A strange thing is happening in India now, an admission that things have gone wrong. In a way, this has never happened before. This is also amazing, given how elitist the Indian administration really is: Most messages get screened off before it reaches Delhi. May be this is working this time as the message is coming from the global puppet masters, the big media honchos sitting in London and Washington, who have started mocking the Indian Prime Minister: The Indian government, while oblivious of the mood of its own people, surely knows that this is only a pre-cursor of what the bond traders and hedge funds will think.
However, while it is easy to be pessimistic about the Indian government's motives, let us savour the moment: The Indian Government is thinking it has got it wrong, a first in its sixty years of history, and trying to do something about it! Indeed, this seems easy for anyone looking at it - was everything not going wrong in India for so long - but the fact that it was being acted upon is a sure improvement. We may know it is the international magazine covers, weakening Rupee and the threat of an imminent drought, but this is a moment of hope, even if a false one, that the navel-gazing culture of Indian government, more akin to the fading days of Mughal Empire than a democratic enterprise, may finally be over.
In fact, that parallel with Mughal Empire is fully intended, as for the last few years, we had a government trying to survive through its adjustments with self-interested local chieftains, just as the Mughals did. Indeed, one could argue that this is the only way to rule India, at least the only way India has been ruled so far, as the British promptly taken over the Mughal model and parcelled the country to a variety of landlords, concerning itself to the revenue collection and nothing else. The vast swathes of India, most of the country, have been on auto-pilot for a long time, exposed to the full wrath of nature and autocratic local lords, resigned to fate and mostly compliant. For the current government, it certainly did not matter that most of the country is reeling under severe lack of faith, heavy inflation and breakdown of basic civility (as evidenced in Guwahati very recently), but the decline of the Indian dream, at least in Wall Street terms, may have woken them up to the possibility of a Mughal-style demise.
The power of global money is all evident in India. The new middle classes, employed in newly minted service sectors and immersed in the consumption habits fuelled by easy credit and stock market induced richness, are inextricably wedded to the rise and fall of Global Finance. The weakness of the Rupee is beginning to hurt, therefore, but it is a much deeper malaise, the withering of the Incredible India rhetoric, seems to be around the corner and causing fright. The changes, so far cosmetic, of moving Ministers around and the talk of a new face of leadership, allowing more global money to flow in and addressing some of the deep regional imbalances, apart from the belated but much needed movement towards reconciliation with an equally out of touch Pakistani leadership, may rank in ineffectiveness with the acts such as the metaphorical reorganisation of deck chairs on the famously ill-fated ship. But, it is undeniable that we are seeing a rare moment of fright, of change, of opening of a window which was forever closed, a moment when the ruling classes look weak and a revolution starts.
History tells us about such moments, when the vulnerability of the ruling classes was betrayed from behind the carefully orchestrated smugness of being; such moments tell everyone that all isn't well and raise questions, quelle horror!, about the continuance of the order as it existed. We, usually immersed in daily chores, can't see the edges of our reality and live forever within a self-imposed Truman Show, only to be exposed to such moments of discontinuity, an imaginary power failure in the Mount Olympus, to the fragility of our constructed lives: Such a moment may be coming to India.
I am not over-optimistic. This may not be India's Bastille moment, nor when baby dreams of a prosperous India must invariable roll down its own Odessa steps. But this is a time when the self-limiting confidence of its navel-gazing ruling class is shaken, its story exposed as trinket and not the fabled gold, a time when it may, just, start an attempt of rediscovery yet again. This is that moment of bi-furcation of courses of history, and as it plays out over next couple of years, a decisive turn may happen, either to a manifest destiny or a historical junkyard.
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
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. Religi
This post is a reaction to Aatish Taseer's evocative obituary of secular India in the Atlantic ( read here ). While I agree with it mostly - and share the reservations about the direction and the future of India - I differ with the author on one key aspect: I do not agree with his portrayal of a resurgent Bharat eating up a secular India. In fact, I believe while Mr Taseer regrets the Indian elite's loss of connection with the realities of day to day life of the country, his very presentation of Bharat and India as oppositional entities stems from that incomprehension. While I understand that he is only using these categories as RSS uses them - to effectively other the English-speaking elites and non-Hindus - I believe it is a mistake to describe the profound changes in contemporary India as the ascendance of Bharat. I grew up in Bharat. I never learnt English until late in life, when I started working. My growing-up world was one of small-town India, vernacu
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 was gui
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, as
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
A lot of conversations about Kolkata is about its past; I want to talk about its future. Most conversations about Kolkata is about its decline - its golden moments and how times changed; I want to talk about its rise, how its best may lie ahead and how we can change the times. In place of pessimism, I seek optimism; instead of inertia, I am looking for imagination. It is not about catching up, I am arguing; it is about making a new path altogether. It had, indeed it had, a glorious past: One of the first Asian cities to reach a million population, the Capital of British India, the cradle of an Enlightened Age and a new politics of Cosmopolitanism. And, it had stumbled - losing the hinterland that supplied its Jute factories, overwhelmed by the refugees that came after the partition, devoid of its professional class who chose to emigrate - the City's commercial and professional culture evaporated in a generation, and it transformed into a corrupt and inefficien
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.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.