaction was to a dropped catch from a Pakistani fielder during the Indo-Pak game at the World Cup, it resonated with fans across continents, like Tom and Jerry or Mr Bean, that crosses barriers of language and culture. No other GIF, video or emoji in the entire year captured the essence of being so defeated and hopeless quite like that visual. Desi dads when you turn on the AC? Applicable. When you bring dhaniya instead of pudina? Applicable. Eliachi in biryani? Applicable. The meme not only captures the little moments, but is also applicable to big political developments around the world, like the collective disgust to Donald Trump and Boris Johnson’s victories. At the risk of being labelled anti-national, we consider the Angry Pakistani Uncle as the meme of the year.

What was your favourite meme of the year? Akshay Kumar’s chal jhootha from Kesari and Sarfaraz Ahmed’s infamous yawn deserve special mention. With the Australian cricket team touring India in the new year and the Presidential elections in the US around the corner, 2020 promises to be a goldmine when it comes to memes.