July and I complete a year of travel. I spent most of the year on the road, travelling mainly to India and sometimes to the Philippines. This was some kind of reset, just as my project in global education seemed to have stalled, which, at the least, allowed me to regain the confidence that ebbed in the midst of a failure. When I launched the previous project - where the cardinal sin was optimism and we set out despite knowing we were underfunded - I told my business partner that i felt confident that I could rebound from a failure, if it might come. This last year was just that, my effort to rebound from a failure, and I feel reasonably satisfied with where I am now.
Satisfied but not content, which is a curious feeling, as I know how much is still to be done. So, I am not counting the chickens yet. However, I needed to test some assumptions, restore faith in my own abilities, and clarify some of my own objectives, all of which I have done now. This meant three weeks of travel every month, experimenting with life quite a bit and losing the discipline of physical exercise and regular diet, which I regret. But, this was, as it appears at this vantage point, a great opportunity to imagine my life all over again, and knowing what I really want to do.
I have lived through periods like this before. Particularly as I did when I came to Britain and having no references or relevant experience, had to settle for a job at the end of the food chain. That was a year of reset in my mind, and I can still vividly recall the feeling - how I would count the number of days as I walked up the stairs to the office near Old Street, and promise myself to find something more meaningful in a certain number of days. I kept my head down and opinions to myself unless asked, and survived, with great success, in a rather marginal role which bored me to no end. This is one experience I cherished after it was over, not because of the content of the experience but as it bore testimony of my perseverance, that I could survive and work my way out of meaninglessness. And, indeed, what I really felt good about is that even under that circumstance, I did good work and built relationships - I would maintain long-standing relationships with people I worked with, and one of them, my Line Manager, would eventually become my Business Partner.
My big claim, when I thought about those years between 2005 and 2006, was that I could maintain my focus solely based on my sense of duty and professional commitment, even when I do not necessarily see a future in a particular job or commit myself fully in an endeavour. This is not a flow experience, like the one I had between 2010 and 2013 while building the educational institution in London (or earlier, between 1998 and 2004, in various roles building up an education network in Asia), but I have managed pretty well without the same for rest of my career.
This one year, in other ways, was helpful though. For example, I can just look back at this blog and know what changed. I believe I made two key decisions during the course of the year. The first is that I am not going to return to India in a hurry. While I started the year, and the new engagement, with an objective that I should be back to India by the end of 12 months, and said as much, ground realities set in as I started engaging full time. I tried in all sincerity and discovered that I have to be better prepared to return. And, that is indeed the second thing - that in the course of the year, I concluded that I indeed want to return to India, as that is home, at some point of time. I set that date 4 years from now - and this gave me clarity about what I should do with my life.
I also went through a see-saw of emotions regarding what I do. I came to it having failed to continue much further with the enterprise I was setting up, and this made me think at various times whether I should pursue a career in Higher Ed. I deliberately worked myself in it for last several years, but my lack of institutional conformity, which life in Higher Ed is always all about, kept coming in the way. As I stand right now, I am doing the same short and long term thing as i did with where I live. I realise that I must play to my strengths about ed-tech and innovation, and keep my institution building aspirations for now. And, indeed, the moment of that will be the moment of return - when I return to India, it would be for Higher Ed - but everything else for now would be a preparation.
This year is also a year of friendships lost and friendships found, and those two must remain in different boxes. This is because the new friendships, as one always finds on the road, can never fully compensate the regret over the lost ones. And, particularly of those which one never wanted to lose, and where the essential goodness of heart transcended even the drifting apart, goodwill lived even when the contacts withered, and the regrets, sad and nostalgic, came just because it was lost but never wiped away. And, the ones I found, of those who subscribe to my aspirations and dreams, ways of looking at the world, must indeed be celebrated, but only in the backdrop of the fragility of context, in full knowledge of temporariness of all endeavours and therefore of all connections, and of the profoundness embedded in even a moment of human connection, however trivial that may appear at first.
So, indeed, I read Montaigne as I turn the year, of his lighthearted but deep reflections on affairs of men, and he becomes my companion, just as he was to so many others before me. With him, I come to see that the great affairs of human beings are always about other human beings, connecting as the end goal of life and being connected, the supreme realisation of living. The loneliness of travel, being away from what one would call a daily life, where jetlag and changing perspectives scatter away the usual cycles of day and night and daily routine, and bestow an unchanging silence in the cover of ever-changing noise, brings up the essence of connections and conversations in sharp relief. I, for one, know, with no doubt, that life is a solitary endeavour, but at the same time, see what makes it worth living.
And, as the year turns, I imagine my life anew. Already broken down in those immediate goals and long-ranging ambitions, I crave for simplicity. I hope my year of wandering would be over soon, nay I want it to be over soon. It is that point again when my desires of wandering reaches its conclusions, of a boring, predictable life, but with something meaningful to do. I have always been divided between two aspirations - that of seeing the world and of being able to stand still - and this year of travel reconcile them perfectly. The world zips by as seen from a running train, and at this very moment, I see what is left in my heart. A picture, still, solitary, even melancholy, frozen as the essence of all those movements, silent to capture all those noise, sad to embrace all the gaiety. It is this moment when standing still becomes all the movement, my messy, book-laden working table the centre of my world, my guileless mediocrity the fountain of all possibilities. This moment, this year, this thought start all over again - but I have moved, taken an infinitesimal step in the unending journey to the center of the universe, but found it right here.
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
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
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.
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,
India's employment data is sobering ( see here ). The pandemic has wrecked havoc and the structural problems of the economy - service sector dependence, uneven regional development and health and education challenges - are more evident than ever. Something needs to happen, and fast. To its credit, the government acknowledges the education challenge. Belatedly - it took more than 30 years - India has come up with a new National Education Policy. It is a comprehensive policy, which covers the whole spectrum of education and perhaps overcompensates the previous neglect by advocating radical change. As I commented elsewhere on this blog, it shows a curious mixture of aspirations, cultural revival and global competitiveness put under the same hood. However, despite its radical aspirations, the policy document often betrays same-old thinking. One of these is India's approach to foreign universities. The NEP makes the case for allowing foreign universities to set up operations in Ind
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
It's not often that I get to do things I like, but, as it happens, the lockdown came with a little gift. I was asked to develop, by an Indian entrepreneur with a strong commitment to education, a framework for a Liberal Education for one of his schools. And, as a part of this exercise, I was asked to develop a critique of Indian Education, if only to set the context of the proposal I am to make. I claim to have some unusual - therefore unique - qualification to do this job. I am, after all, an outsider in all senses. I have lived outside India for a long time, but never went too far away, making it my field of work for most of the period. I have also been outside the academe but never too far away: Just outside the bureaucracy but intimately into the conversations. I worked in the 'disruptive' end of education without the intention to disrupt and in For-profit without the desire for profit. Along the way, the only thing I consistently did is study educatio
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
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.