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Showing posts from January, 2012

My Pursuit of Happiness

A friend complained, I don't know how to be happy. Point taken: If happiness is about being content, I surely show symptoms of being unhappy. To be fair, she wanted to make the point that I possibly had everything that one could reasonably want, and therefore, I should drop the anchor and try to achieve steady state. I tried to counter and justify myself, which is quite usual in such friendly arguments.

In the end, it became almost a religious argument, without invoking God. I should be happy with what I was given, and make the best of it, she contended. On the defencive as if I am accused of being too greedy or ambitious (growing up in suburban India before the liberalisation, I am not used to treating those emotions as virtuous), I was laying out an argument that I saw life as an one-off opportunity to change the world, and since I have not achieved this yet, I couldn't rest.

Though it may sound a bit crazy and overtly quixotic, it is exactly what I believe. In the end, she …

Essays For A New Age: The End of Information Age?

Industrial age has long ended, the pundits proclaimed, and we live in the information age. Indeed, the world in perspective is downtown LA, not some remote areas of Congo, where some farming tools, if they could be afforded, would be a good idea. However, once the proclamation is printed in books legitimised by top publishers' logos and the authors credentials longer than their names, it must be believed. Further, that idea is already in vogue and typing these words on a remote computer hooked in some network, I seem to be voting affirmative with my action. However, one question remains though: It seems that history has indeed accelerated a bit too fast, and this information age, or network economy or whichever name one calls it, is precariously close to catastrophe just after it has barely began.
Call it the revenge of Congo, where children who would consider themselves lucky to have a decent meal a day and would not miss anything if the Information Age ends tomorrow: However, t…

Would Private Universities save the world?

In a recent article enlisted in Harvard Business Review's Audacious Ideas, Karan Khemka and Parag Khanna passionately makes the case for private investment in Higher Education and argues that expansion of the For Profit universities will bring growth back by being the best way 'to build a skilled labour force, create more jobs, broaden the consumer base, and ultimately sustain economic growth'. Apparently aimed at investors, they also list out why Higher Education could be good business: Its negative working capital requirements (because students pay upfront), steady and predictable revenue (because most students should stay full duration of the programme), High barriers to entry (regulation, land and capital), prices that rise faster than inflation, and more demand than supply, all the traits that are in evidence abundantly in an economy like India.
Apparently grounded in the market realities of a fast growing economy like India, all of these make sense. College is, desp…

Everyday Subversiveness

Grand narratives are dead is the great grand narrative of our age. It is the big idea that there is no big idea, just little moments. I subscribed to this even before I came across the post-modernists, when I started loving the moments, seeing everything as temporal, momentary. I know the post-modernists now: I almost believe in them.
But one grand narrative I continued to believe in. Perhaps, that was my biggest failing. That one can change the world. It was one of those quixotic ambition that allowed me to take my mind off the trivial, the fact that one has to live a normal life, settle down, have a mortgage and die afterwards. The rhythm of middle class life were directly opposed to my sole source of hope, that one can imagine and bring about a different world. This is why I never settled: I left once I felt too comfortable. I became a traveller.
Life is catching up with me, though. Sometimes, I ridicule the dreams I am having. I wish I could be more practical. I wish I bought a h…

McDonaldization of British Higher Education

Dr Rahul Choudaha writes about the franchising trends of the British, Australian and American Higher Education on his blog. This presents two interesting pieces of statistics: First, the British HE classroom is far more global than the American (15% international students in the system compared to USA's 3%,), and the second, a fact which is becoming apparent now, that more international students study for a British Higher Education degree outside Britain than inside it. In fact, this is a recent trend: In 2010, for the first time, the number of offshore students exceeded the number of students studying for British Higher Education degrees in Britain. However, the number is large: Out of a total 814, 495 international students studying for a British qualification, 408,685 was offshore, which is about half the number (slightly higher). Australia, despite a higher proportion of international students in country (21% as opposed to Britain's 15% mentioned earlier), has less studen…

India 2020: A New Future for Kolkata

I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind, which echo the pessimism somewhat. 
I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched,  and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope.
However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right inside …

Ideas for A Borderless World: Parag Khanna on TED

India 2020: How To Win Friends

Try telling any Indian that nationalism is a dated ideology and they would think you are completely insane: True, nationalism is alive and well in India. Indeed, South Asian region is possibly the most nationally conscious in the whole world now. Follow its newspapers, television, various proclamations of political leaders or the usual dinner table chatter, and one gets to see a nationalism of extremely sensitive variety, often brandished and easily offended.

One can count this as a huge achievement. Churchill's observation that India was no more a country than the equator was true at the time of its pronouncement, a mere hundred years ago. The British empire walked into India virtually unnoticed because there was, to be honest, no India in any sense: They traded with various Nabob's territory and bought the empire over a few years. One can argue that India was discovered, somewhat, by the dismemberment of its territory, which every Indian now resents to, and with the creation…

The Uses of Scepticism

Finally, the partying over, and I am back to work.

I have to get used to writing dates with '2012' at the end, but that always takes a bit of time. But there is a sense of a new start: 2011 was one year I could not wait to see the end of. This isn't new that I am seeking a fresh start, a break, both of the lucky sort and with the past. That, indeed, is the spirit of New Year, when the world is assumed to have magically changed with the stroke of Midnight Hour, and, admittedly, with some expensive fireworks sponsored with public money. However, this year, I start with a sense of beginning, and ending, a certain wish of seeing things through an year. That is sort of new for me.

I now know that I want to be in Higher Education. The career change decision I took several months ago seems to be working and I enjoy what I do. I see prospects here, both in Britain and elsewhere, and I believe this suits my temperament and skills. I have now worked hard to get started in private Hi…

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