A World of Beauty: Tagore's Idea of India

Unlike the American founders, the Founders of Modern India generally get a bad press. Indeed, many people do not think of them as Founders at all - India was there for thousands of years, they say - and merely see them as political operators who negotiated Independence, a bad one, with the British, only in order to grab power for themselves. That the creation of Modern India was an act of political imagination is overlooked with purpose and intention. That the 'founding' generation had to come up with the idea of timeless India which we now take for granted - and give us the sense of History that we now have - has been completely forgotten. Besides, we are now in a destructive frenzy of an adolescent tearing down the house they built: There was never a worse time to claim the Foundership of what is being considered a great country and a failed experiment at the same time.
In this era of 'unfounding', speaking about Tagore's idea of India may only have the effect o…

The State and Enterprise

The relationship between state and enterprise has been at the heart of public policy debate for many years. There was the Nineteenth Century Liberal idea, reformulated in the Twentieth by the Libertarians, that the relationship between the two is necessarily antagonistic: The activities of the State discourage enterprise through regulations, taxes and by subsidising inefficiencies. On the other side, there were the Twentieth century ideas of the Welfare State, rediscovered as the 'Entrepreneurial State' in the Twenty-first, which posited the opposite: That the state and enterprise live in a symbiotic relationship, not just because the State creates the right environment, but also because it can enable the enterprise, by spreading education, improving health and supporting fundamental scientific research.
Both are plausible arguments, and adequate empirical and anecdotal evidence can be marshalled to support either. The debate, however, has been deeply ideological, and it was …

Facing Up India's Unemployment Problem

I didn't write for almost three weeks as I was in India. The essence of my work there is to deal with employment creation. Part of my work is pro-bono - a city initiative focused on Industry 4.0 - and the other part is commercial, advising a large Indian corporation on the development of next-generation Skills training programmes. But the sense of crisis regarding unemployment cuts across scale and scope of my work and is a recurrent theme that pops up everywhere.
India has a really big challenge. About 2 million people reach working age every month in India, and even if only half of them are actively seeking employment, the few thousand jobs that the organised sector creates are woefully inadequate. India may be the fastest growing large economy in the world, but demonetisation of 2016 and poorly implemented General Sales Tax (GST) have hit businesses hard and froze up recruitment in many sectors. The widely promoted 'Make in India' initiative - the government's atte…

Making Of Indian Universities: Working Notes

When the subject of establishing English style Public Colleges in India came up before the British Parliament in the late Eighteenth Century, the proposition was deemed to be both preposterous, as the Indians were deemed to lack the discipline needed for a college education, and subversive, as American colleges were blamed for the loss of British colonies there.  The East India company administrators, however, were establishing colleges in India at the time - Warren Hastings modelled the Calcutta Madrassah following a version of famed Dars-i-Nizami curriculum followed in Awadh, followed by the efforts of Jonathan Duncan, the resident of Benares, to establish the Benares Sanskrit College - but these colleges were classic orientalist projects, for oriental learning and primarily for the benefit of English administrators wanting to understand Indian society and legal system. Such was the motivation of Wellesley's Oxford of the East - the Fort William College in Calcutta - which woul…

The Future of College is Local

It's part of the romance of the college: The learner leaves home to join a community of fellow learners, to begin a new stage of life. The imaginary is integral to middle-class life, shaping lifecycles of parents as much as it does for the learner. It is the staple of the popular culture, all those college romance stories, movies and TV series. These expectations also shape how colleges operate, as they battle to restrict tenure but upgrade student accommodation at the same time. In fact, the most profitable part of the whole real estate market is student accommodation, offering better yields than any other segment.
But it's also the part which makes the least sense when Higher Education is so expensive. Surely, the romantic notions of college life as a calm commitment to learning are just romantic notions. Envisioning this as a prolonged coming of age party is closer to the truth, at least in most cases. Costs of living outside the home are at least as significant as the tui…


Today is the Birth Anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore. 
Tagore was the first global Literary Superstar, the first Nobel Prize Winner from Asia, whose flowing robes and the white beard helped form the public image of an Indian sage on the global stage. 
It is somewhat peculiar what Tagore is now known for. Given that many people reading this blog wouldn't know his name, I had to mention his Nobel prize. Yet, Tagore was somewhat resentful - and said so when he was facilitated in Calcutta after receiving the prize - that his countrymen would only recognise him only after the West had given him an award. The alternative way to tell who he was - that he was the man who wrote the National Anthem of India, as well as of Bangladesh - is equally problematic: Not just this brings up an old controversy (see An Exceptional Man) but, at least in case of India, reminds one of a Cosmopolitan Republican Nationalism that the current Indian government so love to hate.

Going by the two things that …

The Moment of History

Who wants to really study History anymore? Has it not ended already, as Francis Fukuyama famously declared? And, besides, what role may it have at a time when we are so busy making the future?
The questions are personal, as I went back to the University at a late stage to read History, prompting such, and other, derision. It was deemed impractical, idiotic or pompous, based on the kindness of the commentator, but never - even once - useful. Why didn't I do an MBA instead, or, if I really wanted to write, a degree in Journalism? History was unlikely to give me any real skill, and, any reasonable supply of TLAs (three letter acronyms, for the uninitiated), so very crucial for getting ahead in one's career. History is, at best, so dated!
However, I actually very much think the opposite, and I shall explain why. This is not about explaining my decision to go back to school - that I have tried elsewhere - but rather why History has become a more important discipline than ever in t…

Creative Commons License