I am not yet in Christmas mode. Really. I still have a very busy six weeks to go. In fact, these last six weeks appear all important - as important as the last few pages of a novel - where a conclusion must be reached. So, I am not in a summary mode yet. However, I have indeed reached a moment of reflection - a point when I can look back a bit and start thinking what I learnt [and what I still haven't] - which may make these final six weeks more meaningful and interesting.
Contrary to my previous expectations, 2009 did not turn out to be my worst year yet. Instead, it was, like for many people across the world, a lost year. In my life, if it did not happen, it almost would not have mattered. That is a frank admission - I almost sleepwalked through the year, expecting that things would be worse than it actually turned out to be.
So, I gained nothing and am standing, at the end of the year, where I was twelve months back. I can easily project back to a year back - the days before 26/11 in Mumbai - when I was talking about fixing our business model and gaining new skills. Except for a few missed deadlines, I am standing pretty much at the same position today.
Don't get me wrong though - gaining nothing does not mean learning nothing. That's the only thing that kept me going, indeed. It was an year back - on the day of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai - I discovered blogging. Well, no, I did not start blogging that day - that happened back in 2004 - but that was the day when I really needed to talk to someone and blogging provided me the route to do so.
That was a time when I just discovered my love for Mumbai. Funnily, I never spent much time in the city till about middle of 2008, when I suddenly started going, one week every month. Staying at my brother's house in Powai, I became familiar and fell in love with the city. This is quite strange - as I thought Mumbai isn't my kind of city - but I discovered the noises, the life, the aspirations and dreams, of Mumbai quite soon. And, then, the attack happened.
I would not have known where Colaba is even a few months earlier. But, I returned from Mumbai just a few days earlier in November, and the news, first a rather cryptic 'gunshots heard in CST' on Rediff News, hit home immediately. When I mentioned this to my father on course of a phone call, he still did not know about anything happening: He just knew that my brother took his usual train out of CST earlier that evening and returned home. However, in a few short minutes after that, news has hit home: it was all over the news channels, and I would be frozen in front of the TV for next 48 hours. That time, when I felt frighteningly lonely, I discovered the connections that this blog gives me: nameless, faceless people from all over the world who care about similar things and feel a similar horror.
So, one big thing for the subsequent days, and throughout 2009, was my commitment to blogging.
You see, I started blogging to practise my writing. When I started, it used to be a private affair, a sort of morning pages, sort of unedited private thoughts which I wrote as a practise. I kept the access restricted and did not even share it with family: Not that I was up to something sinister, but I did not want to put on a show, be conscious while writing. That changed since the beginning of 2006, when I decided to make this a more public affair, but without the expectation of any general readership. I expected to put up a few photos and comments, and an occasional diary post, to connect back with friends and relatives. So, from morning pages, the blog morphed into a sort of exile's letter home; it was only in the aftermath of Mumbai, I realized the 'social' aspect of the blog, the joys of connecting through thoughts instead of connecting by chance, and started taking it more seriously.
This was one big lesson of 2009, as I went on and on. This will be my 224Th blog post in 47 weeks this year, that makes it 4 posts a week - some feat when you consider (a) I travelled for more than 120 days this year, and (b) I had about 100 comments in all for all my blog posts during this period. Someone observed that I must have discovered a real love of blogging because I manage to go on without much external support anyway. To be fair, the number of comments should be supplemented by the emails I received, which is enormously valuable. Some of them are from long-lost friends who I always wanted to keep in touch and some from people who I respect and would love to follow. In short, it is not the quantity of the response, but the connections itself, was my big takeaway from blogging.
