As Steve Jobs said, you will know it when you will find it. True for love, true for a calling, and it is therefore the object of my search.
I am one of those, despite the apparently well settled middle class life, who have to face 'what's wrong with you' question from well-wishers. They mean well, and slightly perplexed by my own refusal to do what's good for me. Really, how do I explain why I eschew a mortgage and even a long term commitment to live where I am? I used to say that I am yet to find my calling, but stopped doing this now, as more often than not people would confuse 'calling' for a 'job' and stop the conversation. I say - this is my nature.
Which is true, this is indeed my nature. This is why I lived in several countries and did different things. However hard I try to do the job at hand well - and I make a virtue of workmanship all the time - my goal is never to get subsumed by security of the middle class experience, but to find stimulation, the next goal, that idea which will keep me alive.
Some of my thinking may have been influenced by a story I read in school - in fact I had to read it as a part of our syllabus - but it was an odd story for a 15-year-old to read. This was a story by Rabindranath Tagore, a literary stalwart but slightly under-appreciated short story writer, titled 'Atithi', or 'The Guest'. This is a story of a boy, a feral character, who can't just settle. Even when he found a loving home, a welcoming host who wanted to marry him off with his daughter and take him into his family, he just had to leave: "Before the circles of affection-love-friendships could consume him....He escaped, one rainy evening, to return to the unemotional unattached Earth-mother". It was one of those stories where we came to the end of it and turned over the page in a futile expectation of an usual happy ending, but found none. That shocked us, left us confused, wondering "what on earth".. and remained with me all my life.
At a time when even tragedy is out of fashion in art, it is unusual to think that anyone talk about this story any more. I am not sure this makes it to the school syllabus anymore, but this is certainly not good instruction for would be Engineers and Doctors. I can't claim that the story's protagonist became my role model, given the very predictable path I followed after school, but the temptations of the wider world remained with me: My ambitions remained, as I have written earlier in this blog, to live the life of Robinson Crusoe, and indeed, I found myself in metaphorical ship-wrecks all too often.
There was a time in my career when I traveled frequently, spending more time in Dubai Airport Lounge than I did at home. I used to say then that my greatest career aspiration was to catch the 8:25 from East Croydon everyday. It did happen - I settled down into a life of predictability and routine - but only to discover that I didn't love it. Instead, I rediscovered my love of adventure, within the boring confines of my career, and my lost love, of history, of literature, of travel one more time.
So, as I get into U-Aspire, I feel I found my calling. Something Global, something to do with Education, something to do with aspirations and changing lives, all the elements that I wanted. It is still in its shaky, start-up phase, and what I do is far from what I would love to do. My bootstrap life is nothing about working with aspirational students in Africa and Asia, but rather catching 8:25 as I wished for, to earn just enough to pay my bills. But even then, this enterprise has liberated me because it has opened up that possibility for me, that I can live a different life and do things that I love. As I now talk about connecting the institutions in China, India, Vietnam, Nigeria and elsewhere to build a global community, I feel I found my calling. As I talk with philanthropic organisations to put a fund together to enable an Asian or African graduate's global dream, I feel all my trouble is worth it. Yes, even the life-destroying regularity of the morning commute!
Admittedly, it is too fragile, early stage thing to celebrate, but I celebrate not the achievement, but the possibility. I needed this feeling of getting out of bed to do something, and I have got it back now. I needed to find the energy to study again, engage again, write again, connect with people again, and I have got it back now. The next stage of my life should be more exciting: My one commitment to any investor in U-Aspire is that I shall go in the field and do it myself. So, for me, this is not about delivering from the cozy confines of suburban London, but to live in Africa or Middle East or Asia, wherever makes sense, working alongside partners and graduates to make this happen. Some people clearly don't believe I will do it: They would tell me that I don't realize that this would be life changing. They have no way of knowing that I really want to change my life.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
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
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.