Reflections and Interests - A Quiet Year

This weekend, one that just ended, was one at home after a few months, and I spent it that way - at home! I stepped out only a little, for a habitual trip to the library and some shopping, but spent most of the time adjusting my body back to the UK Time Zone. I have now come to live in a permanent state of Jet-lag, dozing off at times in the middle of reading or even writing something, and this was my desperate attempt to call some place home. 

But such quiet time, rare as it is, was useful for reflection too. It has been a year of constant traveling, and a year in which much has changed for me. A year ago, I was struggling to make my concept work, somewhat clueless on what is to be done and starting to doubt my own abilities. A year on, as I spent time in the markets and tested my assumptions, I know what works and also what I want to do. My ambivalence on where I should live is somewhat settled, and my interests, though it moved somewhat, are now clarified. In essence, this year on the road somewhat settled my ideas - or so I hope.

Looking ahead, as I did over the weekend, I want to have a quiet year. This is unusual in a way, because I never quite look for quietness, but possibly this is that rush of common sense that usually follows a disaster. By quiet year, I mean a year of silent plod, of collecting experience and expertise, of keeping focus, of unspectacular inching forward with practice. I always aspire to make the next year better than the last, but this time around, it is about boring steadiness hoping to lead to greater things.

There was also one realisation, which is perhaps crucial. I had this somewhat naive desire to be a global wanderer, the kind which pops up in different places from time to time. But, instead, I am too often treated as an India expert, as if my all other knowledge and experience, other than those gained from birth, is useless. I have somewhat loathed the label of an India expert, which I never wanted to be. The penny-dropping moment, however, tells me that this is what I am - someone who knows India and can not cut the ties - and the easy route to earn a living is to just accept the label. Indeed, I disagree with most of the things that go with this India expertise business, particularly the idea that a few business leaders could lift India out of its poverty and self-imposed immaturity. The idea that India will follow the path of Britain, or other developed nations, and affect a new industrial revolution to join the ranks of developed countries, seems worse than wishful thinking for me. The promotion of India business is informed by imperialist thinking in a different package, under the assumption that the salvation of India would come from the investors from abroad. I have no desire, given what I believe and how I think, to play any part in this game.

But, this is exactly what I wish to do in my quiet year, and become (or pretend) to be an India expert! This is far from the ideal of being true to myself, and one could possibly even call this deceitful. I have, however, come to accept the many compromises of an immigrant life, and this one perhaps is least hurtful. Playing this part - and I take it more as a game than anything else - should allow me enough time to achieve my goal of mastery. And, indeed, I have an unique opportunity right now to work in Indian Education, but remain outside it and engage with some of the new ideas of the field, and develop my skills and ideas.

My long term aim is to achieve mastery in Experiential Learning. This is a combination of my studies and my work, that I have come to realise that changing the mode of learning, and aligning it with day to day life experience, is the most liberating thing in education. Mastering the hard-to-reach texts is a way of keeping learning away from most people, and the idea of learning from everyday life, which everyone has equal access to, is the most democratic thing one could do. If social justice through education is the goal, one can not achieve this through the educational paradigm we have, one built around institutional custody of knowledge, which will always remain unequal. However, the idea that knowledge is anchored in everyday life is the essential liberating idea, and the basis of social justice.

So, the work I am doing now, setting up experiential learning programmes with various employers, prepares the ground for my eventual work, which will be to use experiential learning in its broadest possible context, that of life itself. I am not ready yet, as this has to be a full commitment, requiring me to move back to India and setting up an institution of my own (which will require adequate financial and social capital) - but this one quiet year can set me on its path. 



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