July and I complete a year of travel. I spent most of the year on the road, travelling mainly to India and sometimes to the Philippines. This was some kind of reset, just as my project in global education seemed to have stalled, which, at the least, allowed me to regain the confidence that ebbed in the midst of a failure. When I launched the previous project - where the cardinal sin was optimism and we set out despite knowing we were underfunded - I told my business partner that i felt confident that I could rebound from a failure, if it might come. This last year was just that, my effort to rebound from a failure, and I feel reasonably satisfied with where I am now.
Satisfied but not content, which is a curious feeling, as I know how much is still to be done. So, I am not counting the chickens yet. However, I needed to test some assumptions, restore faith in my own abilities, and clarify some of my own objectives, all of which I have done now. This meant three weeks of travel every month, experimenting with life quite a bit and losing the discipline of physical exercise and regular diet, which I regret. But, this was, as it appears at this vantage point, a great opportunity to imagine my life all over again, and knowing what I really want to do.
I have lived through periods like this before. Particularly as I did when I came to Britain and having no references or relevant experience, had to settle for a job at the end of the food chain. That was a year of reset in my mind, and I can still vividly recall the feeling - how I would count the number of days as I walked up the stairs to the office near Old Street, and promise myself to find something more meaningful in a certain number of days. I kept my head down and opinions to myself unless asked, and survived, with great success, in a rather marginal role which bored me to no end. This is one experience I cherished after it was over, not because of the content of the experience but as it bore testimony of my perseverance, that I could survive and work my way out of meaninglessness. And, indeed, what I really felt good about is that even under that circumstance, I did good work and built relationships - I would maintain long-standing relationships with people I worked with, and one of them, my Line Manager, would eventually become my Business Partner.
My big claim, when I thought about those years between 2005 and 2006, was that I could maintain my focus solely based on my sense of duty and professional commitment, even when I do not necessarily see a future in a particular job or commit myself fully in an endeavour. This is not a flow experience, like the one I had between 2010 and 2013 while building the educational institution in London (or earlier, between 1998 and 2004, in various roles building up an education network in Asia), but I have managed pretty well without the same for rest of my career.
This one year, in other ways, was helpful though. For example, I can just look back at this blog and know what changed. I believe I made two key decisions during the course of the year. The first is that I am not going to return to India in a hurry. While I started the year, and the new engagement, with an objective that I should be back to India by the end of 12 months, and said as much, ground realities set in as I started engaging full time. I tried in all sincerity and discovered that I have to be better prepared to return. And, that is indeed the second thing - that in the course of the year, I concluded that I indeed want to return to India, as that is home, at some point of time. I set that date 4 years from now - and this gave me clarity about what I should do with my life.
I also went through a see-saw of emotions regarding what I do. I came to it having failed to continue much further with the enterprise I was setting up, and this made me think at various times whether I should pursue a career in Higher Ed. I deliberately worked myself in it for last several years, but my lack of institutional conformity, which life in Higher Ed is always all about, kept coming in the way. As I stand right now, I am doing the same short and long term thing as i did with where I live. I realise that I must play to my strengths about ed-tech and innovation, and keep my institution building aspirations for now. And, indeed, the moment of that will be the moment of return - when I return to India, it would be for Higher Ed - but everything else for now would be a preparation.
This year is also a year of friendships lost and friendships found, and those two must remain in different boxes. This is because the new friendships, as one always finds on the road, can never fully compensate the regret over the lost ones. And, particularly of those which one never wanted to lose, and where the essential goodness of heart transcended even the drifting apart, goodwill lived even when the contacts withered, and the regrets, sad and nostalgic, came just because it was lost but never wiped away. And, the ones I found, of those who subscribe to my aspirations and dreams, ways of looking at the world, must indeed be celebrated, but only in the backdrop of the fragility of context, in full knowledge of temporariness of all endeavours and therefore of all connections, and of the profoundness embedded in even a moment of human connection, however trivial that may appear at first.
So, indeed, I read Montaigne as I turn the year, of his lighthearted but deep reflections on affairs of men, and he becomes my companion, just as he was to so many others before me. With him, I come to see that the great affairs of human beings are always about other human beings, connecting as the end goal of life and being connected, the supreme realisation of living. The loneliness of travel, being away from what one would call a daily life, where jetlag and changing perspectives scatter away the usual cycles of day and night and daily routine, and bestow an unchanging silence in the cover of ever-changing noise, brings up the essence of connections and conversations in sharp relief. I, for one, know, with no doubt, that life is a solitary endeavour, but at the same time, see what makes it worth living.
And, as the year turns, I imagine my life anew. Already broken down in those immediate goals and long-ranging ambitions, I crave for simplicity. I hope my year of wandering would be over soon, nay I want it to be over soon. It is that point again when my desires of wandering reaches its conclusions, of a boring, predictable life, but with something meaningful to do. I have always been divided between two aspirations - that of seeing the world and of being able to stand still - and this year of travel reconcile them perfectly. The world zips by as seen from a running train, and at this very moment, I see what is left in my heart. A picture, still, solitary, even melancholy, frozen as the essence of all those movements, silent to capture all those noise, sad to embrace all the gaiety. It is this moment when standing still becomes all the movement, my messy, book-laden working table the centre of my world, my guileless mediocrity the fountain of all possibilities. This moment, this year, this thought start all over again - but I have moved, taken an infinitesimal step in the unending journey to the center of the universe, but found it right here.
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
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,
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.
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
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
A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of th
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
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
The Creativity Imperative Businesses today consider creativity of their staff as a critical, possibly the most critical, factor for their ongoing survival. This is because the environment, political, social and commercial, has become so fluid; as Yogi Berra put it, “the future isn’t what it used to be”. Constant change, demanding and more aware customers and citizens, rapid information dissemination through new technologies of information and communication, and intense competitive and regulatory pressures, are pushing companies and people who work for them to innovate and adapt continuously. Set in this context, employee creativity has a whole new meaning. It is traditionally understood as people thinking about products and services, which did not exist before, or tweaking and improving the existing ones. Competitive pressures add to this creativity imperative. Information is fast and cheap, and communication technology is driving the costs of production and distribution
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.