Showing posts from December, 2011

2011: The Last Post

It is that day of the year when, for one day, the past seems more important than the future. One day to remember and say goodbyes, to sum up and finish - so that one can make a fresh start next day. That's what I am set to do now. On balance, this year changed my life. It started disastrously, with the sudden death of my brother. From that very low point, today is a long way away. But if I have to look back at what has been the theme of the year, it was this - letting things go - people and relationships, vanity, business associations which were not meaningful. In a sense, I streamlined my life somewhat, focusing on what's important. There is work to be done still, and this needs to carry on into 2012, but I have made a start. One great thing about letting go is that one starts to realise the value of what is retained. That happened to me: I suddenly discovered how lucky I am in having what I have. I also regretted not knowing the value of things when I had them - how dearl

Waiting for Godot in India

It was a fitting end to a disastrous year in Indian politics, New Delhi based blogger and journalist, John Elliot contends. With the defeat of Lokpal Bill, floor crossings and chaos, India's biggest weakness, its political class, once more is on public display. However, these are dangerous times, whether or not you believe in Mayan prophecy: Party may indeed end for India in 2012. India had its time in the sun. As a solid member of BRIC quartet, the Indian Prime Minister became a regular invitee on the top table of global economics and politics. The country emerged as a partner in democracy with the United States, a regional competitor to China, and started assuming some global role in Central and Northern Africa and in Afghanistan. Its urban middle classes looked stronger than ever. Indian students, buoyed by the rising income, stronger Rupee and upbeat rhetoric, flocked the Western universities. Its businesses started investing abroad, claiming limelight side by side with Chin

Quality AND Profits: Interrogating Student Recruitment through Agents

These are exciting times in the international student recruitment market. This is a time for new winners and losers, new markets emerging and dominant ones stagnating, and new rules are being written. After explosive growth for a decade, Australia let its dominating position slip in 2008. Also, Britain, which became a very attractive destination in the new millennium, enjoying 64% growth in annual student numbers in the years leading up to 2010, is all set to lose the markets because of the muddled and unwelcoming approach of the current government, which seems to regard all International students coming from outside the EU as potential illegal immigrants. Further, the coalition government's on-the-fly policy-making has decidedly hurt Britain's position as a provider of High Quality Higher Education internationally: The absurd categorisation of Higher Education, Further Education and Private Education colleges (a system not readily understood elsewhere in the World) for visa pu

India 2020: Beyond The Middle Classes

If India has to grow to the next level, it must look beyond its Middle Class. In a classic case of narcissist obsession, India seems to think of itself in terms of what the outside world sees of it - the immense consumption potential of the middle classes - but its own reality is both richer and more diverse than that. So, the model of development that the country must pursue is one that must look beyond the middle classes, and release the enormous human waste that the country continues to endure through poverty. In short, the New India needs to be new, not the old one in some shiny garb. Everyone seems to admit that India's biggest problem is its politics. It may be blasphemous to say so, but democracy has failed India. May be more correctly, India has failed democracy. For all the fine rhetoric and a constitution written in fine English, Indian citizens have little rights or respect from the state. The state that Nehru built ended up being a Desi replica of the Raj, a distant p

The Great Powershift

These days, most intelligent conversations tend to focus on two alternative possibilities. First, the more pessimistic ones, see the current recession going the same way as the Great Depression did, slowly altering political opinions and driving the world into protectionism and national chauvinism, finally leading to some kind of great war, which may lead to an end of civilisation. The proponents see a challenger power, like the 19th century Germany, in China, and the incumbent in the form of the massive global empire of the United States. Next, there is the optimistic view, which does not see a violent end of the civilisation but a re-balancing: This is more the doctrine of decline of the West and the rise of the rest. This view suggests a power-shift, to China and India, and possibly Brazil, and that they would emerge as the World's preeminent economic powers, in a replay of what happened during the Eighteenth and Nineteenth century Europe. To be clear, this is not the only vie

My Social Media Thinking

I consciously worked on my 'work ethic', shedding some practices which I may have picked up early in my working life in the quest of becoming a better professional. Indeed, I did find it a never-ending process, I continuously discover things that I can do better, and have now come to accept that I may never be perfect, but have to keep on trying. An important part of my work ethic, I consider, is my Social Media ethic, because social media is important, for my work and my professional identity. It seems almost all media that I use have a social aspect.  Even, book-reading, my intensely personal experience of all media consumptions, always had book-clubs (one that I intended to join, but got rebuffed for Marxian reasons - I didn't want to join a club which will take me as a member) and now have trendier cousins like Librarything , which I use and participate in. But, going beyond hobbies, social media is everywhere at work.  I spend a lot of time on social media, and ha

