Timely meditations: India at the time of great change

India is among the most conservative countries in the world. Its republican constitution and democratic politics are misleading, as are its shiny IT service metropolises. The day to day life in India, and of Indians all over the world, remains tradition-bound. In a curious way, Indians reconcile science and superstition, and technology and theology in a curious way that would leave most observers baffled. India may shine and emerge, but to the Indian mind, it is just a turn in the cycle of time and it is only gaining its rightful historical place rather than being renewed.
But, then, India is a desperately poor country. Its poverty, which the opulent Bollywood movie sets and slick corporate districts look to underplay, is a stark, persistent reality. Regardless of the brilliance of Indian CEOs of various global corporations, Indian companies are badly governed as fiefdoms. The resilience of the Indian domestic economy somewhat diverts attention from the country's lack of global …

2018: A somewhat final note

I am psychologically there already, to the end. Or, rather at the beginning of the next. 
But, it is different this year. Since I migrated, I always measured my progress asking a question to myself - have I done better than the previous year? In most years, the answer was yes. Except in 2017, which started badly and ended indifferently for me, and I had this distinct sense of going backwards rather than forward. Remarkably for a single year, not one but two projects that I spent time on failed to take off; I lingered on unnecessarily in a job even when my wages were in arrears; I still had my dreams intact but it seemed I was chasing shadows interminably. So, at the end of 2017, I was not sure - I was drifting and dabbling, not paying attention, not making progress - and I wanted the year to end, quickly.
In that sense, this was a completely different sensation. 2018 has been a good year for me, not just in terms of recovering from my mini mid-life crisis, but also to regain a direct…

Timely Meditations: Are India and China destined for war?

[This blog, a labour of love, gives meaning to me more ways than I realised. Unlike the blogs I am 'required' to write - to promote products or to project expertise - these unplanned, momentary, messy posts are really conversations with myself. They are also more, pages of a scrapbook of ideas, digital footprints of a search for meaning, chronicles of loneliness and journals of being intellectually exiled. Timely meditations are my latest - there were others before - effort to write about contemporary issues and subjects, imposing some order on chaos and giving me a focus to write about.]

I have been following the Sri Lankan politics with some concern over several weeks. Democratic institutions have had some bad time lately. It does indeed seem, after Franklin, that when you wish to give up a little liberty for the sake of a little security, you get neither liberty nor security. Sri Lankans have endured long years of Civil War, which was eventually ended, rather brutally, by a…

India & Global Higher Ed: The time is NOW!

Higher Education in India is one of the world's most exciting opportunity, and one of the most frustrating problems.
The maths are obvious. India has hit upon a massive demographic opportunity, with more than 2 million people on average reaching college-going age every month. Its young population is expected to form a quarter of worlds working age people in a decades time, and its economy, driven by the power of domestic consumption, is expected to become the world's third largest. Despite the recent poor showing of India's rupee and near-death experience of some of its banks, India's economy is also one of the most resilient, given its relatively low exposure to external debt, frugal habits of its people and the strong internal markets. It is expected to wither any global economic storms better than any of its peers. Yet, despite the massive expansion of the Higher Education sector - 10 colleges opened a day on average between 2006 and 2014 - the Gross Enrollment Rat…

India and its Diaspora

Every year, governments of various Indian states roll out the red carpet for its diaspora. The shining, the leading, the welcoming and the emerging compete to attract the attention of prodigal sons (and some daughters), putting up ever better shows and ever sweeter promises. Hundreds of MoUs get signed and Ministers get their headlines for bringing jobs and prosperity. And, then, carpets are rolled up, everyone goes home and mostly nothing happens. It is tempting to think that this is typical of government jamborees, but this also reflects how India treats its diaspora.

Despite all the new-found love, India never had a Deng Xiao Ping moment of wanting to learn from the diaspora. While it is country with a large English-educated young population, which is expected to be footloose, it has treated its diaspora with a mix of indifference - these are the people who left - and greed - whose remittances home kept the exchange rate in check. But while it wanted its money, its opinions and pa…

Comment: What's a university for?

Perhaps this is a distinctly unfashionable question, particularly when so many new universities are being built all over the world and more people than ever before are going to the university. However, unless one belongs to that rare group of people who think that the government - governments, in this case - knows better, this is a question worth asking, as public money is being poured in, either to build greenfield universities or to pay for students attending private, profit-making, ones. 
The university leaders usually treat the purpose of universities as self-evident truth and exempt, conveniently, their own institutions from the critical examination they claim every aspect of life should be subject to. However, given the importance of universities in the contemporary cultural life - they are deemed to be the creators of individual worth as well as its judge - some questions are worth asking. To do so, it's important to start at the very beginning, and ask - what are these in…

Getting back to Gandhi

Gandhi is this incredible historical figure who is at once so inspiring and so absurd. He is a towering Jesus-like figure, who lives on in the street names and statues in his native India and memes on Internet. But he is also absurd, distant from realities and possibilities, saintly and irrelevant. In summary, we have learnt to live with Gandhi the saint, who has an alluring other-worldly appeal and absolutely nothing to do with modern political life. 
This is what it perhaps ought to be. Notwithstanding the fact that Gandhi was very much a practical political man leading an independence movement, the country that he helped create deified him and cast himself outside its political life. His legacy was to be the moral source of the Republic and he was to be designated to be the Father of the nation, but he was to be treated, more like an adorable old man from a different generation, with token legislation, garlands and gabble. His surname adorned an Indian political family by design (…

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