Bharat Ek Khoj should be part of History Classes

Caught a few minutes of the Shivaji episode of Bharat Ek Khoj, based on Nehru‘s The Discovery of India, last night on Loksabha TV. Even after 25 years of its production and first airing, it made captivating viewing. Should be mandatory course material in our schools. Compelling and interesting lessons in Indian mythology and history.

Enjoy the starting track here.

Testing two extremes in one week.

Last week was a terrific week for me.

Wednesday and Thursday,  was @ ad:tech New Delhi [well, technically Gurgaon], listening to many highly accomplished people, meeting several young entrepreneurs and managers, discussing how marketing is changing and how digital is changing the way we practiced marketing as we knew it.  A lot of globally renowned speakers gave gyan, made very strong company pitches, and talked about their version of the future. I could not attend several talks, but heard many good things about them later. How can we make more money, what new app I am building, what multiple I am able to get from my VC, why marketers are not spending enough on digital and therefore losing out, why digital should not be used as much for brand building as for performance kind of questions dominated the super charged atmosphere. You really cannot blame me if I thought I was already in the future. My ego got its much needed message every time someone who I didn’t know nodded at me and wanted my name card and wouldn’t believe I have actually been on vacation for the last 4 months and wasn’t really involved in any income generation and wealth creation activity.

Then on Friday, I attended a day long conference on Impact Evaluation of Developmental initiatives, organised by a research company called Sambodhi whose name I was ignorant of until 3 weeks ago. Here I sat through deep discussions on the challenges of fixing accountability when it comes to developmental work. I saw case studies of poverty alleviation, Vitamin A supplementation programs, mid-day meal program, nutrition initiatives in Ethiopia, Bangledesh, and of course, India, and other issues. I met sociologists and anthropologists and other Ph.D’s, who have dedicated their lives to social sector work. I listened to bureaucrats, researchers, statisticians, professors and officials in development funding organisations and NGOs, talk with contagious passion about public health, nutrition, education, and measurement. I met people from organisations I wasn’t even aware existed. As you might have guessed it, no one knew me in this conference and very few knew what the QR code on my name card was meant for.. So much for the ego.

As I reflect on the two conferences and the three days, I cannot help but wonder how ‘social’ meant two absolutely different things in the two events. It’s almost as if I has swung between two entirely different worlds in three days.

Quite a fascinating experience.

How we get educated

This afternoon, I was waiting in a cafe to meet someone. The table was for two and my friend is running a bit late.

A group of five or six people came and occupied the two tables next to mine – two adults and three or four kids, mostly around six to seven years of age. They were falling short of a chair and one of the kids, a little girl, casually dragged away the chair opposite me, the one meant for my friend. Now, I do not want to sound petty, but I sort of expected the adult [perhaps a guardian of the child] to ask if they could take the chair. Since my friend was late, I would have probably agreed anyway. But no permission was asked.

It got me thinking for a minute. We are a nation with a lot of formally educated people [the world’s largest number of graduates, if I am right], we were in a fairly modern and premium coffee shop, those people didn’t look uneducated to me, and yet, what civility would that little girl have learnt today?

We blame our inherited-from-the-British education system at the drop of a hat and yet, what do we teach our children at home?

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Who am I, again?

Had a very interesting interaction with the immigration officer @ Mumbai airport just now. What’s my occupation, he asked? I had a sense he would not take kindly to ‘nothing’, so I said consultant. He said ‘what kind of consultant?’ I had to think on my feet. ‘Highly specialized kind’, I said. He looked at me strangely, so I said I am a Media Consultant Not sure he understood that, so I said I do social work. Um hmm, he said.

‘First time to Pakistan?’ came the question. ‘Yes sir’, I sensed trouble. What work do you have there? I said I am scheduled to speak at a Conference, organised by the All pakistan Newspaper Society. He began to laugh, almost invisibly. “Is it a Govt body?” “Not really, it’s an industry association.” “What Industry”? “Umm..Newspaper Industry” He almost asked “that an industry?”..then stopped.

“Can I see the invitation you received from them?”..damned printer! “It’s in my laptop, no hard copy” [I am saving paper and doing social work, remember?]

“May I see your name card?” Now, what kind of a ‘highly specialized’ consultant carries no name card? I said, sorry sir, don’t have one.

Something must have gone through his mind, because he just smiled, and gave me back my passport and boarding pass. I had passed, wow.

Many lessons in an 8 min interaction. Thank you Life.

Talk of taking risk!

Just landed in Delhi. On the way from the airport to the hotel, heard the inspiring story of my taxi driver Kamal, who fled his home in Nepal to escape being drafted either by the Maoists, or the Police or the Army [he was 15!] and came to Delhi and started working as a car wash boy. He neither knew Hindi, nor knew anyone, nor had a proper roof over his head.

Today, he is 27, has worked in the same organisation for 12 years [exactly same as I!] sounds a bit sad that he hasn’t got time to develop a ‘girl friend’, and is planning to go to Nepal to find a girl and get married.

Not a unique story, I am sure, but impressive and inspiring anyway.

What risks have I taken in life, in comparison?