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Showing posts from March, 2010

Dimensions of India Experience: Diversity

Diversity is the most obvious dimension of the Indian experience, yet it is the most sublime. Yes, India indeed looks like an endless fancy dress party, a bewildering combination of languages, dresses and appearances. Yet, everyone also keeps telling you about a sense of 'unity in diversity' all the time. That expression comes from Vincent Smith, a British historian who wanted to understand the broad concept of India, in European terms.

Since then, the theme of any study of India was to see this 'unity' in all diversity, making a rather tortured effort to root all elements of diversity into an universal Indianness. These attempts are so common that the apparent diversity has become sublime, at least in the interpretative literature, and in the name of political correctness, the sublime unity seems to have become all pervasive.

It does not have to be so confusing though, at least if we accept that India is not a nation in the European sense. That should not offend anyone:…

Dimensions of India Experience: Domesticity

Domesticity is Family Orientation - Indians are indeed one of the world's most family oriented people. Though what family means varies from one place to another, and arguably, male chauvinism comes in the way of this being a beautiful thing, family comes first in India. First, as in ahead of self or the community or the nation; something that India observers saw both as an obstacle and a help for India to grow as a modern nation.

Most Indians one would meet are intensely proud of their families. The family is large and includes uncles of uncles, as long as they are successful. Modern India is a country of being somebody, and any lineage that may help that quest is gratefully acknowledged. However, on a more benign level, Indians are also deeply committed to their immediate families - parents and brothers and sisters and cousins count as immediate family - and their universe is defined by the interplay of these relationships. One can say, you would not know an Indian unless you hav…

Imagining The Global University

The education leaders from across the world congregated in London to discuss the future of internationalization of education on Thursday, as The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

We seem to be entering an era of consensus on globalization of higher education. This by itself denotes progress to the next, pervasive stage of globalization, where work, skills and ideas will be globally shared. This may have implications beyond the obvious: Higher education is intrinsically related to the ethos of a nation state [think Oxbridge and Britain, Ivy League and America and France and its Ecoles] and globalization of higher education will need more than offering a set of degrees in different campuses; this may need a fundamental rethinking of how education is delivered and what it is for.

The conference attendees seem to agree on the importance of globalizing education. Globalizing pull and push in Education will shape the post-recession world, and more, it will be critical to preserve the c…

Dimensions of India Experience: Democracy

To attempt a framework to disentangle the India experience, which is defined by the endless dialectic, I created a 5-D framework for the benefit of my correspondents: Democracy, Domesticity, Diversity, Divinity and Duality. 
Indeed, I played with the letter D to make it more memorable. For example, Religiosity would have been more apt in place of Divinity, and Family-orientation may have been better suited than Domesticity. But,  in India one thing can pass off for the other, and I thought my 5-D framework is quite usable, and not very off the mark.

I shall start with Democracy, and I am not trying to adopt a self-congratulatory tone. In fact, I shall agree with Sudhir and Katrina Kakkar when they write, 'Indians are World's most undemocratic people'. They say that because in India, everyone wants to be somebody, and scramble for social prominence, they do it by defining an ever narrower frame of reference and by shifting the parameters endlessly. This can be hila…

India: An Experience

I am Indian, but I don't know India. That's an honest admission. I could have added - it is not possible to know India. It is so huge and diverse. The diversity is everywhere: India is the ultimate tower of babel, a modern day wonder of unification of languages, castes, religions and nationalities.

But, then, I should not say it is not possible to know India, because there are some unifying principles. Vincent Smith, an Englishman who wrote a popular history of India, saw 'Unity in Diversity'. Others believed that you can always see India the way you want to see it. Yet others saw an ancient land, with eternal continuity, which is stirred by modernness but not yet greatly transformed.

Whatever it is, it is complex. It is a rich mix of all varieties imaginable. It is a diverse geography, climate and people. The most common question I face is 'how is the weather in India?', to which I usually answer - it depends - leaving the enquirer perplexed. When the businessme…

Greenspan's Theorem

Alan Greenspan has recently written a 48 page paper for the Brookings Institution explaining why the Asset Bubble and subsequent collapse happened, reports The Economist. Greenspan's argument rests on one central point - that with the end of Cold War and reforms in China [and in India], hundreds of millions of workers were absorbed in the global economy; 'as the GDP growth in emerging economies soared, their consumption could not keep up with income, and savings rose. The rise in desired global savings relative to desired investment caused a global decline in long term rates, which became delinked from the short term rates that the central banks control.' [A draft of the paper, The Crisis, can be found here]

As The Economist article points out, this is broadly similar to the theory of Global Savings Glut, as espoused by Ben Bernanke. There seems to be a consensus among American Central bankers that the global decline of long term rates resulted in a speculative bubble in as…

Does India Need Foreign Education Providers?

For all the talk on foreign universities in India, everyone seems to have taken for granted that India needs them. One would wonder why this is so obvious. India is not a small country like Dubai, and India's problems are different and not to be solved by creating a few glamour universities. Also, India has very little public support for education expenses and most people may not be able to afford the fees of even a middle-tier university anyway.

