As I mentioned in the last post, a recent conversation about a deal threw me into a mini existential crisis. A mid-life crisis was indeed due, but I perhaps postponed it with my refusal to grow up and settle down for the boring bits, so far. It burst into the scene, somewhat unexpectedly, as I got an offer that I apparently sought, but did not want, at least not anymore.
However, before I try doing something with my life, there was one bigger question that needed answering: Why do I work in Education? I could say that I defaulted into education, which is partly true as I moved between technology and education jobs in the early part of my career, but I had so many inflection points and at each one of those, I chose education. Indeed, the latest escape route, if I needed one, was my work in recruitment in 2007 onwards - I could have made the shift and indeed, it would have better careerwise if I did. But I did not even see that as a possibility then, and have no regrets for not doing that. And, right now, I am not retroactively looking for a wrong turn that I took somewhere, but rather reaffirming the choice I made, not just once, but at every turn thereafter.
As I ask myself this question then, as to why I work in Education, what comes to mind is a train journey: I can not remember the date, the destination or any details of what preceded or followed the moment. But, I remember the moment, as vividly as I could. It was somewhere in middle India, hundreds of miles away from any of the big cities I have known, in the middle of the night, at a train station whose name was too alien to remember. I was travelling coach class, so there was no airconditioning or thick glass windows to protect me from the still-warm air of a summer night or the noise of the still bustling station awake at the arrival of a train from big town. The noise woke me up, or perhaps I was never asleep because it was hot and uncomfortable. It was a long time ago, and a very different world from the breakfast at a Five Star hotel in London last week, but essentially the same question: What am I doing?
I was right to ask that question then. I was younger, and just turned down a training exec job in a Multinational Call Center, though that would have kept me safely ensconed in a city environment. Instead, I took on this role with a training company, which, unexpectedly for me, chose me to work on expanding their operations in the Indian hinterlands. This meant endless days of travel, stays at small city inns and dealing with different kinds of people with diverse motivations, practices and ways of doing things. It meant all the discomfort and loneliness, frozen in mind in this particular moment on the train that I describe above. My comfortable childhood, protective family, big city environment and pretension of entitlement, were all cast aside, and it was a new, alien, different and difficult world I was thrown into.
As I remember the moment, though, I remember it without the sweat, tiredness or anxiety that would surely have been there. Nostalgia is, as someone told me once, memory without sorrow. And, so it is, in my mind, a magical moment of looking out through the train window, on a night of full moon as I distinctly remember, looking into that unknown and unknowable station which I had no connection with, then or since, and should never have been to, except my decision to take on the task of expanding education to remote cities. And, the feeling was one of wonder, of discovery, of the spirit of adventure of Childhood - did I not want to be Robinson Crusoe - and of thankfulness, a realisation that the ship-wreck of my career has finally sent me out to the middle of nowhere, as I wanted to be. Those days, I had faith and I knew who to be thankful to: Now, without such certainties, I can still remember the sense of wonder and that meaning of life.
So, two things, as it was then and as it is now. I had faith then, and felt I was chosen to do the work. Now, my views of the world has changed - I feel I chose to be - but my answer, why do I work in eeducation, remains the same. Because, it gives me meaning: I do not seek meaning in a lifestyle, which is to be achieved through work, but I seek meaning in work. And, also, because, it feeds my sense of wonder, makes me go on a journey all the time, makes me learn new things and explore new ideas. The work I do makes a difference to others and makes a difference to me. It makes the world a better place, to me. It takes me not to fancy holidays but to remote places that I shall never go otherwise, makes me seek answers to questions I would know to matter, makes me dream of a world which otherwise would be impossible.
This is a hard thing to explain to those who has not been to the journey, stopped at those godforsaken stations, felt the discomfort of the hot evening and the tranquility of serendipity at heart. It is, as I see now, too remote for a world of defined goals and measured objectives, where one begins with the end of mind, where changing the world is a tag line and where people, as much as they exist, is a concept and something to be aggregated. I work in education for just the opposite reasons: For its unexpected ends and unplanned discoveries, where the world, full of noise, smell and possibilities, keeps changing as long as one works for it, and where people are an invariable presence, a force that makes the world, an end in themselves, a reason to exist and work for.
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
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
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
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 ‘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
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.