Yes, that crowded, polluted, malarial city at the frontline of climate catastrophe? That slow city, just off the tropic of Cancer, where people still rehearse for plays, read books, debate politics and go home for lunch. Where to be poor - which is not being consumed by money-culture - is still glorious. Where, despite their new-found love of shopping malls, young maidens may still fall in love with the do-nothing poet next door. Where, despite the 'free' life of apartments, people still live in large, crumbling, houses, negotiating idiosyncrasies of the joint family.
Of course, that place, of my youth, may not exist anymore the way I see it. Globalisation has reached Kolkata in the form of ugly, overpriced apartment blocks; glass buildings of IT sweatshops; separated, by malls and brands, lives of the rich and poor; chain schools and hotels by the hour; badly done replicas of global landmarks; noisy politics of religious divide. The rendition of Bengali songs at traffic signals are almost pathetic; the billboards with pretend poetry of the great leader is seriously ridiculous. Upper-class school children feel embarrassed about speaking in Bengali and college students, rather than theatre, go watch the latest Bollywood movies. As I wake up, I see Kolkata has gone Mumbai.
But it lives - I know - and show its face when you least expect it. Someone in the coffee shop unexpectedly hums the tune of a Spanish song, Nahoum's cakes still so twentieth-century and Rabindra sangeet can be heard through earphones even in soulless salt-lake glass towers. Besides, it's the slowness, the tropical adoration of slowness, of a food culture celebrating the nature-given plenty, that refuses to give in to globalisation's straight-jacket. From the middle of my life, consumed by globalisation, I see, hear and feel the alternative possibility that Kolkata offers.
Does it matter? We have come to accept a certain interpretation of the pursuit of happiness, a story told to us - sold to us - by the mechanism of capital. Joint family is restrictive, living in modular families is freedom; go west and earn more; escaping your past is progress; professional success matters most, so on and so forth. And, yet, there is a different kind of happiness. The woman who gave up career prospects to live near her elderly family; the man who feels comfortable in spending his evenings in the neighbourhood library; all those who live in daily defiance of the ever-creeping embrace of money, material and capital, in an indulgent, dated, way - all of them are models, possibilities of a different pursuit of happiness.
I could never make up my mind whether seeing the world or an idle winter morning of doing nothing on the terrace of my ancestral home gives me more happiness. I am still not sure, but I at least know that there are two models of happiness. The first, which I pursued, may give me more success, but what's that success worth if all I want to is the second and if that is the essential price to pay for the first. I can make the excuse: I have moved with the times and migrated in the great age of migration; I have seen globalisation in its glory, been its agent and eventually discovered its dark side. My wonder has not mellowed, but my wandering mind has stopped: By leaving, I have discovered the value of staying.
What really matters, then, should we not ask? Should we give up our pleasures of being who we were for the sake of who someone told us to be? Should we leave and then seek belonging in the world? Should we give in our time, the only possession that we really have, to those who control the capital? What would I not give to be by the side of my mother's deathbed, or stand by my brother, whatever is the cost, when he struggled with depression? What is this success, living as an alien in a society that treats us at an arm's length?
I know the whole countries now want to leave and go abroad - and people who they leave behind, they want them to go: My relatives want me to stay abroad so that I have a better life and they can have the bragging rights; my government wants me to toil abroad and send money home to keep the currency stable; my colleagues want me to leave so that they don't have to compete with me. But what should I really want?
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
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.
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
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
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
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,
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
In our age, the only way to be politically correct is to be democratic. This is a post-70s affair - those days, still, some people had alternative ideologies in mind. Those alternate ideas are dead and gone, long discredited, and it seems that we have only one system which can make people happy, free and live longer. So, we have this huge export industry of democracy, and democracy's warriors, which the American security establishment has lately become. The democracy's businessmen, the bond traders, the media barons and the Hollywood types, are feted everywhere. The consensus is deafening and dumbing. It is indeed awkward to ask now - whether democracy is the right system for every society. It indeed should be. Collective wisdom is better than individual autocracy. In societies where democratic elections have been few and far between, the popular vote has demonstrated the extra-ordinary political savvy of the usually disinterested masses. Democracy has proved to be an excell
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
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.