All hail Sunny Leone: Queen of the Indian 'zeitgeist'

Google has spoken: Sunny Leone is the queen of our racing Indian heart. She is the one we looked for most often in 2012, tapping away at our keyboards in internet cafes and our bedrooms. She is numero uno on Google Zeitgeist's top ten list of 'trending' people in India. [See the entire set of lists here]

First, a data note: 'Trending' is not necessarily "most searched" but is defined as "search queries which drew the highest amount of traffic over a sustained period in 2012 as compared to 2011." Google in its infinite wisdom has not explained why some of its lists are 'trending' while others are 'most searched.' But let's just say, our Sunny is trending big, bigger than all the others on the list which include Rajesh Khanna at #2, followed by Poonam Pandey. Other dead people on the list are Yash Chopra and Vilasrao Deshmukh.

Sunny Leone is the queen of our racing Indian heart. Image: ibnlive

There's nary an A-list Bollywood actress in the top ten -- which is bad news for Katrina Kaif who topped the most searched people list in 2011. Why bother looking for dream girl when there are nudie girls to find. But newbie starlets Diana Penty (Cocktail) and Alia Bhat (Student of the Year) make it to the top ten, while the sole Bollywood hero is Saif Ali Khan.

The moral of this little data story: We care most about people who are a) naked, b) dead or c) new. But mostly naked and dead.

The only exception is Nirmal Baba at number 5, but he made the list for ungodly reasons, i.e. cheating and fraud. But rest assured our famed religiosity does get adequate representation in other lists like the Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple which is the fifth most searched local place, and Vaishno Devi which is #4 on the trending travel destinations list. But then again, the Wagah Border is #3 on that same list -- because hanging out at the Indo-Pak border is apparently on everybody's travel bucket list, right after Taj Mahal and the #1 Kerala.

Hmm, anyone else get a funny feeling about Google's methodology?

The other big surprise: zero cricketers. Not even Tendulkar.  That's a steep fall from grace compared to Google Zeitgeist 2011 when both the World Cup and the IPL topped the news event list. Cricket was bigger than even the Lokpal bill last year, and Osama bin Laden's capture, and the Japanese earthquake.

2012, on the other hand, belonged to the Sensex, Vilasrao Deshmukh's death, and Hurricane Sandy. Yes, dear old Sandy outdid Hazare, Aseem Trivedi's cartoons, and Abhishek Manu Singhvi. We like our half-naked women. Half-naked politicians, not so much. But Singhvi still fared better than Pranab Mukherjee whose glorious ascension to the presidential throne came in at #9.

But the most notable absence of them all: Arvind Kejriwal. Does the aam aadmi care so little about the ultimate mangoman? Did none those thrilling exposes evoke a tsunami of search queries? And what about Narendra Modi, the man who inspires such visible devotion online?

Not on Google, at least. Kejriwal topped Yahoo's Year In Review list of most searched newsmaker, besting even Narendra Modi who came in second.

So what explains this bizarre disparity? Are Google and Yahoo breeds apart, one invested in stocks and Sandi, while the other a tribe of political junkies? One clue lies in Yahoo's methodology: "YIR combines search trends with the editorial selection of what users read, recommended and shared most on the Yahoo! network in India during 2012." It's not just what we looked for, but also what we found worth our time.

The only one who rules the roost on both Google and Yahoo? Sunny, of course.

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