Google has just released its annual year-end data on what netizens searched and what trended in 2019 and the list of topics that people searched in India reflects the rapid speed with which Indians grappled a multitude of intense socio-political and environmental issues and the interest they took in understanding each of them.
While the Cricket World Cup was one of the top trends on Google in 2019 when it came to Indian e-surfers, Lok Sabha Elections 2019 which saw the second victory for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party was the second trend.
While national interest in cricket and elections was not surprising, the third and fourth top trends were Chandrayaan - 2, India's first failed attempt to soft land on the moon, and Kabir Singh, the controversial blockbuster by Sanjeev Vanga Reddy that divided film watchers across the country, thanks to its themes of normalizing violence against women as love.
However, the real political pulse of Indian Googlers was revealed in the "What" category searches.
2019 has been an eventful year for Indian politics. It was the year when the BJP government came back to power with an even bigger mandate than 2014. It was the year when Jammu and Kashmir stopped being a state and article 370 was abrogated. It was the year when the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was tabled and National Registrar of Citizens became a reality.
With so many rapid changes, it is no wonder that the top search trends in the "what" category include "Article 370", "exit poll", "Howdy Modi", "e-cigarettes", article 15, "Ayodhya case", "surgical strike" and "national registrar of citizens."
Search for Article 370 peaked on August 4 and stayed high till the end of August before tapering to a regular pace. Incidentally, the topic generated most interest in north-eastern states like Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Daman and Diu, Nagaland and Meghalaya.
The Ayodhya verdict was also widely searched on the internet around the time of the Supreme Court verdict on 2009 which ruled in favour of Ram Lalla. The search started gaining pace by the end of October and reached a crescendo on November 9.
Just two of the top ten "what" searches is non-political: "What is the DLS method in cricket?" and "What are black holes"?
The Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method or DLS becomes a factor when a match is interrupted by inclement weather and the teams do not get to play their full quota of overs. In such cases, an outcome has to be reached in the time available after resumption of play. The method became a matter of sore concern among Indians during the World Cup even as inclement weather constantly interrupted play, leaving India's victory up to a math calculation.
The interest in black holes surged not just in India but across the world as the world witnessed the first glimpses of a black hole, ever to be photographed. the historic achievement was possible using NASA's Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) which brought humanity just a little step closer to understanding the mysteries of the world.
The ban on e-cigarettes also brought a wave of interest in what the commodity is. As politicians deliberated on the ban for days, large masses of people who had never used an e-cigarette or even known about them became curious. This could mean that bans increase public interest in an object, and could be read as a nod to one of the failures of cancel-culture.