I have talked about the Foreign University bill to be a part of the overall reform business, and tried to describe the politics of reform. The idea seems to be that this is a tester, an easy one because of the positive public perception, which the central government would want to push through. The bill will set precedent and realign the policy agenda, and this will be followed up by deep impact reforms of a national schooling and qualifications system.

However, on the business of foreign universities themselves, the government may not have…

The Politics of Foreign Education Providers Bill in India

The Foreign Education Providers bill has been approved by Indian Cabinet recently and will now be presented to the Parliament. Though it faces some stiff challenges in the Parliament, as two main opposition blocks, who do not seem to agree on anything else, are united in their opposition to the bill, the Indian media is already presenting this as a done deal. There is public support for the bill, partly because of the media support and partly because the government has sold this well. One can reasonably hope that such public sentiments will mellow down the opposition to the bill eventually, and the opposition parties will make sure that while they make the right noises of disapproval, they don't end up wrecking the initiative.

It is interesting that the bill has been commonly referred to as Foreign Universities bill. The selling pitch of the government has been that this bill will bring top universities in the world to India, and will save the country a lot of foreign exchange whic…

Readings & Thoughts - This Week: March 20th

It is only fitting that I end the week reading the eloquently written Why Britain Is Feeling Bleak in TIME. Catherine Mayer captures the mood correctly: A stumbling pound, a rickety recovery, an uncertain future. The institutions stand undermined, Met Police, House of Commons, No. 10 Downing Street, the NHS, in case of Britain [the Church does not matter much here]. The leadership options are uninspiring, and the whole prospect of election, due possibly on May the 6th, looks like a waste of time. Gordon Brown's claim of solidity, solidity as in spending public money to prop up failing banks and bankrupting everyone in the process, is pitted against David Cameron's funk, the fashionable style of saying everything correct without meaning it. We can only hope that Mr. Brown will someday learn to listen and Mr Cameron will learn to say things he really means.

In the middle of all this, I applied for my British passport. It sure contradicts my feel that the economic recovery will be…

The New Entrepreneur

I wrote a note about Modern Entrepreneurs [you can read it here] before, wherein I talked about the disconnect I felt between the ideal of entrepreneurship - creation of new possibilities against the odds - and the usual practise - speculative opportunism driven by superficial knowledge and unlimited greed. There are glorious exceptions, indeed. Besides, the entrepreneurial practise has always had an element of opportunity-taking and many successful entrepreneurs built their careers just on being at the right place at the right time. Identifying and running with opportunities lie in the very essence of entrepreneurship.

However, my enquiry was part of a larger effort to understand modern capitalism, with the objective to understand how the post-recession world may shape up. That way, my previous posts about the Morality of Profit, Memoirs of a Recession and the Practise of Modern Management can be seen as a continuation of the same theme. But, as some of my correspondents point out, I…

Management: An Alternative View

Let's start straight: What is management? Here is my take: It is a pseudo-science designed to preserve power relationships in the new, industrial society. That will not pass me any exam, but that is what I learnt during my twenty-odd years in commercial running around.

If that sounds a bit too uncharitable, consider sitting through any business strategy planning session. You will surely be impressed by the pomp and the seriousness these sessions are conducted with, the charts and graphs, and the elaborate models that get discussed and presented. For all the statistical sophistry, the whole thing is actually bunk though. Managers will laugh at their own efforts during the lunch time. All about beers and bullet points, the exercise is all about the story hanging together in a series of interconnected slides, rather than any serious analysis of the future. And, why so? Elementary, because future can not be analysed.

I am not trying to belittle the statistical models that we have grown …

On Sunday Posts

Sunday is the day which God spent on - reflecting. It is unusual for the God to rest, because he knew no fatigue. It is impossible for him to sleep, because then who will watch over the world. And, it is inconceivable for him to be lazy, because he is the creator and creation as a process, never stops. But, still, he took a break, as he must, and if I arrogate myself to presume God's intent, he was the world's first reflective practitioner, the first one to realize the need to pause and think, before he went back to work again.

My Sunday Posts were about emulating the practise of reflection, of my life, the world around me and various exciting and interesting people I come across during the course of the week, my joys and sorrows, and, yes, possibilities. I have long since broken the habit of confining my writing to Sundays, turning to it instead whenever I needed a release. Writing as an act of creation, as well as of soliloquy, allowed me to maintain my balance in the middle …

The Age Curve: Shifted

The term Generation Y was introduced to my life when someone, reading some of my writings, wrote back to me that I am old and Gen X, and do not understand the new, Indian Generation Y at all. I am of course guilty as charged - I do find today's college-going young adults a world removed from my own time - and therefore, promptly accepted the labelling on the basis of the face value.

Further exposition to the concept allowed me to accept this as a fair claim - that people born after 1980s was exposed to a different world of opportunities and affluence in India than my generation, those born in late-60s and 70s, and also grew up with a different value set. I went to Senior School in early 80s, and I recall most of my friends in my school days had parents who worked for the government - I went to an average, inner city, vernacular-medium school - and everyone had a fairly straightforward view of life. Our rebellion extended up to smoking cigarettes, our girls made us sweat for holding…

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