Sunday, July 29, 2012
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Most importantly, it is important to remember that while markets have been around through centuries, it was never the only system, nor it needed to be. We had other systems guiding other domains of human activities, and these can be as successful as the market system. There is absolutely no reason why we should find the volunteer-driven success of Wikipedia as an aberration: This is in the age-old tradition of gift culture where things changed hands without a specific, material, reciprocation at the same time as is the norm of the market. We don't put a value to the work mothers do, all over the world, to bring up their children, or increasingly more rarely, the children does, in their term, to look after their aging parents. The mantra of today - if something isn't in the market, it gets trivialized - undermines the value of such work, which is possibly much larger than the World's GDP, and indeed insuperably valuable. Indeed, there are limits to the gift culture and the markets can fill the gap, but it is increasingly one or the other, and the aim of the modern marketers and capital-owners is to push market everywhere: That simply does not work.
Consider education, where a predominantly gift-driven culture is being transformed with a market-driven culture. It is not just about how one pays for education, it is fundamentally changing the classroom and even the nature of knowledge. The safe place for developing thinking, which the educational institutions were to be, are being transformed into factory of worker reproduction, the research orientation of great universities are being replaced by result emphasis, and the nature of knowledge, from the result of disinterested inquiry to a product of focused pursuit, has been changed to maintain the current social order, rather than exploring the edges of current thinking and come up with better ones.
Or, for that matter, healthcare, where caring for the sick has been a function of insurance eligibility, and it has become common for people to die without care in the age of abundant healthcare. This is not just about a hospital, or even about the system, but what responsibility we have to one another, and how this is being changed.
The redeeming thing is, however, that the gift culture, contrary to what the market fundamentalists want us to believe, is deeply natural to human beings and therefore refuse to die. President Obama talks about Stephanie Davies in Aurora, who stayed and cared for her friend, Allie Young, wounded and bleeding, amid all the shooting and mayhem all around her. This is being hailed as heroism, in the infinite trick of the media which portrays this as entirely exceptional; however, this is exactly what being human means, this is entirely natural and this is exactly what, each one of us as human beings, should do in a similar situation. Denying this, and accepting a narrow-minded selfishness as the true manifestation of human nature, is a motivated, and plainly wrong, way of interpreting who we are and how we behave. However, this is what the myth of the markets stand on: This is indeed why we need a better system, and we may already have some ideas how we can construct one.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
This is the 1001th post on this blog, done over almost six years. Not that I have written it all, some are videos and snippets, and a few are guest contributions. However, it is still a large number: I am amazed myself that I managed to find time to write all of that, amid everything else that happened in my life during the period (which, to sum up, amounts to five deaths, four marriages, two divorces, three births in my close family, alongside four job changes for me!). However, as I mentioned earlier, this is precisely the reason I write - for me, writing is somewhat therapeutic - a few minutes of space to indulge and dream, much needed amid all the chaos and confusion of everyday life. This writing was what some of the French philosophers will call my strategies of living, my window of sanity and escape from the framework of compliance, my moments of being myself rather than a cog on bigger wheels.
But these 1000 posts lie in the past now: The sheer volume of the posts, and I am acutely aware of its variety of subjects, tell me that the time has come for a rethink. I indeed intend to keep writing, but I would want to focus and do something meaningful. I am actually hoping - just because I am human and troubled with so much change - that my life will possibly become a little more predictable in the next few years and start moving towards the direction I want it to move to.
Indeed, there is some legitimacy in asking whether I know where I want to go, but this is one area where the voice in this blog is remarkably consistent. I wish to live a creative and meaningful life, which I wish to achieve through the creation of a liberal minded, forward thinking, education institution, which will teach people to strive beyond mediocrity and make them try to change the world. This may sound too big, and by implication, quixotic: However, here is the catch - I don't necessarily want to own it, I want to create it and remain involved. This is an important difference, and one that is embedded in all work I have ever done: I have always seen what I do or seem to possess as an act of trusteeship. This is indeed because whatever we may think, we are temporary beings and any great work should outlast ourselves. Hence, I would rather work towards a mission, something meaningful and world-changing. This would mean connecting up with others who think the same way and build this together. I am currently searching for such partnerships.
