Two significant developments have occurred across the hemispheres. While women have voted in municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, a country not known to be friendly for the womenfolk; an aspirant for Republican presidential nomination in the United States, a country which is seen as the most successful in the world of liberal democracy, calling for banning Muslims from entering that country.
Can it be more contradictory than this?
It is not that these two developments don't have their share of cynics. While there are voices who think giving women the voting rights in a closed system like Saudi Arabia means a little on ground, there are also sections who condemn Trump's ultra-radical claims and demand his ouster from the race to become the president. But yet, they hint at some hidden currents of change despite escaping our eyes and theories.
The right provided to the women to vote, notwithstanding what the cynics say, is a forward move. It is not that the exercise to keep in terms with late Saudi king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud's announced in 2011 that women would be allowed to participate in the municipal elections is without its problems. It is said that the late king made the announcement as a political decision to pacify local unrest.
Despite all problems, the beginning is important
There have been charges of lack of transparency, limited authorities to the council and even procedural problems during the latest election, but yet these elections are significant for not just only women's participation but also opening up an avenue for greater public engagement.
The story must begin somewhere and it can't be expected that a closed system will be opened overnight.
The initial move of allowing the women to vote and then about a dozen women candidates even winning seats in the municipal councils and that too in big cities like Jeddah and Riyadh mark a small opening in the kingdom's political system.
The battle for gender equality can only get better for the women from here on, the hindrances of a male-dominated system notwithstanding.
The rise of Trump in US is equally interesting
And just on similar lines, seeing an American presidential aspirant implement a populist and radically polarising strategy to attract sympathy is also something unique.
Trump is being ridiculed by the liberal minds who feel the US can never support such people. But the current situation across the world where each state is increasingly becoming more xenophobic, thanks to threats by terrorism, refugee influx and socio-economic challenges like job losses and insecurity, has made politicians like Trump in the US and Le Pen in France make a substantial gain.
The rise of these politicians has been made possible by the simultaneous failure of the left-leaning and centrist forces and the media who have not addressed the real issues and left the faceless commoners who fear the growing insecurity and fast-changing realities across them against their advantage.
They feel upset with the political correctness of the traditional left-of-the-centre parties and their hesitation in speaking on issues that demand ruthless address to clean up the complicated socio-economic challenges and allow them a respite.
For the unarticulated common man, the likes of Trumps and Pens become a trusted vehicle. In India, too, the rise of the right-wing forces has the same reason, which is the failure of the Congress and Left in resolving the commoners' immediate worries.
Therefore, while democracies can still pose threats, non-democracies can still raise hopes. Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal calling Trump "a disgrace" is a point to be noted.