Showing posts from July, 2010

A Vision for Students Today

Jana Gana Mana: India's National Anthem

We sing glory to You, The Captain of the Indian mind, You, the maker of our destiny! The lands of Punjab, Sind , Gujarat and Maratha , The Dravidian Plains, Those of Utkal and Bengal, The mountains of Vindhya and Himalaya, The waters of the Jamuna and the Ganges, The dancing waves of the ocean, Rise up to chant your name, Pray for your blessings, And sing your greatness. You, gracious Lord, our Captain, The maker of India's destiny, Victory, victory, victory to thee. You invite everyone, with open arms, Hindus, Buddhists , Sikhs, Jains , Persians, Muslims and Christians; East and West come together And script a new unity Under your throne. The unifier of all, The maker of India's destiny, Glory, glory, glory to thee. Our endless journey, Through decline, fall, ascendance, and difficulties, Led by you, the Charioteer! Your clarion call Steer us through the revolution, You reliever of all. You, the great guide, The maker of India's

A Future for Kolkata

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 t

On 'Breaking Out'

Most of my life, I worked for SMEs . For those entities which is below the radar of business press, but still employ most of the people [more than 80% of all workers in Britain] and generate most of the output. I know it is a broad range, which include self-employed accountants as well as mid-sized companies with 150 employees, but they are the real movers-and-shakers of an economy. Besides, it is also true that most large companies were SMEs when they started; those which were not, were usually public corporations which got sold out. The problem is that SMEs don't think much. That's so counter-intuitive; the SME mythology, as spun out in the Silicon Valley lore, SMEs should be full of ideas. They are the new world: The anti-thesis of big bad industrial companies. However, the truth is quite the opposite. Some SMEs are plain oppressive. They are more ' fordist ' than anyone else. The environment is often akin to boiler room than start-up utopia. The SMEs often see

White Men's Leftover: The Legacy of Imperial Britain

I have been following an interesting debate on the Amazon site on the legacy of British imperialism . The discussion was dominated by the arguments of 'benign empire', the deeply nationalist feeling that the British stood for freedom and fought Hitler, and that it liberated many societies which have gone a step backward since the British left. As an Indian living in Britain and conducting most of my work and life in the English language, this debate is deeply relevant to me: Hence, I comment. The starting point here is that history is inevitable because it happened. One can indulge in what-if fantasies but they have no practical relevance. So, British empire is a fact one can't deny, and there is no point mulling over whether India, the country I come from, would have been better or worse off without the empire. At the same time, it is worth mentioning that history is usually a complex and discreet process. While 'creating history' is a popular expression, it is usu

Why Globalize Education?

I am back in my usual reflective mood and enjoying it. I was in action mode for last few weeks, which allowed me to achieve quite a bit, but this caused a sort of writing block too. Indeed, this is what I wished for - something worthwhile to do. All my stated wishes, hands-on exposure, opportunity to work on an assortment of various little projects [so that I am never bored], regular life, and a piece of action in global higher education, have all been granted: But, strangely, this has taken away my ability to write. Much to the relief of my sister, I admit, but I struggled with thoughts and words every morning. It was not comforting: The thoughts seem all too fragmented and words so ungenerous that they would not come together in a sentence. I felt laden with ideas, but all clotted up in a pre -migraine kaleidoscope of visions, not making any sense whatsoever. However, a visit unlocked all this, and as I expected, it started with a question. I spent the day in Oxford, attending a sess

Somewhere Down The Road

I am on my journey, as reported, to understand the business of private education. It is not new for me - I have already seen the downside and this is why I sometimes sound full of foreboding. However, I have also come to realize that for-profit performs an important role - that of expanding access - more important than ever in helping the rising middle class in the newly industrialised countries. There is a bit of a paradox here. Isn't public education all about expanding access? Yes, most of the publicly funded institutions abandoned their roles or failed to do it miserably. The scarcity of resources has either led to poor quality education in public institutions or an elitism, and in most cases, both. The commonest thing in the education sector is an University which pretends to be Harvard but dish out poor quality teaching and research, and suffer from a deep 'we know best' attitude and gets pushed backwards every day. Private education solves some of the problems. One

The Question of Return

This is the eternal question in an immigrant's life. In fact, in all lives, perhaps, because living is always about moving forward, and being alive is about feeling attached. In fact, this is the unending see-saw, call it dialectics if you are intellectually inclined, which passes off as life. But while return is metaphorical in some contexts, for an immigrant, it is omnipresent, an issue which returns every weekend, every festival, with every bits of good and bad news from home. Return is what one waits for, or, one lives in denial of. So, either, it is 'I wish I could' or 'I must, one day', that sum up the immigrant experience. That way, we all return. Some make the journey, but most bring home broken bits of their homeland. Just as our adult lives are about playing out the questions and emotions that we learnt in childhood, the return of the latter kind is about stocking up India, Pakistan, Africa or Poland, or whichever land one has come from, and carving out

My Take on Education: What Changed?

I am engaged in the business of learning, literally. I don’t teach. I am engaged in managing a for-profit education enterprise. The focus of the business is on developing leaders, who, as I usually proclaim, are a special type of people different from ‘managers’ and in short supply, in communities and inside companies. My special skill is in creating business models and partnerships to take training programmes globally. I enjoy the work and always felt a certain sense of mission in doing what I did. Starting my career in India, where the business I worked for offered IT Training to inner city graduates, this was easy: I saw a lot of lives ‘transformed’ for real. I used the experience in the international training market, first in South East Asia, and then in Eastern Europe and Middle East, over last ten years. I dealt with various learning programmes and varied customers along the way. I gradually became confident of what I did, though I never ever taught myself. Practice invariably de

Why Business Education Must Change

Management education, from its modest beginnings, has come a long way. Its growth has largely coincided with the growth and prominence of large corporations in the United States and Europe, particularly after the end of the war. An MBA degree, from a good business school, became the ‘rites of passage’ to a good job, creating a sort of halo around those who go to a business school. However, we are at an inflection point yet again, when things are changing. We are in the middle of a prolonged recession, the worst since the pre-war Great Depression which defined a generation and shaped human thinking deeply. If anything, this is a time when private enterprise, at least the large corporations, loses its halo of infallibility. With that, the prestige and status of business education will become severely dented. So, what’s needed is a fundamental rethink, of business and business education. The economists are calling for it. Raghuram Rajan, formerly the Chief Economist of World Bank and now

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