This excitable goal, and my impatience with the current status quo, makes me feel terrible now. I have worked inside one of the private institutions, partly to know the trade but also to test my ideas and create a platform. I have had some wins, but culture is a hard thing to change, and lately, I am coming up against brick walls far too often. Besides, oftentimes it felt like I am trying to drag ahead a ton of bricks, the dead weight of the legacy: This is part of the platform that the investors love, and the 'platform' I wish to build on, but this is every bit alien to what I wish to build, and this may, I fear, prove to be a mistake. I need a platform to start building on, but I am increasingly concerned that I may have chosen a wrong one.
I took advantage of the last few days to go back to some people I trust, some I know for years but some others who I only met recently and not know so well, and tried to talk through my plans and how I am planning to take this forward. Everyone, well meaning and friendly, advised me about the value of the platform and that I should stick to it; except one person, who possibly knows me best, who advised that I should cut the ties and try to pursue my dream in pure form. He was right, though he agreed with the common opinion that I may not yet be ready, financially and otherwise, to take the plunge. So, the aggregation of my crowdsourced advice is that I should keep developing the idea, keep connecting with fellow dreamers (and keep writing the blog) and keep developing my knowledge and skills; but, in the short run, I should stick to what I am doing, take the current efforts to transform the college to a logical conclusion and if that does not work out, as it may not, go back to school for a few years of preparation through research and skills development.
I also take home the point that I may have been trying to overreach myself: I should rather take stock, and though I must keep going, I may have to restart again. I have always preferred serendipity over goal setting, but this may be a time when I can do with a few short term goals. Baby steps, as the expression goes, it is the time for baby steps rather than giant leap. I am indeed reading Tipping Point and trying to bring about one. From this point on, then, this blog may reflect that phase, less of dreams and more of baby steps, the search for focus rather than ambition and progress reports rather than manifestos.
Friday, July 20, 2012
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Saturday, July 14, 2012
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Monday, July 09, 2012
Sunday, July 08, 2012
Saturday, July 07, 2012
Friday, July 06, 2012
Monday, July 02, 2012
Once I open my mind to life in other Indian cities, the decision becomes much easier. Cities like Bangalore and Pune, not to mention the large metros like Delhi and Mumbai, are buzzing with activities and ideas. What makes me more optimistic is the reshuffle in Indian cabinet, with Pranab Mukherjee being retired upwards as the President and the Finance Ministry returning to Dr Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister, a job he has done before. Mr Mukherjee was a stumbling block to any serious attempt to change: Being a politics-first man, he was playing politics with India's much needed economic policy changes. Though Dr Singh will possibly have the portfolio only for a few months, before he finds an appropriate replacement, Indian economy may gain some momentum it lost.
I indeed don't see a red carpet homecoming in India, but another journey, just as tough as the one I made when I came to Britain. I am cognizant of my age - India is a young country where people of my age don't generally start off - and the fact that most people are weary of returning migrants. I am careful to keep my expectations low.
I am also allowing myself time to prepare for this return. It is not my intent to try to return this year, and not even in the next. For me, it is two year project for which I intend to prepare starting today. This means building connections and a life back in India. I have not lived in the country since I left it in January 2003 for the last time, and even then, I was just living intermittently, between my travels to Dhaka and elsewhere, for two years. I need to get used to again with the trains, the street food, Hindi and all that. But, most importantly, I need to connect back to people. Over the years of absence, I have lost touch with many friends, though some of it happened as the contexts changed. But I have earned others through exchange of ideas, mainly through this blog, and one thing top of my list now is to start those conversations again.
My idea of return is centred around the idea of creating a college in India, one that prepares young Indian graduates for life in global business, which fuses creativity, enterprise and technology. The idea draws upon all I learnt in England, both by working in Higher Ed as well as studying it, and what I am trying to establish at this very time in London. I can see how interested British universities are to attract Indian students; on the other hand, I can see a gap in Indian market for good education. In India, the market for higher education is vast and expanding, with 5 million more students expected to enter college in the next 3 years, but the Higher Education sector is failing them. The public sector, apart from a few top institutions, are chronically underfunded and unmanageably large; the private sector so far is mostly a mechanism for money laundering. No wonder that despite the demand, seats in management colleges are under-subscribed. I see an opportunity in this chaos, and believe that Indian Higher Education, particularly the private sector part of it, is now coming of age. This is indeed the time to do something innovative.
I have spent time last few months looking at funding options for our business in Britain and know that it becomes so much more easier if the plan is bolted on with an 'India play'. This is what I am planning to do now: A part of the plan that happens in India, and I would happily go and live there. This is the best possible opportunity for me to return: I wish to spend every minute preparing for it from now on.
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