TED Video: The Quest to Understand Consciousness

Summing Up The Year: 1

It is that sort of time of the year when I am tempted to look back, as well as look ahead, at the same time. The festive season is already here, with the police closing traffic at the West End for shoppers' convenience and the weekend parking charges at our local shopping centre shooting up from £3.50 a day to £16.30 a day: The work at office is coming to an inevitable halt as people start to disappear for their year-end holidays. I can't wait to end this year, one of the most difficult in my life, but a strange sense of melancholy overwhelms me somewhat. It seems it is the time to say a final goodbye to so many people who have already departed, but those who I so dearly loved and thought I would never let them go, whose memories lived with me every waking moment during the year: It seems, with the turn of the clock this year-end, they would finally step back and become a part of my past, never to return to presence yet again.  However, this was also a year spent in preparati

Why was Cameron wrong?

David Cameron is now enjoying a bit of a popularity wave at home because of his veto on an EU-wide agreement on deeper fiscal union between the Euro countries. English press is trying to project this as a Cameron versus Sarkozy game, and quite explicitly equating Sarkozy, who isn't a very tall man, with Napoleon, the other French who had a poor opinion about the Brits. The British public feels good about staring down the French, and sees this as cheap politicking by nasty Sarkozy, which has put our dear David into a corner. In a sense, Cameron's articulation skills may have saved him one more time. However, while it is easy to mistake articulation for achievement, the drift away from Europe, which is now manifesting itself into cross-channel rivalry yet again, is a disaster for Britain. For a start, we don't live in the age of Napoleon, and a global financial crisis is indeed gathering momentum. Once this happens, it will indeed spare no one. What Cameron has effectively

On Technology in Higher Education

We have no choice but to turn to technology if we have to solve the problems of mass Higher Education. In Higher Education, we have so far taken a model that was designed to serve a few, and tried to expand this to service the needs of an exponentially larger population. By doing so, we have worked ourselves into the twin problems of soaring cost and declining quality, alongside other attendant problems like creeping irrelevance of Higher Education and degree inflation. In this setting, the only way to create and run a High Quality Higher Education offering is to maintain selectivity, but the social value of it is highly questionable: One could argue Cambridge is a great institution because it only admits great students, not because it does a greatly superior job in teaching.  This presents a number of problems. First, this is neither consistent with social expectations, a selective system is seen as elitist and a target of regular attacks by politicians and policy-makers, nor it

How To Return To Recession

We have been here before, we are at it again. Edmund Burke should stand corrected: However much one reads history, one is doomed to repeat it. The Great Depression was caused by financial excesses followed by protectionism and government inaction: The next one, which is looming around the corner, will be exactly the same.  David Cameron saved his job, for the moment. He, who wanted to be the hero, walked out of an Europe-wide deal to save the Euro. By doing so, he showed not just the 'bulldog spirit' that he was to show, but 'bulldog brain', but then bulldogs may be offended. He sunk into protectionism, a sort of desperate politics to keep some of his loony backbenchers and out-of-touch colleagues pleased. And, by doing so, he risked two things: First, if the Euro ends up collapsing, a long and potentially bloody depression all over the world; and, second, if the Eurozone countries manage to pull together, a final setting of sun of any British influence over the wo

Getting Ready for 2012

I have an one point agenda for 2012: To do things that I love. I used to say I shall retire at 42. That was when I was young and naive. I realised two things as years passed. First, one can actually retire anytime. Second, doing what I love is actually retiring, because that never feels like work. In any case, that's what people mean by retiring: They want to escape the drudgery of daily work and do something they love. You may say I am justifying the fact that I am not a millionaire yet in a very roundabout way, but truth be told, my dreams don't involve swimming pools or private helicopters, but being able to live a life full of activities that I love doing. I am no party animal, so this does not include parties or drinking. Except for an odd walk in the mountains, there is not a thing which the usual millionaires do in my list. Instead, it has always been about writing and reading and doing something which has an impact. My belief that we live in an unjust worl

Getting It Right With Pakistan

The BBC Documentary on Pakistan - The Secret Pakistan - is a classic statement of Western disillusion with Pakistan. But, is it also time to acknowledge that the Western world view, about how to manage the world after the Cold War, has failed? In fact, one can look beyond Cold War and explore how Pakistan was created. The recent research suggests that Pakistan's creation emanated from direct British encouragement for a separate Muslim state. Though this was a long standing British policy in India, dating back at least to the early twentieth century, the earlier policy was directed towards weakening, or even denying, the Indian national identity. However, once the Independence of India was accepted as inevitable, this policy subtly shifted to the creation of a separate state on Indian North-West, a state which would have to rely on Western support to remain viable, and in return, will serve as an important outpost for Western interests in Persia, then the main petroleum producing

Jimmy Wales in Learning Without Frontiers 2011


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