I spent the whole of 2009 pinned to the dilemma about what I should do next. Now, many people got it wrong - this dilemma has nothing to do with the joys and sorrows at work. To be absolutely honest, I have quite a good job, which pays me well, allows me complete freedom on what I do and lets me the world. I also work with agreeable, nice people, who I like personally. It is indeed possible, provided I become more compliant and tailor my expectations a bit, I can spend rest of my working life working with the same organization. The problems are, as it always was, mostly in what I want to do rather than what I have. I have been searching for a purpose in life, all my life, and can't say I got it yet. This is why I keep moving on, thinking about 'next'. I always had enough confidence in my ability and never wanted to work for fear - of losing job and livelihood. And, hence, even in the middle of this recession, I am still searching for the purpose, which, I have now come to realize, is outside the kind of work I do.
This is another thing I learnt in 2009: That I belong to some other kind of work. Work that makes a difference for others. Yes, indeed, earns me a living, without which I can't manage, yet. But I have realized that I should indeed look for a career shift - to that of a writer and an educator - and leave my commercial past behind. There are many values of the world of business I shall take with me - that of discipline, of accountability and of continuous quest of value and better ways of doing things - but I am zeroing in on a more knowledge-based career than one I have today.
Which helps solve another ongoing tussle that I had to handle: Where do I want to live rest of my life? I was inclined to leave England in the next few years, and return to Calcutta. However, I now realize that I need the freedom, of space and of perspective, that this life away from home offers me. I still need this for a little while longer. Yes, indeed, I shall need to settle down some day, with family and all that, but I can possibly give myself another three to five years before I start thinking about that.
So, in summary, that's what 2009 got me. A purpose, which I need to explore outside work, to become an educator and a propagandist of some sort, to make a difference in other people's lives. A sense of community and friendship through my blogging. And, a certain love for England, which allowed me the freedom to think and do what I like to do, and a plan to live here for next few years and use this opportunity to see the world. That's a lot, actually, for one short year: In fact, it may turn out to be the most meaningful year of 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
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
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.
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Reli
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: 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
As India's democracy reaches a critical juncture, with a very real danger of a authoritarian take-over, Rabindranath Tagore's birth anniversary is a perfect occasion to revisit the founding idea of India once again. There are many things in his politics that we may need to dust up and reconsider: Tagore's political ideas, because of his inherent aversion of popular nationalism and enthusiasm about Pan-Asianism and universalism, were outside the mainstream of the Indian National Movement, seen as impractical and effectively shunned. He was seen mostly as the Poet and the mystic, someone whose politics remains in the domain of the ideas rather than action. Tagore himself, after a brief passionate involvement in politics during the division of Bengal by Lord Curzon in 1905, withdrew from political action: He never belonged to the political class, despite his iconic status and itinerant interventions, such as returning the Knighthood after the massacre of Amritsar in 1919.
The story of British influence on Indian Education, to which Macaulay's Minutes of 1835 belong, has been told in six distinct phases. Syed Nurullah and J P Naik's very popular and influential History of Indian Education calls these 'six acts' of the drama: From the beginning of Eighteenth Century to 1813 The British East India Company received its charter in 1600 but its activities did not include any Educational engagement till the Charter Act of 1698, which required the Company to maintain priests and schools, for its own staff and their children. And, so it was until the renewal of its charter in 1813, when the evangelical influence led to insistence of expansion of educational activities and allowing priests back into company territory. From 1813 to Wood's Education Despatch of 1854 The renewal of Charter in 1813 re-opened the debate, which seemed to have been settled in the early years of the company administration, between the Orientalis
I spent the last week at the Ideas for India conference in London. This conference had different strands, and brought the diaspora Indians, India watchers and a number of delegates from India together. Because Rahul Gandhi chose to attend - a rather last minute thing which changed the published agenda somewhat - the media narrative revolved around his 40-odd minutes of talk. And, of course, a sense of discomfort hung over the whole conference: A wholly new thing for me and it shows how much India has changed. Somehow, the people in India seemed to think that no conversation about India should happen anywhere else in the world, a strange thing for a country which is anxious to assert its global importance. Additionally, anything outside the official channel is seen as conspiracy. Gone are those days when the presumptive opposition candidate, the current Prime Minister, could freely interact with the diaspora Indians and slam Dr Manmohan Singh's lack of initiative; today, this wou
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.